From the Journal of Captain Pir Van Wilken: A Parody of Rip Van Winkle

Log Entry 24: 7/13/2156

Captain Pir Van Wilken

If there’s one thing I have learned recently, it’s that times change and society always moves forward. I was one of the first to be part of the cryogenic flights exploration program for long range space exploration. To put it simply, we’re frozen while our ship travels and thawed out once it arrives. We do our work and do the same thing for the flight back. Sounds easy enough, but what high command forgot to tell us was that a lot happens when you’re expected to be gone for nearly twenty years.

I wasn’t expecting a hero’s welcome when the auto pilot landed the ship back at the old military base, but I did expect more of a reception than just the robot sent to greet me. At least they were kind enough to sent transportation with it so I wouldn’t have to walk. Looking out the windows of the transport, I took notice of how much the colony had grown since I had been away. Red rocky landscapes had been replaced with the green of nature and the grey colors of industry and life. Different, but no unexpected.

The central hub of the base finally showed signs of activity, and as I walked through the doors inside, I noticed many other people stopping to take a look at me. I suppose I did stand out in comparison to the rest of them given that my uniform was a dark blue while they wore colors of dark red and black. When I finally managed to stop someone and ask where I might find the commander of the base, he silently pointed me towards the officer’s mess hall before walking off. There were to many thoughts on my mind at the time to lecture the young man about his etiquette given my higher rank, but I was in too much of a hurry to give my return report to bother.

Stepping inside the officer’s mess hall, it didn’t take me long to notice that I didn’t recognize any of the officers sitting around a large table in the center of the room. They seemed too caught up in their conversation to take notice of me, but I couldn’t help listen to them fiercely debate each other, talking about things such as divine rights, constitutions, parliament, the crown, and other terms  I was not familiar with. Finally noticing my presence, one of the men called out to me asking if I was a Parliamentarian or an Absolutist. I figured at this point they had been discussing politics, so I informed him that I had been a member of the Terran Progression Party and was loyal to the Terran Republic of Earth, which resulted in a massive uproar from the officers at the table. They began calling me spy, traitor, republican, and any other insulting term they could think of, until finally the first man took notice of my uniform and called for silence from the others. He asked me if I was the one who had arrived on the ship that had landed not long ago and I told him yes. He told me to sit down and began to explain what happened while I was gone. After years of rising taxes and unjust laws, the people of Mars, in defiance of Earth’s government, declared their independence and chose to crown the great General Alexander Washington as their king. After many years of fighting, the crown forces of Mars were victorious. This news was shocking to say the least, but I was also concerned and began asking him about the fate of other officers and commanders from the time that I left. Colonel Dornan passed away before the war even started after getting so furious at a new recruit that his heart finally gave out. Captain Tio he told me died in an airstrike early in the war, but that Captain Hernandez had been promoted to major and was serving at another base. Perhaps most surprising to me was learning that lieutenant Alexandrov, known for being inexperienced and often though of as unskilled, had survived and was serving as a member of parliament.

The man, whose name I finally learned was Colonel Royer, leaned back in his chair, finally finished answering my questions and telling me what had happened during the twenty years I was gone. The rest I would have to figure out on my own, but at this point I wasn’t sure what to do. Many of those I knew before had moved on with their lives and while I did still technically have a place with the military, I didn’t know what differences existed between Earth and Mars’s military structure, or if there were any differences. The colonel offered to assist me should I wish to join the Mars military. Perhaps I will take him up on that offer, but until then, I have received many requests from junior officers from the base to tell them about mars before its independence and about the old lands of earth which many of them have never visited. I wonder what the other men and women who went on the cryogenic exploration flights will think of this new world we have returned to and if we will integrate into this new system we will become a part of.

Review

The story of Washington Irving’s Rip Van Winkle involves a character falling asleep for twenty years and waking up in an independent America that has started to develop its own sense of identity. This short parody journal entry is meant to be similar to the second half of the book and I wanted to try to keep certain details of the original story similar, but also framed in a different way such as Mars declaring independence, politics seeming to be an important part of this new independent identity, although I did choose to reverse it this time by having the revolutionary state be the monarchy rather than the republic this time. I also wanted to try to not have the Mars from before Pir leaves to be completely different from the Mars that he returns to. The America that Rip Van Winkle leaves and the one he enters into are different, but America hasn’t really developed a completely distinct culture in the book. People may be talking about politics more and may act a bit differently, but Rip is still able to adjust himself with relative ease. Similarly, I tried to add small details about uniform differences and Pir being unsure of how different Mars and Earth really are, but I tried to show that politics are starting to shape discussion and the direction of Mars. Maybe I didn’t present some details from the story in as much detail as I would have liked due to wanting to keep the length a bit limited, but I wanted to try to show these details in a different context. I think that Rip Van Winkle questions what it means to be an American and looks to answer that through politics and the politics of America while I wanted to try to present an identity for Mars as well that is also shaped more by its politics rather than a new and sudden cultural shift.

