Beetles on the Ark / Urban Copse

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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

May Haiku (Bruce Castle)

May Haiku
(Bruce Castle)

Glowing orange orbs,
cluster of new-born planets:
this year’s first roses!

*

Dusk, delayed, scented:
the earth emerged from the dark,
bedecked like a bride.

*

Below the half-moon
a low-flying aeroplane
slices up the sky.

*

The tower-clock strikes,
bright, as if an angel called:
Be alive! Alive!

Christina Egan © 2013

You can see a photo of Bruce Castle, Tottenham, London and read some similar poetry in German at Himmelblaue Uhr.

Himmelblaue Uhr (Tottenham)

Himmelblaue Uhr
(Schloßpark zu Tottenham)

Die Dämmrung senkt sich auf die Flur.
In Vogelsang
tropft Glockenklang
von einer himmelblauen Uhr
an einem himbeerfarbnen Turm.

Die Rosen schimmern wie Laternen.
Von ringsum her
summt der Verkehr.
Ein Flugzeug funkelt zwischen Sternen
und segelt durch Kornblumenfernen…

Die Wetterfahne blinkt am Mast.
Ein Ruf, Gebell,
der Uhrschlag, hell –
Und alle Sorge, alle Hast
kommt zwischen Tor und Tor zur Rast.

Christina Egan © 2016

Manor house in red brick, turret painted in pink, with a red door, white decorations, and a bright-blue clockface, under a blue sky.

You can read similar poetry about a walk on a tranquil evening at May Haiku (Bruce Castle).

This is London, too — not only the steel and glass office blocks and underground tunnels I describe in höhlenmenschen / cavemen and related posts, or the bitter poverty I touch on in There’s door on door. London is, in fact, a particularly green city, and Tottenham a very green part of it.

Bruce Castle, Tottenham, London.
Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

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