With everyone thinking about Oroville, UD shares Harriet Monroe’s little meditation on the ambiguity of progress.

During construction of the Aswan Dam, some antiquities were salvaged by moving them to the new lake’s banks; others were allowed to go under. Monroe notes the obvious goods of the dam (“starving mouths are fed”), and considers “the old gods of the desert” left to “sleep in the river’s bed.”

******************

The Assouan Dam

There is a lake at Philae
Where once a temple rose.
Steel walls confront the river,
The great gates open and close;
And through parched wastes the wilful Nile
Obediently flows.

There is a lake at Philae
And starving mouths are fed.
The old gods of the desert
Sleep in the river’s bed.
So still in wave-locked halls they lie —
It may be they are dead.

1929

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