-Ryan Bucher

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Henry Derozio’s Symbol of Freedom: The Harp of Ireland and India

Serving as a symbol of freedom and a representation of life before British rule, Henry Derozio draws a connection between Ireland and India in his poem, The Harp of India. The poem presents British rule of India in a negative fashion due to a repression of Indian art and culture through its imagery of the harp. With the British in control, the poem presents the harp as lonely and unstrung, saying that, “Thy music once was sweet – who hears it now?” (3) and indicating that not only are Indian art forms not being taught and passed on, but that people are forgetting what they were. While the poem does lament the loss of culture due to the British, part of the poem could be interpreted as being critical of the Indians for not doing more to resist British rule and for not fighting for their culture when the poem says, “Silence hath bound thee with her fatal chain; Neglected, mute, and desolate art thou,” (5, 6). The poem presents the authors hope that one day other people will restore and play the harp again in a metaphorical sense by restoring Indian art and culture.

Similarly to other Irish poems about the harp, Derozio represents culture through the harp, writing about how its beautiful sounds were silenced and the loss that has occurred as a result. There is however a hope, just like many other writers, that freedom will be obtained one day and they will no longer have to remain silent to practice their culture and present its art. The harp may be a symbol of Irish culture and a free Irish state, but Derozio’s poem works to transform the harp into a larger symbol of independence and freedom for those under foreign rule. Though this poem may be referring to India and its loss, the lack of direct mention outside of the title means that the words of the poem could be applicable to other lands such as Ireland or anyone else who has seen a loss of their culture due to the rule of another.

-Ryan Bucher

Redding 2019

I slowly walk through each old abandoned street

Near the banks where the Sacramento flows

Noticing in the faces of those I greet

Marks of tiredness, weariness grows

In the voice of the neighbor across the road,

In the voice of those both young and old

In the voice of everyone, hope has slowed

When will change come as we’ve been told

How the shopkeepers cry,

Closing their doors for the final time,

Once happy couples let out a sigh

Perhaps now is the chance to escape the crime,

Now through these streets late at night

All that can be heard are sirens and shouting

Enemies rushing by in a flash of light,

Any prospect of change leaves me doubting

-Ryan Bucher

A Spark of Light in a Sea of Darkness

The painting that I believe best resembles William Wordsworth’s poem, “We Are Seven,” would be Caspar David Friedrich’s painting, “The Monk by the Sea.” The girl in the poem is presented as a very lonely character, but tells the narrator multiple times that “How many? Seven in all,” and repeatedly states that her family consists of seven other people. Despite being separated from her siblings, with two of them dead, two at Conway, and two at sea, she insists that they are all together. I felt that the image of a monk standing by the sea and looking out at it represented the current state of the girl as a very isolated individual looking off towards the horizon and waiting for her family. The dark, cloudy horizon could be seen as representative of the death of her siblings, Jane and John. The mention from the girl that “Their graves are green, they may be seen,” may indicate not just that the graves are new, but that the poem is taking place in spring and given the details of the grass being dry when her sister Jane died and there was snow when her brother died, it can be assumed that they recently in autumn and winter. This detail of seasons could indicate that the girl could be the next in her family to die as the poem does describe her as,

“A simple Child,

That lightly draws its breath,

And feels its life in every limb,

What should it know of death?”

suggesting that she is frail or weakened. Perhaps then the small sliver of the sun appearing over the clouds in Friedrich’s painting along with the darker colors fading off away from the shore could be seen as the light of heaven coming to claim her. The painting doesn’t provide a strong sense of sadness to me, but rather provides a sense of anticipation for what could be on the horizon as the storm starts to move away. Though the monk is seen alone on the sandy, rocky shoreline, it isn’t known what is behind him and what that environment looks like, similar to the reader not knowing what the girl’s life is like away from this church other than that she lives with her mother in a small cottage. Though both the girl and the monk have survived recent events in their lives, with seemingly very little left for each of them besides their faith, the question of what happens next remains unknown.

-Ryan Bucher

Romantic Heavy Metal

Though heavy metal may not be what most people consider romantic poetry, Iron Maiden’s rendition of “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” is still able to capture the details of the original poem and the romantic aspects within it. The song presents a strong focus on the story of the original poem and the emotions in the writing by breaking away from normal expectations for a heavy metal song by both changing the rhythm and tempo at different parts, but also just in choosing to make the song thirteen minutes long. The music serves to tell a story and uses these shifts throughout the song, work to capture that sense of imagination for the audience and emphasize the mysterious nature of what is happening at that point of the story. While the band does choose to present the poem in a more summarized form, there are moments where they choose to directly quote the poem and read it word for word. I found that while originally reading the poem, the lines chosen in the song to quote such as,

“Four times fifty living men, 

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan) 

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump, 

They dropped down one by one.

