The Round World Squared

Horace Edward Thorner (1909-1981) taught English at Williston Academy from 1943 to 1970, and served as the school’s Librarian.  For ten years prior to coming to Williston, he was a practicing psychologist.  Such bald biographical data insufficiently describes a multifaceted scholar, collector of and dealer in rare books, antiques, and atrocious puns, coach of the Williston Chess Team, and, simply, a fine teacher.

A prolific author, Thorner’s writings include verse translations of Homer’s Iliad and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, a play, The Man Who Shot God, many works of criticism and history, and several volumes of poetry.  He is unique among our faculty for having been an elected fellow of both the Royal Society of London and the National Institute of Arts and Letters.

In 1965-66 Thorner, on sabbatical from Williston, traveled around the world.  To supplement, or perhaps supersede, his camera, he carried a notebook in which he recorded his impressions in verse.  These he collected in The Round World Squared (Hawthorne Publications, 1979).  In the introduction he commented, “Each of the poems was written on the spot at the time, proving nothing more, perhaps, than that a man like me does well to keep on moving.”

Here are two selections, the first recorded in the National Archeological Museum in Athens, the second in Bangkok.

The Mask of Agamemnon

The golden mask of Agamemnon glares
Out of its crystal case upon the world,
Each golden hair in place, the gold beard curled,
A tribute to the good Herr Schliemann's cares.
The careful spade came on it unawares.
After some centuries, all banners furled,
The image woke.  No tides of battle swirled.
No longer must it face the Trojan spears
As did the living King.  The haughty glance
No longer seeks out Paris in the field.
The wounds of flesh and spirit, both are healed.
Helen and Clytemnestra and ill chance
Have died, and so the great King looks at us,
Weighed in the scales of the almighty Zeus.

© 1979, Horace E. Thorner
To a Thai Classical Dancer

You come to me from far-off ages,
Aeons of jungle-birds and sun,
Born of some sun-god's loves and rages,
Rainbows and thunder, fleshed in one,

One mortal form of deathless beauty,
One rhythmic sway of sea and shore
One siren song that tells me duty
Is to be happy and no more.

One loving curve of luring fingers,
One heart-deep call of bell and drum,
One instant, and the magic lingers
Through all my days and nights to come.

Where would you call me from my troubles?
What paradise of date or palm,
What crystal waterfall which bubbles
Over the ivory of your arm;

What dawn or sunset, gold and amber;
What flash of blue and scarlet wing;
What little smile shall I remember
Until I cease remembering?

I shall remember a green chamber,
A throne-room for some jungle god.
That I was he, I shall remember,
That moment when I saw you nod.

When in the twilight, spark and ember
Made a starred heaven like that above
And you and I were God and Love . . .
That is the lie I shall remember.

© 1979, Horace E. Thorner

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2 thoughts on “The Round World Squared”

  1. Thank you, Rick, for sharing Horace E. Thorner and his verse with us. As a caretakers of Williston, these snapshots remind us from where we came and inspire us to carry on the legacy.

  2. Dr. Thorner gave us essentially the same psychological profile of Lee Harvey Oswald just a day or two after the Kennedy assassination as did the Warren Commission several months later. It was always fascinating when he gave us the psychological viewpoint of English literature.

    The best English teach I ever had. Wonder what he would think of me having ended up as a corporate speechwriter. Probably… impossible!

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