This Luxurious Empire

Vesuvius, you have destroyed a world!
__With roars of fire and thunder, hails of ash,
__You’ve hurled your blistering soul, with sulfurous flash
Of fire-lightning—certain death unfurled!

Yet this luxurious empire, paved and pearled
__With rich mosaics, where rare fountains splashed,
__You’ve O so capably and clearly cached
Against eternity, while ages swirled.

We gaze on anguished people who have died
__So many ages passed, and it’s as if
____They’ve all died yesterday, not long ago;
And then I think of all of us, world-wide:
__We stand upon the selfsame mighty cliff
____When Yellowstone decides to finally blow.


Poet’s Note: Yellowstone, as you may know, is not just a volcano but a super volcano, and packs a power that will change and destroy world climate even more than we can.

Copyright © 2015, Anissa Nedzel Gage, All Rights Reserved


Song for the Birds of Winter

O thou, my wild wing’d friends, sweet soaring songs
__Who float along the woods as light as leaves,
Come caroling in flocks of joyous throngs,
__Although the solemn winter woodland grieves!

Summer has gone from us, and spring, and fall—
__They’ve shed their green and russet-tinged attire.
Although the forest’s cold, these trees are tall,
__And weeds grant all thine humble needs require.

O Lovely Laggards, nestling in chill beds,
__I give thanks for these songs: I’ve wealths of seed
Until the diamond blizzard finally sheds
__This ice and sleet and snow, if thou hast need.

Soft forest angels! Nature’s sonnets! Here
I send my Season’s Greetings and Good Cheer!

Copyright © 2019, Anissa Nedzel Gage, All Rights Reserved


Anissa Nedzel Gage (also known as Purrsanthema online) is a poet, as well as a fine artist, illustrator, and cartoonist. Her portraiture follows in the tradition of her grandfather: Boris Luban, a well-known portrait artist in Russia and America.

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15 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    Yellowstone Park is a staggeringly HUGE caldera (volcanic crater) spread over several miles. The many hot geysers and bubbling warm-water streams indicate that the volcano is still alive and potentially active.

    This fact about Yellowstone was first recognized by a vulcanologist who was in a plane flying over the park to do a survey. He saw that the entire area was a caldera. He said (I’m paraphrasing here) “I began to shake, involuntarily, when I realized in terror that this place made every other volcano on earth look like a meaningless pin-head.”

  2. Peter Hartley

    Volcanoes have always fascinated me and I’ve walked up quite a few in my time. I say “walked up” because their angle is usually so very shallow that it makes them very easy to climb, but this also often means they are very extensive too. Kilimanjaro, for example is broader than the myriad of hills in the entire English Lake District. Yellowstone is indeed a huge volcano. Anak Krakatoa also has a ginormous outer crater but most of it is under water. When it erupted catastrophically in 1883 I believe it affected the earth’s sunsets for months afterwards. Sometimes on a volcano it has been the stench of sulfurous fumes that has hit me most as on Mount Teide on Tenerife, and at other times it has been the thought of all that latent power, the deceptive peace as on Ruapehu in New Zealand that makes it difficult to comprehend the immense power that lurks beneath. We have, to my knowledge, at least two volcanoes in the UK. Stirling Castle lies on top of one of them and parts of Edinburgh on top of the other. Fortunately they are both very, very extinct. Krakatoa, by the way, is west of Java, not east.

    • Joseph S. Salemi

      The psychologist C.G. Jung (born 1875) was a boy when Krakatoa erupted. In his memoirs he records vividly remembering the strange green sunsets that continued for quite some time. And that was in Switzerland!

      Yes, the volcano is west of Java. A dumb movie about the event made back in the 1970s called it “Krakatoa, East of Java.” This silly mistake has embedded itself in popular thinking ever since.

      If you are interested in volcanoes, have you head the story of the two vulcanologists (a husband and wife team) who spent their entire career getting close to active volcanoes in order to photograph and film them? They managed to give us amazing close-up shots of volcanic activity from all over the world. Inevitably, the two of them were killed by a sudden pyroclastic flow somewhere in Japan.

  3. Rod Walford

    Anissa your poetry is absolutely beautiful. You blend words as a skilled cook mixes ingredients. Definitely my kinda poet !

    • Peter Hartley

      Anissa – I liked the first of these poems the best because it is about a volcano. But it’s also a well-written and accurate Petrarchan sonnet (although you have to be a bit careful how you read the last line), and even in the UK now WE have to spell “sulfurous” with an eff as you do, which as you can well imagine, is utterly infuriating. I don’t mind spelling diarrhoea with a letter short but “sulfur” just looks weird with an eff and my spell-chequer doesn’t like it either, although it missed that last cacograph. Joe S – No I haven’t heard of the couple you mention. They sound a bit like a specialised kind of stormchaser, of which I think you have a fair number in the USA but I don’t think we have them in the UK at all because we don’t have the same climatic extremes. Anyway back to the poems – I’m not so fond of the last one because of the several archaisms, but that’s not you (Anissa). It’s me … I just don’t like archaisms; but the sentiments are good, the two of them are well put together and sound well read out loud. And I concur wholly with what Rod has written above.

