Guest poem sent in by Suresh Ramasubramanian
(Poem #1251) The Rider at the Gate
A windy night was blowing on Rome, The cressets guttered on Caesar's home, The fish-boats, moored at the bridge, were breaking The rush of the river to yellow foam. The hinges whined to the shutters shaking, When clip-clop-clep came a horse-hoof raking The stones of the road at Caesar's gate; The spear-butts jarred at the guard's awaking. 'Who goes there?' said the guard at the gate. 'What is the news, that you ride so late?' 'News most pressing, that must be spoken To Caesar alone, and that cannot wait.' 'The Caesar sleeps; you must show a token That the news suffice that he be awoken. What is the news, and whence do you come? For no light cause may his sleep be broken.' 'Out of the dark of the sands I come, From the dark of death, with news for Rome. A word so fell that it must be uttered Though it strike the soul of the Caesar dumb.' Caesar turned in his bed and muttered, With a struggle for breath the lamp-flame guttered; Calpurnia heard her husband moan: 'The house is falling, The beaten men come into their own.' 'Speak your word,' said the guard at the gate; 'Yes, but bear it to Caesar straight, Say, "Your murderers' knives are honing, Your killers' gang is lying in wait." 'Out of the wind that is blowing and moaning, Through the city palace and the country loaning, I cry, "For the world's sake, Caesar, beware, And take this warning as my atoning. '"Beware of the Court, of the palace stair, Of the downcast friend who speaks so fair, Keep from the Senate, for Death is going on many men's feet to meet you there." 'I, who am dead, have ways of knowing Of the crop of death that the quick are sowing. I, who was Pompey, cry it aloud From the dark of death, from the wind blowing. 'I, who was Pompey, once was proud, Now I lie in the sand without a shroud; I cry to Caesar out of my pain, "Caesar beware, your death is vowed."' The light grew grey on the window-pane, The windcocks swung in a burst of rain, The window of Caesar flung unshuttered, The horse-hoofs died into wind again. Caesar turned in his bed and muttered, With a struggle for breath the lamp-flame guttered; Calpurnia heard her husband moan: 'The house is falling, The beaten men come into their own.'
I have had a nightmare or two in my time (the one I had yesterday was about work, lots of work, piling up on top of me - proof positive that I need a vacation sometime soon). That nightmare suddenly gave me the idea of a nightmare / dream theme for Minstrels. Poems like the one above. Pompey's ghost coming to warn Caesar of his impending downfall. Incredibly eerie atmosphere, made even more so by the tone of this poem. My other choices for this theme include - 1. RL Stevenson's "Ticonderoga" (that is a bit long but worth running) 2. Robert Graves, "A Child's Nightmare" (already covered in minstrels poem #663) any more suggestions? srs