All posts by yodamo

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It is not every lifetime that one writes an epic poem… let alone two, & it is with a certain sense of excitement, laced with a barrel’s worth of personal achievement, that I present my double epics to the world. When accepting my role as an epic poet, I ruminated on my predecessors & the models they supplied to posterity. In this I realised that while Virgil created one epic out of Homer’s two – the Odyssean voyages of Aeneas to Italy, follow’d by Iliadic warfare in Latina – I would rather compose an Odyssey & an Iliad as individual poems. As for the length of my epics, Dante’s 100 cantos seem’d both a simple & harmonious number.

As a poet waking to consciousness at the end of the twentieth century, my Iliad had no choice but to concern the dramatic double world wars in which some of those who participated I could still reach out to & converse. I remember fondly my now departed dear grandmother telling me how much fun she had as a teenager during the Burnley black-outs, & how a downward-pointing ‘dickie shine a light’ would guide her home.

Axis & Allies has also branched out both into deep history – to achieve some kind of understanding of how the World Wars came to pass – & into my own age, where I witness’d at first hand events such as 9-11 & the terrorist attack on Mumbai. Meanwhile, my personal Odyssey is a journey thro’ England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Sicily, Malta, Gozo & the entire subcontinent of India, at the end of which I return to my own veritable Penelope, Sally Cinnamon.

The first sonnets of the Sylver Rose were composed in the Autumn of 1998, when I was 22, & the last in January 2021, only yesterday. The latter sequanto saw the recreation of the Samothracian Mysteries of that island’s Sanctuary of the Gods. This was the same site where I composed my penultimate tryptych of Axis & Allies in August 2020. Then, on the next morning, I would complete my Iliadic epic at the waterfall source of the Gria Vathra, towering high over the Aegean Sea.

Sonnets & epics go together. Both Dante & Shakespeare were avid sonneteers before creating their epic poems – I would include the Dramatic oeuvre of Shakespeare as an epic poem of sorts, especially the historical plays. What makes my work different is that I turn’d my sonnets into an epic poem, as well as writing a non-sonnet epic. For this I would invent an even larger line-count than the 14 offer’d by the sonnet – the trytptych.

The first lines of Axis & Allies were composed in Brighton in October 1999, when I was a twenty-three year-old hedonist with a thirst for travel & fun. My art, however, seem’d to be possessed of a much serious substance. In my Imperatrix ode to the British Empire, composed 1999-2000, I began to employ the first vestiges of epic tradition. There followed a beautiful period of composition, enlivened by the salty surf of the sea, when certain poetic fires were kindled within me. The Imperatrix saw my departure from writing poetry for the self to writing for society, the true nature of an epic calling, where the theme is the fascinating & tangl’d complexity human life.

The Imperatrix was both a salute to a new Millennium & a celebration of Britain’s lost empire – Hong Kong had only been handed back to China a couple of years before I composed the ode. It’s form was the same as that used by Keats in his magnificent series of odes of 1819. He had developed his new 10-line stanza out of the English & Italian sonnet forms, stating in a letter to his brother; ‘I have been endeavouring to discover a better Sonnet stanza than we have. The legitimate does not suit the language well, from the pouncing rhymes; the other appears too elegiac, and the couplet at the end of it has seldom a pleasing effect. I do not pretend to have succeeded. It will explain itself.’ It was this evolution of form that would soon inspire me to create a new stanza of my own for a new poem that came to mind during the composition of the Imperatrix.

I feel the need for form in poetry is as natural as swans coming to a lake, or bobbing in the seasurf on a windy day for fun.  As a poet awakening to the art, I felt that the cultivation of vers libre had blown it’s course. It had moved far from it’s original raison d’etre, as an alternative to form, & had now claimed the empire of poetry for itself. But by doing so,  it had placed shackles upon the poet, & it would only be by returning to form would any progress be made in the art.

In the Autumn of 1999 I spent several weeks designing a stanza of my own invention, which I named the Tryptych. In classical art the Tryptych is a form of painting, where the artist will paint three separate pictures, all relating to an event in history, the most common being the crucifixion of Christ. The stanza I created is itself a sort of Gryphon, whose elegant aesthetic is made up of the better parts of forms past. I wrote the first one October’s night in Brighton, 1999. The earliest germ of the Waterloo poem was grasping for breath, & I felt my new stanza would be appropriate, something weightier & more flexible, in order to contain more factual information. My first ever tryptych, however, was something of an invocation to the muses;

There is a glade in an ancyent forest
Where pools lie glitteraund molten azure,
I wade within the one most moonbeam blest
To bathe in blissful dreamtimes gleaming pure;
Attended by
The nine naked maidens
Like a lost lullaby lilting thro’ love’s garden.

She harps a song, she summons stars,
She waltzes round the waters,
She treats these tender battlescars,
She paints the floating lotus,
She strums the summergold guitars,
Lord Apollo’s daughters!
Who whisper as she grips this dripping hand,
Soul cleansed, slow led, we tread the mossy land.

They wing & weave thro’ tryptych tones,
Sing rich enchanted chime,
Soft music hones their mystic moans,
& so… my all must rhyme,
With hopes of flashing heroes up Parnassus slopes I’ll climb!

In this first triptych we see a summoning of not one, but all the muses, coupled with the first footsteps taken along the metaphysical paths up Mount Parnassus, the traditional home of the Muses as given in Greek mythology. On that same evening in Brighton, I then turned the form I had just crystallised to converting a spot of history, in this case concerning the country ride in 1814 on which the Duke of Wellington first noticed the reverse slopes at Mont Saint Jean. The next summer, 2000, I wrote the rest of the Waterloo poem, & would write the last of my tryptychs upon Samothraki two whole decades later.

Between first & last I lived & breathed my epics, sometimes symbiotic, sometimes from afar. Those years match the twenty designated to a potential epic by the English romantic poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who wrote; ‘I should not think of devoting less than 20 years to an Epic Poem. Ten to collect materials and warm my mind with universal science. I would be a tolerable Mathematician, I would thoroughly know Mechanics, Hydrostatics, Optics, and Astronomy, Botany, Metallurgy, Fossilism, Chemistry, Geology, Anatomy, Medicine — then the mind of man — then the minds of men — in all Travels, Voyages and Histories. So I would spend ten years — the next five to the composition of the poem — and the five last to the correction of it.’ Having completed two epics in that time is simply down to having modern access to the internet coupl’d with swifter modes of travel. I was also struck constantly by Coleridge’s definition of my beloved Romantic Age being, “a happy [one] … for tossing off an Epic or two.”

Just as the world needs its plumbers its painters & its pimps, it also happens to need its epics. I’m not exactly sure why we pop up from time-to-time, but we most definitely do; it is like a relay race where the baton is dropped for a few hundred years then gets picked up again by the next lucky fellow compel’d to spend the better years of their life on a single poem (or two). As I picked up the baton & began my leg, I appear’d more of a misnomer to the modern poet – but to me it seemed as if a devastating plague had ripped through my species like some needle blights through the forest of Parnassus. Poetic offerings from the later 20th century & early 21st were slender to see the least – like skinny foals grazing in a field barren. At the same time I roamed in the open expanses of countryside beyond those farm fences, fattening myself on the verdure of life amidst the solemn mountains of an echoing tradition. I found a nobleness of action accompanied me as I composed, for the epic is the phoenix of poetry. They live gloriously then die… but when they rise again, they do upon pinions of golden fire.

The epic species is the pinnacle of poetic achievement & the supreme measure of a poet. It reflects & displays the grandeur of man & within its multi-lined confines can be found every other species of poetry. It is a grand summation of the art, if you will. If one were to put all the world’s epics on a bookcase… & they would only need small shelves… you would find so much human existence in so little a space. To throw my own hat into this small but viciously proud arena, I really had no choice… it was the only poetic sphere I felt truly comfortable working within. Before I began, I examined the epic poems of the English, to measure my work against & from which to draw the correct materials. In the English language there have only been a few attempts at an epic, proper. Chaucer had all the trappings with his Canterbury Tayles, tho’ his point of focus reneged on the epic theme. Spenser gave us his sprawling Faerie Queene & Milton his great English poem, Paradise Lost. Since then we have Byron’s Don Juan & the prelude of Wordsworth, but both can be counted as not of the true vein. Chapman & Pope both presented poeslations of the Iliad, but these are but mere imitations of another poem. Keats’ came close with his Hyperion, but his untimely death left it unfinished. In more modern times, Tennysson’s Morte D’Arthur is too staid to be considered epic, while Pound’s Cantos are an incomprehensible personal voyage, far from the true ideal.

