Thumbs up for Near the Ocean by Robert Lowell. Poetry.
Reviewing poetry is a tricky thing. Let me begin: the first half of this book is Lowell’s own work; the second half is his translations from Dante, Horace, and Juvenal. I think, when I first dipped in, I sampled the translations, and that was what led me to reading the book. I must say, I much prefer Lowell’s translations to his own poetry–if he’d done the whole Divine Comedy I’d buy it in an instant. But when he’s on his own, although he has some great moments, his rhymes too often make me wince. That might just be me, though; I don’t generally like rhyming poetry. I will keep this and come back to it someday to see if I like it less or more.
You search in Rome for Rome? O Traveller!
in Rome itself, there is no room for Rome,
the Aventine is its own mound and tomb,
only a corpse receives the worshipper.
And where the Capitol once crowned the forum,
are medals ruined by the hands of time;
they show how more was lost to chance and time
than Hannibal or Caesar could consume.
The Tiber flows still, but its waste laments
a city that has fallen in its grave–
each wave’s a woman beating at her breast.
O Rome! From all your palms, dominion, bronze
and beauty, what was firm has fled. What once
was fugitive maintains its permanence.
–from “The Ruins of Time”
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