(All poetry by Bruce Dale Wise)

Ancient Melodies

by Ercules Edibwa

No longer are they heard, the ancient melodies
of Greece, so beautiful and lovely to the ear.
One now can only imagine their mellow ease
played o’er the centuries, so far are they from here.
Like waters from th’ Aegean Sea, they lap upon
the rocky shores of sandy, sunlit yesteryear
and splash in waves of luscious foam in rosy dawn.
That music draws us back to simpler times and ways,
but they, like those of then, are all forever gone;
and yet we long for them—those wonderful, sweet lays,
those haunting and inviting sounds, those bellowings
beyond our world, our understanding, and our praise.

Ercules Edibwa is a poet fond of Greece. He is an intimate of Acwiles Berude and Esiad L. Werecub, his fellow Hellenists. One of his favourite moments in literature is when Odysseus speaks with Heracles’ phantom in the Odyssey. Presently he lives just off of the rather  bumpy Hercules Lane.

 

Revelation 1:12-18

by Israel W. Ebecud

I turned to see the voice that spoke to me.
On turning, seven golden lampstands glowed;
and in their midst, the son of man I see,
who, with a long and flowing robe, was clothed.
He had a golden girdle round his breast.
His head and hair were white as snow or wool.
His eyes were like fires flaming in unrest.
His feet, like burnished bronze, stood, each a jew’l.
The sound of many waters was his voice.
He held forth seven stars in his right hand.
A double-edged sword from his mouth was poised.
His face was like the shining sun’s command.
When I saw him, down to his feet I cast
myself, as if I was one who was dead;
but he put his right hand on me, and said,
“Fear not, for I am both the first and last,
the living one who died but still lives on,
who has the keys of Death and Hades, John.”

Israel W. Ebecud is a poet interested in Israel and its Jewish traditions.

 

Cellini’s Masterpiece, His Perseus

by Alberdi Ucwese

Cellini’s masterpiece, his Perseus,
amazes with its frankness: where he stands,
upon the dead decapitated mess,
Medusa’s body; what is in his hands,
a sword, her head; his nakedness; his gaze,
downward, serene; the scene, pure violence;
location of the statue, Florence; place,
Piazza della Signoria. Hence,
all things conspire to shock the consciousness.
We squirm at such unflinching firmness. We
recoil at such undaunted vauntedness,
are jolted, even as we thrill to see
Cellini’s masterpiece, his Perseus,
excelling, powerful, and merciless.

Alberdi Ucwese is intrigued by the flows of Italy.

 

 

John Milton’s Paradise Regained or Lost

by Wilude Scabere

for Timothy J. Burbery

Today one hardly hears a word upon
John Milton’s Paradise Regained or Lost:
no Andrew Marvell marvels at its lawn,
no Pope accounts its worth, no Keats its cost.
It is as if he has not anything
to say to us, who flounder all about
this way and that, who flap on skinny wing
through Humean and Humanistic doubt.
Yet it’s not him who has no thing to say,
but rather us who have no ears to hear.
His song’s too strong for us who want to stay,
but do not have the strength to stand so near
that majesty which through his work does reign,
and awes devout souls, not profane or vain.

Wilude Scabere is a poet of preRomantic England, from the unrhymed, alliterative heroic elegiac Beowulf to the end of the diehard Neoclassicists of the 18th century, like Samuel Johnson.

 

 


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10 Responses

  1. James Sale

    Wonderful Bruce – some really lovely poetry here; and I like the striking and bold ideas you wrestle with. There’s a sublimity in your pose! Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Amy Foreman

    Classical poetry about the classics, with ingenious heteronyms and creative accompanying bios to add panache. Well done, Bruce!

    Reply
  3. Dave Whippman

    “Ancient Melodies” was very poignant. It is a sobering thought that so much of the ancient world is lost to us, eg a lot of Sappho’s poetry. (For a sort of counter-argument, read MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal.”) But this was a well-written piece.

    Reply
  4. Ercules Edibwa

    Mr. Sale mentions my pose. I suppose so, if he means I am engaged in various topics. On the other hand, I do think the Victorians and Modernists sometimes did their best work in poses or masks; Pound and Pessoa might use the term personae. The term I use is charichord, a word from the depths of my dreams, that simply means scattering the letters of my name (perhaps due to too much Poe or too many British crosswords in my earlier years). I enjoy, as I am sure many SPC readers do, solving puzzles, whether they be literary, philosophical, mathematical, etc.

    “Ancient Melodies”, a bilding, uses interlocking terza rima; Mr. Sale is using terza rima in his “Cantos”. The rhyme scheme of a bilding is ababcbcdcdad. But I can see now that even a decade back I was chafing at hexametres.

