On the Last Day of Pompeii

When I lived in Texas, I went to a couple of concerts featuring Texas’s own band, Trout Fishing in America. If you have never heard of them, just Google up some of their music (most of which they wrote); it’s wonderful. One of my favorite songs was “*On the Last Day of Pompeii.”

Since I actually did visit Pompeii when I was sixteen, this song resonated with me. While the lyrics are wry and funny, it reminds me of all I saw when walking through the ruins. From what I’ve read about it, there was no time to flee; it all happened so fast that everyone in the path of the lava flow from Mount Vesuvius died where they stood.

If you look up the fall of Pompeii, you will no doubt see the famous “dog of Pompeii,” plus a lot of bodies that speak volumes from the way they were found.

Image result for Dog of Pompeii

The famous “dog of Pompeii.

Since they were inundated so fast with boiling hot lava, they were consumed and died immediately.

From Atlas Obscura: “Those that did not flee the city of Pompeii in August of 79 AD were doomed. Buried for 1,700 years under 30 feet of mud and ash and reduced by the centuries to skeletons, they remained entombed until excavations took place in the early 19th century. As excavators continued to uncover human remains, they noticed that the skeletons were surrounded by voids in the compacted ash. By carefully pouring plaster of Paris into the spaces, the final poses, clothing, and faces of the last residents of Pompeii came to life.”

And then: “You could hear the shrieks of women, the wailing of infants, and the shouting of men; some were calling their parents, others their children or their wives, trying to recognize them by their voices. People bewailed their own fate or that of their relatives, and there were some who prayed for death in their terror of dying. Many besought the aid of the gods, but still more imagined there were no gods left, and that the universe was plunged into eternal darkness for evermore.”

“The next morning the cone of the volcano collapsed, triggering a hundred-mile-an-hour avalanche of mud and ash that flooded Pompeii, just a little over 5 miles away, destroying everything in its path. Pompeii and its smaller neighboring village of Herculaneum disappeared, and were only discovered by accident during the construction of Charles of Bourbon’s palace in 1738. Miraculously, the two cities were nearly perfectly preserved under layers of ash.”

As I walked through what was left of Pompeii, I was overcome with tears. The shallow steps that led from one area to another were worn down in their middles by Heaven only knows how many foot falls. Upon seeing the plaster casts of those caught in the lava, I wept for those who knew that they would be dead in seconds.

Can you just imagine; you are minding your own business on a regular day, doing all the daily things that people do, when with a rumble and a roar, life at you know it is over.

So that “Last Day of Pompeii” song, while funny in spots, makes me think of all the things we want to do, all the plans we make, and so on. Imagine being trapped in a city that has suddenly turned into a death trap of molten lava; no where to go, no last goodbyes to families, no second chance. Hence the line “I could have been more/Done more than I did.”

These days especially I am taking to heart to be more, do more, love more, reach out more, take more chances, be more present; in short, don’t let time go by unnoticed.

*First verse:

“On the last day of Pompeii,

Thought I heard some poor boy say:

Oh, wow, man—if I knew then what I know now!

I could have been more

Done more than I did

Had some sin, more mortal sin—

Oh wow—if I knew then what I know now!

I should have sent back that steak that was so overdone,

Grabbed that big break while there was time, time, time—

Turned my life into a fantasy,

Hard luck for me,

And all that stuff.

Now that I’m a goner,

All that lava rushin’ round the corner,

Oh, wow—

Oh wow, now I ain’t complaining, only speakin’ out loud–

You know that my life would different,

My love would be different,

If I knew then what I know now!

Second verse:

“On the last day of Pompeii,

Thought I heard some poor girl say:

Oh, wow, man—if I knew then what I know now!

Oooooh, I would have taken up the slide trombone,

Had a garden and grew my own—

Oh, wow, if I knew then what I know now!

I should have taken that mediterranean cruise,

I know I could have lived on chocolates, cigarettes and booze—

Given some perfect stranger the blues,

Hot stuff for me, and speaking of hot stuff—

When Vesuvius came to call,

Arrivederci, I had a ball,

Oh wow, now I ain’t complaining, only speakin’ out loud

You know that my life would different

My love would be different,

If I knew then what I know now!”

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