« Ravenna », poème de Louis MacNiece

What do I remember of my visit to Ravenna ? Firstly,Sant' Apollinare in Classe

That I had come from Venice where I had come from Greece

So that my eyes seemed dim and the world flat. Secondly,

That after Tintoretto’s illusory depth and light

The mosaics knocked me flat. There they stood. The geese

Had hissed as they pecked the corn from Theodora’s groin,

Yet here she stands on the wall of San Vitale, as bright

As life and a long shot taller, self-made empress,

Who patronized the monophysites and the Greens

And could have people impaled. There was also and thirdly the longSant' Appollinare in Classe

Lost naval port of Caesar, surviving now in the name

In Classe : the sea today is behind the scenes

Like his Liburnian galleys. What went wrong

With Byzanthium as with Rome went slowly, their fame

Sunk in malarial marsh. The flat lands now

Are ruled by a sugar refinery and a church

Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. What do I remember of Ravenna ?

A bad smell mixed with glory, and the cold

Eyes that belie the tessellated gold.

Louis MacNiece (Belfast, 1907 – Londre, 1963),

in The Burning Perch (1963).

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