Libation

Imagine a cup
rough-hewn and awkward.
Relic of an age less patterned,
its only gilt is memory,
its glaze a half-formed hope still dripping down the years.
Take the cup
and with your hand turn ’round
the shape of circumstance.
Recall the bitter wash of tides,
the lime-laden dust.
Remark sweet days blown free of darkness,
the wheeling flight of night-watch stars —
a heavens’ course secured by gods
more ancient than desire.
When dawn breaks among the olives,
silvering their still leaves,
and returning spring lies anchored fast
between cyclamen and almond,
whether we are there
or here
mornings once called common will cry for celebration.
Tip the cup!
In time, a timeless gesture
laving away centuries of civilized madness.
Lift your face
to laughter
spilling like sea-water over our limbs;
love
poured like sunlight into our eyes;
and tears,
the taste of ebbing time upon our lips.
                                                                              ~ Linda Leinen

 

84 thoughts on “Libation

  1. A beautiful libation Linda. The last line is especially poignant. The rough-hewn cup with only memory for gilt puts me in mind of some of the items that are being found by the archaeologists working in Christchurch at the moment.

    1. Thank you, Gallivanta. I was happy to get that last line right, at last.

      I’m fascinated by time, and the various ways it’s experienced and described. It seems to me we’re all about ‘chronos’ and unidirectional movement in our society: all flow, no ebb, if you will. It intrigues me to think of time’s tide ebbing away, and to ponder whether the moment of utter stillness that marks the tide’s turning might be what the Greeks call ‘kairos’.

      It’s extraordinary, the ways in which natural forces can reveal our past to us. Texas bays recede, and Spanish cannons and anchors pop up in farm fields. A hard rain comes to the hill country, and cooking mounds reveal arrowheads, scrapers and chips. You have an earthquake, and treasures from the past emerge. Just amazing.

      Linda

      1. It is amazing. Even more intriguing is that a lot of what is revealed is detritus; what was thrown out or put in rubbish pits. I pity anyone in the future who gets to ‘dig’ in our 21st century rubbish pits. I must admit I haven’t thought much about the ebbing away of time but of course it does, in a sense. You made me want to look up “time and tide wait for no man” and I found this ‘That literal interpretation of ‘tide’ in ‘time and tide’ is what is now usually understood, but wasn’t what was meant in the original version of the expression. ‘Tide’ didn’t refer to the contemporary meaning of the word, that is, the rising and falling of the sea, but to a period of time. When this phrase was coined tide meant a season, or a time, or a while. The word is still with us in that sense in ‘good tidings’, which refers to a good event or occasion and whitsuntide, noontide etc.’ http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/384000.html Ah, the things I learn!

        1. And as so often happens, as soon as a nice example is needed, the great language gods provide. Look at today’s post by Leaf and Twig, called “Vespers.” There it is: “eventide.”

          I’ve great affection for that use of “tide”, since one of my grandmother’s favorite hymns was “Abide With Me.” Written by the Scottish Anglican Henry Francis Lyte, its first line is, “Abide with me, fast falls the eventide…” To make it even better, the words most often are sung to William Henry Monk’s tune, “Eventide.”

          1. Yes, I saw Vespers today. Lovely. And, I am with your grandmother on Abide with Me; one of my favourites, too. Perhaps we can say we are sharing good tidings today?

  2. I wrote about lunar librations some time ago. The word was so close to libation that I looked up the meaning. I raise the cup to honor your words and the gods of time, love, laughter, and tears, if there be any.

    Cheers.

    1. I remember those posts about libration. Among other things, they kept the Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations” in my mind for a couple of days. I wonder if any astronomy club ever has done the parody?

      Clearly (at least in my view), gods of time, love, laughter and tears would be better overseers of human life than gods of money, fame, goods, and celebrity. I’ll raise a cup to them, too — and any of their friends!

      Linda

  3. Wow, this is so different from any writing of yours that I recall seeing here. Well done.

    One phrase that resonated was “the shape of circumstance.” I liked it in its own right, and later I realized that the circum in circumstance rounds out the ’round that preceded it, being a synonym (even if a Latin one).

