Tuesday, 10 September 2013

The Ruin

‘The Ruin’
The city buildings fell apart, the works
Of giants crumble. Tumbled are the towers
Ruined the roofs, and broken the barred gate,
Frost in the plaster, all the ceilings gape,
Torn and collapsed and eaten up by age.
And grit holds in its grip, the hard embrace
Of earth, the dead-departed master-builders,
Until a hundred generations now
Of people have passed by. Often this wall
Stained red and grey with lichen has stood by
Surviving storms while kingdoms rose and fell.
And now the high curved wall itself has fallen.
The heart inspired, incited to swift action.
Resolute masons, skilled in rounded building
Wondrously linked the framework with iron bonds.
The public halls were bright, with lofty gables,
Bath-houses many; great the cheerful noise,
And many mead-halls filled with human pleasures.
Till mighty fate brought change upon it all.
Slaughter was widespread, pestilence was rife,
And death took all those valiant men away.
The martial halls became deserted places,
The cities crumbled, its repairers fell,
Its armies to the earth. And so these halls
Are empty, and this red curved roof now sheds
Its tiles, decay has brought it to the ground,
Smashed it to piles of rubble, where long since
A host of heroes, glorious, gold-adorned,
Gleaming in splendour, proud and flushed with wine,
Shone in their armour, gazed on gems and treasure,
On silver, riches, wealth and jewellery,
On this bright city with its wide domains.
Stone buildings stood, and the hot streams cast forth
Wide sprays of water, which a wall enclosed
In its bright compass, where convenient
Stood hot baths ready for them at the centre.
Hot streams poured forth over the clear grey stone,
To the round pool and down into the baths.
Hamer, R. 1970 A Choice of Anglo-Saxon Verse

Saturday, 20 July 2013

A Family Portrait


Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Son of Misfortune

My rising and my falling march with theirs.
Born thus, I ask to be no other man
Than that I am, and will know who I am.

- Oedipus Rex, Sophocles, p. 49

After a long, long hiatus, the engineer lost in the wasteland, workmen are again seen moving amid the ruins. No end in sight, but then the City is circular. Eventually when the beginning is reached, I will know I've arrived at an end.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Daughter of Time

She was the City of Peace, eternal and ancient. All lesser nations bowed before her high mud walls, many gated, their arches picked out in blue and red tiles in which glimmered bits of the captured rising and setting sun. Temples and brothels, camel trains and a thousand different races all co-mingled beside her green waters, while visitors and citizens alike made love in bowered gardens through which drifted clouds of sweet incense and birdsong. No raiders from the waste could breach her bull and eagle guarded crenellations. All greater ones, those bellicose nations occasionally stirred into orgiastic expressions of war, led by conquering kings, who would send out their vast armies snaking down from the mountains or across the desert, seeking to batter and pull them down, were met with open arms. Doors thrown wide, dancing and singing women and men lining the causeways bestowing flowers, gifts of gold, silver and flesh, they drew off the stream of martial vigour into her carnal embrace. No army could defeat the great City of Peace, for those who might, she seduced, and those who lacked the means to force her subservience, she rebuffed and then enslaved, one by one, be they nomads or merchants, allowed to be led through her postern gates beneath a crescent moon and a flower hued flame.

In the end, the dynasties of the desert and the high passes would disappear, their far flung satrapies rising in rebellion to sunder with civil war the chains which held them all. Kings died, their lines grown weak or dissipate over time and whole kingdoms might evaporate like salt on the plains. But she did not, Daughter-Cradled-by-Rivers. She had been there since the gods had first raised the world from the primordial sea, laid dust upon the reeds, and made a home for themselves and those they created to worship them at the centre of the world emergent. And she would remain, long after, undisturbed by war, famine, and empire, which were mere ripples in her vast apsu of time, that sweet reflecting pool in which she snared both the moon and sun. City of Peace, she would outlast all but the gods themselves, her dancers chanting the same songs they had first learned back when the waters were tamed by the divine breath, and go on with their ancient ways in the alleys and streets of the city long after the final sword was broken and the last chariot had tumbled to dust.