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Hymn to Aurora 

1

Aurora, rise and cast your curls
Of daybreak through the vapor swirls
To drape my face in scarlet beams—
Since you left me I’ve had bad dreams.
Like waves, my sheets have tossed and turned,
I’ve waxed and waned, I’ve dripped and burned,
My patience tapered to a nub
As the sneering moon reflects your snub.
So fly, red Mustang, engine purring,
From zero to a hundred spurring,
Follow each starry highway sign:
Depart your bed and enter mine.
Uranus kindly will revive you—
When you get here, I’m sure to drive you.

2

You aren’t like other green-eyed gods.
Your coyness winks against the odds.
I see your blushing cheeks, two clouds
Illumined by vermillion crowds
Of rays, each one a dainty thread
Of hair upon your tousled head
That sets the firmament on fire.
Your strings that weave through heaven’s lyre
Beckon a hand to fill those gaps—
But is mine skilled enough? Perhaps
I’ll lower my gaze and comb the grass
And finger buzzing winds of brass…
And if that makes you slightly jealous,
You’ll render my devotion zealous.

3

Daughter of air, what do you know?
You’re always changing—do you grow?
Your locks are fresh, a golden trove,
Like Venus in her wooded grove
Mid Primavera’s lusty frolic—
Have you a hint of the bucolic?
I’d pick your orange from its bough;
Your fruit’s been seedless, seems, till now.
I’d pluck your petals from their stem
Since no bee’s pollinated them.
I’d metamorphose you in mud
And turn you to a leafy bud,
Then climb you like some viny thing…
Too bad you’re nothing like the spring.

4

The birds, like bards, are morning’s wards.
Both praise your light with vocal chords.
We minstrels, though, use words for wings
And float like gods on stage—with strings.
We can’t, like condors, see you close—
Such majesty, so grandiose.
Here far below I sit, in dirt,
Grimy of face and grimy of shirt.
And yet…across the sky you arc,
And strolling ever nearer, park
Above my head and kiss my brow—
A burning kiss—and then you bow
And pass me by into the west
And fall back into bed, and rest.

5

Contrasted with your blinding form
I’m like Tithonus, old and worn.
So keep me locked in your dark room,
I’ll grey and shrivel in the gloom
Beyond the ocean, past the earth;
One crack, one peek would make it worth
My while: that warmth that feels the touch
Of your transparent tresses. Such
Are wishes. When you see the Thunder
God, don’t repeat that greedy blunder,
To live forever. Give me youth
Instead and crown my old sweet tooth,
Not fixed so endless aches are thronging—
Just long enough to tempt your longing.

6

Your amber car enticed Troy’s heir
Then left his city, bright and fair,
Dancing in amber flames. A warning:
That mortal dares to love the morning
Whom crickets chirp for in the grave.
Still, let me worship you, a slave
To your routines. I offer up
Those joys I save for Bacchus’ cup:
In lieu of wine, I’ll drink your lips
And suck your spreading fingertips
And drown in dawn, your vintage blooming—
Forgive me, goddess, for presuming.
What this hymn lacks in piety
It offsets with sobriety.

7

The night is tired, the heavens drear,
It’s almost time—your birthday’s near!
I know, I know…that’s everyday;
The sky is special, though, in May.
You’ll start a different voyage soon.
This time you won’t pass by to zoom
Across the earth—this time you’ll stay,
And shining always, never stray.
Let’s stop the dials, darling, please,
Deluge the blue in red and freeze
The tides and banish chilly Mars
And hang in Venus’s hot arms
And linger low, no more to rise,
And dominate the spheres. The sky’s
Not big enough to coexist in:
It must be bled to have my tryst in.

.

.

Andrew Benson Brown was a graduate student at George Mason University before taking too many classes outside his discipline coincided with the reality of Debt. He now works as a children’s caseworker in rural Missouri. In his spare time he reads obscure classics, writes things of little market value, and exercises far more than is befitting for a modern intellectual.


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27 Responses

  1. jd

    Beautiful, Andrew. Every line. My favorite for the
    moment is, “We minstrels, though, use words for wings
    And float like gods on stage—with strings”, but no doubt
    every reading would provide new favorites.

