Just Like When Hadrian Wrote Poems

Just Like When Hadrian Wrote Poems

hidden in the Maritime
Theater - his room of
his own - quill in hand
on the artificial island
surrounded by waters

rich in carps, reflecting
the marble colonnade,
fighting his sporadic
moods and talking in
Greek and Latin to his

two Muses, skipping the
occasional stone on the
pond of his writing,
reflecting on life’s end
with the lucidity of his ink.

Animula, vagula blandula
Hospes comesque corporis
Quae nunc abibis in loca
Pallidula rigida nudula,
Nec, ut soles, dabis iocos…

It’s that flow of his
writing I feel today
waking in me amidst
the yelling cicadas
and the twisted olive

trees in his Villa in former
Tibur, walking along
the statues mirroring themselves
in the Canopus. There is Mars
on the warpath, shield in

hand and there winged Mercury 
almost ready to soar with
the local iridescent dragonfly.
Headless Venus winks her eye 
to Antinous’ head drifting along

the currents of the Emperor’s
thoughts. Hadrian writes
his best known poem
again today over the island
for me to hear.

Little soul, you charming little wanderer,
my body's guest and partner, 
where are you off to now? Somewhere
You'll crack no more of your jokes once you're there.

without color, savage and bare; 
You'll crack no more of your jokes once you're there.


I wrote this poem after visiting Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli 3 or maybe 4 years ago. It was published in The Rusty Nail. I am very fond of Hadrian, who was a wise Emperor and an amazing intellectual. He was a poet, too. If you have not read Marguerite Yourcenar's Memoirs of Hadrian, you should. And, I hope you'll love it as much as I do!


Emperor Hadrian (76-138 CE)


Hadrian's Villa, The Canopus

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