a) A brief history of ruins, with some equally brief meditations

b) Ruins and Rome: Decay in the Renaissance

c) Ruins and the English

d) Ruins, Poetry, City and Empire

e) Ruins and Language




In 1558 Joachim Du Bellay issued: Le premier livre des Antiquitez de Rome, contenant une generale description de sa grandeur, et comme une deploration de sa ruine: par Joach[im] Dubellay Ang[evin]. Plus un Songe ou vision sur le mesme subject, du mesme autheur. Edmund Spenser translated into blank verse an altered version of the Songe that had been made by Jan van der Noot for the latter’s A Theatre for Worldlings (1569) and then revised these translations, removing the four originals by van der Noot and replacing them with those sonnets the Flemish poet had omitted, for his Complaints (1591), where they appeared as the Visions of Bellay. The central text of the nine in Complaints is the Ruines of Rome – a translation of Du Bellay’s Antiquitez. There is at present no in-depth comparison of Spenser’s translation with the original; and close readings of the sonnets are a rarity indeed. This essay shall place both sequences in the context of three traditions – ruin poetry, the sonnet, and translation theory and practice – for the purpose of comparison.


It is a pleasure to write at length about Joachim Du Bellay. To be perfectly honest, any opportunity to escape the stifling air of the courtly labyrinth of Elizabethan England is grasped with grateful hands; but this poet is so much more than a necessary diversion. He is the greatest 16th-century exponent of the Petrarchian sonnet-form, and study of his sonnets, more than those of any other poet of this age, enables us to understand the workings of this form. We learn about structures and techniques, without this in any way lessening the intellectual challenge his sonnets present or vitiating their poetic value. He is also one of the most self-contradictory theorists on imitation and translation; this is testimony not to any absence of intellectual gifts or incapacity for logical expression, but to the complexity of the issues and the depth in which he examines them – or the depth in which his poetic and theoretical texts allow themselves to be examined.


However, before visiting Paris and London, it is necessary to journey to Rome, the central city of the Western imagination.

a) A Brief History of Ruins, with some equally brief Meditations[1]

The looming presence of ruins demands some initial comment. Like Death, they humble man: they confront his wondering gaze with the superiority of ultimately victorious Nature, and impress with the shock of visible decay. This is not the rapidly spinning wheel of the Goddess Fortune, but the slow crumbling of Destiny, symbolising the life of man. Buildings are the covenant between Nature and Man; in the fact of ruin, Nature has reabsorbed Art,[2] or, to adopt another perspective, art has become nature.[3] Just as the city, the mark of civilisation, returns to nature, so will man and his works. Ruins arrest us through “the prospect of decaying grandeur,” with ‘prospect’ deserving emphasis: it is what lies before us, in space and in time. They are our past; our past is ruins, a heap of fragments awaiting reconstruction.[4] The past is a ruined and buried memory, requiring excavation and interpretation; it is no surprise that Freud should have drawn an analogy between the unearthing of ruins and psychoanalysis[5]: analysis is (re)construction from the remaining traces. A parallel with the act of translation suggests itself; and in translation, as in analysis, the traces point to something far larger, deeper and greater than the consciousness of the subject had realised: they are not traces of the source language, but foundations of language itself.


One striking feature of the psychology of ruins is the immediacy of their impact. The demonstrative adjective can be found at the beginning of Anglo-Saxon, Renaissance Spanish and Neo-Latin meditations on the theme.[6] In the Renaissance poems, we can envision a pointing finger, and we hear the conversational, sharing tone of Antiquitez XVIII, ‘Ces grands monceaux pierreux, ces vieux murs que tu vois…’ There is no second visit as of that to Tintern Abbey. It is important to point out that this impact depends on an encounter with ruins – and therefore on the presence of a traveller. Cicero observes in his Disputations that:


At Corinth, the sudden sight of the ruins had more effect on me than on the actual inhabitants, for long contemplation had had the hardening effect of length of time upon their souls.[7]


Cicero is affected by the “sudden sight”; this vision reacts against his expectations, for his mind had pictured Corinth as a flourishing city. It is this discrepancy between imagined and actual vision, this shock of the realisation of discontinuity and sowing of the seeds of doubt, which initiates the comparative process. Comparison leads to creativity – although, strictly speaking, comparison is a creative act in itself –; the inspiring presence of ruins led Shelley to compose Prometheus Bound in the Baths of Caracalla. On occasion, the creative fruit that the immediate impact will bear may take time to ripen: Gibbon was astounded by his arrival in Rome and moved to conceive his Decline and Fall – after a week of contemplation in the city.[8]


Associating inspiration with presence does suggest that inspiration, too, is subject to decay. Indeed, ruins inspire reflections on the nature and longevity of inspiration itself.[9] They offer a concrete, visual confirmation of memory crumbling with time; and as they gradually disappear, so it becomes ever more difficult to reconstruct the original edifice in the eye of the imagination. Ruins provide a beginning, and they sanctify the new creation with the authority of age, while at the same time permitting sufficient freedom to satisfy a sense of independence. Perhaps we should modify this statement slightly by proposing a ‘critical point’ of decay, an extremely fine line, between a state eliciting the height of creative inspiration and one that requires too great an effort, a forcing of the will. There is a papyraceous boundary between Schöpfung and Erschöpfung.


To the post-Romantic mind, ruins afford the individual the opportunity to be alone with the past. The decay serves as confirmation of the building’s age; the visual evidence of its susceptibility to time grounds it in reality. There are no distractions, no sounds; no signs of present occupation. We do not enter the past and find ourselves overwhelmed by its foreignness. The ruin simply opens a door and allows us to look inside; it presents enough of the past to stimulate our imagination and to enable us to engage in creative communion with antiquity. It is chaos calmed by the order of entropy; we see the scars of destruction without having to witness the blows. Ruins enable the memory to see. The ruins of Imperial Rome, with their size and grandeur, are especially evocative; they half discover that which used to be.


They also provide an illusion of past perfection, prompting the mind to place an imaginary point on the graph of construction and decline. That perfection may not actually have existed, but we are at least able to project a golden past on to the time-worn remains, in an act of unconscious homage to the God of temporal precedence – that jealous pagan God who strives to frustrate the efforts of the translator. There is perhaps something unreal, or rather a fictive reality, about the vicarious experience of ruins. It is possible to empathise with them. For the first time, we are able to see inside the structure, and the process of dissolution gives rise to the impression that the artificial construct is actually an organic entity. This empathy requires imaginative association, and it is a feature of ruin-psychology that our mind seeks points of semblance[10]: contrasting the present state of the building with its past condition leads to comparison of the observed with the observer. An analogous relationship – that of sign to signifier – is called into question, for the dissolution of ruins makes the mind ask: how long will the name attached to the ruined work last? And what meaning will the name actually bear? This goes to the heart of the ability of language to map the world. Ruins are changed by the archaeological act as a thought is changed in utterance; discovery is a threat to preservation.


The secret of their effect lies in indirectness – the indirectness of the sign. It is the same principle that operates when viewing the endless rows of graves in Flanders or the War Memorial in the tiniest hamlet. Were we confronted with the stark reality of decay or death, our minds would struggle to process the sight; the magic of metaphor moves us to an understanding by making us draw a connection. As the grave is metonymic for the fact of death, a cross representing a body and, more especially, a soul, so do ruins metaphorise the process of decay, showing us the effects, but not the working, of this irresistible force. Ruins are both present and absent, the junction of the visible and invisible; and, like a crossroads, they force us to make a choice: we can either regret what is lost, or find strength in what remains. In the process, we learn about ourselves. They are maimed witnesses who saw the past.


