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- Praetor?s Lunch - 1/4 -

Copyright (C) 2002 by L.M. Wong



The ancient magistrate is having lunch at noon and these are our attempts at capturing his thoughts in the midst of dining. Thoughts are expressed in both verse and prose form. Take this morsel by morsel.

FIRST MORSEL We wish an end to war with promises and hopes of peace. We wish for peace ,we prepare for war. We threaten peace of others with war. We rouse ourselves with the cry to arms. In peace or war we are restless. In peace we amuse ourselves by sparring and wargames .In war we sing our lamentations of peace. What are we ? A warlike race intent on keeping an empire with abundance .At the same time advance in all directions with our might. The horns of bulls are never far from another warring bull?s tips. When reins are loosened, gates thrown wide ,beasts lunge forth and lock horns again. Mars. Venus. Ares. Aphrodite. Their temples are extremes. We invoke their benison at various stages of life. Nature. Choice. Reason. They hatch outcome. We?re capable of breathing life force and personify the two exorbitant passions. There is another passion but its sedateness hardly qualifies it for that intense term. It is more an affliction. We are within range of it too. This frigid indifference.

SECOND MORSEL All will have their day. The thwarted, triumphant. The Gods ,their final say. All will be, whatever they may be. What soothsayers are privy to ,what the oracle withholds. The gods intervene, they alter destinies. It all rests on the will of the Being who wields the armoury of Nature and reins of the universe. Miltiades and Alexander crushed the might of armed Persian pride. Marathon and Salamis undid Darius and Xerxes. Patroclus wasn?t meant to sack Troy. Struck by Apollo, slain by Hector. Menelaus could have slain Paris but his sword broke. Paris though defeated was spared by Aphrodite who returned him to Trojan lines. Pandarus? arrow injured Agamemnon . That one arrow aggravated the wounds of Greeks. Troy was meant to fall . Poseidon shielded Aeneas from the furious sword of Achilles. Rome was meant to be.

THIRD MORSEL View of evening and morning are crowning achievements of nature?s light and shadow play. The rest of the day is a hiatus between splendour. We need to live through and endure the rest of it like life. Between glory and triumph, there are those simple times which we seldom note or cherish. Times of neither sadness or gladness. Existential. Not piquant vividness of acute alertness.

FOURTH MORSEL To bear the fruits of victory and to have the muscle of vanquished people, the state has to continually nurture a nation of courageous loyal citizens. Conquest has to be maintained, watched by ever vigilant sentries and keepers. The state neither needs nor reveres idlers whose business is to indulge themselves in Bacchanalian excesses on account of their ancestry to heroes of preceding generations.

Lawmakers duel with wit, logic and words while the war machine duels with tools of the army .Laws made or repealed as fearless scions fight for aspirations of a greater state. To safeguard the abundance of far flung regions brought for the enjoyment of the homeland. Have the names of conquerors venerated by the conquered people. Have kings, queens and chieftains of unknown lands pay tribute to the imperial standard.

FIFTH MORSEL Two friends. They talk of things past, of bets against each other. They laud things, condemn a few and lampoon absurdities. They try things out , chalk up mutual experiences .Argue in good humour. They are both the core of their world. All else backdrops. There are friendships which rival or surpass the closeness of blood relations. Other lives about them are ambience to their drama of life. All that the world holds enrich their learning. They have their own company to increase their happiness. They help themselves and with relish exhaust the time granted.

SIXTH MORSEL Morning recedes. Noon emerges.

Up on the bridge ,the cobbled passage below, the sun nigh. Breeze blows mildly. Dries noon swelter dry. A column on the march .At the outskirts of the garrison town, clatter of horses, armed men of war and metal are accustomed sounds , familiar sights. Javelins high , tips glinting. Clear without scarlet stains of battle or rust of war. Chins up. Feet in perfect stride. Sturdy steps in unison. Bouncing blades , sheathed in their scabbards. Jangling armour as leather soles stamp the stone tiled road. Neighing mounts , tasselled reins, governed by their masters, they gallop obediently. Shields glint. Their helmets of war inject ferocity to their visages.

Meridian peaks. Morn recedes.

The proud standard borne by its bearer. Beast?s paws knotted at his chest. Beast?s maw agape from the top of his helmet till rear curvature of his neck. Fangs in line with temples. His cohorts , the horn blowers ride nearby. The visibility and density of dyed tufts discern common soldier from centurion, centurion from officer. Red cloaks clasped and drape imperiously over backs of the empire?s officials. Saddled snugly atop their mounts, towards destination ,advance. To the horizon ,another outpost awaits them. Keeping their presence seen and felt. Mere manoeuvres .Necessary routine. Town square forums and resthouses. Aqueducts and baths of villas. They must forego these comforts. They are duty bound for now.

Daylight recedes. Evening emerges.

Praetor?s Lunch - 1/4

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