Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae

Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae
Soon, I foresee, all the cornershops will go under
crushed by the chains fastened by megamoney.
     With sparrowhead sales staff lounging bored,
     book superstores will outglare city lights.

Once scholarly codgers yarned about their shelves
where editions published decades before still peeked
     -ignorance, now, is insouciant about prices
     which then provided small dealers canny margins

when little lefty presses stood some kind of chance
and a slightly-nicked cover could get you a nifty discount.
     Johnson would have detested these glitzy mazes
     of glib fiction and coffee-table inanities.

In my far youth, we valued public ownership,
and private wealth conducted itself discreetly.
     Now it's consume! in yer face, consume!
     Entrepreneurs ettle to bottle the rain.

No one back then dared dispraise engine drivers - mighty
those gods who commanded our trains: and public libraries
     were cherished like Pallas Athene's temples,
     which, for us, in effect, they were.
Angus Calder

from Horace in Tollcross : eftir some odes of Q.H. Flaccus (Kettilonia, 2000)
Reproduced by kind permission of the publisher.

Angus Calder

Angus Calder was a journalist, historian, editor and critic - and in later years, a poet.

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About Iam pauca aratro iugera regiae

Angus Calder’s Horace at Tollcross series uses the ancient Roman poet as a springboard for his own reflections on Edinburgh life. In the  original ode, Horace regrets changes in the countryside, how much had become private and careless of the common good, whereas in former days the rule was ‘small private wealth, large communal property’, and citizens were bound to contribute to the beautification of towns, ‘glorious marble to roof the temples’. Horace’s and Calder’s reproofs have lost none of their relevance.