Where’er the Merkin eagle flies


More Albert Speer architecture envisioned for the Nineleven(tm) memorial. This particular exercise in brutalism will conceal a branch office of the New York medical examiner’s office, where various scraps of human corpses will be kept — frozen, I presume — pending “identification”.

There will be a ‘viewing room’ for the families, who, we are assured, will not be charged admission. The families apparently also have a viewing site of their own over the whole Nineleven theme park — a sort of skybox, I suppose.

The combination of ghoulishness, sentimentality, and grievance privilege exhibited here seems very, very American.

You can see in the picture above that there is to be an inscription on the wall, picked out in — what else? — letters of steel, salvaged from the skeletons of Nelson and David(*).

The inscription is a rather pedestrian translation from Aeneid IX. The poet is addressing the shades of Nisus and Euryalus, two terrorists from Aeneas’ band of settler-colonialist invaders, who embarked on an errand of nocturnal assassination against the native resistance movement led by Comrade Turnus. After slaughtering a number of natives in their sleep, Nisus and Euryalus got their well-deserved comeuppance.

Virgil, of course, knows how to put a good face on this sort of thing:

Fortunati ambo! Siquid mea carmina possunt,
nulla dies umquam memori vos eximet aevo,
dum domus Aeneae Capitoli immobile saxum
accolet imperiumque pater Romanus habebit.

Nicely Englished by my man Dryden:

O happy friends! for, if my verse can give
Immortal life, your fame shall ever live,
Fix’d as the Capitol’s foundation lies,
And spread, where’er the Roman eagle flies!

— though Dryden rather softens Virgil’s bluntness; the last two lines translate literally: “While the house of Aeneas occupies the immovable Capitoline rock and the great Roman father holds his empire.”

“Erase”, I must say, is a rather odd choice of words for ‘eximet’, which doesn’t mean anything quite so graphic; it’s just unemphatic ‘take away’. But ‘memori aevo’ is a lot better than the lame ‘memory of time’; it means something like ‘the remembering age’.

Unlike Nisus and Euryalus, the dead of Nineleven didn’t deserve their fate. Apart from that, there is a certain appropriateness, intended or not, in the choice of quote.

(Mutatis mutandis, as the Romans say.)

The gory tale of Nisus and Euryalus, in Virgil’s genuinely sublime and incomparable imperialist tract, takes its place among the uncompromisingly violent and unapologetically thuggish foundational narratives of Rome. Virgil wants it there; his exegi-monumentum poetic confidence tells him he can place it there; and he makes it stick. We remember Nisus and Euryalus because Virgil raised them a monument more lasting than bronze.

What the dullard plodders contriving Ninelevenland have in common with Virgil is the shared program of legitimating empire. Virgil does it by showing Nisus and Euryalus as bold impulsive gallant fellows — and ardent lovers as well. Irresistible, eh?

But the soul-engineers of Ninelevenland don’t really have this option as regards their Immortals (and probably couldn’t handle it if they did). What they have to fall back on is the rhetoric of American victimhood: poor us. So ill-used; so misunderstood.

Somehow I don’t think that a monument more lasting than bronze can be erected on this basis.

Update: Apparently the compromising context of the original has been pointed out to somebody in the theme park’s management cadre. The response? Drop the word ‘Aeneid’ from the attribution. Hey, if we do that, people will think it’s from the Georgics!

(*) As the two boxy towers were unaffectionately known in some circles — the reference being to the two Rockefeller brothers who ran, respectively, the state of New York and the Chase Manhattan Bank.

9 thoughts on “Where’er the Merkin eagle flies

  1. An absurdly drab block of undead concrete; veiled, potentially unwitting architectural references to imperialism’s secret pride; a one ticket, one ride system that will depend upon a horde of pleasantly intrusive minority ushers…are not these things more New York City than New York City itself? Slap a few ironically retro bunk beds in there, charge four grand a month, and have the disembodied voices of Terry Gross endlessly interviewing M.Night Shyamalan playing from a speaker over the coffee machine, and lo, the inner boroughs. Bring a potted plant and an oriental screen, and you can even have a park in which to make sense of it all.

    Let the logical extensions of that vile range of seaboard continue to infest every nook of its asphalt heart, until the Algonquin return, and the Caesars are at last put to rest.

  2. Has anybody ever done a Herman-Chomsky “filters” analysis of imperial victims? No doubt these 911 folks are the holiest of holies. Then, well below the line of mere worthiness, there are the 400,000 or so who’ve been snuffed since 911 while helping pump the material lifeblood of the favored empire, the automobile (this counting collisions only, of course). At the very bottom lies old Ben Linder, may he rot in peace.

  3. I consider it a personal victory any time I can make it through a whole year without knowing who is playing in the Super Bowl or who won the World Series. But I almost wet myself with joy when I discovered that I had somehow managed to avoid any awareness whatsoever of the 1776 Phreedom Phallus until I read where some kid did a base jump off of it recently. I haven’t been to the city in a few years so I had no clue of how far construction had progressed. My treacle-avoiding skills have clearly advanced to master level, though I am aware that Miley Cyrus is upset over her dog dying. Practice, not perfection as they say.

    • Seattle v Denver, a matchup full of Angry Negroes vs Southern Gentleman overtones. The Angry (and Arrogant) Negroes emerged triumphant in a humiliating rout.

      Boston won the Series.

  4. Thanks for this illustrated posting. USA (oops, there I go with metonymy) has been becoming a scary place (and silly at the same time, kind of strange, well, not so, thinking back to i fascisti), as evinced by (a) this thuggish architecture reminiscent of Mussolini’s Roman projects and (b) combined with mindless braying about “heroes”! (There are some, let us be fair.) Of course oversupply of such verbiage cheapens the commodity… a ham-fisted endeavor, also of course, to keep the recruits and plebs ginned up for military adventures, as the saying goes. This Fascist/Soviet architecture says with a scowl: creep softly little creep, or all my tons will fall on you. That’s the feeling I get, anyway.

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