Enough of our first impressions: it is time for a brief history of the concept. As always, we begin by pausing at the word itself. ‘Ruins’ stems from the Latin ruit – ‘it falls.’ The word was originally associated primarily with a building, as was ‘archive’ (Greek αρχειον; an ordered repository).[11] In the Western Canon tragedy contains a fall: from power, from glory, from a state of innocence. The connection between this and the Fall of Man was developed in the analogy of the body as a building: the decay of the one followed the same universal law as the fall of the other. The cognitive relation between architecture and anatomy dated back to Vitruvius’s De architectura: according to this text, the proportions of the components of buildings, and by extension of cities, should mirror the proportions of the parts of the human body.[12] One scholar with firsthand knowledge of Vitruvius[13] was the Parisian professor of anatomy, Charles Estienne: his anatomical treatise De dissectione partium corporis humani (1545) contains a woodcut in which a corpse is resting against a ruined building. It is holding its chest open with the intent to instruct the viewer in the assembly and the mechanism of the human body, in the same manner that ruined classical edifices provided architects with the skeletons and principals of construction. There is, as yet, no religious message[14] such as we shall find in Donne’s Anatomy of the World. The first Anniversary, where he states: “Wee are borne ruinous” (l.95); this shall develop in the second half of the 16th-century.


To the ancient pagans, ruins had suggested: “the destructiveness of time, the power of divine retribution, the need for literary renown as a means of immortality, and the fragility of human endeavour”.[15] The first example was Troy, followed by the biblical examples of the Hand of God laying the walls of Jehovah’s enemies to waste. It was Jerome and Augustine who shifted the focus to Rome; and then, with Petrarca’s ‘Nusquam minus Roma cognoscitur quam Romae’, the Renaissance search for the grandeur of the past in ruins began, a theme that was to find its most influential exposition in a neo-Latin epigram by Janus Vitalis, translated by Du Bellay as Antiquitez de Rome III.[16] In the Middle Ages, ubi sunt had been a common theme, but it had been restricted to the transience of the body and social status.[17] The Roman ruins had been regarded with a mixture of admiration, fear, and the sense of Christian triumph. Now, the capricious Goddess Fortuna was less influential than the dark knell of ‘Ecclesiastes’; the ruin of man became the fall of the soul.


b) Ruins and Rome: Decay in the Renaissance

Our modern reaction to ruins will inescapably be tinged with the spirit of Romanticism: we may compare the viewing of architectural remains to memory seeking a shadow in the night of the past; they are a disappearing gateway to a fading world, a moon to agitate the tides of memory. Ruins suggest a longing for true being from which fragmented man has been torn away; the individual is isolated, a mere shard of mankind, the victim of diasparactive specialisation and an increasingly bureaucratic state organisation. The tragedy of the Romantic is his incompleteness of soul; man is broken from his heritage and the possibilities of the past. He is an eternal becoming that never attains completion.[18] To study the Renaissance, it is necessary to attempt to clear our minds of Romantic influence – to essay to glimpse the past that lies beyond our visible, felt past, and close our minds to the dead immortality of Pompeii. This is impossible: but the freedom to attempt the impossible is the essential freedom of mankind.


It is true that 16th century Spain substituted Carthage for Rome under the influence of Garcilaso de la Vega’s ‘A Boscán desde la Goleta’ (1535); the greatest imperial power of this century thus turned her attention to the ruins the Romans wrought.[19] However, European ruin-poetry has, in general, concentrated on the centre of the Roman Empire: Rome is “the tale of western historical man.”[20] It provided a location for the irretrievable passage and distance of time. A prophecy, ascribed to the Venerable Bede, began to circulate in the Middle Ages, to the effect that: “Quamdiu stat colliseus, stat Roma; Quando cadet Coliseus, cadet et Roma; quando cadet Roma, cadet et mundus.” The ruins of Rome are testimony both to the duration of the city and the transience of the world; moreover, the process of ruin is assisted by plundering, corrupt man.[21]


Renaissance Rome was the capital of ruins and the centre of paradox, where novelty was exhumated antiques[22] – an irony on which Du Bellay’s Regrets CLXXXI is structured. At the heart of the Antiquitez de Rome, we shall find the paradox of the deterioration and monumentality of the ruins of Rome: the co-existence of past glory and present decay; the simultaneous construction and destruction.[23] In a considerable irony, “…the Renaissance brought more destruction on the Roman ruins than any other age; the new Rome of the Renaissance meant the annihilation of the old.”[24] Many discoveries were made as a result of excavations conducted for the construction of new villas; the unearthing of the past was, to a certain extent, accidental.[25] Pius II (1458-64), Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, wrote an elegy on Rome’s ruins; during his pontificate, the destruction continued in order to provide materials for new buildings in the Vatican. Only monuments with a utilitarian value were repaired.[26] Some ruins became spolia, incorporated as “visual quotations” into the newly-rising structures.[27] They also acquired a political significance, leading cities to attempt to establish cultural parity or supremacy by invoking their classical heritage: ruins brought prestige. “Roma quanta fuit ipsa ruina docet” (‘How great Rome was, her ruins teach’), from Francesco Albertini’s Opusculum (1510), appeared as an emblem on one of the numerous sketchings of Marten van Heemskerk (1498-1574) in 1532-5, and the motto became popular.[28]


It is the scale, but especially the number, the grandeur and the associated history of the Roman ruins that sets them apart. They rise like the broken dreams of fallen giants, a testament and an admonition to man. This scale means that the reaction to ruins is closer to astonishment than regret: when Petrarca arrived in Rome, his enthusiasm for the city was increased, for he found even its ruins to bespeak a grandeur beyond his imagining, beyond the impression created by his reading.[29] In another letter to Colonna, his pen guides the reader around Rome, populating its sites with the people and the incidents of the past, the frequent use of ‘here,’ ‘there’ and ‘this’ transmitting the excitement of his sudden proximity to the past.[30] Of course, this excitement is filtered through a literary medium; his mind is taking a metaphorical journey through time across a sequence of toponyms that imitates the Aeneid VIII, 336f. Although an inaccurate antiquarian – he followed the highly imaginative 12th-century guide-book to Rome for pilgrims, Mirabilia urbis Romae – Petrarca was the first person to concern himself with the reconstruction of the city’s past. He achieved this imaginatively in his Africa, his Latin epic set in the Rome of Scipio’s day.[31] He also compared manuscripts to ruins, on being handed a mutilated copy of Quintilian[32]; however, not to pursue the architectural analogy too far, the distinction between vellum and stone was quite sharply drawn. Nicolas V (1447-55), lover of letters, founder of the Vatican Library and driving force behind the great translation programme of the Greek classics, was indifferent to the buildings of the ancient world; the Holy See generally awarded free (but taxed) licence to the marble cutters and lime burners of Rome. While ancient monuments fell victim to rebuilding on classical models, manuscripts and inscriptions were preserved; humanists preferred a past that they could read to its ultimately silent physical remains – a fact that must be borne in mind when we reach the end of Du Bellay’s Antiquitez de Rome. Nowhere is Rome less known than in Rome, remarked Petrarca; and the city did not begin to conserve her antiquities until the 18th century, when she had one rolling eye on the tourist industry.[33]


