The Dance of the Sacks

The Dance of the Sacks

There’s the war tax and the peace tax
There’s the core tax and the fleece tax
There’s the fish tax and the spice tax
There’s the poll tax and the vice tax!

There’s the whisper of a tax-plan
There’s the whistle of the tax-man!

There’s the old tax and the new tax
There’s the wool tax and the wheat tax
There’s the old tax for the new sacks
And the new tax for the old sacks!

There’s the tax-man with his tablet
It’s a state-protected racket!

Christina Egan © 2011

Small clay tablet with cuneiform text.

This comical song for a jig is taken from my stage play The Bricks of Ur  (© 2011) set around 2000 BC.

The tax collectors could wield either Sumerian clay tablets or 21st century electronic tablets!

I must have been inspired by a hilarious jig in one of the first seasons of Shakespeare’s Globe in London…

Receipt for 13 woolen garments, ca. 2038 BC. Photograph by Rama, Cc-by-sa-2.0-fr [CeCILL or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr] via Wikimedia Commons.

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Minerva’s Voyage

Minerva’s Voyage

I.

Minerva by Botticelli

Her hair is the offspring of river and fire,
her robe has been woven from flowers and wind.
Her foot cannot rest and her flesh cannot tire,
her arm is in flow and her eye will inspire
a voyage for wisdom with one  fleeting glint.

II.

Minerva on the Academy of Athens

She dived like a hawk from her shadowless sphere,
the shield on her arm like the sun in the west –
She looms on the roof with her helmet and spear
to capture the lightning, conduct it down here
and spark our restless and glittering quest.

Christina Egan © 2016

Delicate, pale, portrait of the goddess as a young woman in armour.Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom and knowledge, arts and applied arts; she came to be identified with the Greek goddess Athena, patron of Athens.

The two poems were  inspired by the two artworks mentioned, as well as a temple on the Agora of Athens dedicated to her as patron of artists and artisans.

Illustration: Minerva by Sandro Botticelli (ca. 1482-83), via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Prag, golden

Prag, golden

Im Meerblau des Abends,
im Windschutz der Burg
ersteigen die steilen
sandfarbnen Stufen
zwei Schatten und flüstern
und lachen und schweigen.

Schleier, besetzt
mit zahllosen Perlen,
die Büsche im Regen;
Kelche, geblasen
aus purpurnem Glas,
die berstenden Blüten.

Landschaft von Türmen,
spiegelnde Schluchten –
Bilder in Winkeln
des unruhigen Herzens,
Erinnerung an Träume,
an Heimat der Zukunft.

Reigen von Brücken,
behütet von Engeln,
von Helden der Vorzeit.
Türmende Treppen,
hängende Gärten,
Stadt ohne Alter.

Christina Egan © 2004


 My impression may work quite well in a translation software.

If you have the opportunity to visit one city only in Europe north of the Alps, let it be Prague. It is Central Europe in a nutshell. And it is enchanted…

The Czech Republic is a lovely little country anyway, with countless hills and lakes, mediaeval castles and market squares — absurdly romantic!

By the way, two other excellent destinations in Europe, other than Mediterranean, are Tallinn (Estonia) and Bruges (Belgium).

Siegeskranz

Siegeskranz

Vor fünfzehnhundert Jahren,
da hab’ ich einen Kranz
aus Lorbeer und aus Ölzweig
gelöst und eingepflanzt.

Mein einst mit dunklem Lorbeer
gekröntes goldnes Haar
blieb fortan ungefeiert
und bleichte Jahr um Jahr.

Nach sieben Sommern aber
bot meine Ölbaumschar
die  bittersüßen Früchte
mit stolzem Lächeln dar.

Und Völker schwollen, ebbten,
und Rom verging in Rauch;
doch aus dem Kreis von Zweigen
entsproß noch Strauch um Strauch.

Und Bäume blühten, dorrten
und sanken in den Staub;
doch immer wieder grünte
das zähe Ölbaumlaub.

Nach fünfzehnhundert Jahren
betret’ ich einen Hain
aus silberhellen Hölzern
und spüre: Er ist mein.

