1591
ENGLISH POETRY 1579-1830: SPENSER AND THE TRADITION

Ruines of Rome: by Bellay.

Complaints. Containing sundrie small Poemes of the Worlds Vanitie. Whereof the next Page maketh mention. By Ed. Sp.

Edmund Spenser


Juvenilia by Edmund Spenser: The Ruines of Rome were probably translated while he was a student at Cambridge.

John Payne Collier: "The Ruins of Rome, which follows Mother Hubberd's Tale, is without title-page, or introduction of any kind, and professes merely to be translated from Bellay. The publisher in some way recovered the sonnets from among the less regarded productions of Spenser's youthful Muse: when he wrote them he was probably only 'essaying his weakling wings'" Poetical Works of Spenser (1862; 1875) 1:lxxxvi.



Ye heavenly Spirits, whose ashy Cinders lie
Under deep Ruines, with huge Walls opprest,
But not your Praise, the which shall never die
Through your fair Verses, ne in Ashes rest:
If so be shrilling Voice of Wight alive
May reach from hence to depth of darkest Hell,
Then let those deep Abysses open rive,
That ye may understand my shrieking Yell.
Thrice having seen under the Heavens Veil
Your Tombs devoted compass over all,
Thrice unto you with loud Voice I appeal,
And for your antique Fury here do call,
The whiles that I with sacred Horror sing
Your Glory, fairest of all earthly Thing.

Great Babylon her haughty Walls will praise,
And sharped Steeples high shot up in Air;
Greece will the old Ephesian Buildings blaze;
And Nylus' Nurslings their Pyramids fair;
The same yet Vaunting Greece will tell the Story
Of Jove's great Image in Olympus placed,
Mausolus' Work will be the Carians Glory,
And Crete will boast the Labyrinth now raced
The antique Rhodian will likewise set forth
The great Colos, erect to Memory;
And what else in the World is of like worth,
Some greater learned Wit will magnify.
But l will sing above all Moniments
Seven Roman Hills, the World's seven Wonderments.

Thou Stranger, which for Rome in Rome here seekest,
And nought of Rome in Rome perceiv'st at all,
These same old Walls, old Arches, which thou seest,
Old Palaces, is that which Rome Men call.
Behold what Wreck, what Ruine, and what Waste,
And how that she, which with her mighty Powre
Tam'd all the World, hath tam'd her self at last,
The Prey of Time, which all things doth devoure.
Rome now of Rome is th' only Funerall,
And only Rome, of Rome hath Victory;
Ne ought save Tyber, hastening to his Fall,
Remains of all: O World's Inconstancy!
That which is firm, doth flit and fall away;
And that is flitting, doth abide and stay.

She, whose high Top above the Stars did sore,
One Foot on Thetis, th' other on the Morning,
One Hand on Scythia, th' other on the More,
Both Heaven and Earth in roundness compassing;
Jove fearing, lest if she should greater grow,
The Giants old should once again uprise,
Her whelm'd with Hills, these seven Hills, which be now
Tombs of her Greatness, which did threat the Skies;
Upon her Head he heaps Mount Saturnal,
Upon her Belly th' Antique Palatine,
Upon her Stomack laid Mount Quirinal,
On her left Hand the noysome Esquiline,
And Caelian on the right: but both her Feet,
Mount Viminal and Aventine do meet.

Who lists to see, what-ever Nature, Art,
And Heaven could do, O Rome, thee let him see,
In case thy Greatness he can guess in Heart,
By that which but the Picture is of thee.
Rome is no more: but if the Shade of Rome
May of the Body yeild a seeming sight,
It's like a Corse drawn forth out of the Tomb
By Magick Skill out of eternal Night:
The Corps of Rome in Ashes is entombed,
And her great Spirit rejoyned to the Spirit
Of this great Mass, is in the same enwombed;
But her brave Writings, which her famous Merit
In spight of Time, out of the Dust doth rear,
Do make her Idol through the World appear.

Such as the Berecynthian Goddess bright
In her swift Charret, with high Turrets crown'd,
Proud that so many Gods she brought to light;
Such was this City in her good Days found:
This City, more than that great Phrygian Mother,
Renown'd for Fruit of famous Progeny,
Whose Greatness, by the Greatness of none other,
But by her self her equal match could see:
Rome only might to Rome compared be,
And only Rome could make great Rome to tremble;
So did the Gods by heavenly Doom decree,
That other earthly Powre should not resemble
Her that did match the whole Earth's Puissaunce,
And did her Courage to the Heavens advaunce.

