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  • By Drew Keane

Seventy-three


After C. P. Cavafy's "Η διορία του Νέρωνος"

(based upon an anecdote in Seutonius’s Life of Nero)

His fear dispersed at once when he had heard

The Delphic Oracle’s prophetic word:

“Beware, my lord, the age of seventy-three”

(For Delphi was renowned for verity).

“I’m thirty now with years to plan for knives

Before the gods’ appointed day arrives.”

Reclining in his litter, bound for home,

Delighted Nero journeyed back to Rome.

When he returned, he felt a little drained;

With news like this, how could he be restrained?

Surrendering to pleasure on the way —

To gardens and gymnasia by day,

By night to dance and poetry and drink

In torchlit theatres where bodies slink

Whose dancing ever animates and soothes,

The naked bodies of Achaean youths.

Thus Nero rests, while on an arid plain

Far to the west of Rome, in distant Spain,

Old Galba drills his legions secretly,

Old Galba who was spry for seventy-three.


Drew Nathaniel Keane (PhD St And) teaches in the English Department at Georgia Southern University. His verse has appeared in Lighten Up, Better Than Starbucks, Earth & Altar, and The Slumbering Host (Little Gidding Press 2019). More of his work is available at drewkeane.com

4 Comments


Guest
Sep 05, 2023

This poem is incredible! I love it when poetry is inspired by history in some way. I greatly enjoyed reading it.

- Shannon

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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Sep 04, 2023

I like your poem, Drew, and I really enjoyed reading it. Since Nero committed suicide, aged thirty, after a life of debauchery, I guess the moral of your poem is, be mindful of what words or prophecies truly mean, and wisely pause to ask yourself : 'To whom do they refer to?' Sage advice for all of us, even now!

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martinmccarthy1956
martinmccarthy1956
Sep 04, 2023
Replying to

I was re-reading it when your reply came. I think you succeeded admirably in what you set out to do.

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