What Can Poems Teach Us About History?

Because I am a masochist with far too much time on my hands over this September, I decided that I was going to write a poem every day… And I did! (OMG such commitment, I am very proud of myself) Some of these poems were personal, some were nonsensical, and some were historical. I have decided to write two posts about my creative streak this month but if you cannot wait for the second one then you may find all of the poems at charlotte-bowyer.tumblr.com

So, what can poems teach us about history? Not a clue. I made up that title in order to sound somewhat educated rather than a person who spent a month using a rhyming dictionary. I hope you enjoy my anachronistic, inane ramblings!

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Rain

Achilles loves the smell of the rain
It reminds him of his mother, of fertile Pthia
And of the kingdom over which he’ll one day reign.
Patroclus, however, does not savour it,
As he clucks his horses on, the leather reins
Held loosely in his shivering fingers.
It too reminds him of home, of overcast Opus
But that’s a kingdom over which he’ll never reign.
However, no joy burns as brightly as the joy of Achilles
So Patroclus does not mind it really, the endless rain.

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Lies

Here, curled like a child, the Gebelein man lies,
Bright red hair tumbling over his face
And bony hands raised to cover his eyes.

It is a sudden death, no time for goodbyes,
The flint tears through flesh, muscle, and bone.
He cannot escape his painful demise.

Cradled in hot sand, his body then dries.
Five thousand years pass in his dusty tomb
Before he is ripped from his rest, a macabre prize.

The Victorians just love him, their Egyptian surprise,
In May they put him in a marble museum
And come in their hundreds over June and July.

And now he is bound in a tomb the English devised,
On show to anyone who should want to see
A victim of murder, brutally incised.

A young student passes, she thinks herself wise
And studies his form with an impassive stare
Safe in the knowledge that when she dies
Her body will be treated with human respect
And not as a trinket for foreign franchise.

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Dance

‘Dance for me, Hephaestion,’ Alexander says.
I cannot, I will not.
My limbs are made for command,
Not to please the whims of my senior.
‘One day, maybe,’ I reply,
‘We have time yet.‘

Years pass before, once again,
‘Dance for me, Hephaestion?’ Alexander asks.
I cannot, I will not.
My body is his now but I will
Not lower myself like a whore to him.
‘One day, if you wish,’ I reply,
‘We have time yet.‘

Months pass before, once again,
‘Dance with me, my Hephaestion.’ Alexander shivers.
I cannot, I will not.
My body is dragged down by sodden wool,
Not the flowing linens of my homeland.
‘One day, I promise,’ I reply,
‘We have time yet.‘

Days pass before, once again,
‘Dance for me,’ Alexander sobs. ‘Hephaestion.’
I will not, for I cannot.
My limbs are numb now, I will
Not last the few hours until morning.
We are out of days, my love,’ I reply,
’But please dance for me, my Alexander.’

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Cat

I, Herodotus, walk the world alone
From Italy, my sweet ancestral home
To Egypt, where the grasses grow.
Here I find a temple, wild, unknown,
Made from stone blocks both wide and flat
And on the inside, running all around
Are carved stone felines from top to ground
Which make me wonder what world I’ve found—
A temple raised to praise a cat?

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Cake

“If they cannot eat of bread,
Then let them eat cake.”
“My lady, my family are all dead
We have nothing with which to bake
My gut is twisted in pain not in dread,
You have never felt such an ache.
I have no money for wool to spin a thread
To steal some meagre trout or hake,
And you sit there powdered in white lead,
Thin hair obscured by an expensive fake,
Plump and fussy and well fed,
Feeding on bread and steak.
We are surprised you have not fled;
The proletariat are now awake,
The other nobles drawn and bled
And, for fairness’ sake,
We now hunger for your head.”

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Castle

According to folklore and other tales
Camelot lay somewhere in Wales,
A wild land to make soldiers quail
And render their faces pale,
That is, if it ever existed at all.
According to the ink on my page
Merlin was the court’s high mage
Whose surprisingly young age
Did not render his advice less sage.
That is, if he ever existed at all.
According to the songs men sing,
Arthur was the greatest of all kings,
Whose mighty arm and sword’s swing
Made him lord of everything.
That is, if he ever existed at all.
According to sources of ancient art,
Merlin and Arthur were rarely apart
But this historians didn’t want to impart
So the hidden story of their hearts
Seems as if it never existed all.

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