Ruins

Ruins in Rome are four a penny,
And here along the Appian Way
I see the monuments of many
Esteemed almighty in their day. . . .
Or so he makes me understand -
My glib guide of the rubber bus,
And tells me with a gesture grand:
"Behold! the tomb of Romulus."

Whereat I stared with eyes of awe,
And yet a whit dismayed was I,
When on its crumbling wall I saw
A washing hanging out to dry;
Yea, that relict of slow decay,
With peristyle and gnarly frieze,
Was garnished with a daft display
Of bifurcation and chemise.

But as we went our Southward way
Another ruin soon I saw;
No antique tower, gaunt and grey,
But modern manor rubbled raw;
And on its sill a maiden sat,
And told me in a tone of rue:
It was your allied bombs did that . . .
But do not think we're blaming you."

Thought I: Time is more kind than we
Who blot out beauty with a blow;
And truly it was sad to see
A gracious mansion levelled low . . .
While moulderings of ancient Rome
Still serve the peasants for their swine,
We do not leave a lovely home
A wall to hang a washing line.

by Robert William Service

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