Monday, November 16, 2015

Footnotes for Red Hands on Red Charts

I have had a few questions about "Red Hands on Red Charts", mostly because of two Latin phrases within it. I try to avoid obscure language in my poems, but I think these references fit because of the subject matter. To help those not familiar with Latin (and, honestly, who is?), here are the translations and background.

Terra Nullius

When I say that I am "the nullius to your territory", I am referring to the principle in international law of terra nullius.  This principle, which translates as "nobody's land", applied historically to territory which no state had already claimed as its own. This allowed colonisers to lay claim to land which was not owned in a way which western governments would recognise. The first courts of Australia applied the principle of terra nullius when deciding that indigenous people, the traditional custodians of the land, could not in fact own any of it. It all belonged to the Crown.

Pro Patria Mori

"The patria to your mori" is a reference to a First World War poem by Wilfred Owen titled "Dulce et Decorum est". The poem itself references a Roman quote from Horace:
Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
This  roughly translates as "how sweet and fitting it is to die (mori) for one's country (patria)".


I also make reference to the "chisel that brands names onto cenotaph skin". A cenotaph is a memorial to those lost at war.

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