The Poetical Works of Armstrong, Dyer, and Green/The Ruins of Rome

For works with similar titles, see The Ruins of Rome.
For other versions of this work, see The Ruins of Rome (Dyer).
The Ruins of Rome  (1740) 
by John Dyer

Enough of Grongar, and the shady dales
Of winding Towy, Merlin's fabled haunt,
I sung inglorious. Now the love of arts,
And what in metal or in stone remains
Of proud antiquity, through various realms
And various languages and ages famed,
Bears me remote, o'er Gallia's woody bounds,
O'er the cloud-piercing Alps remote; beyond
The vale of Arno purpled with the vine,
Beyond the Umbrian and Etruscan hills,
To Latium's wide champagne, forlorn and waste,
Where yellow Tiber his neglected wave
Mournfully rolls. Yet once again, my Muse,
Yet once again, and soar a loftier flight;
Lo the resistless theme, imperial Rome!
Fallen, fallen, a silent heap; her heroes all
Sunk in their urns; behold the pride of pomp,
The throne of nations fallen; obscured in dust;
Even yet majestical: the solemn scene
Elates the soul, while now the rising sun
Flames on the ruins in the purer air
Towering aloft, upon the glittering plain,
Like broken rocks, a vast circumference;
Rent palaces, crushed columns, rifted moles,
Fanes rolled on fanes, and tombs on buried tombs.
Deep lies in dust the Theban obelisk,
Immense along the waste; minuter art,
Glyconian[1] forms, or Phidian, subtly fair,
O'erwhelming; as th' immense Leviathan
The finny brood, when near Ierne's shore
Out-stretched, unwieldy, his island length appears,
Above the foamy flood. Globose and huge,
Grey-mouldering temples swell, and wide o'ercast
The solitary landscape, hills and woods,
And boundless wilds; while the vine-mantled brows
The pendant goats unveil, regardless they
Of hourly peril, though the clefted domes
Tremble to every wind. The pilgrim oft
At dead of night, 'mid his oráison hears
Aghast the voice of time, disparting towers,
Tumbling all precipitate down-dashed,
Rattling around, loud thundering to the moon:
While murmurs soothe each awful interval
Of ever-falling waters; shrouded Nile,
Eridanus, and Tiber with his twins,
And palmy Euphrates;[2] they with dropping locks,
Hang o'er their urns, and mournfully among
The plaintive-echoing ruins pour their streams.
Yet here adventurous in the sacred search
Of ancient arts, the delicate of mind,
Curious and modest, from all climes resort,
Grateful society! with these I raise,
The toilsome step up the proud Palatine,
Through spiry cypress groves, and towering pine,
Waving aloft o'er the big ruin's brows,
On numerous arches reared; and frequent stopped,
The sunk ground startles me with dreadful chasm,
Breathing forth darkness from the vast profound
Of aisles and halls, within the mountain's womb.
Nor these the nether works; all these beneath,
And all beneath the vales and hills around,
Extend the caverned sewers, massy, firm,
As the Sibylline grot beside the dead
Lake of Avernus; such the sewers huge,
Whither the great Tarquinian genius dooms
Each wave impure; and proud with added rains,
Hark how the mighty billows lash their vaults,
And thunder; how they heave their rocks in vain!
Though now incessant time has rolled around
A thousand winters o'er the changeful world,
And yet a thousand since, the indignant floods
Roar loud in their firm bounds, and dash and swell,
In vain; conveyed to Tiber's lowest wave.
Hence, over airy plains, by crystal founts,
That weave their glittering waves with tuneful lapse,
Among the sleeky peebles, agate clear,
Cerulian ophite, and the flowery vein
Of orient jasper, pleased I move along,
And vases bossed and huge inscriptive stones,
And intermingling vines; and figured nymphs,
Floras and Chloes of delicious mould,
Cheering the darkness; and deep empty tombs,
And dells, and mouldering shrines, with old decay
Rustic and green, and wide-embowering shades,
Shot from the crooked clefts of nodding towers;
A solemn wilderness! With error sweet,
I wind the lingering step, where'er the path
Mazy conducts me, which the vulgar foot
O'er sculptures maimed has made; Anubis, Sphinx,
Idols of antique guise, and hornèd Pan,
Terrific, monstrous shapes! preposterous gods,
Of Fear and Ignorance, by the sculptor's hand
Hewn into form, and worshipped; as even now
Blindly they worship at their breathless mouths[3]
In varied appellations: men to these
(From depth to depth in darkening error fallen)
At length ascribed th' inapplicable name.
