To Rome, Buried In Its Ruins

This poem (“A Roma sepultada en sus ruinas”) was written in Spanish by Frascisco de Quevedo y Villegas (1580-1645). In my English translation, I have changed the original form from the Petrarchan sonnet to a similar variant form called the Crybin sonnet. I have also used iambic pentameter, which does not exist in Spanish poetry.

The pilgrim looks for Rome but finds just gloom,
In Rome one cannot find the Roman halls,
In utter ruins are her boasted walls,
The Aventine supplies its own dark tomb.

The Palatine has fallen from its reign,
The medals, worn away by use and time,
Appear to be a battle’s dross and grime,
Insignias of Rome that bear a stain.

The Tiber is the only lasting sign,
Its waters washed, but now they bury Rome,
It mourns the Roman fall and her decline.

Oh Rome! Your glory lapsed and we bemoan
The fact that greatness cannot be enshrined;
The current stays, but stable things have flown.

1 Aventine and Palatine – two of the seven hills of Rome
2 Tiber – the river that runs through Rome

(written c. July 2019)

The original Spanish poem:

A Roma sepultada en sus ruinas

Buscas en Roma a Roma ¡oh peregrino!
y en Roma misma a Roma no la hallas:
cadáver son las que ostentó murallas,
y, tumba de sí propio, el Aventino.

Yace, donde reinaba, el Palatino;
y limadas del tiempo las medallas,
más se muestran destrozo a las batallas
de las edades, que blasón latino.

Sólo el Tíber quedó; cuya corriente,
si ciudad la regó, ya sepultura
la llora con funesto son doliente.

¡Oh Roma!, en tu grandeza, en tu hermosura
huyó lo que era firme, y solamente
lo fugitivo permanece y dura.

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