Marianne Moore: Poetry

October 11, 2010

“Sea Unicorns” and the Cartographer of 1539

Filed under: Marianne Moore — by moore123 @ 12:40 pm
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“. . . those very animals

described by the cartographers of 1539,

defiantly revolving

in such a way that

the long keel of white exhibited in tumbling,

disperses giant weeds

and those snakes whose forms, looped

in the foam, ‘disquiet shippers.'” (Ll. 2-7)

Map: Olaus Magnus, Swedish historian, Archbishop of Uppsala (1490-1558), in 1539  published his Carta marina et Descriptio septemtrionalium terrarum ac mirabilium rerum in eis contentarum, diligentissime elaborata Anno Domini 1539 in Venice. Oskar Brenner found a copy of the map, long thought lost,  in Munich in 1886 and made it available in print. This map of Northern Europe gained acclaim as the most accurate of its era.

To see the ships tumbling and the great red sea snake, click on the map to enlarge it (which could take a while). Then click on the snake for a close-up look; scroll above the snake nearly to the top of the map to see a ship tumbling in “weeds,” although tree limbs may be more accurate. A sea unicorn pokes its horn out of the water on the left side, opposite numeral 74.

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