Cassandra
Edwin Arlington Robinson

I heard one who said: "Verily,
 What word have I for children here?
Your Dollar is your only Word,
 The wrath of it your only fear.

"You build it altars tall enough
 To make you see, but you are blind;
You cannot leave it long enough
 To look before you or behind.

"When Reason beckons you to pause,
 You laugh and say that you know best;
But what it is you know, you keep
 As dark as ingots in a chest.

"You laugh and answer, `We are young;
 O leave us now, and let us grow.' --
Not asking how much more of this
 Will Time endure or Fate bestow.

"Because a few complacent years
 Have made your peril of your pride,
Think you that you are to go on
 Forever pampered and untried?

"What lost eclipse of history,
 What bivouac of the marching stars,
Has given the sign for you to see
 Millenniums and last great wars?

"What unrecorded overthrow
 Of all the world has ever known,
Or ever been, has made itself
 So plain to you, and you alone?

"Your Dollar, Dove and Eagle make
 A Trinity that even you
Rate higher than you rate yourselves;
 It pays, it flatters, and it's new.

"And though your very flesh and blood
 Be what your Eagle eats and drinks,
You'll praise him for the best of birds,
 Not knowing what the Eagle thinks.

"The power is yours, but not the sight;
 You see not upon what you tread;
You have the ages for your guide,
 But not the wisdom to be led.

"Think you to tread forever down
 The merciless old verities?
And are you never to have eyes
 To see the world for what it is?

"Are you to pay for what you have
 With all you are?" -- No other word
We caught, but with a laughing crowd
 Moved on. None heeded, and few heard.

Cassandra was the daughter of Priam of Troy, and Hecuba a priestess of Apollo. The god gave her the gift of prophecy, but later, offended by her, fated her never to be believed. She forecast what would happen if the Wooden Horse were let in the walls of Troy and was ignored.

This was the eventual downfall for Troy and the misunderstood Cassandra. Both paid a tremendous price. Afraid that her foretelling were making things worse, Priam hid Cassandra in a prison where she was guarded as a madwoman.

Cassandra's curse of disbelief by others came to a climax after her prophesy about the colossal wooden horse, given as a gift by the Greeks, contained enemy soldiers, her claim fell on deaf ears and Troy was sacked. Cassandra sought safety at the temple of Athena, but was captured and violated by the Locrian, Ajax, breaking one of the strongest commandments in ancient religion: the inviolable sanctuary of the temple. As the spoils of Troy were divided, Cassandra was given to Agamemnon. He wasted no time impregnating her with twins, Teledamus and Pelops, before finally returning with her to his homeland, Mycenae.

Upon their arrival at Mycenae Agamemnon 's wife Clytemnestra, and her lover, Aegisthus, lay in wait with a murderous plan. Cassandra's life ended in a final storm of tragedy-- Agamemnon was murdered by his wife and her lover; Cassandra was killed by the jealous Clytemnestra; and the twins were slain by Aegisthus. Many writers have sought to express this tragedy through many vehicles and ideas. In Aeschylus' play, Agamemnon, Cassandra foresees her own death, yet her audience, the chorus, does not believe her. The curse of Apollo remains with Cassandra to the end. Edwin Arlington Robinson's(1869-1935) Casandra in dotc write up; Robinson uses the long measure as a vehicle to get his own story about her across to the reader. Each stanza consists of 4 lines each having 4 stresses and is typically used in shorter poems since the repetitive quatrains can quickly lose interest. Learning the discipline of writing in a metered form seems to tune a poet's ear. "If free verse is as easy to write as it is hard to read," Robinson remarked once, "I'm not surprised there's so much of it." Even before E.E. Cummings created the freer, more radical forms he's famously known for, began his career by composing his poetry using the simple verse. Robinson wrote according to classic forms in this manner as well, then in more complex forms and in the end he educated his ear to hear the rich sounds of English and built an enormous vocabulary before he gravitated toward blank verse which dominated his later epic poetry.

His Cassandra poem was published in 1916 in The Man against the Sky and in it Robinson condemns the human race with his Cassandra by totaling the human sin of trading self esteem and spiritual values for the material:

    "Your Dollar, Dove and Eagle make
    A Trinity that even you
    Rate higher than you rate yourselves;
    It pays, it flatters and it's new.
Her bitter complaint is met with the derisive laughter from the crowd, "None heeded, and few heard." The multitudes who pray to the new Trinity do so at their dire peril, Robinson admonishes an American society of early 1900's whom he considered to be belligerent or uneducated to these consequences.

With a critical eye he uses allegory as the cautionary voice and the dull measure as emphasis to the ignorability of his lecture. A post-modern dilemma of resistance toward society's politic view of both physical and human nature.

Sources

About Robinson's Poetry:
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/

Cassandra and Her Impact on Greek Art and Culture:
http://apk.net/~fjk/cassandra.html

EA Robinson:www.du.edu/~dokonski/robin.html

Edwin Arlington Robinson's Post-Modern Attitude of Resistance Toward Nature :
http://www.baylor.edu/~Anne_Ford/fordprojects.html

Milady who meander far afield,
If of their doom you cannot warn your kin,
At least go home, for soldiers there have reeled
To think that Greece has done their princess in,
As with their prince, your brother, whom you mourned
Beside his corpse as to his face alive;
How they'll exult! to see glad, fair, adorned
Cassandra, as against their doom they strive.

Your highness, all have heard you prophesy,
And all have laughed to hear what you foretold;
And most ignore you, Cassie, but not I:
Now tell me, might you deem yourself consoled
If I confide to you that I believe;
Or will you only simper as you grieve?

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