    1. Steve, it occurs to me there’s one other little resonance that’s related to ‘circumstance.’ During the pouring of a libation, there’s the person who pours, but there also is the larger group, those witnesses who are ‘standing around.’

      And yes, it is different, so much so that I found myself thinking, ‘Where did that come from?’ The truth is it had its genesis in a few lines scribbled into a sailing scrapbook sometime between 1987-1990. I glanced at it from time to time, and then began working with it during the past year. Finally, it was right.

      Linda

      1. “Where did that come from?” – made me laugh! I have those moments when I emerge from a painting fog and step back and look at the atypical work!

        Yes, there is usually a spark that triggers it, and it’s nice to know the history of this one.

        1. Since you might still be online before heading to the river, Z, I’ll say hello, and add this: the history really is interesting, and more complex than you might realize. There are lots of threads here. Once some time has passed, I’m thinking I’ll do a post about the process itself, just because it’s so clear.

          In the meantime — I’m going to ponder Marie Laveau, and what gris-gris she might be able to add to your little situation. Love the “evil eye”!

          Linda

          1. ok.. you get a prize for making me chuckle twice in a very short amount of time!

            I look forward to your post.. it’s interesting how something will incubate for years and suddenly take form and hatch. That’s what happened with the mola series as well – I had all of these sketches from museums, and oftentimes I wondered, ‘what will I ever do with you?’ and the ancient designs were finally able to breathe again!

            I am three hours past check-out time, but I also am working on some signs for them, so I think they will forgive me!

  4. I raise my cup to salute you, Linda. Well done. This has an elegaic feel for me. Objects can evoke such emotion and memory and imagination.

    1. You’re right about the ability of physical objects to mediate reality to us, Rosemary. That’s part of what makes your current series of posts so interesting and compelling. The recipe box, the cup, your father’s worn work gloves — they aren’t magic. They don’t have any power in and of themselves. But they have what I often think of as a surplus of meaning — like overtones when a tuning fork is struck. To play with words just a bit, they re-member the past.

      Though I’d not thought of it, I very much like ‘elegaic feel.’ Thanks for the phrase — I’m glad you like the poem.

      Linda

    1. Truth to tell, Ken, a ‘chalice’ played a role in the genesis of this poem, though not in any churchly sense. One of these days I’ll write a bit about the process of the poem’s development, but for now I’m just glad you reminded me of a great song that was around when it was born.

      Remember this?

      Linda

    1. What a great connection, and a wonderful performance.

      I had to laugh — first comes an etheree titled ‘The Shying of a Violet,’ then a poem that evokes Violetta. Well, as William Cowper said, “Variety’s the very spice of life, that gives it all its flavour.”

      I must say — despite Cowper’s fine reputation, he could be a gloomy sort. After working my way through some of his poetry this afternoon, I decided I might be the one singing “Libiamo” if I got stuck next to him at a dinner party.

      1. The Violetta in that early scene is no shrinking violet, that’s for sure. By the end of the opera, though, she’s very much in the spirit of Cowper, based on what you say about his gloominess.

    1. I’m glad you liked them, Curt. And thanks for taking the time to stop by. If my calculations are right, you’re just a couple of days away from that convergence of art, poetry, music and wackiness in the desert. Have fun, and stay inside that fence!

      Linda

  5. It’s interesting how similar the languages of Spanish and English sometimes are. In other instances they are diametrically different. In this case the title of your exquisite poem is “Libation”. In Spanish it is “Libación” which means the act of drinking a liquid, usually it’s wine. The verb is “libar”.

    As you can see, the spelling is almost identical, since they both come from the same root—Latin.”Libatio”.

    1. At least here in the U.S., there’s another common use of the word in the plural. It refers to drinks generally. For example, someone might ask, “Will libations be served?” Restaurants and bars often use the word, sometimes for the name of the bar itself (“Libations” is the name of a local martini bar), but also on their menus. Here’s a good example.

      It’s such fun to see how words are related to one another. Thanks for pointing it out here, Omar!

