Barawatha: Epic of Epics

Our German translator JLH has employed his considerable poetic skills to pen this magnum opus about America’s Man for All Seasons — or for thirty-two of them, anyway, four per year for eight long years. Those are years we’ll never get back, but c’est la vie…

Epic of epics

By JLH, with respects to the great myth-maker, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

On the banks of old Potomac,
By the wide and flowing waters,
Lived for eight years Barawatha,
In the Whitest of all Houses,
In the fabled land of DeeSee,
In the land of wealth and madness.

Far had come our Barawatha,
From the lands of Kenyawahwah,
To the isles of Ho-No-Luau,
To the lands of Indo-Eastern
Where the minaret was calling,
Forming for him thoughts of music.

Then the trekking journey homeward,
From the lands of very Eastern,
Eastward to the lands of Western,
Stopping in the land of Luau,
Then on to the western province,
To the very western province
In the Land of Money-Talking,
In the Land of Let’s-Pretending,
In the Land of Mickey-Mousing,
Where for two short years he studied
The many mysteries of the Occident.

Now grown out of young and cuddly,
Into tall and lithe and handsome,
Soon to travel once more westward.
Like an arrow toward the coastline,
To the town of Robber Barons,
To the town of Spinach Popeye,
To the venerable institution,
Nestled in the worst of districts,
Covered in respect and ivy,
For another two years’ learning.

Leaving then that town of Commerce,
For the town of Slaughterhouses,
And the town of Drive-By Slaughter.
Learning, thinking, organizing,
Planning for a further future.

One last leap in education,
To a further northern Ivy,
In the land of cod and baked beans,
And of cabbage and of corned beef,
In the land of Cabots, Lodges,
And of many an upstart Irishman.

Here to study the queen of sciences —
Understand Left-Leaning Lawfare.
How to bring about the rescue
Of the nation from its bondage
To the thought of long-dead fellows
Who had never heard of Facebook
And refused to pay their taxes.

Back then to the town of stockyards,
Railroad trains and Smith and Wesson,
Back to organizing, teaching.
Thinking now of where the Law lives,
How it changes and who does it.

Cleverly and lightly then he
Trod the stepping stones to power.
Missed the first one, balanced quickly,
Reached another higher level.
Soon was sitting with his compères
In the senatorial chamber.
Grousing, grumbling and complaining,
At the state of the economy,
At the travails of the needy,
At the entire world of nations
Seeing us as their despoilers.
How did all this come to happen,
Under less than able leaders?
Now is time to change direction,
Make a difference, make some progress,
Down with capital exploitation!
Up with programs, programs, programs!

Now he saw, our Barawatha,
Saw his purpose, saw his future,
In the epic war yet coming
To decide with final judgment
What befits this nation’s hubris,
In its arrogance and profit,
In its overweening self-love.

And so to war with party elders,
Who dared believe that they could lead it,
’Til at last, the one remaining
Knew of old so many methods:
How to strike, but not appear to.
But this sly guerrilla fighting
Met a worthy equal talent.
Now the secret war was played out.
Secret armies boldly lying:
Now swarmed hordes of innuendo,
Swirling like an angry wasp cloud.
Nasty secrets, evil musings,
Flashed like lightning out of nowhere.
Swooped like owl upon the rabbit,
Cruised like shark beneath the swimmer.
Equal foes in secret warfare,
But not equals in appearance.
Tall and handsome, smooth and fluent —
Short and frumpy, shrieking shrilly.
It was, as they say, no contest.

Then the final round of conflict
With the party of the Stone Age,
With the party of the caveman.
And again the vivid contrast:
Tall and handsome, smooth and fluent —
Short and angry, incoherent.

So rose then our Barawatha
To the highest seat of power,
Smiling kindly on the faces —
All upturned to praise his coming,
Beaming joy, orgasmic welcome
At the savior of the nations,
At the god to us descended.
“Yes, I am the one awaited.”

To his bosom now he gathered,
All the helpers who could give him
Aid and comfort in his labors.
First the seer, Val Morgana,
Also called the Prexy-Whisperer;
Hitman Eric was the spearpoint,
Kept the troops and foes in order;
Propaganda Susan Goebbels,
“Say it well and do not doubt it”;
Consigliera Nan Pelosi,
“Once we pass it, we can read it”;
And thrusting up o’er swampy waters,
A Reid — a very old and sharp one.

Scarcely in the Oval Office,
Barely seated at the desk there,
Summoned by Swedish wise men
To receive great recognition,
Not for what was done already,
But for what was sure to happen.

