Poem – On a Roman Helmet, Found at Newstead

The following is a poem inpired by one of the Roman helmets found at the Trimontium site.

On a Roman Helmet, Found at Newstead

A helmet of the Legion, this,
That long and deep hath lain,
Come back to taste the living kiss
Of sun and wind again.
Ah! touch it with a reverent hand,
For in its burnished dome
Lies here within this distant land
The glory that was Rome.

The tides of sixteen hundred years
Have flowed, and ebbed, and flowed,
And yet – I see the tossing spears
Come up the Roman road;
While, high above the trumpets pealed,
The eagles lift and fall,
And, all unseen, the War God’s shield
Floats, Guardian, over all.

Who marched beneath this gilded helm?
Who wore this casque a-shine?
A leader mighty in the realm?
A soldier of the line?
The proud patrician takes his rest
The spearman’s bones beside,
And Earth who knows their secret best
Gives this of all their pride.

With sunlight on this golden crest
Maybe some Roman guard,
Set free from duty, wandered West
Through memory’s gates unbarred;
Or climbing Eildon cleft in three,
Grown sick at heart for home,
Looked Eastward to the grey North Sea
That paved the road to Rome.

Or by the Queen of Border streams
That flowed his camp beneath
Long dallied with the dearer dreams
Of love as old as death,
And doffed this helm to dry lips need,
And dipped it in the tide,
And pledged in brimming wine of Tweed
Some maid on Tiber-side.

Years pass; and Time keeps tally,
And pride takes earth for tomb,
And down the Melrose valley
Corn grows and roses bloom;
The red suns set, the red suns rise,
The ploughs lift through the loam,
And in one earth-worn helmet lies
The majesty of Rome.

W H Ogilvie, Ashkirk