I kissed a girl at Clusium | From The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff

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All of which set me thinking about poems and songs in Rosemary Sutcliff’s novels. Such as the snatches of a legionnaires’ song in The Eagle of the Ninth.

Oh when I joined the Eagles
(As it might be yesterday)
I kissed a girl at Clusium
Before I marched away
A long march, a long march
And twenty years in store
When I left my girl at Clusium
Beside the threshing-floor

The girls of Spain were honey-sweet,
And the golden girls of Gaul:
And the Thracian maids were soft as birds
To hold the heart in thrall.
But the girl I kissed at Clusium
Kissed and left at Clusium,
The girl I kissed at Clusium
I remember best of all

11 comments

  1. The Eagle of the Ninth is a fantastic book – so is Puck of Pook’s Hill! I think there were a lot of legionnaires’ songs similar to those around in Roman times. The Man who Would be King is also excellent – I love the film.

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    1. They are great books, I expect Rosemary Sutcliffe took inspiration from a lot of authors – that’s how all the best writers work.

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      1. Hi Cat and Becky, Rosemary’s cousin Mandy – the one in 11j – says Rosemary loves Kipling! We could form a Kipling club!

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  2. The girl I kissed at Clusium – I learnt to sing that from the theme tune to the ?1974 BBC dramatisation of Eagle of the Ninth! (and can still sing it, I think). Wish they’d produce a DVD of that from somewhere…

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    1. Thnaks to the kindness of John from Oz, i’ve just watched the BBCTV series of “Eagle of the Ninth” and loved it! I was a bit tickled by that theme song, though – just can’t imagine the rough lads of the legions coming up with such a plummy rendition of “The Girl I Kissed at Clusium”.

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  3. I’m sure it probably was:

    He fumbled in the mass of rags around his bent waist; took out a black horsehair bag embroidered with silver thread; and shook therefrom on to my table – the dried, withered head of Daniel Dravot! The morning sun that had long been paling the lamps struck the red beard and blind sunken eyes; struck, too , a heavy circlet of gold studded with raw turquoises that Carnehan placed tenderly on the battered temples.

    “You behold now”, said Carnehan, “the Emperor in his habit as he lived – the King of Kafiristan with his crown upon his head. Poor old Daniel that was a monarch once!”

    No doubt about it, Kipling was a great storyteller. They did a great job with the movie of “The Man Who would be King”, as well. Sean Connery, wasn’t it, as Dravot and Michael Caine as Carnehan? Still have a vivid stomach-wrenching memory of the scene where they fell into the bottomless gorge from the bridge!

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  4. Does anyone recall a Kipling short story with a shrunken head or like fearsome object found in the early Indian morning hours? I remember a story from a collection given to me years back by a favorite aunt with some vivid tales of things not seen back in the rather more civilized world of England, great stuff for a lad!

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  5. I wonder if she was inspired by Kipling’s “Rimini: Marching Song of a Roman Legion of the Later Empire”? It appears in a shortened form in “Puck of Pook’s Hill”?

    When I left Rome for Lalage’s sake,
    By the Legions’ Road to Rimini,
    She vowed her heart was mine to take
    With me and my shield to Rimini–
    (Till the Eagles flew from Rimini–)
    And I’ve tramped Britain, and I’ve tramped Gaul
    And the Pontic shore where the snow-flakes fall
    As white as the neck of Lalage–
    (As cold as the heart of Lalage!)
    And I’ve lost Britain, and I’ve lost Gaul,
    And I’ve lost Rome and, worst of all,
    I’ve lost Lalage!

    Full text:
    http://www.poetryloverspage.com/poets/kipling/rimini.html

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