Lucius Calpurnius Piso to Gnaeus Calpurnius Piso His Brother

Though the Heavens fall, I’ll read the gleaming shards

And speak the spirits’ sanction from their gleaming,

As all things are foretold in birds, and cards,

And guts, and in men’s hands, and hearts, and dreaming.

It is not mine to forge the future—nor

In passing judgment, to condemn who do.

For all has been determined, even for

Poor, maddened men who plead their lives of you.

The princeling’s death was fated—by your hand

Or by another’s. Are you clean because

The Letter of the Laws would spare you—and

Find fate at fault? As if the Parcae hemmed!

Perhaps you preach the Letter of the Laws

Because, if Spirit judged, you’d be condemned.


Daniel Galef writes poetry, fiction, and everything else, besides. Piso the politician and his brother the soothsayer are well described in Tacitus and an anecdote in Seneca’s treatise On Anger. This sonnet is part of a series of Imaginary Sonnets after Lee-Hamilton’s 1888 collection of the same title: verse soliloquies from the perspective of historical characters.

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