How doth it please and fill the memory
With deeds of brave renown, while on each hand
Historic urns and breathing statues rise,
And speaking busts! Sweet Scipio, Marius stern,
Pompey superb, the spirit-stirring form
Of Cæsar raptured with the charm of rule
And boundless fame; impatient for exploits,
His eager eyes upcast, he soars in thought
Above all height: and his own Brutus see,
Desponding Brutus, dubious of the right,
In evil days, of faith, of public weal
Solicitous and sad. Thy next regard
Be Tully's graceful attitude; upraised, no
His out-stretch'd arm he waves, in act to speak
Before the silent masters of the world,
And Eloquence arrays him. There behold
Prepared for combat in the front of war
The pious brothers; jealous Alba stands
In fearful expectation of the strife,
And youthful Rome intent: the kindred foes
Fall on each other's neck in silent tears;
In sorrowful benevolence embrace—
Howe'er, they soon unsheathed the flashing sword,
Their country calls to arms; now all in vain
The mother clasps the knee, and even the fair
Now weeps in vain; their country calls to arms.
Such virtue Clelia, Codes, Manlius, roused;
Such were the Fabii, Decii; so inspired
The Scipios battled, and the Gracchi spoke:
So rose the Roman state. Me now, of these
Deep-musing, high ambitious thoughts inflame
Greatly to serve my country, distant land,
And build me virtuous fame; nor shall the dust
Of these fallen piles with shew of sad decay
Avert the good resolve, mean argument,
The fate alone of matter.——Now the brow
We gain enraptured; beauteously distinct[4]
The numerous porticos and domes upswell,
With obelisks and columns interposed,
And pine, and fir, and oak: so fair a scene
Sees not the dervise from the spiral tomb
Of ancient Chammos, while his eye beholds
Proud Memphis' reliques o'er th' Egyptian plain:
Nor hoary hermit from Hymettus' brow,
Though graceful Athens, in the vale beneath,
Along the windings of the Muse's stream,
Lucid Ilyssus, weeps her silent schools,
And groves, unvisited by bard or sage.
Amid the towery ruins, huge, supreme,
The enormous amphitheatre behold,
Mountainous pile! o'er whose capacious womb
Pours the broad firmament its varied light;
While from the central floor the seats ascend
Round above round, slow-widening to the verge,
A circuit vast and high; nor less had held
Imperial Rome and her attendant realms,
When, drunk with rule, she willed the fierce delight,
And oped the gloomy caverns, whence out-rushed
Before th' innumerable shouting crowd
The fiery, madded, tyrants of the wilds,
Lions and tigers, wolves and elephants,
And desperate men, more fell. Abhorr'd intent!
By frequent converse with familiar death,
To kindle brutal daring apt for war;
To lock the breast, and steel th' obdurate heart
Amid the piercing cries of sore distress
Impenetrable.—But away thine eye;
Behold yon steepy cliff; the modern pile
Perchance may now delight, while that, revered[5]
In ancient days, the page alone declares,
Or narrow coin through dim cerulean rust.
The fane was Jove's, its spacious golden roof
O'er thick-surrounding temples beaming wide
Appeared, as when above the morning hills
Half the round sun ascends; and towered aloft,
Sustained by columns huge, innumerous
As cedars proud on Canaan's verdant heights
Darkening their idols, when Astarte lured
Too prosperous Israel from his living strength.
