The Map-maker

300px-Gerardus_Mercator_3I am Mercator, Gerardus Mercator.
I have been commissioned by my patron,
his son is the crown prince of Cleves.
The young man is planning a tour of Europe.
He needs a map. Here, in Flanders,
I have the skill to map the world.
I leave exploring to the youths.

In my workshop I have walls hung with maps,
of the untidy British Isles, of compact Europe
and the distant lands. These I shall copy,
cut and paste, removing illustrations
that do not fit my scheme, and create
my own scale-bars for each new map.
A worthy project, you’ll agree.

My new drawings will be a work of art.
Don’t tell Abraham Ortelius, he is my friend
but we compete for trade. A year or two ago,
1570 or thereabouts, he published his ‘atlas’.
Theatrum Orbis Terrarium. A pretentious title.
It will be, what shall I say, useful to me,
a few maps redrawn by my own hand.

And detail. I shall add some detail.
a street map will be in order
for the crown prince plans to visit Ancona.
My new quills will enable me to create
charts which are works of art.
This lad’s minor European excursion
will contribute to an atlas, my life’s work!

Ah yes, those quills. Sensitive enough
to draw fine lines recording
political divides. As if it mattered, mere hills
populated by herdsmen and wolves.
But as long as I am paid well.
Although my eyes grow dim…
so much detail, such flickering candles.

The young, they can explore. Already
they use my world map for navigation
though none but the captains understand
my lines of constant course, my Projection
shall we say? Let me explain,
as I have many times! The world is round,
my sailor’s charts are flat. Rhumb lines…

Argh! So many lines, too many for tired eyes.
Now, as I was saying, my world map,
‘A new and augmented description of Earth
corrected for the use of sailors’.
I plotted on a globe, you see, curved lines…
but you grow tired, of maps, and lines, besides
it is my secret, how I achieved this work of art…

Tony French