Honor Loki Month – 8 Hours in Iceland

Since there are only about five minutes left of Honor Loki Month, I decided it was finally time to share a silly, sorta shallow, little story about an experience my husband and I had with The Trickster during an 8-hour layover in Iceland last month.  If you are looking for something profound and nuanced, a meaningful spiritual reflection on this great divine figure, then I strongly suggest you look elsewhere.  In fact, here are some suggestions:

  • Galina Krasskova’s amazing series of Loki Project posts (as most of you probably already know, Galina instigated Honor Loki Month and her fabulous idea was subsequently the catalyst for all the great posts listed here)
  • An exquisitely powerful series of poems by Sarenth Odinsson in honor of Loki
  • Elizabeth Vongvisith’s wonderful posts:  A Month for Loki
  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus has written a fascinating set of posts (with great images!):  In Praise of Loki (and kin/friends)
  • Valiel wrote four beautiful poems for  A Month with Loki
  • And one of my favorite contemporary pagan poets, the always-brilliant Sannion, wrote two excellent poems, “Bravo Loki” and “I’m sure you know him better than I do” (that second title could be the subtitle to my story below)

So go read those posts if you want to learn something new about Loki from the perspective of some of his most eloquent modern devotees.  But if you want to hear a light-hearted, admittedly shallow, tongue-in-cheek, and mildly homoerotic true story about one (predominantly) Hellenic pagan’s experience with Loki, which involves about two dozen ridiculously hot and shirtless Icelandic guys (no photos unfortunately), then by all means keep reading.

***

8 Hours in Iceland
(or, I’m sure you know him better than I do)

Eight hours.  We get eight hours in Iceland!  What will we do?  Where will we go?  How much can we see in eight hours?  I want to see something beautiful!  Reykjavík is supposed to be the most charming city, with beautiful architecture and art museums, surrounded by natural hot springs.  For years I’ve heard that Iceland is one of the most beautiful countries in the world . . . with possibly the highest quality of life in the world . . . a magical land with universal health care, full marriage equality, and a lesbian Prime Minister!  This is the country that recognized Ásatrú as a legal religion back in 1973 and where over 60% of the population still believes in elves!  The country that gave us Sigur Rós!  And the sheer beauty of the natural landscape . . . have you seen that Björk video?  (No, not the one where she turns into a polar bear.  And not the one where she gets eaten by a teddy bear.  You know the one . . . it’s the “Iceland has the most beautiful natural landscape in the world, don’t you wish you lived here?” one.)  Anyway, the point is that Iceland is beautiful and gay-friendly and pagan-friendly and we only have eight hours to spend there!  What will we do?  Where will we go?

My husband, Wildstar, is completely exhausted from our month-long business trip in France.  And the fact that our friends in Paris decided to throw us a party on the night before our incredibly long and grueling flight home, which left us with only about an hour’s sleep, did not help the matter.  “You’re in charge,” he says. “I can barely keep my eyes open.”  I had hoped to have time to plan this trip in advance, but for a host of reasons that wasn’t in the cards.  And it’s a fairly short flight from Paris to Reykjavík . . . time to Google.

First things first.  We’re both going to be cranky if we don’t eat.  I need to find somewhere reasonably priced for lunch, preferably in a central area near the one museum I’m dying to see, The Culture House, which has the oldest known manuscripts of the Eddas and the Sagas on display.  And I’d prefer to eat some actual, traditional Icelandic food, especially since I’ve never actually tried it before.  (I can never understand those American tourists who go to McDonalds and Starbucks when they’re visiting other countries.  I don’t want to patronize those places here if I have a choice in the matter . . . let alone when I’m visiting someplace new.  I’ll try the local cuisine, thank you very much.)  Google, google.  Aha! Found a Reykjavík restaurant site where I can put in my preferred search parameters . . . reasonably priced, check . . . central location, check . . . traditional Icelandic cuisine, check . . . search . . . only one result!  And it’s called none other than (*drum roll*) . . . Café Loki!  Perfect!  That morning I had literally *just* read Galina Krasskova’s blog post announcing Honor Loki Month for July.  There are no coincidences, right? Café Loki it is.

So a couple hours later, our plane lands.  It took us quite awhile to go through customs.  We got lost in the airport (which is nearly impossible to do, since the airport is rather tiny, but we were really, really tired and groggy from the night before).  We just missed the shuttle to Reykjavík and had to wait nearly an hour for the next one.  And the shuttle itself would take about an hour each way . . . our eight hours in Iceland was rapidly evaporating!

Once we were finally on the shuttle, though, two things were immediately clear.  1) The people we encountered in Iceland were possibly the most gracious, hospitable, helpful, and just plain kind people I’ve ever encountered.  2) One day we would have to return for an extended stay, because there was absolutely no way we would have time to see much of the beautiful, and I daresay mythical landscape of this incredible place.  The view from the shuttle bus window was eerie and fascinating, but it certainly wasn’t like that Björk video. (No, not the one where she turns into a polar bear).  We would need to stay longer and travel further if we wanted to see a volcano or a glacier or natural hot springs.  I wanted to see something beautiful!

We made it to Reykjavík proper, and yes, the city was indeed quite charming.  Almost quaint.  The buildings were tiny and modern, and to my pleasant surprise I saw almost no signs of globalization!  Not a single McDonalds or Starbucks to be seen!  How delightfully refreshing.  Lots of cute local shops and bistros . . . tons of record stores (are there any of those left in the U.S.?) . . . and a real sense of community.  It felt more like a village than a city.

It wasn’t difficult to find our way to Café Loki, which is ironically located *directly across* from the huge Lutheran church.  I love the fact that the first thing Reykjavík Lutherans inevitably see every time they exit their church each Sunday is a big sign emblazoned with the name “LOKI”!

