One of the last major poets of the Roman Empire who could write in classical Latin, Rutilius Namatianus- a member of the well-established Gallo-Roman nobility- lived around the time of the sack of Rome in AD 410 by the Visigoths, as the Western Roman Empire began to disintegrate in the reign of Honorius, following on from Theodosius' permanent division of the Roman world into eastern and western halves in AD 395.
Below is the first part of a translation by me of the first book of his poetry in tribute to Rome, composed in AD 416 and describing his return to his native southern Gaul from Rome (hence the title 'de reditu suo'- 'Concerning his return'). Unlike book two, this part has largely been preserved. The meter is the elegiac couplet, which was also used by some of the most prominent poets of the Augustan era (c. 30 BC- AD 14) like Ovid and Propertius.
"You will be rather amazed, reader, how a swift return
Can so quickly be lacking in the goods of Romulus.
What is long for those venerating Rome throughout their life!
Nothing that pleases without end is ever long.
O, how great and how often I can count the blessed,
Who merited to be born on lucky soil.
Who, as the generous offspring of Roman leaders,
Heap up their innate greatness with the honour of the city.[i]
The seeds of virtues could not have been more worthily sent down and Handed over from Heaven in other places.
Indeed fortunate, they who having obtained by lot gifts nearest to first prizes,
Have obtained homes in Latium![ii]
The sacred Curia[iii] lies open for the praise of a traveller,
And does not consider as foreigners, those whom it is right to be its own.[iv]
They enjoy the power of rank and colleagues,
And have a part of the ingenuity which they venerate.
Just as we believe that the union of the greatest divinity
Is through the poles of aether of the worldly vault.
But my fortune is torn away from the beloved shores,
And the countryside of Gaul calls for its native inhabitant.
Those lands indeed excessively deformed through long wars,[v]
But the less welcoming they are, the more they must be pitied.
It is a more trivial crime to treat with contempt those citizens living in safety:
Public losses demand back private trust.
We owe our present tears to the buildings of our ancestors.
Toil often brought to mind with pain is of benefit.
And it is not right to be unknowing any further of the long ruins,
Which the delay of withheld aid has multiplied.
Already it is time- with farms lacerated after the savage fires-
At least to build the cottages of shepherds.
Indeed if the fountains themselves could send forth a voice,
And our trees themselves could speak,
They could drive me on as I withdraw with their just complaints,
And add sails to my longings.
We are already bound when the embraces of the dear city are loosened-
And we scarcely tolerate a late journey.
The sea has been chosen, because the earthly lowlands of the roads are wet
With streams, and the heights are stiff with rocks.
After the Tuscan field and after the Aurelian hill endured the hordes of Goths
With sword and fire,[vi] they do not keep in check the woods with homes,
Or the rivers with a bridge.
It is more sufficient to entrust sails to an uncertain sea.
We give frequent kisses to the gates that must be left behind,
Our feet unwillingly pass over the sacred thresholds,
We beg for mercy with tears and offer atonement with praise,
As far as our weeping allows words to run…
[i] The 'city' refers to Rome itself (Latin urbs).
[ii] Latium is the region in central Italy in which Rome is situated. Whence the Latins and their language!
[iii] The house of the Senate in Rome. By this point the Senate has long been devoid of meaningful power as a decision-making body in the Roman state, with symbols of monarchy much more overt than in the days of Augustus, who styled himself princeps Senatus ('first man of the Senate': a term borrowed from the Republican era) and purported to be no more than a fellow citizen, even as he was elevated as first among equals. Indeed, in Augustus' time there were indeed popular elections for magistracies, but since AD 14 following Augustus' death, elections became an entirely internal matter for the Senate (Tacitus Annals I.15).
[iv] Compare with the Lyons Tablet that preserves in part a speech the emperor Claudius made to the Senate in AD 48 on permitting the nobility of Gallia Comata (a province of central Gaul, to be distinguished from Gallia Narbonensis in the south that is Namatianus' origin) to seek public office in Rome and admission to the Senate. There is a somewhat condensed and more refined version of the speech in Tacitus' Annals XI.24-5.
The point is that Namatianus' line parallels Claudius' notion that Rome has a long tradition of admitting the best of foreigners into its political system, whether from the rest of the Italian peninsula in the early days of the Roman state to the finest provincials in the late Republic and early Imperial period. Claudius in particular emphasized the origins of many senators from Gallia Narbonensis. In practice, Claudius' speech and the Senate's subsequent grant of ius honorum led to only one senator of origin from Gallia Comata: Julius Vindex. By Namatianus' time, there was a well integrated Gallo-Roman nobility, and plenty of senators had come from the Greek-speaking East since the Flavian dynasty of the late first century AD. For questions of 'Romanization' of the Gallic lands (in my view a very outdated and simplistic concept), cf. Tacitus Annals III.43.
[v] Likely a reference to the devastation inflicted on parts of Gaul through the influx and settlement of barbarian tribes since the beginning of the 5th century AD.
[vi] The Visigothic invasion of Italy under King Alaric that culminated in the sack of Rome in AD 410