A Lay Made About the Year of The City 1 (swiftly cobbled together for OZ)

With apologies to Thomas Babington Macauley

Aeneas of the ‘topless towers’,
By Helen’s choice laid waste.
Fled the ruin, death and fire
And westward sailed in haste.
To Dido came and thought to stay,
But duty called at last.
He hurried on and rushed to meet,
The fate his Gods had cast.

In Italy he left his bones,
His son a Latin King.
And time speeds on. The decades pass.
‘Til Numitor’s reign they bring.
A hasty brother, quick to act,
Deposed him, stole his throne.
Condemned his daughter Sylvia,
To live and die alone.

But Mars came down and visited her,
In short time, twins she bore.
To Tiber cast, she drowned. They lived,
And floated to the shore.
A she wolf found and suckled them.
They rushed to being full grown,
Revenged her death and, in a trice,
Restored grandsire to throne.

Dispute and discord soon arose,
A city new to found?
The brothers shortly disagreed,
On where to break the ground.
For Romulus said ‘Palatine’.
‘Aventine’ Remus cried.
In brief, they rapidly agreed,
To let the Gods decide.

Remus sat on Aventine,
Saw six vultures rushing by.
On Palentine his brother spied
Twelve vultures in the sky.
Romulus had the choice of site,
And ploughed the outline out.
‘Let someone dare to cross these walls!
They die without a doubt’.

Remus quickly leapt the line,
The last mistake he made.
For Celer, foreman of the work,
Slew him with his spade.
Then ran away in utmost haste,
Lest Romulus was miffed.
And that is why, from Latin,
‘Celer’ translates as ‘swift’.

To explain, when I was 8, I moved to England as a result of my dad’s posting and got tossed into a prep school. Up until then, mine had been the normal life of a Jock primary school pupil of my generation -totally focussed on preparing for the gathering shade of the 11 plus in three short years’ time.

Suddenly, I was floundering in a totally different sea of subjects. I came to one of them like a fish to water. Latin was something with which Scots pupils were not trusted with until Secondary school. I loved it from the first ‘amo’.

It followed that, when I did a Grabber by coming ‘Topp’ of my class and got to pick my prize, I chose a book called the ‘History of Rome’. Still got it. The very first story is of the founding of Rome and pretty well conforms with this version of the myth.


As soon as I saw OZ’s task, the tale of Celer came to mind. Sorry it took me so long to get around to actually writing it. As you may not have noticed before, OZ, I’m not a particularly hasty sort of person.


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