So where did that leave the epic muse. A handful of ultra-modern poets have tried to write epic – but have fallen far short of connecting with the planet, or even the nation, whose efforts should be placed in the epyllian baskets. The general sentiment of my times is that epic is impossible, that poetry had become too personal. Yet, as long as there is human life there shall be, tho’ all of a scarcity, the capability within the human mind for epic poetry. If let us say that in the human brain there is one percent attuned to poetry, then within this one per cent there is again a very small percentage capable of epic poetry. Because of the dispropensity of human nature to carry on with the very difficult nature of composing epic, then this percentage is again divided. So the lot fell to me & by going backwards, back to the classical epic, I believe I am going forwards. With this in mind I began to reflect the poetry out into the world, into the lives of my dramatis personae, & mirror the world in which they lived then & so we live now. In one of his excellent essays of the early 1980’s, William Oxley shed light upon the true nature & mechanics of my task;

The concept of the modern epic cannot be properly understood without an accurate grasping of the true nature of tradition. For without such understanding of the full implications and accretions attaching to the word “epic,” it cannot in its turn be understood. Once, however, tradition is properly understood, and the word “epic” placed within that context, it is possible to begin to think of a modern epic. And I think it fair enough to jump in at the deep end – assuming all that has been said hitherto has been grasped and is now firmly borne in mind by the reader – and say that for an epic to be modern it must first and foremost, in Daniel Pearlman’s expression, “nucleate” the information and experience of contemporaneity. Which means, remembering the earlier idea of a poem of epic proportions integrated in a continuing tradition, that while the poet’s art will nucleate the contemporary data, it will at the same time draw in this information to an already existing centre composed of past accretions. Which further means that the successful modern epic (as any successful modern poem of whatsoever proportions) will be an engrafting of new branches on an already existing tree.

I am now 44 years old & have given 22 years & the last of my youth to the creation of my two very traditional, yet very modern epics. Not with any sense of regret, however, for these two decades gone have sent me travelling the world composing the purest of poetries. Of this corpus, 1400 sonnets & 900 tryptychs have made the final cut, resulting in 37,600 lines of poetry. 22 years (1822-44), is also how long the Thai poet Sunthorn Phu – the Bard of Rattanakosin – spent over his own epic poem, the 48,700-line Phra Aphai Mani. As he did then & as I do now, it is time to pass the baton on to whenever & whomever finds it next.

Damian Beeson Bullen
12/01/2021

Canto 1: L’AMFIPARNASSO


I suddenly saw that directly to the North, over Onkoul’s Tunguska road, the sky split in two & fire appeared high and wide over the forest. After that such noise came, as if rocks were falling or cannons were firing, the earth shook, & when the sky opened up, hot wind raced between the houses, like from cannons, which left traces in the ground like pathways
Semenov

**************

Balrog

The atom is the smallest puppet spinning
in the smallest slot machine. And children love
the tale of the genii in the tiny flask
Dilys Laing

Across the wormy gyres of ceaseless time,
By Dogstar’s sister, wee Sirius B,
A soldier’s table spreads with scrolls of rhyme,
Those sacred fables of the Sah-Pu-Qi;
Epic, yet terse,
Legends of ancyent past,
Of how a Universe was born for us at last!

He read how Genesis & crew
Flew far in Star-Vimana,
How Mugulu & Mukulu,
Seriel & Semyaza,
Would populate a world so blue,
Naming it Zahara;
Dreamtrance disturb’d by Gen’ral Balthazeer,
“A chance, Captain, to further your career.

The Usgoth dance a dastard jig,
Hot words of harsh war made!”
Donning a wig, mounting Tehpig,
Rode Balrog to parade;
O gallant host, drumrolls & roars, rais’d rows of plasma-blade!

Dadghabbi


Ambush

Consider how they move, the galaxies
Through the ocean of night like drift nets
Dragging deep space, though nothing we know is there
David Sutton

Follow faint traces of light & lazar
Along great lanes of space innum’rable,
To twinsewn systems of a distant star,
In mortal combat lock’d incurable;
As Usgoth hordes
Embattle Dadghabbi,
Wide-wave electric swords in awesome chivalry.

Upon the fringes of the fray
Our graceful leuitenant rides,
His strong & stately steed of grey
By the jet-black vortex strides,
Tehpig splits skies with startling neigh,
Assaulted on all sides,
Balrog hauls reigns & gallops into space –
Trailing green vapours Gaargants three gave chase.

Upon a tapestry of stars
Hooves of quartz-crystal pound,
The Usgoth Gaars, all fangs & scars,
Gain steadily in ground,
Tripping the light fantastic at the searing speed of sound.

Space


The Chase Ends

All about me
Is heaven in all directions,
I love you, bright infinite space
J.A.Schade

Just a wee spot on the dimple of time,
A billion galaxies around us,
& them a wee spot, mere provincial clime,
The Universe spread always prepond’rous;
Fleshlife, starlight,
Swarms over airy rocks,
Some mastering space-flight, some shepherds & their flocks.

Amid amazing Milky Way
Balrog faced his pursuers,
As tho’ a Roman in the day
Of Tullus Hostillius –
When triplet sets made fierce affray
For their populaces –
Now like the last unwounded Roman son,
Our Knight faced three ‘Quirini,’ one-by-one.

Combat is join’d, fierce flash of blades,
Two toss’d into the void,
Last Usgoth fades, in Balrog wades,
Some speeding asteroid,
To slay his foe… Tehpig, alas, by Usgoth spear annoy’d.

Space


The Approach

On the world a thousand curses!
like the fickle elements its deceit,
we get a thing we would not ask for
Murchadh MacMhathain

On the flaming hoof rode the vorpal steed,
Out of the sapphire regions between stars,
Past Sol’s slumb’rous giants, to scythe at speed,
Yon the rocky ring, yon roseate Mars;
Full into view
Appears a peopl’d world,
A pearl of green & blue where whisp-white cloud-swirls curl’d.

Wings shredded so they could not steer,
Talon-slash trailing crimson,
All thro’ the scorching stratosphere
Plunges Vampyre Stallion,
No wince, no flinch, nor cry of fear,
Then, at the collision,
Marsh forests fly & land in piny piles,
The shatter’d tundra of a hundred miles.

All thro’ primeval Tunguska
Would devastation flood,
At the crater’s smoking centre
No beast of Eden stood;
Hail Alien! Bulbous, Bewing’d, Fangs thirsting Manling blood.

Siberia


The Sorceress

Winter mornings with suns of ice
& white worlds. Time of crows
They rule over the snowy fir forests
Alf Larsen

Long-Horn leads sickly steed thro’ Tulgey wood,
On ev’ry side bewitching whispering,
A phantom cry to curdle human blood,
A fence of ghoulish eyes ever-learing;
Tooth gate gnarl-grown,
Fang’d entrance to her lair,
O gaunt, dishevell’d crone! O jaundic’d, hellsent stare!

He steps thro’ arms aframe a door,
Enters gloom as black as tar,
“I have not seen thy like before!”
“I am from another star…”
“Welcome… sup flesh… this putrid sore…”
Cackles Baba Yaga,
Passing her guest a leg of leprosie –
He drank & thank’d for help, her only fee

A draught of blood, he slit his wrist,
Her beastly thirst to slake,
Mad mystic tryst! At witch-door hiss’d
Gigantic scarlet snake,
“This is sharp maw’d Zmei Gorynich, ye to the Beast shall take…”

Asia


The Bargain

Though the rasp of his flesh was so sore,
Faith, that had yearnings far keener than these,
Saw the soft sheen of the Thitherward Shore
MJ Preston

In the Necropolis’ most deepest tomb,
Far from the prying eyes of Seraphim,
Balrog swept down the shit-clad catacomb
Unto the Anti-Heaven’s inner rim;
Wide halls of bone,
Waulcaters amplified,
Unto the Serpent Throne beat leather-sails a-glide.

O suave, majestic demagogue
I humbly stand before thee,
The cosmos knows me as Balrog,
Lieutenant of Dadghabbi,
In these claws see I clutch a cog,
Heights of Technology –
With it you could defeat thine ancyent foes…”
Chrome circlet with deep sparkling azure glows.

