Ruins are the remains of human-made architecture: structures that were once complete, as time went by, have fallen into a state of partial or complete disrepair, due to lack of maintenance or deliberate acts of destruction. Natural disaster, war and depopulation are the most common root causes, with many structures becoming progressively derelict over time due to long-term weathering and scavenging.
- All progressions from a higher to a lower order are marked by ruins and mystery and a residue of nameless rage.
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart.[sic] Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
We wonder — and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations edit
- Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 686-88.
- 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, Book 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.
- Anna Letitia Barbauld, Eighteen Hundred and Eleven.
- There is a temple in ruin stands,
Fashion'd by long forgotten hands:
Two or three columns, and many a stone,
Marble and granite, with grass o'ergrown!
- Lord Byron, Siege of Corinth, Stanza 18.
- While in the progress of their long decay,
Thrones sink to dust, and nations pass away.
- Earl of Carlisle, On the Ruins of Pæstum. Same idea in Pope's Messiah.
- 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…. 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. (1759).
- The ruins of himself! now worn away
With age, yet still majestic in decay.
- 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.
- 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.
- London Magazine, 1745. Article, Humorous Thoughts on the Removal of the Seat of Empire and Commerce.
- Gaudensque viam fecisse ruina.
- And rejoicing that he has made his way by ruin.
- Lucanus, Pharsalia, Book I. 150 (referring to Julius Cæsar).
- 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, 1st Baron Macaulay, Ranke's History of the Popes. Same idea in his Review of Mitford's Greece. Last Par. (1824). Also in his Review of Mill's Essay on Government. (1829). Same thought also in Poems of a Young Nobleman lately deceased—supposed to be written by Thomas, second Lord Lyttleton, describing particularly the State of England, and the once flourishing City of London. In a letter from an American Traveller, dated from the Ruinous Portico of St. Paul's, in the year 2199, to a friend settled in Boston, the Metropolis of the Western Empire. (1771). The original said to be taken from Louis S. Mercier—L'An Deux Mille Quatre Cent-Quarante. Written 1768, pub. 1770. Disowned in part by his executors.
- For such a numerous host
Fled not in silence through the frighted deep
With ruin upon ruin, rout on rout,
Confusion worse confounded.
- Prostrate the beauteous ruin lies; and all
That shared its shelter, perish in its fall.
- William Pitt, The Poetry of the Anti-Jacobin.
- 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 cost 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.
- 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. Since said to have been found near a skeleton in the Royal College of Surgeons, Lincoln's Inn, London. Falsely claimed for J. D. Gordman. Robert Philip claims it in a newspaper pub. 1826.
- Etiam quæ sibi quisque timebat
Unius in miseri exitium conversa tulere.
- 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?
- Comte de Volney, Ruins, Chapter 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 Walpole, Letter to Horace Mann (Nov. 24, 1774).
- 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, scene 3.
- Where now is Britain?
* * * *
Even as the savage sits upon the stone
That marks where 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 (1742-1745), Night IX, line 167.