Tuesday 28 July 2020

The Fall of Rome

In times like these, it's often a good idea to reach for Auden.
His The Fall of Rome, written in 1947 (and dedicated to Cyril Connolly), could hardly be more apposite, right down to the flu-infected cities:

The piers are pummelled by the waves;
In a lonely field the rain
Lashes an abandoned train;
Outlaws fill the mountain caves.
Fantastic grow the evening gowns;
Agents of the Fisc pursue
Absconding tax-defaulters through
The sewers of provincial towns.
Private rites of magic send
The temple prostitutes to sleep;
All the literati keep
An imaginary friend.
Cerebrotonic* Cato may
Extol the Ancient Disciplines,
But the muscle-bound Marines
Mutiny for food and pay.
Caesar’s double-bed is warm
As an unimportant clerk
On a pink official form.
Unendowed with wealth or pity,
Little birds with scarlet legs,
Sitting on their speckled eggs,
Eye each flu-infected city.
Altogether elsewhere, vast
Herds of reindeer move across
Miles and miles of golden moss,
Silently and very fast.

* 'Cerebrotonic' denotes a personality type characterised by a highly developed intellect, shyness, introspection and lack of social skills. Today we might place such a person on 'the spectrum' – spectral Cato...?

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