Steed was off visiting one of his many Aunties when I met up with Cadfael in Rome. We headed for the Cimetero acattolico so I could pay respects to Keats and Shelley. It was extremely hot for September, and when we came upon the a.k.a Protestant Cemetery we made a deeply unfortunate miscalculation of direction: we were just down the block from the main entrance, but we thought it was around the corner. We were midway along the opposing wall before we realized we were 180 degrees from where we needed to be. That wall. That relentless, endless, overwhelming wall. We walked and walked, and still weren’t at the gate. Little cutouts in the stone taunted us with slivers of views of the inside. Still we walked and sweated—-the wall was winning, the stiff upper lip was quivering. Finally the stone gave way to iron.
We went to Keats first, of course. Anyone who cares about poetry would be moved. The tombstone is something you can embrace as a touchstone for everything you love about that great talent. I took many pictures; Cad took many pictures of me with the stone.
I need to stop for one point: the tombstone has a wrong date. Keats died on Feb. 23, 1822. The stone says Feb. 24. I have never seen anyone point this out. There’s a typo on the sacred grave marker of the god of many English majors and it’s never mentioned? Very odd.
Next we found Shelley. Yes, there were newly dried roses on the stone. More photos, Click, Click, Click.
On to a swirl of visiting: Up the Aventine to the famous keyhole in the Knight’s of Malta building, Click; into the sublime S. Sabine, Click; a temporary rest in its cloister Click, Click, so Cad could get on his cell, and I could write a postcard to Steed; then jumping on the Metropolitana, over to the Lateran.
In front of the formidable entrance, we sat savoring some luscious bianco sotttobosco with a Barolo we had picked up (a very different experience from tea with no lemon and marzipan delights.) We were just ready to journey on, when I reached into my bag for my camera—and it wasn’t there. No, no, that can’t be. “Turn it inside out.” No camera.
I went white. Two days' worth of pictures. Keats. Shelley. Me. Cad calmly said we could retrace our steps tomorrow, and take a whole new set of pictures. No. No. Not the wall again. I can’t face the wall.
Think, M.A. When did you last have it?
In the cloister of S. Sabine.
Okay—we’ll go back now. Maybe it's still there.
Cadfael--the gentlemen of monks.
So tired. But we’ve got to try. Back to the Aventine. To be continued.