Canto 6: Republican Rome

What is a society without a heroic dimension

Jean Baudrillard


SPQR

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

Starshiny line of effervescent kings
Endanger’d by the ageing Tarquinus,
When vanity unto a contree 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

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;
For man that yearns
The mercenary life
He pleasant pleasure spurns, 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,
So 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

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

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

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

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 seperate;
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

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

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 cheiftanship allies,
Revolting Vercingetorix
Every burgo on the rise,
But Ceasar is a box of tricks
& thro’ the deep devise,
Delivering vermillion checkmate,
How swiftly turn the swelling tides 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

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