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When I have been indulging this thought I have, in imagination, seen the Britons of some future century, walking by the banks of the Thames, then overgrown with weeds and almost impassable with rubbish. The father points to his son where stood St. Paul's, the Monument, the Bank, the Mansion House, and other places of the first distinction.
- Unattributed Author,
Humourous Thoughts on the Removal of the Seat of Empire and Commerce,
in "London Magazine", 1745
Should the whole frame of nature round him break
In ruin and confusion hurled,
He, unconcerned, would hear the mighty crack,
And stand secure amidst a falling world.
- Joseph Addison, Horace--Ode III (bk. III)
And when 'midst fallen London they survey
The stone where Alexander's ashes lay,
Shall own with humble pride the lesson just
By Time's slow finger written in the dust.
- Mrs. Anna Letitia Barbauld,
Eighteen Hundred and Eleven
And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed:
And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime, and I am set in my ward whole nights:
And, behold, here cometh a chariot of men, with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground.
- Bible, Isaiah (ch. XXI, v. 7-9)
There is a temple in ruins stands,
Fashion'd by long forgotten hands:
Two or three columns, and many a stone,
Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown!
- Lord Byron (George Gordon Noel Byron),
Siege of Corinth (st. 18)
What cities, as great as this, have . . . promised themselves immortality! Posterity can hardly trace the situation of some. The sorrowful traveller wanders over the awful ruins of others others. . . . Here stood their citadel, but now grown over with weeds; there their senate-house, but now the haunt of every noxious reptile; temples and theatres stood here, now only an undistinguished heap of ruins.
- Oliver Goldsmith, The Bee
(no. IV, A City Night-Piece)
The ruins of himself! now worn away
With age, yet still majestic in decay.
- Homer ("Smyrns of Chios"), The Odyssey
(bk. XXIV, l. 2271), (Pope's translation)
While in the progress of their long decay,
Thrones sink to dust, and nations pass away.
- Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle,
On the Ruins of Poestum
For, to make deserts, God, who rules mankind,
Begins with kings, and ends the work by wind.
- Victor Hugo, The Vanished City
History fades into fable; fact becomes clouded with doubt and controversy; the inscription moulders from the tablet: the statue falls from the pedestal. Columns, arches, pyramids, what are they but heaps of sand; and their epitaphs, but characters written in the dust?
- Washington Irving,
The Sketch Book--Westminster Abbey
And rejoicing that he has made his way by ruin.
[Lat., Gaudensque viam fecisse ruina.]
- Lucanus (Marcus Annaeus Lucan), Pharsalia
(bk. I, 150), referring to Julius Caesar
She [the Roman Catholic Church] may still exist in undiminished vigour, when some traveller from New Zealand shall, in the midst of a vast solitude, take his stand on a broken arch of London Bridge to sketch the ruins of St. Paul's.
- Thomas Babington Macaulay,
Ranke's History of the Popes
For such a numerous host
Fled not in silence through the frighted deep
With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
Confusion worse confounded.
- John Milton, Paradise Lost
(bk. II, l. 993)
Prostrate the beauteous ruin lies; and all
That shared its shelter, perish in its fall.
- William Pitt ("The Younger"),
The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobian
In the firm expectation that when London shall be a habitation of bitterns, when St. Paul and Westminster Abbey shall stand shapeless and nameless ruins in the midst of an unpeopled marsh, when the piers of Waterloo Bridge shall become the nuclei of islets of reeds and osiers, and cast the jagged shadows of their broken arches on the solitary stream, some Transatlantic commentator will be weighing in the scales of some new and now unimagined system of criticism the respective merits of the Bells and the Fudges and their historians.
- Percy Bysshe Shelley,
Dedication to Peter Bell the Third
Red ruin and the breaking-up of all.
- Lord Alfred Tennyson,
Idylls of the King--Guinevere
Behold this ruin! 'Twas a skull
Once of ethereal spirit full!
This narrow cell was Life's retreat;
This place was Thought's mysterious seat!
What beauteous pictures fill'd that spot,
What dreams of pleasure, long forgot!
Nor Love, nor Joy, nor Hope, nor Fear,
Has left one trace, one record here.
- Anna Jane Vardill (Mrs. James Niven),
appeared in "European Magazine", Nov., 1816, with signature V., claimed by Robert Philip in 1826 and falsely claimed for J.D. Gordman
What each man feared would happen to himself, did not trouble him when he saw that it would ruin another.
[Lat., Etiam quae sibi quisque timebat
Unius in miseri exitium conversa tulere.]
- Virgil or Vergil (Publius Virgilius Maro Vergil),
The Aeneid (II, 130)
Who knows but that hereafter some traveller like myself will sit down upon the banks of the Seine, the Thames, or the Zuyder Zee, where now, in the tumult of enjoyment, the heart and the eyes are too slow to take in the multitude of sensations? Who knows but he will sit down solitary amid silent ruins, and weep a people inurned and their greatness changed into an empty name?
- Constantin Francois de Chassebeouf de Volney,
Ruins (ch. II)
The next Augustan age will dawn on the other side of the Atlantic. There will, perhaps, be a Thucydides at Boston, a Xenophon at New York, in time a Vergil at Mexico, and a Newton at Peru. At last some curious traveller from Lima will visit England, and give a description of the ruins of St. Paul's, like the editions of Balbec and Palmyra.
- Horace (Horatio) Walpole, 4th Earl of Orford,
Letter to Horace Mann
I do love these ancient ruins.
We never tread upon them but we set
Our foot upon some reverend history.
- John Webster, The Duchess of Malfi
(act V, sc. 3)
Where now is Britain?
. . . .
Even as the savage sits upon the stone
That marks were stood her capitols, and hears
The bittern booming in the weeds, he shrinks
From the dismaying solitude.
- Henry Kirke White, Time
Final Ruin fiercely drives
Her ploughshare o'er creation.
- Edward Young, Night Thoughts
(night IX, l. 167)