No offuckingfense but can 2017… like take… a fucking break…

Roman Caprices – Notes

References galore!– and into realms I hitherto had rarely travelled before: memes, movies, even video-games, intermixed into my usual hodgepodge of literature, classics and histories. And if I do make a mistake, then please be gentle in the comments.

Consider this following part just me showing that I’ve done my work. I’ll only go into the references because I never think that interpretation,– of the poem as a whole, of the content, of the ideas, etc.,– is the job of the person writing the poem. That’s really up to the reader.

Section I opens with a paraphrasing of Romans 3.13 (yes, that is a Bible reference and matching the form of the poem, i.e. a section of 3 lines followed by a section of 13), before moving on to a “Go home, you’re drunk!” reference. The first line also sounds awfully like a 60s film I saw years ago. Let me think. Oh yeah: ‘A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum’. The old women snipping at twine refers to Atropos, of the Fates, who cut the thread of life with a pair of scissors. Sweet white wine was also considered by the Romans as the highest form of wine, quite the opposite of what most people (not me, because I don’t drink and don’t know good from bad, haha) think today. ‘For reasons unknown’ also sounds very familiar to something Beckett wrote in Waiting For Godot.

Section II has the Sicilian gesture, essentially saying that his friend would ‘sleep with the fishes’. How about the ‘offer they could not refuse’? Obvious movie quote is obvious. Pollice Verso or ‘with turned thumbs’ is the gesture most closely associated with gladiatorial combat, but ‘two thumbs down’ is also a reference to Siskel and Ebert, the great movie critics. Gallia Transalpine (Southern France) and Gallia Cisalpine (Northern Italy) were both Roman provinces; essentially the friend is saying that he’s Italian and not from further afield. Naumachiae were massive staged naval battles the Romans watched for sport in basins larger than the Coliseum. They’d row out proper sized vessels and have the crews sort of massacre each other. Romans, eh?

Section III’s strange man is a reference to Diogenes of Sinope, the famous Greek Cynic (who lived centuries before the setting of the poem, but meh! This could all be going on in the speaker’s head so what does it matter?). ‘Taken a pilum to the knee’ should be familiar to video-gamers amongst you. Skyrim anyone? Lusitania was what we now call Portugal.

Section IV initially plays with the exotic imagery of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, but couched in the vernacular of the stereotypical street hawker that one expects in the market of a foreign country. 30 denarii coincidently (or not) is the same price that Judas sold Christ to the Romans for. The idea of ages, (golden), silver, bronze and iron, is from Hesiod, the Greek poet, from his Work and Days, which outline the mythical ages of mankind. The brutish genius is none other than Ezra Pound, who settled in Italy in 1924 and whose poem Homage to Sextus Propertius provides the final line of the section.

Section V has the clean-shaven man from Lutetia, the Roman settlement of modern day Paris, so a stereotypical rude Parisian joke. And folks, that’s what you call comedy! Haha, no. There follows a reference to Aristotle’s poetics, i.e. ‘riddles and barbarisms’, which drops into the very modern ‘this is why we can’t have nice things’ reference. Crates is another Greek Cynic. Also, one to come and one to go? That sounds like Hatta and Haigha fron Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through The Looking Glass.

Section VI opens with an interesting observation on the Latin alphabet we all know and use. The letters G, J, U, W, Y and Z were not originally a part of the Latin alphabet, with G being introduced in the 3rd Century BC and Y and Z after the conquest of Greece in the 1st Century BC. J was a later development of I and is absent from earlier texts, and the same can be said of U and W, which developed from V (or VV in the latter case). Thus Julius Gaius Caesar would be written thus in classical Latin: IVLIVS GAIVS CÆSAR. ‘Proud distensions of empire’ is another line from Homage to Sextus Propertius.

Section VII is probably one of the most *ahem* adult (not mature) passages I’ve ever written. What more do you want me to say? Moving along, bastard-wine refers to either mulsum or posca, which were both low styles of wine. Why bastard? Well, both mulsum and posca were mixtures of wine, either white or red, with honey or flavouring herbs. Iove is Jove, as we’ve established with the alphabet. Romans are also fond of contractions, you know, primarily as it was a pain to hammer long names onto tablets and buildings. Caesar Imperator Augustus becomes Cae. Imp. Aug. respectively. How is this relevant? Well, Maximus Imperator Augustus must be either a pitiful attempt at nominatively compensating for something or merely the product of an overly inflated ego. Add the contraction and well… Do I really need to explain the joke?

Section VIII has relatively fewer references, I think, compared to the rest of the poem, but that’s not really saying much. Playing on the idea of Teutonic, the marches new and old refer to Neumark and Altmark, both provinces within the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Conflating wealth and stupid material things seems to be a problem with contemporary society in general. Or it might just be mainland China. Meh. The strange eidolon (let’s see how many of you know what that means without a dictionary!) echoes Yeats’ Second Coming, specifically the rough beast that ‘slouches towards Bethlehem to be born’.

Section IX starts off with the castrum, or fortified camp, which the Romans had all over the place, especially if the Astérix comics are to be believed. The border inferior refers to the border of the Roman province of Germania Inferior, which was one of two Germanic territories, the other being Germania Superior, that the Romans owned outside of Magna Germania. Another obvious video-game reference follows: ‘Thank you, said he, but our praetor is in another castrum’ = ‘Thank you Mario! But our princess is in another castle!’. The lines beginning ‘With veneer’ to ‘lost’ echo Shelley’s Ozymandias. Theoretically the subverted final line of the section is as true as the line it subverts. If all roads lead to Rome, they must simultaneously lead from Rome.

Section X actually mixes three references together, two from films, one literary. Remember Goodfellas? Joe Pesci’s speech about being funny, except reordering the lines and replacing the word ‘funny’ with the Latinate word ‘comic’. ‘I had choice words with another’ seems to be the spiritual successor of the Duke in Browning’s My Last Duchess. As to the last reference? Well, you tell me: ‘a dread judge’ that exclaims ‘I am the law!’. Sylvester Stallone says hi. Piso was a Roman judge who was famous for his extremely harsh execution of the law. ‘Fiat justitia ruat caelum’ or ‘Let justice be done though the heavens fall’ is the phrase most associated with his brand of justice.

Section XI plays off the name Piso (I have no idea if the ‘i’ therein is treated long but I’m going to pretend that it is) and turns it simply into ‘pissed’. Continuing the Roman trick of abbreviation, the speaker is thus pissed on (probably not literally) and pissed off. I do apologize; writing that out in full leave me feeling dirty, I must confess. C. f. is part of Roman naming convention (and again a set of abbreviations). The ‘f’ stands for filia, or daughter, with ‘C’ being the name of the father. As daughters tended to be named after their fathers in the Roman Empire, it’s not much of a stretch to guess what the lady’s name is in this poem (especially if you know me, that is). ‘Canis femineus’ means, I think, female dog. No prizes to anyone who can guess what the speaker is calling her.

Section XII is fairly straightforward, I think. Stolidus is an adjective, but as it refers to the baker, it essentially means ‘idiot’, literally ‘stupid [one]’. Amphorae were Greco-Roman containers used for storage and transportation, primarily for wine. As to the penultimate line of the section…I am not going to try to explain where ‘I got 99 problems’ came from.

Section XIII is very much what you see is what you get.

I don’t understand how

How can people finish Mystic Messenger fanart. I can’t stop fangirling whenever I draw a Mystic Messenger character even before I finish.

:’D

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