non sibi sed toti

Classics Teaching Resources

See also: Leaving, for 'The Frontier' by John Masefield.

Roman Britain - Hadrian's Wall

We who live in England use roads the Romans made.
Pots and coins may surface beneath our garden spade.
Excavate a car-park and find a Roman town;
What they left remains here, not many inches down.
But the hopes, ambitions, loves and hates and fears,
Are they lost for ever, down the fading years?
Where we lesser mortals find them past our reach,
Poets have imagined, given those spirits speech.

David Parsons, May 2004

On other pages:

Hadrian's Wall
Now and Then
On this page:

A Pict Song by Rudyard Kipling
Roman Wall Blues by WH Auden
Sulpicia to Helena
See also Soldiers

A Pict Song

"The Winged Hats"--Puck of Pook's Hill

by Rudyard Kipling

Rome never looks where she treads.
  Always her heavy hooves fall
On our stomachs, our hearts or our heads;
  And Rome never heeds when we bawl.
Her sentries pass on--that is all,
   And we gather behind them in hordes,
And plot to reconquer the Wall,
   With only our tongues for our swords.

We are the Little Folk -- we!
   Too little to love or to hate.
Leave us alone and you'll see
   How we can drag down the State!
We are the worm in the wood!
  We are the rot at the root!
We are the taint in the blood!
   We are the thorn in the foot!

Mistletoe  killing  an  oak--
  Rats gnawing cables in two--
Moths making holes in a cloak--
  How they must love what they do!
Yes -- and we Little Folk too,
  We are busy as they--
Working our works out of view--
  Watch, and you'll see it some day!

No indeed! We are not strong,
  But we know Peoples that are.
Yes, and we'll guide them along
  To smash and destroy you in War!
We shall be slaves just the same?
  Yes, we have always been slaves,
But you -- you will die of the shame,
  And then we shall dance on your graves!

     We are the Little Folk, we, etc

Roman Wall Blues

 	Over the heather the wet wind blows,
I've lice in my tunic and a cold in my nose.

The rain comes pattering out of the sky,
I'm a Wall soldier, I don't know why.

The mist creeps over the hard grey stone,
My girl's in Tungria; I sleep alone.

Aulus goes hanging around her place,
I don't like his manners, I don't like his face.

Piso's a Christian, he worships a fish;
There'd be no kissing if he had his wish.

She gave me a ring but I diced it away;
I want my girl and I want my pay.

When I'm a veteran with only one eye
I shall do nothing but look at the sky.

WH Auden 	

Sulpicia to Helena

The following piece of verse was written for and recited at the entertainment at the end of the 2004 ARLT Summer School. It purports to be a letter discovered (among all the others) at Vindolanda, and refers to the famous party invitation discovered written on a wooden writing tablet at that fort. It also draws on insights into the life of women on Hadrian's Wall contained in a lecture by Lindsey Alison Jones given during the Summer school.

Sulpicia Lepidea to Helena, with greetings.
How I recall your house in Rome, and all our chats and meetings,
Your lovely garden too which seems a thousand miles away
And all the fun we had one warm bright sunny winter's day.
I remember specially fish-cakes - I never could resist 'em,
And hope that all went well with your improved new heating system.
You'd like Britannia as much as I do I am sure
It's got lots of rocks and bogs and what the locals call a moor.
And fells and fogs and becks and dales and crags and gills and such.
I'd tell you more in detail, but I don't get out too much.
The ground is soft and yielding, but we lose a lot of shoes,
And throw the other one away as they just come in twos.
The locals here are quite distinctive, if a little scary.
I saw some Picts the other day and they were blue and hairy.
You see all sorts of other people in and round the fort.
Though we don't socialise with them as much as perhaps we ought.
There's Sards and Celts and Calvarines and great big chaps from Gaul
But sadly, they don't seem to know the Latin tongue at all,
And neither do the Lybians, the Egyptians or the rest,
Except the dozen  commonest obscenities at best.
But it's all local colour, and we're really awfully glad
To be sent up here now after the dreadful trip we had.
First the lepers, then the pirates, then the shipwreck and the rocks
But what good luck I hadn't packed my nicest summer frocks.
I haven't got a garden, though the gorse is very pretty
And food's not quite as varied as one might have in the city.
The chef is wonderful and does such clever things with beans
So savoury, one quite forgets the smell from the latrines.
The shopping isn't excellent, but craftsmen are arriving
And in a decade, two perhaps, the place could well be thriving.
But I am happy here at Cerialis's left hand
Though he gets very busy and of course I understand
If he takes language lessons from the niece of Veretrix
He needs to interact with both and Britons and the Picts.
He says it's quite relaxing and he does love a nice talk
And he's glad I'm not one of those who watch him like a hawk.
The money that he gave her was so she could see the styles
Of the ladies' hair in Rome - there's no good hairdresser for miles.
He's troubled with irregular verbs, which I can well believe,
So they're going off to practise hard when he next gets some leave.
The sacrifices that man makes for Rome! While I remember
I've got an invitation for the 11th of September.
A party for the Prefect's wife, an old and valued mate
An outing! It's my first one here, and I can hardly wait.
It's not that home's not pleasant, its familiar smoke and smells
It's cosy and we're lucky to have room for nothing else.
So just as well our furniture went down back in the Seine
And we're saved all the trouble of unpacking it again.
We're preparing for a raid, though, so I'd better finish now,
So I can see the raiders who have come to steal our cows.
Though who'd go rustling in this rain I cannot comprehend.
Goodbye for now. Wish you were here. Sulpicia, your friend.


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