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The Pool

December 30, 2009

The pool gleams, opening its arms
In a most eager anticipation;
Sapphire light sparkles deep beneath,
Filling the onlookers’ eyes with need.

A god stands at the centre of the pool,
Its arms lifted in silent prayer –
Its eyes are closed, its face blank,
But for the smallest hint of a smile.

The onlookers fall to their knees
And worship at the altar of this god:
It does not stir; not even the Anemoi
Can rouse it from its still silence.

At a cue that none other can sense,
It lowers its arms, and opens its eyes.
Divinity pours forth, and the worshippers,
Acting as one, smile back at their god.

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Hymn to Lethe

December 29, 2009

I sing of you, o soft-flowing Lethe;
Dark goddess of the murmuring river
That brings sweet oblivion in its wake.

I sing of you, dusk-whispering lady,
You who exists in black euphoria
And the madness of perfect clarity.

I sing of you, queen of the shadows.
Casting darkness over the human mind,
Guiding souls, living and dead, to forget.

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Persephone Kore – Plea for Children

December 26, 2009

For those who cannot speak – those silenced eternally
By Thanatos’ touch – I beseech you, Iron Queen, to
Watch over these children that will never know
The changing seasons directed by your mother,
That will never laugh and dance, as all children should.
Watch over these fragile butterflies as they flock to you,
Seeking a mother in the endless dusk of your abode;
Take them into your arms, Persephone Kore, and dance for them.
Make their eyes gleam with joy, instead of mirroring
The tears of their families, still alive in the bright world above.
Let them know a mother’s warmth, and keep them safe
From all that would cause them harm; they are dead, now,
But that does not keep the heartache of children at bay.
Ask that your mother, Demeter Anesidora, send forth
Warm fortune to help their parents to understand that
Death comes at any time. Ask that she tell them that
Their children are safe, with you, and that they will be
Reunited when it is their time to succumb to the eternal night.

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The Suppliant

December 20, 2009

I set myself down before you.
My bare skin glows in the hazy
Light that spreads down through the trees
And warms your dark, night-bound home.

Girls with twigs in the hair and clothes
Made of the finest spiders’ silks
Watch in silence; theirs is beauty
That is unmatched by all others.

Sobek, snarling god; I reach down
And let my hair fall over your
Dark, curved claws. My skin sings to be
So close to you, dangerous lord.

I brush my cheek against your throat;
I kiss your scaled skin. Smoky awe
Drifts between us. I bask in your
Divine presence, safe against you.

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Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite

December 12, 2009

Trans: Athanassakis.