    I like your Bio too. Very creatively stated.

    Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Glad it could stimulate your beauty bone, jd. (Apparently the ossification of beauty occurs in the clavicle, according to women’s fashion magazines.)

      Your comment on my bio made me realize I need to update that. I’m no longer a caseworker. My occupation for the moment is “poetical bum.” (But please don’t mistake me for a beat poet.)

      Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Thank you, Sally. Coming from a poet of your caliber this is fine praise.

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Andrew B. B. — Tried to write about National Review and F. Scott Fitzgerald because you mentioned them, but when I returned I could not find your original, and then my computer had a tantrum. If you want my
        comments on both, I will try to find another way.v

      • Sally Cook

        When living in Buffalo, NY. I renteed an apartment whidh had been the upstairs of the house F. Scott Fitzgerald/s home for a few yiears when growiong up. This place had the original bathroom, complete with lion-footed bathtub.
        I thought manoy times of filling that tub wi8th gin and conducting fiftyi cent touirs, but never did.
        Biographies of FSF often mention that he and his grade and high school compatriots often put on plays in “the attic”, but I can tell yiou there was no attic. — only a long low bedroom, which had to have been where the plays were produced.
        I used that room as a bedroom. So, I can only say that I bathed with F. Scott,,butfor a scant two years, we shared a bedroom.!
        Decades apart,, of course.

    • AB Brown

      Thanks for sharing, Sally. (That comment was from the thread on Adam Sedia’s secession essay, btw.) Am very jealous of your experience living in the Fitzgerald apt. I’ve read most of his stuff and am quite obsessed with the man. Amazon Prime had a really good show about F Scott and Zelda, but it was canceled after one season, before it even got to him writing his second novel. So much for producing quality TV. More superhero movies!

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Dear ABB –
        I too have always found F. Scott and Zelda fascinating; perhaps because of their rather odd relationship; or even more so the way they went about things. Don’t know exdactly what it is. What sparkied your interest? In any case his spirit seemed to have remained there, at least while I was within those walls.
        Two things at least happened then: first was
        That I had a Halloween party and at midnight my windup OG clock chimed thirteen; and the seond was one frosty morning the heat went off in the old radiator, and I went downstairs to the landlord to tell him I could see my breath. Don’t worry, we make up for it, he assured me — it gets very warm in July. I don’t know why I feel I should tell you this trivia; Please say if annoying.

    • ABB

      I love your anecdotes, don’t stop. You seem to have had a very interesting life. It’s hard to say what exactly sparked my interest in them, beyond the fact that I love Fitzgerald’s writing style. I also enjoyed Zelda’s novel “Save Me the Waltz.” I guess I envy that they were at the center of things, as the darlings of the roaring twenties. “This Side of Paradise” has some fine passages, but overall it isn’t really that great. The instant success it brought him, though, made possible everything that came after. Aspiring artists and writers need that breakthrough moment to free them up from the daily pressures of life and catapult them to the next level. It seems like, for people of real talent, this happens a lot less than it used to. Some of the mature poets on this site should be a lot more famous than they are, and it makes me angry that, in place of a Salemi or a Sale as poet laureate, we have mediocre frauds like Joy Harjo and Simon Armitage who steal all the limelight.
      You mentioned that you had a National Review anecdote to share. I don’t suppose you knew Buckley?

      Reply
      • Sally Cook

        Really glad you are not averse to my loose tongue. Somehow I knew we would get on.
        The great thing about F. Scott is — he BELIEVED . I mean, he was never out on street corners haranguing — rather he was a romantic, a dreamer,
        You cannot be great without that kind of belief.

        If you would like, l will ask Evan to give you my e-mail.

      • J. John Nordstrom

        Sally,

        I am impressed with your comments re: ABB’s brilliant work and I note your deep interest in Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald was/is a lyrical prose writer after my own heart. You really should read ABB’s review of my debut novel, A Thing With Feathers, and then read that novel. A modern Poe meets a modern Dickinson in the 21st century. You cannot go wrong. There is a poetry exchange btw. the modern Poe and the modern Dickinson.
        https://classicalpoets.org/2022/01/04/review-of-a-thing-with-feathers-by-j-john-nordstrom/#/

  2. C.B. Anderson

    I won’t claim, Andrew, to understand this poem in its entirety, but one thing it has is a certain prepossessing richness. Your images are both lucid and lucent, and your end rhymes sparkle (and all the more so when they are unexpected). Dawn, always dawning, is upon us, and we should be more than grateful for that, and for you who led us there.

    Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Much obliged, C.B. If the meaning is incomprehensible, at least it counts for something that it sounds good. With your help I am gradually becoming a C+ poet.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        I didn’t mean to say that any part of the poem was incomprehensible, only that there were so many layers that a concise summary was out of the question. Density of meaning has always been a feature of good art.

  3. Norma Pain

    I absolutely love your poem Andrew. This one goes into my ‘favorites’ file. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Susan Jarvis Bryant

    Andrew, this exquisite poem brings me great joy. I am reluctant to comment in depth because of my limited understanding of the poem… the meanings hover in my periphery but are not completely clear to me. I am enchanted by its beauty and playfulness, nevertheless. It inspires me, excites me and makes me smile… thank you!

    Reply
    • A.B. Brown

      Happy to bring a bit more joy into your life, Susan. I’m changing a few lines here and there to make the meaning less opaque…at least slightly. I’ve realized that I’m not as good a lyric poet as I am a narrative one…when I don’t have a story to drive the lines I tend to lose myself in obscurities. In some cases I probably assume too much familiarity with myths no longer well-known, in other cases I over-think things and create too many degrees of separation between the image and the thing being compared. I think this one is a bit better than previous efforts, but will continue to work on it.

      I am grateful for your feedback. You and others on this site are models to aspire to. I seem to encounter your work everywhere and it is always very impressive. Saw something of yours on Snakeskin recently about the Garden of Eden and laughed my butt off.

      Reply
  5. Margaret Coats

    This is a poem that takes several readings and a glass of wine to interpret. Although I once had a certain fascination with Aurora, I will not go to your speaker’s lengths in giving up wine for her. The easy interpretation of him is a sex addict gone mad and abandoned by his woman who finds she can never satisfy him. But I prefer to stay with your presentation of this poem as a hymn, albeit an impious one, as stanza 6 says. The tone is laudatory, befitting a goddess, but with casual and inconsistent tone because the speaker continually falls into sexual suggestion as clever and colloquial as it is classic. And what a wealth of allusion! This is a serious work including a great deal of mythology, anthropology, psychology, and symbolism. Just the ambivalent male/female symbolism of the color red would take a couple of pages to sketch. And to show that Andrew has maintained a certain decorum here, I will tell any reader to go and look up the myth of Uranus, brought up in stanza 1 and again at the end of the poem with the mention of the sky. There is also the intriguing wish to “hang in Venus’s hot arms” and “banish chilly Mars.” That suggests the unmentioned Vulcan, artisan god who was supplanted in Venus’s love by the warrior god Mars. The speaker is, of course, not a god but a mortal like Tithonus, the ultimately ill-fated lover of Aurora. Another myth to look up. A most accomplished artifact, Andrew.

    Reply
    • Andrew Benson Brown

      Your analytical exposition shows great insight, Margaret, as always. Though the simple explanation is not wrong, there is something to be said for interpreting a piece on multiple levels.

      Reply
  6. James Sale

    All the comments on this poem are positive and rightly so – it is a tour de force that one could write an essay on. But I suspect that Margaret Coats comes closest to pinpointing what this is really about, given all the wonderful classical allusiveness of the poem: Andrew Benson Brown is relatively speaking a young man and quite simply this is about sex, sex, sex!!! And I suspect – though I have no inside information to this effect – that ABB has either recently fallen in love, or merely become totally infatuated with a woman he has met (of course, I semi-expect him to deny all this and say he was merely on his sofa reading Dryden’s translations of Juvenal at the time and this poem occurred to him!). Whatever … Andrew … there is a marvellous distance here from the object of his desire, but the intense palpitations are palpable – a brilliant and powerful poem!

    Reply
  7. Andrew Benson Brown

    How very perceptive of you, James…

    That I was reading Dryden! Racy parts of his translation of Lucretius, among other things.

