Auris Vermis

So, there I was, sorting images to use for a lesson about the Roman Empire. And Kipling attacked.

Marching Song of a Roman Legion of the Later Empire

Enlarged From "Puck of Pook's Hill"

When I left Rome for Lalage's sake, By the Legions' Road to Rimini, She vowed her heart was mine to take With me and my shield to Rimini-- (Till the Eagles flew from Rimini--) And I've tramped Britain, and I've tramped Gaul And the Pontic shore where the snow-flakes fall As white as the neck of Lalage-- (As cold as the heart of Lalage!) And I've lost Britain, and I've lost Gaul, And I've lost Rome and, worst of all, I've lost Lalage! - When you go by the Via Aurelia As thousands have traveled before Remember the Luck of the Soldier Who never saw Rome any more! Oh, dear was the sweetheart that kissed him, And dear was the mother that bore; But his shield was picked up in the heather, And he never saw Rome any more! And he left Rome, etc. When you go by the Via Aurelia That runs from the City to Gaul, Remember the Luck of the Soldier Who rose to be master of all! He carried the sword and the buckler, He mounted his guard on the Wall, Till the Legions elected him Caesar, And he rose to be master of all! And he left Rome, etc. It's twenty-five marches to Narbo, It's forty-five more up the Rhone, And the end may be death in the heather Or life on an Emperor's throne. But whether the Eagles obey us, Or we go to the Ravens--alone, I'd sooner be Lalage's lover Than sit on an Emperor's throne! We've all left Rome for Lalage's sake, etc.

You see, I’ve hiked a lot of the Limes, the Roman frontier line in Germany, Austria, and a chunk of Hungary. I almost managed a detour to catch the bit in Slovakia, but the others balked at the distance off our intended path. And I’ve hummed a certain tune to Kipling’s words over a lot of those stadia et miles.

Auris vermis can translate either “worm of the ear” or “ear of the worm.” Ah, the joys of Third Declension, where context truly is everything.

Latin: a language that always is declining.

We Few, We Happy Few . . .

Today is the feast of Saint Crispin and Crispinian, patrons of cobblers, shoe-makers, and leather craftsmen, martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Diocletian. it is probably better known among English-speakers for a battle that took place on this feast, and Shakespeare’s version of it. Other notable fights on this day came during Crimea (“Honor the charge they made,”) and Leyte Gulf. But it is the older battle most of us think of. Continue reading

“There Was Movement at the Station

For the word had passed around/ that the colt from Old Regret had got away

And joined the wild bush horses./ He was worth a thousand pound/

And all the cracks had gathered to the fray . . .”

Thus begins one of the most famous poems in Australian literature, one of a few made into a movie (two, the first one sticks with the poem, the second, yeah, well, I like both of them, so nyah.) The title is “The Man from Snowy River” by A. B. “Banjo” Patterson. Patterson and Rudyard Kipling are probably the two of the best horse-poets ever, in terms of capturing the sense of motion and energy in horses. They are also both Romantics, in the sense of emotion and story. Continue reading

Robert Browning “How they Brought the Good News from Ghent to Aix”

After yesterday, I’m in need of something fun, and that doesn’t require a lot of little grey cells. So I defer to Robert Browning, and a poem that rivals “The Ballad of East and West” in terms of horsemanship.

I SPRANG to the stirrup, and Joris, and he;
I gallop’d, Dirck gallop’d, we gallop’d all three;
“Good speed !” cried the watch, as the gate-bolts undrew;
“Speed!” echoed the wall to us galloping through;
Behind shut the postern, the lights sank to rest,         5
And into the midnight we gallop’d abreast.
 

 

Not a word to each other; we kept the great pace
Neck by neck, stride by stride, never changing our place;
I turn’d in my saddle and made its girths tight,
Then shorten’d each stirrup, and set the pique right,         10
Rebuckled the cheek-strap, chain’d slacker the bit,
Nor gallop’d less steadily Roland a whit.
 

 

’T was moonset at starting; but while we drew near
Lokeren, the cocks crew and twilight dawn’d clear;
At Boom, a great yellow star came out to see;         15
At Düffeld, ’t was morning as plain as could be;
And from Mechelm church-steeple we heard the half chime,
So, Joris broke silence with, “Yet there is time!”
 

 

At Aershot, up leap’d of a sudden the sun,
And against him the cattle stood black every one,         20
To state thro’ the mist at us galloping past,
And I saw my stout galloper Roland at last,
With resolute shoulders, each butting away
The haze, as some bluff river headland its spray:
 

 

And his low head and crest, just one sharp ear bent back         25
For my voice, and the other prick’d out on his track;
And one eye’s black intelligence,—ever that glance
O’er its white edge at me, his own master, askance!
And the thick heavy spume-flakes which aye and anon
His fierce lips shook upwards in galloping on.         30
 

 

By Hasselt, Dirck groan’d; and cried Joris “Stay spur!
Your Roos gallop’d bravely, the fault’s not in her,
We ’ll remember at Aix”—for one heard the quick wheeze
Of her chest, saw the stretch’d neck and staggering knees,
And sunk tail, and horrible heave of the flank,         35
As down on her haunches she shudder’d and sank.
 

 

So, we were left galloping, Joris and I,
Past Looz and past Tongres, no cloud in the sky;
The broad sun above laugh’d a pitiless laugh,
’Neath our feet broke the brittle bright stubble like chaff;         40
Till over by Dalhem a dome-spire sprang white,
And “Gallop,” gasped Joris, “for Aix is in sight!
 

 

“How they ’ll greet us!”—and all in a moment his roan
Roll’d neck and croup over, lay dead as a stone;
And there was my Roland to bear the whole weight         45
Of the news which alone could save Aix from her fate,
With his nostrils like pits full of blood to the brim,
And with circles of red for his eye-sockets’ rim.
 

 

Then I cast loose my buffcoat, each holster let fall,
Shook off both my jack-boots, let go belt and all,         50
Stood up in the stirrup, lean’d, patted his ear,
Call’d my Roland his pet name, my horse without peer;
Clapp’d my hands, laugh’d and sang, any noise, bad or good,
Till at length into Aix Roland gallop’d and stood.
And all I remember is, friends flocking round         55
As I sat with his head ’twixt my knees on the ground;
And no voice but was praising this Roland of mine,
As I pour’d down his throat our last measure of wine,
Which (the burgesses voted by common consent)
Was no more than his due who brought good news from Ghent.         60
 

 

Source: https://www.bartleby.com/246/644.html

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Background Knowledge

My brain refused to function Friday or Sunday evenings. Too long a day, with too much Day Job work, had drained the little grey cells. So I turned to poetry, including Shelley and Keats. “Ode to a Nightingale,” “The Destruction of Senacherib,” and other works, some new to me, some old favorites.

You know, unless you really have a background in Greek mythology and Biblical stories, the poems don’t make nearly as much sense. Continue reading

Cattle, by Berta Heart Nance

I was reminded of this poem the other evening. The opening stanzas were used in the beginning of the great PBS Texas history program “Lone Star,” which was based on a book of that title.

CATTLE
by Berta Harte Nance (1883-1958)

Other states were carved or born
Texas grew from hide and horn.

Other states are long and wide,
Texas is a shaggy hide. Continue reading