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Daedalus in Exile

James Hercules Sutton;2032723 said:
Here's one.

[The trick is to get into character, "negative capability."]

Daedalus in Exile.


At first, this island with its strange religion
allowed me almost to enjoy my exile.
I built its Labyrinth, whose technical decisions
engaged some of my talents for awhile.
There was some satisfaction in my knowing
that I ranked high within the king's esteem.
The courtiers’ reports of me were glowing;
I was the one perfecting public schemes.
But as the years went by, I grew more weary
of living with an island’s limitations.
The isolation here makes people leery
of fires within the spark of inspiration.
This is no place for those who can create.
An exile here can’t be my final fate.


They are not excellent. They live for war
or war conducted by another means,
which they call “trade.” Forever wanting “more,”
they carry this religion to extremes.
A labyrinth was needed, for example,
to counter arrogance & royal greed:
In lieu of sacrifice, their Royal sampled
improvement to his herd through thoughtless deed.
So venial a venial explains their ways:
They do not dare enough. Stability
is what they yearn for, slow unchanging days—
with labyrinths for their monstrosities.
Whatever art I give won’t be enough,
because their applications are corrupt.

In thirty years, I’ve seen them all transformed
from recklessly demanding to be free
to worshiping a god who is deformed,
whom they embrace for his deformity.
Deeds without feeling now control their lives.
That will suffice as answer. They grow hard.
Some beat their children; others kill their wives.
From families, dominions, foreign parts,
their king demands increasing sacrifice.
A kingdom, like a ship, may deviate
when stars are missed for lack of some device;
but “lack” cannot explain this kingdom's fate.
They have the best of ev’rything, yet sail
into a fog, because their eyesight fails.


They live now to get by, not to get on.
They manage risk instead of taking risk.
They do not see how doing this is wrong.
Ships without headway make their sailors sick.
Not that they sink to pleasure: They’re austere
& do the best they can: raise cries to God,
pray for a strong defense, live to revere
prosperity, just gover’ment, good laws.
Mere righteousness that will not graft to love
engenders only trees with bitter fruit.
A time will come when those who stand above
will haff to set a course & brave the truth.
A ship without direction cannot be;
a bitter fruit is useless, endlessly.

I’m weary of these faces I must see
day after day. I can’t abide their power.
They’ve shut me up, in perpetuity.
Living with islanders makes living sour.
Always the same old stories, ev’ry night.
What they call “comedy” bores me to tears;
they never get the ancient stories right.
Day after day, they stuff wool in their ears.
As far as I can tell, it bores them, too.
Why they put up with it I'll never know;
unless they think there's nothing they can do—
which makes them prisoners. But I can go.
I can be free, because I dare to dream
& have the wit to perpetrate a scheme.


He’ll never let me go. I know his plan;
the secret of his labyrinth is mine.
But I will go. I’ll fly to my own land
& leave him & his arrogance behind.
His children will betray him. I must go,
before he tries to heap his guilt on me.
But he controls the sea. Invention knows
the sky is where escape will have to be.
I’ll fashion some perpetual device
that lifts me & my son beyond this ground.
Art need not suffer endlessly through life
that shows discomfort when art is around.
My exile here is over; two shall leave.
I wonder what else Fate has up Their sleeves.

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James Hercules Sutton
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