Christina Egan © 2015

Olive grove, trunks and tree-tops silvery grey, like ashes.

Someone plants an olive grove towards the end of the Roman Empire, comes back to earth fifteen hundred years later — and recognises the descendants of her or his trees, which have survived the Dark Ages and are still thriving.

The narrator had taken the original olive shoots from her (more likely, his) victory garland, for instance for a poetic contest; so they could be an image for a contribution to civilisation in late antiquity which is relevant to this day.

For an English story about the end of Rome and its afterlife, go to The City Lit Up.

Photograph: ‘Olivenbäume in Umbrien’ by Adrian Michael.

The Spirits of Nimrod

The Spirits of Nimrod

The Spirits of Nimrod
stood tall and stood fast
to guard empty castles
of empires past.

The spirits of marble
were shaken at last:
their wings broken off,
their beards ground to dust.

The proud heads of Nimrod
are curls without face,
their eloquent pedestals
frames without phrase.

Yet some still have lips
to whisper by dusk
and some stir their wings
deep under the mud.

The Spirits of Nimrod
will rise like the sun,
invincible eagles:
beware when they come!

Christina Egan © 2016

Ruins with many columns in arid, hilly land.

Invaluable buildings and sculptures of great antiquity and beauty have recently been destroyed by Daesh (so-called Islamic State). Nimrod was one place affected by those war crimes and Palmyra another.

These lines evoke the return of the gods — not as pagan deities but as statues: as witnesses of history and works of art, which we worship in our own way and will reconstruct, recreate, document, or remember.

Photograph: Diocletian’s camp in Palmyra, Syria (2010). By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons.

Paths from the Past

Paths from the Past

Flagstone on flagstone,
the pavement unrolls
beneath my eyes,
my resolute feet.

My steps seem to follow
irresistible tracks,
invisible traces,
uncharted faultlines.

Memory maybe
from before my birth?
Destiny maybe
beyond my death?

Flagstone on flagstone,
the story unfolds
beneath my breath,
my dexterous fingers.

Christina Egan © 2015

Straight Roman road with ruins and trees to the left and right, in the dusk

I begin the year with a Roman road for the third time round!

I do not speak of natural or magical force fields but of manmade structures; however, these are imbued with destiny, in that people were meant to build them, move along them, or return to them… perhaps even after thousands of years.

Roman road in Carthage, Tunisia. Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

Arles im Winter

Arles im Winter

Die Fensterläden wie ein Farbenkasten,
kornblumenblau und flieder und türkis;
die goldnen Wände, die im Wind verblaßten,
die Gasse, die den kurzen Schnee verschlief.

Die Bogengänge wie bestickte Bänder,
die Krippenbilder wie ein Glockenspiel…
Und das Theater wechselnder Gewänder,
wo nie – seit Rom – der letzte Vorhang fiel.

Die weiche Luft am weiten Strom von Norden,
wo beißendkalter Wind bis eben blies,–
er wälzt sich meerwärts, kostet wohl schon morgen
Kornblumenblau und Flieder und Türkis!

Christina Egan © 2016

Lane with old houses, window shutters in various shades of turquoise and green.The Old Town of Arles is huddled together within the precincts of the Roman city, next to the vast River Rhône  and close to its mouth into the Mediterranean Sea – with the churches built of the stones of the temples and the houses built with the stones of the theatre.

Down the funnel of the river valley, there is a forceful and often icy wind, the Mistral; but there is also a mild wind from south, the Wind from the Sea, which may warm up the city in the midst of winter, so that you can sit in the Roman ruins…

Model village on steep hills as backdrop to a nativity scene

There are exhibitions of nativity scenes and figurines in all styles, even contemporary, at Saint-Trophime; in another mediaeval church, a whole side-chapel is filled with a model village with rocks and trees, running water and flickering fire, and hundreds of tiny local people.

I have written another poem on Arles and the Vent de la mer  in French and English. This one here may work quite well in a translation software.

Photographs: Arles. Christina Egan © 2011.