Ye sacred Ruines, and ye tragick Sights,
Which only do the Name of Rome retain,
Old Moniments, which of so famous Sprights
The Honour yet in Ashes do maintain:
Triumphant Arks, Spyres Neighbours to the Skye,
That you to see doth th' Heaven it self appall,
Alas, by little ye to nothing fly,
The Peoples Fable and the Spoil of all:
And though your Frames do for a time make War
'Gainst Time, yet Time in time shall ruinate
Your Works and Names, and your last Reliques mar.
My sad Desires, rest therefore moderate:
For if that Time make end of things so sure,
It als will end the Pain which I endure.

Through Arms and Vassals Rome the World subdu'd,
That one would ween, that one sole City's Strength
Both Land and Sea in Roundness had surview'd
To be the Measure of her Breadth and Length:
This People's Vertue yet so fruitful was
Of vertuous Nephews, that Posterity
Striving in Powre their Grand-fathers to pass,
The lowest Earth joyn'd to the Heavens high;
To th' end that having all Parts in their powre,
Nought from the Roman Empire might be quight,
And that though Time doth Common-wealths devoure,
Yet no Time should so low embase their Hight,
That her Head earth'd in her foundation deep,
Should not her Name and endless Honour keep.

Ye cruel Stars, and eke ye Gods unkind,
Heaven envious, and bitter Stepdame Nature,
Be it by Fortune or by Course of kind
That ye do wield th' affairs of earthly Creature;
Why have your Hands long sithence travailed
To frame this World that doth endure so long?
Or why were not these Roman Palaces
Made of some Matter no less firm and strong?
I say not, as the common Voice doth say,
That all things which beneath the Moon have being,
Are temporal, and subject to decay:
But I say rather, though not all agreeing
With some, that ween the contrary in Thought;
That all this Whole shall one day come to nought.

As that brave Son of Aeson, which by Charms
Atchiev'd the golden Fleece in Colchid Land,
Out of the Earth engendred Men of Arms
Of Dragons Teeth, sown in the sacred Sand;
So this brave Town, that in her youthly days,
An Hydra was of Warriours glorious,
Did fill with her renowned Nourslings Praise
The fiery Sun's both one and other House:
But they at last, there being then not living
An Hercules, so rank Seed to repress;
Emongst themselves with cruel Fury striving,
Mow'd down themselves with Slaughter merciless;
Renewing in themselves that Rage unkind,
Which whilom did those Earth-born Brethren blind.

Mars, shaming to have given so great head
To his Off-spring, that mortal Puissance
Puft up with Pride of Roman Hardyhed,
Seem'd above Heaven's Powre it self t' advaunce:
Cooling again his former kindled Heat,
With which he had those Roman Spirits fill'd,
Did blow new Fire, and with enflamed Breath,
Into the Gothick Cold hot Rage instill'd:
Then 'gan that Nation, th' Earth's new Giants Brood,
To dart abroad the Thunder-bolts of War;
And beating down these Walls with furious Mood
Into her Mother's Bosom, all did mar:
To th' end that none, all were it Jove, his Sire,
Should boast himself of the Romane Empire.

Like as whilom the Children of the Earth
Heapt Hills on Hills, to scale the starry Skye,
And fight against the Gods of heavenly Birth,
Whiles Jove at them his Thunder-bolts let flye;
All suddenly with Lightning overthrown,
The furious Squadrons down to ground did fall,
That th' earth under her Childrens weight did grone,
And th' Heavens in Glory triumpht over all:
So did that haughty Front which heaped was
On these seven Roman Hills, it self uprear
Over the World, and lift her lofty Face
Against the Heaven, that 'gan her Force to fear.
But now the scorned Fields bemone her Fall,
And Gods secure fear not her Force at all.

