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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um mitternacht (der letzte bus)

um mitternacht

um mitternacht
der letzte bus
die straße strömt
ein dunkler fluß

die häuser schlafen
wand an wand
die bäume ruhn
im brautgewand

um mitternacht
der letzte kuß
die kurze kerze
loht mit lust

der mond hängt schräg
ein heller mund
die stille quillt
aus sattem grund

Christina Egan © 2015


This night scene is so peaceful that everything seems animate
and comfortable: the road is streaming, the houses are sleeping,
the trees are slumbering, dressed in blossom like brides.

Yet the person observing this is restless: seeing bright lips in the slanting
moon crescent, burning up like a candle, and knowing that life is
as short as a candle…

The German word ‘Lust’ could mean ‘lust’, ‘desire’, ‘zest’ or ‘pleasure’!

Fewer Things!

Fewer Things!

We need to churn out fewer words,
we need to burn out fewer lamps,
we need to fashion fewer things,
Roman_bowl_01_MusLon
but those, of perfect elegance:

a shallow bowl with turned-out rim,
just like a pale and slender hand;
a silver ring with single stone,
as if the sky and moon descend. 

Christina Egan © 2013

Jar, elegantly curved, with brown and blue glaze.

 

Roman bowl. Photograph from the
website of the Museum of London.

See also my musings on the little
Mesopotamian jar, Glazed Clay.

Assyrian jar, glazed pottery. Photograph:
© The Trustees of the British Museum.

Word Weaver

Word Weaver

More purple clouds than I can count
or weigh or paint for you
or snatch and send them underground
with some surrounding blue…

To one whose windows do not stretch
to spy the heaving sky,
I’ll weave my syllables to fetch
the purple passing by.

To one whose dusk and marble moon
are filtered through a rail,
I must thread silver on my loom
to leave a shiny trail.

I must request the best black silk
to mark the balmy dark…
By day I’ll stitch a roaring quilt
to catch the city’s heart!

Christina Egan © 2016

Drawing of the mechanics of a loom (yarn on rolls, without the frame)The poet describes the world to a prisoner who can barely see the majestic ever-changing sky and the bright busy city surrounding them. The sound and rhythm of the lines emulate the warp and weft of life, so that the words reflect the world — read the poem aloud and you will see!

The other person may be imprisoned by a totalitarian state or indeed by a democratic state, or locked up by their employers or indeed their own family, behind walls and perhaps under a garment. There are many millions of human beings who de facto are prisoners or slaves without being called so.

For poems about time (for instance ensuing generations) and space (for instance a big city) as a tissue, see my post Geflecht / Geflechte. All of civilisation and all of humanity is one web.

Rosen wie Splitter

Rosen wie Splitter
(Juli-Haiku)

*

Rosen wie Splitter
von Mittagsglut, Mondnacht
und Sonnenuntergang.

*

Warm und schwer von Düften
schwappt die Luft durch den Park,
lacht lautlos der Teich.

*

Goldene Blüten,
tausend Trompeten, hörbar
nur für die Engel.

*

Christina Egan © 2001

Two large orange roses in the sunshine, yellow in the middle, with large healthy leaves.

Photograph: Christina Egan © 2014

May Haiku (Bruce Castle)

May Haiku
(Bruce Castle)

Glowing orange orbs,
cluster of new-born planets:
this year’s first roses!

*

Dusk, delayed, scented:
the earth emerged from the dark,
bedecked like a bride.

*

Below the half-moon
a low-flying aeroplane
slices up the sky.

*

The tower-clock strikes,
bright, as if an angel called:
Be alive! Alive!

Christina Egan © 2013

You can see a photo of Bruce Castle, Tottenham, London and read some similar poetry in German at Himmelblaue Uhr.

Die Hängenden Gärten / Palmyra Perennis

Die Hängenden Gärten

Schwarz liegt der Strom, von Gestirnen benetzt,
blendend erhebt sich der Herrscher der Nacht
über die Hängenden Gärten,
über den künstlichen Gipfel,
welcher den Hügel ins Flachland versetzt,
welcher den Wald in die Großstadt gebracht,
über die plätschernden Gärten,
über die flüsternden Wipfel…
Flimmernd erhebt sich die Harfe zuletzt,
warm liegt die Stadt in versilberter Pracht.

Christina Egan © 2015

Basalt stone with carved images of trees, with a building, an animal and a man

The city of Babylon. Assyrian, 7th c. BC. —
© The Trustees of the British Museum
(Ref. no. 00032445001)

These musical lines evoke Babylon by night:
the moon and stars reflected in the Euphrates,
the Hanging Gardens rising above the big city,
murmuring fountains and a sparkling harp…
It could be the instrument which rises
sparkling like a star — or its voice.

Palmyra Perennis

Sank auch der stolze Bogen dahin mit dreifachem Seufzer,
ragt uns sein Bildnis im Geist schwerelos über dem Sand.
Sind auch zum Staube gekehrt der Ahnen goldene Hallen,
tragen das Erbe wir fort: sanften Triumph der Vernunft.

Christina Egan © 2015

For a picture of the ruins of Palmyra and a comment on
this poem on enlightenment, please look at my
MOTTO.

The view that cultural vandalism should be recognised as
a war crime akin to genocide has been discussed recently.