And next regard yon venerable dome,
Which virtuous Latium, with erroneous aim
Raised to her various deities, and named
Pantheon; plain and round; of this our world no
Majestic emblem; with peculiar grace,
Before its ample orb, projected stands
The many-pillared portal; noblest work
Of human skill: here, curious architect,
If thou assay'st, ambitious, to surpass
Palladius, Angelus, or British Jones,
On these fair walls extend the certain scale,
And turn th' instructive compass: careful mark
How far in hidden art the noble plain
Extends, and where the lovely forms commence
Of flowing sculpture: nor neglect to note
How range the taper columns, and what weight
Their leafy brows sustain: fair Corinth first
Boasted their order which Callimachus
(Reclining studious on Æsopus' banks
Beneath an urn of some lamented nymph)
Haply composed; the urn with foliage curled
Thinly concealed, the chapiter informed.
See the tall obelisks, from Memphis old,
One stone enormous each, or Thebes conveyed;
Like Albion's spires they rush into the skies.
And there the temple, where the summoned state[6]
In deep of night convened: even yet methinks
The veh'ment orator in rent attire
Persuasion pours, ambition sinks her crest;
And lo the villain, like a troubled sea
That tosses up her mire! Ever disguised,
Shall treason walk? shall proud oppression yoke
The neck of virtue? Lo the wretch, abashed,
Self-betrayed Catiline! O liberty,
Parent of happiness, celestial born;
When the first man became a living soul,
His sacred genius thou; be Britain's care;
With her secure, prolong thy loved retreat;
Thence bless mankind; while yet among her sons,
Even yet there are, to shield thine equal laws,
Whose bosom kindle at the sacred names
Of Cecil, Raleigh, Walsingham, and Drake.
May others more delight in tuneful airs;
In masque and dance excel; to sculptured stone
Give with superior skill the living look;
More pompous piles erect, or pencil soft
With warmer touch the visionary board:
But thou, thy nobler Britons teach to rule;
To check the ravage of tyrannic sway;
To quell the proud; to spread the joys of peace
And various blessings of ingenious trade.
Be these our arts, and ever may we guard,
Ever defend thee with undaunted heart,
Inestimable good; who giv'st us Truth,
Arrayed in every charm: whose hand benign
Teaches unwearied toil to clothe the fields,
And on his various fruits inscribes the name
Of Property: O nobly hailed of old
By thy majestic daughters, Judah fair,
And Tyrus and Sidonia, lovely nymphs,
And Libya bright, and all enchanting Greece,
Whose numerous towns and isles and peopled seas,
Rejoiced around her lyre; the heroic note
(Smit with sublime delight) Ausonia caught,
And planned imperial Rome. Thy hand benign
Reared up her towery battlements in strength;
Bent her wide bridges o'er the swelling stream
Of Tuscan Tiber; thine those solemn domes
Devoted to the voice of humbler prayer;
And thine those piles undecked, capacious, vast,[7]
In days of dearth where tender Charity
Dispensed her timely succours to the poor.
Thine too those musically-falling founts
To slake the clammy lip; adown they fall,
Musical ever; while from yon blue hills
Dim in the clouds, the radiant aqueducts
Turn their innumerable arches o'er
The spacious desert, brightening in the sun,
Proud and more proud, in their august approach:
High o'er irriguous vales and woods and towns,
Glide the soft whispering waters in the wind,
And here united pour their silver streams
Among the figured rocks, in murmuring falls,
Musical ever. These thy beauteous works:
And what beside felicity could tell
Of human benefit: more late the rest;
At various times their turrets chanced to rise,
When impious tyranny vouchsafed to smile.
Behold by Tiber's flood, where modern Rome[8]
Couches beneath the ruins: there of old
With arms and trophies gleamed the field of Mars :
There to their daily sports the noble youth
Rushed emulous; to fling the pointed lance;
To vault the steed; or with the kindling wheel
In dusty whirlwinds sweep the trembling goal;
Or wrestling, cope with adverse swelling breasts,
Strong grappling arms, closed heads, and distant feet;
Or clash the lifted gauntlets: there they formed
Their ardent virtues: lo the bossy piles,
The proud triumphal arches: all their wars,
Their conquests, honours, in the sculptures live.
And see from every gate those ancient roads,
With tombs high-verged, the solemn paths of Fame:
Deserve they not regard? O'er whose broad flints
Such crowds have rolled, so many storms of war!
Such trains of consuls, tribunes, sages, kings!
So many pomps! so many wondering realms!
