The City Lit Up

The City Lit Up

I lived between Ilex and Salix,
just north of Londinium Town,
and sometimes I climbed to the moss-well
between the oaks and looked down.

I looked at the thatch and the roof-tiles,
as red as the embers beneath,
I looked at the timber and marble,
the highways connecting the heath,

the gates, the walls and the broad bridge,
the fields afloat on the clay;
and I wondered if London would stretch
as vast as the valley one day,

Pond in park, surrounded by bare trees, with tiny island

as vast as Rome, which had risen
from marshes and slopes long ago,
with columns touching the heavens
because the gods willed it so;

and if Rome could ever be shrinking
and sinking into the bog,
or London be burning or flooding
and melting into the fog…

The city lit up in the sunset
and faded away in the dusk;
I felt the chill in the oak-wood,
and down to my villa I rushed.

I entered the gate by the willows
and strode through the dolphins’ yard,
I passed the flickering torches
and stopped by my forefathers’ hearth.

Roman mosaic of a mansion

My name was Appius Felix,
an heir to Aeneas of Troy;
I kept the seals and the idols
to pass them on to my boy.

I used the sword and the saddle,
I held the lyre and quill.
I lived between Ilex and Salix,
at the foot of the Moss-Well Hill.

Christina Egan © 2016


As you can see from the 100-metre-high summit of the Muswell Hill, London does stretch for many miles nowadays, filling the valley to both sides of the meandering River Thames.

You will also notice that there are large patches of green everywhere, some of them left over from ancient marshland and woodland. If you know your way, you can walk across London through woods and meadows, across hills and along rivers for miles!

My Roman observer lives in modern-day Wood Green or Bounds Green, near fictitious hamlets or villas called Ilex (holly or oak) and Salix (willow or osier).

This man firmly believes that gods guard his city and his country and that spirits guard his home and his family. He pursues some useful career in the service of the Empire, but he is also a bit of a poet.

I named him Appius after the statesman of the Republic who had contributed so much to Rome’s infrastructure as well as intellectual life, and Felix because he counts himself lucky.


 

You can find more on Londinium’s fortifications at Ode to London Wall  and more about its straight or winding highways at Quo vadis?

Photographs: Country villa, late Roman mosaic, Bardo Museum, Tunis. —  Pond in Tottenham, North London. Christina Egan © 2014

This is the Northern Land

This is the Northern Land

This is the northern land
of loose and juicy ground
where fern and forest glow
and wheat and fruit abound.

This is the continent
where mound responds to mound
and wind resounds on rock –
this is the home we found.

This is the realm of dusk
and star-embroidered night,
of fog caressing lakes…
and then the roaring light!

Christina Egan © 2013

Mountain meadow filling lower half of picture, high trees right behing and mountain range in the distance along the middle, pale blue sky above.

Dammersfeld mountain ridge, Rhön (Central German Highlands).
Two of my great-grandparents grew up with precisely this view. —
Photograph
 by GerritR via Wikimedia Commons.


 

This poem was inspired by the Czech national anthem, Kde domov muj, which entirely refrains from politics and warfare and mainly describes the lush landscape of Central Europe. The Czech Republic abounds with hills and lakes, forests and fields.

My lines cover the whole of Central Europe or the whole continent (including the British Isles): my home is my region, or my country, or Central Europe, or all of Europe — none more so than the other.

The claim that even those who were born there ‘found’ their land may sound strange: yet their ancestors did immigrate one day, even if it was a thousand years or two thousand ago. No one just grew out of the ground. Moreover, most people are arguably of mixed ethnic origin, in our case, Celtic, Germanic, Slavic, Jewish, Hungarian, and more. No nation is an island.

The Mechanics of Love

The Mechanics of Love

the mechanics of love
have tolled the hour
have chained my heart
are pulling me towards you

the sunlit hills
of your guileless face
the turquoise surf
of your quiet voice

I cannot distinguish
what determines my steps
the mechanics of love
or your silvery forcefield

Christina Egan © 2012


These lines record some of the fundamental insights of my life: that falling in love is always a blend of true fascination with another person and of sheer emotional and physical need; and that one of the main factors attracting a woman to a man is his voice — utterly underrated throughout history! Perhaps because history has largely been written by men, and so have science and literature ? Well, I hope men are at least subconsciously drawn to a melodious voice, too!

Stadt im Tal

Stadt im Tal

Sprig with tiny flowers in a deep warm yellowGleich einer Ginsterblüte flimmert,
da jetzt die Sonne steigt und sprüht,
die ganze Stadt, aus Glanz gezimmert,
sacht in die Hügel eingefügt…

Gleich einer Apfelblüte leuchtet,
da jetzt das Leben wieder siegt,
das ganze Tal, vom Tau befeuchtet,
ein Orgelklang, ein Jubellied!

