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Third Former takes top prize in global Classics writing contest

Third Former takes top prize in global Classics writing contest

Third Former Ian Rosenzweig was awarded the top prize in the Bernice L. Fox Classics Writing Contest this spring. The national competition is sponsored by the Department of Classics at Monmouth College.

Rosenzweig’s piece, a poem titled “Faithful Return,” was his response to a prompt of examining the idea of nostros, or “return.” Judges review each contest entry on accuracy and appropriate use of ancient sources. They also weigh the originality, quality of material, thematic development, style, and effectiveness of presentation. 

The Fox Classics Writing Contest was established in 1985 to promote the study of Latin and the Classics in high schools around the world. Rosenzweig’s entry in the contest was sponsored by his Latin teacher, Dr. Andrew Fenton.

You can read Rosenzweig’s poem below: 

“Faithful Return,” by Ian Rosenzweig (III Form)

Faithful Return

The rooster crows with each new sun.
Beneath the leaves of my tree,
I hear a shrill whistle, the stomp of feet.
I see the shadow of master, my master.
Peering through the old thin branches,
The kind face of Odysseus, my master.

Each sun brings master to my tree:
His whistle calls, his hands clap.
We walk jauntily through the fields, our fields.
He throws each stick he finds for me.
I run along and hear him laugh,
While we saunter through our fields.

But then it all stopped.
No familiar whistling, 
No comfort from his footsteps.
My eyes opened to warm rays of sun,
Shining wonderfully through the trees, 
But my master’s shadow was gone.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend. 
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will you come back to me?

I wander through the fields, 
Lonely as a flower in a fallow field
Dark clouds dim the once bright sun.
Nothing is the same.
I tuck my tail between my legs,
And slink sadly to my tree.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will I have company again?

My master always called her “ἐρίηρος.”
Penelope, faithful one. His faithful one.
I can still hear him calling; see her running, the door wide open.
Penelope, faithful one. Our faithful one.
She would come with us, laugh with us, run with us.
Penelope, faithful one. His faithful one.

Penelope stays inside.
Penelope, faithful one. His faithful one.
I haven’t seen her since he left.
Penelope, faithful one. His faithful one.
There is no more laughing. 
But she is still faithful. Dear Penelope, always faithful.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend.
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will you rejoin your faithful one and her son?

Brave Telemachus,
My master’s pride and joy.
He traipses over to me.
He talks to me.
We long for Master
As we sit together under my tree.

Telemachus tells me that he is leaving.
Off to look for Odysseus, he says.
He departs bravely, but something isn’t right.
Another one leaves.
But no one returns.
O, brave Telemachus.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will your family be whole again?

I can see them from beneath my tree.
Their great linen wings flapping in the wind
And then come the men seeking audience with Penelope. 
Tall, young, armed with flashy smiles.
They march toward the door that remains closed.
But none of them is master. They do not leave.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend.
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will you be the tall man marching toward the door?

Many suns and many moons.
Each sun is disappointment;
Master’s shadow does not return.
Each moon is hope;
Master will return.
I must see him again.

The field turns brown and green again,
And again and again and again.
I search for his shadow in the new sun.
A bright cold sun; I am cold all the time.
Achey too; my legs do not carry me the way they used to.
My steps unsure, my breaths labored.

O, Master, My Master,
My protector, my friend.
When will you return?
When will I hear your whistle again?
When will I hear your footsteps once more?
When will I bask in the warm sun again?

My tree’s brown leaves fall; they don’t return.
The ground turns from lush grass to shriveled leaves. 
I stay in the withered leaves of my tree.
My home. I will not leave my home,
For when master returns, I must be waiting. 
Faithful, like Penelope, waiting for return.

I don’t move. I won’t move.
The tree dies around me;
Its wood is brittle and cracking.
I don’t move. 
I won’t move.
I can’t move.

Now I stay. 
Waiting for food to find me.
I stay, each breath a struggle.
My legs now fragile like the branches above,
But I stay beneath my tree.
My soul must stay for him.

O, Master! 
That is master!
His face, bearded and hidden,
His clothes ragged and torn.
But that shadow. And that voice.
Master, my master!

Master, my master.
He walks by and glances.
He looks at me and knows me. .
And off into darkness I slide, now fulfilled and free.
Master has returned to me,
As I have to him.