Rome, Vatican City, the Trevi Fountain, Saint Peter’s Square – the old-world charm ofthe Eternal City appeals to the inner creative spirit.
“Oh, Rome! my country! city of the soul!” remarked Lord Byron about the city. Artist Giotto di Bondone referred to Rome as “the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning.”
You aren’t the only one moved by the soul-stirring grandeur of Rome. Poets for centuries have been writing odes to the city and its beauty. Many have made it their home. Rome has a special place in English poetry. Yes, the English poets have travelled to Rome time and again and composed countless poems and verses in its name. You can sign up for the best family tours in Rome to explore this celebrated city in all its glory.
Here is a small history of Rome and English poetry:
John Keats, the young Romantic poet, moved to Rome in 1820 for a change of air. He was suffering from a severe form of tuberculosis and he needed to recuperate in a city with warmer weather than London, as advised by doctors. Rome was the city of his choice.
His health deteriorated and he died at the young age of 24 in what is today known as the Keats and Shelly House, near the Spanish Steps. Legend has it that he was in the process of composing poetry on Rome but he succumbed to his illnesses before he could do so. The Keats–Shelley Memorial is dedicated mainly to these two great poets, as well as to Byron, Wordsworth, Robert Browning, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Oscar Wilde, housing an expansive collection of letters, memorabilia and manuscripts belonging to the two.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, Keats’ contemporary, also visited the Eternal City to soak in its balmy atmosphere and get inspiredby the grandeur of attractions like the Colosseum and the Baths of Caracalla. He spent his time among the ruins of the ancient monuments composing his masterpiece ‘Prometheus Unbound’.
Though Shelley moved out of Rome after his infant son passed away, he wrote about the city in his elegy to Keats, urging readers to ‘go thou to Rome’. Both Keats and Shelley are buried in the Protestant Cemetery by the Pyramid of Cestius.
Lord Byron, who lived for a longer period in Pisa and Venice, did spend enough time in Rome to translate his admiration for the Eternal City into poetry. In his famous poem ‘Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage’, Byron praised Rome to be the ‘city of the soul’.
Of Rome’s cultural trajectory, Byron writes, in no less terms than these – ‘‘First Freedom, and then Glory…barbarism at last.’’ However, others, like the 19th century English poet Samuel Rogers, feel that Rome ‘‘Still o’er the mind maintains, from age to age, / Her empire undiminished.’’
There are many modern poets too who have written about Rome, on a broad range of themes spanning from its mythology to its weather. All have been inspired and influenced heavily by Rome’s vivid beauty and its rich and unparalleled historical legacy. Shakespeare himself could not get enough of writing about Roman life.
It is no surprise then that the great poets mentioned above were also enamored by Rome’s serenity and they came to live in this great city and partake of its tradition and culture. You too can visit the Eternal City and dive deep into its poetry with our unparalleled Vatican Tours. Who would not like to have the experience, however short, of having lived in Rome?