Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Giants and Dwarfs

A long twilight limped on before me, a fatally weary, fatally intoxicated sadness, which spake with yawning mouth.

"Eternally he returneth, the man of whom thou art weary, the small man"- so yawned my sadness, and dragged its foot and could not go to sleep.
- Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Whatever Floats Your Boat

My friends it is that betray me; for mine enemy can I shun as the steersman the rock upstanding from the sea.
- Theognis of Megara (575-576)

Friday, June 24, 2011

Modern Overmen

We don't clear tall buildings
in a single bound anymore.
The people we once admired
have surrended to mediocrity.
And the tall buildings wonder:
'Will we ever be hurdled again? '

- Jerry Hughes

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Abyss-mal Sacrifices and Other Pseude-pig-raphy

Rene Magritte, "The Discovery of Fire"

Herodotus, "Histories" (Book II)
47. The pig is accounted by the Egyptians an abominable animal; and first, if any of them in passing by touch a pig, he goes into the river and dips himself forthwith in the water together with his garments; and then too swineherds, though they be native Egyptians, unlike all others do not enter any of the temples in Egypt, nor is anyone willing to give his daughter in marriage to one of them or to take a wife from among them; but the swineherds both give in marriage to one another and take from one another. Now to the other gods the Egyptians do not think it right to sacrifice swine; but to the Moon and to Dionysos alone at the same time and on the same full-moon they sacrifice swine, and then eat their flesh: and as to the reason why, when they abominate swine at all their other feasts, they sacrifice them at this, there is a story told by the Egyptians; and this story I know, but it is not a seemly one for me to tell. Now the sacrifice of the swine to the Moon is performed as follows:--when the priest has slain the victim, he puts together the end of the tail and the spleen and the caul, and covers them up with the whole of the fat of the animal which is about the paunch, and then he offers them with fire; and the rest of the flesh they eat on that day of full moon upon which they have held the sacrifice, but on any day after this they will not taste of it: the poor however among them by reason of the scantiness of their means shape pigs of dough and having baked them they offer these as a sacrifice. 48. Then for Dionysos on the eve of the festival each one kills a pig by cutting its throat before his own doors, and after that he gives the pig to the swineherd who sold it to him, to carry away again; and the rest of the feast of Dionysos is celebrated by the Egyptians in the same way as by the Hellenes in almost all things except choral dances, but instead of the /phallos/ they have invented another contrivance, namely figures of about a cubit in height worked by strings, which women carry about the villages, with the privy member made to move and not much less in size than the rest of the body: and a flute goes before and they follow singing the praises of Dionysos. As to the reason why the figure has this member larger than is natural and moves it, though it moves no other part of the body, about this there is a sacred story told. 49. Now I think that Melampus the son of Amytheon was not without knowledge of these rites of sacrifice, but was acquainted with them: for Melampus is he who first set forth to the Hellenes the name of Dionysos and the manner of sacrifice and the procession of the /phallos/. Strictly speaking indeed, he when he made it known did not take in the whole, but those wise men who came after him made it known more at large. Melampus then is he who taught of the /phallos/ which is carried in procession for Dionysos, and from him the Hellenes learnt to do that which they do. I say then that Melampus being a man of ability contrived for himself an art of divination, and having learnt from Egypt he taught the Hellenes many things, and among them those that concern Dionysos, making changes in some few points of them: for I shall not say that that which is done in worship of the god in Egypt came accidentally to be the same with that which is done among the Hellenes, for then these rites would have been in character with the Hellenic worship and not lately brought in; nor certainly shall I say that the Egyptians took from the Hellenes either this or any other customary observance: but I think it most probable that Melampus learnt the matters concerning Dionysos from Cadmos the Tyrian and from those who came with him from Phenicia to the land which we now call Bœotia.
Rene Magritte, "The Flood"

