He, an Egyptian, an auxiliary;
She, secret- keeper for the Dobunni,
Had arranged to meet by the sacred oak,
Sheltered and hidden from keen Roman eyes
By dense, dark woods of smooth barked beech.
He, a skilled boatman from the River Nile,
And now, deserter from the garrison
At Kingsholm; beaten, whipped, lashed and abused
By officers for drunken amusement,
Found silent sympathy, trust and love
From this mute young woman at the wine shop;
She, like him, violated just for fun
And entertainment – forced to play the fool,
Was also a skilled, rehearsed dissembler,
For inside that apparently dumbstruck
Mind was mysterious Druidic lore,
Hidden safe within a tribal dreamscape.
She, beyond Roman suspicion and law,
Led him by the hand, as the red sun’s rays
Sank behind the high shrine to Mercury;
She, night-navigator of marshland paths,
She, sure-footed through the night-rustling forest;
They, sheltered and sleeping through the daylight hours,
They, slipping unseen past messenger posts,
Up the eastern scarp, then down to the river.
He, Nile-native, expert boatman, stared west
Across the Severn to the Silures –
Their boat eased its way with gentle paddle
Across that broad swathe of dangerous water,
Until exhausted, they breathed freedom.
Three centuries later, loyal-subjects,
Their children’s lineage, dark-skinned Britons,
Were destined to fight for Rome and Glevum
Against Anglo-Saxon invading migrants,
Who steadily renamed the landscape.