Tuesday, July 2, 2013

from "The Lost Dialogue," by John M. Ford

Epilogue: Memo from Solon

Attend me, o Muses, Olympian Zeus, for I am homesick.
I loosed a thing in Athens that needed take its course
Without me; but now it is time to return for the reckoning.
Unlike the noble Theseus, I am going home cautious.

I have traveled, and heard stories, and seen much
Of the world the sea binds; I saw the bones
Of an island in the west, courtier stones
At an empty throne, the past unseated by force.

In Saïs the priests told me that Time is a river,
Their river, in fact, and all other cultures merely tides,
They told me of crashing stars, empires that fall and rise,
That earth has bloomed and burnt and grown again, forever.

I have tried to do something useful with all this history,
A tale of a great empire that made mistakes;
That strode the world boldly, but forgot its direction,
Something epical, touched with awe and mystery.

Though my people will not easily learn from another nation;
They will say that Atlantis gone is not Athens hence.
Anything can be built; nothing stands without a foundation.
People are clay, and must be fired to support monuments.

And the Egyptians may have made the whole thing up:
A claim that, being older, they are therefore oldest;
I think that people recall in the main what they wish to recall
And swiftly forget that they ever were powerless, beaten, or small.

It is in the mystery of priests to muddy what they say,
In the speech of statesmen to prove things their way,
In the way of engineers to twist nature's forces,
It is in the nature of poets to misuse their sources.