What is the price? ” “A war!” “Indeed,
I can arrange the course –
But why?” “My steed may only feed
Upon a certain sauce…”
Low whinnies of encouragement wept from his wounded horse.

Pandemonium


Rousing the Aesir

Your mighty host set sail,
With valour in each longing heart
And vigour in the gale
Leigh Hunt

Loki canter’d the clammy trachts of Hell,
Strange presences witnessing wyrd meeting,
At first it seem’d their talk was flowing well,
But demons grant comforts only fleeting;
Be-elzebub
Sets his sharp scythe aspin…
Leaving a grubby stub, donning the bloody skin.

‘Loki’ rose to halls of glory,
Acknowledging each table
Serv’d by a busty Valkyrie
With meat & mead & fable,
Then entering a fine city
Carv’d from marv’lous marble,
His mission hidden by a face of stone,
Kneeling before, beneath auld Odin’s throne.

“Hullo!” chimes Frigg, “Why cometh here!”
“Satanus calls for War!”
A goblet cheer, all the Aesir
Applauded from the floor,
A vogue & gory battle cry to rouse the rage ofThor.

Valhalla


The Indifference of Jove

In human works, though labour’d on with pain,
A thousand movements scarce one purpose gain;
In God’s, one single can its end produce
Alexander Pope

Saint Peter hoodah’d cross the skiey plains
Upon a silver, tuskless Elephant,
His cherub-captain rhythmic with the reigns;
Resplendent with immortal amorant,
All sides lustr’d
Roses celestial,
Chasm-clinging cluster’d oer clear terrestrial.

He rode thro’ Paradise Mountains
To a voice more like a dream,
Echoing amidst the fountains
Where the holy rivers stream,
“Since I offer’d Man redemptions,
Souls would I once redeem,
He errs more than the sinful sons of Eve,
If men rejoice in killing why then grieve?”

“There are dark troubles brewing sire,
Satanus plots a war,
With daemons dire & dragons fire,
The Aesir to the fore,”
“Silence,” urged Jove, “we let them be, ‘tis just another war.”

Divinnia


Conversazione

Echo, tongueless, sings her sweet
& mimic song in sheep-strewn meadows,
taking up the words of birds
Satyrus

Far from the prying eyes of Gods & Men,
The goddess KARMA flew to Fairyland,
Convers’d with Mab, queen of the Pixie Glen,
Around them lovely daffadillies fann’d;
Sipping mull’d brews,
Flavour’d with wildflowers,
Sharing their recent news, minutes turn to hours.

As woodnymph with translucent wings
Burnish’d words with berry cakes,
Sighs Mab, “these new Gods & their Kings
Seldom learn from late mistakes,
Discontented with what Fate brings,
Each lusts more while he takes –
In that I trust not Satanus, nor Mars,
Lords of land’s cancers & the sea’s catarrhs.

In these futurities foreseen
Your days will grow busy?”
Not quite, my queen, I choose one scene
So very carefully –
Two families shall represent all of Humanity.”

Shangri-La


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Canto 2: The Argument


So arose the practice of celebration in exalted verse the battles & other notable deeds of men together with those of the gods.
Boccaccio


Invocation

Something has broken in the mouths
of the young men on earth
Our thoughts fails us, we are made poor
Yap

There is a glade in an ancyent forest
Where glittering pools of molten azure
Assail ripe sense… insliding, moonbeam-bless’d,
Soul bathes in blissful dreamtimes gleaming pure;
Attended by
My nine naked maidens,
Vulvaean lullaby lilting thro’ love gardens.

She harps a song, she summons stars,
She waltzes round the waters,
She treats these sainted battlescars,
She paints a floating lotus,
She strums her summergold guitars,
Loxianic daughters!
How lovely & how livid floods thy light,
What verses & what wonders must I write?

They ring & weave thro’ tryptych tones,
Sing rich enchanted chime,
Soft music hones their mystic moans,
& so… my all must rhyme…
With hopes of flashing heroes up Parnassus slopes we’ll climb!


Dedication

There can be no virtuous man
Who stops writing poetry
And stops telling the truth

Gyula Illyés

Five hundred years ago, most gracious prince,
Oer thirty thousand ancestors were yours,
Victoria, of all them, must convince
Ye are most worthy of we troubadours;
Thy fruitful days
Adds to our garden joy,
When piles of pyre-steep’d praise heap’d on Di’s happy boy.

Remembering thine own fair birth
When I was only seven,
Your majesty has grown on Earth
Amang the Sons of Heaven,
New to the world ye’ve shewn true worth
Aye, & that’s a given –
Maturity hast bless’d thy diadem,
At heart thou art of us & less of them.

My prince, with praise, I offer thee
This book of rumbling words,
Mnemone to Melody,
Midst lines of waltzing thirds,
Life shimmers ever phosphorous as if t’were sufi birds.


To My Readers

he had worn out his teeth
on the locks of ancient gates.
On the most out-of-the way paths
Ahmad Shamlu

I know these words rest heavy in the hands,
When reading them should creep a little while,
But think of me alone in distant lands,
With heavy load, abroad an extra mile;
Thro’ thorn, up steep,
In search of awesome views,
Where I would sit in deep communion with the Muse.

Gadswounds! My global chronicle
Will preserve the violent show
Of our planet’s lust for battle,
Men panting for Megiddo;
Friends! Be ready for to Google
All words ye do not know,
When mining into human history,
This is a kind of University!

Prepare a bath, pour out your wines,
Light up a candle’s flame,
Encase your minds, embrace these lines,
Enlightenment our aim,
War’s business is but terrible – not glory, nor a game.


Impulses

Unleash a poem slow enough,
Fie with vigilance & care
& you’ll discover lots of stuff
Don Paterson

I sing of Mars, whose blood-besplatter’d reign
Lived long among the secret brotherhoods,
& if these verses vast mine aim deem plain:
To elevate auld lives before the Floods;
When to the stars,
Or in our upmost caves,
This exile song of Mars an epic epoch saves.

As the vestige Villanovan
Found in Verruchian tombs,
As golden-thron’d Glasgerion
Immortalis’d ladies looms,
Ready, my lithe young mind…. Open!
When poetry resumes,
I’ll pay the World its histrionic dues,
Quite polyamorous to every Muse.

Non sono nazifaschisti,
Fair freedoms forged in blood,
The mystery of history
Spreads thro’ me like a wood,
In which I’ll twist unfettered feet as only Clio could.


Valedictions

I should invent my own speech
and leave others empty and afraid
that they did not know it, could not ask
Ricardo Pau-Llosa

I am no pickpurse of another’s wit,
Yet understand tradition is a tool,
When mostly I’m the Muses’ conduit
& sing to them, prostrately, as a fool,
Je suis rien,
Per je ne suis pas dieu,
Vous etes tout mon bien, le lustre de mon cieux!”

As when old Thales’ Iliad
By princely rhapsodes utter’d,
The ghosts behind these lines glow glad
Whenever they’ll be mutter’d,
As if some new Upanishad
Down the Deccan flutter’d,
Containing all the epos of an age,
Far from the sterile tombstone of the page.

As when elders Albanian
Sang legends kith & kin,
Or Suqatran, hoary herdsman
Harps word-hordes held within…
Verse-vestibules of history maintain Cruachan’s Djinn!


Arcadia

A beggar at the crack of dawn comes with
an empty cup, just as a line of monks
serenely with their bowls set out for alms
Saksiri Meesomsueb

Always preparing, always reparing,
The new ensemble of a Danaan song;
No single impulse, but many sharing,
A swirl of verse, a whirl of words among
Eternal heights
Of endless mountenance:
Criss-crossing cloudless nights wild woodland swans advance!

With Saint John & the Patmos vine,
The Bard of the Scyldingas,
Dante’s Comedia Divine,
Tasso’s inspired Crusaders,
With Spenser’s store of faerie wine
& Milton’s masterclass,
I made my bed – from patchwork eiderdown,
I pluck’d my quills & ink’d them up in town!

From erudition constancy
To genius applies;
Consistency, coherency,
Watch phaerie wonders rise
From paranormal mutterings… them given golden guise.


Astrophel

into a world
waiting like
a quiet lover
Max Reif

I stretch to grasp the gross Orphean lyre,
These fingers on the fringe with fuga fraught,
When en-plein-air whisp’ring perfumes transpire,
Hyblean murmors of prophetic thought;
Beside Mankind
I find my social niche,
Reflective & refined; the poesy of pastiche.

