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

As rivers gently drift along the glen,
Then gather speed & gallop down the falls,
Great Ceasar, elevated by his men,
Crossing the Rubicon reach’d 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,
But disturb’d by panting soldier,
“Sir, Ceasar 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 Ceasar is an emperor & Cleopatra, bride.

Rome
46 BC


 

Dynastasia

A queen of immaculate quality,
A power like no king had ever known,
A son to celebrate his legacy –
No wonder Ceasar 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

Rays of pure stardust pulse across the Earth,
According to some alien design,
For deity desires a humble birth
Whn 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

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

Bound by the Jew’s 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 Emporers

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 rergions 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

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

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

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

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