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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!
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,
Joachim du Bellay, a French poet, of considerable reputation in his day, who died about the middle of the sixteenth century. He was one of the seven poets who were called by the name of Pleiades. The title (translated) of the original of the following version is "The first book of the antiquities of Rome, containing a general description of its greatness and also a lamentation for its decay." At the end of this poem (in the edition of Bellay's poems, published at Rouen, in 1597) are the fifteen Visions, (Songes, Fr.,) which Spenser has also translated.
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 Pyramides faire;
The same yet vaunting Greece will tell the storie
Of loves great Image in Olympus placed;
Mansolus worke will be the Carians glorie;
And Crete will boast the Labyrinth, now raced1;
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 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,
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 Giants old 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 Cælian 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.
Such as the Berecynthian Goddesse bright,
In her swifte charret with high turrets crownde,
Proud that so manie gods she brought to light;
Such was this Citie in her good daies fownd:
This Citie, more than that great Phrygian mother
Renowm'd for fruite of famous progenie,
Whose greatnes by the greatnes of none other,
But by her selfe, her equall match could see:
Rome onely might to Rome compared bee,
And onely Rome could make great Rome to tremble:
So did the gods by heavenly doome decree,
That other earthlie power should not resemble
Her that did match the whole earths puissaunce,
And did her courage to the heavens advaunce.
Ye sacred ruines, and ye tragick sights,
Which onely doo the name of Rome retaine,
Olde moniments, which of so famous sprights
The honour yet in ashes doo maintaine;
Triumphant arcks, spyres, neighbours to the skie;
That you to see doth th' heaven it selfe appall;
Alas, by little ye to nothing flie,
The peoples fable, and the spoyle of all!
And though your frames do for a time make warre
Gainst Time, yet Time in time shall ruinate
Your workes and names, and your last reliques marre.
My sad desires, rest therefore moderate!
For if that Time make ende of things so sure,
It als will end the paine which I endure.
Through armes and vassals Rome the world subdu'd, That one would weene that one sole Cities strength Both land and sea in roundnes had survew'd,
To be the measure of her bredth and length:
This peoples vertue yet so fruitfull was
Of vertuous nephewes,1 that posteritie,
Striving in power their grandfathers to passe,
The lowest earth ioin'd to the heaven hie;
To th' end that, having all parts in their power,
Nought from the Romane Empire might be quight2;
And that though Time doth Commonwealths devowre,
Yet no time should so low embase their hight,
That her head earth'd in her foundations deep
Should not her name and endles honour keep.
Ye cruell starres, and eke ye gods unkinde,
Heaven envious, and bitter stepdame Nature!
Be it by fortune, or by course of kinde,3
Why have your hands long sithence traveiled 5
To frame this world, that doth endure so long?
Or why were not these Romane palaces
Made of some matter no lesse firme and strong?
I say not, as the common voyce doth say,
doo weld th' affaires of earthlie creature;
That all things which beneath the Moone have being Are temporall, and subiect to decay :
But I say rather, though not all agreeing
With some that weene the contrarie in thought,
That all this Whole shall one day come to nought.
As that brave sonne of Aeson, which by charmes
Atcheiv'd the Golden Fleece in Colchid land,
Out of the earth engendred men of armes
Of dragons teeth, sowne in the sacred sand;
2 Quight, delivered, freed. Traveiled, toiled.
1 Nephewes, descendants.
4 Sithence, since.