Mary Beard V


Twelve months from January to December,
Apostles twelve, twelve hours around the clock,
Twelve too, with Suetonius taking stock,
The Roman emperors, a tidy number,

From Ceasar to Domitian, the last member
A psychopathic chip off the old block.
He was left out by Titian from the duke
Of Mantua’s room of Caesars – a mere blunder?

A later painter added him next door
Since otherwise the set felt incomplete.
Elsewhere their figurines must be restored
To their own reigns, depicted at their feet:

A maid who packed the silver for a move
Mismatched the bowls to which the twelve were screwed.




Needs more work, same with the next in the series

Current edit: 24 June 2015
25 April 2016

Another richly allusive lecture. The silverware is known as  the Aldobrandini Tazze, a comedy of errors that nicely captures the nature of the modern world’s engagement with the emperors. The silver comprises figurines of the twelve screwed into bowls. Each bowl is engraved with details from the life of its emperor. Somewhere someone unscrewed the pieces and mismatched them. References to this are found in the lecture along with details about Titian and the duke’s palace.

The series of poems presents interesting problems. The trouble is knowing how far to rely on the reader’s familiarity with the lectures. I don’t much like ‘Hellenistic’ poetry because of its abstruse references and a lot of Roman poetry is the same. Those poets were writing for an educated ‘in-crowd’. In following a scholar’s lectures, I seem to be venturing down that path myself. Still, it’s a good exercize and I like these poems.

Mary is missing from this poem but she is present in an allusive kind of way since it deals with omissions and disorder. I think that will register on the reader subconsciously, thus adding to the affect.


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