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Poem: Imperial Inscriptions

Pompey

Observe this sometime famous general dead;
Caesar he might have been but kept his head:
Had he but lost it once before instead,
Caesar had shifted from his laurel bed.

Augustus

The grace is Greek, the risky, stance superb,
As, like a charioteer, he bends to curb
Rome and the Senate with a sparkling threat;
Then rounds the circus without one upset.

Marcus Aurelius

If only to be good were good enough;
But always there is one thing wanting – love;
He rules with justice, writes his frigid thoughts,
And, Stoic, skips the crosses for the noughts.

Julian the Apostate

Here gentle Julian lies, who fought with God:
Even the Pagans found his ardour odd.
One hand flung out, and like a child is curled
This god-forsaken emperor of the world.

Alaric

So long foretold, a thousand years held back:
Now the dumb Senate waits in robes of black
For one as silent, who with grief comes home -
The Gothic phoenix to the fires of Rome.

Dunstan Thompson
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