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The Casket

The Casket

A Poem by David Lewis Paget

A man delivered a casket

To the path outside my home,

I didn’t know what was laid within

The top was stamped with ROME.

And two Imperial Eagles stood

At each end of the lid,

I dragged it in, just curious

To what the casket hid.


The casket lid was made of teak

With edges lined with gold,

The box itself was scratched and stained,

And marked, so very old,

I waited till the sun was set

Before I raised the lid,

To see a gleaming breastplate there,

And wondered, as I did.


The bones within were old and grey

Beneath a leathern skirt,

And sandals, rotted at the feet

Lay in a pile of dirt,

The helmet was half covered with

The feathers of some bird,

That fluttered in a noisome breeze

While I said not a word.


I didn’t dare stare at the skull

That lay within the helm,

For just one stare from long dead eyes

I felt would overwhelm,

And so I went to bed and left

The casket in the hall,

To sleep until the early hours

Its shadow on my wall.


At some time in the early hours

A fluttering began,

Of some great monstrous bird not heard

For centuries, by man.

It fluttered blindly in the hall

While shadows from afar

Projected on my plaster wall

The word… SPQR.


I heard the plashing of the sea

The ring of sword on shield,

Of squadrons as they marched ashore

That called on men to yield,

While chariots of the Iceni

Raced down along the sand

With men, whose faces painted blue

Defended their poor land.


I heard the hall stand lurch and sway

And then come crashing down,

Where wheel marks of the chariots

Were deep, and later found.

My mirror, shattered where it lay

Was trampled underfoot,

Where particles of ancient sand

Were mixed with modern soot.


But sitting upright in its tomb

There sat a cage of bones,

All that was left, a Legionnaire

Who once had fought for Rome.

Its skull had drooped within the helm

As if all care was lost,

When native spear had overwhelmed

On this, an alien coast.


At nine o’clock I heard a knock

And opened up my door,

‘I think that you have got my box,’

‘I know,’ I said, ‘I’m sure.

They left it at the wrong address,

I’m glad to see you care,

But first you must clean up the mess

He left, your Legionnaire.’


David Lewis Paget

© 2019 David Lewis Paget


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Has the sound of a Poe tale. Don't see many such pure ballads on this site. Nicely done.

Posted 6 Months Ago



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Added on January 6, 2019
Last Updated on January 6, 2019

Author

David Lewis Paget
David Lewis Paget

Moonta, South Australia, Australia



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