Four times fifty living men

(And I heard nor sigh nor groan)

With heavy thump, a lifeless lump,

They dropped down one by one.” (Part III)

didn’t originally standout to me in comparison to the other stanzas around it, but the song’s presentation of lines like these and the tone of the song while these lines are sung make them stand out. These lines are read in more subdued and mysterious tone that grabs the audience’s attention and makes them listen carefully to the story of the mariner. But it isn’t just moments like this that carry the emotions of the poem and represent romantic literature, but also the moments of faster or louder play that may be more expected from heavy metal music. The presentation of moments in the story through this tone of music capture the mysterious and supernatural moments of the story and make it feel as though the mariner is fighting for survival against forces of nature. By using music as a medium to present this poem, the emotional impact from parts of the poem and the visceral feeling caused by some of these moments is more strongly felt by the audience.

-Ryan Bucher

Freedom Through Knowledge

Through his usage of quotes from famous English authors and the Bible, Equiano is able to establish himself as a voice of authority on the subject of slavery given his own knowledge and experiences. In chapter five, uses a quote from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, to attack the poor treatment of slaves, writing,

“—No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and arbitrary punishment

Inflicted – What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, through slow,

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most in suffering feel.”

I find that this chosen quote stands apart from many of the other quotes Equiano chose in his book, as unlike many of the other quotes that convey his personal knowledge, strength, and struggles to the reader, this one comes across more as a warning. Previously, many of his arguments have been based upon presenting slavery as immoral and not in line with prevailing enlightenment ideals, but this argument made by him using this quote presents slavery as a danger to society due to the risk of revolt and insurrection. Through his own personal experience, Equiano has shown that even a slave can become an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment and this is not a result of being naturally inferior, but because what he sees as an effort being made to keep slaves ignorant. Seemingly, Equiano appears to present education as a means of ending slavery by showing that slaves are capable individuals when given opportunities from better treatment and that with better treatment, there will be no risk of a revolt or insurrection. But if the slaves are kept in ignorance and continue to be treated poorly, Equiano presents it as only a matter of time before the slaves see resistance as their only option like the fallen angels of Paradise Lost.

-Ryan Bucher

The Papal Poet and his Critics

Throughout his poem, The Dunciad, Alexander Pope attacks what he sees as a decline in literature and the rise of dullness by portraying his critics as devotees of the goddess of dullness. Starting at line 201, Pope presents one of his critics, Richard Bently, and Bently’s friend Dr. Richard Walker, as worshippers of dullness. Writing that,

Where Bently late tempestuous wont to sport

In troubled waters, but now sleeps in Port.

Before them march’d that awful Aristarch;

Plow’d was his front with many a deep Remark:

His Hat, which never vail’d to human pride,

Walker with rev’rence took, and lay’d aside.

(201-206)

Pope shows the servile attitude of his critics to dullness, but looking at passages such as this from the perspective of image #2 shows the critic’s view of Pope. The image serves not only as an attack on Pope’s physical appearance as seen by his appearance as a hunchback monkey, but also that he is a Catholic who has put himself on a pedestal trying to claim his superiority. Images such as these don’t attempt to discredit Pope’s own complaints and criticism, but work to discredit Alexander Pope as an individual who can be dismissed based upon the way he looks and the religion he follows. Pope wants the reader to look at many of the other authors of the time who are held up as being skillful and excellent writers and realize that they are all similar and boring while the critics seek to take away any authority Pope has to speak about them as a result of what they consider to be his flaws.

It may also be that by portraying his critics as worshipping a goddess of dullness, Pope is presenting a veiled criticism of Protestant faiths of Christianity. His rivals that he criticizes in the poem would have been Protestants, a denomination of Christianity that was more simplified and lacked many of the traditions and rituals that were more common on Catholicism. Perhaps Pope is also blaming the Anglican Church and its followers for the rise of dull literature by presenting it as a dull faith.

-Ryan Bucher

Another Island of Enlightenment

In part one, chapter three, after being told of the obligations that he must perform for Lilliput, Gulliver writes that, “I swore and subscribed to these articles with great cheerfulness and content, although some of them were now so honourable as I could have wished … I made my acknowledgements by prostrating myself at his majesty’s feet …” regarding his new duties. I believe that his willingness to so easily accept what could be considered ridiculous demands created by Skyresh Bolgolam, someone who openly disliked Gulliver, is meant to satirize Francis Bacon’s New Atlantis. Gulliver is presented to the reader as a man of the enlightenment who examines the world as a rationale and knowledgeable individual, yet he doesn’t find anything odd or weird regarding the demands placed upon him regarding where and when he can go places, or the demands that he must fight for Lilliput and assist their workmen. Despite effectively being a slave and still a prisoner, Gulliver’s only complaint is that some of the demands weren’t as honorable as he was expecting.

