On the Loss of Cicero's De Gloria       

Petrarch read it, lent it, lost it,

And it has never since been seen:

Word upon word, in flights

Of sentences, flung down,

Diminished, ruined, gone -

Work of those Roman summer nights.


What did that climber know of glory?

Nothing until he died,

Dispatched by soldiers jeering

For fear

Of an austere

Patron of art, since deified.


Words, words, nothing but perfect words

Wrung from the darkness, told to slaves:

‘Let the poet know that fame is . . .’

Lost, lost, the glory game is

Up - but somewhere in vellum caves

Words wait for Petrarch again.