To the Western World

By Louis Simpson 1923–2012 Louis Simpson
A siren sang, and Europe turned away
From the high castle and the shepherd’s crook.   
Three caravels went sailing to Cathay
On the strange ocean, and the captains shook   
Their banners out across the Mexique Bay.

And in our early days we did the same.   
Remembering our fathers in their wreck
We crossed the sea from Palos where they came   
And saw, enormous to the little deck,   
A shore in silence waiting for a name.

The treasures of Cathay were never found.   
In this America, this wilderness
Where the axe echoes with a lonely sound,   
The generations labor to possess
And grave by grave we civilize the ground.

Louis Simpson, “To the Western World” from The Owner of the House: New Collected Poems 1940-2001. Copyright © 2003 by Louis Simpson. Reprinted with the permission of BOA Editions, Ltd., www.boaeditions.org.

Source: Collected Poems (BOA Editions Ltd., 1988)

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Poet Louis Simpson 1923–2012

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects History & Politics, Social Commentaries

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

 Louis  Simpson

Biography

Poet, editor, translator, and critic Louis Simpson was born in 1923, in Jamaica, to Scottish and Russian parents. A contemporary of Confessional poets like Robert Lowell, John Berryman, and Sylvia Plath, Simpson’s early work followed a familiar arc. In the New York Times Book Review, critic David Orr noted its highlights: “Simpson has followed a path lined with signposts sunk so deep in our nation's poetic terra firma that . . .

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SUBJECT History & Politics, Social Commentaries

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Rhymed Stanza

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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