Willa Sibert Cather

(1873-1947 / United States)

The Palatine


In the 'Dark Ages'

'Have you been with the King to Rome,
Brother, big brother?'
'I've been there and I've come home.
Back to your play, little brother.'

'Oh, how high is Caesar's house,
Brother, big brother?'
'Goats about the doorways browse;
Night-hawks nest in the burnt roof-tree.
Home of the wild bird and home of the bee,
A thousand chambers of marble lie
Wide to the sun and the wind and the sky.
Poppies we find amongst our wheat
Grow on Caesar's banquet seat.
Cattle crop and neat-herds drowse
On the floors of Caesar's house.'

'But what has become of Caesar's gold,
Brother, big brother?'
'The times are bad and the world is old
Who knows the where of the Caesar's gold?
Night comes black o'er the Caesar's hill;
The wells are deep and the tales are ill;
Fireflies gleam in the damp and mold-
All that is left of the Caesar's gold.
Back to your play, little brother.'

'What has become of the Caesar's men,
Brother, big brother?'
'Dogs in the kennel and wolf in the den
Howl for the fate of the Caesar's men,
Slain in Asia, slain in Gaul,
By Dacian border and Persian wall.
Rhineland orchard and Danube fen
Fatten their roots on Caesar's men.'

'Why is the world so sad and wide,
Brother, big brother?'
'Saxon boys by their fields that bide
Need not know if the world is wide.
Climb no mountain but Shere-end Hill,
Cross no water but goes to mill.
Ox in the stable and cow in the byre,
Smell of the wood-smoke and sleep by the fire;
Sun-up in seed-time a likely lad
Hurts not his head that the world is sad.
Back to your play, little brother.'

Submitted: Thursday, April 22, 2010

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