Poem from André Naffis-Sahely

André’s working on a PhD on Michael Hofmann and has had poems, fables and criticism published in the TLS, Poetry Review, Poetry London and elsewhere. This poem was inspired in part by one of the poems in Mark’s new collection, and appeared in The Warwick Review, Vol.5 No.1 Mar 2011. He also worked with Mark to edit the Selected Prose of Mick Imlah.


The Death of Atticus

(110 – 32 BC)

for Mark Ford

                              Unlike so many
of the sad schemers Rome birthed in his time,
Titus Pomponius Atticus is best remembered
for how he died, and not for
what he tried and failed to conquer.

                              Indeed,
the Gods never abandoned him – as they did Cicero,
Caesar, Brutus and Anthony – and yet to say
he played both sides and lived a long
and contented life at the expense of others,

                              would be an injustice;
for friend and foe alike, in times of need,
found food and drink under his canopy,
and though he shook many a hand,
none were ever greased.

                              At seventy-seven
and still unscathed by scandal, an ulcer
took hold of him, and took him hard. After
three months spent in bed, Titus, as stoic as ever,
placed a hand over his loins and whispered:

                              ‘enough’.
It was then that he decided to die: of hunger; and when
his fast was in its second day, the fever, as if
frightened by his stubborn streak, suddenly left him.
Begged by wife and friends to relent, Titus,

                              unfazed,
submerged himself in silence, and for three days
bore his hunger with dignity, until death
came and took him on the fifth. Many wept
at the sight of his litter leaving

                              his home on its way to the Appian.
Save for a volume of letters to Cicero, little is known
of him apart from this; and although a patron
and publisher of rare intelligence, Titus set little store
by his words, and history, as if to reward him, ensured none

                              were ever remembered–
and so allowed no shadow to silt over his memory–
as so often befalls those whose tongues
are let loose to pasture
without a stray thought for posterity.



André also works as a freelance translator, visit his page here

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