Monday, February 19, 2018

The Golden Anniversary:  A Dual Monologue By Michael Ceraolo


The Golden Anniversary:  A Dual Monologue

         Monticello, Virginia
         July 4, 1826 12:50 PM

Last night I said
"No, doctor, nothing more"
These would be my last recorded words,
but not the last words I would say
Around 4 AM I called my house-slaves
to my room, including Sally,
                                          and
told them to prepare for my death
These words weren't recorded by history
                                                           (and
even almost two hundred years later
one historian would call the slaves servants;
it's time to be honest now)
I woke again around 10,
unable to speak,
                         and
died a few hours later


        Quincy, Massachusetts
        July 4, 1826  6:20 PM

Four days ago
a local delegation of dignitaries
asked for a proclamation
for the upcoming anniversary,
and though unable to issue
a lengthy proclamation
I obliged the with the words
"Independence Forever!"

When I awoke today,
having achieved my aim
of making it to the anniversary,
I said simply
"It's a great and glorious day"
                                            but
I knew it would be my last day on this Earth

As you may know I was a great hater,
and even as the end approaches
there are some I am unable to forgive,
such as the West Indian bastard
(bastard in every sense of the word),
but I am immensely happy that
Mr. Jefferson and I reconciled years ago:
earlier this afternoon I said
"Thomas Jefferson survives"
(though I would discover very soon
I had been mistaken about that)

In the early evening
I said to my granddaughter Susanna
"Help me, child, help me"
                                      but
there was nothing she could do
and I died shortly thereafter



Seeds

In my diary entry
for November 26, 1825,
concerning discussion about
the upcoming State of the Union message
at that day's Cabinet meeting,
I wrote
            "The plant may come late
though the seen should be sown early"
and in the message I sent
on December 6, 1825
I planted a seed,
                         calling for
"provision for the support of an astronomer"
                                                                noting
"throughout the whole American hemisphere
there is not one" observatory
(I note with a sense of staisfaction
that almost two hundred years later
there are over three hundred fifty
in the United States alone)
In calling for such observatories to be built
I used the metaphor
"light-houses of the skies"
                                       and
the metaphor and the idea itself
were roundly mocked by Jackson
and other non-intellectuals
who didn't see the benefit of science
(I see that hasn't changed much today)

The seeds would grow slowly:
it would take two decades
for the Naval Observatory to be built
And at the ceremony
to lay the first cornerstone
for a private observatory in Cincinnati
on November 9, 1843
I made a long speech,
my last public one,
                             which
mercifully will not be repeated 
here in its entirety
An excerpt, true then and now:

"The earth beneath his feet,
and the vault of heaven over his head, . . .
force themselves upon his observation,

and invite him to contemplation"

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