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Literature made easy, I think.

ULYSSES BY THE MERLION

ULYSSES BY THE MERLION (for Maurice Baker)
Edwin Thumboo

I have sailed many waters,
Skirted islands of fire,
Contended with Circe
Who loved the squeal of pigs;
Passed Scylla and Charybdis
To seven years with Calypso,
Heaved in battle against the gods.
Beneath it all
I kept faith with Ithaca, travelled,
Travelled and travelled,
Suffering much, enjoying a little;
Met strange people singing
New myths; made myths myself.

But this lion of the sea
Salt-maned, scaly, wondrous of tail,
Touched with power, insistent
On this brief promontory…
Puzzles.

Nothing, nothing in my days
Foreshadowed this
Half-beast, half-fish,
This powerful creature of land and sea.

Peoples settled here,
Brought to this island
The bounty of these seas,
Built towers topless as Ilium’s.

They make, they serve,
They buy, they sell.

Despite unequal ways,
Together they mutate,
Explore the edges of harmony,
Search for a centre;
Have changed their gods,
Kept some memory of their race
In prayer, laughter, the way
Their women dress and greet.
They hold the bright, the beautiful,
Good ancestral dreams
Within new visions,
So shining, urgent,
Full of what is now.

Perhaps having dealt in things,
Surfeited on them,
Their spirits yearn again for images,
Adding to the dragon, phoenix,
Garuda, naga those horses of the sun,
This lion of the sea,
This image of themselves.

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Filed under: All poetry, Singaporean Literature,

2 Responses

  1. […] “Ulysses by The Merlion (For Maurice Baker)” by Edwin Thumboo […]

  2. gwpj says:

    Reblogged this on What I write and commented:
    A well-known poem by Singaporean poet and scholar Edwin Thumboo, whom I first met in a book he edited “& Words: Poems Singapore and Beyond,” which I reviewed for the “Asiatic Literary Journal” several years ago. This poem is perhaps his best known of all his poems.

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