Classics Teaching Resources
Roman Britain - LivingWe 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
A Roman Mirrorby Sir James Rennell Rodd b. 1858
THEY found it in her hollow marble bed,
There where the numberless dead cities sleep,
They found it lying where the spade struck deep
A broken mirror by a maiden dead :
These things—the beads she wore about her throat
Alternate blue and amber all untied,
A lamp to light her way, and on one side
The toll men pay to that strange ferry-boat.
No trace to-day of what in her was fair !
Only the record of long years grown green
Upon the mirror's lustreless dead sheen,
Grown dim at last, when all else wither'd there.
Dead, broken, lustreless ! It keeps for me
One picture of that immemorial land ;
For oft as I have held thee in my hand
The dull bronze brightens, and I dream to see
A fair face gazing in thee wondering-wise,
And o'er one marble shoulder all the while
Strange lips that whisper till her own lips smile,
And all the mirror laughs about her eyes.
It was well thought to set thee there, so she
Might smooth the windy ripples of her hair
And knot their tangled waywardness, or ere
She stood before the Queen Persephone.
And still, it may be, where the dead folk rest
She holds a shadowy mirror to her eyes,
And looks upon the changelessness and sighs,
And sets the dead-land lilies in her breast.
PERSECUTIONLAMENT! for Diocletian's fiery sword
Works busy as the lightning; but instinct
With malice ne'er to deadliest weapon linked
Which God's ethereal store-houses afford:
Against the Followers of the incarnate Lord
It rages; some are smitten in the field--
Some pierced to the heart through the ineffectual shield
Of sacred home;--with pomp are others gored
And dreadful respite. Thus was Alban tried,
England's first Martyr, whom no threats could shake;
Self-offered victim, for his friend he died,
And for the faith; nor shall his name forsake
That Hill, whose flowery platform seems to rise
By Nature decked for holiest sacrifice.
14 'That Hill, whose flowery platform,' etc.
This hill at St Alban's must have been an object of great interest to the imagination of the venerable Bede, who thus describes it, with a delicate feeling, delightful to meet with in that rude age, traces of which are frequent in his works:--"Variis herbarum floribus depictus imo usquequaque vestitus, in quo nihil repente arduum, nihil praeceps, nihil abruptum, quem lateribus longe lateque deductum in modum aequoris natura complanat, dignum videlicet eum pro insita sibi specie venustatis jam olim reddens, qui beati martyris cruore dicaretur."