    “No longer are they heard—the ancient melodies of Greece…”

    I think it is good for a poet to look back on his or her work and critically evaluate it; but in a much deeper sense—to actually reinvigourate a work, as T. S. Eliot attempted, but Vergil did.

    I think the work I most seriously did that with was “27 November 1976: Fort Eustis, Virginia”, where I took the free verse poem of the young man in the US Army who wrote in his journal on that day, and keeping over 90% of the words, transformed it into a tennos.

    Ms. Foreman mentions the bios. The bios are new; they are really only about me; and I try to make them as true as I can, but they are only a work in progress. Sometimes they work, but often they fizzle. I know some people laugh at SPC bios; but since I am in the trenches weekly submitting poems across the Internet, I am constantly asked for a bio; and I finally decided to spruce them up a bit. Sometimes they are quite fun. I do like the attitude of Julius Caesar, in referring to himself in the third person. They help make the rejections more palatable, as I get more rejections than acceptances.

    Mr. Whippman’s comment is intriguing. There are depths to it. First off, he mentions the “sobering thought that so much of the ancient world is lost to us”. And I would say in at least two ways: first off, that power is lost, forever (and to me that is the most devastating); secondly, as Mr. Whippman mentions, the works themselves are lost. It is true as he points out that a lot of Sappho’s work is lost; but there are so many others, and so much more: Aeschylus, Sophocles, the New Comedy, Ennius, Lucilius, Gallus, etc. Oh, there’s just so much. Cinna’s Zmyrna, like Gray’s Elegy, took a decade to compose; and now no book contains it. Nobody can decode its recondite lines, less read than German Lit’s Opitz or Lycophron’s Alexandra, containing prophesies of Cassandra; because it has vanished permanently. Only it and its author’s name gently occur occasionally, out of reach, on the sands of time’s ever rolling beach.

    Not only are so many works gone, but recognition of those we still have as well…is gone. A tennos that both writers here @ SCP and elsewhere have mocked was a poem in which the center contains my translation of a poem of Sappho’s.

    Astronomers Date Sappho Poem
    by Esiad L. Werecub

    Astronomers and physicists have used advanced software
    to date the lyric poet Sappho’s undisturbed despair,
    back in 570 BC on Lesbos rocky isle,
    her sad and haunting, lonely lines: I wonder, would she smile?
    The moon had set back then, as had the starry Pleiades;
    they left her in the darkness, on her couch and ill at ease.
    At midnight, time was passing by, and she lay all alone;
    nobody there to sense or hear her uncomplaining moan.
    Did these researchers, furthermore, detect, the residue
    of quiet resignation in the metered lines construed?

    Another intriguing aspect of Mr. Whippman’s comment was his mention of MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal” of August-December of 1938 in London mainly, but in the shires, and elsewhere.

    I do like MacNeice’s long (and short) freer lines, less dynamic than Pound’s, and less regular than Crane’s, but containing a homier energy than his American counterparts. I used to write that way—entirely—keeping journals as a young man, along with writing poems. [Luckily most of my juvenalia has been tossed away—literally thousands of pages. But it was good practice; I learned so much in that freedom].

    Reading MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal” shows us preWW2 thoughts: the fears, “Hitler yells on the wireless”, the Spanish Civil War, “the autopsy of treaties”, the admixture of regular life and the classics, “Sing us no more idylls, no more pastorals, no more epics of the English earth…”, the drinking, smoking, sex, buildings, flowers, traffic circles… In some ways, but from an different view point, I am attempting what MacNeice was attempting in my most recent (probably unpublishable, despite Mr. Sale’s sales pitch) anthology “S-un Settling Earth: 2018”. Like him I am writing in the moment; however, less about me, and more about the World and the Cosmos. MacNeice’s work, as T. S. Eliot pointed out, is easy to read—mine is not. MacNeice’s work, as Larkin pointed out, deals with the artifacts and surfaces of normal life—I am as shallow, but I deal with the artifacts and surfaces of history.

    But the four poems here are not from this year—they are earlier works—and they show my “pose” or, I would say, “desire” for ancient Greek power in poetry and Biblical prose, in Renaissance creative and artistic strength (though I personally find Cellini distasteful), and English baroque “epic” power.

    Reply
  5. David Watt

    There is an evident appreciation of the classics in these poems, and lines containing truths eloquently expressed. For example:

    “and yet we long for them—those wonderful, sweet lays,
    those haunting and inviting sounds, those bellowings
    beyond our world, our understanding, and our praise”.