Petrarca’s immediate successors were creatively crippled by the discovery of the classical past, partly by its achievement, but partly also by the fragmented nature of its survival: it seemed that too much had been lost for the past to be recreated. This changed in the early 15th century, and Leonardo Bruni, formerly one of the most fervent worshippers at the altar of antiquity, is representative of the development. One of the major factors was the findings of Poggio Bracciolini at the monastery of St. Gallen: among numerous other texts, there was now a complete Quintilian. In a letter of 15 September 1416, Bruni described Poggio as the ‘second author’ of the newly returned texts: to rediscover is to resurrect.[34] The past became an exemplary parallel to be emulated, an enhancing mirror. However, the roots of the seventeenth-century Ancients v. Moderns debate could be seen; behind even the most confident assertion of the rights of the present time there lay the fear of epigonism. The shadow of the past shall loom over Du Bellay as he guides the reader around Rome; and throughout the history of translation, it has stood behind the translator’s desk, with a cold hand hovering over his shoulder. Our attitude towards translation depends on our concept of language, and this in turn is defined by our understanding of historical change. Translation is a hermeneutic task, a linguistic practice, and a theory of history.[35]


Laments on the lost grandeur of Rome can be dated back to Alcuin (735-804), who visited the city in 780 and contrasted the present spectacle with the city’s former greatness: “Roma, caput mundi, mundi decus, aurea Roma, / Nunc remanet tantum saeva ruina tibi.” Hildebert of Lavardin, one of the most notable poets of his time, visited Rome in 1100-1101, 1116 and 1123. One of his elegies on the city, ‘Par tibi, Roma,’ mentions the fallen arches and temples, and he writes that neither years, nor flames, nor sword would utterly destroy her beauty – words that bring to mind the conclusion of Metamorphoses by Ovid, a writer whose works were familiar to this French ecclesiastic. In his second stanza, Rome replies that she has erred in the past but now serves the one true God.[36] Rome also speaks in the Dittamondo (1360) of Fazio degli Uberti (Fig. 1), a long, didactic, geographical history in terza rima, in which she is personified as an ancient Sibyll in rended garments, pointing out the ruins of her former beauty to strangers.[37] A short time earlier, there was created the earliest known Renaissance ruin painting: Maso di Banco’s ‘St. Silvester and the Dragon’ (or ‘Pope St. Sylvester’s Miracle’) in the Cappella di Bardi di Vernio, Santa Croce, Florence; the Pope, who appears twice in the painting, chains a dragon and raises the Magi from the dead (Fig. 2). This unusual work dates from 1340 and proved to be an isolated occurrence; the ‘ruin-rage’ did not begin until the quattrocento.[38]


Archaeological interest began in earnest with the patriot Cola di Rienzo (d.1354) and continued with Flavio Bondo, author of Roma instaurata (1444-46), a topographical account of ancient Rome that was compiled from visits and literary sources. Her ruins were used to illustrate a moral when Poggio Bracciolini expounded on them at length in his De varietate fortunae (begun 1431; published 1448).[39] Painters began to include ruins in their Nativity scenes – as in Botticelli’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’ (c.1475; Fig. 3) – thus juxtaposing pagan and Christian, decay and birth. The function of these ruins was symbolic: to portray the Christian conquest of the pagan world.[40] It would actually be painters from the north, such as Marten van Heemskerk, who discovered the sad majesty of the Roman ruins (Mortier 1974, p. 44). In 1499 appeared “the first full-length literary ruin rhapsody,” Francesco Colonna’s (d.1527) Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, in which two lovers journey through a landscape of fallen columns, ruined temples, broken sculptures and funerary vaults (Fig. 4).[41] This architectural dream, translated into French in 1546, will adopt a darker tone in Du Bellay’s Songe as towering edifices come crashing down to meet their makers. As concerns poetry, one of the earliest ruin sonnets was Sannazaro’s (1458-1530) ‘Famosi colli alteramente nati,’ to which we shall return in a later section. It appears as antiquated, for he moves from contemplation of ruins to the contemplation of vanished lives.[42] It is Castiglione’s (1478-1529) ‘Superbi colli’ – also a sonnet – that marks the turning-point in poetry.[43] Several of its themes will become common over the course of the 16th century: ruins still (only just) bear the name of Rome; ruins, reduced to dust, are prey to the gossip and superstition of the common people; time is the cause of the decline; and the personal reaction of the observer, his realisation of the consolatory effect of ruins: if time destroys stone, it can soften woes. The other, historical, turning-point was the sack of Rome in 1527 by Charles V’s troops. The new city was now ruinated, and the threat of ruination would be immediate in the 1550s, during Du Bellay’s sojourn.[44]


The Italian humanists learnt lessons about the present and about their own lives, rather than about ancient Rome, from ruins.[45] To Renaissance man, ruins were an arch from the past to the future, an invitation to reconstruct, for the architect, the artist, and the poet; signs of the decadence of temporal power, but also symbols of the potential for rebirth, inspiring a will to form. Brunelleschi and Alberti had regarded the ruins of Rome as the “guide and standard of all new buildings.”[46] Renaissance man admired the fragments, not the state of ruin; writers such as the Florentine Cristoforo Landino (1424-1504: ‘De Roma fere diruta’) concentrated on the absence rather than the ruin itself (Mortier 1974, pp. 37-39). In the later Renaissance especially, ruins evoked the transitoriness of matter less than the indestructability of ideal forms, and consequently they represented a process of transfiguration rather than annihilation: the idea of beauty survived material decay.[47] To view fragments was to see in the mind’s eye how they had been, or how they might be; ruins stimulate reflections, then regret, then thought of new life. A ruin was an image of wrecked and restorable perfection; regret is creative.[48] At this time, the words ‘création’ and ‘creazione’ did not exist; ‘fiction’ was used in the sense of ‘creation,’ but it was not a creation ex nihilo. God was the only creator; poets could only imitate nature or their poetic predecessors.[49] They could create from ruins. The architect Andrea Palladio, inspired by his visit to Rome in 1541, drew the ruined monuments in their imagined entirety.[50] There was very little difference between inventio and invenzione: the latter term meant to forge the old, and was not the term of opprobrium that ‘forgery’ has since become, for the act demanded both knowledge of ancient artifacts and technical skill.[51] By the same token, ‘copy’ meant eloquent abundance.[52]


In the Renaissance, probing and restoration occurred simultaneously. Change came with Montaigne, who refused to conjecture, to subread: the true ruins are unreachable, unimaginable, and should be left alone. This had been the recommendation of Hildebert of Lavardin, although his reasoning was different: he wished the ruins to serve an admonitory function. In the late 16th century, there is the sense of the ruins being ever less visible (which was actually the case) – or of being hidden ever more behind an increasingly projected self. Ruins remind, but they do not remain.


Du Bellay, it has been remarked, saw the “foundations of modernity” in ruins, whereas the Romantics saw ruins as ruins, located in national tradition, and as an aesthetic sensation.[53] The thought of creating ruins, of purposely building a fragment, would never enter the mind of the Renaissance artist.[54] Finally, it must be mentioned that they were urban ruins: a stone desert rather than a marble wilderness. Only after the Renaissance would Rome become a “living museum” with the appearance of nature, generally in the form of ivy.[55] This intertwining of art and the living world, this ‘effecting’ landscape, did not occur in the Renaissance because of their essentially classical definition of ‘nature.’ In Du Bellay, and consequently in Spenser, we are confronted by the skeletons of man-made edifices. There are glimpses of ruins in a ‘natural’ setting, as in George Wither’s (1588-1667) Brittan’s Remembrancer (1628): “Ev'n that lay solitary,/As doth a quite-forsaken Monastery/ In some lone Forrest…”[56] Furthermore, we mentioned in the section on Bartholomew Yong how Philippe de Caverel, in his Ambassade en Espagne et en Portugal (en 1582) du R.P. de Dieu, Dom Jean Sarrazin, Abbé de Saint-Vaast, alluded to the pleasure of ruins: a precursor of Romantic sentiment.[57] Such precursors can, it seems, always be found, and always give a pleasing, but ultimately short-lived, thrill; for it is the formulation of a concept, not the finding, that is of the essence.


