Sant' Apollinare in Classe      

The road continues to the Rubicon,

While Caesar’s ghost in scarf and beret

Urges a cycle into history;

The fog receives him with a surly

Fall of derisive minor tears:

Far off, Ravenna disappears.


So much for setting; let us estimate

More closely now the goose who welcomes

Any and all beyond the barrier,

Unseen as yet, which he who still comes

Home to dear things worries at: ‘Sell

Before the pitiless poor rebel?’


Their wretched houses in a huddlement,

Like lost sheep flocked together stonily,

Stand off; from there the maddened trespassers

Have come and chanted atonally

And fought above a martyr’s bones,

While twelve sheep watched from small bright stones.


Pale goose at the door, white guardian,

Past whom the vandals, princes, bankers,

Cheats, connoisseurs, and commonality

Enter the ancient ship that anchored

Where Caesar’s stranded powers sank:

And all the walls but one are blank.


What do those saints in classic draperies

Make of the famished hearts that flutter

A sudden moment in the imperial

Twilight, like the sea birds which skitter

Between wide open windows? What

Frightened rebel are they staring at?


God, in the highest, as eternally,

Points to the circled Cross that centres

Also the local starving martyrdoms;

And pity like the white goose enters

Even the stone-cold common sense:

The terror of the poor relents.