I grew up with castles and churches and manors, Their architecture feels like home – While Indian temples and Chinese pagodas Were glorious aliens in stone. It all made sense that Kublai Khan Had not one dome in his Pleasure Dome
But when I saw the Great Ming Wall, It all felt too familiar – It looked like something the Romans might have built, Had they reached this far Rounded arches, crenellations, arrow loops – All quite bizarre.
The only telltale signs were in the watchtowers, And their roofs – Simple saddelbacks, slightly concave, They were hard-hill-hatted booths. Not like the four-square hips of the Romans – Projections providing proofs.
Except…on many of the towers we see, These structures are robbed away. And we’re left with familiarity That’s out-of-place, astray. Was it built-up piecemeal, really ? At this point, who can say ?
From what I can see in images, the watchtowers had roofs that were a mix of hard-hill and hanging-hill, the difference being that the latter had slightly overhanging eaves as in the image below.
To be clear, saddleback roofs (aka gable roofs) were not unknown to Romans, but not I think used atop their watchtowers.
Roman numerals – They’re so bloody useless ! Their continued presence Is really excuse-less. Clocks are okay, Cos we know by position, But years shouldn’t need such Subtract and addition. Just how could the Romans Be quite so bloody-well thick ?, With numbers unwieldy For simple arithmetic.
Don’t put them on buildings, Or credits in movies – You’re being a snob Who wants to ‘improve’ me. Well, maybe with sequels, But stop after III – They get so confusing With eye before vee. Just how could the Romans Be quite so damn-well unwise ?, With numbers whose value Is so unrelated to size.
Ev’rybody, listen well, It’s time to let the tellers tell – It’s time to tally, toll, and tot, To work out how much folks we’ve got. Ev’rybody, near and far, We need to count you where you are. Don’t move about, don’t clog the roads, We need you logged in your abodes. Get off those donkeys ! Park those asses ! Stop this movement of the masses ! We don’t care whose tribe is yours, Your genealogies are bores ! Whatever heritage you claim, You know, we’ll tax you just the same. So you’re descended down from David, Centuries years ago, hey kid ? But so is half the town, no doubt – You are aware he got about ? Ah well, I guess you’ve made it now, Let’s have your data anyhow –
You say you are a carpenter, And also you’re…a harbinger…? So would you be, may I enquire, Yet another Lord Messiah ? Oh, your son, you claim, not you ? I’ll put you down as Number II. But wait…I hear upon your tongue An accent…are you further-flung ?, A shibboleth upon your breath – You say you hail from…Nazareth ? You mean you live in Galilee ? Then why, by Jupiter, tell me ? Why can you Northerners not grasp, You pay your tax to Antipas ? Well yes, they all reach Rome, each load, But travel by a diff’rent road. Now please, go home !, our time is done, Now live your life and raise your son – But give to Caesar, nonetheless… So Hermes-speed, and Juno-bless.
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.