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Poetry: History

 

Demosthenes

It hardly matters that I was right:
my rhetoric was acclaimed, but
nothing was done.  First Phillip, then
his lightening-bold son, then, after
some time, the admiring Romans, took
our ports, and our gods, bought
our teachers, and ignored our lessons.

Like Parmenides, they mistook rhetoric
for reality, named virtues for
the hard discipline of living in
the polis.
            The polis, a manageable home
for curious men, eradicated for
one thousand years, surfaced in the ruins
of Magnae Graecia, then drowned, finally,
in  your nation-states.  Who among you
can know:  the liberty to explore is not
the right to conquer.              Pah!

And still, in obscure academies, men,
speaking tongues at odds, learn mine,
admire my arguement, and serve
hungry emperors and vast states ruled
by Philosopher-Kings.          Pah!
They learn what they need from me:
it hardly matters that I was right.
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