"The City in the Sea" is a poem by the American author Edgar Allan Poe. The original version of the poem, entitled "The Doomed City", was published in 1831 in Poems by Edgar A. Poe, the third published collection of Poe's poems. A revised version was published as "The City of Sin" in August 1836 in the Southern Literary Messenger. The poem was revised again and published as "The City in the Sea. A Prophecy" in the American Review in April 1845. The subtitle was dropped for the version published in the August 30, 1845 issue of the Broadway Journal.
The poem describes an ancient city which is ruled by Death. Once a prosperous center of civilization, the city is now lifeless and doomed to sink into oblivion. The legend of a sunken city was a favorite theme of Romantic poets. Most scholars believe Poe drew inspiration from the Biblical tale of Sodom and Gomorrah.
"The City in the Sea" is considered by many to be one of the finest poems written by Poe. The poem has been set to music of various genres. The 1965 British science-fiction movie City Under the Sea is loosely based on the poem.
There is a strange old city in the West ruled by Death. It is a desolate and lifeless city filled with ancient and unfamiliar shrines, palaces, and towers. No sunlight reaches the city, but it is illuminated from below by the phosphorescence of the sea. The lights, gleaming up the marvelous towers and carved walls of the ancient structures, blend with the shadows to make everything appear to float in air. As Death looks down from atop a "proud tower" at open graves full of jewels and diamond-eyed idols, nothing disturbs the melancholy serenity of the waters. Then suddenly the air stirs, causing the towers to move slightly. The waves begin to glow red, foreshadowing the coming of Hell which will rise up to welcome the sinking city.