Yet still through mountains pierced, o'er valleys raised,
In even state, to distant seas around,
They stretch their pavements. Lo the fane of Peace,
Built by that prince, who to the trust of power[9]
Was honest, the delight of human kind.
Three nodding aisles remain; the rest an heap
Of sand and weeds; her shrines, her radiant roofs,
And columns proud, that from her spacious floor,
As from a shining sea, majestic rose
An hundred foot aloft, like stately beech
Around the brim of Dion's glassy lake,
Charming the mimic painter: on the walls
Hung Salem's sacred spoils; the golden board,
And golden trumpets, now concealed, entombed
By the sunk roof.—O'er which in distant view
Th' Etruscan mountains swell, with ruins crowned
Of ancient towns; and blue Soracte spires,
Wrapping his sides in tempests. Eastward hence,
Nigh where the Cestian pyramid divides[10]
The mouldering wall, behold yon fabric huge,
Whose dust the solemn antiquarian turns,
And thence, in broken sculptures cast abroad,
Like Sybil's leaves, collects the builder's name
Rejoiced, and the green medals frequent found
Doom Caracalla to perpetual fame:
The stately pines, that spread their branches wide
In the dun rums of its ample halls,[11]
Appear but tufts; as may whate'er is high
Sink in comparison, minute and vile.
These, and unnumbered, yet their brows uplift,
Rent of their graces; as Britannia's oaks
On Merlin's mount, or Snowdon's rugged sides,
Stand in the clouds, their branches scattered round,
After the tempest; Mausoleums, Cirques,
Naumachias,[12] Forums: Trajan's column tall,
From whose low base the sculptures wind aloft,
And lead through various toils, up the rough steep,
Its hero to the skies: and his dark tower[13]
Whose execrable hand the city fired,
And while the dreadful conflagration blazed,
Played to the flames; and Phœbus' lettered dome;[14]
And the rough reliques of Carinæ's street,
Where now the shepherd to his nibbling sheep
Sits piping with his oaten reed; as erst
There piped the shepherd to his nibbling sheep,
When the humble roof Anchises' son explored
Of good Evander, wealth-despising king,
Amid the thickets: so revolves the scene;
So Time ordains, who rolls the things of pride
From dust again to dust. Behold that heap
Of mouldering urns (their ashes blown away,
Dust of the mighty) the same story tell;
And at its base, from whence the serpent glides
Down the green desert street, yon hoary monk
Laments the same, the vision as he views,
The solitary, silent, solemn scene,
Where Cæsars, heroes, peasants, hermits lie,
Blended in dust together; where the slave
Rests from his labours; where th' insulting proud
Resigns his power; the miser drops his hoard;
Where human folly sleeps.—There is a mood,
(I sing not to the vacant and the young)
There is a kindly mood of melancholy,
That wings the soul, and points her to the skies;
When tribulation clothes the child of man,
When age descends with sorrow to the grave,
Tis sweetly-soothing sympathy to pain,
A gently wakening call to health and ease.
How musical! when all-devouring Time,
Here sitting on his throne of ruins hoar,
While winds and tempests sweep his various lyre,
How sweet thy diapason, Melancholy!
Cool evening comes; the setting sun displays
His visible great round between yon towers,
As through two shady cliffs; away, my Muse,
Though yet the prospect pleases, ever new
In vast variety, and yet delight
The many-figured sculptures of the path
Half beauteous, half effaced; the traveller
Such antique marbles to his native land
Oft hence conveys; and every realm and state
With Rome's august remains, heroes and gods,
Deck their long galleries and winding groves;
Yet miss we not th' innumerable thefts,
Yet still profuse of graces teems the waste.
Suffice it now the Esquilian mount to reach
With weary wing, and seek the sacred rests
Of Maro's humble tenement; a low
Plain wall remains; a little sun-gilt heap,
Grotesque and wild : the gourd and olive brown
Weave the light roof; the gourd and olive fan
Their amorous foliage, mingling with the vine,
Who drops her purple clusters through the green.