    😉

    Reply
  8. The Mindflayer

    This is a phenomenal poem. Sensual. Seductive. It reminds me of the metaphysical poets, particularly Donne and Marvel, who are forever interpreting sex in the most abstract and beautiful ways. The rhyming here is simply sublime. To sustain such consistent quality of rhymes for this length, in couplets no less, is remarkable! Though there does seem to be a subtle narrative woven through it all, I cannot help but think the chief aim of the poem is an evocation of feeling and rapture, which transcends the literal. Simply put: astonishing.

    Reply
    • AB Brown

      Thanks for your incisive comments. Need to read more of the metaphysicals, Marvel especially. Of course, his greatest legacy is probably not his writings, but the fact that he saved Milton’s head!

      Reply
  9. J. John Nordstrom, @NordstromJoe

    J. John Nordstrom’s review on 4/25/22 of Andrew Benson Brown’s poem “Hymn to Aurora”

    Andrew Benson Brown continues the long tradition of poets in love with Aurora, a Roman mythological counterpart to the Greek goddess Eos. His verse is so exquisitely beautiful that Lord Byron is conjured for me here, no less than Emily Dickinson and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

    “And yet…across the sky you arc,
    And strolling ever nearer, park
    Above my head and kiss my brow—
    A burning kiss—and then you bow
    And pass me by into the west
    And fall back into bed, and rest.”

    The mortal poet, ABB, here wants more than a “burning kiss” from Aurora, his immortal beloved. I have also known the feeling. I can only imagine that the poet has been teased too many times by Aurora over the course of his life, so that it might be reasonably argued here that the poem is birthed by ABB’s not yet having been given opportunity to consummate that on-fire love. It would appear that he has now fallen so deeply in love with Aurora, the “rosy-fingered Dawn” of Homer, that he would trade his short mortal life for a brief moment of extreme pleasure with her. This is no doubt pleasure presumably that only the gods know and that a few mortals–lucky enough to have been desired by her–have experienced. The poet knows that Aurora has a thing for mortal males, and he would like to be her next lover, so he woos her with the instant poem. It is difficult for me to believe that Aurora could resist his enchanting verse. As I explain more fully below, the poet is taking a great risk here if he might think he can do better than his ill-fated predecessor Tithonus. Perhaps Aurora is worth the risk, however.

    Hence, “One crack, one peek would make it worth
    My while: that warmth that feels the touch
    Of your transparent tresses”

    “The sky is special in May” denotes the time of a mature and full spring, when the warmth in the air bursts the flowers into bloom and the consequent flowing serotonin inclines the youth to love, that is, both mortal and immortal youth. ABB is not exempt from a tumescent desire that the spring demands. But the desire that the mortal poet develops for Aurora is what one would expect of a god. The poet, it could be said, belies his mortal loin cloth. This is another aspect of the poem I find Byronesque and in more than one laudatory sense.

    Thus, “[t]he sky’s
    Not big enough to coexist in:
    It must be bled to have my tryst in.”

    The poet here contrasts the virginal–pristine blue sky–with the breaking of the hymen–the sacred blood that would redden the sky during day, and withal ABB implies perforce, that despite the vastness of the sky as a bed for a tryst with Aurora, he wants something even bigger–perhaps because his desire for Aurora exceeds the size of a sky-bed; that is, the poet wants an affair with Aurora in a bed bigger than the sky. What makes Aurora additionally attractive to males is the likelihood she is reborn every day at dawn as an irresistibly beautiful virgin goddess. One wonders whether the “size” issue here refers to something physical or spiritual–I admit it could be both–as the title to the poem is after all “Hymn to Aurora.” Benson Brown risks making Jupiter jealous I submit.
    In my view, Benson Brown’s poem raises another interesting unanswered question if only subliminally here: is the rosy redness of dawn the result of Aurora being deflowered each morning by some unknown lover, before she in her chariot leads Sol Invictus across the sky of day? And does the poet wish to replace that unknown lover of Aurora each and every dawn?

    “That mortal dares to love the morning
    Whom crickets chirp for in the grave.
    Still, let me worship you, a slave
    To your routines.”

