The Girl I Kissed at Clusium | Roman legion marching Song by Rosemary Sutcliff | Quoted by Falco novelist Lindsey Davis

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Lindsey Davis writes detective novels set in classical Rome, featuring the world of maverick private eye and poet Falco. On the publication in 2009 of the nineteenth of what became a bestselling series of novels known for their meticulous historical detail, she chose Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Eagle of the Ninth as one of her top ten Roman books. (See here for previous post).

Regular commenter here  and Rosemary Sutcliff enthusiast Anne has reminded me (via the You Write tab above) of this, and alerted me to some intriguing homage, newly paid. For Anne was ‘tickled’ when reading Lindsey Davis’s  latest novel, Master and God, to find a nod to Rosemary Sutcliff when a soldier mentions a legionary marching song. It appears again in the acknowledgements at the back: “The Girl I Kissed at Clusium”’: The Legionary Song in The Eagle of the Ninth by Rosemary Sutcliff.

In Rosemary Sutcliff’s novel the snatches of song are:

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

(Thank you Anne)

11 comments

    1. Just noticed that this radio dramatisation appears to be a later one than the original 1957 version. Not having heard it myself, I don’t know if it has music for “The Girl I Kissed at Clusium” or not – maybe someone else has listened to it?

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    1. Any chance of your rendition recorded and emailed though, or even stuck up on You Tube? I cannot recall the tune at all. (Not necessarily for posting should you not want that …)

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        1. Jane – I have always remembered that haunting tune – did you manage to post a recording? I would love to hear it …

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  1. And if anyone’s ever idly wondered where Clusium was, it was an ancient Etruscan city, one of the Etrurian confederacy that fought it out with Rome for supremacy. Clusium did eventually become subjected to Rome. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clusium

    As for why Rosemary Sutcliff used it for her famous legionary marching song in “The Eagle of the Ninth”, I think the answer lies in her early schooling. She mentions in her autobiography, “Blue Remembered Hills”, how much she and her classmates enjoyed loudly declaiming Macaulay’s stirring poem, “Horatius at the Bridge”. Who could forget that image of Horatius and his two comrades gallantly holding the Pons Sublicius against the invading army of Lars Porsena, king of Clusium in the late 6th century BC, during the war between Rome and Clusium?

    “Lars Porsena of Clusium, by the Nine Gods he swore
    That the great house of Tarquin should suffer wrong no more.
    By the Nine Gods he swore it, and named a trysting day,
    And bade his messengers ride forth,
    East and West and South and North,
    To summon his array.”

    http://www.englishverse.com/poems/horatius

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