Where Road and River Meet

Where Road and River Meet
(Ambrussum, France)

I hold the echo of a thousand feet,
of hob-nailed sandals and of dainty boots;
I hold the echo of a thousand wheels,
of carts and coaches and a thousand hooves.

My inside holds the echo of the waves,
the splashing of the oars, of hands and feet,
the shouts and sighs of children and of slaves:
I am the arch where road and river meet.

I have withstood the floods, withstood the storms;
of once eleven comrades, I’m the last.
I guard the memory with sturdy arms:
I’ll hold your voices, too, when you have passed.

Christina Egan © 2015

Überm Fluß
(Ambrussum, Frankreich)

Den Nachhall halte ich von tausend Schritten,
Sandalen grob und Stiefeln elegant,
den Nachhall auch von tausend Rädern, Ritten,
von Karren und von Kutschen über Land.

Mein Hohlraum widerhallt vom Wellenschlagen,
vom frischen Klatsch von Ruder, Hand und Fuß,
von Seufzer oder Ruf von Kindern, Sklaven:
Ich bin der Brückenbogen überm Fluß.

Ich widerstand den Fluten und den Stürmen;
elf Kameraden einst,nur ich blieb stehn.
Gedenken sammle ich mit starken Armen —
und eure Stimmen im Vorübergehn.

Christina Egan © 2015

Grey Roman arch on two bridge pillars between blue water and blue sky

The remaining arch of the  Pont Ambroix at Ambrussum, once part of the Via Domitia from Italy through France to Spain.


Photograph: By Clem Rutter, Rochester, Kent, via Wikimedia Commons.

I begin this year’s posts like last years’: with a Roman road !

The Pattern of a Yesterday / Golden Dell

The Pattern of a Yesterday
(Knossos, Crete)

Knossos: woman in very colourful blouse sitting in a reconstructed window of the palace, in front of the same very colourful mural shown in the other photo.

the colossal columns
of the proud pine-trees
that lofty canopy offering shelter
from the flood of sun

the black and white and blood-red pillars
in the serene maze of the palace
those patches in the pattern of a yesterday
which is millennia past

Christina Egan © 2012


Flourishes on a mural, turquoise on luminous red and yello

 

The same mural in the palace
at Knossos, Crete. 
Photograph:
Harrieta171 via Wikimedia.

For German poems about Crete,
go to the cycle Kretische Küste.
For more about Crete, see below!


Golden Dell
(Chania, Crete)

You sip your coffee in the market-square
lapped by a sky and sea which both are blue;
you notice other folk from everywhere
and read this was the Roman forum, too.

You pass a corner with a golden dell:
stairs down and down, a hundred ages’ span…
The layers blur, solidify and swell,
and history unfolds, a dazzling fan.

Christina Egan © 2015


 

The Minoan civilisation is the oldest urban civilisation in Europe. The royal palace at Knossos, dating back almost 3,500 years, has the first stone street of Europe. Chania on Crete, a city of stone even 5,000 years ago, is one of the oldest continously inhabited European settlements. You look back on 100 and more generations…

My German translation of the first poem is called gesternmuster.

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

An der breiten Straße / By the Highway

An der breiten Straße

In des Stadttors Schatten steh’ ich,
Wo die Straße sich entrollt:
Und die Stadt ist nicht von Marmor
Und das Pflaster nicht von Gold.

An der breiten Straße sitz’ ich
Eine Stunde und ein Jahr:
Und ich träume, und ich hoffe,
Und ich warte immerdar.

Händler fahren ihre Waren,
Pilger ziehen aus und ein,
Gräber reihen sich allmählich:
Und ich werde selbst zu Stein.

Eines Nachts verkünden Sterne:
Gehe aus und such’ dein Glück!
Eines Tages bringst du’s hierher,
Denn die Stadt ruft dich zurück.

Christina Egan © 2015

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

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

By the Highway

In the city gate I’m standing,
Where the outbound road‘s unrolled:
And the city’s not of marble
And the pavement not of gold.

By the highway I am sitting,
First an hour, then a year:
And I’m dreaming, and I’m hoping,
And I’m waiting, sitting here.

Merchants cart their goods to market,
Pilgrims visit and go home,
Tombs line up along the highway:
Slowly, I, too, turn to stone.

Yet one night some stars announce it:
Seek your luck now, seek your track!
And one day bring back your luck here,
When the city calls you back.

Christina Egan © 2015

This poem is timeless. A similar song is part of my play The Bricks of Ur, which is set 4,000 years ago. Another story from a highway outside a Roman city is Quo vadis?.View of Roman Cologne: a large neat grid of buildings with red tiles, located on flat land by a wide river“Roman Cologne, reconstruction” by Nicolas von Kospoth via Wikimedia.

This poem or song was inspired by ancient Roman tombs along Severinstraße, the straight road leading southwards out of Cologne, Germany (left in the picture). Artistic impressions of a Cologne city gate and a highway lined by tombs are online on p. 48 and p. 28-29 of Römer Straßen Köln. When I wrote the poem, I did not know that at times, Severinstraße was known as “Lata platea” or “Breite Straße” (“Broadway”)!

Postscriptum:  This was my first post ever! Roman roads and Cologne are two of my favourite subjects; so you can link to the texts covering them directly.