Epitaph of the Conqueror Worm

It is a sunny day, and what a day
     To take a stroll through history's fields!
To walk among the ancient, moldered tombs,
     Discarded banners, rusted shields.

I have a rose; oh who shall I bequeath
     This sign of heart-felt admiration?
With scant a thought I place the flower beneath
     A founder of our glorious nation!

It's Thomas Jefferson I leave this bloom,
     Before I set about my way,
To make my note of many a fallen tomb
     And read there what I may.

Among the graves of kingdom and empire
     There stands a monument to Rome,
A fable for the leaders who aspire
     To seek the monarch's gilded throne.

"Behold the glory of Rome, a thousand years!
     What nation shall outlive your reign?"
This says the plaque beneath marble figure
     Which stands in armor of disdain.

About this idol, many cast their offerings:
     Flowers, bones, swords and drums.
And in my now transported inner ear,
     The brass march of the Conqueror thrums.

But underneath the plaque is scratched a line,
     The work of an anonymous hand,
Who in eight words has summed up Shelley's rhyme,
     Of Ozymandius, lord of sand.

Though no doubt written by medieval hand,
What nobler anthem is there for our days?
     "Caesar is dead, and may God be praised!"

George Chadderdon © 1995