Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trans-Atlantic Poetry (Navy Memorial Metro)

Two poems are inscribed all the wall in part of Ocean Piece, an artwork by Jorge Martin (1995). As far as I can tell, the artwork honors trans-Atlantic navigation and exploration. On the left (Western?) side of the artwork is an excerpt from Walt Whitman's poem "The Prayer of Columbus." The lines read:

All my emprises have been fill’d with Thee, 
My speculations, plans, begun and carried on in thoughts of Thee, 
Sailing the deep, or journeying the land for Thee; 
Intentions, purports, aspirations mine—leaving results to Thee.
O I am sure they really come from Thee! 
The urge, the ardor, the unconquerable will, 
The potent, felt, interior command, stronger than words, 
A message from the Heavens, whispering to me even in sleep, 
These sped me on.
By me, and these, the work so far accomplish’d (for what has been, has been); 
By me Earth’s elder, cloy’d and stifled lands, uncloy’d, unloos’d; 
By me the hemispheres rounded and tied—the unknown to the known. 

On the right (Eastern?) side of the sculpture - across a gentle bulge, which seems to me to evoke an ocean wave - is an excerpt from "Occident," a work by the Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. These lines read:

With two hands - Deed and Fate
We have unveiled in the same gesture, one
Raises the flickering and divine torch
While the other draws the veil aside.

Whether the hour was ripe or it owned
The hand that tore the Western veil,
Science was the soul and Audacity the body
Of the hand that unveiled it.

Whether the hand rose the glittering torch
Out of Fortune, Will or Tempest,
God was the soul and Portugal the body
Of the hand that bore it.

This artwork was a gift from the Lisbon Subway to the DC Metro (see this website for more). The oceanic and transportation-themed artwork is indeed fitting for its location: the Navy Memorial metro station.

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