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Take Five

So long as I alone drank of the black-watered spring, the water thereof methought was sweet and good; but now 'tis all fouled and the water mixed with mud. I'll drink from another and a purer spring.
- Theognis of Megara (959-962)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Ezra Pound, "Portrait d'Une Femme"

Picasso Portrait De Femme (1937)

Your mind and you are our Sargasso Sea,
London has swept about you this score years
And bright ships left you this or that in fee:
Ideas, old gossip, oddments of all things,
Strange spars of knowledge and dimmed wares of price.
Great minds have sought you- lacking someone else.
You have been second always. Tragical?
No. You preferred it to the usual thing:
One dull man, dulling and uxorious,
One average mind- with one thought less, each year.
Oh, you are patient, I have seen you sit
Hours, where something might have floated up.
And now you pay one. Yes, you richly pay.
You are a person of some interest, one comes to you
And takes strange gain away:
Trophies fished up; some curious suggestion;
Fact that leads nowhere; and a tale for two,
Pregnant with mandrakes, or with something else
That might prove useful and yet never proves,
That never fits a corner or shows use,
Or finds its hour upon the loom of days:
The tarnished, gaudy, wonderful old work;
Idols and ambergris and rare inlays,
These are your riches, your great store; and yet
For all this sea-hoard of deciduous things,
Strange woods half sodden, and new brighter stuff:
In the slow float of differing light and deep,
No! there is nothing! In the whole and all,
Nothing that's quite your own.
Yet this is you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Thirst Yet No Water Fit, Even for Foot Washing

for they recognized Him not at Emmaus...
After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying
With a little patience

Here is no water but only rock
Rock and no water and the sandy road
The road winding above among the mountains
Which are mountains of rock without water
If there were water we should stop and drink
Amongst the rock one cannot stop or think
Sweat is dry and feet are in the sand
If there were only water amongst the rock

Dead mountain mouth of carious teeth that cannot spit
Here one can neither stand not lie nor sit
There is not even silence in the mountains
But dry sterile thunder without rain
There is not even solitude in the mountains
But red sullen faces sneer and snarl
From doors of mudcracked houses

If there were water
And no rock
If there were rock
And also water
And water
A spring
A pool among the rock
If there were the sound of water only
Not the cicada
And dry grass singing
But sound of water over a rock
Where the hermit-thrush sings in the pine trees
Drip drop drip drop drop drop drop
But there is no water
-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Venus Verticordia

On April 1, the Veneralia was celebrated in honor of Venus Verticordia ("Venus the Changer of Hearts"), the protector against vice. A temple to Venus Verticordia was built in Rome in 114 BC, and dedicated April 1, at the instruction of the Sibylline Books to atone for the inchastity of three Vestal Virgins.

She hath the apple in her hand for thee,
Yet almost in her heart would hold it back;
She muses, with her eyes upon the track
Of that which in thy spirit they can see.
Haply, “Behold, he is at peace,” saith she;
“Alas! the apple for his lips, – the dart
That follows its brief sweetness to his heart, -
The wandering of his feet perpetually!”

A little space her glance is still and coy,
But if she give the fruit that works her spell,
Those eyes shall flame as for her Phygian boy.
Then shall her bird’s strained throat the woe foretell,
And her far seas moan as a single shell,
And through her dark grove strike the light of Troy.

- Painting & Poem by Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Stranded on the Banks of Realism

The river's tent is broken; the last fingers of leaf
Clutch and sink into the wet bank. The wind
Crosses the brown land, unheard. The nymphs are departed.
Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song.
The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers,
Silk handkerchiefs, cardboard boxes, cigarette ends
Or other testimony of summer nights. The nymphs are departed.
And their friends, the loitering heirs of City directors;
Departed, have left no addresses.
By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept ...

-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Vesti la Giubba!

