The Roman snail was bred for the eating, Bred by the Romans on gastropod farms – Bred to be fatter and bred to be sweeter, Bred for behaviour and oozing with charms ! Red shells and blue shells, thoroughly adaptable, With endless potential curled-up inside – Many shapes of eye-stalk, fully retractable, And you should see how speedily these beauties can glide !
“You join us at the Coliseum, bursting to capacity, For the Trophy Mille Denarii – ave, sports fans, and well met – And they’re off ! Down the first straight, led by Number Three, While Number Thirteen stalls, as he retracts into his helmet. Hard into the corner at a tenth-a-mile an hour, And slamming on the brakes – and out goes Number Ten ! Spinning in slow motion as she gives it too much power, And slams into the backside of her team-mate, yet agen ! And the Formula Unum poll position passes on to Seventeen – While her rival Number Twenty-Two is sliding for the pits, To lubricate his tired foot, while they give his conch a sheen, With a quick refuel of lettuce, and he’s back into the blitz ! Now shell-to-shell on the final lap come slithering the leaders, Stretching their antennas out to take the chequered flag. But competition never ends for Golden Helix breeders, When looking for an offspring with a slightly better drag.”
The Greeks never had a canon, Their gods were not in chapter and verse – Despite a level of literacy, They didn’t take gods literally. Oh sure, they all believed in them, As unavoidable (or worse), But ev’ry city-state would give A local spin to ev’ry myth.
The Greeks never had a canon, Their gods made do with epic tales – All unofficial, without guards, And retold not by priests, but bards. They probably believed in them, But stuck their thumbs upon the scales – As fan-fictions running free That no-one saw as heresy.
The Greeks never had a canon, Their gods were merely one of many – Fighting ev’ry deity For prayers and popularity. Oh sure, the Greeks believed in them, Yet outright-worshipped hardly any – And who they did would change with fashion – Sacrifices on a ration.
The Greeks never had a canon, Their gods were tricky to pin down – They changed their shapes and names at will To stay alert and hard to kill. If folks no more believed in them, They merged with newer-gods-in-town – So the Jews think just one god is best ? Well, toss him on the altar with the rest.
The race ain’t always to the swift, Nor the fight a cinch for the strong – Though underdogs lose out nine in ten, And the weak last half as long. The race is won by the winner, And the winner is usually fast – The Hare can snooze all the afternoon, But the Tortoise still comes last.
The point ain’t always with the smug, Nor the sting a prod from the sharp – And morals will lose us nine in ten Whenever the pious harp. The ears are won by the joker, Who flatters more than he smarts – The North Wind can bluster all he likes, But the Sun will warm our hearts.
February, February, Went and gave his days away. He lent a trio to July (Who’d bent a few of his awry); He loaned his days out to July, But never thought they’d beg to stay. “Oh please, oh please !” would cry each splinter, “Please don’t send us back to Winter !”
February, February, Short on shorter days, for sure. He’ll get no refund from July, For he’s a seizer on the sly; His days are dogs, his summers high, And cancerous his lure. “I’ll send them back when good and through: Maybe in a thousand years or two.”
Did the Romans ever make it over Antoninus ? Did their legions hike the Highlands, past the cirsium and pinus ? Did they meet his high-king highness, In his fiery hair and golden torc ? And did they think this seaside caesar woaded-rogue or brutish-ork ? So did the Agricolan Fleet heave-to in Scapa Flow ? The orcas and the auks go by, but they don’t know.
Cleopatra dropped a pearl in vinegar To win a bet, And watched her bead dissolve away to nothing Without one regret – Although in truth it must have fizzed a day or two Before it’s done And in that time she’d lost her land and lost her life And lost her son. And Rome, while once her lover, saw her lustre tarnish Bit by bit – For strip away her cultured beauty, And she’s just a speck of grit.
There came then Wise Men from the East Unto a stable by an inn, And there amid each lowing beast Were sheltered weary folk within – For knelt beside a feeding trough A man and woman vigil kept, As on the hay and woollen cloth A baby lay and softly slept. The elder Magus then addressed The object of their noble quest – Whose sleep was peaceful as the blessed – And unabashed, the old man wept –
“Behold, sweet babe ! There in your cot The future of mankind is held – For you are ev’ry chance we’ve got, With ev’ry hope and fear excelled. We begged the heavens for a sign, And with your birth the gods have smiled – Yet not for any charms divine, But virtues many, unbeguiled. Now all who look upon you see The future of humanity – More precious than a deity, Is each belovèd human child.”
It is, they say, (or so it’s said), An Age of Wonder in our Time ! An Age of Peace and Plentitude, Of Reason and Sublime. A Pax Romana to us all, To all us tribes who lost the fight – As vassal states, we’re better fed, Than ever were through might ! Come, all Romans, and construct Your forum and your aqueduct ! And set us on the metalled road To ever greater heights ! So join our bacchanalia, From Galilee to Greece to Gaul. And merry Saturnalia to all !
We may not yet be perfect, true, But hey, we’ve made a cracking start – We’re all philosophers, these days, We’re lovers of the art. How civilised we have become, How better yet we’ll grow to be: Two thousand years of peace shall flow, Where all mankind is free ! We’ve gods to spare, we’ve gods galore, And ev’ry tribe will bring some more – And best of all, they’re kept at bay, To serve humanity. So join our bacchanalia And never mind the zealot’s call. And merry Saturnalia to all !
Of course, for those of us who prefer the Holocene Calendar, this poem should be called Before Year Ten-Thousand.
Now whether Jesus was or not, There surely were an infant lot Who could succumb to Herod’s plot: Their bodies drawn and quartered. But where was God to stay these brutes, And spare His people’s tender fruits, And never let His nation’s roots With newborn-blood be watered ? For what uncaring god divine Would only spare His royal line ? His Promised Land – incarnadine, His folk – unsoned, undaughtered. Rejoice ! The children never died, The massacre was not applied – The priests are wrong – the Bible lied: The innocents unslaughtered.