Along the road I drank my wine,
While others gave it gladly,
Good souls were they, old friends of mine,
Such thanks to all who’ve had me,
Some tickl’d by this soul-sunshine,
Others flummox’d madly,
For poets & their strangely ancyent ways
Are meant to men affix… affront… amaze.

As from the Wealth of Nations rise
A pleasure-loving soul,
Invested ties friendship supplies
Up puff me proud & tall,
To conjure something rich & queer to steer us, each & all.


An American Epic

Unity begins with acceptance,
builds on hope,
is nourished by caring
Andrew King

Ye children of America, awake!
What world terrific lies beyond thy shores,
That ne’er your Founding Fathers could forsake,
Nor Modern Masters; as the Old World wars,
From Dante’s lines
Unto Fall River’s weaves,
Our syllabus entwines across sibyllic leaves.

As every atom you & I,
My language thee’ll be sharing,
Sometimes Mark Doty’s lullaby,
Sometimes John Weiner’s daring,
Behold our clan-like landscape’s tie,
Consubstantial pairing,
Whom mighty oak-bold tyrants fought & fell’d
A Lion & an Eagle’s Gryphon-meld.

Yes… I guess we can forgive her,
Thy blessed Libertie,
She’ll endeavor to deliver
This world from Tyrannie,
As we, yon waves inveterate, conflate thy destiny.


Testamundi Poeticus

And if there’s something that remains
Through sounds of horn and lyre,
It too will disappear into the maw of time
Gavrila Romanovich Derzhavin

I am a man, many have gone before
& will come yet; to thee I trust this song,
Pray let her fly to every foreign shore,
Shewing the World how once the World went wrong;
Such manic times
Have ended, only just,
Whose freshness fills these rhymes far from the bookish dust.

I would the World should hear this song
& sing her down the ages,
So when the epic, proud & long,
Renaissance ever stages,
Let poets ply their trade among
Polytechnic pages,
Finding a thing or two that they could use
In future conversations with the Muse.

Namore shall Homers chaunt War’s praise
Or Owens curse it’s game;
Some psychic craze, unbridl’d days,
Crude torture, quelling shame,
This is my long-wrought testament to what Mankind became.


Canto 3: Genesis

A perfect things participating any nature, makes a likeness to itself, not by absolutley producing that nature, but by applying it to something else

The Summa Theologica of Saint Thomas


The Birth of Life

Overhead the seasons rock
They are paper bells
Calling to nothing living
W. S. Merwin

Before we taste the worst of wasted lives
Whom others breath deny by martial deed,
Before the flailing alien arrives
On Earth alight that bruis’d, enthirsted steed,
Before an age
Is vitrified in gore,
Let us devise the stage & lay its playful floor.

From stardust is a planet made
Then leave the rest to science,
Eftsoons we’ll hear the rise & fade
Of songbirds in alliance,
A never-ceasing serenade
Most happy circumstance
Of swallows following Dawn’s constant roll
Aslant a planet spinning pole-to-pole.

Curving sleekly like a discuss,
Lights flashing strobe-on-strobe,
The collossus that is COSMOS
Coughs up a tiny probe,
Sizing the climate, analyzing carbon & microbe.

Earth


Benvenuto

‘Tis hard to tell whether thy reverend shade
Has more good Votaries or Poets made,
From thy dark Caves were Inspirations given
John Norris of Bemerton

On Earth hath nature pour’d her bounties forth
With such a full & unwithdrawing hand,
Her colours blushing from the snow-blanch’d North
Thro’ flower-fields to drifting Afric sand;
O perfect sphere
Of ecosystems fair,
Oer which, in flight, appear strange light-storms hung on air.

With wrenchly might hot starships land
(As Cook of the Endeavour
Once stood upon Australic sand
& culture changed forever),
Here, two-by-two, with talon’d hand,
Gimbling altogether
Terrific lizards press on pastures new,
Marshall’d by monkey slaves & suited crew.

As Apeman whips broad cattle backs
The Higher Minds watch on,
Chewing on snacks of protein packs
Until the beasts were gone,
Plodding thro’ cudding undergrowth, good meat on every one.

Africa


Carnivores

I care not, Fortune, what you me deny
You cannot rob me of free Nature’s grace,
You cannot shut the windows of the sky
James Thomson

The perfect state of Nature is ‘to war,’
Why else be frightful of night’s spiteful sounds
To feed on or be fed upon the law,
To e’er defend thy vital hunting grounds ;
Five dinosaurs
Compete for rotting meat,
The solo one arose, some Minotaur of Crete.

As vicious as those snarling seas
Off Cape Horn in the Autumn,
A slash… a bite… back-butt unfrees
Her neck as hard she fought ‘em,
Hard battle breaks the viney trees
Til’ sadly, as she caught ‘em,
Her final wounds unspill’d her life force free,
& swoon’d she down, down to her misery.

As silence falls, as battle ends,
Full phyrric are the frays,
A mother tends the wounded, mends
Each gash with spittl’d glaze,
To feast upon the spoils of war like werewolves in a craze.

America


Social Division

The Sun of Justice may withdraw his beams
Awhile from earthly ken, & sit conceal’d
In dark recess pavilioned round with clouds
George Bally

As particles drift slowly round the core,
Then start to rave far from its density,
Time, too, speeds up its progress more & more,
While flitting from the Big Bang’s gravity;
Where near the place
Vast Universe began,
Some cosmic, Klingon race wings fleuron caravan.

Beyond the speed of light they drew
Their mercantile intentions,
Cross dozen milliards they flew
Ships leaping through dimensions,
Until a sphere of green & blue
Promises fat pensions;
How many lizards caught up in the cull.
Chopp’d into squares & pack’d in icy hull.

Among the furball monkey-slaves
A leader rais’d his pride,
By roaring waves he saw the caves
Where they could easy hide,
& made a plan, that Adam-man, whom tyranny defied.

Europa


Cataclysm

His chilling cold doth heate require,
Come Seraphins in liew of fire;
This little Arke no cover has
Robert Southwell

From deep space depths ejected destiny,
Full seven miles across its rocky span,
One hundred terratons of TNT,
Randomly lands upon the Yucatan;
As DOOMSDAY slamm’d
& shudder’d underground,
The dinosaurs, all damn’d, grew flimsy at the sound!

Materielle ascends the skies,
An incandescent army,
Dust super-heated chokes the eyes
Flesh broiling to salami,
Collossal shockwaves terrorize
As Mega Tsu-na-mi,
Two thousand metres high, lay low the coasts
& leave a sludgy wilderness of ghosts.

Thro’ lightning flash, hail-stones of coal,
Destruction decollates,
Those mires that maul, those fires that fall,
All life-flesh devastates,
While dregs of all existence call hopelessly to their mates.

Mexico
65,000,000 BC


Liberty

Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with age & dust
Sir Walter Raleigh

They came to investigate the carnage
Churn’d by those vast, ruthless, triassic seas,
Neath shaking heads they burnt the starry bridge
To this scourg’d world, unfertile to the bees;
But not before
A spartacus of slaves,
Into the jungles tore to disenthrall in caves.

They wait until their Masters gone,
At last lights disappearing,
They form’d a tribe of twenty-one
In kinship quite endearing,
Despite the sun of safeness shone,
Still them all stood fearing
Those dazzling Lords of Flight, whose lightning rods
Had scarr’d their backs, those beings men call Gods.

As generations pass’d them by
Those Gods did not return,
Into the sky, with teary eye,
For homespheres elders yearn,
A memory grown ancient of the forest & the fern.

Asia
30,000,000 BC


Evolution

In patience, then, possess thy soul,
Stand still! – for while the thunders roll,
Thy saviour sees thee through the gloom
William Allen

Beyond the formal motions of romance
There yearns a primal instinct men call lust,
We see it in a brooding woman’s glance –
To she we leave our favour’d fate in trust;
As monkeymen
Grow ever populous,
Some forced out of that den, the Monkeys’ ancestors.

As Aeons pass, thro’ mate-on-mate,
They wriggle in mutation,
As lither limbs regenerate,
They blend with vegetation
Up to the jungles fling their fate –
Sings primatial Nation,
”Urangatangs! Gorillas! Chimpanzees!
While men lord over plains we rule the trees!”

But what of Man? He too evolves;
Yeti… Neanderthal…
Each problem solves, his world revolves
Quite mathematical,
Swelling the brain against the cranials of each fresh skull.

