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Old 08-24-2018, 06:49 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Default Westward the Course of Empire

Westward the Course of Empire

Sabahu Alkhayr. First light has found
the tourist ziggurats of Babylon.
Buon giorno. Axial spin has brought around
a lowlier Rome and drier Rubicon.

Good morning. Look: another rainy day
greets humbled England and her big ideals.
(Her toast is rasping, and her tea is grey.)
Then, as the matin revolution steals

clockwise between the Old World and the New,
indifferent ocean glints a while till, wow!
imperial at the end of all that blue,
America, Hi there! supreme. For now.

. . . . .

S2L3 was "(Her toast is rasping, and her tea is grey.)" was "(Somehow it still gets up to face the gray.)"
S2line 2 and 3: "her" for "its" x 3
S2L3: "grey" for "gray"
S3: "indifferent ocean" for "anarchic Ocean"
Cut commas after "!"s in S3L2 and 4.
S3L4: "supreme. For now." for "supreme for now."

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-30-2018 at 01:24 AM.
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Old 08-24-2018, 11:10 PM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I'm still taking in the poem, Aaron, but right off: wouldn't it be better to use Latin, Salvete, for hello in the Rome part? Or you could use the singular, Salve, which Italians still often use. Buon giorno knocks me into the present, when Rome is definitely not an empire.
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Old 08-25-2018, 05:47 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I use Arabic (most spoken language in Iraq) for Babylon and Italian for Rome. It is intentional. Whether it works, is another issue.
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Old 08-25-2018, 06:52 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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I knew it was intentional, obviously. My point was that it doesn't work for me since modern Italian (I don't know Arabic) doesn't make me think of empire, in an American poem it makes me think of cappuccino and gelato.
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Old 08-25-2018, 09:26 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I want the reader to think of cappuccino and gelato.
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Old 08-25-2018, 10:24 AM
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Edward Zuk Edward Zuk is offline
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Hi Aaron,

I love this one--the scope, the timeliness, the freshness of presenting the empires through the expressions of 'hello.' I think the modern Italian is important: it shows the gulf between modern Italy and the height of the Roman Empire, which is your point.

The only weak line, I thought, was S2 line 3, where you miss the chance to present something iconic about the British Empire. Maybe something around Earl Grey (tea)? I also thought of Gray's Elegy, which also begins with the "day" rhyme.

I think you could safely drop the commas in S3 line 2 and 4 after the exclamation marks.
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:08 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Thank you, Edward. I am on the side of sparse punctuation, so we'll see if I can get away with dropping those commas after the obnoxious exclamation points.

I'll see what I can do to charge up "Somehow it still gets up to face the gray."

Best,

Aaron
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Old 08-25-2018, 11:15 AM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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Does everyone know this poem by Bishop Berkeley, a great philosopher and, it seems, a fine poet as well? Is America "Time's noblest offspring"? Maybe it's Canada.

On the Prospect of Planting Arts and Learning in America
George Berkeley (1685–1753)

THE MUSE, disgusted at an age and clime
Barren of every glorious theme,
In distant lands now waits a better time,
Producing subjects worthy fame.

In happy climes, where from the genial sun
And virgin earth such scenes ensue,
The force of art by nature seems outdone,
And fancied beauties by the true:

In happy climes, the seat of innocence,
Where nature guides and virtue rules,
Where men shall not impose for truth and sense
The pedantry of courts and schools:

There shall be sung another golden age,
The rise of empire and of arts,
The good and great inspiring epic rage,
The wisest heads and noblest hearts.

Not such as Europe breeds in her decay:
Such as she bred when fresh and young,
When heavenly flame did animate her clay,
By future poets shall be sung.

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
The first four acts already past,
A fifth shall close the drama with the day;
Time’s noblest offspring is the last.

. . . . .

That final stanza could be total bullshit but it is great, great, great poetry and haunting prophecy.

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-25-2018 at 12:30 PM.
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Old 08-25-2018, 05:20 PM
Aaron Poochigian Aaron Poochigian is offline
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I think the fact that this poem has made everyone except for the Canadian uncomfortable is a good sign.

[P.S. I have revised the second stanza to personify "England.")

Last edited by Aaron Poochigian; 08-25-2018 at 05:31 PM.
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Old 08-26-2018, 03:33 AM
Andrew Frisardi Andrew Frisardi is offline
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Sorry I didn’t get it about your use of the morning greetings, Aaron. Ed is right that it is obvious enough. I hadn’t taken enough time with the poem to make the connections.

That said, it is still not working for me as a trope for has-been empires. “Good morning” would have been said by the English when England was still an empire, just as “Hi there” goes with the U.S. at present. So I am not getting how the English expression parallels the Italian one, which is modern though the empire is ancient. And I don’t equate the Roman Empire with Italy, though “Buon giorno” is only Italian and not connected with the empire elsewhere. As a trigger for images of cappuccino and gelato it does not, for me anyway, make me think of the reduction of the great empire to modern creature comforts.

In other words, the expressions that you quote (though I’m not sure about the Arabic) don’t evoke empires reduced to modern-states. Not for me anyway, though clearly it does work for Ed. Others may feel more the way he does, but hopefully my reaction can be of use to you.

Best with it,

Andrew
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