The Hallowed City

The Hallowed City

I.

Aliusque et idem nasceris

When last I looked upon that golden hill,
the only coal-grey clouds along its crest
were pine-trees of Mediterranean zest,
clear-cut against the blue, timeless and still.
When I surveyed the city from the west,
beyond the river and the seventh hill,
my thirsty eyes rejoiced and drank their fill…
A pilgrimage it was and pagan quest.
Behind me passed the Sun on wheels of fire,
accompanied by Mnemosyne’s lyre.
Was this my long-lost and recovered home?
Born here and buried, had I now returned,
the same and not the same? My eye-lids burned.
This is the hallowed city. This is Rome.

Christina Egan © 2018

Drawing of curving Roman aqueducts crossing over

II.

Pulchrae loca vertor ad urbis

My eyes have seen the marble halls of Rome,
resplendent like the mighty mistress Moon
and multi-coloured like a field in bloom;
I’ve watched the buildings grow in brick and stone.
I’ve stood beneath the proud and perfect dome
which emulates the heavens’ sparkling room
and holds our destiny from dawn to doom.
I’ve roamed those hills and called a roof my home.
I’ve heard the chanting children, sighing harps,
the darting chariots and creaking carts,
the swish of virgin water, purple wine,
I’ve seen the aqueducts descend and curve,
the roads roll into Rome, unite, disperse —
I’ve tasted all that splendour. It was mine.

Christina Egan © 2018


The first blogpost of the year deals, as always, with Roman roads!

The impression of aqueducts, which illustrated one of my parents’ books about ancient civilisations, informed my entire life. Unfortunately, I do not know the artist, but there does not seem to be a copyright on it.

The quotes are from two Roman poems about Rome, Horace’s Carmen saeculare and Ovid’s Tristia.

I apply Horace’s idea that the sun is daily reborn, another and yet the same, to a person who feels he or she was reborn into this world many centuries later, another and yet the same; and I reinterpret Ovid’s lament about remembering his home from exile as a modern person’s longing for antiquity. Mnemosyne is the Greco-Roman divinity of memory, and the Sun and Moon, of course, are mighty gods, or at least representations of gods.

Mild Christmas Eve

Mild Christmas Eve

My heavy gate to heaven
has got a secret crack,
and sometimes sunlike flashes
steal through the sudden gap.

Burning sparkler on black background, looking like a supernova!There are no stars this Christmas
but those in your sweet face,
no snow and sparkling crystals
but those in your embrace.

You are my splendid banquet,
you are the birth of mirth,
you’ll be my earth in heaven –
my heaven here on earth.

Christina Egan © 2004

Photograph by Gabriel Pollard [CC BY-SA 2.5].
Featured picture on Wikimedia Commons. 

When the Snow Falls

When the Snow Falls

Tiny fir tree and orange nasturtium covered with thick melting snow.

When the snow falls,
when the snow calls
with its crystal-clear voice,
when the streets hum,
when the streets drum
with their boisterous noise,
when the fog shifts,
when the fog lifts
and the sun gilds the stone –
let your smile grow,
for a while know
you are never alone

Christina Egan © 2019

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

This poem was commissioned for a Christmas card by a university library.
Feel free to write or print it in your cards, as long as acknowledge me as the author somewhere.

Wetterfahne / Weather-Vane

Wetterfahne

Delicate turret with weather-vane, on elegant curved roof with clockface.Jemand muß die Wolken jagen…
Jemand muß die Bäume fragen:
Seid ihr glücklich? Seid ihr satt?
Jemand muß den Regen ahnen,
eher als die Wetterfahnen,
eher als das Espenblatt.

Jemand muß die Sonne sichten,
Frost und Feuer in den Lüften
und den ungeheuren Sturm.
Jemand muß die Schwalben fragen:
Wird die Erde uns noch tragen?
Wetterfahne auf dem Turm!

Christina Egan © 2018

Weather-Vane

Turret painted in pink, with bright-blue clockface and golden weather-vane, under a blue sky.The weather-vane is turning,
the sinking sun is burning
and burnishing its gold.
The slender birch is swaying,
its golden veil is fraying…
The year is getting old.

The weather-vane is creaking,
the cold and damp are seeping
into the window-frames.
The golden flag is flashing,
the elements are splashing
their vigour into space!

Christina Egan © 2018


These two poems about weather-vanes were written on the same November day, but are not versions of the same text.

The first one alludes to a sensitive and at the same time sensible person, who keenly feels changes in weather and climate  — and asks how long we shall be able to live on this earth.

The second one describes sunset and autumn as images of ageing — and at the same time celebrating life!

Gut Hasselburg, Holstein, Germany; Bruce Castle, Tottenham, England. Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014/© 2017.

Remember November

Remember November

Eight times the leaves have paled,
been plucked and swept away,
eight times the sun has waned
and steeped the days in grey;
eight times the loom of spring
has woven rainbow rugs,
eight times made blackbirds sing
between the bursting buds;
eight times the fruit has swelled
and, in its turn, the fog,
eight times the frost has quelled
the sap’s impatient throb –
Eight years my heart has found
its breath and path in you;
eight years it’s watched your mouth
for words as warm as true.

Christina Egan © 2005

This anniversary poem goes through the seasons, with a focus on autumn. You could change the title and the number of years if you want it for your own anniversary, perhaps even swap the lines, starting with spring.

Coal Tits / Leaf Surf

Coal Tits

Coal tits are weaving through the leaves,
leaves tinged with gold and tinged with rust;
the earth, relieved of darkness, breathes
before the leaves will turn to dust.

