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Embarkation of the Queen of Sheba, by Claude Lorrain 1648

A thin ribboned beam of early morning sunlight

dances across the inner harbour’s contained waves

as if highlighting each crest in a golden leaf.

Muscled men with powerful arms and sturdier backs

repeatedly load small dinghies, ferrying treasures,

from wharf to royal barge including

large wooden chests of fine silk and spices

precious stone, and polished gold.

Citizens of rank dressed in their finery

stand motionless on the marbled quay,

ready to glimpse the majesty of this regal retinue.

Overhead, dawn clouds shadowed grey,

are slowly turning white against the dullen sky,

Soon these clouds will burn away, magically evaporating

as the sun rises higher, intensifying the cerulean blue.

Weathered ancient Greco ruined wonders,

Arches, lintels, columns and capitals

adds an incongruous grandeur to this biblical scene.

sun-bleached stonework has captured its own life,

small ferns and grasses grow within the unmortared gaps,

Colouring the lichen-mottled grey with green.

Statues like plaster-cast Pompeiians,

Stand high on port side roofs, their eyes lowered,

anticipating the splendour of the glorious prospect.

The ship's mighty anchor hauled manfully aboard. Our gracious Queen nonchalantly sails past her adoring crowd.

Exiting through those steadfast harbour walls.

Guided by the radiance of the newly risen sun,

it illuminates her alabaster complexion.

She gazes eastwards, towards the sacred lands of Soloman,

Whilst Shamash, her sun god, respectfully bows her head,

Secretly envious of the Queen’s luminosity of beauty.

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