Australia
1,000,000 BC


Mousteria

Truth is the voice of Nature & of Time –
Truth is the startling monitor within us –
Nought is without it, it comes from the stars
William Thomas Bacon

Far from the conflict of that cosmic war,
Ashroud the twin Antennae Galaxies,
Where Usgoth & Dadghabbi blood-pools bore,
A nobler race makes world enquiries;
On beryl wheels
Flames golliwogging rock
Steel-sinew’d, stake-like heels absorb the landing’s shock.

Cometh Queen Oryana’s passion,
She with the natives mated,
Left her womberie to fashion
New life, ’til satiated,
This osculant, meddling mission
Better men created –
She, with six clapping hands laughs her delight,
“These darling furballs bend their backs upright!”

The Starguild builds her landing strips
Across the Nazca plain,
Magenta lips sing, “Each eclipse
We gods shall come again
Back to Teotihuacan, sixty ‘Humans’ to obtain.”

America
100,000 BC


The Cull

On cherubs & on cherubims
Full royally he rode;
And on the wings of all the winds
Thomas Sternhold

From grots & caverns shagg’d with horrid thorn,
Men wander’d over land & over sea,
A clever race of higher species born,
Advanced in Science & Astronomy;
Old Gods return
“These Apelings grown too wise!”
Three days of lazars burn, rays churning up the skies.

Inferno follows thunderflash
Wondrous things all vapourized,
Sodom turn’d dust, Gomorrah ash,
False concupiscence chastis’d,
Atlantis sunken, crunch & splash
Harrupa cauterized,
What little left alive thro’ Mankind warns
Of divine vengeance when the faithless spawn.

Bold memories of old events
Thro’ bardic sagas rage,
Each line laments, each song cements
The passing of an age,
What once was glad & golden naught but sad words on a page.

Earth
20,000 BC

Canto 4: Mythomemes

Surely it is not the poets that are responsible for what happens
But Zeus himself, who deals with each of us toilers on earth as he sees fit
Homer

***

Birth of Faith

Man is his own star: & the soul that can
Render an honest & a perfect man
Commands all light, all influence, all fate
John Fletcher

Man sits & shivers in the golden stream
Of fresh intelligence, O shiny leaf!
His delightful capacity to dream
Shall to the visionaries pin belief;
Speech primitive
Discusses bird & beast,
While offerings votive prelude the fruitful feast.

Enacting ancyent vaudeville
Orchestrates a cooing crew,
Who place the face of every kill
Upon a headless statue,
Dark, bloody meat roasts on the grill,
Around the fire they drew
Drumming & chanting in a magic trance,
As if them Korybantes at the dance.

This was the moment marvellous
To make a man-made mead;
Salubrius, luxurious,
Stuff which religions need,
The liquer call’d ambrosia on which all Godheads feed.

Italy
10,000 BC

***

Mahabharata

What precious things are you making fast
In all these silken lines ?
& where & to whom will it go at last
James Thomson

From lakes of ash destruction rose the Gods;
From power comes respect, & with this love,
The one thing that connects we anthropods
With all the majesty of those above;
From litanies,
To crude cults of the dead,
Scuttling theologies across our planet sped.

Of these beings form’d contingent,
Huddl’d in epicentres,
On Asia’s great sub-continent
Rose the perfect spiritus
Know Brahma! Soul most sentient
Born from navel lotus,
Beside him, as life’s swarming cells divide,
A pantheon strode forth, & multiplied.

Of all the Hindu deities
Tis Kali we must fear;
As Bharatas, vainglorious,
In battle disappear,
Life hears Vyasa’s saga sung in temples sweet & clear.

India
3102 BC

***

Sun God

He surfaces. A screel at first light.
He is alone and at leisure. He is
talking to himself, pecking at the waterfall
Nitoo Das

Like Coonor Colonel, post ‘forty-seven,’
Remaining in the Raj to reap full worth
From former glories, his hard-won heaven,
One born of stars lingers too long on Earth;
By holy Nile
Commingling with Mankind,
Who, fawning & servile, croon, ‘’Sire, do please be kind!’

Round Heliopolis night slows…
Dawning day… an avatar
Daub’d in finery, more fragrant rose
Than Phaeroe… see florid Ra,
Strike solid, adamantine pose,
Some gallivanting star,
Come every day dispelling dismal dark
By rainbow barge, sky-soaring in an arc.

He teaches us papyryses,
How best to harvest wine,
Shu, Osiris, Tefnut, Isis,
Descend from him divine,
For each a pointed pyramid to dream, & dance, & dine.

Aegyptus
2,500 BC

***

Joa-Pater

This is what you get for begging to be
chosen: every god in the universe eyeing
you through the clouds like a hot wound
Vandana Khanna

Knossos sits where European thought
Has sought a font, the old Harruppan mind
Thro’ Hyksos necromancer-secrets taught
In detail of how deities design’d;
Minoan born,
Hariya weds for Crete,
With Keret, in the corn, their seed-time passion sweet.

Siring the peerless Jupiter,
Him no soul could dare neglect,
With a BOOM he brings us terror,
With a kiss he can protect,
One of them who live forever,
As long as this proud sect
Pays heed to all the prayer-needs of faith,
Else fade them to the shades each jaded wraith.

O best of Gods, thy golden scales
Our destinies suspend;
Lord of the gales, thy hard-flung hails
& storm-bolts that ye send
Roar over us, ‘til glorious thy softer swells ascend!

1600 BC
Hellas

***

Chivalry

My thoughts are as a garden plot, that knows
No rain but of thy giving, & no rose
Except thy name. I dedicate it thine
Mu’Tamid

A love of Rhea’s handsome son will spread
Across the waves to where the Argives dwell,
The banded Titans think of him with dread
& fortify their mountains, where they yell;
”This is our land
& for it we shall fight!”
Then stand, weapons in hand, a megaron of might.

As at them jagged boulders thrown
The firmament was shaking,
The sun went dark, the earth did groan,
Fork’d lightning forests raking,
Piebald invader blew his horn,
Mercifuls foresaking,
He bounden them in chains & cast them low
Below the Earth, ten killers on death row.

The conqueror takes up his seat
& there begins to breed,
A task complete, the Twelve compete
For faith on which they feed,
But in all things shall Seuserenre  ever take the lead.

1400 BC
Mount Olympus

***

Pantheon

What am I? a God or Man?
Man is God when great and rich —
God is man when in the ditch
Hume Nisbet

Above the puny jarrings of the world
Olympus of innumerable folds
Reflects the melting moon, whose peaks, snow-pearl’d
With frozen happiness, shed Heaven’s gold;
Urania
Flings stars oer divine heads,
Frolicking together, luxuriant, on beds.

While Vulcan stokes eternal fire
Of constant, cooking casket,
Venus fills deity desire
& thrills them ‘neath her blanket,
The Lord Apollo plucks his lyre
& his Muses thank it,
To play them songs the seasons’ sweetly bring;
Summer, Winter, Autumn, & the Spring.

Farsunk below that mantl’d stone
Old Hades hews his halls;
At first alone until the groan
Of death releases souls,
Them to his kingdom lumbering as leaf quite lifeless falls.

Hades

***

Herakles

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
Robert Frost

We mortals are the Gods’ unwilling toys,
They treat us with a fickleness & play
With softling lives, ‘til waking fate employs
The true direction to a human day;
The best of us
These higher lives defy,
Lives like wild chimeras & diamonds in the sky.

Sailing east with famous Jason
On the quest to fetch the fleece,
He fought the birds Stymphalian
Sharply tasking over Greece,
Wrestling the lion Nemean
At last his trials cease,
Tall stood upon the cusp of further fame,
No beast on Earth this god-man could not tame.

Light lifts him up from pointed pyre,
One by his own hands made,
Before the fire could flicker’d high
Oer lead limbs limply laid,
Zeus knighted him Olympian, imputed to the grade.

Divinnia

***

Forbidden Fruit

Where is her light? her crown? her ornaments?
Her chain of love? her peace? her puritie?
Her fruitfull gardens? her fair continents?
Sir William Mure

With flash of awe best stories are begun;
Upon immortal Mount Olympus dwell
The brightest members of that pantheon
Which binds all mortal motion to its spell;
Our fable falls,
Where Jupiter resides,
Thro’ Heaven’s gleaming halls a golden apple glides.

