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

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Ode to London Wall

Ode to London Wall

Moss is conquering your broken stones,
weeds are rooting between your bricks;
but you still stand tall, Wall,
facing the winds, the seasons, the years.

The round foundations of your towers
harbour herbs now, neatly labelled;
but your walkways bore watchmen once,
to guard the goods going round and the people.

You lie at my feet now, tall Wall,
I look down from the walkway above you;
but when I step down by two thousand years,
I see you could shelter me still or crush me.

And then I seem to remember –
we have met before, Wall –
you guarded me indeed –
and I guarded you!

On the treacherous clay we erected you,
in the obnoxious fog and sleet:
even and straight and strong as a rock,
forming a line in the marshy meadow,

forming a square along the vague river,
forming a knot in the net of roads,
from London to Chester and York,
from Paris to Sousse and Palmyra.

O Wall of soldiers and explorers,
O Wall of merchants and accountants:
yes,
you still stand tall and you talk,
you tell me to tell your story to all.

Christina Egan © 2015

High wall of neatly piled stone and brick in the midst of the city

You can see a section of the Wall of London and learn more about it in the Roman Galleries of the Museum of London. A visit there inspired me to write these lines. I talk to the stones as they talk to me; and I pass their story on.

Photograph: Roman city wall near Tower Hill Tube station,
by Mariordo (Mario Roberto Durán Ortiz).

London Wall Had Fallen Down

London Wall had fallen down,
brick by brick and stone by stone;
in the crenellation’s crown,
storks and starlings built their home.

London Wall stood in the mud,
but we fixed it brick by brick,
and we filled the wasteland up
with new lanes across the grid.

London Wall was melting down,
but we used it stone by stone;
and we built a bigger town
on the ground of proud old Rome!

Christina Egan © 2015

After the end of the Roman Empire, the Roman City of London was left uninhabited for generations, while a new city sprung up next to it; later, the original precincts became the centre again. This area is now known as ‘The City of London’, although it forms only a small part of the centre of town.

Musical score of 'London Bridge is falling down'

 

This little song alludes to the nursery rhyme London Bridge is falling down.

Quo vadis?

Quo vadis?

Roman mosaic of bottle and cupI drank a cup of strong red wine,
and half of it I somehow spilt…
That was still in another life,
before this winding lane was built…
It was along the straight wide road,
beneath a square of bright-red tiles…
I spilt it from a bright-red cup,
and then I walked from town for miles…
I limped along the riverside,
I lay down in the damp dark fern…
I spilt my wine, I spilt my life:
one day, I shall have to return.

Christina Egan © 2015

Roman mosaic of a mansion

This story was inspired by the winding highways and the straight Roman road meeting at Tottenham, London, England.

The Latin title means ‘Where are you going?’ and may imply a reproach to someone who is trying to flee their place in life.

See also my poem By the Highway
(in German and English versions).

Roman mosaics, Bardo Museum, Tunis.
Photographs: Christina Egan © 2014