Cimmerian Summer

Cimmerian Summer

This lifeless gloom: is it the dusk?
This pale white disc: is it the moon?
Is this a mild day in November?
No: in the land of ceaseless mist
this is the sun; the afternoon;
the lightless first day of September.

Christina Egan © 2015


“ἔνθα δὲ Κιμμερίων ἀνδρῶν δῆμός τε πόλις τε,
ἠέρι καὶ νεφέλῃ κεκαλυμμένοι.”

There are the land and city of the Cimmerians,
wrapped in mist and cloud.”  

Homer, Odyssey, 11:14-15


“Britain is set in the Sea of Darkness.
It is a considerable island. This country is most fertile,
its inhabitants brave, active and enterprising….
but all is in the grip of perpetual winter.”

Muhammad al-Idrisi of Sicily, ca. 1154


Homer never ceases to inspire us. Incidentally, I saw a retelling of the Odyssey  last night, at a London playhouse, or rather, amphitheatre! (On this first day of September, the weather is in fact glorious.)

The memory of four clearly marked seasons, full of bright leaves and fruits, and the sorrow about the apparent confusion of the climate are depicted in My Pack of Cards.

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Minerva’s Voyage

Minerva’s Voyage

I.

Minerva by Botticelli

Her hair is the offspring of river and fire,
her robe has been woven from flowers and wind.
Her foot cannot rest and her flesh cannot tire,
her arm is in flow and her eye will inspire
a voyage for wisdom with one  fleeting glint.

II.

Minerva on the Academy of Athens

She dived like a hawk from her shadowless sphere,
the shield on her arm like the sun in the west –
She looms on the roof with her helmet and spear
to capture the lightning, conduct it down here
and spark our restless and glittering quest.

Christina Egan © 2016

Delicate, pale, portrait of the goddess as a young woman in armour.Minerva is the Roman goddess of wisdom and knowledge, arts and applied arts; she came to be identified with the Greek goddess Athena, patron of Athens.

The two poems were  inspired by the two artworks mentioned, as well as a temple on the Agora of Athens dedicated to her as patron of artists and artisans.

Illustration: Minerva by Sandro Botticelli (ca. 1482-83), via Wikimedia Commons (Public Domain).

Persephone (die quellenden blüten)

Persephone

die quellenden blüten
Bundle of mauve crocusses, seen fro mthe side, transparent in the sunlight.die rollenden wolken
wie flüchtige schrift –
die dürstenden blätter
der perlende regen
das spielende licht –

der sprühende frühling
das leuchtende lächeln
gesicht zu gesicht –
die atmende erde –
das leben – das leben –
und dann das gedicht –

Christina Egan © 2015

Here is this fortnight’s poem in the
photo calendar
Rhönkalender 2017!

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2017.

Venus and Mars

Venus and Mars

The darker the night,
the stronger the stars,
the fiercer the fight
of Venus and Mars.

They fight not each other
but darkness and cold,
they each hold a banner
embroidered with gold.

The later the hour,
the likelier dawn,
with fire and flower
in splendour reborn!

Christina Egan © 2016


This poem takes up my thoughts about the elements in the previous post: here, the male and female principles are involved in a common struggle rather than a struggle against each other.

‘Dawn’ refers to the dawn of the new year in early spring as much as to the time of the day; and springtime is even more unpredictable than daylight, precisely in a northern country.

The City Lit Up

The City Lit Up

I lived between Ilex and Salix,
just north of Londinium Town,
and sometimes I climbed to the moss-well
between the oaks and looked down.

I looked at the thatch and the roof-tiles,
as red as the embers beneath,
I looked at the timber and marble,
the highways connecting the heath,

the gates, the walls and the broad bridge,
the fields afloat on the clay;
and I wondered if London would stretch
as vast as the valley one day,

Pond in park, surrounded by bare trees, with tiny island

as vast as Rome, which had risen
from marshes and slopes long ago,
with columns touching the heavens
because the gods willed it so;

and if Rome could ever be shrinking
and sinking into the bog,
or London be burning or flooding
and melting into the fog…

The city lit up in the sunset
and faded away in the dusk;
I felt the chill in the oak-wood,
and down to my villa I rushed.

I entered the gate by the willows
and strode through the dolphins’ yard,
I passed the flickering torches
and stopped by my forefathers’ hearth.

Roman mosaic of a mansion

My name was Appius Felix,
an heir to Aeneas of Troy;
I kept the seals and the idols
to pass them on to my boy.

I used the sword and the saddle,
I held the lyre and quill.
I lived between Ilex and Salix,
at the foot of the Moss-Well Hill.

Christina Egan © 2016


As you can see from the 100-metre-high summit of the Muswell Hill, London does stretch for many miles nowadays, filling the valley to both sides of the meandering River Thames.

You will also notice that there are large patches of green everywhere, some of them left over from ancient marshland and woodland. If you know your way, you can walk across London through woods and meadows, across hills and along rivers for miles!

My Roman observer lives in modern-day Wood Green or Bounds Green, near fictitious hamlets or villas called Ilex (holly or oak) and Salix (willow or osier).

This man firmly believes that gods guard his city and his country and that spirits guard his home and his family. He pursues some useful career in the service of the Empire, but he is also a bit of a poet.

I named him Appius after the statesman of the Republic who had contributed so much to Rome’s infrastructure as well as intellectual life, and Felix because he counts himself lucky.


 

You can find more on Londinium’s fortifications at Ode to London Wall  and more about its straight or winding highways at Quo vadis?

Photographs: Country villa, late Roman mosaic, Bardo Museum, Tunis. —  Pond in Tottenham, North London. Christina Egan © 2014

Acherons Mund

Acherons Mund
(São Miguel, Azoren)

Das Inselreich spricht
in zitterndem Licht,
in zischenden Quellen,
in schwefligen Schwaden,
in schlaflosem Raunen
aus rissigem Grund
am Unterweltsschlund.

Vast surface of rough black rock to the left, gleaming pools of water and steam rising up to the right, mountains in the far background.Das Erdreich bestellt
am Rande der Welt
dem arglosen Wandrer
die Botschaft der Flammen,
die Mahnung der Schatten
aus Phlegetons und
aus Acherons Mund.

Christina Egan © 2016

Hot springs in Furnas, Sao Miguel Island, Azores.
Photograph
by Henryk Kotowski via Wikimedia.

Acheron is the River of Pain and Phlegeton the River of Fire around Hades.

I believe that some Greeks or Phoenicians sailed to the Canary Islands and others may have reached the Azores; this might have influenced their mythology, describing the realms of the dead as a cave of shadows and as a blissful archipelago. More of the latter at Sonett der drei Seen!

Proteus / Daedalus

Proteus

Your beauty is the beauty of the clouds:
as grand and graceful, as remote,
from silver changing into gold,
and changing shape, and changing whereabouts.

Your beauty is the one of Proteus:
I’m bound to watch it swirl and stay,
afraid your heart will likewise sway,
innocuous and gay and treacherous.

Your beauty is the one of Morpheus:
I’m bound to drink it in a dream,
afraid of stumbling on that stream,
with ghostly flowers studded, murderous.

Your beauty is the beauty of the clouds.
your ever-present smile the gleam
behind their soft and tousled seam…
Your soul is what your face reveals and shrouds.

Christina Egan © 2012

Daedalus

I watch the condor pass:
lofty and lonely,
steady and strong,
improbable like Daedalus…

I watch the condor pass
and want to follow him
across the barren peaks –
I want to touch the clouds…

Christina Egan © 2012