Pollice Verso, a Sonnet

Carry me, O, bloodied sand, carry me away.
Let me fly, over the scornful, and over their seats,
Amidst the boastful spittle of angels and of men—
Nozzled guises of divine and of truth.
Guarded still by the flaming sword is the old arena’s gate,
In spite of their god, who was dead, seems dead now once again.
No brood of vipers, however, are viler than these, who
Gesture for carnage and wolf it down with bread.

Carry me, O, bloodied sand, carry me away.
You, who remember the forsaken, do cast me into the winds.
May I rather be deaf to the trumpet than to hear the
Breaking of leavened bread.
Amidst the boastful spittle of angels and of men,
Let me fly, over the scornful, and over their seats.


Colin Lee


Today, Frank is hosting dVerse MTB – The Acrostic, and since I missed the last MTB due to hiatus, I’m writing this acrostic also as a free verse sonnet. I’ve realised, however, even with the interpretative key up for grabs, this seems to be my most abstruse piece so far. Considering a few of my symbols are doubly allusive, I shall also provide a few notes on the apparent context, concerning the Colosseum:

  1. The title, Pollice Verso, refers to the thumb gesture that determined the fate of a defeated gladiator.
  2. The battleground in the arena was carpeted with sand (for soaking up blood); in fact, the word “arena”, in Latin, means none other than sand itself.
  3. Apart from the carnage, bread formed the other half of the entertainment, to be heartily distributed and consumed during intermissions.
Photo Courtesy: Pollice Verso, 1872 painting by Jean-Léon Gérôme

24 thoughts on “Pollice Verso, a Sonnet

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  1. A tour de force, Colin. I shant pull out one line and highlight it… all of them shine through the blood and tears. Allusion upon allusion, and a pox on those who spread delusion! You rock, Colin!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. But to a worm living in the horseradish, the horseradish is its world. Gotta ask myself if I’m still dwelling in that delusion as well. Cheers, Charley.


    1. The hard way is the right way, isn’t it? Those called for fighting a good fight aren’t expected to watch leisurely while passing judgement from a distance as spectators. Yet, the majority of participation these days has fallen to a mere form of entertainment, if you know what I mean. The painting is an impeccable marvel indeed. Thank you for your comment, sir. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I would say, for millennia, it’s the consumerist behaviour, in its various forms, which has kept the den (of thieves) very busy. It’s that kind of entitlement which leads one into believing oneself as a customer (and the customer as God) to be entertained (and to judge) — thus the mote and the beam, the yeast of the Pharisees, the washing of the feet, and so on. Love is the hard way, the activist’s way as you put it, without which we’re all clanging cymbals, isn’t it?


    1. That’s a huge word from you, Master Bjorn. Most appreciated. No doubt, dVerse has been an immense influence. Thank you, and the rest of the bartenders, for such amazing leadership.


  2. I enjoyed this greatly. I studied Latin for 8 years in high school and at university. We would have mock battles on the football field to the amusement of watchers. I was once chosen as the one under the boot. I didn’t like it so when my classmate put his foot on my neck, I grabbed it and pushed him back and over…..cheers from the crowd. This poem does full justice to the painting.

    Liked by 1 person

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