Do Empires Die?

Five empires came to a sudden end during and at the end of WW1. Other empires die a bit more slowly. There is no standard way in which an empire dies. Some of them go along without a care until they suddenly fall off a cliff. Others die a lingering death. Falling off a cliff is what some are now projecting for the United States, an empire without the colonialism. All signs point to an imminent collapse, they say, and the United States will, in very short order, join the dodo, the Romans and the Assyrians in the dustbin of history. But even when an empire is no more, it is still felt, long after its death, in the words we use, the alphabet we use, the law we use, the very nature of the culture and history that surrounds us. So even if the doomsayers are right, and the United States empire goes over the cliff tomorrow, the United States will still be here, just as the Roman Empire is still here.



Do empires die a lingering death

Do they scratch and claw for every breath

Or do they suddenly collapse

The answer is, they do, perhaps

Phoenicia surely is no more

But what if they’d not gone before

How would our alphabet be seen

Would royal purple have been green

Was Gibbon wrong, Rome not decline

Collapse instead, would history’s line

Be any different than we know

Our culture, law, the answer’s ‘no’

Empires don’t completely die

Faint traces of them always lie

In language, customs, art and gods

In measure metric or in rods

Is Pericles alive today

Does Homer still have much to say

Is England still a living place

Her children still a living grace

America is England’s child

Born in a fury, young and wild

What will we leave when it is we

Who cut the vine and fell the tree

And leave this cold cruel world behind

For leave we shall, but you shall find

That no one ever fully dies

That every day the sun will rise

And what we’ve been and what we’ve done

Will last as long as there is sun



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