Homeric Hymn 5 to Aphrodite
Sing to me, O Muse, of the works of golden Aphrodite,
the Cyprian, who stirs sweet longing in gods
and subdues the races of mortal men as well as
the birds that swoop from the sky and all the beasts
that are nurtured in their multitudes on both land and sea.
Indeed all have concern for the works of fair-wreathed Kythereia.
Three are the minds which she can neither sway nor deceive:
first is the daughter of aegis-bearing Zeus, gray-eyed Athene.
The works of Aphrodite the golden bring no pleasure to her,
but she finds joy in wars and in the work of Ares
and in the strife of battle and in tending to deeds of splendor.
She was first to teach the craftsmen of this earth
how to make carriages and chariots with intricate patterns of bronze.
And she taught lustrous works to soft-skinned maidens
in their houses, placing skill in each one’s mind.
Second is hallooing Artemis of the golden shafts,
whom smile-loving Aphrodite can never tame in love.
For she delights in the bow and in slaying mountain beasts,
in the lyre and the dance and in shrill cries
and in shaded groves and in the city of just men.
Third is a revered maiden not charmed by the deeds of Aphrodite,
Hestia, whom Kronos of crooked counsels begat first
and youngest too, by the will of aegis-bearing Zeus.
Poseidon and Apollon courted this mighty goddess
but she was unwilling and constantly refused.
She touched the head of aegis-bearing Zeus
and swore a great oath, which has been brought to pass,
that she, the illustrious goddess, would remain a virgin forever.
Instead of marriage Zeus the Father gave her a fair prize,
and she took the choicest boon and sat in the middle of the house.
In all the temples of the gods she has her share of honour
anbd for all mortals she is of all the gods the most venerated.
Of these three she can neither sway the mind, nor deceive them.
But none of the others, neither blessed god
nor mortal man, has escaped Aphrodite.
She even led astray the mind of Zeus who delights in thunder
and who is the greatest and has the highest honour.
Even his wise mind she tricks when she wills it
and easily mates him with mortal women,
making him forget Hera, his wife and sister,
by far the most beautiful among the deathless goddesses
and the most illustrious child to issue from crafty Kronos
and mother Rhea. And Zeus, knower of indestructible plans,
made her his modest and prudent wife.
But even in Aphrodite’s soul Zeus placed sweet longing
to mate with a mortal man: his purpose was that even she
might not be kept away from a mortal’s bed for long,
and that some day the smile-loving goddess might not
laugh sweetly and bosat among all the gods
of how she had joined in love gods to mortal women,
who bore mortal sons to the deathless gods,
and of how she had paired goddesses with mortal men.
And so he pleased in her heart sweet longing for Anchises,
who then, looking like an immortal in body,
tended cattle on the towering mountains of Ida, rich in spring.
When indeed smile-loving Aphrodite saw him,
she fell in love with him, and awesome longing seized her heart.
She went to Cyprus and entered her redolent temple
at Paphos, where her precinct and balmy temple are.
There she entered and behind her closed the shining doors;
and there the Graces bathed her and annointed her
with ambrosia oil such as is rubbed on deathless gods,
divinely sweet, and made fragrant for her sake.
After she clothed her body with beautiful garments
and decked herself with gold, smile-loving Aphrodite
left sweet-smelling Cyprus behind and rushed toward Troy,
moving swiftly on a path high up in the clouds.
And she reached Ida, rich in sprigs, mother of beasts,
and over the mountains she made straight for the stalls.
And along with her, fawning, dashed gray wolves
and lions with gleaming eyes and bears and swift leopards,
ever hungry for deer. And when she saw them, she was delighted
in her heart and placed longing in their breasts,
so that they lay together in pairs along the shady glens.
But she herself reached the well-built shelters
and found the hero Anchises, whose beauty was divine,
left alone and away from the others, by the stalls.
All the others followed the cattle on the grassy pastures,
but he was left alone by the stalls, and away from the others
he moved about and played a loud and clear lyre.
And Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, stood before him,
in size and form like an unwed maiden,
so that he might not see who she was and be afraid.
When Anchises saw her, he pondered and marveled
at her size and form, and at her glistening garments.
She was clothed in a robe more brilliant than gleaming fire
and wore spiral bracelets and shining earrings,
while round her tender neck there were beautiful necklaces,
lovely, golden and of intricate design. Like the moon’s
was the radiance round her soft breasts, a wonder to the eye.
Desire seized Anchises, and to her he uttered these words:
“Lady, welcome to this house, whoever of the blessed ones you are:
whether you are Artemis, or Leto, or golden Aphrodite,
or well-born Themis, or gray-eyed Athena,
or yet perchance one of the Graces, who with all
the gods keep company and are called immortal,
or one of the nymphs who haunt these beautiful woods,
or one of the nymphs who dwell on this beautiful mountain
and in the springs of rivers and grassy dells.
Upon a lofty peak, which can be seen from all around,
I shall make you an altar and offer you fair sacrifices
in all seasons. And with kindly heart grant me
to be an eminent man among the Trojans,
to leave flourishing offspring behind me,
and to live long and behold the light of the sun,
prospering among the people, and so reach the threshold of old age.”
And then Aphrodite, the daughter of Zeus, answered him:
“Anchises, most glorious of all men born on earth,
I surely am no goddess: why do you liken me to the immortals?
A mortal am I, and born of a mortal woman.
Renowned Otreus is my father–have you perchance heard his name?–
who is lord over all of well-fortified Phrygia.
And I know well both my language and yours,
for a Trojan nurse reared me in my house; and she took me
from my dear mother and devotedly cherished me when I was little.
For this reason indeed I know your language too.
But now Argeiphontes of the golden wand carried me off
from the dance of hallooing Artemis of the golden shafts.
Many of us nymphs and maidens, worth many cows to their parents,
were playing, and endless was the crowd encircling us.
From there Argeiphontes of the golden wand abducted me
and carried me over many works of mortal men,
over much undivided and uninhabited land, where beasts
which each raw flesh roam through the shady glens,
and I thought that my feet would never again touch the life-giving earth.
He said I should be called your wedded wife, Anchises,
and sharing your bed would bear you fine children.
But when Argeiphontes had shown and explained this to me,
again he went away among the tribes of the immortals;
and so I am before you because my need is compelling.
By Zeus I beseech you and by your noble parents,
for base ones could not bear offspring like you.
Take me untouched and innocent of love
and show me to your father and wise mother
and to your brothers born of the same womb;
I shall be no unseemly daughter and sister.
Quickly send a messenger to the Phrygians, who have swift horses,
to bring word to my father and to my mother in her grief;
they will send you much gold and many woven garments,
and do you accept all these splendid rewards.
