Billy Collins

(22 March 1941 - / New York City)

The Death of Allegory - Poem by Billy Collins

I am wondering what became of all those tall abstractions
that used to pose, robed and statuesque, in paintings
and parade about on the pages of the Renaissance
displaying their capital letters like license plates.

Truth cantering on a powerful horse,
Chastity, eyes downcast, fluttering with veils.
Each one was marble come to life, a thought in a coat,
Courtesy bowing with one hand always extended,

Villainy sharpening an instrument behind a wall,
Reason with her crown and Constancy alert behind a helm.
They are all retired now, consigned to a Florida for tropes.
Justice is there standing by an open refrigerator.

Valor lies in bed listening to the rain.
Even Death has nothing to do but mend his cloak and hood,
and all their props are locked away in a warehouse,
hourglasses, globes, blindfolds and shackles.

Even if you called them back, there are no places left
for them to go, no Garden of Mirth or Bower of Bliss.
The Valley of Forgiveness is lined with condominiums
and chain saws are howling in the Forest of Despair.

Here on the table near the window is a vase of peonies
and next to it black binoculars and a money clip,
exactly the kind of thing we now prefer,
objects that sit quietly on a line in lower case,

themselves and nothing more, a wheelbarrow,
an empty mailbox, a razor blade resting in a glass ashtray.
As for the others, the great ideas on horseback
and the long-haired virtues in embroidered gowns,

it looks as though they have traveled down
that road you see on the final page of storybooks,
the one that winds up a green hillside and disappears
into an unseen valley where everyone must be fast asleep.


Comments about The Death of Allegory by Billy Collins

  • (11/7/2016 3:51:00 AM)

    A Piece Of Art
    Genius! !
    This poem shows that the poet's wide knowledge and research in history, in poetry and the brilliant use of imagery, metaphors, comparison, nostalgia and the resurrection of Allegory in a way.
    (Report) Reply

    3 person liked.
    0 person did not like.
  • (11/7/2016 3:45:00 AM)

    A Piece Of Art
    Genius! !
    This poem shows his wide area of knowledge, research, about history, of poetry, metaphors, comparison, imagery, nostalgia and the resurrection of Allegory in a way.
    He could make a great Film Director!
    (Report) Reply

  • David Wood (9/18/2015 6:03:00 AM)


    Overwhelmed by a vivid and colourful use of language in this wonderful poem. Every stanza a complete story, brilliant. I shall endeavour to read more of your poetry. (Report) Reply

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Poem Submitted: Friday, September 18, 2015



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