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The Tiber’s olive waters curve past

Umbertide or, rather, the town curves

to the river in this limpid valley

alive with oak trees, willows, poplars

and millennia of settlements,

monuments – Etruscan, Roman, Lombard.


To impede the German’s retreat northwards,

the Allies bombed the bridge across the river

successfully and, collaterally,

razed a block of tall, narrow houses –

and many of their inhabitants.


The house numbers are brass inlaid in the setts

of what is now a car park in this

medieval town with its Via Papa

Giovanni XXIII, its Via

Kennedy, its Piazza Carlo Marx.


The Eighth Army built a bailey bridge

on the ancient arches – which was still there

when we performed Shakespeare, in English,

at the theatre. Unused and derelict

because of the war, the baroque theatre

was renovated by an alliance

of Communists and Christian Democrats,

I Riuniti. It had been a gift

from the town’s most famous son, Domenico

Bruni, a castrato, emasculated

for the usual reasons – poverty, greed.

A celebrity acclaimed and enriched,

he sang in Rome, Naples, Milan, London

and St Petersburg for Catherine the Great.


He might have stood by the deep canal

that channels the winter torrents through the town

from the mountains into the Tiber.

Our play was The Comedy of Errors,

in which one of the lads from Syracuse says,

‘He that commends me to mine own content

Commends me to the thing I cannot get.’




© Copyright David Selzer
1 Response
  • John Huddart
    August 25, 2017

    Such a span of Bridges – all reflecting on unity! Observant, detached, ironic, European, cultured, and so subtly English. A Comedy of Errors! You couldn’t make it up!

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