Afterwards, the history books quietly tapered
references to it to paragraph mentions or less –
though an eminent name had once laboured
two decades over a work of crushing dryness,
a commissioned job that suffered from an excess
of statistic. But he was much favoured.
The later chroniclers, however, didn’t err
in their parsimony: they merely mapped
words on to public memory, as it were.
The frugality was no more than apt
for an empire’s demise while it napped,
and its foes made the most of its slumber.
Yet there were portents long before the fated
dismemberment. Sadly, the few who saw them
went unheard, unheeded; their voices grated
against the stern chorus of the anthem,
the lumpen Gloria they couldn’t stem.
Hubris soared. Patiently, nemesis waited.
The enemy cared little. With no past
nor glory to weigh it down, it went
openly about, colours nailed to the mast,
unwavering of intent;
while from afar rattled Neros sent
vain shibboleths to the outclassed.
In the end the Cassandras were proved right,
if only Pyrrhically. All the doom
foretold came to pass, as the final blight
descended in crepuscular gloom,
and sombre conclaves met to decide whom
to blame for the dominion’s shambled plight.
Little left now, little worthy of recall.
A few toothless proconsuls survive,
with bleached memories, versions of the fall:
blind to the last, they still connive
at lies they keep doggedly alive.
An aqueduct mocks; elsewhere a derelict wall.