Here let me lie, with pleasing fancy soothed:
Here flowed his fountain; here his laurels grew;
Here oft the meek good man, the lofty bard
Framed the celestial song, or social walked
With Horace and the ruler of the world:
Happy Augustus! who, so well inspired,
Couldst throw thy pomps and royalties aside,
Attentive to the wise, the great of soul,
And dignify thy mind. Thrice glorious days,
Auspicious to the Muses! Then revered,
Then hallowed was the fount, or secret shade,
Or open mountain, or whatever scene
The poet chose to tune the ennobling rhyme
Melodious; even the rugged sons of war,
Even the rude hinds revered the Poet's name:
But now—another age, alas! is ours——
Yet will the Muse a little longer soar,
Unless the clouds of care weigh down her wing,
Since Nature's stores are shut with cruel hand,
And each aggrieves his brother: since in vain
The thirsty pilgrim at the fountain asks
The o'erflowing wave—Enough—the plaint disdain.—
See'st thou yon fane? even now incessant time[15]
Sweeps her low mouldering marbles to the dust; 400
And Phœbus' temple, nodding with its woods,
Threatens huge ruin o'er the small rotund.
Twas there beneath a fig-tree's umbrage broad,
Th' astonished swains with reverend awe beheld
Thee, O Quirinus, and thy brother-twin,
Pressing the teat within a monster's grasp,
Sportive; while oft the gaunt and rugged wolf
Turned her stretched neck and formed your tender limbs:
So taught of Jove, even the fell savage fed
Your sacred infancies, your virtues, toils,
The conquests, glories, of the Ausonian state,
Wrapp'd in their sacred seeds. Each kindred soul,
Robust and stout, ye grapple to your hearts,
And little Rome appears. Her cots arise,
Green twigs of osier weave the slender walls,
Green rushes spread the roofs; and here and there
Opens beneath the rock the gloomy cave.
Elate with joy Etruscan Tiber views
Her spreading scenes enamelling his waves,
Her huts and hollow dells, and flocks and herds,
And gathering swains; and rolls his yellow car
To Neptune's court with more majestic train.
Her speedy growth alarmed the states around
Jealous; yet soon by wondrous virtue won,
They sink into her bosom. From the plough
Rose her dictators; fought, o'ercame, returned,
Yes, to the plough returned, and hailed their peers;
For then no private pomp, no household state,
The public only swelled the generous breast.
Who has not heard the Fabian heroes sung?
Dentatus' scars, or Mutius' flaming hand?
How Manlius saved the capitol? the choice
Of steady Regulus? As yet they stood,
Simple of life; as yet seducing wealth
Was unexplored, and shame of poverty
Yet unimagined—Shine not all the fields
With various fruitage? murmur not the brooks
Along the flowery valleys? They, content,
Feasted at Nature's hand, indelicate,
Blithe, in their easy taste; and only sought
To know their duties; that their only strife,
Their generous strife, and greatly to perform.
They through all shapes of peril and of pain,
Intent on honour, dared in thickest death
To snatch the glorious deed. Nor Trebia quell'd,
Nor Thrasymene, nor Cannæ's bloody field,
Their dauntless courage; storming Hannibal
In vain the thunder of the battle rolled,
The thunder of the battle they returned
Back on his Punic shores; till Carthage fell,
And danger fled afar. The city gleamed
With precious spoils: alas prosperity!
Ah baneful state! yet ebbed not all their strength
In soft luxurious pleasures; proud desire
Of boundless sway, and feverish thirst of gold,
Roused them again to battle. Beauteous Greece,
Torn from her joys, in vain with languid arm
Half raised her rusty shield; nor could avail
The sword of Dacia, nor the Parthian dart;
Nor yet the car of that famed British chief,
Which seven brave years beneath the doubtful wing
Of victory dreadful rolled its griding wheels
Over the bloody war: the Roman arms
Triumphed, till Fame was silent of their foes.
And now, the world unrivalled they enjoyed
In proud security: the crested helm,
The plated greave and corslet hung unbraced;
Nor clanked their arms, the spear and sounding shield,
But on the glittering trophy to the wind.