    “Yet it’s not him who has no thing to say,
    but rather us who have no ears to hear”.

    Thank you Bruce for these poems which remind us of what we have lost, and of what we should still cherish.

    Reply
  6. Charles Southerland

    Bruce-

    I enjoyed your work, especially your Revelation poem- nearly a translation, I think.

    Reply
  7. Israel W. Ebecud

    The word “classics” is hard to pin down, and it obviously has different meanings in different contexts. There are the poetic classics of ancient Greece and Rome, ancient India and China, and then there are more recent classics, like the classics of English literature, or Renaissance art, like the classical painter Leonardo Da Vinci, about whom Mr. Watt wrote recently. Though these are poems of some years past, these are areas I frequently return to: ancient Greece, the Bible, Renaissance art, and Milton, in trying to interpret our modern moment.

    Mr. Southerland correctly points out that my poem from “Revelations” is “nearly a translation”; but there are additions and subtraction; and obviously English isn’t Greek, nor are John’s prose verses iambic pentametres in an eighteen-lined Staffordian sonnet. To me it is sad that so many writers of the modern moment miss not only the extraordinary power, majesty, and insight of the Hebrew and Greek writers of the Book, but also the classical works of antiquity. For me, those writers, among others, help make sense of the World in the New Millennium.

    Reply
  8. Wilbur Dee Case

    Though the poems of that linguistic hydra have many positive qualities, including musicality, critical acumen, and a remarkable artistic distance from the work, there are various flaws in the poems and comments.

    1. In “Ancient Melodies” at L3 there is a metrical slip-up, “imagine” violates the meter. Although I know the poet generally places a higher value of syllable over accent in his bildings, L3 could be improved, e. g.

    “one now can but imagine them, their mellow ease.”

    Otherwise, the aural and the ideas meld in a lucky moment.

    2. Though the style is remarkably forthright, I question the plural pronoun of L10 and the overt internal rhyme of L11 in the sonnet on Cellini’s “Perseus”.

    3. Again, despite the lucky confluence of words in the sonnet on Milton, L14 is too alliterative for my taste.

    4. In the Ercules Edibwa’s comment, though his prose seems almost poetic, as in the sentences on Cinna’s “Zmyrna”, I did notice a grammatical error in the section on MacNeice’s “Autumn Journal”: from “an” different viewpoint”.

    5. I do wonder exactly what Mr. Whippman meant as “a sort of counter-argument”.

    6. In responding to Mr. Southerland’s comment, Israel W. Ebecud violates his parallelism: “subtraction” should be plural.

    Reply
  9. Rajendra Singh Baisthakur

    ‘Ancient Melodies’ reminds me ‘Dover Beach’ of Matthew Arnold.
    ‘John Milton’s Paradise Regained or Lost’ reveals poet’s love of Milton but today nobody has patience to tolerate the language used by Milton.

    Reply
  10. Wilude Scabere

    Mr. Baisthakur’s learned comment is remarkable for a couple of reasons: first, the topics of Arnold’s “Dover Beach” and “Ancient Melodies” intersect; though the misery and the memory of Sophocles is missing in “Ancient Melodies”, there are similarities, not least of which is a touch of nostalgia; second, and this is the more important, the purity of the language that Arnold (drawing on Shelley probably) and other Victorians strove for up through and including the Modernist Yeats, is exactly what the author was striving for in “Ancient Melodies”. It is a rare note in our language, missing in the main from before the Victorians and afterwards. That clarity is not as common a quality in English, as it is in ancient Greek.

    Mr. Baisthakur’s second comment is much more complicated for many reasons, especially when he uses the word “love”. Another word, like “admire” or “respect”, would have been easier to dispense with. Let me begin by noting the last two iambs of the first quatrain—”no Keats its cost”. Keats once wrote he felt the need to guard against Milton because “life to him [Milton] would be death to me [Keats]”. And this is a nutshell is what I have felt about poetry for most of my life. When one becomes absorbed in another writer’s works, to yield to other writers seriously has real dangers, not least of which is the losing of one’s own self [whatever that might mean]. I remember once, perhaps two decades ago, when I wrote in a sonnet on Shakespeare, I would never break myself “into selves countless”. I am still fighting that battle. At least, all these ridiculous charichords that I am manufacturing (dozens per year) are just the letters of my name scrambled. Whether one falls into the words of writers, like John the Apostle or John Milton, or the work of a sculptor, like Cellini, etc., that balance of appreciation and keeping one’s distance is important for an artist; which is why the last word of my near-translation of “Revelation 1:12-18” was John.

    Reply

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