The love-affair with ruins was largely an 18th century phenomenon, which reached its climax with the Romantics and found expression through mock ruins in landscaped gardens and the imaginary destruction of famous buildings by such artists as J.M. Gandy (1771-1845) and especially Hubert Robert (“Robert des Ruines,” 1733-1808; Fig. 5). Grief at the ruination of perfect buildings was followed by melancholy at the image of falling mortality that ruins present; this in turn developed into sadness at the human destruction of ruined buildings. For time demolishes only in small steps: Lamartine wrote to Rome, “J’aime à sentir le temps, plus fort que ta mémoire, / Effacer pas à pas les traces de ta gloire!”[58] The hand of time is destructive, but the hands of man demolish, at a far more rapid rate, both obliterating and prematurely creating; with regard to Rome, her ruins have been excavated out and deflowered since around 1870.[59]


There is little point in pausing at the present: the incongruity of modern reconstructions of the past, the trivialisation of history, is exemplified in the artificial concrete ruins à la Greco-Roman temple in the New York State University at Buffalo, and the piled ruins, known locally as Stonehenge, at the University of California.[60] It is probably true to say that our Ruinenlust has been irremediably destroyed by the experience of World War Two bombing and the intent to ruinate.[61] We have thus come full circle from the Dissolution, when this same intent first aroused awareness of ruins and of the past. We may also suffer from a modern surfeit; time has diluted and ruined their effect. There is nothing more to say about the contemporary bubble-wrap attitude to history and the emphasis on preservation that directs energies away from creation.


c) Ruins and the English

Our attitude towards ruins is in part shaped by our nationality. Spain has never loved them: after the Alcázar in Toledo was bombarded during the Spanish Civil War, it was rebuilt in its original form, like Saint-Malo in France and the Stefanskirche in Vienna. Tellingly, after Coventry was bombed in World War II, a new cathedral was built beside the ruins of the old.[62]


The difference between Italian ruins and English ruins must be stressed. In Italy, antiquity was archaeological; it lay beneath the surface, awaiting discovery. In England, however, antiquity “…lay in the slow distinction and slower understanding of buildings and monuments that had been familiar for generations.”[63] Yet there were similarities. Both nations were shocked into an awareness of ruins. The sack of Rome in 1527 and the Dissolution of the Monasteries 1535-39 were notable for the speed and the inclusiveness of the destruction, which seemed almost apocalyptic, as in Du Bellay’s Songe sonnets. The Monasteries suddenly became historical monuments, for they no longer fulfilled their functions.[64] A ruin is thus an idle body, one cut off from active life; its sole function is to admonish through negative example. It is a memory, having lost the function of the present; enduring with lost purpose, it is life reduced to existence and it invites a search for meaning. In the 16th century, England ‘acquired’ numerous ruins, an acquisition that helped to engender an awareness of the past; what made this different from previous spoliations was the deliberate intent to ruinate, to create a “physical and institutional break with the past.” Contemporaries were shocked; and the ensuing sense of loss led to nostalgic sentiment, the desire to preserve, and antiquarian researches. The Dissolution was too violent, too drastic, too severe; iconoclasm leaves no cure, simply the heartbreak and impotent rage of irreparable loss. It began to weigh heavily on the Protestant conscience at the very time of defacement.[65] For some, the most distressing aspect was the loss of learning – the destruction of the monastic libraries and the resulting reduction of books to waste paper. This was lamented by John Bale in 1549, and he was followed – and quoted – by Thomas Fuller in 1655.[66]


The British interest in Roman ruins began a thousand years before Spenser, when the Anglo-Saxons discovered what seemed to their minds to be the work of giants. Their elegiac poetry includes ruins as a theme. However, it was the Dissolution of the Monasteries, more than any other single event, which gave birth to an awareness of the past and so fostered national consciousness. In the words of Rose Macaulay, this upheaval “did much to add the dimension of ruin to British life”;[67] it also welded the dimension of religion to that of ruin. Consequently, the developing enthusiasm for the past that led to the founding of the first Society of Antiquaries around 1586 was attended with the association of antiquarian interests with recusancy: for example, the historian John Stow was accused of Catholic sympathies in 1568 and 1570.[68]


The association of ruins with religion was strengthened by the streams of visitors to the city that was both the centre of religion and the capital of ruins: Rome. However, this association took time; it is not noticeable in the travel-diary of one of the earlier visitors, Sir Thomas Hoby. The translator of Castiglione (his version was actually less popular in Elizabethan England than the Latin translation of Bartholomew Clerke) entered the city in 1549 and 1550.[69] Although we meet the expected denunciation of Catholicism – the criticism of the giving of indulgences as a “fond folishnes” which has been “spied out”[70] – it is the antiquities of Rome that engage Hoby’s attention. With his companions, he spends most of his time in the city ‘searching out’ antiquities. Hoby’s use of the terms ‘ruins’ and ‘antiquities’ contains a degree of overlap – which, of course, is hardly surprising for the time. He does not assume that an antiquity is of necessity a ruin: the Pantheon is “the fayrest and perfectest antiquitie abowt Roome” (p.25). His desire is to see “faire antiquities” (p.25, p.36), and one condition of this ‘fairness’ is a high degree of preservation. As concerns his reaction to ruins, he observes that those on the seven hills suggest the majesty of old Rome (p.24f) and that Baia contains the “notablest” ruins in the rest of Italy (p.33); at the same time, nothing remains of cities such as Baia, Cuma and Linternum but “desolation and a sorte of olde ruines” (p.33). Whereas he will use ‘faire’ as an epithet for ‘antiquities,’ the adjectives with which Hoby qualifies ‘ruins’ are often “olde” and the indefinite “sundrie”.[71] A ruin is little more than a ruined building, and therefore of less inherent interest than the epigraphs and inscriptions that Hoby notes down. Significantly, he does not attempt to point a moral from the ruins, or to suggest that they are the visible signs of spiritual degeneration or of divine punishment for vanity and pride. As we shall see, this will be a theme from the 1570s onwards.


d) Ruins, Poetry, and National Immortality

In the Elizabethan age, England’s marginal position in Europe – geographically, politically, and culturally – was deeply felt by her writers. She did seem to be “the vtmost Angle of the world” (Faerie Queene III.ix.xlvii.9); Ariosto had written “E venne al fin ne l’ultima Inghilterra” (Orlando Furioso, X.lxxii), which Sir John Harington changed in translation to “He [Rogero] meanes to visit England at the last” (X.lx.8), adding a quietly indignant annotation: “…Ariosto cals us ultima Ingleterra, the uttermost country. So in time past the old Romans wrate. Et penitus toto diuisos orbe Britannos.”[72] There is also the well-known remark of Samuel Daniel on the aspersions that Guarini had cast on the “barbarous tongues” of the North.[73] England did not attempt to gain respect through architectural wonders or displays of masterfully-crafted public art in her one major city; she aimed at esteem through an appeal to language, in the guise of Edmund Spenser.