Once these things are done, prepare the lovely marriage feast,
which is honoured by both men and immortal gods.”
With these words the goddess placed sweet desire in his heart,
so that love seized Anchises and he addressed her:
“If you are mortal and born of a mortal woman
and Otreus is your father, famous by name, as you say,
and if you are come here by the will of Hermes,
the immortal guide, you shall be called my wife forever.
And so neither god nor mortal men will restrain me
till I have mingled with you in love
right now; not even if far-shooting Apollon himself
should shoot grievous arrows from his silver bow.
O godlike woman, willingly would I go to the house of Hades
once I have climbed into your bed.”
With these words he took her by the hand; and smile-loving Aphrodite,
turning her face away, with beautiful eyes downcast, went coyly
to the well-made bed, which was already laid
with soft coverings for its lord.
On it were skins of bears and deep-roaring lions,
which he himself had killed on the high mountains.
And when they climbed onto the well-wrought bed,
first Anchises took off the bright jewels from her body,
brooches, spiral bracelets, earrings and necklaces,
and loosed her girdle, and her brilliant garments
he stripped off and laid upon a silver-studded seat.
Then by the will of the gods and destiny he, a mortal,
lay beside an immortal, not knowing what he did.
And at the hour shepherds turn their oxen and goodly sheep
back to the stalls from the flowering pastures,
she poured sweet sleep over Anchises
and clothed her body in her beautiful clothes.
When the noble goddess had clothed her body in beautiful clothes,
she stood by the couch; her head touched the well-made roof-beam
and her cheeks were radiant with divine beauty,
such as belongs to fair-wreathed Kythereia.
Then she roused him from sleep and addressed him thus:
“Arise, Dardanides! Why do you sleep so deeply?
And consider whether I look the same
as when you first saw me with your eyes.”
So she spoke. And he, arising from sleep, obeyed her forthwith.
And when he saw Aphrodite’s neck and lovely eyes,
he was seized with fear and turned his eyes aside.
Then with his cloak his handsome face he covered
and spoke to her winged words in prayer:
“Goddess, as soon as I saw you with my eyes
I knew that you were divine; but you did not tell me the truth.
Yet by aegis-bearing Zeus I beseech you
not to let me live impotent among men,
but have mercy on me; for the man who lies
with immortal goddesses is not left unharmed.”
And Aphrodite the daughter of Zeus answered him:
“Anchises, most glorious of mortal men,
courage! Have little fear in your heart.
No need to be afraid that you may suffer harm from me
or from the other blessed ones, for by the gods you are loved.
And you shall have a dear son who will rule among the Trojans,
and to his offspring children shall always be born.
Aineias his name shall be, because I was seized
by awful grief for sharing a mortal man’s bed.
But of all mortal men your race is always
closest to the gods in looks and stature.
Wise Zeus abducted fair-haired Ganymedes
for his beauty, to be among the immortals
and pour wine for the gods in the house of Zeus,
a marvel to look upon, honoured by all the gods,
as from the golden bowl he draws red nectar.
Relentless grief seized the heart of Tros, nor did he know
whither the divine whirlwind had carried off his dear son.
So thereafter he wept for him unceasingly;
and Zeus pitied him and gave him high-stepping horses,
such as carry the immortals, as reward for his son.
He gave them as a gift to have, and guiding
Argeiphontes at the behest of Zeus told him in detail
how his son would be immortal and ageless like the gods.
And when he heard Zeus’ message,
he no longer wept but rejoiced in his heart
and was gladly carried by the careering horses.
So, too, golden-throned Eos abducted Tithonos,
one of your own race, who resembled the immortals.
She went to ask Kronion, lord of dark clouds,
that he should be immortal and live forever.
And Zeus nodded assent to her and fulfilled her wish.
Mighty Eos was too foolish to think of asking
youth for him and to strip him of baneful old age.
Indeed, so long as much-coveted youth was his,
he took his delight in early-born, golden-throned Eos,
and dwelt by the stream of Okeanos at the ends of the earth.
But when the first gray hairs began to flow down
from his comely head and noble chin,
mighty Eos did refrain from his bed,
though she kept him in her house and pampered him
with food and ambrosia and gifts of fine clothing.
But when detested old age weighed heavily on him
and he could move or lift none of his limbs,
this is the counsel that to her seemed best in her heart:
she placed him in a chamber and shut its shining doors.
His voice flows endlessly, and there is no strength,
such as there was before, in his crooked limbs.
If this were to be your lot among immortals, I should not chose
for you immortality and eternal life.
But should you live on such as you now are
in looks and build, and be called my husband,
then no grief would enfold my prudent heart.
But now you will soon be enveloped by leveling old age,
that pitiless companion of every man,
baneful, wearisome and hated even by the gods.
But great shame shall be mine among the immortal gods
to the end of all time because of you.
Till now they feared my scheming tattle,
by which, soon or late, I mated all immortal gods
to mortal women, for my will tamed them all.
But now my mouth will not bear to mention this
among the immortals because, struck by great madness
in a wretched and grave way, and driven out of my mind,
I mated with a mortal, and put a child beneath my girdle.
As soon as this child sees the light of the sun,
the full-bosomed mountain nymphs will nurture him.
They do not take after either mortals or immortals;
they live long and eat immortal food,
and among the immortals they move nimbly in the beautiful dance.
The Seilenoi and sharp-eyed Argeiphontes
mingle with them in love in caves where desire lurks.
When they are born, firs and towering oaks
spring up on the man-nourishing earth
and grow into lush beauty on the high mountains.
They stand lofty, and are called sanctuaries
of the gods; and mortals do not fell them with the ax.
But whenever fated death is near at hand,
first these beautiful trees wither on their ground,
the bark all around them shrivels up, the branches fall away,
and their souls and those of the nymphs leave the light of the sun together.
They will keep my son and nurture him.
As soon as he reaches much-coveted adolescence,
the goddesses will bring the child here to show him to you.
And, to tell you all I have in mind,
toward the fifth year I will come and bring my son.
And when you first lay your eyes upon this blossom,
you will delight in the sight, for so much like a god he will be;
and you shall take him forthwith to windy Ilion.
But if any mortal man should ask you
what sort of mother carried your dear son under her girdle,
do remember to speak to him as I bid you:
‘He is the son, they say, of a nymph with a petal-soft face,
one of those who dwell on this forest-covered mountain.’
But if you reveal this and boast with foolish heart
to have mingled in love with fair-wreathed Kythereia,
an angry Zeus will smite you with a smoking thunderbolt.
I have told you everything; with this clear in your mind,
refrain from naming me, and heed divine anger.”
With these words she darted up to the windy sky.
Hail, O goddess and queen of cultivated Cyprus!
I begin with you but now shall go to another hymn.

