Friday, August 20, 2010

Spew out the Mettal which hath so inqinated and invenom’d both Body and Soul

de las Casas: A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies

I have been researching pirates, pirate lore, and the history of ocean exploration in the Renaissance in preparation for a work of fiction that I am planning.

I've been reading various books on piracy and history, A Brief Account of the Destruction of the Indies by Bartolome de las Casas (1474-1566), Stevenson's Treasure Island, and Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini. I've also been listening to the CD compilation "Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys," which includes many contemporary artists' renditions of traditional songs.

De las Casas contemporaneous account of the genocide of the natives of the Caribbean contains many extraordinary passages of brutality told in remarkably vivid language. Mostly, the Spanish are committing the violence, there is, however, this passage describing a rare moment when the natives, with grim irony attack the Spanish:

for when they had taken some of them Prisoners (which was rarely) they bound them head and foot, laid them on the ground, and then pouring melted Gold down their Throats, cried out and called to them aloud in derision, yield, throw up thy Gold O Christian Vomit and spew out the Mettal which hath so inqinated and invenom’d both Body and Soul, that thath stain’d and infected thy mind with desires and contrivances, and thy hands with Commission of such matchless Enormities.

As I research and plan, various ideas for poetry spring up. Here is one such example.


the sea is an aphorism
a drowning man that cannot see ocean for the waves
or more practically, the sky for water
a ship that passes by itself in memory only
how can the future find the past?

memory is a kind of ballast
dawn holding dark to the horizon
these words begin at one point in the story
but end in another

the sailor recalls
how a sword makes its own scabbard
when it enters a man’s bowels
death birthing its own sheath
from the living

the ocean a scabbard for drowning
a distant star a distant star

the sea has no surprise endings
and no beginnings
the sea dogs the sea dogs
waves turning twice, then collapsing on the sand

forgiveness forgives
an unknown island
something priceless hidden
beneath the sand

the horizon only horizon
the distance itself a kind of wave


Pearl said...

Booty: Hurricane Jane and Typhoon Mary from Mercury comes to mind.

Pearl said...
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gary barwin said...

Hi Pearl,

Thanks. I've heard them read from it. I had been planning on getting the book to add to my piratical reading. Thanks for the reminder, though.