Roman Centurion’s Song

The Roman Centurion’s Song                        

Roman Legion: Actors at Kirby Hall. Photo by Rita Roberts from 'Toffee Apples and Togas'.

(Roman occupaton of Britain 300 CE)


Legate, I had the news last night – my cohort ordered home

By ship to Portus Itius and thence by road to Rome.

I’ve watched the companies aboard, the arms are stowed below:

Now let another take my sword. Command me not to go!


I’ve served in Britain forty years, from Vectis to the Wall.

I have none other home than this, nor any life at all.

Last night I did not understand, but, now the hour draws near

That calls me to my native land, I feel that land is here.


Here where my men say my name was made, here where my work was done;

Here where my dearest dead are laid-my wife-my wife and son;

Here where time, custom, grief and toil, age, memory, service, love,

Have rooted me in British soil. Ah, how shall I remove?


For me this land, that sea, these airs, those folk and fields suffice.

What purple Southern pomp can match our changed Northern skies,

Black with December snows unshed or pearled with August haze-

The clanging arch of steel-grey March, or June’s long-lighted days?


You’ll follow widening Rhodanus till vine and olive lean

Aslant before the sunny breeze that sweeps Nemauses clean

To Arelate’s triple gate; but let me linger on,

Here where our stiff-necked British oaks confront Euroclydon!


You’ll take the old Aurelian road through shore descending pines

Where blue as any peacock’s neck, the Tyrrhene Ocean shines.

You’ll go where laurel crowns are won, but will you e’er forget

The scent of hawthorn in the sun, or bracken in the wet?


Let me work here for Britain’s sake-at any task you will-

A Marsh to drain, a road to make or native troops to drill.

Some Western camp (I know the Pict) or granite border keep,

Mid seas of heather derelict, where our old messmates sleep.


Legate, I come to you in tears-my cohort ordered home!

I’ve served in Britain forty years. What should I do in Rome?

Here is my heart, my soul, my mind-the only life I know.

I cannot leave it all behind Command me not to go!

– Rudyard Kipling

Elizabethan KIrby Hall - Northamptonshire UK

Another aspect of Kirby Hall


Toffee Apples & Togas
-by Rita Roberts
  1. I love the Roman poetry and the photo’s of Kirby Hall Anne, brings back memories.


    • frandi said:

      I haven’t received a copy of your book ‘Toffee Apples and Togas’ yet Rita, but will check the postal box again today. ‘The Roman Centurion’s Song’ is one of my favourite poems-only a passionate lover of England could have written with such intensity!


  2. Thankyou so much for your dedication Anne. We are back in Crete now after a very traumatic time. So will be back on twitter and my WordPress Blog very soon.
    Love Rita.


  3. Reblogged this on Ritaroberts's Blog and commented:
    Before part two of my last post ” Apicius & The Re-enactors, ” I thought it appropriate to re-blog this from Anne-frandi coory. Thank you Anne

    Liked by 1 person

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