I, Gelimer, on a hill in Africa,
Recently come to my senses, although it is late.
At the end of my kingdom and my years,
Have this to offer to the world: make peace.
A rough barbarian, I tell you this.
Make peace. The hunger in my guts is wild.
My gums clack like palm fronds cracking,
But I come from a strong race. I have learned,
In my extremity, to laugh at strength.
To you, Belisarius, who ask my head,
I reply: Thanks. Not yet. Give me leave,
Rather, for as long as I can hold out
Against your legions, lord of Byzantium,
To beg three things: a lyre, a sponge, a loaf of bread.
Bread, because it is our savage need.
A sponge, because one eye is swollen from dirt.
A lyre, to accompany an ode I made
Upon my sore affliction, to make men weep.
This is what I have learned, who have seized the world
From Rome, bent Italy to her knees, made Caesars
Stain with yellow all their purple front.