The Haltwhistle Triptych


The Haltwhistle Triptych

1 – Roman legionary, 126 AD

I march and come
to muddy hillsides in the lee
of wintry blasts.
Civis Romanus sum,
the motto that faces me
from first day till last.

Which will you take now –
flip coins, Emperors’ faces –
stay here or heads home?
Comforts like hot water flow
in those places
where I bathed in Rome.

Behind walls of empire
soil cleans me, my own.

2 – Old English gleoman (travelling storyteller), 1066

where twa tonges of water cum together I saes locan him in his eyen Wych can it be What dost thu thinc What dost thu see. He saes naht staran at starres above locan in fyr below beornan of wode cepan out colde. He saes I tac what I feel tween fingeres this crumlin mud longs to me naht to halty ingengas

3 – the quarryman finds a Roman hoard, 1836

Halfway between seas here I sit
Fossicking treasures beneath my feet.
Better than stones this find,
These ancient coins now mine.

Manufactories cry out for coal;
A Roman’s head is cast in gold.
But what will best keep us warm –
Old coins or heat from earth torn?

Which will you choose now?
If there’s a choice at all
Between old and new.

John Simmons

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