Even the dissident ones speak
as members of an Empire, residents
of the centre of the earth. Power
extends from their words
to all the continents and their modesty
is liable for millions. How must it be
to be caught in the Empire, to have
everything you do matter? Even
treason is imperial; the scornful
self-abuse comes from inside the boundaries
of the possible. Outside the borders of royalty
the barbarians wait in fear,
finding it hard to know which prince
to believe; trade-goods comfort them,
gadgets of little worth, cars, television,
refrigerators, for which they give iron,
copper, uranium, gold, trees, and water,
worth of all sorts for the things
citizens of Empire take as their due.
In the Empire power speaks from the poorest
and culture flourishes. Outside the boundaries
the barbarians imitate styles and send their sons,
the talented hirelings, to learn and to stay;
the sons of their sons will be princes too,
in the Estate where even the unhappy
carry an aura of worldly power; and the lords
of power send out directives
for the rest of the world to obey. If they live
in the Empire, it matters what they say.
Newlove, John. “America.” The New Romans: Candid Canadian Opinions of the U.S. Ed. Al Purdy. Edmonton: Hurtig, 1968. 135–36. Repr. in A Long Continual Argument: The Selected Poems of John Newlove.
Reprinted with permission from the estate of John Newlove.