The Ruins Of Time

(Quevedo, Mire los muros de la partia mia and
Buscas en Roma a Roma, (!)O peregrino!)

I

I saw the musty shingles of my house,
raw wood and fixed once, now a wash of moss
eroded by the ruin of age
turning all fair and green things into waste.
I climbed the pasture. I saw the dim sun drink
the ice just thawing from the boldered fallow,
woods crowd the foothills, seize last summer’s field,
and higher up, the sickly cattle bellow.
I went into my house. I saw how dust
and ravel had devoured its furnishing;
even my cane was withered and more bent,
even my sword was coffined up in rust—
there was no hilt left for the hand to try.
Everything ached, and told me I must die.

II

You search in Rome for Rome? O Traveler!
in Rome itself, there is no room for Rome,
the Aventine is its own mound and tomb,
only a corpse receives the worshipper.
And where the Capitol once crowned the forum,
are medals ruined by the hands of time;
they show how more was lost to chance and time
than Hannibal or Caesar could consume.
The Tiber flows still, but its waste laments
a city that has fallen in its grave –
each wave’s a woman beating at her breast.
O Rome! From all your palms, dominion, bronze
and beauty, what was firm has fled. What once
was fugitive maintains its permanence.

(Robert Lowell)

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