Not the swift Fury of the Flames aspiring,
Nor the deep Wounds of Victors raging Blade,
Nor ruthless Spoil of Souldiers Blood-desiring,
The which so oft thee, Rome, their Conquest made;
Ne stroke on stroke of Fortune variable,
Ne Rust of Age hating Continuance,
Nor Wrath of Gods, nor Spight of Men unstable,
Nor thou oppos'd 'gainst thine own Puissance;
Nor th' horrible Uprore of Winds high blowing,
Nor swelling Streams of that God snaky-paced,
Which hath so often with his overflowing
Thee drenched, have thy Pride so much abased;
But that this nothing, which they have thee left,
Makes the World wonder, what they from thee reft.

As Men in Summer fearless pass the Foord,
Which is in Winter Lord of all the Plain,
And with his tumbling Streams doth bear aboord
The Ploughman's Hope, and Shepherds Labour vain:
And as the coward Beasts use to despise
The noble Lyon after his Live's end,
Whetting their Teeth, and with vain Fool-hardise
Daring the Foe, that cannot him defend;
And as at Troy most Dastards of the Greeks
Did brave about the Corps of Hector cold:
So those which whilom wont with pallid Cheeks
The Roman Triumphs Glory to behold,
Now on these ashie Tombs shew Boldness vain,
And conquer'd dare the Conquerour disdain.

Ye pallid Spirits, and ye ashie Ghosts,
Which joyning in the Brightness of your Day,
Brought forth those Signs of your presumptuous Boasts,
Which now their dusty Reliques do bewray;
Tell me ye Spirits (sith the darksom River
Of Styx, not passable to Souls returning,
Enclosing you in thrice three Wards for ever,
Do not restrain your Images still mourning)
Tell me then (for perhaps some one of you
Yet here above him secretly doth hide)
Do ye not feel your Torments to accrew,
When ye sometimes behold the ruin'd Pride
Of these old Roman Works built with your Hands,
Now to become nought else but heaped Sands?

Like as ye see the wrathful Sea from far,
In a great Mountain heaps with hideous noyse,
Eftsoons of thousand Billows shouldred nar,
Against a Rock to break with dreadful poyse;
Like as ye see fell Boreas with sharp Blast,
Tossing huge Tempests through the troubled Sky,
Eftsoons having his wide Wings spent in wast,
To stop his weary Cariere suddenly:
And as ye see huge Flames spread diversly,
Gather'd in one up to the Heavens to spire,
Eftsoons consum'd to fall down feebily;
So whylom did this Monarchy aspire
As Waves, as Wind, as Fire spread over all,
Till it by fatal Doom adown did fall.

So long as Jove's great Bird did make his flight,
Bearing the Fire with which Heaven doth us fray,
Heaven had not fear of that presumptuous Might,
With which the Gyants did the Gods assay:
But all so soon, as scorching Sun had brent
His Wings, which wont the Earth to overspred,
The Earth out of the massie Womb forth sent
That antique Horror, which made Heaven adred.
Then was the German Raven in disguise
That Roman Eagle seen to cleave asunder,
And towards Heaven freshly to arise
Out of these Mountains, now consum'd to powder:
In which the Fowl the serves to bear the Lightening,
Is now no more seen flying, not alightning.

These heaps of Stones, these old Walls which ye see,
Were first enclosures but of salvage Soil;
And these brave Palaces, which maistred be
Of Time, were Shepherds Cottages somewhile.
Then took the Shepherds Kingly Ornaments,
And the stout Hynd arm'd his right Hand with Steel;
Eftsoons their Rule of yearly Presidents
Grew great, and six Months greater a great deal:
Which made perpetual, rose to so great Might,
That thence th' Imperial Eagle rooting took,
Till th' Heaven it self opposing 'gainst her Might,
Her Power to Peter's Successor betook;
Who Shepherd-like (as Fates the same foreseeing)
Doth shew, that all things turn to their first Being.

All that is perfect, which th' Heaven beautifies,
All that's imperfect, born below the Moon,
All that doth feed our Spirits and our Eyes,
And all that doth consume our Pleasures soon,
All the Mishap, the which our Days outwears,
All the good Hap of th' oldest times afore,
Rome, in the time of her great Ancesters,
Like a Pandora, locked long in store.
But Destiny this huge Chaos turmoyling,
In which all Good and Evil was enclosed,
Their heavenly Vertues from these Woes assoyling,
Carried to Heaven, from sinful Bondage loosed:
But their great Sins, the Causers of their Pain,
Under these antique Ruines yet remain.