      • Monty

        I’m the same regarding archaisms, Pete. I appreciate that they were an everyday part of our language in days of yore; but in modern times they serve no purpose other than being a convenient way to maintain the metre in a line. I found it especially off-putting that the above piece actually began with “O thou”.

      • Joseph S. Salemi

        Peter —

        Concerning the /f/ in “sulfur” — there is no reason whatsoever why you have to spell it that way. I have spelled it “sulphur” ever since my first chemistry class, and no one has dared try to tell me that I am obliged to change it. It appears in both forms here in America.

        You have no need to be lexically subservient to anyone, either in the UK or the US. Why this compulsion to be blindly obedient to non-legal dictates?

  4. Peter Hartley

    Monty – When I was about 14 I tried to write a novel in the style of Dickens, having the fond idea that when I’d finished writing it I would suddenly discover it! I decided to go the whole hog, not using a single word coined after the year 1870. That was the easy bit because OED tells you when they were first used, but different meanings and nuances of the same word and idioms of speech were impossible, and I gave up after about three pages. But it was one of very few occasions when I felt comfortable with betwixts and thines and betimes.

    • Monty

      It’s a bit of a juxtaposition with me, Pete, ‘coz I truly cherish some of them old words.. betwixt: thine: morrow: beseech: thee: withal: athwart: hither/thither, etc; and if I felt it was acceptable to do so, I wouldn’t hesitate to include any of them in my text. But I DON’T feel it’s acceptable, for one reason only . . . If I was to throw an archaism into a text just to please myself; but at the same time it was potentially detrimental to the reader’s understanding of it, I’d consider that to be self-indulgent.. selfish, even.

      I swear on my bank-manager’s life that until today, I’d never before seen ‘sulphur’ spelt with an ‘f’; indeed, I didn’t even know it could be. Have you ever had occasion to write the word ‘sulphate’? If so, how did you spell it?

      • Peter Hartley

        Monty – until yesterday if I needed to use the word sulphur I would spell it the same way as you. I think though that now it is “officially” spelt with an eff by scientists and scientific institutions on both sides of the Atlantic. Joe S has written above that we shouldn’t feel the need to be lexically subservient to anybody .The only trouble with that is that without orthographic standards, and given a free rein, I could, argumentum ad absurdum, write pheechgrath and tell you that is how I spell toothbrush. But that would not help you, me or Tracy Emin to be understood. After all the chief purpose of the written word is to get an idea from my head into yours with the least misunderstanding possible, so that orthographic consistency can only be a good thing. I think, though, that sulphur and sulphate win the day for me as sullfair and sulfayte perhaps win it for TE.

  5. Peter Hartley

    Joe S – You have persuaded me. Hereinafter I shall revert to sulphur as it has been spelt since the late Middle English period over here in Blighty. However I’ll keep off the wolfram and brimstone in case I suddenly find I haven’t a clue what I’m talking about.

  6. Joseph S. Salemi

    The issue of orthographic consistency is separate from the red-herring issue of “spelling reform.” Obviously a written language needs some agreement about proper spelling, although the variant spellings that exist between British and American usage have hardly been a problem for anyone. Only dimwitted people are troubled by the UK spelling of “gaol” and centre” and “valour” for the U.S. “jail” and “center” and “valor.”

    “Spelling reform” is something very different. This is a politically driven agenda pushed by persons who want to change English spelling completely, to make it strictly phonetic in its orthography. They have pretty much failed, except for a few stupid abbreviations like “thru” for “through” (used on traffic signs), and “tonite” for “tonight” (used in crummy advertisements). Literate persons recoil from such barbarisms, which are the products of cranks and fanatics.

    Proud and traditionally established languages like English or French have always resisted the idiocies of “spelling reform.” They tolerate a few variations such as “sulphur” and “sulfur,” or “traveller” and “traveler,” but that’s it.

    • Peter Hartley

      When I implied above that I objected to being “compelled” henceforth to spell sulphurous as sulfurous I was merely being flippant. And it gives me a tremendous sense of overweening pride and superiority to be able to brag that I can spell diarrhoea (both versions) and eschscholtzia (both versions) without resorting to a spell-chequer. Consistency in spelling does have its downside in that it would deny me that little joy.

  7. Peter Hartley

    When I implied that I am now “compelled” by some unwritten law to spell sulphurous as sulfurous above, because scientists do so, I was only being flippant. And it fills me with no end of overweening pride (God knows little else does) to be able to brag that I can spell words like diarrhoea (both versions) and even eschscholtzia (both versions) without resorting to a spell- chequer.

  8. Peter Hartley

    You may notice some slight repetition in the forgoing comments. Cacoethes scribendi.


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