An American Abroad

Bulla Regia: I Dreamed I Saw Saint Augustine

Fish out the Dylan, put John Wesley Harding on the platter, and drop the needle on track three:

I dreamed I saw St. Augustine,
Alive as you or me,
Tearing through these quarters
In the utmost misery
With a blanket underneath his arm
And a coat of solid gold,
Searching for the very souls
Whom already have been sold.

Augustine was here, in Bulla Regia, in 339. He took the stage on a stormy day and chastised the citizenry for selling their souls. He imagined the people greeting a visitor to the town: “What have you come for? Theatrical folk? Women of easy virtue? You can find them all in Bulla.”  

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(Theatrical folk? Women of easy virtue? Yes, please. Those are my people.)

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Augustine may have looked down from the stage at this mosaic of a bear and wondered what he’d gotten himself into.

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And when his preaching was done, he might have wandered around town, met some of those moral reprobates, and been tempted to return to the wanton behavior of his younger days.

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Augustine and I were here:

“Arise, arise,” he cried so loud,
In a voice without restraint.
“Come out, ye gifted kings and queens
And hear my sad complaint.
No martyr is among ye now
Whom you can call your own.
So go on your way accordingly,
But know you’re not alone.”

And nearby, a different kind of shepherd looked after an errant member of his flock.

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I dreamed I saw St. Augustine

Alive with fiery breath,

And I dreamed I was amongst the ones

That put him out to death.

Oh, I awoke in anger,

So alone and terrified.

I put my fingers against the glass

And bowed my head and cried.

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