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This poem is taken from PN Review 28, Volume 9 Number 2, November - December 1982.

Poems Alistair Elliot

It was well celebrated, his last day.
Totila made the delicate instrument
Of self resound, as great men learn to do
Always, as others do by accident.

Fresh with the virtue of not burning Rome
He rode out, as they looked at him, alone
Between the army from Byzantium
(Which we must call 'the Romans') and his own

('The Goths'): a big man, dressed in golden armour,
On a gigantic charger, fluttering
With ribbons, like a legendary farmer
Winning the prizes in a country ring.

He showed them how a victor rides a horse,
Lying back as it caracoled and wheeled;
Spun in the saddle, juggling with spears
And pricking out the flowers of the field.
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