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Homeric Hymns 6 and 10 to Aphrodite

December 12, 2009

Trans: Athanassakis.

Homeric Hymn 6 to Aphrodite
Of august gold-wreathed and beautiful Aphrodite
I shall sing, to whose domain belong the battlements
of all sea-laved Cyprus where, blown by the moist breath of Zephyros,
she was carried over the waves of the resounding sea
in soft foam. The gold-filleted Horae
happily welcomed her and clothed her with heavenly raiment.
Then on her divine head they placed a well-wrough crown,
beautiful and golden, and in her pierced ears
flowers of brass and precious gold.
Round her tender neck and silver-white breasts
they decked her with golden necklaces such as the gold-filleted
Horae themselves are adorned with whenever they go
to lovely dances of the gods and to their father’s house.
And after they decked her body with every sort of jewel,
they brought her to the immortals, who saw and welcomed her,
giving her their hands and each one wished
that he might take her home as his wedded wife;
for they marveled at the looks of violent-crowned Kythereia.
Hail, honey-sweet goddess with the fluttering eyelids!
Grant me victory in this contest and arrange my song.
And I shall remember you and another song, too.

Homeric Hymn 10 to Aphrodite
I shall sing of Kythereia, born on Cyprus,
who brings sweet gifts to mortals, and whose lovely face
ever smiles radiant with lambent beauty on it.
Hail, goddess and mistress of well-built Salamis
and of sea-laved Cyprus! Grant me enchanting song.
And now I will remember you and another song, too.

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Kaleidoscope

December 7, 2009

Kaleidoscope beauty trails over Aphrodite’s skin;
It gleams at the edges of her lips, the curve of her teeth.
Something hungry slithers through the shadows
That stretch far, far out behind her.