      Linda

  6. I’ve read this several times and with each read I gain another meaning. My favourite line has to be ‘mornings once called common will cry for celebration’. In the crazy world in which we live, we don’t value what we have: the blessings of normality that we so often refer to as the grind of everyday life. There are millions who would long just to have one of our ‘common mornings’. Beautifully written, Linda

    1. You’re so right, Andy. What we think of as ordinary, the common stuff of life, would be pure luxury to much of the world — and not only in a material sense. Even silence — the cessation of gunfire, or bombing, or hurricane winds — can be a cause for celebration.

      I’m so glad you liked it enough for several readings. I appreciate that, and your kind words.

      Linda

    1. Thanks, Ruth. As you well know, it can be hard to focus on the good, the true and the beautiful in the midst of difficult circumstances, whether personal, national or global. Still….

      I’ve recently come to a poem by Wislawa Szymborksa titled “Reality Demands.”
      I was especially taken with these lines, which seem to mesh nicely with mine.

      “Not without its charms is this terrible world,
      not without its mornings
      worth our waking.”

      Linda

  7. In each stanza there is a memorable thought Linda. I like the idea of “its only gilt is memory”, “turn round the shape of circumstance.” and “mornings once called common will cry for celebration.” And of course “the taste of ebbing time upon our lips.”.

    What does this say about me? Is it my age which chooses those particular lines? I don’t know. I only know I loved this poem. It speaks to me on many levels. Kayti

    1. Well, there are two sides to every coin, Kayti. If your age is involved in those lines resonating for you, it may be no less true that my age played a role in the writing of them.

      I really enjoyed finding the phrase, “its only gilt is memory.” Memories often are tinged with guilt — or saturated by it — so it was fun to flip that, just a little.

      i love this poem, too. It’s strange. I was so happy with it when it was finished, I thought, “If I never manage to write another poem, I’ve got this one.” Pure satisfaction. That’s cause for celebration, too, as I’m sure you know from your own artistic endeavors.

      Linda

    1. Thanks, Susan. Although I didn’t set out with any specific intent for this poem, having you describe it as life-affirming is deeply pleasing to me. Those who take joy in denying and destoying life are having quite a field day just now, and even the smaller acts of resistance have value.

      I was pleased myself to be able to reference “Reality Demands” here. You and Friko have my thanks for introducing me to that.

      Linda

    1. Now that you mention it, Ladybugg, I see it. I have no proof for this assertion, but I do think working with etherees has helped me gain a sense of the way form and content can complement one another. In any case, your “splendid” makes me happy — thank you.

      Linda

  8. The poem is beautifully written–and I learned a new word today. When I read the other comments, I realized that I didn’t know that libation and libration were two different words–I would have guessed that libration was a misspelling–so I looked libration up in an online dictionary. :)

    1. ‘Libration’ was new to me, too. I came across it on Jim’s site when he posted about the phenomenon. I still don’t completely understand the science of it all, but at least I have the word.

      I’m glad you enjoyed the poem, too. I’m wondering if you’ve come across poetry in your grandmother’s diary. I’ll have to come and poke around in the archives a bit!

      Linda

  9. I offer a cup of brew to toast your lovely poem about libation. Excellent wording even though I had to read it seveal times to get the context and meaning- at least, I hope that I did.

    Yes, time and tide changes many things either for better or worse and oftentimes unravels new meanings, new finds, and changes that one would never have expected.

    The photo it beautiful so where in the world is this particular locality?

    1. The photo’s of a Greek island, Yvonne. I’m not certain which one, as an acquaintance took it — it’s a leftover from our traveling days. I scanned it and fixed it up with a photo editor — it seemed perfect for the post.

      I’m glad you like the poem. Sometimes I imagine a poem as an empty house I’m free to decorate as I choose. I can hang a little meaning over “there,” and shove my own interpretation up against “that” wall. I don’t have to move in and accept someone else’s taste in decorating! However you understand it or respond to it is just fine by me.

      We’ve both seen plenty of changes in our lives. As you say, some are good, some bad, and some are hard to figure out until some time has passed. Thank goodness for time!

