Mercator’s Projection (A Requiem)
You always made the Arctic look so grand,
All strewn with mammoth archipeligoes –
As wide as the equator, so they spanned;
As tall as continents, so they arose.
And lurking down below: the vast Antarctic,
A bony finger raised above the thrall –
The rest so blanched and bloated and lethargic,
(Well, when you bothered showing it at all –
And when just done away with altogether,
The southern seas would stretch on down forever.)
You held no truck with Circles, howe’er Great,
For nautical advantages abound
When lines of constant bearing lie so straight,
Though actu’ly they took the long way round.
And if we’d plot your rhumbs, we’d best beware:
They’d run in true diag’nals, you’d allege,
Not spiral to the Poles (which were not there)
But fly on straight until they hit the Edge.
(And two New Zealands – just to keep on track –
But what strange lands must lurk upon your back ?)
You charted our imperial domains,
And painted up your map to show our broods;
You swelled the pride of rainy northern reigns,
Who gained good fortune by their latitudes.
You easily outstripped your upstart peers,
And served so well as armchair trav’lers’ muse.
You hung so proud in classrooms all those years,
And lent your gravity to ev’ning news.
You’re so ingrained, we’ve swallowed you since birth –
From here unto the Corners of the Earth.