No otherwise than rainy Cloud, first fed
With earthly Vapours gather'd in the Air,
Eftsoons in compass arch'd, to steep his Hed,
Doth plonge himself in Thetys' Bosom fair;
And mounting up again, from whence he came,
With his great Belly spreds the dimmed World,
Till at the last, dissolving his moist Frame
In Rain, or Snow, or Hail he forth is horld:
This City, which was first but Shepherd's Shade,
Uprisng by degrees, grew to such height,
That Queen of Land and Sea her self she made.
At last, not able to bear so great weight,
Her Power disperst, through an the World did vade;
To shew that all in th' end to nought shall fade.

The fame which Pyrrhus, and the Puissance
Of Africk could not tame, that same brave City,
Which with stout Courage arm'd against Mischance,
Sustain'd the Shock of common Enmity;
Long as her Ship to with so many Freaks,
Had all the World in Arms against her bent,
Was never seen, that any Fortune's Wreaks
Could break her Course begun with brave Intent.
But when the Object of her Vertue fail'd,
Her Power it self against it self did arm:
As he the having long in Tempest sail'd,
Fain would arrive, but cannot for the Storm,
If too great Wind against the Port him drive,
Doth in the Port it self his Vessel rive.

When thee brave Honour of the Latine Name,
Which mear'd her Rule with Africa and Byze,
With Thames' inhabitants of noble Fame,
And they which see the dawning Day arise;
Her Nourslings did with mutinous Uprore
Hearten against her self, her conquer'd Spoil,
Which she had won from all the World afore,
Of all the World was spoil'd within a while:
So when she compass'd Course of th' Universe
In six and thirty thousand Years is run,
The Bands of th' Elements shall back reverse
To their first Discord, and be quite undone:
The Seeds, of which all things at first were bred,
Shall in great Chaos' Womb again be hid.

O wary Wisdom of the Man, that would
That Carthage Towres from Spoil should be forborn!
To th' end that his victorious People should
With cankring Leisure not be overworn;
He well foresaw, how that the Roman Courage,
Impatient of Pleasure's faint Desires,
Through Idleness, would turn to civil Rage,
And be her self the Matter of her Fires.
For in a People given all to Ease,
Ambition is engendred easily;
As in a vicious Body, gross Disease
Soon grows through Humours Superfluity.
That came to pass, when swoln with Plenty's Pride,
Nor Prince, nor Peer, nor Kin they Would abide.

If the blind Fury, which Wars breedeth oft,
Wonts not t' enrage the Hearts of equal Beasts,
Whether they fare on foot, or fly aloft,
Or armed be with Claws, or scaly Creasts;
What fell Erynnis with hot burning Tongs,
Did gripe your Hearts with noisom Rage imbew'd,
That each to other working cruel Wrongs,
Your Blades in your own Bowels you embrew'd?
Was this (ye Romans) your hard Destiny?
Or some old Sin, whose unappeased Guilt
Pour'd Vengeance forth on you eternally?
Or Brothers Blood, the which at first was spilt
Upon your Walls, that God might not endure
Upon the same to set Foundation sure?

O that I had the Thracian Poet's Harp,
For to awake out of th' infernal Shade
Those antique Caesars, sleeping long in dark,
The which this ancient City whilom made:
Or that I had Amphion's instrument,
To quicken with his vital Notes Accord,
The stony Joints of these old Walls now rent,
By which th' Ausonian Light might be restor'd;
Or that at least I could with Pensil fine,
Fashion the Pourtraicts of these Palaces,
By pattern of great Virgil's Spirit Divine:
I would assay with that which in me is,
To build with level of my lofty Stile,
That which no Hands can evermore compile.

Who list the Roman Greatness forth to figure,
Him needeth not to seek for Usage right
Of Line, or Lead, or Rule, or Square, to measure
Her Length, her Breadth, her Deepness, or her Hight:
But him behooves to view in compass round
All that the Ocean grasps in his long Arms;
Be it where th' yearly Star doth scorch the Ground,
Or where cold Boreas blows his bitter Storms.
Rome was th' whole World, and all the World was Rome;
And if things nam'd their Names do equalize,
When Land and Sea ye name, then name ye Rome;
And naming Rome, ye Land and Sea comprize:
For th' ancient Plot of Rome, displayed plain,
The Map of all the wide World doth contain.

