Monday, December 9, 2019

Suppose Aeneas were American

How far our migrant always is from
setting up shop on destiny's shore.

In the meantime, there would be
a tiresome quality to his trials
if they were not flush with daz-
zling perpetuity, the indefatig-
able mechanism of surreptitious
poetry sending furtive messages
of being seen somewhere before.

      See to it that the Trojans
      Will never find their dwelling place and home
      In Italy. You know the ways to do it.
      You can make brother living in harmony
      With brother in concord turn on each other and bring
      Their house in hatred down around their heads.
      You know the way to bring the funeral torch.
      Your ways to hurt have a thousand different names.
      Your heart is full of possibilities.
      Shake them all loose at once. Do all of them.
      Tear peace to pieces. Sow the seeds of war.
      Make all the young men mad to take up arms.

Suppose Aeneas were American, and that a great last stand against him were invoked from the highest offices of trust, by resort to sowing permutations of confusion. We would see this, and tire of mentioning it, tire of thinking of it, every day an effluent of bombastic, vain alarms cranked from acrid tidal pools, demanding to be heeded. A shipwreck explained, as if it were contained in this day's drip.

I think it's more polite to recognize the familiar in what is irksome than to strive to copyright an anxious shot in the dank of expertise. We revisit Juno's speech to Allecto in Book Seven of Aeneas' story to see if anything's changed. 

Thomas Gainsborough
  Gainsborough Dupont
ca 1772

The Aeneid
David Ferry
University of Chicago Press