      Linda

  10. Sometimes, when I sit on my porch drinking my early-morning coffee, my mind does some of the exact things you describe so eloquently with your words of wisdom.

    My favorite lines are “its only gilt is memory, its glaze a half-formed hope still dripping down the years.” Sheer genius, which makes me ponder over my cup’s edge and steaming content, what other poetic words of wisdom wander around in that pretty head of yours!

    1. Right now, my head’s pretty empty, BW. There are times when I finish a post — poetry or prose — and I’m absolutely certain I’m never going to have another word to say. Finished, drained, kaput! Of course, the chance of my not finding something else to say is pretty remote. Sometimes I just have to wait for the springs to replenish themselves.

      Those favorite lines you quoted make me happy, too. What amazes me is being unable to pinpoint where they came from, or when they took form — except in the very roughest way. This poem is one of the best examples of the value of “slow writing” I’ve experienced. Any image of me hunched over my desk, desperately hunting for the “right word” would be completely off the mark. A slow, steady ebb and flow of thought brought this one into being. It would be good to shorten the time frame, but there are lessons to be learned. As soon as I figure them out, I’ll let you know!

      Linda

    1. Thanks, WOL. Now that I look back on it, it is sort of neat that the end of the poem foreshadows the ending of life. Too bad I can’t claim I set out to do that.

      Linda

  11. I’m glad that you didn’t illustrate this poem with a photo of a coffee cup or a beer stein. My thoughts have wandered off to various visuals with each reading, including a secluded cup-shaped pond in a woodland ravine (a favorite childhood haunt).

    “Remark sweet days blown free of darkness” – this line puts beautiful words to one of my daily gratitudes. Since my illness, when my mind was so clouded, I’m aware each day that I now can think clearly. Yes, I also feel that this poem is life-affirming, especially in light of today’s “civilized madness”. Good stuff!

    1. Can you hear me laughing, NumberWise? You can’t? Listen a little more closely. Whenever I do a piece about the process of this poem, you will meet the photo that started it all. I purposely chose not to use it here.

      For one thing, a starting point is just that: the beginning. I love Annie Dillard’s quite realistic view of things: that where we start rarely is where we end, and the words that are shed along the way, the branches of thought that are lopped off as we travel, are necessary prunings.

      The world’s full of darkness, and I suppose each of us has our own. (Remember Tolstoy’s great line? “Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”) Now that you mention it, “sweet days blown free of darkness” is a wonderful metaphor for your experience. It’s never occurred to me that there could be a mental analog to that wonderful feeling of being physically well after sickness, but it makes sense.

      Here’s to more breezes, blowing away those clouds!

      Linda

    1. Thank you , Ellen. And yes, it’s true. All those common mornings, common days, common routines, common conditions — none is guaranteed, and all deserve celebration.

      Linda

  12. I have read these lines several times. I enjoy each stanza and the imagery your words have created.

    My favorite: When dawn breaks among the olives,
    silvering their still leaves,
    and returning spring lies anchored fast
    between cyclamen and almond,
    whether we are there
    or here
    mornings once called common will cry for celebration.

    Seize the moment for each is worth treasuring for once passed it shall not return.

    1. Seize the moment, indeed. Or, as some of the fishermen around here like to say, “Carpe Carp!” They’re being funny, but there’s nothing wrong with that, and the wisdom’s the same. We only get one shot at each day, and then it’s gone.

      Now and then I suppose most of us have days we’re glad to be finished with, but even the worst day offers some kind of opportunity.

      One of my friends asked, “If spring is going to drop anchor, what kind of boat is she in?” I’ve been thinking that one over, and can’t quite decide. Right now, I’m favoring a rowboat, although those big lily pads you showed us might be just the ticket for a little Spring water sprite!

      Linda

      1. Riding a lily pad like a peaceful little frog sounds like my idea of a great way to float calmly into spring, Linda. But as I am sure I’d take it down with me, I am more inclined to a raft such as the ones we used to cleat together as kids and then mount a pole with a sail and let the wind blow us around the little lake across from my home. Of course, that would work well on a hot summer’s day too…..or autumn :-)

        1. You Tom Sawyer, you! Did you cut your own pole, or scavange for something the beavers already had felled? However you did it, it sounds like great fun. No sails or even rafts for us as kids, mostly because there weren’t even ponds, let alone lakes. We went out and walked the train trestles.

