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[Manuscript Poem] “Viroconium”

  1. 00018543_0001
  2. 00018543_0002

Mary Webb. “Viroconium.” Manuscript poem, one leaf, 12⅞″ x 8″, on off-white laid ruled paper. Forty lines in ten stanzas (on recto and verso), brown ink, signed on verso at the bottom: “Mary Webb.” Like Wilfred Owen, Mary Webb was fascinated by the history of her county, the visible past as well as the unseen-but-felt past. Mary visited the Roman city at Wroxeter frequently, which had been known in the first century as Viroconium and was larger than Pompeii. Excavations of the Roman ruin, located five miles from Webb’s birthplace at Leighton, were abandoned at the beginning of World War I and recommenced in 1923. “Viroconium” is one of Webb’s most successful and memorable poems, first published in The English Review in 1924. The ten quatrains in regular meter and rhyming couplets convey the marching and the might of the conquering army, but also 'the pathos of the conqueror', and the effects of time upon 'capital and corridor'. Webb also wrote of historic Viroconium in her essay “Glimpses of Old Shropshire,” written for a Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club meeting in March 1923, and published in June 1924 in the Shrewsbury Chronicle, and in the Transactions of the Caradoc and Severn Valley Field Club.