Surely he that thinketh his neighbour knoweth nought and he alone hath subtle arts, he is a fool and his good wits attainted; truth to tell, we all alike have our wiles, but one is loath to follow base gain, while another taketh pleasure rather in false cozenings.
- Theognis of Megara (221-226)

Thursday, June 9, 2011


Hope is the one good God yet left among mankind; the rest have forsaken us and gone to Olympus. Gone ere this was the great Goddess Honesty, gone from the world was Self-Control; and the Graces, my friend, have left the earth. No more are righteous oaths kept among men, nor hath any man awe of the Immortal Gods; the generation of the pious is perished, and no longer are laws recognised, nor orderlinesses. Nay, so long as ever a man live and see the light of the Sun, let him with reverence to the Gods worship Hope also; let him pray to the Gods with splendid meat-offerings, and also make sacrifice first and last unto Hope. Let him beware alway of the crooked speech of the unrighteous, who having no respect for the Immortal Gods do ever set their heart upon other men's goods, making dishonourable covenants for evil deeds.
- Theognis of Megara (1135-1150)

Monday, June 6, 2011

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride"

Cyprus-born Cytherea, weaver of wiles, Zeus hath given Thee this gift because He honoureth Thee exceeding much —Thou overwhelmest the shrewd wits of men, nor lives the man so strong and wise that he may escape Thee.
- Theognis of Megara (1386-1388)

Saturday, June 4, 2011

A Deeper Sort of Thirst

'Tis sure there are two evil Spirits of drinking among miserable men, Thirst that looseth our limbs and grievous Drunkennes; I shall go to and fro between these twain, nor wilt thou persuade me either not to drink or to drink too much.
- Theognis of Megara (837-840)

Will the Restoration of Hippoplyta's Girdle

...reveal the Holy Grail? Enquiring Fisher Kings need to know whether the sands of the time for mankind have all run out, or or a renaissance for mankind will recur.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Observation Central

Of Tunnels, Umbrellas & Bent Telescopes... very Freudian. ;)

I no longer love a lad; I have shaken off sore troubles and gladly 'scaped grievous distress; I am delivered of my longing by the wreathad Cytherea, and thou, lad, hast no favour in my eyes.
- Theognis of Megara (1337-1340)

By the late 5th century BC, philosophers might separate Aphrodite (Cytherea) into two separate goddesses, not individuated in cult: Aphrodite Ourania, born from the sea foam after Cronus castrated Uranus, and Aphrodite Pandemos, the common Aphrodite "of all the folk," born from Zeus and Dione. Among the neo-Platonists and eventually their Christian interpreters, Aphrodite Ourania figures as the celestial Aphrodite, representing the love of body and soul, while Aphrodite Pandemos is associated with mere physical love. The representation of Aphrodite Ourania, with a foot resting on a tortoise, was read later as emblematic of discretion in conjugal love; the image is credited to Phidias, in a chryselephantine sculpture made for Elis, of which we have only a passing remark by Pausanias*.

Thus, according to the character Pausanias in Plato's Symposium, Aphrodite is two goddesses, one older the other younger. The older, Urania, is the "heavenly" daughter of Uranus, and inspires homosexual male (and more specifically, ephebic) love/eros; the younger is named Pandemos, the daughter of Zeus and Dione, and all love for women comes from her. Pandemos is the common Aphrodite. The speech of Pausanias distinguishes two manifestations of Aphrodite, represented by the two stories: Aphrodite Ourania ("heavenly" Aphrodite), and Aphrodite Pandemos ("Common" Aphrodite).

*Pausanias, Periegesis vi.25.1; Aphrodite Pandemos was represented in the same temple riding on a goat, symbol of purely carnal rut: "The meaning of the tortoise and of the he-goat I leave to those who care to guess," Pausanias remarks.

Rep. Weiner, member of the House LGBT Caucus, are your Tweets more than a political tale of the tub? Your young wife was once rumoured to have been Hillary Clinton's gay lover...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Day in the Life

I play rejoicing in Youth; for long's the time I shall lie underground without life like a dumb stone and leave the pleasant light of the Sun; and for all I be a good man, shall see nothing any more.
- Theognis of Megara (567-570)