Upon its deep, dawn-colour’d skin
Was written, “For the finest!”
Three goddesses desir’d the win,
Much smitten by the contest,
Their chatter made a magpie din
To find out who was bless’d,
With Beauty’s art, more than the other two,
Says Jupiter, “I know what you must do!

Seek out a pure & mortal youth
To cure thy bickering,
His choice, I sooth, rare voice of truth,
Shall judge this siren spring,
Alas, I sense these strange events shall violence to us bring!”

Olympus

***

The Judgement of Paris

The stately Juno stalk’d, to reach the Seat,
And hear the Sentence in the last Debate,
And long, severely long resent the Grove
Thomas Parnell

They crambl’d Earth, searching rare quality
Which fortifies a man from lustful thought,
Noble enough to love a true beauty,
Give honest answers to opinions sought;
Just one was found,
A handsome Prince of Troy;
Three goddesses drew round, seductive, sweet & coy….

“Tell, prithee, Paris, which of us,
Fairer than fairest flower?”
Minerva offer’d genius,
While Juno promis’d power,
“If I am chosen,” quiff’s Venus,
“The roseate bower
Of womanhood shall spread across thy mind –
When you may pluck the fairest of your kind!”

“Then thee I choose…” from Venus flew
Helen’s bright araura,
The other two disdainful grew,
Grating with displeasure,
“She waits for you!” sings Venus, “In Lacedaemonia!”

Troy
1274 BC

Canto 5: The Birth of Rome

Mighty men of valour, men train’d for battle, who could handle shield & spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions, & were as swift as gazelles on the mountains. Chronicles 12:8


Helen

And in the visions of romantic youth,
What years of endless bliss are yet to flow!
But, mortal pleasure, what art thou in truth!
Thomas Campbell

Not setting sun, not rosy-finger’d dawn,
Nor ocean’s pearl; not breezy mountain air,
Not spider-spun, nor lazy summer lawn,
Could e’er to this temptressy smile compare;
Her wide-sought hand
Won by the Spartan king,
Many a Grecian band gifts to their wedding bring.

From vinegar festivities
Paris woo’d her to one side,
Venus entwining destinies
As this hot, bedswerving bride
Sings lush, erotic melodies,
Sucking his love inside –
Afterwards, all glamour’d with enchantment,
Thro’ spacious halls their silent footsteps went.

Moonsphere makes webbings in the waves,
Men row a ship to sea –
As future craves the golden graves
Of immortality,
These sweethearts, silken-sheeted, milk the teats of exstasi.

Aegean Sea


Fall of Troy

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Jorge Luis Borges

Hard upon the western fringe of Asia
Arks disembark Agamemnon’s command,
The awe-struck Trojans gaze down in terror,
An enemy encamped upon the sand;
Twyx gate & shore
Shall flow a bloody scene,
Full decade fraught with war fought for that gorgeous queen.

Noble are men of Achaea,
Amidst armies swarming bees,
Like Dardanian Aeneas,
Armipotent Achilles,
The High King, Salaminia,
& striking Ulysees,
Them into flock of falcon-men enfuse –
Now Menaleus dreams a daring ruse

As gods affect the mortal course
& fate is fickle starred,
A wooden horse (with secret force)
Slow wheel’d to a courtyard –
“The war is over,” sing the crowds… the gates, that night, unbarr’d.

Troy


Wanderings of Aeneas

Where even defeat has pride.
And nothing can vanquish this ancient nation,
That knows how to dance with such ardor and will
Gevorg Emin

As swollen rivers rampage pitiless,
Wreak havoc-streams & damage thro’ the fields,
Thro’ palaces, pillars & piazzas
Terrific waves of flashing bronze & shields;
Stone torn from stone,
Burst Ilium in flames,
Blood-lusty killing zone of dust & screams & names.

Day draws a veil across the night,
Vital Aeneas survives,
Keen eyes reflect his guiding light,
Men offer’d him their lives,
Commingling with his muckle might
Their weapons, wisdom, wives;
Sat watching citadels crash on the town
Like mountain ashes farmers’ knives hack down.

Sailors plough thro’ plague & terror,
Beyond the Strophades,
Past Ithica, Sicilia,
On thro’ Phoenecian seas,
Blown to holy Ausonia upon a Latin breeze.

Italy


House of Aeneas

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die
Lewis Carroll

From Trojan blood hath sprung Ascanius,
Whose Alba Longa rises amidst hills,
A city gifted to young Silvius –
Him born amidst the whistling woodland rills;
We druids sing
Of consanguinities,
The catalogues of kings, the sacred monarchies.

Wee Silv grew manly, died, then came
Aeneas & Latinus,
Atys & Alba shar’d their fame
With Capys & Capetus,
Emerald Tiber wins its name
As poor Tiberinus
Drowns while crossing ancyent Albula;
“This flow my father’s shrine!” sings Agrippa,

Who was a wise & wondrous king,
Begetting Romulus,
Him by lightning was slain, his ring
Given Aventinus,
Whose tomb enclos’d by fragrant blooms upon slopes stupendous.

The Aventine Hill


Rape of Rhea

A small face like mine
Can be fully covered
By my two palms
Chong Chi-Yong

Amulius usurps Numitor’s throne,
Murders his nephew cloak’d & clandestine,
Then to prevent avengers being born,
Chains up his niece to serve him vestal wine;
Such treachery!
Full KARMA to restore,
.To that sinful city Zeus sent a paramour…

Mars crept within fair Rhea’s room
Upon soft-feather’d sandals,
In tirpid, shade-seducing gloom,
By silks & censor’d candles;
His vibrant seed invades the womb
As when warring Vandals
Would ravage Italy – him so divine,
She tasted nirvana, arching back her spine.

Abandoning the ravishing
Mars left a tragic tayle,
Days fluttering from Fall to Spring
Towards her pregnant grail,
When she shall be Philomele & then the Nightingale.

Alba Longa


Romulus & Remus

Those of the poets who were passing
would be found about your greensward;
far & wide have travellers spread your fame
Eachann Bacach

Twin babies born, raging Amulius,
Murders the mother, orders their demise,
Them left to die by Tiber, quite helpless –
Lone she-wolf hears their effervescent cries,
& licks their heads
‘Til pure-soul shepherd comes,
To take them to soft beds, where, sucking on wee thumbs,

Faustalus rais’d them wisely couth,
Behidden from destiny
Time drew them on to manly youth,
Fate drag back to the city,
Old Numitor could see the truth,
Hugging them happily;
“Grandfather… sire… we shall resume thy reign,”
Eftsoons their wicked uncle ran right thro’!

KARMA descending tends the crime,
Dress’d in a saffron gown,
Fate’s paradigm, from scarlet slime
Twins lift a silver crown,
& set it on its rightful brow before the shell-shock’d town.

Alba Longa


Death of Remus

We are sons of the same mother
The same origin and kind
Like two joined pines
Vasile Alecsandri

Twin brothers burning with the purple urge
To build a prosp’rous city of their own,
Certain Quirini join this questful surge
With cattle trains & tools to hack the stone;
They reach the hills
Old Faustulus called home,
To name it causes ills, a Remo or a Rome?

We’d better let the Gods decide –
Tutelary augury!”
Each settl’d his each own hill-side,
In the wait for Mercury,
Oer Remulus six vultures glide
This seem’d priority,
But not long aft, above the Palatine
Twelve vultures fly, cries Remulus, “A sign!”

Inveighing quickly, thick words shoot,
Bickers flickering flame,
Thro’ fierce dispute none could refute
The other brother’s claim,
Til Romulus draws scimitar of fratricide & fame!

Rome


Rape of the Sabines

The world for her was turned all upside down
in her grief for her gray falcon brother.
She could never overcome her sorrow
Petar II Petrovic Njegos

How fair art thou, virgin Capillia,
Atop an oxen train parting the plain,
Aiming for the festive consualia
Rome has declar’d about great Neptune’s fane;
To laugh & play
With spirited Sabine,
She joins that joyous day, eats hearty, quaffs cool wine.

This falsified extravagance
Sunder’d by the long, conch-blast;
As amaryllids left to chance
& sex-starved brigand outcast,
She tried to flee this grotesque dance –
Her father watched aghast,
Each Roman had a mistress in his eye,
Toxeus took his to a crimpling cry.

Comes Romulus, with bloody knife,
“Your name?” “Capillia!”
“You’ll be his wife to save the life
Of your decent mother,
Who shall be kept at Cares til ye’ve acquiesc’d together.”