Coal tits are chirping in the leaves,
wings tinged with fire, tinged with ashes;
their song is weaving with the breeze
through our windows’ rigid meshes…

Christina Egan © 2017

Songbird with yellow breast, otherwise grey, black & white, on bare branch with orange lichen.

Leaf Surf

The lawn lies like an emerald bay,
like golden sand the fallen leaves.
The wind is waltzing on the roofs,
the wind is leaping through the streets,
it rolls into the shimmering heaps,
it stirs them up, it whirls them up,
it sweeps a wilful whispering surf
onto the sun-bathed autumn turf!
The earth takes one last joyful breath
before the shade falls like a spell.
That there is so much death in life
and so much dancing life in death…

Christina Egan © 2017

Photograph by makamuki0 (Marc Pascual).

Notnormal

Notnormal

Lightningwhite
vast rib vaults
suspended
in brilliantblue
and a rainbow frame
dazzling and doubling and
tripling
around Broadwater Farm.

Large deep-yellow flower shaped like a star with five points.Four feet tracing
pavements pathways
the brooks underground
the trains underground
with the windinyourhair
and the sunonyourskin.

Fivefoldflame flowers
dancing for joy
rolling up into fruit
while ivory butterflies
and bumblebees feed
on lavender forests.

Time to cook
food and eat
food
Time to talk
into a telephone
time to talk
Orange soup in blue bowl on placemat striped orange and blue.talkandlisten
Timetogether.

All this is not normal.

All this is mental
detrimental
to your output
to your outfit
on all platforms
detrimental
to your attitudes
to your platitudes
diametrical
to the narrative.

This is the new
Notnormal.
This must stop
fullstop.

Kestrel egg, quite round, buff and dappled.Otherwise
more stained statues will fall
and heads of heads will roll
and skyscrapers skygraters
surveying the Thames
will be kestrels’ apartments
their amenities reclaimed
by the reeds and the weeds
by the swans and the swifts
by the songs in the dusk
and the
silence
under the crystal crescent.

Christina Egan © 2020

Hoping for a revolution in the suspened time of the coronavirus crisis…

Under the lockdown, the air had become so clear that on May 1st, 2020, I did see a triple rainbow around the apartment blocks of Broadwater Farm 

For more thoughts from the first phase of the coronavirus pandemic in London in spring 2020, see Hidden Rivers / Verborgne Flüsse.

Courgette flower / Carrot soup. Photographs: Christina Egan © 2020. — Kestrel egg at the Muséum de Toulouse. Photograph by Didier Descouens via Wikimedia. Copyright: CC BY-SA 3.0.

Strandkorb Song

Strandkorb Song

What happened to the beach-seat
we found in Germany,
the bench within a basket
beside the Baltic Sea?

The land was lush and sunlit,
the air was pure and free,
the dusk was full of magic,
the surf a mystery.

White hooded beach seats, in dunes of fine white sand, with fresh plants growing.What happened to the beach-seat
placed there for you and me?
What happened to the footsteps
along the singing sea?

You said you won’t forget it,
the dusk, the moon, and me.
Where has it gone, the moment
of blue eternity?

We cannot leave the basket,
in space and time so far:
it is a secret casket
which holds a sparkling star.

Christina Egan © 2017

‘Beach baskets’ in Ahlbeck on Usedom.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

Strandkörbe, ‘beach baskets’, or hooded beach seats, are an alluring feature of German beaches on both seas. 

The story refers to the Midsummernight Far North I have described before on this website. I have developed Strandkorb Song further as lyrics.

your face of snow

your face of snow 

your face of snow
your eyes of ice
will blur and melt
with sweet surprise
your cheeks of dawn
of smooth white stone
will blush and throb
with flames unknown

your lips of pearl
encasing dreams
will blink and burst
with bright new beams

your face of snow
your eyes of ice
will bloom and burn
a rainbow’s rise

Christina Egan © 2004

 

A story where nothing ever happened

The greeting in your eyes, radiant.
The answer in your eyes, immediate.
The longing in your eyes, innocent.
The promise in your eyes, infinite.

Christina Egan © 2004

 

Glass flask by Eugenes, found in Syria, 3rd c. AD.
Photograph: © The Trustees of the British Museum.

Hidden Rivers / Verborgne Flüsse

Hidden Rivers

Meadow with white and yellow blossom in bright lightThis is the time to walk along
the hidden rivers hand in hand;
this is the time to write a song
out of a strangely quiet land.

This is the time to breathe again,
to stand and stare, to skip and run…
The water rippled by the rain,
the water dappled by the sun.

This is the time to dance across
the sea of sorrel and of yarrow,
to sink into the gilded grass
without a worry of tomorrow.

This is the time to hear the heart
of the neglected earth rejoice,
to find the long-forgotten lark
in your beloved’s humming voice.

Christina Egan © 2020

Verborgne Flüsse

Dies ist die Zeit, das Tal zu sichten
verborgner Flüsse, Hand in Hand;
dies ist die Zeit, ein Lied zu dichten
aus einem seltsam stillen Land.

Dies ist die Zeit, die Brust zu heben,
zu springen, stillzustehn, zu spürn…
Gewellt das Wasser unterm Regen,
beglänzt das Wasser vom Gestirn.

Durch Wogen weißer Blütenschäume
und roter Rispen laß uns schreiten,
um sorglos in der späten Wärme
ins sonnengoldne Gras zu gleiten.

Das Herz der unbetretnen Erde
scheint jubelnd dir ins Ohr zu dringen,
das Lied der fastvergeßnen Lerche
aus dem geliebten Mund zu klingen.

Christina Egan © 2020


A happy impression from the coronavirus crisis…

Photograph: Lea Valley. Christina Egan © 2020.