…The so-called temple of Diana was an Augusteum, the niches in the cella also suggest some library use…
I’m in the South of France.
Far off, a flute is playing Vivaldi’s measured Summer
And all around unmeasured profligate summer
Is flinging itself in my face, fluting birdsong,
The heady scents of jasmine and honeysuckle,
A thousand greens and one impossible high blue.
I walk up the hill to the Roman watchtower
Where I eat my delicious picnic,
Roast chicken, rosemary potatoes,
A whole punnet of strawberries
Dipped in a scoop of Chantilly cream.
From three stalls in Nimes market.
Down through the trees to the so-called temple,
With the dome half-fallen.
Of course it was a library, of course,
You only have to look at the pediments
You can see where the scrolls —
Where the scrolls —
And suddenly I’m in a ruined library.
Nemausus, it was, Gallia Narbonensis,
And the voices in my head are wailing:
“Where are the books!”
“Where, oh where are the books, the books?”
“What have they done with the books?”
So, sitting on a slab, I pull out my kindle, Gaius.
I read Ovid and Cicero and Homer
Marcus Aurelius and Plato and Livy
Until the voices in my head are calm.
Then I mutter, just in case,
“Tell them to write on parchment.”
Fortunately there’s nobody in sight
Except for one Livy-loving lizard
Who had crept close while I was reading,
Startled at the sound of my voice,
Freezes for an instant, looking up wildly,
Then skitters off over my sandal.
(If ever there was a journal poem this is it. The symbol of Nimes is, and has been since Roman times, a crocodile, but the lizard was real, they are everywhere up in that park, which claims to be the first public garden to be laid out in France.)