Pagan laments for ruined cities were basically laments for fallen empires; the city itself was important not as a civic entity but as a symbolic centre of power. In the Renaissance, the idea of the city lay at the centre of nationhood – and empire. The highest science with which to govern a city, the strongest controlling influence and the root of order, was language. Berners, in his Froissart (1523-25), mentioned the power of “the monumentes of writynge” to move men to build cities and formulate laws. The poet and the city enjoy a symbiotic relationship: in an extension of the human-building analogy, the decline of one is the fall of the other. Virgil provided the ultimate model, having ‘reconstructed’ Rome from the ashes of Troy with his Orphic power. In his Institutio Oratoria, Quintilian had stated that the founders of cities moved their newly-gathered tribes to form communities through the magic of eloquence (II.xvi.9). Occasionally, one has a sense – primitive, perhaps even chthonic – of the power of speech, of the rush and impact of the spoken word, that we have lost since the invention of printing. Man is raised above beasts by power of his reason and speech – especially the latter. Eloquence is therefore one of the highest virtues (II.xvi.12-17; II.xx.9).


At this time, two of the most potent myths were those of Orpheus and Amphion – poets, builders, and bringers of civilisation. These two names appear in the defences of poetry of Sidney and Lodge, where one would expect to hear them called up as witnesses; however, the two magical singers also exist in a non-literary context, appearing as characters in the mayoral pageants in Tudor London. Both will be named in one of the central sonnets in the Antiquitez de Rome, a sequence of sonnets that has been described as the first illustration of France as a linguistic-unity and nation-state.[74] Montaigne had described Rome as, “La ville metropolitaine de toutes les nations Chrestiennes… Sa ruyne mesme et glorieuse et enflée…Encore retient elle au tombeau des marques et image d’empire.”[75] Rome provided a warning and a model – an example to be emulated. Yet there is also the sense that these signs are disappearing (Gadoffre 1978, p. 48); the lesson must be learnt quickly.


Spenser’s ruin poetry consists of three texts: two translations (Ruines of Rome, Visions of Bellay) and one imitation (Ruines of Time) from Joachim Du Bellay.[76] Critical attention has tended to concentrate on the Ruines of Time, an elegy for the house of Dudley – Sidney and Leicester – set at the ruins of the Roman-British city Verulam, in the naïve belief that an imitation tells us more about an author’s personality than does a translation.


The mutual dependence of poetry and national identity lies at the heart of Spenser’s poetry; Janowitz (1990) examined the role of ruins in the linguistic formation of nationality. The national images of England and Great Britain were built upon the Roman ruins. The classical lineage of Horace, Ovid and Propertius justified the assertion of poetic immortality through its very existence and antiquity, and it is through this classical lineage – as opposed to through the 18th century notion of the British earth – that national antiquity is defined in the Ruines of Time, one of Spenser’s paeans to aristocratic nationalism: “the image of the nation is made in poetry… poetry can ensure national immortality, repairing the ruins of previous empires and shifting the locus of the translatio imperii into the domain of poetic structure.”[77] The phrase “national immortality” is important. For immortality is conditional; it depends for its continuance on language. Poetry does not simply endure: it is active, and so it will make the nation (absolutist state) endure; poetry and empire are interdependent, and language keeps the nation alive.


However, the relationship with ruins is, in reality, extremely complex. They are characterised by anachronism and irony, for these ancient buildings suggest continuity but also past defeat; time is not the only invader. Furthermore, they question the sequential character of history and imply a cyclical movement of time.[78] Du Bellay’s Antiquitez de Rome consists of several cycles, all revolving at the same time, each one taking its turn to move to the foreground; the fact that his sonnets are not numbered can be viewed as an implicit refusal to countenance sequentiality. We read the procession of unnumbered years – or rather, a series of processions, each one of which we can join at one of several points.[79] Renaissance man discovered the distance of the past – or should we say, he chose to discover this distance by concentrating on the remote past of antiquity and scorning his recent, medieval past: a rejection of the Gothic exemplified in Vasari’s Vite. This rejection made a cyclical attitude towards time inevitable; the linear Christian view of the Middle Ages could not be continued by a period that consciously ignored its immediate predecessors. Medieval man simply did not possess the imperial or the linguistic prestige of the classical Roman world. This cyclical view gave hope to young nations, but it also brought tragedy in its wake; for it implied a shift of power. The notion of cyclical return was rejected.[80] In the words of Sir Thomas Browne (1605-82): “the glory of one State depends upon the ruine of another.”[81] Cycles are cycles of replacement: as David Lowenthal remarked, “What merely degenerated could not be regenerated…the old world had to be destroyed before it could be re-created.”[82] We shall return to this point with reference to cycles of language.


e) Ruins and Language

My intention here is to apply the theme of ruins to language, with particular emphasis on the process of translation. A link between ruins and translation was recently made by one critic, in the sense that both designate a movement beyond spatial and temporal borders.[83] Our concern is more linguistic, with the ruination and recreation of language, and less concerned with ‘enclosed spaces’; there are many overworked words in the plantation of 16th-century studies, and ‘enclosure’ is looking decidedly sun-stricken. It is true that ‘translation’ cannot escape its etymology; there is the unavoidable insinuation of something being moved, the change of location resulting in a change of state. Under the entry for ‘Translater. Translaté’ in his 1539 Dictionnaire francois-latin, Robert Estienne gives the phrase, “Estre tra[n]slate d’une cite en une autre, & perdre le droict de la premiere” (my italics).[84] The numerous denials over the centuries of the ability of translations to capture the ‘essence,’ the ‘genius,’ the ‘spirit’ of the original almost bespeak a lurking fear that they will photograph the soul out of their sources; there is the apprehension that a translation will supplant its original, the doubt that both can co-exist, the almost geminiphobic suspicion of semblance, and the difficulty to admit equality.[85] When equality is conceded to the translator, in the 17th century, then it soon becomes identity, and the metaphor of metempsychosis appears: it is seemingly impossible to accept sameness and difference. The concept of equal worth leads to an attitude of indifference – as the history of the words indifferent, indifférent and gleichgültig would seem to suggest. In addition to this suspicion of equality, there is the reluctance to accept the ‘second’. We wish for the consolation of stability, of continuance; change equals replacement, and so evokes fear of death. In many ways does this sentiment manifest itself: with a translation, with a cover version of a pop record, or with a new actor playing an established role in a soap opera, where the reader objects “That poem meant…”, the listener cries “That song sounded like…”, and the viewer protests “He looks and sounds wrong…”. This is not simply the breaking of expectations, it is the dissociation of a relationship that has formed, of an act of identification which has taken root; and the sundering of this relationship is akin to the separation of the word from the thing. We may illustrate two of the contentions made above with reference to myth: the fear of being supplanted by translation is, in essence, a fear of the future, and so of time; the translation is the future, like Saturn devouring its progenitor. The other point relates to geminiphobia: the inequality of human relationships in life is exemplified in the myth of Castor and Pollux, the one born immortal, the other born as mortal man; and this relationship is that most commonly imposed on a poem and its translation, with the caveat that seldom do the two texts enjoy a shared immortality after death (i.e. the death of the authors, and the death of the texts themselves in the act of completion). It is tempting to conflate Oriental relativism with the myth of Hercules in the attempt to gain equality for source text and target text: the original is half-immortal, containing the potential for immortality, but restricted; for no poem is perfect. The task – the impossible task – of translation is to attempt to burn away the imperfections and so distil the immortal quintessence of the poem. However, the mind is selective, and tends to carry elements, the limbs, of a poem in its memory rather than the entire body; and were the translation simply the quintessence, some of this would be lost by the reader. The imperfections which are concomitant in the act of translative reconstruction are a psychological necessity; and the end result is that the reader is faced with two half-immortal texts, which rise to a higher plane only when read together.