    1. Oh, isn’t that the truth? You’ve reminded me of that wonderful scene from Macbeth, where the witches are whipping up their brew. Maybe we should get those gals to put something together for us!
      This is just a taste – you can see the whole recipe here.

      “Fillet of a fenny snake,
      In the caldron boil and bake;
      Eye of newt, and toe of frog,
      Wool of bat, and tongue of dog,
      Adder’s fork, and blind-worm’s sting,
      Lizard’s leg, and owlet’s wing,—
      For a charm of powerful trouble,
      Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.”

      That ought to be potent enough, don’t you think?

      Linda

  13. Though my favorite phrase was “laving away centuries of civilized madness”, “mornings once called common will cry for celebration” made me want to slow those morning moments down. Beautiful, Linda.

    1. Thanks, nikkipolani. No one had mentioned ‘laving,’ and I’d wondered if anyone would. You did! I think it’s such a great word. While I was working on the poem, I thought about the Lava soap we used to have around the house. In fact, there is a connection between “lave” and “lava.” This is what I found:

      “1750, from Italian (Neapolitan or Calabrian dialect) lava “torrent, stream,” traditionally from Latin lavare “to wash” (see lave). Originally applied in Italian to flash flood rivulets after downpours, then to streams of molten rock from Vesuvius.”

      Now that I think about it, Vesuvius erupting could lave away a good bit, too!

      Linda

    1. And isn’t it interesting that those lines can seem optimistic — perhaps beautifully realistic — even though the tears are included with the laughter and love? That’s the way life is, and I suppose the way I prefer to take it: nothing’s excluded, and everything counts.

      I’m glad you found it beautiful. We need more beauty in the world, even the little bits we can create.

      Linda

  14. Oooh my mind goes in so many different directions, unearthing memories … very lovely and poignant for me!

    and then shifting gears … on another realm — it reminds me of a character in a series of books I’ve read involving time travel.

    my thoughts are like ping pong balls!

    1. You say ping-pong balls, I say pinball, but we’re talking about the same thing. And isn’t it fun?

      Your time travel reference is interesting. I wouldn’t have expected it or thought of it, but yes — that certainly could come into play.

      I’m glad you found it so evocative.

      Linda

    1. One of my favorite quotations is from Pascal: “The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing… We know the truth not only by reason, but by the heart.” I’m happy to have engaged your heart.

      Linda

  15. Thank you for sharing this glorious poem. Yes, let us all lift the cup, drink deeply of love and peace, as we watch linear time slowly seep away. A new awakening is emerging among us everywhere.

    1. One of the things that interests me about the comments here, Mary, is that most people have mentioned the cup in terms of drinking. And yet, in the pouring out of a libation, drinking comes after the libation is pourred — at least, as I’ve experienced it.

      I’m not sure what this means, but it’s interesting to ponder. One thing is certain — our cultural context and our experiences do shape the way we perceive the world around us, as well as the arts that represent it.

      I love that your comment started my thought down this new path. Thank you for this particular “new awakening.” There may be more about this in the future.

      Linda

  16. I’m mesmerized. Your poem starts out very personal, yet ends with the universal, like eons of time. Of course, I’m just fascinated by the words. The actual meaning, well, maybe another post that you’d share in prose form, your commentary of our times. But then again, that’s what you’ve been doing all along. Thanks for sharing this, Linda. Talking about time, I’ve also posted something about it.

    1. Arti, the actual genesis of the poem was so personal, and so concrete, you’ll laugh when you read about it. I need to wait just a little, though, so people can live with their own interpretations of it before learning any of the concrete details. There’s so much experience, such a variety of experiences, caught up in it. It really surprised me a bit. And I even have a photo of “the” cup!

      Speaking of commentary on our times — I happened to see one of your retweets of an article in FirstThings. I went over to explore, and was just a little surprised to see Richard John Neuhaus lurking around. I remember reading and being impressed by his concept of the naked public square, and as time has gone on, it surely seems as though he had his finger on the pulse of what was (is) happening. I’m looking forward to more exploration of the site.

