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Thursday, 29 July 2010

The Emperor's Attendant


File:USS West Virginia;014824.jpg

The Persian emperor who had once been defeated in battle by Athens now required an attendant to accompany him at all times, to help him combat fatigue and discouragement and restore his taste for battle by murmuring night and day, "Lord, remember the Athenians." The mere words were enough to awaken the old feeling. This custom of the emperor persisted long after his reasons for going to war with the Athenians had faded from his mind. But his distaste for conflict remained a secret known only to his loyal attendant, who was forever whispering into his ear the prescribed urgings. The emperor seldom slept, the attendant even more rarely.

A new campaign began but the emperor barely noticed, for him things continued as they had been. Even when the fever of battle was sweeping over everyone around him, he felt himself strangely detached, as if standing, fully dressed in his battle armour, his bright war pennants unfurled brilliantly before him, well apart.

Then one night when a ground fog had crept over the camp, the tents were enveloped in silence, and the distant fires of the Athenians could hardly be made out through the mists that cloaked everything -- or, perhaps, it may have been on a night at sea in the Straits that this happened, and it was the distant lights of the enemy ships that were dimmed -- a peaceful moment befell the contending armies -- or fleets.

And the emperor's attendant drifted off to sleep.

It was as if something within the world had shifted, in that moment. There then prevailed a period of peace between the Persians and the Athenians.

File:Attack on Pearl Harbor Japanese planes view.jpg

US Navy sailors in motor launch rescue a survivor alongside the sunken battleship USS West Virginia during the Japanese raid at Pearl Harbor, 7 December, 1941: photo by US Navy
Torpedo exploding on USS Wast Virginia at Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941, seen from attacking Japanese plane: photo by Japanese Navy Ministry


Anonymous said...

just heard on a national news tv show that:

"it may be that the firemen who were fighting the (initial) explosion/blaze MIGHT have actually caused the platform to sink (..)"


here come the lawyers!

TC said...

I GUESS I get the connection....

I have a feeling maybe lawyers caused the platform to sink.

(Here bloggers are supposed to make fun punctuation thingies, I think, to show the tone is meant to be humouresque. I've never learned those.)

From the first minute the pointing of the fingers created a crossfire of guilt and blame transferred and misplaced and directed and redirected that seemed to demand a neural rewiring on the massive scale in order to take it all in.

"Offshore drilling opposition likely a temporary blip," says Tom Fowler of Hearst Newspapers Syndicated, on this bleak tern grey morning.

Here we go again...

Anonymous said...

ever notice that 99.44%
of ALL of our "trusted" ""Leaders" are l.a.w.a.y.e.r.s/and/constipational Scholars and they all have more university credentials than out Poets


I fail to see ANY-thing phunny in punctuation or in politics or in re:ligion; or in Political Correctness

pee est I don't have a blog nor intend to... I yet write letters... remember letters?

TC said...

Letters are tres belles.

But I wonder, do you sign yours?

I don't know about you, but these days I'm finding anonymity a serious obstacle to honest two-way internet communication.

Anyway, not that it apparently matters overmuch to anyone else, I actually had in mind, with this post, some things not specifically related to the BP disaster.

But... if the shoe fits the platform, I guess.

Curtis Roberts said...

I love your photo-bracketed dream fable. I wish things like this really happened. Seeing the Pearl Harbor photos (both of them new ones to me, but like most people of "my generation", I certainly grew up on photos like this, filmed documentaries, WWII movies and the anecdotes of people who lived through the war) makes me wonder what thoughts occurred to the original photographers of war. My almost 13-year old daughter knows nothing about any of this. Apart from what her mother and I have tried to teach her, all of these historical references have been completely excluded from her education (which is nonetheless heavily and rigidly politically focused) and the entertainment she is presented. Some lawyers do have a lot to answer for, but it's a complicated subject and not one-dimensional.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

I understand the current Persian emperor, from a different hemisphere, has close advisers, too.

This probably has even less to do with your topic than the BP spill but I always find Krishna's advice to Arjuna to be so absolutely terrifying in the Bhagavad-gita. These pictures, their portent and resonance, recall that fear, as one looks out over the battlefield of one's brothers and cousins and friends.

Of course, such is the struggling, the suffering, the plight ...

TC said...


That lawyer joke was too lame for words, I don't know why I wasted any on it. Anonymous's sweeping generalization provoked a flippant banana peel of a response.

The whole issue of historical accountability, guilt, responsibility, blame is obviously so tangled. I'd been reading Rebecca West on the Nuremberg Trials. It reminded me that actual human beings, often petty and venal ones, originate much of what we think of as history, and from their acts, it seems, whole grand trains of evil can follow as if by some inevitable (and insane) momentum.

The fact that Jane is not taught this history in school is very, very sad. The old saw about history repeating itself...

Sometimes it seems there is no cultural memory any more.


"...portent and resonance, recall that fear, as one looks out over the battlefield of one's brothers and cousins and friends..."

That describes the meditations out of which this post grew. I've been revisiting that period leading up to and just after Pearl Harbor in memory and imagination.

The sense is that wars proceed from fixed ideas.

Curtis Roberts said...

Hi. I didn't take the lawyer comments too seriously. From my point of view, in terms of societal esteem, it's been all downhill for the profession since Watergate when we were treated to the sight of all those lawyers going to jail. And since then, we've had two presidents become disbarred lawyers, which is more than dispiriting. At least one was Republican and the other was Democrat, so some sort of universal balance was maintained. The way Jane has been taught history and literature up to this point is entirely agenda-driven and extremely troubling to me. At some point, however, I expect she'll be able to break free and have an opportunity to resurvey the landscape and make up her own mind.

Elmo St. Rose said...

we all know what Shakespeare
said about the lawyers...but the
common man needs the law.

as for the emperor's attendant
it might very well be the electorate for Pres.Obama, who I
believe would really not like to
be in Afghanistan.

As for the Japs in WWII who are
our Japanese friends now,cultural
relativism and historical political correctness ought to consider
besides Pearl Harbor...the Rape of
Nan King...the Battan Death March
all of which occurred before Hiroshima

I bring this up because unlike
the Emperor of the United States
the electorate has enough sense
to realize that there are those
who wish a nuclear attack on Infidels just because we are and
and the thousand year old Buddhist
statues the Taliban destroyed because they were are a stones throw from Pakistan's nuclear arsenal...

"History" said James Joyce "is a
nightmare from which I am trying
to awake" History can be painful
if it is not taught,which it is not,eventually there will be more
nightmares in the present.

The forum of this blog takes place
in part in TC's historical memory.
TC in addition to being a poet is
also an historian....see The World
of Damon Runyon, The Exile of Celine, the bio of Charles Olson,
Allegory of a Poet, etc.

The Irish among others who know
their history know that history
is nightmare from which we are
trying to the way
did the Brits ever apologize for
the Potato Famine?