However, this essay concentrates on displacement within one domain: of Rome; of ruins; of a text in translation. The central metaphor of Translation Studies is the Tower of Babel: language in ruins, a magic mirror fallen to earth and shattered; its fragments dispersed for ever.[86] Yet ruins survive. They are an intermediate stage between creation and destruction, affording, Janus-like, a view into the past and the future; existing in both present and past, without belonging to either; displaying the marks of the teeth of time, and enduring in stimulative physicality. Neither survival nor death can surround them; they present a third existence, living virus-like only in the minds of the beholder. Ruins are the exiles of time. A sense of exile – of being cut off from the sources of learning – loomed over many humanists, as we shall see; and this deracination is also a feature of the modern conception, so strongly influenced by the example of Ezra Pound, of the translator.


In our section on Yong, we remarked that a translator carries the ruins of a poem in his mind, a deconstructed edifice oscillating between two languages, yet it is this very tension that makes creative reconstruction of the poem possible. A sequence, as we shall see, officially begins with the third poem; the comparative critic, the third man, initiates another sequence. That initiation is all the more suggestive if he is examining the third language: the language of translation.


In the domain of poetry, the task of the translator is not to attempt to preserve the process of irresistible decay, to create an edifice that will soon succumb to the patronising, offhand praise of readers who examine its contours against detailed maps and plans of the original work; it is to reconstruct, to build what could not have been erected without the pattern of the original – and without the knowledge and talent of the translator. The Renaissance, with its exegetical rather than analytical approach to the written word grafted on to its ingrained medieval reading habits, emphasised the discerptibility of a poem. This tendency to fragmentalise is evident in authors such as Puttenham, who illustrate figures of rhetoric with passages of poetry rather than analysing a complete poem; and when poems are given a gloss or an accompanying commentary, which occurs rarely outside non-scriptural texts and Virgil, then analysis may be detailed, but it is restricted to the occasional phrase or line, and it is discontinuous: each italicised segment is treated separately. Poems break when they enter another language; the image of burning, of the violet in the crucible, is too eschatological and too dismissive of restoration. It is more practical to envisage a poem as a body than an organic growth – a body whose bones are broken in the act of comprehension, of translation into the understanding of the reader. The metaphors of Early Humanism are appropriate here: the translator reassembles and remakes, as Aesculapius remade Hippolytus and brought home a diasporised people, and as Lycurgus returned to Greece, in complete form, the scattered texts of Homer. Ronsard employs the image of disassembling the building of language to create a ruin – in order to text the excellence of the line.[87] The translator reassembles with his own tools.


The translator may choose to repair the text – to make it ‘work’ in his language and culture – or to attempt to restore it to its original condition.[88] Restoration is problematic, for it is unclear exactly what the text’s original condition is: does this refer to the source text, or to something beyond the source text? In fact, it is not only problematic, it is impossible; but it is a higher and nobler aim than reparation. It is only too easy to strive for mere accessibility, to forge a pedigree for our translations and ourselves, to create the delusion of linguistic continuity while we draw the curtains around the broken sleeps of language. Ultimately, of course, the translator has the freedom to choose, and probably a living to make, without being influenced by a critic with German Romantic inclinations. Yet mankind needs ideals: the self-sacrifice of the translator in the attempt to give his source a second immortality is a dignified enterprise.[89] We find ourselves in the ambiguous position of deprecating those who patronise translators, while admiring those translators who patronise themselves. There is an old Arab proverb to the effect that ‘God is an escape from the word “I”’; translation also provides temporary release from the ego that dominates modern Western society and, to an increasing extent, the Oriental world.


But this is a modern view, and one inapplicable to the 16th-century, when restraint and modesty were rare commodities. We have roamed through ruins for long enough; it is time to move towards a complete and perfectly proportioned structure – the sonnet – and one of its finest architects.



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[1] Ruin-literature is vast, and I have browsed only a tiny percentage of the available texts on the subject. The visual appeal of the subject means that much of this literature lies in the affluent domain of Art History. Of especial interest are: Aston (1973), Jacks (1993), Janowitz (1990), Lowenthal (1985), Macaulay (1953 [1984]), esp. 165-204 on Rome; McGowan (2000), Roth (1997), and Wardropper (1964).

We may also, facetiously and gloomily, mention the all-too-evocatively titled ‘The University in Ruins,’ a book by Bill Readings, printed posthumously in 1996 (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press); the title is also given to a commemorative issue of the Oxford Literary Review (1995). His article, ‘Dwelling in the Ruins,’ pp.15-28, discusses the modern university as a ruined institution. No further comment is necessary.

[2] Wardropper (1964), p.295.

[3] This eighteenth-century view is suggested by William Gilpin: “A ruin is a sacred thing. Rooted for ages in the soil; assimilated to it; and becoming, as it were, part of it; we consider it as a work of nature, rather than of art.” –Observations on…the Mountains and Lakes of Cumberland 3rd ed. [1808], 3:183, quoted in Roth et al (1997), p.7.

[4] Aston (1973), p.231.

[5] On several occasions, such as in The Aetiology of Hysteria (1896), in the Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works, Gen. Ed. James Strachey, 24 vols. (London:1953-74), 3:192. Eugenio Donato ‘The Ruins of Memory: Archeological Fragments and Textual Artefacts,’ MLN 93 (1978), pp. 575-96 (575) cites another example in 23:259 (which he does not mention as being from ‘Constructions in Analysis’).

[6] Leslie brings attention to the use of “þæs” in The Ruin (1966, p.28); Wardropper notes that many of the Renaissance Spanish ruin poems begin with a form of ‘Este’ (1964, p.302, fn.20); and George Buchanan’s ‘In Romam’ begins: “Hi colles…”

[7] Tusculan Disputations, with a translation by J.E. King. Loeb edition (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), p.289. Corinth was ruined after its capture in 146 B.C.

[8] Macaulay 1984, p.197; pp.188-9.

[9] Ferguson 1984, p.23.

[10] Similitude is crucial to the art of persuasion, as Renaissance literary theorists realised – for example, Puttenham (1589), p.201. Tyndale remarked that a translation of the Bible is a similitude of Scripture, not Scripture itself: “For a similitude or an ensample doth paint a thing much deeper in the wits of a man than doth a plain speaking.”

[11] Clare Lyons, ‘Archives in Ruins: The Collections of the Getty Research Institute’ in Roth et al (1997), 79-91 (79).

[12] De architectura III:1, ‘The Planning of Temples.’ “Proportio” is a translation of the Greek “αναλογια.” It could also be given a narrow grammatical application, as in Quintilian, Institutio Oratoria

[13] Vitruvius was discovered by Poggio Bracciolini (1380-1459) in the monastic library of St. Gallen in 1414.