Christina Egan © 2015

Dyer’s broom (Genista tinctoria).
Photograph by Christian Fischer.


This poem has recently been published in regional paper Marktkorb (circulation over 100,000).

The ‘Town in the Valley’  is also mentioned in my lyrics Ich steh’ im Felde wie der Lindenbaum’  : ‘Ich schaue auf die Stadt im Tal / mit Erdensternen ohne Zahl…’

Roof-Tile / Plateau

Roof-Tile
(Béziers)

Lower half shows ancient wall with lichen and moss, upper half houses and roofs with motley tiles

A roof-tile, grooved: a hill, a dell,
in broken ochre, earthy red,
with greenish circles in between;
a piece of world, of time a shred.

And then I see: the whole old roof
is such a patch of orange clay –
the whole old town in weathered brown,
resplendent in a tender ray!

Christina Egan © 2016

Plateau
(Béziers)

Roof with motley tiles - Detail of above photo

Life is a gnarled and narrow hill,
so steep as scarcely to be climbed:
you scramble, stumble, slide or fall,
you stay below, you stay behind.

Then opens, through a hedge or wall,
a gap, a gate, an avenue,
a whole plateau, a spilling well,
a plain beneath your startled view!

Christina Egan © 2016

Round basin in park, with trees, houses and statue mirroredTwo views from the ancient city of Béziers in France, which is piled up
on a couple of steep hilltops: the first view is from
the Cathedral tower; the second, from the park called Parc des poètes / Plateau des poètes.

Well… the respite after struggles and setbacks might be found in enjoying or creating art — or in life itself!

Old Town of Beziers, with red roofs dominating, landscape round horizon.While getting lost and strained in the lanes of Béziers reminded me of nightmares, exploring the Cathedral like a giant Crystal Rock  induced me to create the word ‘lightmare’!

Photographs: Béziers from the Cathedral roof ; Parc des poètes. Christina Egan © 2016

Januarsonne (Heidelberg, Philosophenweg)

Januarsonne
(Heidelberg, Philosophenweg)

Zuweilen sammelt die Januarsonne
nach dämmrigem Tag ihre sinkende Kraft
so wie nach verdorrendem Leben ein Mensch
sein Herz in die einzige Leidenschaft,

und grün flammen Hügel auf, golden die Brücke,
das Moos und die schlängelnden Stufen im Hang,–
die Salamandergewalt des Sommers
regiert eine magische Stunde lang.

Christina Egan © 2005

In the midst of winter, a grey northern valley, bridge, and
path can flare up green and golden — like salamanders!

The ‘Philosophers’ Path’ appears to work in inspiring
‘poets and thinkers’, as the Germans like to be known…!

Buchenland / Heimaterde

Buchenland

Schon der Frühherbst
Schüttet Nebel aus
Über die Hügel hin
Haufenweis.

So verschwimmt mir der Pfad
Bevor noch die Buchen brennen
Und die stolzen Wiesen vergehn
Zu lustlosem Staub.

Doch unterm zerklüfteten Fels
Sitzt sommersatt das Moos
Blüht mondhell die Distel
Aufs Geheiß verborgener Geister.

Christina Egan © 2013

heimaterde

unter der haut
schimmert sie durch
die rote krume
der ich entwuchs

hinter den augen
blinzelt es vor
das urgestein
schwarz und gewaltig

unter dem haar
wirbeln sie hoch
nebel und wind
die mich umfingen

unter der zunge
schlummert sie noch
die fruchtbare sprache
die mich entfachte

Christina Egan © 2013

The first poem describes an autumnal landscape with trees in flaming colours and fog drifting in the dales. The name, Land of Beech Trees, stems from the times when most of Germany was covered by dense forests.

Nature appears as animate, sentient, and even spiritual: the meadow is proud and the moss content, while hidden spirits command a thistle to blossom bright as the moon.

The second poem reminds us that our bodies are made of the world around us — the air and water, the earth and its fruit, the flesh and bone of our ancestors while our minds are moulded by the language of our parents and ancestors.

The speaker imagines that red soil shines through his or her cheeks and black rock blinks through her pupils, while her hair is softened by thick fog and tousled by rough wind.

526px-Carlina_acaulis_160907These words were inspired by the landscape and climate of the Rhön Mountains in Germany.

Their symbol is a rare wildflower, the silver thistle.

Photograph: „Carlina acaulis 160907“
by Bernd Haynold via Wikimedia Commons