I Wonder...

Hugh MacKenzie
I wonder what was going on that day in Imperial Rome...

Was the Forum crowded with tourists from around the Empire gazing on the Tablets of the Law or buying trinkets from the locals? Was the roar of bloodlust to be heard at the Colosseum? Was the Senate in session ? Were the Emperor's agents monitoring the proceedings with gimlet eye? Were the feckless remnants of the old Republican families day dreaming of dissipations to come?  Were the slave markets crowded and thick with the stench of despair and fear? The ships stern to bow in the Ostia riding low in the placid waters heavy with grain and goods from everywhere but Italia? Were the priests at the hot and proscribed work of offering sacrifices to the Gods of the all too human Pantheon? Was His Imperial and August Royal Personage, the Emperor, holding court and dispensing rank and privilege? 

I know this: whenever it was no one notice of history's wheels carrying the lumbering wagon of Empire over the crest and  downward towards dissolution and chaos. There were no civil ceremonies to mark the date. No pomp and circumstance. It is the  way of all flesh that such days seem like any other.

I wonder what was going on in London on that day...

Were the public parks crowded with tourists on holiday? Did they purchase cheap souvenirs from the vendors: a statue of the monarch... charcoal sketch of a common face to be tucked way at the bottom of someone's chest of memories? Was Piccadilly bustling? Was Whitehall gravely receiving intelligence from the Empire's far flung outposts? The Admiralty welcoming petitioners hungering for rank and berth? Was the Commons in raucous session? The  stately House of Lords clearing its privileged legislative throat ? Were the Cathedrals filled with worshipers praying for this "Blessed land...this England"? Were the Thames docks jammed with "Company" ships laden down with spoils from the East? Where was the Monarch in residence on that fateful day?

I know this: no well drilled parade fifed and drummed their way along the Strand in grand array  to mark decline in martial time. There was not commemoration of the passing of the glory of English hegemony over land and sea. It is the way of all flesh not to take notice of such passings unless they come violently, crashing the gates with sudden reversal of fortune. Mostly  when the wheel turns and the iron march of decline begins its measured tread it does so to the beat of a muffled drum. It does so with few spectators at the curb. But march it will.

I wonder what was going on that day in Washington? Were the cherry trees in bloom?  The Mall crowded with tourists?

I wonder what was going on that day in Imperial Rome...

Was the Forum crowded with tourists from around the Empire gazing on the Tablets of the Law or buying trinkets from the locals? Was the roar of bloodlust to be heard at the Colosseum? Was the Senate in session ? Were the Emperor's agents monitoring the proceedings with gimlet eye? Were the feckless remnants of the old Republican families day dreaming of dissipations to come?  Were the slave markets crowded and thick with the stench of despair and fear? The ships stern to bow in the Ostia riding low in the placid waters heavy with grain and goods from everywhere but Italia? Were the priests at the hot and proscribed work of offering sacrifices to the Gods of the all too human Pantheon? Was His Imperial and August Royal Personage, the Emperor, holding court and dispensing rank and privilege? 

I know this: whenever it was no one notice of history's wheels carrying the lumbering wagon of Empire over the crest and  downward towards dissolution and chaos. There were no civil ceremonies to mark the date. No pomp and circumstance. It is the  way of all flesh that such days seem like any other.

I wonder what was going on in London on that day...

Were the public parks crowded with tourists on holiday? Did they purchase cheap souvenirs from the vendors: a statue of the monarch... charcoal sketch of a common face to be tucked way at the bottom of someone's chest of memories? Was Piccadilly bustling? Was Whitehall gravely receiving intelligence from the Empire's far flung outposts? The Admiralty welcoming petitioners hungering for rank and berth? Was the Commons in raucous session? The  stately House of Lords clearing its privileged legislative throat ? Were the Cathedrals filled with worshipers praying for this "Blessed land...this England"? Were the Thames docks jammed with "Company" ships laden down with spoils from the East? Where was the Monarch in residence on that fateful day?

I know this: no well drilled parade fifed and drummed their way along the Strand in grand array  to mark decline in martial time. There was not commemoration of the passing of the glory of English hegemony over land and sea. It is the way of all flesh not to take notice of such passings unless they come violently, crashing the gates with sudden reversal of fortune. Mostly  when the wheel turns and the iron march of decline begins its measured tread it does so to the beat of a muffled drum. It does so with few spectators at the curb. But march it will.

I wonder what was going on that day in Washington? Were the cherry trees in bloom?  The Mall crowded with tourists?