The Towers of Ilium

Four braziers burn on towers high,
each marking a corner.
Yet no light emits from these brazen pits,
their coals’ black heat just smolders.

The cardinal flames have all waned to ash
without their constant tending.
It takes daily strains to maintain the flash
of signal fires unending.

Four directions to travel by,
each guiding sojourners.
With torches lit even a trifling bit,
we’d travel the world all over.


Authors Notes:

The title is a reference to the line in Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe: “Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships/And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?”. I chose this reference because this poem was inspired by a visualization meditation I did some years ago wherein I went to Troy to light four fires on the four corners of the city walls of Troy. Up till now, I hadn’t put together the meaning behind that insight. It came to me as I reflected upon current struggles. I realized the fires symbolized the beneficial habits I needed to maintain to improve myself and my life. The lighting of the fires is the maintenance of these practices, and thus is what guides me.

The poem is about self-control, and the power we have to shape and guide ourselves to get to the states we want to be in.

In terms of form, the poem is symmetrical in the sense that the first and last verses parallel each other in content and have matching rhyme schemes, syllable counts, and rhyme on the same sounds; and the middle verse is split, it’s first two lines rhyming and matching syllable counts with its last two. This was intended not only to balance the piece, but to symbolize the repetition required for effective self discipline, the repetition of daily habits, which is at the heart of this piece.

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