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Mark Svenvold

03-23-09

Jeffersonian           

                                     
I 
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Because it was, and because it was enough,
it seems, so that: yonder star-swirl might compose
but the smallest flower or leaf thereof,
and in that leaf a world. . . .because He chose,
for He was busy-- what with mollusk and mountain,
because it all fit--weasel, flea, and spore,
because the difficult, the unforgiving forms
of continental granite and jenny wren
brooked no counter, no other, no outer, no ex,
posed no irony of scillia, no pause, supposed
no sad planet afloat in oceanic space,
no lone and troubled inheritor-savant,
--because they lived unpredicated, reader,
like a sand fly or a sea cliff or a river. . . 
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II
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They brought oilskin bags for their journals,  
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                     they brought instruments: 
                                                          two sextants,
                                                                                a horizon,
                                                                                                  a sun,
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artificially its term and angle
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                  reflecting in a pan, 
and other gear to measure
the land,
                             the river's reach, its extent--
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                                     you will notice and comment on the soil,
                                                the date at which particular plants
                                          put forth or loose their leaf, or flower;
                                      times of appearance of particular birds,
reptiles, insects. . .
                            dinosaur bones,
                                                    volcanoes. . . . 
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which would require, at the very least, it seems,
something to write with)
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six papers of ink powder, crayons, and sets of pencils
                             
                                (and something to write on)
                                                                             field tables,
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(and something to see with at night)
                                                           twenty gross of candles
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        (and something to keep out the weather)
                              sheets of oiled linen for tents and sails
                                                 six large needles, six dozen awls
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(and for warmth) six dozen woolen pants,
            30 yards of common flannel, one hundred flints,
            30 steels for striking or making fire--
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            . . . . because they could & because it was there,
and, since it was in St. Louis, 1803--
                   that Auguste Chouteau
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and all the fine girls and buckish Gentlemen,
danced as they danced as they danced
                                                to celebrate Napoleon's
Garage Sale--
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          they brought a surveyor's pole & chain,
                                       and a set of plotting instruments-- 
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                                                                  (Meanwhile. . . . . . . .
 Up river, the Sioux:
hostile, numerous, well armed,
certain to demand ransom for passage)
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                 Hence: Guns & Ammo, Mail Order Dept--
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                                                  one swivel-mounted cannon made of bronze,
                                                              four heavy shotguns or blunderbusses,
                                                                 four hundred pounds of lead for shot,
                                                                                 fifteen Pennsylvania rifles,
                                                     two hundred pounds imported rifle powder.
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              (and a little something for insects & etc.)     
                                                                                       a mosquito net,
                                                curtains; 8ps cat gut,
            two hundred pounds
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of tallow mixed with fifty pounds of lard
                                                  which they smeared
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                   "about the arms & face                  
                      to repel the most pugnacious" 
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         mesquetor. . . 
                                        misquitr,
                                                                     muscatoes. . . . 
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They brought the new Jerusalem,
and the firepower to back it up;
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                                     They brought the God of Joseph Mede"
                                      Awakened out of sleep."
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His tools and His fondness for gadgetry--
                                      an air rifle,
a collapsable "semicilyndrical,"
iron frame canoe
               and from Thomas Parker of South Third Street, Philadelphia,
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               a very expensive watch-- 
               "with her a screw-driver and kee,
               the works stoped by inscerting a hog's bristle"--
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                                          They brought fifteen pounds of Peruvian bark,
                                for malaria,
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                                                   they brought books--
                                    two volumes of Linnaeus, Barton's Elements of  Botony 
                                   The Nautical Almanac and Astronomical Ephemeris-- 
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(and something out of Locke and something out of Bacon
and something out of Newton--
for instance, the medicine of one Dr. Rush) 
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to wit:  
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III 
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When you feel the least indisposition,
do not overcome it by marching.
Rest in a horizontal position.
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                                    Benjamin Rush, that is, whose pills
                                      "cure all of mankind's ills"-- 
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          To be your own best physician,
           take these pills for a general purging.
           When you feel an indisposition,
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                                              --calomel,
six parts mercury to one part chlorine--
                              called "Thunderclappers" by name.  
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. . .an attack of fever? of augue? Just listen--
for what I've said bears repeating--
If you assume a horizontal position, 
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and opium, and niter or saltpeter, and jalap,
                              and whiskey and a little laudenum 
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                     . . .soon all will be well again.
                     You won't hear your men complaining,
                     anyhow, of the least indisposition. 
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For they've brought presents
for all the new tenents
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                          ten pounds assorted sewing thread;
                         silk fabric, and paint, and vermillion -- 
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        and they'll be more refreshed, I say, by lying down.
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        That's key. Prevent verticality. No leaning,
        no listing, no half-hearted horizontalisme 
                                             should be allowed. In sum: go prone
                                             briefly, it goes without saying,
                                             and, at the least indisposition--
                                             be sure to rest in a horizontal position. 
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IV
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                              They arrive
                              like emperors of China, recognizing no equals
                                                                                      only tributaries, 
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with 12 dozen flags,
and 12 dozen friendship coins,
and whiskey by the barrel, 
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                              the ocean breaks its shackles
                                                                       and a great earth lies open--
                             the stone rolls down the mountain
                             and the rivers run backward
                                                                       and a new generation ascends
                              in a keelboat, in canoes, 
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with small cheap scissors,
and common brass thimbles,
and 288 knives; and combs;  
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          and Kirwian's Elements of Minerology, 
   
          and A Practical Introduction to Spherics and Nautical Astronomy
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                                     and ear trinkets, and arm bands, 
                                                           and red glass beads
                                                           and white glass beads
                                                           and blue glass beads 
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           tunc Orientis occidit et ortum est. . .
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                                                       . . . . imperium sine fine dedi.
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             -from Empire Burlesque





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