Ruines of Rome: By Bellay*
[* Joachim du Bellay, a French poet of considerable reputation in his day, died in 1560. These sonnets are translated from Le Premier Livre des Antiquez de Rome. Further on we have the Visions of Bellay, translated from the Songes of the same author. The best that can be said of these sonnets seems to be, that they are not inferior to the original. C.]
Ye heavenly spirites, whose ashie cinders lie
Under deep ruines, with huge walls opprest,
But not your praise, the which shall never die
Through your faire verses, ne in ashes rest;
If so be shrilling voyce of wight alive
May reach from hence to depth of darkest hell,
Then let those deep abysses open rive,
That ye may understand my shreiking yell!
Thrice having seene under the heavens veale
Your toombs devoted compasse over all,
Thrice unto you with lowd voyce I appeale,
And for your antique furie here doo call,
The whiles that I with sacred horror sing
Your glorie, fairest of all earthly thing!
Great Babylon her haughtie walls will praise,
And sharped steeples high shot up in ayre;
Greece will the olde Ephesian buildings blaze,
And Nylus nurslings their Pyramidcs faire;
The same yet vaunting Greece will tell the storie
Of Ioves great image in Olympus placed;
Mausolus worke will be the Carians glorie,
And Crete will boast the Labyrinth, now raced;
The antique Rhodian will likewise set forth
The great Colosse, erect to Memorie;
And what els in the world is of like worth,
Some greater learned wit will magnifie.
But I will sing above all moniments
Seven Romane Hils, the worlds seven wonderments.
Thou stranger, which for Rome in Rome hero seekest,
And nought of Rome in Rome perceiv’st at all,
These same olde walls, olde arches, which thou seest,
Olde palaces, is that which Rome men call.
Beholde what wreake, what mine, and what wast,
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;
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.
She whose high top above the starres did sore,
One foote on Thetis, th’other on the Morning,
One hand on Scythia, th’other on the More,
Both heaven and earth in roundnesse compassing;
Iove fearing, least if she should greater growe,
The old giants should once againe uprise,
Her whelm’d with hills, these seven hils, which be nowe
Tombes of her greatnes which did threate the skies:
Upon her head he heapt Mount Saturnal,
Upon her bellie th’antique Palatine,
Upon her stomacke laid Mount Quirinal,
On her left hand the noysome Esquiline,
And Caelian on the right; but both her feete
Mount Viminal and Aventine doo meete.
Who lists to see what ever nature, arte,
And heaven could doo, O Rome, thee let him see,
In case thy greatnes he can gesse in harte
By that which but the picture is of thee!
Rome is no more: but if the shade of Rome
May of the bodie yeeld a seeming sight,
It’s like a corse drawne forth out of the tombe
By magicke skill out of eternall night:
The corpes of Rome in ashes is entombed,
And her great spirite, reioyned to the spirite
Of this great masse, is in the same enwombed;
But her brave writings, which, her famous merite
In spight of Time out of the dust doth reare,
Doo make her idole* through the world appeare.
[* Idole, image, idea.]