      I think I need to turn your retweets back on, too. The coyote and the vacuum was priceless! Thanks for a good laugh!

      Linda

      1. Glad you’ve enjoyed my retweets. I chose them very carefully seeking first and foremost, relevance. ;) We live close to deer, coyotes, and bears. Good to know a vacuum does the job. Maybe only a Dyson?

        Bravo to you for bringing out the china tea set among ruins… The Praxis of Wabi-sabi.

        FirstThings is a Catholic site, intellectual and scholarly. Another you would find interesting and relevant is the Canadian, Christian-based Cardus; its purpose is to influence North American social policy directives. Do check it out. Both are introduced to me by my son. He’s more interested in theology than law. The integration of theory and praxis maybe.

        1. Thanks for the link to Cardus. I took a quick look, and noticed they’re pondering the role of anonymity in online communities, too. I believe I’ll start there. So many good sites, so little time, as you know.

          I did notice someone giving the business to FT on Twitter. They seemed not to like their “theocractic tendencies.” I’ll have to go back and see who that was. It’s more interesting to me now.

  17. “Taste the ebbing of time upon our lips.” Oh, that is this summer, so quickly ending. The sweet cheeries, berries, corn on the cob, all the summer’s abundance that is so false-tasting once the season passing. Indeed. It is my my quest, while it lasts. A beautiful poem, Linda.

    And yes, mornings once common WILL cry for celebration all too soon. Beautifully stated in every single, carefully chosen word!

    1. Jeanie, I do think you’ve had a fuller summer than anyone I know. But you told us this is how it would be, once you had the chance to live it. Good for you, for taking that chance, and for creating so much from it!

      I do hope you have a good, long autumn, The seasons are ebbing away too quickly, these days – even though I’m more than ready for summer to loose its grip, just a bit. It’s a darned good thing we still have peaches and melons galore as a consolation prize!

      Oh – this is just for you!

      Linda

  18. Many thanks for this. It is a treat to hear you in poetic mode. There is a kind of resonance with your prose: precise without being fussy, and yet open as well. I like many bits of this poem, but I found myself pondering the two references to salty water: ocean and tears. Presently my head is spinning as I imagine the two together. Who knows what will come of this!

    1. I hadn’t thought of that correspondence, Allen, but of course there’s been a good bit written about the composition of our bodies and that of the ocean. Let’s see… seawater laughter and time’s tears. Dare we combine them in an ocean of emotion?

      Here’s what I like: your description of my writing as “precise without being fussy, and yet open.” I don’t always manage that, for sure, but it’s as good a description of what I strive for as anything could be. There are people who can pile up great heaps of luscious words, and their pieces end up looking like a terrific banana split. I’m more the double scoop, two flavor sort.

      Linda

  19. The word “libation(s)” sends me back to ancient times. Your poem evoked memories, ideas and even emotion from times back in graduate school when I made several comparisons between characters in Spanish literature and Greek drama.

    I remember visiting the Egyptian exhibits at the Louvre years ago. One exhibit that stood out was a display of tiny stone jars that once contained the tears shed by mourners hired to offer evidence of the depth of grief felt for the deceased pharaoh, his queen or a noble whose family could contract such services. My feelings for such a practice were mixed for obvious reasons. But at the end of the day, this I remember from that exhibit. I couldn’t help but remember it again, the outpouring of tears, the funeral libation if you will that measured the love, respect and regard for a contemporary of the times.

    At the mention of “libation” your poem flung me back to a time when I read The Libation Bearers by Aeschylus, the second in his trilogy, the Oresteia: Agamemnon, The Libation Bearers and The Eumenides. The second play opens with Orestes visiting the grave of his father Agamemnon slain by his mother Clytemnestra. Also present are, slave women sent by Clytemnestra to pour libations on her slain husband’s grave incredibly to “ward off harm” as if enough injury was not committed. (The Egyptian mourners come to mind again.) Fast forward, Orestes kills his mother and then is tried for his crime for which he is acquitted. Orestes is plagued by the Furies for his crime but ultimately the goddess Athena encourages them to live as “the kind goddesses,” The Eumenides, and thus the tale of bloodshed ends. As complicated as the play is, I loved reading about the origins of the theme of justice in Greek literature and a view of law enforced by the gods. Your last lines

    ” love
    poured like sunlight into our eyes;
    and tears,
    the taste of ebbing time upon our lips.”

    allude to the social justice of love and understanding for me.

