Melvin B. Tolson's "Libretto for the Republic of Liberia"

In A Libretto Colloquy (2001) Jeff Sychterz writes:

Here Tolson juxtaposes a series of jingoistic phrases from several different nations and cultures (including India, Pakistan, Britain, Russia, Arabia, and the U.S.A.) to indicate that nations tend to view their own cultures as naturally superior; each nation mirrors the other in their colonial or nationalist ambitions. Coming as they do after the initial fragmentation of Gondwanaland, these lines suggest that nationalist ambitions are a response to the sense of fragmentation that all cultures feel. Each nation desires unity, but the only way they now how to achieve it is through global conquest and cultural domination. These megalomaniacal attempts, however, only serve to further disrupt unity and bring about greater fragmentation:
naïfs pray for a guido’s scale of good and evil to match
worldmusic’s sol-fa syllables (o do de do de do de)
worldmathematics’ arabic and roman figures
worldscience’s greek and latin symbols
the letter killeth five hundred global tongues
before esperanto garrotes voläpuk vanitas vanitatum
(ll. 519-24).

These lines recast the discourse of unity and fragmentation in terms of harmony and cacophony, which matches the poem’s overall musical scale structure. They also image a particular violent version of the Tower of Babel, where different languages actually wage war against and kill one another, similar to the nations and cultures that spawn them. Even languages meant to unify the world—Esperanto and Voläpuk—engage in bloody conquest with one another. The initial break-up of the one unified continent has had a profound effect on all aspects of the human experience.

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