Rome


Sabine War

Star-shine and darkness are blended
as we gather with those we hold dear.
And the Light is present among us
Katy Phillips

Men of angry Caenina primed to rise,
Rome’s outskirts fill with standards one fine day;
Romulus narrowing jaguar eyes,
Commands his soldiers grandly to the fray;
Bold champions
Made contact stone-on-stone,
Under breathless paeans the Romans gave a groan.

As winds opposing contest war
Thro’ heaven’s arching reaches,
Men leapt thro’ murder’s gory jaw
With all its morbid features,
Spears dripping blood & sable gore,
Gurgoyles in the breaches –
But what is this adash thro’ shafts of spears?
Tis women! Interstitial! In tears!

Husbands! Fathers! Sons! & Brothers!”
War paused its awful wheel,
“We are mothers, we are lovers!
Aye, love ‘tis that we feel!”
As weapons drop two nations merge, so urgent the appeal.

Rome

Canto 6: Republican Rome

What is a society without a heroic dimension

Jean Baudrillard


SPQR

on the ramparts,
he never said death is to be preferred,
that life is negotiable
Abba Kovner

Fresh kingship wins the throne, the lust returns;
Tullus Hostillius pitches for war
With brother Alba, a strange itch which burns;
Far from the day they left the Trojan shore:-
To ease the blow
Two sets of triplets found,
Two populaces flow about the battleground.

Combat is join’d, a flash of blades,
Soon two Roman brothers dead,
The last skiffing thro’ olive glades
& each Quirini wounded –
From seeping cuts life’s vigour fades
Full into action sped
The Wrath of Rome, as hapless foes each fall
The Gods applaud such unhing’d, lupine gall.

The awestruck Alba Longese
Are forced to share the home
Of city bath’d in victory,
Setting a phrase in stone,
Being, ‘Senatus Populares Quirini & Rome.’

Italy
743 BC


Republica

They told me
that democracy is a luxury for me
since I have never known it
Mawete Makisosila

Starshiny line of effervescent kings
Endanger’d by the ageing Tarquinus,
When vanity unto a country brings
The flagrant gossip of its populace;
Stripp’d of the crown
Lush palaces defiled,
Toss’d gruffly out of town, the royal brood exil’d.

Great revolution was proclaim’d
By wise & noble leaders,
Whose surreptitious laws were fram’d
By eruditious readers,
Whose oratory tongues inflamed,
“Those who shall succeed us,
Pay duty to thy great inheritance:
The sacred human right of remonstrance.”

So form’d is a noble city
When freedom sews the seed
Of history, futurity,
Winds blowing thro’ the reed,
To which all gods & kingdoms born to slowly supersede.

Rome
500 BC


Mercenaries

Mice, though sharp their snouts,
Are not powerful in battles;
I will bring death on the party
Senchán Torpéist

Four brothers ride to Macedonic wars,
Blood-lusty – bones & guts behind them strewn –
To sweethearts pining by the Latin shores
These men were more or less upon the moon;
These man that yearn
A mercenary life
Must pleasant pleasure spurn, preferring wars to wife.

The first fell dead in Phrygia
At the Cilician gates,
The next was impal’d in Persia,
Gory price of conquer’d states,
The third cut down in India
With thousands of his mates,
& as great Alexander makes for home
Only the youngest brother sails for Rome.

Rest-yearning veteran returns,
His father claps his joys –
Alas! He learns these little urns
The ashes of his boys –
“My father, we could win the East if Rome her might employs.”

Ostia
333 BC


March of Rome

If history were written by the victims
it would be different, a time of minutes,
of incessant ants that swarm
Alfonso Gatto

The legacies of Achean tenure
Peppers imprecious Ausonian shores,
Rich entempl’d cities, trade & culture,
Liberties pure & academic laws;
“The time to cry,”
She hears a battledrum,
A silence & a sigh, ‘our time for conquest come.’

As each man should have a river
& each man should love a hill,
So when Life does him deliver
Unto Death, he hopes he will
Call on Nature & forgive her
For beating his heart still;
Greek colonists escape for mother Greece
Leaving in fleets like flocks of flying Geese.

The Diamond Isle doth interest
This rising Roman state,
Captains obsess’d attempt conquest,
Press from Messina’s strait,
To slay all Carthaginians abandon’d to their fate.

Segesta
254 BC


Cannae

Such fleeting dreams were quick to disappear.
No sooner on my eyes had flashed the light
Of every hope than blacker was the night
France Pereson

Unbalanced by the Sicilian loss
& with best ships ensilenc’d on the foam,
Combinated races pace mountain moss
Crossing the Alps, bringing the war to Rome;
Cleverly led,
Hannibal of Carthage
Harvesting Latin dead thro’ horrible carnage.

The Senate moves to meet the threat;
Arms to outnumber the foe,
Who push the centre back, & yet
The foe routs not… sure & slow,
Great legions drag within the net,
Around whose flanks now flow
Death’s deltoid grip, ruthless & unreckon’d –
Eighty men are slain each brutal second.

As the glory of Hannibal
Rais’d thro’ halycon days,
His culpable & terrible
Attackings sack & raze,
But for one wall’s defiant face no citizen betrays.

Rome
210 BC


Conquering Carthage

Dead, they examined him, finding
in his body a greater body
for the soul of the world
Cesar Vallejo

Cursing the grand redoubt of stoic Rome
Hurls Hannibal his spear at gates full huge;
Tail turn’d, plying pursuivant pathways home,
Not stunning war nor cunning subterfuge
Made him prevail,
& in his bitter wake
Young Scipio sets sail, relentless war to make.

Skirting the everlasting sands
Where pass’d the Trojan hero,
In perfect health the legion lands
As ruddy-cheek’d as Dido,
Swift march inland conquest expands
Til Carthage cuts the flow –
Her saviour-gen’ral blocks the Zama plain,
Where hovers goddess KARMA hovers, arrows rain…

This time the black Numidians
With Scipio reside,
Thro ‘Ginians Centurians
Force furious applied,
Rough slaughters running riot mix throat-shouts of routing pride!

Africa
203 BC


Flight of the Imperatrix

And lands are saved and conquests won,
And the race of high and hard truths run,
And chains snapped off and sins undone
FW Faber

Amid Quirini ruins spreads a nest,
What family of eagles, regal born,
Ascend the winds, wheeling towards the west,
Surfing the tender fringes of the dawn,
To separate;
Seeks one Sardinia,
The second meets her fate above Iberia.

As others ply the Appenines,
Soars one oer Sicilia,
Spanning wide seas of dark red wine
To the shores of Africa;
One more winds thro’ the grand Alpine
To southern Gallia –
Behind them all, with dishes for the feast,
Brave mother is returning from the East;

Where, swollen on philosophie
& pregnant with the arts,
The Legions see brutality
Best way to break men’s hearts;
Leave none alive to wave away grave wives in slaver’s carts.

Corinth
146 BC


Pompey the Great

A little rule, a little sway,
A sunbeam in a winter’s day,
Is all the proud & mighty have
John Dyer

Flying into the Oriental glow
Rising yon Karakorum’s spicy trail,
The trudging Legions grudgelessly follow
Their admiral, blown by ambition’s gale;
An eagle beams
Oer Ida, as she turns,
The Trojan War, it seems, to Asia’s shore returns.

Surveys, Pompey, the crumbl’d stones
Where forthsprang his native seed,
Onwards marches to topple thrones,
Shows assurity & speed,
Resistance heap’d in piles of bones,
“Grammercy!” princes plead;
Judea tamed by pilum, fear & fire,
Its sullen people praying for Messiah!

As triumph handed to the bold,
O darling of thy days,
Uncouth & golden, youth & old,
Upon him heap up praise,
Amidst the fuss sways Julius bedazzled with amaze.

Rome
61 BC


Julius Ceasar

I fete you dear
commanding
officer, for your stealth
Ralph Cherbo Geeplay

When men are born with auras rarely seen,
When power seems to latch upon the soul,
When regal purples paint a princely green,
Flagitious paths of glory lead to Gaul;
One whirlwind war –
Veni! Vedi! Vici!
Even Britannia’s shore sword-skiff’d in victory.

Imperilling imperatrix
Celtic chieftainship allies,
Revolting Vercingetorix
Every burgo on the rise,
But Ceasar is a box of tricks
& thro’ the deep devise,
Delivering vermillion checkmate,
How swiftly turns the swelling tide of fate?

