This poem appears in the Summer 2015 issue of Modern Age. To subscribe now, go here.
Seated on a bare rock, I watch the waves
Which splash upon it in thick coming drops
Laden with memories of the distant past.
By these Mediterranean shores, Ulysses
Sailed, defying allurements and the gods,
Phoenicians founded cites, plied their trade,
The fleets of Rome and Egypt clashed, Lepanto
Saw Turks and Christians fight for world empire.
The blue Mediterranean nowadays
Is starred with boats and rafts about to sink
With human creatures flying from Africa
In deluded hope of deliverance
From famine, misery, sickness, tyranny.
Its streams, declared by Shelley crystalline,
Wash their carcasses in their coils, together
With the dead fish and dolphins human greed,
Cruelty and carelessness yearly create.
Robert Ellrodt is emeritus professor of English literature at the Sorbonne (Paris 3). He has published many books on Renaissance and Romantic poetry, notably Seven Metaphysical Poets.