For the New Railway Station in Rome
Richard Wilbur

Those who said God is praised
By hurt pillars, who loved to see our brazen lust
Lie down in rubble, and our vaulting arches
Conduce to dust;

Those who with short shadows
Poked through the stubbled forum pondering on decline
And would not take the sun standing at noon
For a good sign;

Those pilgrims of defeat
Who brought their injured wills to a soldier’s home;
Dig them all up now, tell them there’s something new
To see in Rome.


See, from the travertine
Face of the office block, the roof of the booking-hall
Sails out into the air beside the ruined
Servian wall,

Echoing in its light
And cantilevered swoop of reinforced concrete
The broken profile of these stones, defeating
That defeat

And straying the strummed mind,
By such a sudden chord as raised the town of Troy
To where the least shard of the world sings out
In stubborn joy,

“What city is eternal
But that which prints itself within the groping head
Out of the blue unbroken reveries
Of the building dead?

“What is our praise or pride
But to imagine excellence, and try to make it?
What does it say over the door of Heaven
But homo fecit?”

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