Here is a sonnet from Saint-Amant describing the unbearable summer heat in the city of Rome. Which is why many of its residents escape to vacation homes away from the city, like the Pope who has his summer residence at Castelgandolfo. It is true that the city magnifies the heat, reflecting it rather than absorbing it. Saint-Amant captures well the oppressive feeling of not being able to escape the sun beating down. And, of course, there was no AC in the 17th century.
A sonnet – summer in Rome
Marc-Antoine Girard de SAINT-AMANT (1594-1661)
L’esté de Rome
Quelle estrange chaleur nous vient icy brusler ?
Sommes-nous transportez sous la zone torride,
Ou quelque autre imprudent a-t-il lasché la bride
Aux lumineux chevaux qu’on voit estinceler ?
La terre, en ce climat, contrainte à pantheler,
Sous l’ardeur des rayons s’entre-fend et se ride ;
Et tout le champ romain n’est plus qu’un sable aride
D’où nulle fresche humeur ne se peut exhaler.
Les furieux regards de l’aspre canicule
Forcent mesme le Tybre à perir comme Hercule,
Dessous l’ombrage sec des joncs et des roseaux.
Sa qualité de dieu ne l’en sçauroit deffendre,
Et le vase natal d’où s’écoulent ses eaux,
Sera l’urne funeste où l’on mettra sa cendre.
Straight away the poem describes the almost infernal and relentless burning of the sun overhead. It is as if the horses pulling Apollo’s chariot across the sky have been let loose and are galloping at full force, ramping up the heat. In the second four lines, Saint-Amant describes the effects in the city – the people are panting, the earth is cracking open, and it is as if the city was becoming a desert of dry sand where there is no place to breathe fresh, cool air.
Even the river Tiber is likely to dry up, perishing like Hercules, finding no shade underneath the dry rushes and rose trees. It will dry up back to its source and the place where its waters are born will become the funeral urn of the river.
So here we have another French poet, following in the footsteps of du Bellay, bemoaning the conditions of his stay in Rome. (But it does sometimes get hot in Paris in summer also).
The Poetry Dude