Cumæan 

Below, beyond the tiles now cave’d down,
Up from the rubbled earth arose a sound
Shrieking in a pitch strung to sting the ear,
Some spirit of a hag command I hear
Of the low, ruined place that was her home,
The Force, the Glory, the Empire, Rome.
“Scan ye now these seven, fully rising hills
From which arose a people bred to kill,
To subjugate all of those around Her,
A people who by will extended order,
Who whipped the wild, conquered by the rod,
Who brought into the world the linking road,
We, the lion’s teeth, Mother of the nations.”
She spoke in truth, with bare exaggeration.

 

 

Sementivae & Paganalia 

Seed has been sown to impregnate the soil;
Men after labor have put up the plough;
The garlanded bullock rests in the trough:
I, Tullus, rest as rest men after toil.
Village keep festival, pass round the bowl,
Sweet seed-cakes, firm grain, and nutty farro;
Ceres give life, Tullus, let Ceres grow;
Partners in work, parents make our hearth whole;
Flowering tresses, Love wreath’d in laurel,
Let your firm gentleness conquer the world;
Come! Beat swords into ploughshares, steel into floral;
Love away enmity, hatred, and quarrels.
Pray to the Goddesses, “May peace grow forever.”
Spill the libation, lay scent on the fire.

Moveable Ritual after Ides
Februarius; Circa, January 24—26

 

Greater Quinquatrus

Grant me fingers nimble as the spider
Who rapidly weaves her fine silken threads;
Let the tight loom and the swift shuttle spread
Woolen patterns as sheer as gossamer.
Kind Minerva, divine artificer,
Grant me accuracy and give me speed,
Allow me to meet my family’s need.
Gentle Goddess, please, make me a weaver.
You, mistress of a thousand devices,
Provide your daughter this singular skill
Of web and shuttle, and I shall fulfill
Your pattern. Golden-haired Goddess, bless this
Crafting you wisely ordained me to do,
And I shall give a God-Like art to You.

XVI—IX Kalends, Aprilis; March 19—21

Armilustrium

I shall surely miss you, pretty flower:
O Gladius, you have been sweet to me.
Your shapely waist is comforting in lonely
Nights; in heat you show a lusty temper,
Always fierce, the first to thrust and slaughter.
I shall miss you, Gladius. My sweet-pea,
Scutum: It was you who kept me free
Of holes, of stabs, and slashes. Forever
Shall I be fond of you, my good Scutum.
Come! And let us step along with tubas,
Parade ourselves before the big Pooh-Bahs.
Then, we shall take a rest, a wash and groom.
Come now, my darlings… it shall not be long
Before we march again to battle songs.

XIV Kalends, November; October 19

Horatian

To live the day fully in emptiness
Of song beneath the broadleaved sycamore
Knowing today may not give morrow more
And yet be happy is the classive bliss.
Among the many laureled prayers is this:
“A fertile land with basil near the door,
A kitchen garden flowered for a floor,
An ever-rising spring, a woods sun-kissed,
And wanting neither gold nor fettered ceiling,
Carrara statues crowded to increase;
Instead, unbent to age to be at peace
Among some treasured crafts well placed…breathing.”
Turn back the empire to good old ways,
Republican, return the good old days.

 

Poet’s Note on the term “Classive”

Progressive: the belief in human progress through science; most often deductive, top-down, descending.
Classive: the practice of human progress through tradition; most often inductive, bottom-up, ascending.
Both the Classive and the Progressive pursue perfection, the Progressive by new experiment without sympathy to persons, things, procedures; the Classive by proven practice with sympathy to persons, beauty, goodness, truth.

 

 

 

 

Michael Curtis has 40 years of experience in architecture, sculpture, and painting. He has taught and lectured at universities, colleges, and museums including The Institute of Classical Architecture, The National Gallery of Art, et cetera. His pictures and statues are housed in over 400 private and public collections including The Library of Congress, The Supreme Court, et alibi; his verse has been published in over 20 journals. Mr. Curtis consults on scholarly, cultural, and artistic projects, currently: Curator, Plinth & Portal; Co-Director, The Anacostia Project; Vice-President, Liberty Fund, D.C.; Lead Designer on the 58 square mile city of AEGEA.


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3 Responses

  1. Lannie David Brockstein

    Hello Mr. Curtis, regarding your “Cumæan”, its Line 13 mention a lion, rather than a wolf, which I found to be somewhat strange, considering that in Roman mythology it was a wolf whose mother’s milk fed the abandoned infants Romulus and Remus who became the founders of Rome.

    Reply
  2. Mark F. Stone

    Michael, Hi. I was not familiar with many of the Roman gods, goddesses, leaders and festivals mentioned in your poems. However, after reading the poems and a lot of entries in Wikipedia, I am now more knowledgeable. Thank you for sharing your erudition! Mark

    Reply
  3. Michael Curtis

    …thank you for reading…thank you for the comments. In answer: The eagle was the legion standard; the lion skin, head upon helmet, was worn by the lead standard bearer; for Roman’s, the symbol of Rome was the “lion”; for us, now, the representative symbol of Rome is the “wolf”…going on, we might consider Lupus, Homer, the “wolf’s rage”, all of which is interesting, yet, likely not the cause of confusion.

    Reply

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