To Virgil

by Tennyson

This tribute from Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was written to mark the 1,900th anniversary of Virgil’s death. Tennyson’s love for Virgil’s works, and the breadth and depth of his knowledge of them, shine through. One of the aims of Pantheon poets is to make it possible to give those who don’t speak Latin direct access in the original to Latin poetry that has hugely influenced great writers in English and other languages since the middle ages and earlier.


Roman Virgil, thou that singest
Ilion’s lofty temples robed in fire
Ilion falling, Rome arising,
wars, and filial faith, and Dido’s pyre;


Landscape-lover, lord of language,
more than he that sang the Works and Days,
All the chosen coin of fancy
Flashing out from many a golden phrase;


Thou that singest wheat and woodland,
tilth and vineyard, hive and horse and herd;
All the charm of all the Muses
Often flowering in a lonely word;


Poet of the happy Tityrus
piping underneath his beechen bowers;
Poet of the poet-satyr
whom the laughing shepherd bound with flowers;


Chanter of the Pollio, glorying
In the blissful years again to be,
Summers of the snakeless meadow,
Unlaborious earth and oarless sea;


Thou that seest Universal
Nature moved by Universal Mind;
Thou majestic in thy sadness
at the doubtful doom of human kind;


Light among the vanished ages;
star that gildest yet this phantom shore;
Golden branch amid the shadows,
kings and realms that pass to rise no more;


Now thy Forum roars no longer,
fallen every purple Caesar’s dome –
Tho’ thine ocean-roll of rhythm
sound for ever of Imperial Rome –


Now the Rome of slaves has perish’d,
and the Rome of freemen holds her place,
I, from out the Northern Island
sunder’d once from all the human race,


I salute thee, Mantovano,
I that loved thee since my day began,
Wielder of the stateliest measure
ever moulded by the lips of man.

More Poems by Tennyson

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