Latin Verbs

Another from the 1969 Penguin Educational book, The school that I’d like, edited by Edward Blishen.

I would like
to stand on the Seventh Hill at sunset,
seeing in my mind’s eye seven birds,
their black shapes cleaving the soft billows of cloud
as they fly across the wrinkled Cloth-of-Gold into the sun.

I would like
to stand at midday
in the centre of an amphitheatre,
seeing in my mind’s eye the savage sweating crowd
emitting a low menacing murmur
for the slaughter to begin.

I would like
to visit a ruined temple on a hill,
with seagulls wheeling about the crumbling pillars:
to kneel at dusk before the broken altar,
the heavy scent of incense in my nostrils,
wondering if their gods still haunt the empty tabernacles.

I would like
to wander down the Appian Way, and commune with their spirits:
lame Claudius who was too high minded,
Brutus torn between two loyalties,
Caesar, his bitter glory still lingering on
(his blood in our hands),
and all the men who loved Rome,
with her glory, pride, debauchery and gradual decay,
who committed murder and betrayed their brothers
in her name.

They say Rome has not died, she only sleeps –
yet through all my pages of Latin verbs
I have not felt her stir.

Gillian, 15


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