Propertius III.i

[Another loose translation from the Latin of Sextus Propertius]

Don’t get started on the cult of dead poets

and the dreary old dramas of old.

I’m  a wannabe Sextus Propertius.

I want into a classier club.

*

Wanna sing you the blues in pig Latin,

punk and hip hop in Attic Greek.

I’m for putting the funk back in Sappho.

Where do I sign up?

Wanna jam with Callimachus and Pindar,

get on down with Alcaeus the drunk,

doing acid with Homer and Vergil

to the jazz of Thelonious Monk.

*

I’m not one for imbibing the Kool-Aid

nor for taking the populist path;

won’t waste time on the laureate’s war drum

or record on a label for cash.

I won’t dance or do chat shows for ratings,

won’t panhandle on Facebook for likes.

I won’t dish up cheap trinkets for profit.

I need freedom to smooth up my craft.

*

I want fame that is guided by NASA,

flying out into interstellar space.

No rock-stars in electric Lamborghinis

could ever keep up the pace.

*

No-one said it was going to be easy

getting into the history books.

No-one said it was some kind of doddle

travelling to the ends of the earth.

*

But if peace on this earth be forthcoming,

and the sisters of mercy permit,

 I’ll be bringing work down from pop heaven

on pages unsullied by shit.

 *

You can crown me with flowers not iron.

I don’t want such stuff weighing me down.

For the honors declined in my lifetime

will pay rich dividends when I’m gone.

*

Posterity makes all things greater;

folk are loath to speak ill of the dead.

Readers thrill to the song of the Light Brigade

and the Generals by whom they were led.

For how else would we know of our heroes

that laid their lives down in the bog?

or escaped from the steel walls of Colditz

in the belly of a vaulting horse?

*

How else would we know of the rivers

dried up for the sake of the Plan?

How else would we know of the gulags

that dot the Siberian plain?

How’d we know now of Phobos and Deimos,

polyanthus and Eau de Paris?

We’d know nothing of the proud Annunaki,

who once walked upon earth among men.

We’d know nothing at all about history,

the kings and the warriors of old.

Gilgamesh’s adventures in Hades

would now go untold.

*

And, when

New York and London are flooded

in a future outshone by our past,

folk are sure to remember a poet

who predicted it all with such class.

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