The irony of this situation is that this far away lost island, similar to Bacon’s mythical utopian island of Bensalem, is seen by an individual that embodies the ideas of the enlightenment, to be perfectly reasonable with their requests and customs. Even though Gulliver could be considered enlightened by European standards, to the people of the island, he is seemingly unenlightened given his lack of knowledge regarding the proper way to handle himself on their island. Though Gulliver is massive in comparison to everyone and everything else on the island, he is seemingly regarded to be in a position of inferiority to the Lilliputians because of his lack of enlightenment by their standards and his knowledge on certain subjects which they consider wrong. The customs of the island work to satirize many European customs, appearing to show that the customs and traditions themselves are not superior merely for existing, but because the Europeans hold a dominant position and as a result, believe their culture to be superior. Just like Bensalem, Lilliput too is an island of knowledge and enlightenment for someone who has never been there before.

-Ryan Bucher

Better Than One Might Believe

To Lady Mary Rowlandson,

While many may be able to sympathize with you regarding the terrible loss of your family, I find your descriptions of the Indians to be continuously unwarranted and unbecoming of any good Christian throughout your narrative. I can see why it may be difficult for even a pious Christian such as yourself to initially forgive the Indians, but even as your story continues, even as you appear to grow more understanding of the Indians and their lifestyle, and even when they begin to show you kindness and welcome you into their homes, you still choose to think of them as little more than devils sent by God to tempt you with their lifestyle. I would kindly like to ask a well-educated Christian such as yourself where in the scriptures does our Lord say that the Indian is a devil and the lifestyle he lives is unfit for a Christian? If tomorrow every Indian chose to convert to Christianity and live a puritanical lifestyle such as yourself, do you believe that the conflicts would stop and a peaceful resolution would be found? I find such an occurrence difficult to believe, as even in your writing, you appear to group those Indians who have converted to our faith while dressing and acting like us into the same group as those who hold onto their old faith and reject everything about our lifestyle. I could hardly call one such as you a proper Christian when you are so quick to label any Indian, regardless of their faith, a devil.

Were the whites not at one time living a lifestyle arguably more degrading than the one they live now? Red skin does not prevent one from accepting the teachings of God, nor does red skin take away their right to own and protect their land. As one who has also lived among the Indians and personally seen the lifestyle they live, or in some cases, the lifestyle they have been forced into, I would ask you to reconsider your view of the Indians. Perhaps you chose to think of yourself and do truly believe that they are equal to us in the eyes of God, but there can be no changing the damage that your narrative can do to reinforcing the ideas of others that the Indians are devils and could never be equal to whites, not because of their faith, but because of their skin.

May God keep you safe.

Sincerely,

William Apess

-Ryan Bucher

Incompatible from the Start

While I think that there is a case to be made that the narrative of Mary Rowlandson implies a complicated relationship between the English colonists and the Native Americans, I believe that her writing does more to confirm a relationship of intolerance between the two groups. Going back to John Winthrop, we can see that his goal for the “City upon a Hill” was to create a new and more perfect Christian society in this newly discovered world. The decision to form this new society was above all else religiously motivated, and Winthrop didn’t lead the only group of Puritans to the new world out of a desire to spread Puritan ideals as can be seen in part of the Mayflower Compact from the Plymouth Colony that says, “Having undertaken for the Glory of God, and Advancement of the Christian Faith,”. Despite having been persecuted for their faith back in Europe, the Puritans were not seeking to create a new society built upon ideals of tolerance, but upon strict adherence to what they saw as the proper form of practicing Christianity. It seems unlikely that there could have been a friendly relationship between the two because of how incompatible both the Native American’s religion and lifestyle would have been to the goal of creating the “City upon a Hill.” Places like the Massachusetts Bay Colony had many regulations regarding interactions and deals with Native Americans to keep the two groups apart, and I think that Rowlandson’s writing reflects the social pressure to stay away from the Native Americans. She may describe them in a better image than other writing from the time, but she still details the brutality that they are capable of showing and portrays them as being different and partaking in a heretical lifestyle. Regardless of her true experience or feelings, she still tries to convince the reader that the Natives are demons sent by God to not only test her, but the colonies as well and that the lifestyle wouldn’t be good for true Christians. But after all, how many colonists might reconsider the strict and demanding lifestyle required by the Puritans if they knew what the Native American’s lifestyle was really like for anyone willing to join them?

-Ryan Bucher