Jan 16, 2011

State of the Poem


Phidippides loved his simple life;
To rise in the morning,
Look out to sea,
Go to the agora of Athena,
Argue Xenophanes' heresies,
Wait for a commission to do what he loved,

Running brought the ultimate freedom;
From the toil of farming
Left to others more sedentary,
The cares of family life
Left to a wife more stable,
To a feeling of knowing how to

When he saw the Persian heralds
Thrown from the Acropolis;
He hurried to the home
Of the man he knew would need
The swift of foot, someone who
Could feel the hot breath of

Two hundred fifty times
Phidippides counted one thousand;
Thirty six hours passed,
From morning to evening to morning again,
Artaphernes listened with patience,
But the moon was not full nor could Sparta

Another thirty six hours passed
As Phidippides ran the course back to Athens;
A night, a day and night again,
Two hundred fifty thousand paces,
One stride after another,
To tell Callimachus and Miltiades they were

Riders came to tell of Eretria's fate,
And of the traitor Hippos;
Marathon was the landing place
Of Persia's mighty threat,
So Phidippides donned his hoplite armor
Marched with his Athenians to seek his

Miltiades gave the order at dawn;
Persians one mile across the valley,
Run! The General said and pointed to the sea,
The enemy stared in disbelief
Arrows still in bundles
How could an army with no archers, no horse

One hundred ninety two
Athenians died as heroes that day;
Thirty three times that many enemies lay
Upon their final bier, yet
More than that had reached their ships
To sail away from the most important Greek

Persia sailed south, the same direction
The attic bay opened upon the walls of Athens.
Phidippides was the man to run with news and
Assurance to the first place called city.
Forty more times he counted one thousand
One word fell from his lips with his life:

One hundred ninety two
Heros ride the wall of the Parthenon;
Hoplites elevated to the horse,
Paid for with their lives under a new concept,
A different word for defending the land
Because of pride and love for freedom:

But one statue stands at the gate in Athens,
One man's record stands alone yet today
Of the greatest race ever run; Athens to Sparta and back,
To Victory on the plain of Marathon and back again
To announce Niki, Victory is ours,

In 546 BC, one man ran for 78 hours and fought in one of the most amazing battles in history, defeating Persian cavalry and archers. Little surprise his exhausted body gave way. The battle of Marathon is the pivotal point in history for the defining of Europe and western civilization, which was just beginning, thanks in large part to the ultimate sacrifice of one patriot.