    1. I’m so happy for the addition of the classical allusions, Georgette. It’s impossible for me to think of the pouring of libation without thinking of the ritual’s ubiquity in ancient times and literature.

      You also brought to mind the lovely line from Psalm 56: “You tell my wanderings: put you my tears into your bottle: are they not in your book?” I can’t quite pull to mind the author who combined the classical stories with that verse from Psalms. I would guess Madeleine L’Engle, probably in one of her Crosswicks journals, but I can’t say for sure.

      What many people don’t realize is that the pouring of libation still is a common custom in Africa, and not only at funerals. Planting, the beginning of new projects, the cessation of hostilities among neighbors or family members — all can be the occasion for libation.
      Needless to say, the practice of elevating the chalice in Christian eucharistic services led to some interesting confusions – not all of which have been resolved. In fact, the incorporation of libation-pouring into Christian ritual still occasions discussion. (Heresy? cultural adaptation? and so on…)

      Are the Greek playwrights still included in secondary schools? I keep bumping up against subjects we began studying by 9th grade, including world history and world literature. We had a heavier dose of the Greeks than the Romans, but my goodness, we loved saying those names: Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles. With all of the texts available online now, it may be time for a refresher course.

      Linda

  20. I’m not sure if Greek tragedy is taught in high schools. Thank you for the verse from Psalms alluding to the tear jars. Interesting connection.

    I’m glad I experienced the reading of Greek tragedy in graduate school. I was enriched beyond measure when the chairman of my committee encouraged me to take a course in Greek tragedy taught by the incomparable Dora Pozzi who received her master’s degree from Oxford University in England. In his words he told me “You know, Georgette, a master’s from Oxford is like a PhD. In the States.” Not only did she have credentials, she was originally from Argentina, and she literally brought dramatic enthusiasm for the Dionysia where the sacred plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides developed .

    I became intrigued and excited to read these plays that the early Greeks 400 BC took with serious religious fervor identifying the gods with the words from the deities who took on dramatic character. From that student/professor relationship she encouraged me to analyze author/reader relationships, playwright/spectator/deity relationships, author/narrator/reader relationships. I continued to read more of Aeschylus as he in my book was the original Greek playwright. After reading and studying Prometheus Bound, I analyzed the Spanish pícaros, who similarly lived on the margin of society and tried to persuade their audience to understand their perspective.

    Thank you for understanding the classical reference and responding in kind. Gosh — I do not take such opportunities to discuss for granted.

    1. Finally, a truly rainy afternoon, and a little extra time for some comments that deserve it — like this one!

      It was interesting to go back and refresh my memory about the role of the Greek chorus: the different ways it was used, and how it finally began to morph into something quite different as interaction between characters increased.

      The author/reader relationship is one that’s always interested me. I honestly believe the blog can become an entirely new literary form: one that adds history to the mix. A blog post by itself is a poor and lonely thing, but a post with comments becomes a different sort of creature. Then, as posts-and-comments pile up, several things begin to happen. Commenters refer to past posts, and begin “talking amongst themselves.” One result is that a blog never is finished — at least as long as its owner still is breathing, posting, and paying whatever bills might be associated with it.

      And truth to tell, it’s the interactive aspects of blogging that I find so appealing. I enjoy the research and the writing tremendously, and would do it if I didn’t have a reader. But I love the back and forth, the vitality of it all. In a way, it’s rather like having the chance to go back to school: sometimes filling in the blanks, and sometimes just wandering down interesting new paths.

      As the good Sophocles put it, “A man, though wise, should never be ashamed of learning more, and must unbend his mind.”

      Linda

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