Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Italy
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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Italy: Vols. XI–XIII.  1876–79.
 
Rome, Ruins of
The Ruines of Rome
Joachim du Bellay (1552–1560)
 
Translated by Edmund Spenser

I.
THOU stranger, which for Rome in Rome here seekest,
And nought of Rome in Rome perceivst at all,
These same olde walls, olde arches, which thou seest,
Olde palaces, is that which Rome men call.
Beholde what wreake, what ruine, and what wast,        5
And how that she, which with her mightie powre
Tam’d all the world, hath tam’d herselfe at last;
The pray of Time, which all things doth devowre!
Rome now of Rome is th’ onely funerall,
And onely Rome of Rome hath victorie;        10
Ne ought save Tyber hastning to his fall
Remaines of all: O worlds inconstancie!
  That which is firme doth flit and fall away,
  And that is flitting doth abide and stay.
 
II.
THESE heapes of stones, these old wals, which ye see,
        15
Were first enclosures but of salvage soyle;
And these brave pallaces, which maystred bee
Of Time, were shepheards cottages somewhile.
Then tooke the shepheards kingly ornaments,
And the stout hynde arm’d his right hand with steele:        20
Eftsoones their rule of yearely Presidents
Grew great, and sixe months greater a great deele;
Which, made perpetuall, rose to so great height,
That thence th’ Imperiall Eagle rooting tooke,
Till th’ heaven it selfe, opposing gainst her might,        25
Her power to Peters successor betooke;
  Who, shepheardlike, (as Fates the same foreseeing,)
  Doth shew that all things turne to their first being.
 
III.
O THAT I had the Thracian Poets harpe,
For to awake out of th’ infernall shade        30
Those antique Cæsars, sleeping long in darke,
The which this auncient Citie whilome made!
Or that I had Amphions instrument,
To quicken, with his vitall notes accord,
The stonie ioynts of these old walls now rent,        35
By which th’ Ausonian light might be restor’d!
Or that at least I could, with pencill fine,
Fashion the pourtraicts of these palacis,
By paterne of great Virgils spirit divine!
I would assay with that which in me is,        40
  To builde, with levell of my loftie style,
  That which no hands can evermore compyle.
 
 
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