Villanelle V: The villa of Livia

I was in Rome last week. Of all the sights and sites I saw the most impressive were wall paintings from a villa owned by Livia*, the wife of Augustus. They’re now in the National Roman Museum – Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. I couldn’t take proper pictures because I only had my ’phone with me, but you will, I hope, get the general impression.

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An artist, twenty centuries since,
Painted this garden on a plastered wall.
A taste of summer for a Roman prince,

A scene where art and artifice convince
The mind that bird might sing, that fruit might fall.
An artist, twenty centuries since,

Still unsurpassed: see, here, where shadow tints
With deeper green this pinetree by the wall.
A taste of summer for a Roman prince,

First among equals, dining ’midst the quince
And apples, even in the winter’s pall.
An artist twenty centuries since

Each unfurled bud and painted bird evince
His mastery, holding the eye in thrall.
A taste of summer for a Roman prince,

That lingers yet, a sweetness fit to rinse
Away the tainted world beyond the wall.
An artist, twenty centuries since.
A taste of summer for a Roman prince.

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*Don’t believe everything you read of her, by the way, even when it’s written by such great authors as Tacitus and Robert Graves

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