6: Pantheon

We reached the fabled Pantheon at dusk,

Meandering down from the Borghese Gardens,

Where we’d lingered on the Pincio,

Discoursing on the villa of Lucullus,

As the sun declined above the Vatican.

 

We made our way past Trinita dei Monti

And through the crowds upon the Spanish Steps,

With passing thoughts of dying Keats and Shelley;

We cast our coins into the Trevi Fountain,

Then came, at last, to the Sanctissimum.

 

Remember Nietzsche’s madman sagely asking,

When hauled out from a church for having chanted

His requiem for the eternal God,

‘What are these buildings now, if not the tombs

And sepulchres of what we thought divine?’

 

In just that spirit, surely, Hadrian,

The Empire’s ruler at its apogee,

Reconceived what M. Agrippa built;

Bequeathing us a truly stunning shrine

To all the seven planetary gods.

 

But, as with other monuments that day,

What most impressed itself upon my mind

Was less the awesome structure in itself

Than your naively beautiful response

To all the layered meanings of that space.

 

And how, in Catholic pews beneath the dome,

That Michelangelo himself described

As the work of nothing less than angels,

We sat by candlelight and spoke in earnest

Of all our deepest thoughts and future plans.