Burns’ poem, “Love Among the Ruins,” sets up a contrast between the lust for wealth and power and the love between two people. The former results in a ruin, while the latter is portrayed with tenderness and optimism as what is best.
The poem begins with a bucolic scene:
On the solitary pastures where our sheepHalf-asleepTinkle homeward thro' the twilight, stray or stopAs they crop— (3-6).
Where the domed and daring palace shot its spiresUp like firesO'er the hundred-gated circuit of a wallBounding allMade of marble, men might march on nor be prestTwelve abreast (19-24).
Either handOn my shoulder, give her eyes the first embraceOf my face, (68-70)
In one year they sent a million fighters forthSouth and North,And they built their gods a brazen pillar highAs the skyYet reserved a thousand chariots in full force—Gold, of course.O heart! oh blood that freezes, blood that burns!Earth's returnsFor whole centuries of folly, noise and sin!Shut them in,With their triumphs and their glories and the rest!Love is best (73-84).