‘The Tears of the Gods’ and Other Poetry by Robert S. Hubbard The Society August 5, 2015 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 1 Comment The Tears of the Gods An ancient fable tells of how the gods rose from the main Of azure deep of Ocean and all Being they surveyed How Sun he warmed the stones, how the vibrant verdure swayed How tawny bees rejoice to homeward wing with pollen’s stain. The gods then smiled themselves and took to shining atmosphere And took up their positions on the distant clouds and stars They peopled rings of Saturn and the russet seat of Mars Satisfied with what the Sun had wrought in all his cheer. They still returned from time to time to see the shores and groves Of their ancestral planet and to take delight therein To wander mountain paths and to frolic in the glen To talk with sundry animals who batten in their coves. But then one day the gods they came no more to Earth’s domain But nonetheless they watched it from th’ ethereal realm of spheres Feeling no more welcome in the rolling of the years They hold to their astral abodes and will not come again. And who can blame them? They still shine on softly in the night And one surmises that they are not in the least impressed With what the creatures of a day have done to all the rest Of nature’s trove by leaving in their wake a trail of blight. It is as though a child, anticipating Christmas games, Awakes and finds his presents waiting underneath the tree, And perusing them, decides ‘These gifts aren’t suitable for me!’ And casually tosses gifts prepared with love into the flames. So if the theory holds that elder gods arose one day From the Ocean’s channels that all forms of life disclosed Then it must surely be that lakes and rivers are composed Of the tears that those same gods weep for humanity today. Snow The crystals glitter brightly Celestial wings are driven And through the air they flutter Before our eyes Seeds of imagination Breathe life into the flurries And sing unto the heavens Of what they know And what they know is secret The Terpsichorean artistry Of shells reanimated And given life And bitter blasts of Zephyr They cleave the azure firmament And drive headlong the flurries’ Chaotic patterns The mighty sun shines weakly And hangs low in the heavens Reminder to the clear sky Of latent life The whirling flakes are gleaming With brilliant machinations And in their proper timing Unknown by all Remind us of Khione Within her reliquary She calls to life the flurries And drives them on So children in their pile caps Their great coats and their mittens May in the snow be smitten With nature’s call. The Wanderer Not all those who wander are lost. -Tolkien According to the usual legends, Orpheus had been commanded not to look upon Eurydice until they had achieved the world of light above; if he did so, she would fall back into death, and permanently this time. Once he was in the light himself, Orpheus then looked back upon his wife, who still stood upon the threshold of the Underworld, and so he lost her once again. The poet was forever after inconsolable. Helios* cleaves the black of firmament And puts to rout the stars, his stallions bent Their course to essay from the Ocean’s main And thence the heights of heaven to attain. And stands upon the ruin of the night A wandering bard bereft by Death’s chill blight And looking ‘round through saddened eyes he sees The briny surf, the rocky hills, the trees Reviewing for the last time nature’s trove Before he turns into the sacred grove And turns his final course in pure distress Into the noxious maw of Erebus*. As bold Helios mounts the peak of sky Ever downward does the bard now fly And ever downward till he lights upon The lowest plain of lowest Acheron*. He breathes in noxious vapors in the gloom Where incorporeal phantoms shriek their doom And drawn to his life’s warmth, the shades of those Who no more see the light his trek oppose And seek to drag him to the dismal flood Of Acheron where he can pay with blood The price of his impertinent intrusion But the witless shades he sunders in confusion Their strengthless hands his sinews cannot grasp Nor body can their weightless fingers clasp The shades they shriek in pain and fury then As when the fawn is dragged to lion’s den His mother stomps around, and bleats, and cries But can do nothing while the yearling dies. So too the shades* now cry out their dismay That the living to the Underworld do stray That a pumping heart—so near!