.

I’ve battled beside Gilgamesh, the Bull
Of Heaven slain by us. I’ve fought beside
Achilles, hot beside a burning hull,
And watched as Agamemnon, captured, died.
With Oedipus I’ve lost my vital eyes
With insight gained, avoiding my own lies.

I’ve been to Hades too with Gilgamesh,
Again with Dionysus, Heracles,
With Hermes, Orpheus, yes in the flesh
With brave Odysseus, and it may please
You too to know I’ve been there by myself,
Led there by Nietzsche, unlike Dante left
Alone, unguided, virtually bereft.

I’ve argued here and there with Plato, fought
With Socrates and Aristotle, gained
In insight beside Adam Smith, and thought
With Nietzsche and Aquinas, became strained
With existentialists, romanticists,
And felt that Marx, Rousseau deserved my fists.

With Sundiata I fought with a king
To gain his country back. And then I danced
With Ame-no-uzume, danced to bring
The sun out of her cave. I’ve held a lance
With Launcelot and Don Quixote, stole
With Jean Valjean and with him became whole.

I’ve fought in France the Revolution, stood
Against the tyrant king. I fought in Russia
Against the French invaders, too. The good
I argued long with Kant on walks through Prussia,
Discussed duality in paradox
With Lao Tzu, who turned into a fox.

I’ve lived ten thousand lives ten thousand years,
I’ve been both men and women, straights and gays,
Lived ten thousand cultures and shed more tears
And laughed more laughs than you have lived your days.
You think of all these lives with only scorn?
This world did not begin when you were born.

.

.

Troy Camplin is a fiction writer, poet, and playwright living with his wife and three children in Richardson, TX. He studied poetry under Frederick Turner at UT-Dallas. He is the author of the novellas Hear the Screams of the Butterfly, a work of philosophy titled Diaphysics, several poems, short stories, scholarly papers, and book chapters published. His play Almost Ithacad won first place at the HUB Theater’s Cyberfest playwriting festival.


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4 Responses

  1. Norma

    I think it has the same concept of Whitman’s poem There Was A child who went forth and everything he saw he became.

    Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    This is an interesting idea for a poem, but tell me, what haven’t you done? (Just kidding; I get that the narrator is Tradition personified.) The very last line packs a punch and brings the whole rest of the poem into perspective. Meanwhile, here I sit, repeating the history from (and of) which I have not learned.

    Reply
  3. David Paul Behrens

    This reminds me of a song written in the 1940’s by Woody Guthrie, who spent a few years living in Pampa, Texas. Putting politics and grammar aside, it uses a similar concept.

    Biggest Thing That Man Has Ever Done (AKA: The Great Historical Bum)

    I’m just a lonesome traveler, The Great Historical Bum.
    Highly educated, from history I have come.
    I built the Rock of Ages, ’twas in the year of one.
    And that was about the biggest thing that man had ever done.

    I worked in the Garden of Eden, that was the year of two,
    Joined the apple picker’s union, I always paid my due.
    I’m the man that signed the contract to raise the rising sun,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man had ever done.

    I was straw boss on the Pyramids, the Tower of Babel too;
    I opened up the ocean, let the migrant children through.
    I fought a million battles and I never lost a one,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man had ever done.

    I beat the daring Roman, I beat the daring Turk,
    Defeated Nero’s army with thirty minutes work.
    I fought the greatest leaders and I licked them, everyone,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man had ever done.

    I stopped old Caesar’s Romans and I stopped the Kubla Khan;
    I took but half an hour’s work to beat the Pharaoh’s bands;
    I knocked old Kaiser Bill flat, then I dumped the bloody Huns,
    And that’s about the biggest thing that man had ever done.

    I was in the Revolution when we set the country free;
    Me and a couple of Indians, we dumped the Boston tea;
    We won the battle of Valley Forge, the battle of Bully Run,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    Next we won the slavery war, some other folks and me,
    And every slave from sea to sea was all turned loose by me.
    I divorced old Madam slavery and I wed this Freedom dame,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    And then I took to farming in the great midwestern plain;
    The dust it blowed a hundred years, but never come a rain.
    Well, me and a million other fellas left there on the run,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    I climbed the rocky canyon where the Columbia River rolls,
    Seen the salmon leaping the rapids and the falls,
    The big Grand Coulee Dam in the State of Washington
    Is just about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    There’s a building in New York that you call the Empire State,
    I rode the rods to ‘Frisco to walk the Golden Gate.
    I’ve seen every foot of film Hollywood has run,
    But Coulee is the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    Three times the size of Boulder or the highest pyramid,
    Makes the Tower of Babel a plaything for a kid.
    From the rising river to the setting sun,
    The Coulee is the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    There was a man across the ocean, I guess you know him well,
    His name was Adolph Hitler, goddamn his soul to hell;
    We kicked him in the panzers and put him on the run,
    And that was about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    I’m living with my freedom wife in this big land we built;
    It takes all forty eight states for me to spread my guilt.
    Our kids are several million now, they run from sun to sun
    And that’s about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    I built mines and mills and factories to run for Uncle Sam;
    I turned the ploughs and wheels to feed my soldiers in your lands.
    This Nazi job’s a tough one, it’ll take us, everyone,
    ‘Cause this is about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    There’s warehouse guys and teamsters and guys that skin the cats,
    Guys that run my steel mills, my furnace and my blast.
    We’ll stop the Axis rattlesnakes and thieves of old Nippon,
    And that will be the the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    I’d better quit my talking, ’cause I told you all I know
    But please remember, pardner, wherever you may go,
    The people are building a peaceful world, and when the job is done,
    That’ll be the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    I better quit my talking, now, I told you all I know,
    But please remember, pardner, wherever you may go,
    I’m older than your old folks and I’m younger than the young,
    And I’m about the biggest thing that man has ever done.

    Reply

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