Then back home to Land of DeeSee,
There to ask the crucial question:
Now what first needs his attention?
How to train this rude colossus
To join the nations of enlightened?

First the ruin now upon us,
From evil bankers, baneful brokers,
Having absolutely no connection
To that governmental couple —
Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae named.
Government could never, ever
Share the cause of such disaster!

Jobs are needed — a trillion dollars
And the jobs are shovel-ready!
Well, something may be shovel-ready,
But it’s not the jobs he mentioned.

Where’s the money, did it vanish?
It’s in the wind, you might well say it,
Rising over hills and flatlands,
Defying fiscal Don Quixotes,
And rising up to heights of eagles,
Who thus will meet the heavenly chopper.

Or in the solar, just as likely.
All arranged in bright reflection
To singe unwary lower flyers.

Mighty are the ways of humans.

This will also cut the carbon
Given off by evil engines
And, of course organic beings.
For the good of our environment,
Lower CO2 emissions.
Later mayhap, we’ll discover,
How to cut back on the oxygen.

Health insurance next expanding
So that e’en the poorest have it,
Paid by those who do not want it,
Even those who can’t afford it,
And now pay to not afford it.
It is challenged, adjudicated,
Through all the courts unto the highest,
Where the highest of all judges
Ponders deeply, thinking swiftly,
Making up his so-called mind then:
This is really not to punish —
It’s just one of many taxes.
Thus leading to the famous saying —
“Taxation with misrepresentation.”

Oh, what is justice, what is goodness?
Does it come from ancient papers?
Is it what will make us feel good?
Here begins a new accounting
Of the ancient dead conceptions —
Who is right and who is privileged?
Start with those who think they stand for
Law and Order — Nazi concept.
Law will now know whom to punish —
Ergo, those who think they rule us,
Who will now find their traditions
On the Socialistic ash heap.
Who belongs and who is outcast
Subtly alters as we watch it.
“Equality,” the age-old watchword,
Is “Reversal” — brand-new mantra.

Seeing now a house divided,
Calling forth his loyal legions,
Once more into the breach, my friends,
Let us try to make it wider.
With the power of disapproval,
If necessary, violence too,
We will give the force of law to
Punish words we do not like.
“Hate speech is not ever free speech,
And what is ‘hate’ we will decide.”

Next, of course, is open borders.
By the new interpretation
All the world has rights to enter.
Only those who think they live here,
In the end will be mistaken.
We are all the wide world’s oyster,
To be eaten on the half-shell.
Let them in. If you don’t like it,
Go live on some other planet.
To those who doubt it, or resist it,
Hear the voices of the wide world!
“Wir schaffen das!” and “Sí se puede!”
America is a can-do country.

In that wide world, Barawatha
Also travels, healing egos.
Except for England’s august monarch,
Respect is due to everyone.
Friendly chats in Western Europe,
The home, now, of Progressive thinking,
And bowing deep to Arab satraps.
Telling one and all who meet him:
We are not as you remember,
We are sorry we were prideful.
Now our leaders all are humble,
Wishing pardon for our bragging.

We are ready now to join you,
In your zeal to censure Zion.
Just because of Europe’s boycott
And the rockets overhead,
That’s no reason to talk nasty,
Implying anti-Semitism.

But open up your hearts still wider
For the desperate fleeing Africans,
Who are seeking peace and safety.
In their gratitude, they’ll show you
How they do things when at home.

In that wide world widely scattered,
Military here and there.
When we leave the war-torn places,
So we don’t seem impolite,
We will broadcast when we’re leaving,
Month and week and day and hour.
Meanwhile all the soldiers fighting
Will have stringent rules of conduct.
Shooting blameless armed civilians
Is a breach of martial code.
Do not shoot until you’re wounded.
Try to shoot before you die.

Iraq and Syria in tatters
In the so-called Arab Spring.
Suffering from benign neglecting.
We watch Ghaddafi being butchered,
And Ambassador Stevens, too,
“We came, we saw, and then we blundered,”
Leaving Libya to the brigands,
And the Brotherhood of Muslims,
Who in Egypt now take over.
Tyrant Mubarak is so tasteless —
Islamist tyrants are much better.
’Til some know-it-all destroys it,
Returns it to the ignorant people.

Do we need so many airplanes?
Sell the ones that do not fly.
Must the navy be expansive?
Even if it’s just the same size
That it was in 1920?
Funds are needed other places —
Unemployment for coal miners.
Who needs armies? We have feelings.