—they cannot touch And hot life’s blood is just beyond their clutch. The bard them quells the shades with baleful song And charms away the longing of the throng As when the wailing of Merope* ceased When her sisters took the forms of trees And tears to amber then were crystallized And no more cry from their lungs could be prised— As what was quick was rendered cold and hard, The shades fell silent, baffled by the bard. On he journeys past the frozen gyre Where wailing of Cocytus* rises higher And past the black and uninviting fall Of Tartaros*, whose dungeons do enthrall The titans who rebelled against the might Of Zeus, and past whose borne no ray of light May illuminate the prison walls, Where Kronos, they say, continuously falls. But he ignores these wonders and keeps on Until he comes to boiling Phlegethon* Where rolling pitch confers shades to their doom And scorches them within their fiery tomb. The smell of sulfur wafts upon the air Combined with stench of burning flesh and hair Of those condemned by Minos* to be burned, Who in the rolling pitch could be discerned. Into the valleys now the bard descends By hateful Styx* where Charon* ever sends The shades of those who did receive above A fitting burial sanctified with love, Across the Styx and to the shores of Night To have their judgment in great Minos’ sight. Some he sends to burn in Phlegethon, Some to torment by grim Acheron Some will freeze in ice of Cocytus, The worst are lost in black of Tartaros. Yet there is hope for these, except the last: For once their time of punishment is past, The shades may drink from Lethe* and flee the night, And go above once more to see the light. Or so some say. But to the east is light— Elysian fields lie just beyond his sight! Elysium where, they say, the just find rest Since they led blameless lives, when Fate did wrest Their lives from them they were allotted peace In the world below without surcease. In the soft hills of that verdant spring They say that death was profit with no sting And I have heard that they don wreaths of flowers Entwining hands, they celebrate life’s powers. But turning thence, he wonders through the pale And thoughtless midnight howling through that vale Scattering ghosts encountered on his path The enchanting lyre dispelling death’s dire wrath He pities those he sees, and gnaws his heart With dread to think of his poor wife apart From him and so his face a teardrop streaks— But nowhere does he see her whom he seeks. And coming then to Hades’ iron keep On lowest sands of Styx there in the deep He charms the guards with soporific song, His lyre undoes the gates and, waxing strong, He steals his way along its corridors, The choking purple gloom seeps in his pores, Ensorceling his eyes but dares he not To give in to the cold of winter’s rot— Not and leave his wife’s grim fate unfought, Not and leave Eurydice* unsought! The ghastly king of hell sits on this throne And whiles away the hours like a stone Trying to remember days of yore The green of trees, the salty warmth of shore But cannot quite recall their vibrant glow. Persephone*, she conjures thoughts of woe The pain of mere existence and despairs Her face worn down by centuries of cares Once beautiful, now all she sees, she hates. And rousing then as if from darkened fates, The king and queen hear baleful melody Throughout the castle halls so recently Bereft of life, but color now returns To graying walls and dust-eroded urns The bard approaches, singing death to life— And pleads infernal mercy for his wife. He sings of Zeus’s rain and summer’s peach And lazy days spent on the sun-drenched beach And crops that at the summer’s end are found, Then nature steals once more beneath the ground. He sings the blasts of winter that assail The walls of humble cabins with their gale But within, a cozy scene is set As life will not the earth’s decrease abet— Gay faces are aglow with fireside’s cheer And solemnly hail the turning of the year. He sings the strength of lions on the plains Who catch gazelles and feast through bloodied manes Who gulp down all the guts and greedily Drink up their black blood by the Fates’ decree: That life must feed on life is manifest To live, one must another life arrest. He also sings the wolves who howl at night To give the children in their beds a fright And of the dragons soaring through the skies Their barbed tails and their glittering, emerald eyes And great sea monsters, sounding Triton’s deep Where ancient tombs of kings now lie asleep. He sings the flowers of springtime and the bees Which hail the reappearance of the trees And break the adamantine hearts who hear And recall the springtime of their life’s own year. ‘It cannot be,’ quoth he, ‘that she no more ‘will look upon the golden tract of shore ‘nor celebrate ethereal paths of air ‘where Zeus’s eagles the heights of heaven dare, ‘nor that she will no longer see the moon ‘nor play with me on green hilltops in June ‘nor hear the soft cry of the bird bereft ‘of offspring, nor the sound of hearts now cleft ‘in twain, the cause of which is hateful death, ‘when life is done, no longer drawing breath— ‘No, sooner take me now, forever silence ‘this my lyre, put song to rest with violence.’ The years came flooding back into their faces, Erasing years of death and wrought the traces Of springtime rolling ‘round again in its time— Non-existence put to flight by rhyme. The king, though moved, was firm in his decree: ‘A mortal girl, moved hence? This cannot be! ‘She with us stays, but I have not the heart ‘to take you now, so leave this place: depart!’ The queen then placed her hand upon the chin Of her dread lord, and softly spoke to him, ‘Husband, recall you now those ancient days ‘when you took me, and went your kingly ways— ‘Recall, you loved me once, and did decree ‘the world is how you wanted it to be.’ Great Hades sighed, and dropped his countenance, And raised his right hand, sign of his assent. And bowing low, the bard then did retire From the house of Night and plucked his lyre, To summon her for whom he had risked all, When by her river, Mnemosyne* did call. ‘This river, twin of Lethe, do I guard, ‘reminding those in this infernal yard ‘of what they have experienced while above ‘of joy and heartbreak, misery and love. ‘Before they go once more to upper air ‘they drink from Lethe, and so forget despair ‘and consider her a blessing, me a curse— ‘I say it is not so, I reimburse ‘you for the choices that in life you made. ‘Now, here, remember, is Eurydice’s shade.’ He remembered her to him, and she appeared And up they made their course as Helios steered His steeds of fire down toward the western sea And vanished from sight, but not from memory. Eurydice, they say, then fell once more Rejoining the shades on Styx’s gloomy shore, When Orpheus* did turn to look at her— One moment too soon, the fool, he did not learn. And so the story goes that poetry Is born of sadness, and things that cannot be That sooner or later, love is lost, and then Poets do their plaintive songs begin. I abjure it! and I bid you, stay, And entertain the reason why that day The bard began to fill the air with song That moveth sticks and stones and rights the wrong Done to the earth by man’s frivolity That pushes tons of garbage to the sea. It was not loss! No, but Mnemosyne Of things that are, not things that cannot be. And so the song continues to this day, Each time Helios showers us with his ray. Helios: The personification of the sun. Helios draws his chariot across the sky each day from the eastern ocean to the western, pulled by steeds of fire. Erebus: Primordial god of darkness, or possibly the entrance to the Underworld itself. Acheron: A river in the Underworld, specifically the River of Pain. Cocytus: The River of Wailing in the Underworld, sometimes thought to be frozen. Tartaros: A dungeon pit below the Underworld where many of the worst offenders against the gods are put to be eternally punished. Phlegethon: A river in the Underworld, whose name means “burning” in Greek. Shades: Ghosts Minos: The legendary king of Crete who became judge of the dead after his death. Styx: the River of hatred in the Underworld, and the first normally encountered by those making their way thither. Charon will ferry souls across who have received burial rites; those who have not must wander aimlessly until they are buried. Hades and Persephone are the king and queen of the Underworld. Hades, too, had unlawfully taken his own wife in his day and stolen away with her. Mnemosyne: The River of memory in the Underworld, and also the personification of memory. Lethe: Two syllables for meter. The River of Forgetfulness in the Underworld, from which persons returning to life once more in a new incarnation must drink, so as not to remember their former lives. Featured Image: “Helios as Personification of Midday,” by Anton Raphael Mengs. Views expressed by individual poets and writers on this website and by commenters do not represent the views of the entire Society. The comments section on regular posts is meant to be a place for civil and fruitful discussion. Pseudonyms are discouraged. The individual poet or writer featured in a post has the ability to remove any or all comments by emailing submissions@ classicalpoets.org with the details and under the subject title “Remove Comment.” Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window) Related One Response Shari Jo LeKane-Yentumi August 7, 2015 Breathtaking poetry. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel Reply Your email address will not be published.CommentName* Email* Website Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.