When in Corinium

Monday 30th May 2011

SOME years ago, I was asked to contribute pieces for possible inclusion in a children’s anthology of Hysterical Historical Poems: The Romans.

As a former Classics scholar who’d changed his name to Marcus and now residing in what was once Britain’s second-largest city, how could I resist?

Of the seven poems I submitted, one was chosen for publication:

Hadrian’s Wall

When they finished Hadrian’s Wall,
The Romans gave a shout:
“Oi! You terrible Picts and Scots!
We’ve built a wall to keep you out!”

But the Picts and Scots only laughed
And answered with a grin:
“Thanks for doing all the work!
We’ve now got a wall to keep you in!”

Of less merit, was the reverse acrostic…

Having a difficult journey to make
The famous general Hannibal
Asked himself what would be good to take
To help him cross the highest Alp
Something tough for when the going got rough
Ideally an animal with plenty of stamina
Something wide that he could ride on
So they packed their trunks and off they went

…but I remain fond of the numerous clues clamouring for attention in this rhyming riddle:

My first is in face but not in head
My second is in needle but not in thread
My third is in beauty but not in tan
My fourth is in woman but not in man
My fifth is in pearls but not in stone
My sixth is in monarch but not in throne
My seventh is in Egypt but not in Greece
My eighth is in war but not in peace
My last in is snake but not in strike
Can you tell who I am?
You can guess if you like!*

I once had the pleasure of seeing two dozen copies of Hysterical Historical Poems: The Romans all together. Fleetingly, I enjoyed that thrill published novelists must feel when they pop into bookshops.

Arrayed in a neat row, like legionaries about to set out on a long march up the Fosse Way, The Romans were on a forgotten shelf down a dark aisle in the book store of a metropolitan library service. I was tempted to nick one so I’d have a spare.

You can buy a copy of the said collection on Amazon. They cost £0.01 each.







* Cleopatra

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