Against Celts we marched into Albion,
Roman ranks, ten men across, fifty deep,
Helmets, swords, shields, wagons following,
Smell of sweat-stained armor, into death-
Dark forests, no breath of air, stench of
Dead bodies, heads on pikes, men pledged
To emperor and to empire, killed by painted
Celtic men, women, blending into heights,
Making silent single file, mist disappearing
Into entangled maze of stones and trees.
Celtic tactics known too well, night-attacking
Raiding parties, bare-breasted women, sword-
Wielding, they feared not us, nor death. O!
How enemy made ashes of us, funeral pyres
Kept night ablaze, no coin for ferryman.
Roman soldiers prayed to gods, not for victory,
But to see day through, our heads not swinging
From Celtic warrior’s horses, charging into
Battle, arrows sky-falling, our army out-
Flanked on foreign killing fields.
Roman ranks surviving descending hoards,
Give dismal report, Celts sprinkled on their
Bodies, blood of enemy dead, men we knew,
Weapons taken, tactics turned against us, for
Upon this accurséd land, gods were powerless,
As smoke in wind, blood-flowing in forest
Streams, diluted to non-existence. Then it
Began! Beating drums, shrill chanting, horns
Bellowing high, clang of swords and shields,
Flesh-hungry carrion birds and dogs.
Flood-roaring rivers, they came! Undaunted
By phalanx, driving headlong into us, first
Wave taking death by spears, we pushed
Forward one step, arrows shrieking overhead,
Somehow I am ground-trampled, soul and
Body parted. Lo! Sweetest of all things, your
Embrace, honeyed fruit, family, children,
Rome’s glory, sunlight in dark eyes, hair,
Duty and honour, I, Flavius Atoninus, breeze
Upon your face, protect, await you, Octavia.
For more, see BBC series, “The Celts: Blood, Iron, and Sacrifice with Alice
Roberts and Neil Oliver.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06h7x5f
This poem, fictitious vignette. Thanks for reading.