The ubi sunt is a poetic theme that questions where people have gone. The poem serves as a roll call for those missing or who have passed away, and deals with the inevitability of death.
A well-known ubi sunt is “Astrophil and Stella 102: Where Be the Roses Gone, Which Sweetened So Our Eyes?” by Sir Philip Sidney:
Where be the roses gone, which sweetened so our eyes?
Where those red cheeks, which oft with fair increase did frame
The height of honor in the kindly badge of shame?
Who hath the crimson weeds stolen from my morning skies?
How doth the color vade of those vermilion dyes,
Which Nature’s self did make, and self engrained the same!
I would know by what right this paleness overcame
That hue, whose force my heart still unto thraldom ties?
Galen’s adoptive sons, who by a beaten way
Their judgements hackney on, the fault on sickness lay;
But feeling proof makes me say they mistake it far:
It is but love, which makes his paper perfect white
To write therein more fresh the story of delight,
Whiles beauty’s reddest ink Venus for him doth stir.
More about poetry: a to z.