War’s onerous cast from the walls,
Dies, innocent, each child,
The fortress falls, the gore-dress’d Gauls
With Rome are reconcil’d,
Their captain kneeling ‘neath the sword on which the Gods hath smiled.

Alesia
52 BC

 

Canto 7: Imperial Rome

O isplendor di Dio, per cu’io vidi
l’alto triunfo del regno verace,
dammi virtu a dir com’ io il vidi

Dante


Power Struggle

No one can tell me,
Nobody knows,
Where the wind comes from
AA Milne

As rivers gently drift along the glen,
Then gather speed & gallop down the falls,
Great Caesar, elevated by his men,
Across the Rubicon met Roman walls;
Seizing control,
One star stands in his way,
The keen, immortal soul of evergreen Pompey;

Who flees to Alexandria,
Tasting pleasures of the East,
Where the long-lash’d Cleopatra
On his passion is releas’d,
Touch disturb’d by panting soldier,
Sir, Caesar has releas’d
His legions all along th’Aegyptian shore!”
“Then Rome must know a bloody civil war!”

Eftsoons the Pharsalian plain
Knee deep in fratricide,
Amid the slain, in gurgling pain,
The Challenger has died,
Now Caesar is an emperor & Cleopatra, bride.

Rome
46 BC


Dynastasia

Tell me, sir.
Have you ever heard
A peacock sing?
Suzy Kassem

A queen of immaculate quality,
A power like no king had ever known,
A son to celebrate his legacy –
No wonder Caesar toppl’d from the throne;
The bloody knives
Of Brutus & his firm
Shall pierce so many lives, make fodder for the worm.

As a tyrant’s power vacuum
Ever fill’d by civil wars,
A soothsayers’ prescient doom
Hath curs’d Mark Anthony’s cause,
Now sultry in her wooing room
Queen Cleopatra’s claws
Unveil to win Octavian with lust –
But choosing not his loins to lion-thrust

He leaves for paths of death-paved arms,
The world was his to grasp,
Behind, becalms her vixen charms,
As suicidic asp
Slithers in histrionic song, acidic was its rasp.

Aegypt
30 BC


Gesu

Hoping indeed the current of life would seize me
& give me its own stronger reasons for breath;
Meaning “Live!” when saying “Live for me!”
Hyam Plutzik

Rays of pure stardust pulse across the Earth,
According to some alien design,
For deity desires a humble birth
When interplanetary spheres align,
The Starchild born,
Warm & mellow manger,
His writ the world to warn of the Devil’s danger.

The virgin mother sent her child
To a cult of strict Essene,
With them the Dead Sea scrolls were filed,
Ancyent prophecies to glean,
With them this little lad was styled
Until he turn’d thirteen,
When Mary’s boy restor’d to Nazereth,
Naught but hell-burning brains & wafts of death.

Like sharp, shark fins the sins of Man
Round the incarnate swirl’d,
As Romans ran their sordid plan,
Thro’ war-polluted world –
Boy tutor’d in messiahdom or heaven’s face unfurl’d?

Judea
2 AD


Frontier

bones in cold spaces
a heap of souls’
robbed glances
Karina Fiorini

Round Ceasar’s son, august Octavian,
Imperium ablaze with burnish’d gold,
But for the passing of the lost legion,
Slaughter’d within the Teutoburger Wald;
Sublunary,
Crunching cross spangling snow,
That fastuous army lit by a ghostly glow.

As the sun revived their terror,
Gleaming coronet of dawn,
They could hear the battle’s clangour
Corpsey crops about them grown,
Mute & eyeless men together
Down shallow death-pits thrown –
Thro press of shield & shrieking arrow maze
Few men of blood see seldom half their days.

At home the Rome Ausonian
Reigns unsubduable,
But Aryan barbarian
Now renders Mars mortal,
Brought ruin on brave legionnaires rival’d rare in battle.

Germania
9 AD


Death of Gesu

Washed in the Saviour’s cleansing blood,
The white-robed saints in glory stand,
Hailing Earth’s lingerers o’er the flood
WJ Brock

Bound by the Jews’ Messianic cravings,
The Nazarene Essene gathers his voice,
By Rome dismiss’d, “Strange religious ravings!”
These teachings giving common man a choice;
“Heaven on Earth!”
Enfearful Sannhedrim
Deny his sacred birth, steer Pilate’s woesome whim.

This ‘imposter’ promptly taken
To the Hill of Calvary,
Where the sins of man awaken,
Crucified upon the tree,
“Father, why am I foresaken?”
Jesus weeps eerily;
First flickers of the Holy Roman guilt,
As spear-point ribward-driven to its hilt.

His followers proclaim a king,
Trumpet his history –
Sin-forgiving & storm-stilling
Miracle ministry,
The perishing ephemeron of Christianity.

36
Jerusalem


Two Emperors

I want to breathe the Lotus flow’r,
Sighing to the stars
With tendrils drinking at the Nile
Gwendolyn Bennett

With thrilling conquest quick’ning converse still,
Each bastion out in the misty west
Slowly eroded by the Roman will,
With only woady Picts spurning conquest;
Tough toads to crack,
Trajan turns vision East,
His empiric attacks on Persia are increas’d.

On entering his death-charg’d hour,
Rome’s regions vast extended,
Hadrian granted godlike power,
The world must be defended –
As grapes of the Euphrates sour,
There the drive east ended,
While southern pushes choke on Sahara
& Gothic shock-troops block half Europa.

Upon a tour of Albion
He saw the ravages
Inflicted on each proud legion
By painted savages,
“Our world ends here!” wall sea-salt steer’d to halt the pillagers.

Lugdovallium
122


Constantius

Each minute bursts in the burning room,
The great globe reels in the solar fire,
Spinning the trivial and unique away.
Delmore Schwartz

As Athens’ sheer Acropolis did rise
To marvel man & rival Heaven’s gates
But slowly weaken’d by the sea-salt skies
In crumbling marble glory dissipates;
The Roman realm
On stressful fault survives,
Brow-batter’d at the helm by blunt assassin knives.

An emperor & a legion
Ravaging a country wide,
Bouy’d by the pagan pantheon,
With his young son by his side,
Death for many a flaming Dun
Restoring Roman pride –
Then, from grim warfare, when he’d won his fill,
He turns for Rome, but burns a fev’rish ill…

…& as Constantius did die,
From Britons, full of praise,
Up climbs a cry, up to the sky
His son the soldiers raise,
On battle-broaden’d shoulders shorn from Caledon’s braw days.

York
306


Triumph of Christ

Let me forsake the snare of Strict Verse
as we found it in the tradition,
& let me enter your new order now
Cathal Mac Muireadhaigh

Driven by fate’s rightful inheritance,
Soft music zinging off his singing soul,
Thro’ silviculture legionnaires advance,
Upon them all a blaze of light did fall;
Some cross of cloud
Trails bianco banner,
Sacred white words endow’d, which read, “BY THIS CONQUER!”

The warlord asks, “what does this mean?”
“The Christians…” men reply,
Epiphany settl’d serene,
Angels pass across the eye,
“We’ll build a cross of golden sheen
To proud above us fly –
Pure emblem of our rising righteousness!”
“A phantom!” cries fearful Maxentius.

The battle won by Constantine
Who built a finer Rome,
Oer Byzantine, by best design
Rose Forum, Hippodrome,
The Troynavant of Asia, the Palladium’s new home.

Constantinople
333


The Sack of Rome

The beggar at St Angelo’s might gaze
With scorn upon our North, oft he surveys
The one, lone, only, everliving Rome
Friedrich von Schiller

Two chieftans leave the palatial table.
Viziers of Visigoth & Vandal,
Agreeing the Empire drifts unstable,
Deluded, thro’ orgiastic scandal;
They fetter’d hands,
“Let’s drain this corpse of blood!”
Then left for native lands, the shar’d fated understood.

First Vandal shakes the verve of Gaul,
Breaks flacid Iberia,
Then sailing seas of silver shoal,
Vanquishes North Africa,
Forcing Rome’s Forum to recall
Forces from Britannia –
In every land men drown in liberty
With growing sense of incredulity.

Portion of that princely bargain
Paid by the Gothic horde,
Some Bedouin roaming sanguine
Bringing Asgard abroad,
Sacking a mighty capital with crimson-hacking sword.

Italia
410