. Servant of the Servants of God Servus Servorum Dei —a title of the Pope A small informal gathering of clergy From satin cassocks down to the discalced Queue in line before the Petrine Seat. There are some buzzing whispers as all wait To pay respects, or else present a plea. The Pope inquires of each man concerning (Pour faire une politesse) some minor fact Before he hears the suppliant’s request. Just in passing, with the greatest tact, A young Franciscan, as the rest talk, mentions: “Your Holiness, I manage a bordello— I know, of course, it cannot be reformed; I could not beg from you a Papal blessing…” The pastoral servant of God’s servants nods And answers with a kind, indulgent smile: “Yes, my son, I shall say prayers for it.” . . Orchestration of a Marriage At the ceremony, all was hushed— The organ’s whine left choir voices crushed. Dominant basso softened to allow The murmuring Mass, the whispered nuptial vow. The newborn child’s cry certified their fates. The clatter of pans, of dishes, spoons, and plates, The drone of uncle and the buzz of aunt Were sounds to be endured. Tune out? You can’t. Dictating clocks and doorbells kindled strife— The discords inescapable in life. Sleep and sex no longer gave repose. Slowly the tenor of their voices rose. All they say now is said in screams and barks— Even the simple questions and remarks. . . Lorenzo Valla on the Donation of Constantine The Latin is most barbarous, and cannot Be of the time of Constantine. Although The prose of Sallust, Tacitus, and Livy Was long forgotten in Rome’s later days And Cicero’s practiced periods obsolete, No imperial letter would contain Such solecisms and uncertain grammar, False usages, subjunctives all awry, And nouns specific to the feudal world. I knew after one reading that the text Was from some monkish inkwell in the time When Italy was a half-Teutonic swirl Of Lombards, Ostrogoths, and warring dukes, And no one spoke, much less wrote, goodly Latin. Others besides myself had noticed this. Anyone with a grasp of Latin prose Saw at a glance that this was wretched stuff Cranked out by someone who had learned the tongue Not at his mother’s lap, but in a school Where lazy pedagogues taught Latin verbs That they themselves could barely understand. This from the Emperor Constantine? Indeed! This mishmash of bad syntax and mistakes? It is the product of a darkish age Where Latin had decayed to a patois That soon became our new Italian speech. Moreover, kings and diplomats knew well No ruler would have made this vast donation. Think of the consequences of this lie: The Papacy exalted far beyond The limits of endurance, and corrupt From too much power, sovereignty, and pelf; The Church a player in the game of war, Political intrigue, and cutthroat schemes. Dante himself bewailed this sick “Donation” And how it made all Italy a stage Of endless turmoil, simony, and blood. Were we not told to render unto Caesar That which is his, reserving for the Church The holy lights of sacramental grace? But with this piece of fraudulent foul Latin We blurred the boundaries that our Savior set. . Poet's Note: The Donation of Constantine is a forged document of the eighth century, which purports to be a record of the Roman emperor Constantine’s gift of vast power, prestige, and territory to the Pope and all his successors. It was for centuries appealed to as the legal basis for papal power in central Italy, Rome’s primacy over the patriarchs of Constantinople and elsewhere, and papal authority to dictate in territorial disputes between Christian rulers. Never completely accepted as genuine, it was decisively proven a fraud by the philological analysis of Lorenzo Valla, a prominent humanist scholar of the fifteenth century. Valla demonstrated that the language of the Donation could not have been a product of the time of Constantine. . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine TRINACRIA and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College.