When the saddest memory comes to mind,
of that night, my last hour in the city,
when I recall that night when I left so much
so dear to me, even now tears fall from my eyes.
The day was already here for my departure beyond the furthest shores.
There wasn’t time or desire enough to prepare
what was fitting, my heart was numb with long delay.
And here I sit at Sheremetyevo looking out the glass
for mighty Caesar has revoked my birth right
creating a persona whom no one will shelter
for who would dare give succor to Caesar’s enemy
and bring down upon their heads the wrath of empire?
Now vanishing night denied me more delay,
and the hands of the clock turned on their axle
What could I do? Sweet love of country held me,
but this was the last night before I took my leave.
Now the cries of men and dogs grew silent:
the Moon on high steered her midnight horses.
Gazing at her, and, by her light, the Capitol,
close to my house, though that was no use to me,
I prayed: ‘You powers that own these sites nearby,
you temples my eyes will never see again,
gods who possess this great city of Quirinus, I relinquish,
receive my salutation, for all time.
And though I take up the shield too late, wounded,
free this banishment from the burden of hate,
and explain to that man-god what error misleads him,
so that he doesn’t think what I have done a crime
for he more than anyone should know
a monitored man has never been free
since the dawn of time.
I scribbled this piece a while back, when Ed Snowden was sitting in the Moscow airport with no passport and with no where to go. His situation reminded me of Ovid.
In AD 8, Ovid, one of the greatest Latin poets was banished from Rome to Tomis, on the Black Sea, by the exclusive intervention of the Emperor Augustus, without any participation of the Senate or of any Roman judge. This event shaped all of his following poetry. Ovid wrote that the reason for his exile was carmen et error – “a poem and a mistake”. Ovid had written erotic poetry at a time when Augustus had introduced monogamy laws and a new moral strictness.
The Emperor’s grandchildren, Julia the Younger and Agrippa Postumus (the latter adopted by him), were also banished around the same time. Julia’s husband, Lucius Paullus, was put to death for conspiracy against Augustus, a conspiracy about which Ovid might have known resulting in his exile.
Parts of the above were written by Ovid – I didn’t think he would mind. Contemporary portions were written by me, endeavoring to make the piece more relevant to current events.
I support a pardon for Ed Snowden.
This post has been sitting in my computer files for awhile. Hope you like.