Canto 14: The New World

The barbarians are to arrive today

C.P Cavafy


Death of Morad

The Mamluk may have driven Mongol back,
But Islam still quivers for grammercy,
Hashassin forts crush’d neath a fresh attack,
Then Araby, up to the Grecian sea;
Such victories
Have crippl’d Kings with fear,
Miscarried pregnancies as Morad’s armies near.

In Xanadu’s lush pleasure dome
He met the great Khan, Kubla,
“Good captain, welcome to my home,
What’s mine must be your pleasure,
When ye have done traverse the foam,
Launching from Korea
An invincible fleet of invasion
& put to sleep these sheeplings of Nippon.”

See supra-strobile typhoon blow,
Lucky kamikaze:
Minamoto Tamatono
Shoots arrows cross the sea,
& slices open Morad’s throat… he chokes in agony.

Japan
1274


Crusader Sunset

The Mamluk Sultan shares the spoils of war;
From Cairo, beehive of the Muslim sphere,
His horsemen rode, & the Levantine shore
Was port-by-port broken upon the spear;
Christ’s foremost hymns
Silenced by Mahomet,
Leaves scaphelated limbs & driven deep regret.

From Nazareth to Tripoli,
Thro’ Haifa & Ceasara,
Acres of Christianity
Ever shrinking area,
As Giaour gains his victory –
Antioch & Acre –
The western world back to the west is sent,
The course of Holy Wars a war-horse spent.

Throughout mankind once more hath sprung
The love of lands for gain,
When kings were young, when songs were sung
To add to his domain
As would Edward Plantagent in Prince Llewellyn’s reign.

Gwynned
1291


Medievals

Grown sick of Crusades, & their crimson gods
The English crown content to claim the Scots,’
First Wallace then The Bruce defy the odds,
A Scotiad defying Longshanks’ plots;
A turn of tide,
Funded by parliament
The Saxon sailors glide down to the Continent

Where feed they King Edward the Third,
Chevaucheing Picardy,
Whose revolutions fate deffer’d
To the hamlet of Crecy,
His yeomen launch a brutal bird,
Murderous arrowrie
Forms over fields, & falling on the French,
Warfare hath moderniz’d with murd’rous wrench.

As longbow & ribauldequin
Their poor foes decimate,
The kings begin to sense the spin
Of roulette wheels of fate,
Prowess is not important whence from distance death dost wait.

Europe
1346


Ottoman Empire

The Seljuk Sultans have long warfare won –
From Marmora to Anatolia
All fawn before the ultimate sultan,
This Turkestani chief now emperor!
Europe aghast,
Greece forms a falcon host,
Byzantium bypass’d, Turk storms the Balkan coast.

Thro Thessalonika & Thrace
Thrive the Bey & Pasha brown,
Anguish’d tarnish’d, the Serb disgrace
Mighty Macedon knock’d down,
All Bulgars put in sunless place
While Islam wins renown,
Inflicting fear within each Latin court,
An invisible serpent at the throat.

The Plain of Blackbirds hosts the duel
To end the Balkan war,
The day runs cruel, the Sultan’s rule
Thro Europe’s corner tore –
Beyond, kings live in luxury, but wolves growl at the door.

Albania
1389


Rise of Moscow

From squabbling fractions of the Mongol zone
Noblity clings to the Golden Horde,
Keeping the Russian prince firm on his throne
Beneath the cushion’d presses of a sword;
Cunning masters
Of realpolitik,
Centralising taxes thro royal rhetoric.

As slavic leaders unified
To secure their native soil,
One drifted to the other side,
Determin’d to stay loyal,
Asian might aiding Ivan’s ride,
This folly fierce to foil –
For in the ruins of Novogorod
He dedicates his victory to god.

Respectful of this loyalty
The Duke of Vladamir
Made royalty, thro Muscovy
His palaces appear,
Ordain’d to rule a wilderness stretching to Korea.

Russia
1392


Teutonica

As when a lover lusts with wanton arms,
Or when the pilgrim years for sainted bone,
& thinkers first hear of the desert’s charms,
Or when in Arthur’s chest the Grailquest grown;
Bright knights advance,
Their destiny releas’d
Into the vast expanse that is the slavic East.

The swordbrothers did first remove
Baltic tribesmen from Prussia,
Then caught in an annual groove
Fortify the Vistula,
Better in mettle did they prove
Oer Lithuania –
But by battle’s bouncebackability
Pagans ally with Poland’s proud army,

Whom on a day amid the lakes,
Administer defeat –
The white wave breaks, what anguish aches,
Too proud to call retreat,
Charges the doom’d Grandmaster, ‘Drang nach Osten’ incomplete.

Tannenburg
1403


The Fall of Constantinople

As panting deer outpace the panther’s claws,
Then sleep where wolves oft meet in company,
The Ottoman clamps down his drooling jaws
Upon outposted Christianity;
Eighty thousand
Gore-grizzl’d warriors,
Encamp upon the sand kissing soft Bosphorous.

As cannon swallow gunpowder,
Spitting out destructive balls,
Such a clamour ripples louder
From the beaches neath the walls,
Scenes of sorry death enshroud her,
Byzantium she falls –
As Janissaries slew the last Ceasar,
Crescent flags command the Kerkoporta.

Leaving the Sultan to his prize
The Genoese flee,
The local wisemen realize
Passage to Italy,
Leaving a city changing name, shaming its history!

Istanbul
1453


New Spain

Not knowing world empire was theirs’ to sire
Fair Isobel promised to Fernando,
With passion elevating cannonfire,
Grenada soon falls neath their combined blow;
United land
Centred upon Castille,
Chief of the bible brand with homicidal zeal.

From Genoa Columbus came
From Cadiz his fleet set sail,
The lure of spice, the lust for fame
Thro that mission did prevail,
Each sunset ‘rison flash’d aflame
Or brooded on a gale,
‘Til verging on murderous mutiny
Thin verdant sliver parted sky & sea.

“I claim this place for regal Spain,”
A flag thrust in the rocks,
“This pleasant rain must grow our grain
& feed our teeming flocks,”
On board a sickly sailor breaths out death-streams of smallpox.

America
1492


India

With Ottoman monopolising trade
Tween Occident & spicy Orient,
A fresh attempt to reach the east is made,
Vasco de Gama sailing on the scent;
On him god smiles,
The sea of storms was calm,
Pass’d many ocean miles with hardly an alarm.

Landing at ruby Kerala
Saraswhati on her plinth,
Gold traded for thymimia,
Pepper, amethyst, jacinth,
From gorgeous gardens of Goa
Extracted hyacinth,
There leaving soldiers to secure the vine
The fleet twice cross’d the equinoctal line.

& reciev’d a royal welcome
Lining the Lisbon shore,
Sum-after-sum a vast income
Pass’d thro de Gama’s door
For now defenders of the faith are loving Mammon more.

Portugal
1500

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