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Little Soul

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Little soul little stray
little drifter
now where will you stay
all pale and all alone
after the way
you used to make fun of things

Hadrian, “Little Soul,” translated by W.S. Merwin from Poetry (April 2006). Copyright © 2006 by W.S. Merwin.
Source: Poetry (Poetry Foundation, 2006)

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This poem originally appeared in the April 2006 issue of Poetry magazine

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Little Soul

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  • Hadrian (76-138) was born Publius Aelius Hadrianus and named Roman emperor in 117. Nephew and successor to Trajan, he executed his senatorial opponents, abandoned Trajan’s conquests in Armenia and Mesopotamia, and coped with unrest in Mauretania and Parthia. He traveled widely, and many of his accomplishments were related to his visits abroad. He began construction of Hadrian’s Wall (England), completed the temple of Zeus in Athens, created a federation of Greek cities, launched a building program at Delphi, and was initiated into the Eleusinian mysteries. After his young companion Antinoüs drowned in the Nile (130), he grieved openly; he erected statues of the boy throughout the realm, and cults sprang up widely. He named Antoninus Pius his successor, to be followed by Marcus Aurelius.

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