Celebrate our greatest triumph —
Taming terrorist Iran.
All it takes is some persuasion
And anything that they demand.
Somewhere in the mists of Hades
Neville Chamberlain sadly smiling.

From the breast of Barawatha
Comes a sigh of heartfelt sorrow
That eight years here have passed so quickly,
Even with a pen and phone.
Someone else has been elected,
And yet so much must be preserved.
All the fabric of our doing;
Warp and woof of what we’ve done.
Keep it from the hateful rippers,
Let not their fell attack begin.

You appointments to the lower courts
Get in touch with all your feelings.
You are now the first defenses
Against that thing, the Constitution.

Bureaucrats with buried secrets,
Loyalists, embedded deep.
Now’s the time for ululation,
Plaints and cries and derring-do,
Those who won are not the winners
And the losers did not lose.
Gird your loins and guard your smart phones,
Rise, oh Weathermen of DeeSee,
To blow some names to their perdition.
Throw a hundred thousand name bombs
From your bureaucratic foxholes.
Keep your place by smiling nicely,
Launching lethal, social pipe bombs.
Thus the leaver does not leave us,
Battle plans are underway now
And the war may still be won.
Unsuspecting, they will never
See the bureaucratic B2
’Til it blows their plans to dust.

And thus, as Browning might have phrased it:
“Childe Barawatha to the Dark State comes.”

12 thoughts on “Barawatha: Epic of Epics

  1. Very good!
    Writing in trochaic verse in English is very hard. Shakespeare found it was double, double, toil and trouble, 🙂 and kept away from it for the most part!

    • Great comment! For those who don’t follow poetry or have forgotten those difficult grammar school lessons, here’s the wiki:

      Notice that it uses the very poem JLH employed as his basis for this wonderful effort.

      This verse form (imho) was very useful in an illiterate age. It marches forth, DUMdaDUMdaDUMdaDUMda and that leads to a run-on DUM, so there is a smooth flow. Before cheap paper (after Islam destroyed Egyptian papyrus) memorizing long pieces became necessary…

      I’ve never heard of the Finnish piece they mention, but have always loved the way Philip Larkin used this to good effect in that haunting, horrific poem…it’s close to Dylan Thomas’ brooding style…

      • Thanks Dymphna! I was glad to read the wikipedia entry you referred to.

        I had not realized that Shakespeare used trochaic feet in Midsummer Night’s dream. Interestingly, all of the examples that are given from Shakespeare are three-and-a-half trochaic feet:

        DUM-dah DUM-da DUM-da DUM

        not the Trochaic Tetrameter of Haiawatha and Barawatha, and Philip Larkin’s The Explosion:

        DUM-dah DUM-da DUM-da DUM-da

        I’ve realized now that the witches song in Machbeth is a mix of both kinds of meter, the three-and-a-half trochaic feet, and the four trochaic feet.

        For me trochaic 4-meter has a very strange quality. It suggests TRANCE, and that it is going to go on forever, and has a tribal, archaic, primitive feel to it, and goes well with grim, though it does not have to be grim. If the words are grim, it accentuates that.

      • The Kalevala is the Finnish national epic; not that I’m an expert on the culture, but I am a classical music fan, and the Finns’ greatest composer, Sibelius, set passages from it, and wrote orchestral works inspired by it.

        • Your comment sent me off into the intertubes looking for more on Kalevala and the years it took to compile the (oral) verses from all over the country. The eventual publication of the work(s) led to a renewal of a widespread sense of Finnish unity…[I did my research while listening to “Finlandia”]

          Sibelius’ travails in composing the many parts of his “Kullervo” would make a good historical biography. No doubt one exists already…in Finnish.

          I didn’t know there is a tension between the Finnish Finns (whose name I’ve already forgotten) and the Swedish-leaning Finns. Again, cultural differences that lead to conflict – even leaving Russia and Estonia out of it. While I’ve been aware for some time of the ‘unique’ nature of Finland, reading so much about it made me realize again how little we can know of others…

  2. I remember the original
    from an English Lit class long past,
    the haunting meter, and the shrill bombast.
    They would ride ever roughshod
    over iambic and pentameter alike
    in contemptuous disdain
    of lyrical expression we are wont to cite.

  3. Could JLH use his poetic skills to show that it’s possible to write, in English, poetry with the same rhythms and rhymes found in the Arabic version of the Koran? And perhaps cook up an amusing pastiche?

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