Poetry: “Mars Ultor”

Ernest Hilbert

Mars Ultor

Before they had a fleet
Romans rowed on logs
As they prepared to meet

Carthage. Treaties, public
Or secret, do little when
The border of the republic

Is breached without notice:
More tug of war
Than elegant chess.

Some ask: Is virtù virtue?
After reconciliation, consensus,
Appeasement, the coup.

Some rely on law,
But law relies on guns,
Or must withdraw.

Brutes push their way to power,
But the filthiest barbarian
Also wants the throne an hour,

And dons a crown, marks affairs,
Nods under a golden branch until
A stronger one turns up the stairs.

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