The Mediterranean stretched before him.
In smouldering scuttled hulks, the enemy fleet
lay dead, once pride and pest
of that placid main. The heat
troubled him; he felt oppressed.
And the land held nothing for him.
His eyes roved over the waste. All round,
death rose in listless wisps of smoke: its reek
would drape history like a shroud.
Turning, he gazed awhile on his salt streak,
that runnel of ruin he had ploughed
to neuter this obstinately fecund ground.
Tired, he faced northwards again, and home.
His eyes briefly brimmed. No unlettered lout,
his mind hovered on distant Troy,
and saw in a poet’s dirge to a rout
no cause for a victor’s joy,
but a lament for his own beloved Rome.