[14] Michael Roth et al, Irresistible Decay: Ruins Reclaimed (1997), p.2; Giovanni Ferrara, ‘Public Anatomy Lessons and the Carnival: The Anatomy Theatre and Bologna,’ Past and Present 117 (1987), pp.50-106 (85). Tavernor and Schofield (2002) mention the remarkable parallel between the living cadavers portrayed in the woodcuts to Andreas Vesalius’s De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543) and Palladio’s representation of buildings (p.xii).

The title of Roth’s work, which was issued to accompany an exhibition of the same name, is from Walter Benjamin’s Ursprung des deutschen Trauerspiels. In his discussion of the Baroque Trauerspiel, Benjamin claimed that allegory is to thought what ruins are to things, and that history was a “Vorgang unaufhaltsamen Verfalls.” –Gesammelte Schriften, eds. Rolf Tiedemann and Hermann Schweppenhäuser (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1991), Vol. I.1, p.353.

[15] Smith (1977), p.511.

[16] Raymond Skyrme, ‘“Buscas en Roma a Roma”: Quevedo, Vitalis, and Janus Pannonius’, BHR 44:2 (1982), pp. 363-367 (363). Janus Vitalis was the Latin name of Giano Vitale de Palerme (c.1485-c.1560), a priest and poet of the papal court.

[17] Wardropper, (1964) p.296. With regard to French poets, we may mention Jean Régnier, George Chastelain, and François Villon.

[18] Thomas McFarland, Romanticism and the forms of ruin (Princeton University Press, 1981) develops the concept of diasparaction (‘tearing to pieces’). It is interesting that Wordsworth’s tendency for diasparactive writings is evident in his composition of sonnets to fill moments when he lacks the resolve to write anything of greater length (pp.20-1).

[19] Aquí donde el romano encendimiento

dond’ el fuego y la llama licenciosa

solo el nombre dexaron a Cartago… (ll.9-11)

This substitution seems historically appropriate to the lament that only the name remains. In the 17th century, under the influence of Du Bellay and Janus Vitalis, the focus shifted to Rome (Wardropper 1964, pp.298-300).

[20] Macaulay 1984, p.165.

[21] Paul Zanker, ‘Die römischen Ruinen und ihre Betrachter’ at

[22] Martin 1983, p.139.

[23] Daemmrich (1972), p.451.

[24] Weiss (1969), p.205.

[25] Dickinson (1960), p.101; Weiss (1969), p.100.

[26] Weiss (1969), pp.98-104. Many monuments were pulled down to make way for roads; these lines of spatial communication often seem to effect a temporal break.

[27] The quotation is from Claire Lyons in Roth et al (1997), 79-91 (82).

[28] It appeared, for example, on the frontispiece of Sebastiano Serlio’s Tutte l’opera d’architettura (1540) and on the title-page of his Terzo libro…nel qual si figurano, e descriuono le antiquita di Roma, e le altre che sono in Italia (Venice, 1544); and it was carved into the exterior façade of the Teatro di Sabbioneta (1588-90).

[29] His letter to Giovanni Colonna, dated The Ides of March 1337: Fam. II:14, transl. Aldo S. Bernardo (1975) p.113.

[30] Fam. VI:2: Bernardo pp.290-5. Bishop (1966) gives an excerpt of the same letter; his translation begins with a notable shift of emphasis.

[31] Burke (1969), pp.23-4.

[32] In his letter to Quintilian dated December 7, 1350. He had been given an incomplete MS. of the Institutio Oratoria by a young scholar, Lap di Castiglionchio.

[33] Lowenthal (1985), pp.390-91.

[34] Giamatti (1982), p.9. The Venetian humanist Francesco Barbaro, writing to Poggio on July 6, 1417, praises him for “releasing the monuments of darkness into light” and states that he has revived many wise, illustrious men who were “dead for eternity.” –Giamatti (1982), p.12, p.13.

[35] Ferguson (1984), p.25.

[36] Hildebert wrote two poems entitled ‘De Roma’: a 38-line elegy in hexameters, ‘Par tibi, Roma, nihil cum sis prope tota ruina’ and a similar poem in 36 lines, ‘Dum simulacra mihi, dum numina vana placerent.’ These poems are Nos. 36 and 38 respectively in A. Brian Scott’s revised Hildebertvs. Carmina minora (München/Leipzig: K.G. Saur Verlag, 2001).

[37] On Hildebert (c.1056-1133): Macaulay (1984) p.12, and especially Walter Rehm (1960), Chapter 1.

On Fazio degli Uberti (ca.1310-ca.1370): Macaulay, p.174. Two extracts from this poem, both describing England, were translated into blank verse by Dante Gabriel Rossetti (for once, not observing the external form of his original) for his Early Italian Poets in 1861; I am not aware of any other English translations of Fazio degli Uberti.

[38] Macaulay (1984), p.15.

[39] Weiss (1969) discusses Biondo (pp.63-6) and Poggio (pp.66-70).

[40] Other examples are the Nativities of Fra Filippo Lippi and Ghirlandaio. In the 17th century, with Monsù F. Desiderio (act. c. 1617-31) and Salvator Rosa (1615-73), ruins were to become a theme in themselves. –Paul Zucker, ‘Ruins – An Aesthetic Hybrid,’ Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 20:2 (1961), pp.119-130 (120).

This portrayal of Christian conquest was perhaps most graphically evidenced in 1588 and 1589, when the columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome, depicting the Emperors victorious over barbarians, were topped by stylite statues of the Apostles Peter and Paul. –Lyons, in Roth et al (1997), p.84.

[41] Macaulay (1984), p.15; Mortier (1974), pp.33-5.

[42] He also wrote a Latin elegy on the ruins of Cuma, ‘Ad ruinas Cumarum urbis vetustiss,’ described by Vianey (1909) as “une élégie d’une rare émotion” (p.325).

[43] Apart from Sannazaro and Castiglione, there had been little ruin-poetry in Italian (as opposed to Neo-Latin; Castiglione’s sonnet was immediately translated into Latin): Mortier (1974, pp. 42-43) mentions only one strambotto by Aretino (1512) and two stanzas from Orlando Furioso, Canto 33, which were later suppressed.

[44] Wardropper (1964), pp.297-8. Castiglione’s sonnet appeared, unnamed, in the 2nd Book of Rime diuerse di molti eccellentiss. auttori nuouamente raccolte (1547) edited by Lodovico Domenichi.

[45] Wardropper (1964), p.296. Perhaps we are at the other extreme and somehow unable to relate our knowledge of the past to the present; or we are more concerned with projecting ourselves on to the past, with ‘rewriting’ it, to use a vogue term.

[46] Joseph Rykwert ed., Alberti’s Ten Books on Architecture (London: A. Tiranti, 1955), p.v.

[47] Alfred Adler, ‘Du Bellay’s Antiquitez XXXI, Structure and Ideology,’ BHR 13 (1951), pp.191-95 (p.194).

[48] McGowan 2000, p.213.

[49] H. Naïs, ‘La Poétique du XVIe Siècle: Poétique ou Rhétorique?’ RLC 51 (1977), pp.158-164 (163).

[50] The four books on architecture, transl. by Robert Tavernor and Richard Schofield (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2002), p.xi. The “stupendous ruins” provided “clear and powerful proof of the virtù and greatness of the Romans” (p.3).

[51] Jacks (1993), p.8.

[52] Cave (1979), pp.4-5, p.9.

[53] Readings 1995, pp.17-18.