    Perhaps the poet thinks that he can ensure that Aurora this time asks Jupiter to grant him both eternal youth and immortality. Aurora, as legend goes, tragically forgot to ask Jupiter to confer upon her mortal lover eternal youth, so that Tithonus became increasingly aged but would not ever die. Aurora could not stand the sight of Tithonus after some time and thus she disposed of Tithonus by changing him into a cicada that would now only rub its own legs together and no longer against hers.

    “When you see the Thunder
    God, don’t repeat that greedy blunder,
    To live forever. Give me youth
    Instead and crown my old sweet tooth,
    Not fixed so endless aches are thronging—
    Just long enough to tempt your longing.”

    But if the poet’s great spiritual love for Aurora combined with his prowess in bed does bring her to a pleasure even higher than she experienced with Tithonus, why does the poet think she’ll be able to remember to ask Jupiter to grant him both eternal youth and immortality, since Aurora’s post-climactic mind after an affair with Tithonus seemed too blissfully scattered to regain any reason at all?

    The poem “Tithonus” penned by the English poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, famously inaugurates:

    “The woods decay, the woods decay and fall,
    The vapours weep their burthen to the ground,
    Man comes and tills the field and lies beneath,
    And after many a summer dies the swan.
    Me only cruel immortality
    Consumes; I wither slowly in thine arms.”

    Emily Dickinson also paid homage to Aurora:

    “Let me not mar that perfect Dream
    By an Auroral stain
    But so adjust my daily Night
    That it will come again.

    Not when we know, the Power accosts —
    The Garment of Surprise
    Was all our timid Mother wore
    At Home — in Paradise.”

    Throughout his poem, Benson Brown tellingly infuses sexuality with a sacredness and a spiritual transcendence that is, in my view, the quintessential talisman of both the British and American Romantic traditions. Benson Brown’s verse thus defends the Romantic Era as it stands in sharp contrast to the empty, and indeed, nihilistic culture of the 21st century that degrades love to what I would call abject insignificance–even if that same culture makes evanescent physical pleasure the only thing of value besides the God Almighty Buck. Human love, for Benson Brown, can be divine under certain conditions.

    “Hymn to Aurora” is an exquisitely well-written poem in the Romantic tradition by the gifted American poet Andrew Benson Brown. I can without reservation recommend it to the whole world. Brilliant poetry!
    Signed,
    J. John Nordstrom, the author of A Thing With Feathers, recognized by both the NIEA and the Eric Hoffer Awards, see https://thewritingcollectivetwc.wordpress.com/a-thing-with-feathers/, https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/60156134-a-thing-with-feathers. The novel tells the story of a modern Poe meeting a modern Dickinson in a law library in the 2005-6 timeframe in a fictional town called Ithaca, Virginia, in Northern Virginia. See Andrew Benson Brown’s review, https://classicalpoets.org/2022/01/04/review-of-a-thing-with-feathers-by-j-john-nordstrom/#/

    P.S. Today, 4/25, is my own muse’s birthday and so I would like to dedicate my review of Andrew Benson Brown’s poem “Hymn to Aurora” to the auroral Jill, for whom “I wanted to be the moonlight in her sky every night, as she was the first ray of sunlight in every one of my dawns.” https://twitter.com/NordstromJoe/status/1462572104247771136?s=20&t=uC7b-gjulnXkxCd9fbDM5Q

    Reply
    • ABB

      Thanks for this very detailed interpretation, Joe. Glad my piece could meet live up to your standards.

      Reply
    • Sally Cook

      Yes, Mr. Nordstrom, your choice of Dickinson and Poe resonates with me.
      How perceptive of you to get there by means of F. Scott Fitzgerald !

      I believe that those who have a deep interest in certain writers and artists tend to call forth their spirits. I have both written about and painted Emily D., a lot of this is on the net on sites dedicated to her. You may include Stephen Foster in this group. Foster lived on the first block of the Bowery and, I believe died there in the 1860s. When I arrived there, I lived with three other people in the third block.

      Creative sparks are all around us. Who is to say what the purpose of creativity is, or how it works?

      Reply

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