Tag Archives: captain smith

The New World

Although the Terrence Malick film originally titled Pocahontas takes a settler’s perspective on the conquest of Virginia, it has at least a subtext about resistance and negotiation. Qorianka Kilcher delivers a powerhouse performance in her big screen debut. Still, the lives of the First Nations that the Jamestown colony turned upside down come across mainly in pantomime, in this visually stunning epic about the rape of a native princess.

Historiography tells a rather different story.

When Captain Smith’s life was spared in a peacebuilding ritual involving the chief’s young daughter, the Captain took the role playing rather literally, and believed himself to be the object of her affections. His natural reaction? To run away – as he always did under such circumstances, in his long career of mercenary work and piracy on the borders of the Turkish empire and along the Mediterranean, before it occurred to him to sign up for a colonial adventure. This was only the third time in his life he’d been rescued by a princess, and the satirists of his day would never let him forget it, writing ditties about his amorous adventures in the popular press.

This poem, based on the 80th Psalm, tells the story of her people’s glory days and their hopes of repelling the first settlers, before the outcome of the war was decided.

Spirit, lift the welk to your ear,
mother of rivers our ancestors crossed,
distant enchantress of starlight, bend near.
Before Wehunsenacawh
stir your sandbar-twisting sinews from rest,
and help your peoples repel this new threat.
Sister of the west wind, return our land,
and smile again on the Algonquin tribes.
Fathomless child of all rivers, what have you brought us?
We receive from you our own tears,
and the tears you bring threaten to drown us.
Our trust is betrayed by our guests from the sky,
and behind their hands they mock our compacts.
Sister of the knife’s edge wind, retake our homes,
and grace our displaced peoples with your smile.
You who led by the hand our ancestors,
you routed whole nations that we might grow.
You spread the topsoil above the marshes
and protected all our streams and gardens,
and our alliance spanned great watersheds.
Ancient mountain passes bowed to our laws,
and densely we built among the great pines.
You gathered our strength all the way to the sea,
and up every river and stream to their roots.
Why have yo sundered Powhatan’s royal line
so that these passers-by pluck his daughter’s skirts?
The wild deer have stripped our homes of bark,
the wild rabbits and squirrels eat our stores.
Sister of the harrowing cold, come back,
turn your gaze from the scooting clouds and look,
if you even recognize your people,
the chieftans you once gave your blessing –
their holy places are burned down and wrecked,
and naked, their children perish at your touch.
Stretch your swift wings out to our refugees,
shelter the people you once called your own.
And we will not falter, drawing your breath.
Return to us all that we held in your name.
Sister of the raven’s wind, take us home.
Break open your secret smile between us.

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Filed under Poetry, Puppy love

Colin Farrell

For me being a Colin Farrell fan involved a lot of winking and at times, cognitive dissonance, because bad boys don’t ordinarily impress me, and he played his bad boy reputation up with every move until it was unsustainable. There was a cuteness to his being brazen, partly because his accent softens his profanity and also because he plays the kid in a candy shop card with women, instead of being cool. But that reputation and the decision not to conceal his tattoos in The New World made his performance as Captain Smith especially raw. This poem, originally about Smith, could as easily be about Colin.

How can love of beauty be so wrong, when it brings peace
to the soul like a reconciliation with the world?
Beauty in a man is unlike beauty in a child or in a woman,
men are strangers to the looks of sudden apprehension beauty brings.
Who is this man among his peers, handsome even in extremity?
In a strange land he is accepted as they are not,
but they find him impenetrable.
If he is not cowed by their reserve and has a steady gaze,
they may be led. But if he is a leader of men in his heart,
his dreams must be more beautiful,
as universal as his ideal form.
He could belong to them, and who could keep him?
Dreams change, but not for anyone. They have their own reasons.
Though they answer to the world they do not answer to the dreamer.
A dream may take a man from what he loves.
And of those who love him, dreams will speak to him as though they are still near.
The truth of beauty is an act of repetition.
Again and again and from every quarter it is acknowledged.
To which witness will the beautiful man be true?
The world must be at odds and he must choose.

Why do we love a rebel without a cause, an anarchist striving to be an atheist, a criminal and a rogue? “When religious and ethical formulae become so obsolete that no man of strong mind can believe them, they have also reached the point at which no man of high character will profess them; and from that moment until they are formally disestablished, they stand at the door of every profession and every public office to keep out every able man who is not a sophist or a liar.” – George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman

A poem I associate with Colin’s personality is “Growing Strong,” by a classicist poet of Alexandria named Cavafy. E.M. Forster discovered Cavafy in Egypt, but he has always been a fairly well kept secret. The poem, written in 1903, is translated from the Greek by Aliki Barnstone.

He who wishes to strengthen his spirit,
must abandon reverence and submission.
He will honor some laws,
but mostly he will break both law and custom,
and he will stray from the accepted, inadequate straight path.
He will be taught much by sensual pleasures.
He will not fear the destructive act;
half the house must be torn down.
This way he will grow virtuously toward knowledge.

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Filed under Dream Ensemble, Poetry