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21.2.05

Du Bellay on Rome

In preparation for my trip to Rome, to make a recording in Santa Maria Maggiore with the Choir of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, I have been watching movies about Rome and reading from Henry James's Rome writing. I also dusted off my copy of Joachim Du Bellay's collection of poetry about Rome, Les Antiquités de Rome, published in 1558, after he had lived in Rome from 1553 to 1557. Du Bellay, member of the Pléiade with Ronsard and author of the Défense et Illustration de la Langue Françoise, was dead within two years. Rereading the poems, I still liked Sonnet 29 very much. Here is Du Bellay's text, with the English adaptation (The Ruines of Rome) by Edmund Spenser, which is a nice blend of translation and poetry:

Tout ce qu'Egypte en pointe façonna,
Tout ce que Grèce à la corinthienne,
A l'ionique, attique ou dorienne,
Pour l'ornement des temples maçonna :

Tout ce que l'art de Lysippe donna,
La main d'Apelle ou la main phidienne,
Soulait orner cette ville ancienne,
Dont la grandeur le ciel même étonna :

Tout ce qu'Athène eut onques de sagesse,
Tout ce qu'Asie eut onques de richesse,
Tout ce qu'Afrique eut onques de nouveau,

S'est vu ici. O merveille profonde !
Rome vivant fut l'ornement du monde,
Et morte elle est du monde le tombeau.
All that which Aegypt whilome did deuise,
All that which Greece their temples to embraue,
After th' Ionicke, Atticke, Doricke guise,
Or Corinth skil'd in curious workes to graue;

All that Lysippus practike arte could forme,
Apelles wit, or Phidias his skill,
Was wont this auncient Citie to adorne,
And the the heauen it selfe with her wide wonders fill;

All that which Athens euer brought forth wise,
All that which Afrike euer brought forth strange,
All that which Asie euer had of prise,

Was here to see. O meruelous great change:
Rome liuing, was the worlds sole ornament,
And dead, is now the worlds sole moniment.

Lord Byron's remarks on Rome in Childe Harold's Pilgrimage are also worth reading again.

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