The Archangel Michael depicted by Giordano, d'Oggiono, and Raphael (L-R)‘Épuration’ by Joseph S. Salemi The Society June 2, 2021 Beauty, Culture, Poetry 14 Comments . On the Greek isle of Tilos are the ruins of the sanctuary of Pythian Apollo. Over them has been built the Church of the Archangel Michael. “Now rot here on the earth that nourishes men. No longer will you live to be an evil mischief to mortals.” —Homeric Hymn to Apollo Saint Michael, God’s own musketeer, Commander of angelic hosts; Saint Michael of the lucent spear Too glorious to be dimmed by boasts; Hold back the hordes of this sick age That seek our blood on every side— The Mongols of our lust and rage, The Persians of our pampered pride. May your lance pierce the inward parts Of what drives our diseased decline— Like Phoebus, fill the beast with darts And leave it in putrescent slime. Let your sword swing and dole out death In one immense and lethal arc To all whose leprous, tainted breath Infects the light and plagues the dark. Like Trojans, may their throats be cut By Achilleus, lost to hope— Or let them, like the suitors’ sluts, Dance strangled on a laundry rope. Let them lie in mounded pyres Awaiting the all-cleansing flame— Let them belch, in those last fires, The stench of their forgotten name. And then, Saint Michael, Like-to-God, Stand watch against vindictive night, Lest gore from your chastising rod Bring back, unseen, the venomed blight. Originally published in TRINACRIA . . Joseph S. Salemi has published five books of poetry, and his poems, translations and scholarly articles have appeared in over one hundred publications world-wide. He is the editor of the literary magazine Trinacria and writes for Expansive Poetry On-line. He teaches in the Department of Humanities at New York University and in the Department of Classical Languages at Hunter College. 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Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window) 14 Responses Margaret Coats June 2, 2021 A perfect cursing psalm, first asking restraint of evils for which we are responsible, then obliteration of incorrigible enemies, and finally protection from their return. The structure shows without saying that we must be vigilant over ourselves, lest we have any part in the return of the venomed blight. Saint Michael, defend us in this battle! Reply James A. Tweedie June 2, 2021 To all whose leprous, tainted breath Infects the light and plagues the dark Words do have power, especially when the pen is wielded by one who knows how to use it. As for praying for Michael to vent God’s wrath and judgment in the manner of a vengeful Greek mortal/god, well, that is certainly thinking out of the box! And . . . I would love to know who is being addressed and cursed in your citation from the Homeric Hymn to Apollo. Reply Joseph S. Salemi June 2, 2021 In the Homeric Hymn, Apollo is addressing the carcass of the terrible she-dragon that had surrounded the omphalos (the center of the world). He had killed her with his arrows, and then said “Rot there, and trouble mankind no longer.” The Greek word for “rot” is “pytho,” so Apollo is sometimes called the Pythian god when he acts to destroy or eliminate anything disgusting, vile, or polluting. The “conceit” of this poem is to connect the earlier myth of the Pythian Apollo with the Christian idea of St. Michael the Archangel. Reply James A. Tweedie June 2, 2021 Thank you. I am especially grateful for your bringing me back to the concept of a poetic “conceit.” Also, it seems to me that Apollo is often the one who displays behavior which could be described as “evil mischief to mortals!” As with all of the classical deities, Apollo reflects a personality as complex (and conflicted) as any human. This is, I think, part of what continues to make the Olympian soap opera so interesting and compelling for us today. Margaret Coats June 5, 2021 It’s not just Apollo’s personality as seen in myth. Part of myth’s wealth of meaning lies in symbolism. This is clearest in Apollo’s solar symbolism: the sun is needed for crops to grow, but too much sun scorches crops and causes famine. Also seen in Apollo as causer of plague and healer. As for Michael venting God’s wrath on mortals, this is well within the box of several Biblical psalms praying for God to avenge His people on their enemies. In the Vatican II Liturgy of the Hours, the passages have been excised. These divinely inspired texts remain in the prayer of the Church only in a few traditional religious orders that recite the entire Psalter each week. Joseph S. Salemi June 5, 2021 Apollo, like his sister Artemis, is a cold divinity who can be cruel and destructive. He has no playful, humorous side. But in my view he is the most important of the Graeco-Roman gods because all human achievement, art, and civilization are under his patronage, and he is the absolutely essential destroyer of what is evil, sick, degraded, ugly, inferior, and corrupt. Without Apollo and his far-shooting arrows, all filth and infection grows without check. The problem today in the West is that we have no Apollo figure to fulfill this crucial role, except for St. Michael the Archangel. And as Margaret has pointed out, the vile corruption of Vatican 2 has done all in its power to eliminate St. Michael from Catholic liturgy, prayers and consciousness. This was no error. It was deliberate. Julian D.Woodruff June 2, 2021 Thank you, Joseph. The allusion to Apollo is surely (in part at least) meant to denote how the dark sentimentalism and subjectivism rampant today must be defeated by the the power of objectivism and reason: insistence on the prevalence of absolute truth (light, the “lucent spear”). There are so many powerful lines here, my favorites being “Like Phoebus, fill the beast with darts And leave it in putrescent slime.” Did you have something quite specific in mind when writing “laundry rope”? Reply Joseph S. Salemi June 3, 2021 The “laundry rope” refers to the killing, in Homer’s Odyssey, of the serving-girls who had dishonored Odysseus’ house by sleeping with the suitors who were tormenting his wife Penelope. The girls were strangled to death by Odysseus’ son Telemachos on a clothesline (at the direction of Odysseus). It was part of the major cleanup of his house that followed on his return to Ithaka. The previous Homeric reference in the same quatrain is to Achilleus’ sacrifice of Trojan captives at the funeral pyre of his friend Patroklos, towards the end of the Iliad. Reply paul buchheit June 3, 2021 A lot of imagery and wrath here. Very lyrical. Great work, Joseph! Reply Sally Cook June 3, 2021 Dark and strange, with iron-clad stanzas, this poem sits like a block of marble on our near horizon. Thought that I had seen this before; re-read your note, and realized I must have seen it in that excellent journal TRINACRIA. Reply Susan Jarvis Bryant June 3, 2021 For me, this poem is a masterclass in spot-on technique. It makes a conceit look easy. The same applies to the excellent employment of alliteration – never gratuitous, never forced, just a pure joy to read aloud and revel in the musicality of the piece. Joe S., thank you for your inspiration. Reply Cynthia Erlandson June 3, 2021 Amen! Reply David Watt June 4, 2021 The cut and thrust of consistently powerful imagery flows logically, and beautifully within its technically faultless framework. Reply C.B. Anderson June 4, 2021 Like Sally, I barely remember this, though I must have read it. Perhaps this is because Michaelmas coincides with Oktoberfest. Reply Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYour 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.