Still Looking for “The Lost Empire”

I left class today feeling conflicted over our interpretation of Walcott’s Caribbean in “The Lost Empire”.

Now I have never been the Caribbean myself. However, I do sail, and that interest has thrust me into a community of those who spend winters there, maintaining boats whose owners are unwilling to both risk the damages of an east coast mooring or crew the vessel themselves. The result of this intimacy gives me an interesting perspective on the archipelago which Walcott describes to “look as if a continent fell and scattered into fragments” (lyric II, lines 2-3). This perspective is one which begs me argue against sentiments of the “small place produc[ing] nothing but beauty.”

The islands I perceive are home to a giant social george. That is, a gaping  chasm between rich and poor. The exact opposite of a “simplifying light” the author illustrates four lines from the bottom. Perhaps those who can afford it are “receiving vessels of each day’s grace”, but those who cannot seem to be receiving vessels of capitalist colonial fallout. Without an infrastructure to protect them from exploitation, the islands have become a bona fide waste basket for the overnight tourism boom. Pollution runs rampant under a disposable standard, and a people who may have once attempted to husband the albeit picturesque landscape are now plagued with Western growing pains.

It surprises me that Walcott doesn’t see this. Or that we are unable to trace an appropriate irony in his “content”. Lyrics I and II must be sewn together somehow. After centuries of haunting, “The Spectre of Empire” surely didn’t just pack up and leave….

…right?

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One Response to “Still Looking for “The Lost Empire””

  1. TSElliott says:

    I think, maybe (?), it’s that whole idea versus artifice. Where these beautiful natural countries were suddenly met by the colonization of men. It put the land itself at odds with one another where there are benefits to colonization technologically, but spiritually and physically it can be devastating. It just reminded me of Bishop and her trips to South America and the devastation/poverty she saw there. How does a culture retain itself when it has been invaded? Who will do it?