Thou that at Rome astonish'd dost behold
The antique Pride, which menaced the Sky,
These haughty Heaps, these Palaces of old,
These Walls, these Arks, these Baths, these Temples hie;
Judge by these ample Ruins View, the Rest
The which injurious Time hath quite outworn,
Since of all Workmen held in reckning best,
Yet these old Fragments are for Patterns born:
Then also mark, how Rome from Day to Day,
Repairing her decayed Fashion,
Renews her self with Buildings rich and gay;
That one would judg, that the Roman Daemon
Doth yet himself with fatal Hand enforce,
Again on foot to rear her pouldred Corse.

He that hath seen a great Oak dry and dead,
Yet clad with Reliques of some Trophees old,
Lifting to Heaven her aged hoary Head,
Whose Foot on Ground hath left but feeble hold;
But half disbowel'd lies above the Ground,
Shewing her wreathed Roots, and naked Arms,
And on her Trunk all rotten and unsound,
Only supports her self for Meat of Worms;
And though she owe her Fall to the first Wind,
Yet of the devout People is ador'd,
And many young Plants. spring out of her Rind:
Who such an Oak hath lien, let him record
That such this City's Honour was of gore,
And 'mongst all Cities flourished much more.

All that which Egypt whilom did devise,
All that which Greece their Temples to embrave,
After th' Ionick, Attick, Dorick Guise,
Or Corinth, skill'd in curious Works to grave;
All time Lysippus' practick Art could form,
Apelles' Wit, or Phidias his Skill,
Was wont this ancient City to adorn,
And Heaven it self with her wide Wonders fill:
All that which Athens ever brought forth wise,
All that which Africk ever brought forth strange,
All that which Asia ever had of prise,
Was here to see. O marvailous great Change!
Rome living, was the World's sole Ornament;
And dead, is now the World's sole Moniment.

Like as the seeded Field green Grass first shows,
Then from green Grass into a Stalk doth spring,
And from a Stalk into an Ear forth grows,
Which Ear the fruitful Grain doth shortly bring;
And as in Season due the Husband mows
The waving Locks of those fair yellow Hairs,
Which bound in Sheaves, and laid in comely Rows,
Upon the naked Fields in Stacks he rears:
So grew the Roman Empire by degree,
Till that Barbarian Hands it quite did spill,
And left of it but these old Marks to see,
Of which all Passers-by do somewhat pill;
As they which glean, the Reliques use to gather,
Which th' Husbandman behind him chanst to scatter.

That same is now nought but a Champain wide,
Where all this World's Pride once was situate.
No blame to thee, whosoever doost abide
By Nyle, or Gange, or Tyre, or Euphrate:
Ne Africk thereof guilty is, nor Spain,
Nor the bold People by the Thamis' Brinks,
Nor the brave warlike Brood of Alemain,
Nor the born Souldier which Rhine running drinks:
Thou only Cause, O civil Fury, art,
Which sowing in th' Aemathian Fields thy Spight,
Didst arm thy Hand against thy proper Heart;
To th' end, that when thou wast in greatest hight
To Greatness grown, through long Prosperity,
Thou then adown might'st fall more horribly.

Hope ye, my Verses, that Posterity
Of Age ensuing shall you ever read?
Hope ye that ever Immorality
So mean Harp's work may challenge for her Meed?
If under Heaven any endurance were,
These Moniments, which not in Paper writ,
But in Porphyre and Marble do appear,
Might well have hop'd to have obtained it.
Nath'less my Lute, whom Phoebus deign'd to give,
Cease not to sound there old Antiquities;
For if that Time do let thy Glory live,
Well may'st thou boast, how ever bare thou be,
That thou art first, which of thy Nation song
Th' old Honour of the People gowned long.

L' ENVOY.
Bellay, first Garland of free Poesy
That France brought forth, though fruitful of brave Wits,
Well worthy thou of Immortality,
That long hast travel'd by thy learned Writs,
Old Rome out of her Ashes to revive,
And give a second Life to dead Decays:
Needs must he all Eternity survive,
That can to other give eternal Days.
Thy Days therefore are endless, and thy Praise
Excelling all that ever went before:
And after thee, 'gins Bartas hie to raise
His heavenly Muse, th' Almighty to adore.
Live, happy Spirits' th' Honour of your Name,
And fill the World with never-dying Fame.

[Works, ed. Hughes (1715) 5:1391-1404]