lending the land their waves' own conformation:
and Norway's hare runs south in agitation,
profiles investigate the sea, where land is.
Are they assigned, or can the countries pick their colours?
- What suits the character or the native waters best.
Topography displays no favourites; North's as near as West.
More delicate than the historian's are the map-makers colours.
Mapped waters... can water be mapped... yes, as voids surrounded by land.
Water more quiet than the land is... seas may be wild, much more wild than the land, but ironically, in a mapped sense they are featureless, without topography, and therefore quiet.
Conformation - the sea conforms with the land, its waves break evenly on the coast, and currents navigate the coastline as sailors do. That conformity describes the ying and yang fit of sea to land, the masculine land and feminine sea nestling together.
Norway's hare runs south in agitation - Topography equates to noise, and thus a country such as Norway, mountainous and embayed with fjords, is noisy. More mountainous in the north, it frightens its own hare-like profile into running south...
Profiles investigate the sea - a country with the profile of a hare, or of a dog, a man or a woman. Or perhaps the profile of a face seen in the jagged outline of a cliff.
Can the countries pick their colours - no indeed not. The map is a way of defining the world and the map-maker the person who defines where the boundaries lie. The colours lying within those boundaries have particular meanings defined by the map-maker. The map-maker emerges as a symbol of power.
What suits the character - it's not clear... is it a suggestion? Yes. A whimsical but profound one.
North's as near as West - wherever we go North and West are constant. All places are equivalent in this sense. They have equal currency. This seems an argument against the previous imagery of the map-maker as a powerful arbiter.
More delicate than the historian's are the map-makers colours. - What are the historian's colours? I think that 'colours' here refers to the flags that indicates nationaility, with a military flavour... Compared to the colours of flags which are brash in their symbolism, the map-makers colours are indeed more delicate. They reflect the precarious and unstable nature of countries and borders as defined by the changing character of those states. In some ways these delicate colours contradict the bold and simple ones of flags, challenging those who stick their flags in a new region of the map, by that means trying to claim it.