Sunday, September 18, 2011

Chanson de mer

I am the rock.

I am the island.

I am the glistening boulder at the waterline.

I am the sharp-edged, flinty fragment,

          tossed by the blue-green surge,

                    scattered by the stinging wind,

          collected once, and dropped, by a child.

I am the ancient stratum exposed to the faintly salty air.

I am the blunt face of the heaved-up, broken stone,

           I am the silent witness to the everlasting crash and song of the sea,
                    I stand against the tumbling, roiling crests that

                              dash to me,

                    break on me,

                              climb my height,

                    die at my foot,

                              and rise, vaulting, surging, crashing, singing,

          to grandly break on me again, again…
                              the lyric, rhythms, chords the same as at the last or next millennial dawn.

I am the rock, the sea endlessly sings to me.

Good, enough.



Sep 15, 2011

Richard Carl Subber

Beavertail State Park in Jamestown
Conanicut Island
Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island

Friday, September 9, 2011

Book review: “Cleopatra: A Life” by Stacy Schiff

This is a Pulitzer Prize winner, published in 2010 by Little, Brown and Company, NYC

The political action, sad to say, is all too familiar….and, well, a caveat, I’m writing a partial review because I haven’t finished the book yet. My point in offering these early comments is simply to emphasize the context that Schiff describes: entirely recognizable governmental and organizational failures/corruption were pervasive in Cleopatra's Egypt, and they are easily described and understood in modern terms.

Venal bureaucrats “walked like an Egyptian” …you wouldn’t have had to search too long or too hard in Alexandria circa 50 BC to find one. You say “no surprise”? Well, of course, no surprise.

The Egyptian empire governed by Cleopatra was notoriously and vastly bureaucratized, and possibly the most significant enabling factor was the rich productivity of the Nile delta, renewed (almost) annually by the life-giving flood of the Nile. At the time, this stupefying agricultural abundance fed not only Egypt but also Rome, hence one factor in motivating the famous attentions of Caesar and Marc Antony to the affairs in Egypt, and they included Cleopatra.

The riches of Egypt created an almost failsafe environment for heedless waste and mismanagement without fatal consequences—and also corruption at a level that everyone with any say in the matter could easily tolerate. Cleopatra, and her siblings and forebears, in the Ptolemaic dynasty were divinely in charge, with no effective restraint except the occasional Roman legion or two, and Rome was easily bought off. There was more than enough booty to go around for all who could claim a share.

At the time, there were persistent royal proclamations urging the ideal “good official” to be “vigilant, upright, a beacon of goodwill.” These were perhaps well-intentioned but wholly ineffective. There was too much booty to be had and insufficient penalty for taking more than one’s decent share. And the people of Cleopatra’s Egypt? These were descendants of the people who perhaps willingly labored to build the pyramids, these were people who thought Cleopatra was a god, these were people who believed in the everlasting rectitude of the dynastic and religious hierarchies that manifestly benefited a tiny elite…why did the people embrace all of that?

Cleopatra is a good read… might have to remind yourself from time to time that none of it was written by Gordon Gekko……


Gekko’s ‘greed is good” speech:

Here is the author’s web site, and some reviews published in 2010 when the book was released:

Copyright © Richard Carl Subber 2011 All rights reserved.