[54] I distinguish the artist from the architect; Vasari casually mentions a mock ruin in the Duke of Urbino’s park at Pesaro, built by Girolamo Genga c.1510: “una casa che, rappresentando una ruina, è cosa molto bella a vedere.” -Le vite de’ più eccellenti pittori, scultori e architettori (Novara: Istituto geografico De Agostini, 1967). 9 Vols. VI:216.

[55] Janowitz (1990), p.34.

[56] Canto 4, ll.267-9. Taken from the LION database.

[57] Allied to this pleasure is the belief that a ruin is more beautiful than the original building. This is, for example, expressed by E. Kellett (The Whirligig of Taste. London: L. & Virginia Woolf, 1929, p.103), with regard to the Abbeys at Glastonbury and Rievaulx. This work, which is a hymn to relativity, contains several instances of ruin-imagery, especially in the Conclusion (p.152, p.154, p.157f.).

[58] Alphonse de Lamartine (1790-1869) was writing from the Colosseum’s denticated (my translation of “dentelés”) walls; the poem is ‘La Liberté, ou une Nuit à Rome.’ Œuvres poétiques/Lamartine ed. Marius-François Guyard (Paris: Gallimard, 1963), p.170, ll.72-3.

[59] Macaulay (1984), pp.201-3.

[60] Readings 1995, p.17; p.27, fn.2.

[61] Janowitz, 1990, p.1.

[62] Wardropper 1964, p.305. He traces the development of the ruin tradition from Garcilaso’s amatory plaints to the grim, grass-covered silence of baroque pessimism. He quotes entire texts, and all the poems are sonnets: he notes that their depth and brevity make them the ideal form. They serve as illustrative ‘plates’ (p.295, fn.1). This article is extremely suggestive; and so is its poetry.

[63] Joan Evans, A History of the Society of Antiquaries (Oxford: University Press, 1956), p.2.

[64] Evans (1956), pp.2-3.

[65] Aston (1973), p.231 (quotation), p.232, p.238. Perhaps we have never recovered from the bitterness and horror caused by World War II with its intent to extirpate races and bomb into oblivion the monuments of the past – to destroy a nation’s history.

[66] Aston 1973, pp.244-6. Bale’s complaint appears in The laboryouse Journey and serche of Johan Leylande for Englandes Antiquitees (London, 1549), sig. Dvi r; that of Fuller is in his Church History of Britain, ed. J.S. Brewer (Oxford, 1845), iii.434-5.

[67] Macaulay 1984, p.17. It is the word ‘dimension’ that lends this phrase its evocative power: ruins seem to occupy their own space and time.

[68] Evans 1956, pp.8-10; p.5.

[69] Hoby’s (1530-66) journeys are described in his diary, A Booke of the Travaile and Lief of Me, Thomas Hoby, wt Diverse Things Woorth the Notinge (1547-64), which was edited by Edgar Powell and printed in ‘The Camden Miscellany’ Third Series, Vol. IV(London, 1902). For the 1549 experience of Rome: pp.23-6; for that of 1550: pp.60-1.

[70] p.60f. This scepticism, which strikes a modern note, is apparent when he refers the reader to the guide-books of Biondo, Lucias and Faunus and then remarks that they have guessed much that was uncertain (p.25); it also sounds when he denies the certainty of the location of Virgil’s tomb, “for there are dyverse opinions” (p.31). The Reformation was founded on the reinterpretation and rewriting of scripture; renewal, in this age, was a questioning appeal to the past, and interpretation was restoration. Yet this scepticism was apparent also in Boccaccio (Jacks 1993, pp.40-44) and, above all, in Lorenzo Valla.

[71] “olde”: pages 33, 41, 57, 60; “ancient” is used on p.45.

“sundrie”: pages 41, 49, 58.

[72] Orlando Furioso of Sir John Harington, ed. Robert McNulty (1972), p.117. The Latin is from Virgil, Eclogues I:67.

[73] In his commendatory sonnet to Il Pastor Fido (1602), addressed to Sir Edward Dymock, kinsman to the translator.

[74] Readings 1995, p.17.

[75] Montaigne (1962), p.976. His praise of Rome occurs in Book III, Essay IX: ‘De la Vanité.’ He visited it in 1580-1.

[76] The Ruines of Time imitates the Antiquitez and the Songe, especially at lines 1-175 and in the first series of ‘Visions’ that conclude this ungainly poem.

[77] Janowitz (1990), p.21; p.28. The relevant passages from the classical poets are: Horace, Odes; Ovid, Amores I:X, 59-62, and Metamorphoses XV:871-9; and Propertius, Elegies III.i and III.ii.17-26.

[78] Huw Griffiths, ‘Translated Geographies: Edmund Spenser’s “The Ruines of Time”’, EMLS 4:2/ Special Issue 3 (September, 1998), at 2/griftran.htm, §4.

[79] The phrase “procession of unnumbered years” is taken from David West’s (2000) translation of Horace’s Ode III:30, ll.4-5.

[80] Huppert (1965), p.52.

[81] Religio Medici (1643; the first, unauthorised, edition having appeared the previous year), in the Complete Works ed. Geoffrey Keynes (London: Faber & Faber,1928 [1964]. 4 vols.), I:27.

[82] Lowenthal (1985), p.85. He refers to Mircea Eliade’s ‘Cycles of replacement’ in his Myth and Reality (1964), p.52, which I have not had the opportunity to consult. Eliade is known in English through Willard R. Trask, translator also of Auerbach and Curtius.

[83] Griffiths (1998). The purpose of his paper was to examine this link; he concentrates on the Ruines of Time, and spends few words on the Ruins of Rome (§23), because he defines translation in spatial terms. In one sense, this is understandable: the etymology of the word ‘translation’ suggests ‘transfer.’ However, it is another example of translation being moved away from its specifically linguistic sense; broadening the range of the term to include all acts of speech may raise the profile of the translator, but it does also invite excessive licence in the interpretation and application of the word.

[84] Dictionaire Francoislatin, contenant les motz & manieres de parler Francois, tournez en Latin (Paris: R.Estienne, 1539) p.496. Accessed via ‘Gallica.’

[85] This difficulty is reflected in the late 20th-century unease with language, which gave rise to such features as an increase in the copulative compound.

[86] The 13th-century Persian mystic Rumi wrote that truth is a mirror fallen from the hands of God and shattered all over the Earth; everyone who picks up a fragment believes that he is holding the whole truth. Language is truth.

[87] In the ‘Au Lecteur Apprentif’ to his Franciade (posthumous 1587 Œuvres): “Si tu trouves, apres tel desassemblement de la ruine du bastiment, de belles et excellentes paroles…qui te contraignent d’enlever ton esprit oultre le parler commun, pense que tels vers sont bons et dignes d’un excellent Poëte” (p.1025).

[88] The image of restoration is employed by André Lefevere, Translating Poetry. Catullus 64 (Assen/Amsterdam: Van Gorcum, 1975) in the sense of translation as retranslation, creation being “the translation of the interpretation of a theme into the conventions of the moment”: translation “restores the communication between author and reader” (p. 19).

[89] This is, of course, by no means the only purpose of translation; but the phrase “second immortality” will not leave my mind. It was used by Charles Whibley in the Cambridge History of English Literature (18 Vols. 1907-21, IV:4): he claimed that Sir Thomas North gave Plutarch’s Lives a “second immortality.” Thus ‘lives’ are immortalised by the writer, then immortalised again by the translator – or are they ‘reimmortalised’? Whibley had in mind the creation of concurrent immortality; yet there is also the sense of renewal, of eternity regained.