Since the Roman poet Virgil (C 70-19BC), authors have been fascinated by the Eternal City. Virgil gave the world snakes in the grass, Greeks bearing gifts and love conquers all. His epic poem the Aeneid eulogises Rome – and as a boy from the provinces arriving in Rome in the Augustan era, Virgil was mightily impressed, speaking of Rome’s “immortal majesty”.
Fast forward from Virgil and find out what other famous authors down the ages have thought about the Eternal City.
The poet Dante visited Rome in 1301
Purgatorio, Canto XVI
Rome, that reformed the world, accustomed was
Two suns to have, which one road and the other,
Of God and of the world, made manifest.
Soleva Roma, che ‘l buon mondo feo,
Due soli aver, che l’una e l’altra strada
Facean vedere, e del mondo e di Deo.
German poet and philosopher Goethe visited Rome between 1787 and 1788
“In the evening I climbed the column of Trajan. Seen from that height and at sunset, the Colosseum, with the Capitol close by, the Palatine behind and the city all around, it was a superb sight.”
Poet Lord Byron lived in the Piazza di Spagna in Rome in 1817.
Childe Harold CXLV
“While stands the Coliseum, Rome shall stand;
When falls the Coliseum, Rome shall fall;
And when Rome falls — the World.”
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley visited Rome in 1818, where his young son Will died and he competed the poem Prometheus Unbound. Shelley invited the poet John Keats to stay with hi in Rome, hearing of his illness. After Keats’ death, Shelley wrote Adonais in 1821. The poem Rome and Nature was published in 1839.
“Rome has fallen, ye see it lying
Heaped in undistinguished ruin:
Nature is alone undying.”
Celebrated poet John Keats arrived in Rome in November 1820 and died in February 1821 from TB. He wrote no poetry while in Rome and was confined to his room overlooking Piazza di Spagna. He did write letters to friends, one shortly before he left for Rome and several while confined to his room in Rome before his death.
“Land and sea, weakness and decline are great separators, but death is the great divorcer for ever.” (30 Sept 1820, shortly before leaving for Rome by sea)
“I can scarcely bid you goodbye, even in a letter. I always made an awkward bow.” (30 November 1820, shortly after arriving in Rome)
Novelist Charles Dickens visited Rome between 1844 and 1845.
“The Corso is a street a mile long: a street of shops, and palaces, and private houses, sometimes opening into a broad piazza.
“There are verandas and balconies of all shapes and sizes to almost every house – not on one storey alone but often to one room, or another on every storey – put there in general with so little order or regularity that if, year after year and season after season, it had rained balconies, hailed balconies, snowed balconies, blown balconies, they could scarcely have come into existence in a more disorderly manner.”
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