Dissolved in ease and soft delights they lie,
Till every sun annoys, and every wind
Has chilling force, and every rain offends:
For now the frame no more is girt with strength
Masculine, nor in lustiness of heart
Laughs at the winter storm and summer beam,
Superior to their rage: enfeebling vice
Withers each nerve, and opens every pore
To painful feeling: flowery bowers they seek
(As ether prompts, as the sick sense approves)
Or cool Nymphean grots, or tepid baths
(Taught by the soft Ionians); they, along
The lawny vale, of every beauteous stone,
Pile in the roseate air with fond expense:
Through silver channels glide the vagrant waves,
And fall on silver beds crystalline down,
Melodious murmuring; while luxury
Over their naked limbs, with wanton hand,
Sheds roses, odours, sheds unheeded bane.
Swift is the flight of wealth; unnumbered wants,
Brood of voluptuousness, cry out aloud
Necessity, and seek the splendid bribe.
The citron board, the bowl embossed with gems,
And tender foliage wildly wreathed around
Of seeming ivy, by that artful hand,
Corinthian Thericles; whate'er is known
Of rarest acquisition; Tyrian garbs,
Neptunian Albion's high testaceous food,
And flavoured Chian wines with incense fumed
To slake Patrician thirst: for these, their rights
In the vile streets they prostitute to sale;
Their ancient rights, their dignities, their laws,
Their native glorious freedom. Is there none,
Is there no villain, that will bind the neck
Stretched to the yoke? they come, the market throngs.
But who has most by fraud or force amassed?
Who most can charm corruption with his doles?
He be the monarch of the state; and lo!
Didius, vile usurer, through the crowd he mounts,[16]
Beneath his feet the Roman eagle cowers,
And the red arrows fill his grasp uncouth.
O Britons, O my countrymen, beware,
Gird, gird your hearts; the Romans once were free,
Were brave, were virtuous.—Tyranny howe'er
Deigned to walk forth awhile in pageant state
And with licentious pleasures fed the rout,
The thoughtless many: to the wanton sound
Of fifes and drums they danced, or in the shade
Sung Cæsar, great and terrible in war,
Immortal Cæsar! lo, a god, a god,
He cleaves the yielding skies! Cæsar meanwhile
Gathers the ocean pebbles; or the gnat
Enraged pursues; or at his lonely meal
Starves a wide province; tastes, dislikes, and flings
To dogs and sycophants: a god, a god!
The flowery shades and shrines obscene return.
But see along the north the tempest swell
O'er the rough Alps, and darken all their snows!
Sudden the Goth and Vandal, dreaded names!
Rush as the breach of waters, whelming all
Their domes, their villas; down the festive piles,
Down fall their Parian porches, gilded baths,
And roll before the storm in clouds of dust.
Vain end of human strength, of human skill,
Conquest, and triumph, and domain, and pomp,
And ease and luxury! O luxury,
Bane of elated life, of affluent states,
What dreary change, what ruin is not thine?
How doth thy bowl intoxicate the mind!
To the soft entrance of thy rosy cave
How dost thou lure the fortunate and great!
Dreadful attraction! while behind thee gapes
Th' unfathomable gulf where Asshur lies
O'erwhelmed, forgotten; and high-boasting Cham;
And Elam's haughty pomp; and beauteous Greece;
And the great queen of earth, imperial Rome.

  1. Glycon, Phidias, Grecian sculptors.
  2. Fountains at Rome adorned with the statues of those rivers.
  3. Several statues of the Pagan gods have been converted into images of saints.
  4. From the Palatine hill one sees most of the remarkable antiquities.
  5. The Capitol.
  6. The temple of Concord, where the senate met on Catiline's conspiracy.
  7. The public granaries.
  8. Modern Rome stands chiefly on the old Campus Martins.
  9. Begun by Vespasian, and finished by Titus.
  10. The tomb of Cestius, partly within and partly without the walls, near which lie Keats and Shelley.
  11. The baths of Caracalla, a vast ruin, in which Shelley wrote his 'Prometheus unbound.'
  12. 'Naumachias:' large erections for representing naval engagements. One built by Augustus was capable of containing fifty ships.
  13. Nero's
  14. The Palatine library.
  15. The temple of Romulus and Remus under mount Palatine.
  16. Didius Julianus, who bought the empire.

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.