A city sat on seven hills,
Unto the world a light,
By and for its people founded,
On self-evident truths grounded,
And built with marble white.
And upon the highest hill,
Of old called Palatine,
Sat on the throne a twiddler
Of strings and chords, a fiddler,
Tuning his tautened twine.
Phoenician purple robes he wore
Since Caesar he became.
Somnolent, he sleepily slept,
Senescent, too, and worse, inept,
And Nero was his name.
His concubine was a catamite,
Whose genitals he geld,
Who was dressed in dresses daintily
And Nero had all call him “she”
When Sporus they beheld.
All the senior senators
Watched while Nero played,
But could not believe their eyes
To see him much to their surprise
His approval plummeting,
The emperor did wrack
His brain, and did his harp string pluck,
And with its ‘ping’ a thought he struck:
“I’ll bring the Legions back.”
Far from the seven hills of Rome
Across the Rivers Rhine
And Danube did barbaric hordes
Prepare to muster and march towards
The Roman borderline.
But stalwart Legions there stood guard,
Their eagles raising high.
Thus though might Vandals raid and roam,
They were to the gates of Rome
Never nearing nigh.
But then to all those garrisons
And generals there came
This message: “Tell to every grunt,
They’re going home, far from the front.
So Caesar does proclaim.”
Though weary were those warriors,
They knew their work not done.
Not till the Hunnic hordes were fended
Nor the Gothic threat was ended
Would the war be won.
Multitudes near mutinous
Said they should have stayed,
But though the grunts and generals grumbled
To hierarchy their hearts they humbled;
The orders were obeyed.
O’er the Italian Alps they marched,
Then at a riverside
They shed aside their arms and armors.
In waded soldiers, out went farmers
To Rome, unfortified.
Thus this Caesar cast his die;
The Rubicon was crossed.
But through Rome’s Triumphal Arches
No Imperator this time marches;
The Romans knew they lost.
Then amidst the mists of Mirkwood,
‘Twixt Teutonic trees,
Gathered Goths and Geats and Jutes,
Burgundians, and Belgae boots,
The seven hills to seize.
Through the woods and o’er the Rivers
Danube and the Rhine,
Throngs of tribesmen trekked the track
That Hannibal had in his attack
Over peaks alpine.
On the Rubicon’s north shore
The hordes there found the hoards
Left there by the Legions’ leaving,
Whose enemies then took to thieving
Shields and spears and swords.
In his adversary’s armor
Was Alaric all arrayed.
Attila looked like a Legionnaire
When he a gladius did bear,
Brandishing that blade.
And Gaiseric a galea
With pitchéd plumage donned.
And all of Odoacer’s corps,
Seizing spoils, steeds, and stores
Did with those scores abscond.
Then the Goths got to the gate
Where a troop of twelve
Centurions serving sentry stood
Ready to face whate’er they would,
Their hands all on the helve.
Against a foe ten-hundredfold
Did that dozen die,
But as they fell by force of arms
Those soldiers sounded the alarms;
Not vainly did they vie.
Nodding, nearly napping, Nero
Woke when tolled that bell.
Music most merry, thought he that ringing,
Snapped up his strings and sought for some singing,
A jig to make that knell.
And roaming ‘round the Roman roads,
Through the city’s streets,
The boorish, brute barbarian,
Added too the awful din
Of his war drum’s beat.
Angle archers set aflame
Their arrowheads and aimed
At arches, aqueducts, and baths.
The Appian and Sacra paths
The Frissii enflamed.
The Thervingi torches took
To the Pantheon.
The Vandals all the villae razed
And insulae so brightly blazed,
The dark night looked like dawn.
From the Circus Maximus
The conflagration flew.
The Colosseum charred and crumbled;
Its stones into inferno tumbled.
The fire greater grew.
Tongues of flame then licked the Forum.
Up Capitoline Hill
Came Heaðobards in helmets horned,
Barechested and with woad adorned,
The Curia to grille.
On Palatine Praetorians
Protected Nero not
From the far off flames and foes,
But from the wails and weeps and woes
Of the Roman lot.
The Tribune and some senators
And Consuls of that year
An audience with Caesar sought
Their plans to be before him brought
But Nero none would hear.
But his castrato Caesar called;
For his falsetto high
Suggested a sanguine song to share.
He whiffed and sniffed and snuffed his hair,
Then sat him on his thigh.
Thus with Sporus at his side,
Caesar his lyre strummed.
And the pederast did diddle
Even as he played the fiddle;
Sporus sang and hummed.
“Hey, Diddle diddle,” Nero did fiddle,
All the while Rome burned.
His focus entire on his lyre
But for the roaring and ruinous fire
Was Caesar unconcerned.
The shrieks and screams of citizens
Made an awful choir.
The plebeians' poor pleas and prayers
Sounded through the smoky airs
All above that pyre.
Billows black so blocked the sun
There was no day at dawn.
For an encore, embers smoldered;
Nero snored, and snoozing, moldered,
Stifling a yawn.