I’m so glad we went to Café Loki.  Traditional Icelandic food is an unusual experience.  Personally, I loved it, but I can imagine that many Americans would be freaked out by a menu that includes raw herring, sheep-head jelly and fermented shark.  To me, it was like the Nordic equivalent of sushi, but with rye bread instead of rice.  I ordered the Loki tea (made from Icelandic birch, arctic thyme and Iceland moss), while Wildstar had a Freyja beer.  The rye bread ice cream was delicious.  But there’s one thing about Café Loki that you wouldn’t know from their website . . . their male waiters/servers are drop-dead gorgeous.  Absolutely stunning specimens of male beauty.  They could be professional models.  And the two young men working that day were both wearing tight black t-shirts with “LOKI” written on the chest.  Now, I am a happily married gay man in a committed monogamous relationship of nearly 13 years.  But that doesn’t mean Wildstar and I don’t appreciate looking at an attractive male form.  (As a former colleague once said to me about herself and her husband: “When we put on our rings they didn’t rip out our eyes!”)  So my husband and I both enjoyed the lovely spectacle of Loki #1 and Loki #2 as they served us our meal.  We raised a toast to The Trickster.

But we were so wiped out from our month in France and so weary from a night without sleep that we really didn’t have much energy to fully enjoy the precious little time we had in Iceland.  And time was running out.  After lunch we went to The Culture House, where I was in awe of the Eddas manuscripts, but it was actually a very small exhibit and there wasn’t really that much to see.  There was a lackluster (post)modern art exhibit, but not much else.  And soon we really needed to return to the bus terminal if we didn’t want to miss our flight.

I was rather disappointed.  Yes, it was cool to be able to say I saw the manuscripts of the Eddas.  And I tried Icelandic food for the first time in a lovely setting.  But Iceland was supposed to be so beautiful, and it was obvious that if we’d had time to leave the city we would soon be surrounded by a gorgeous natural landscape, filled with gods and elves and spirits.  But it wasn’t meant to be.  And unlike almost everywhere else on this recent journey to Europe, I was just too tapped out to go in search of a profound spiritual experience, even though there were prominent signs of the Heathen gods everywhere (quite literally in the case of the street signs, since almost every street was named after one Northern deity or another).  Wildstar could barely keep his eyes open, and I knew we had a long flight yet to come.  But maybe there’s time to stop in a museum, or find a quiet little park, or perhaps an outdoor statue where I can make an offering?  Our time in France was filled with many such aesthetic and spiritual experiences.  So as we were walking back, I uttered a quick prayer to Loki that ended with, “Loki, I have one thing to ask before we leave Iceland . . . please show us something beautiful!”

We walked and walked in search of a museum or something, but one of the galleries was closing and the other was on the opposite side of town.  Didn’t see a grove of elves.  Nor could I find a monumental statue of a local poet-hero.  By the time we reached the shuttle bus terminal, I was kicking myself for not planning this layover more carefully.

And that’s when we saw the first one . . . as we entered the terminal we both did a double-take at the sight of an exquisitely beautiful young man . . . he was honestly one of the most beautiful guys I’ve ever seen.  In fact, he wasn’t alone.  He was accompanied by another guy who was equally attractive.  “Damn,” I whispered to Wildstar, “First the guys at Café Loki, and now these two!  The guys in Iceland are hot!”

We had some time before the next shuttle, so we bought some bottles of water and sat down.  I started ruffling through my carry-on to find the novel I was reading.  But my eyes didn’t stay on the novel for long . . . because in they walked.  One by one.  Each one more beautiful and physically perfect than the next.  Wildstar and I looked at each other.  “What’s happening?”  In walked another.  And another.  “Please pinch me . . . I think we’re dreaming.”  And another.  And another.  Followed by – dear gods – a pair of identical twins.  “What on earth is happening?  Is there a hidden camera somewhere?”  Suddenly we weren’t having any trouble keeping our eyes wide open.  There were at least two dozen of these perfect young men.  And when I say “perfect,” I want you to imagine a veritable legion of Abercrombie & Fitch models, sculpted by Praxiteles, painted by Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin, and photographed by Bruce Weber.  And yes, I am fully aware that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, beauty is only skin deep, etc. etc.  I’m really not nearly as shallow as I sound right now . . . but there was something downright transcendent about these guys . . . these were the young men who Shakespeare immortalized in his sonnets, who Michelangelo released from their marble prisons, who Socrates and Plato were talking to (and about) when they founded Western philosophy while gazing into their lovely eyes.

Who were they and what were they doing here?  Why were there so many excruciatingly beautiful guys in one place?  It immediately became clear that they all knew each other.  They must be a college sports team of some kind . . . and that’s when their coach walked in, carrying a huge cardboard box.  At this point, I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if another cute guy had jumped out of the box, but no, there was something else in store.  This was apparently a college soccer/football team, and the cardboard box was full of new uniforms, which the coach started to pass out to the team members.  What we were not expecting was for all twenty-four guys to simultaneously take off their shirts and start changing into their new uniforms!  Right there.  In the middle of the bus terminal.  In front of everyone . . . well, actually just in front of us and one another.  We were surrounded by twenty-four of the most beautiful men I’ve ever seen, all of whom were taking off their clothes and changing in front of us.  Like we weren’t even there.  Our jaws were on the floor.  “We’re definitely dreaming.”

By the time the bus arrived, we were utterly overwhelmed by what we had seen, by the request I’d made of Loki and The Trickster’s outrageous prank that followed.  We were laughing uproariously the entire ride back to the airport.  Neither one of us had ever had an experience like that before.  It was downright surreal.  And just as we were regaining our composure over coffee in the airport food court, in walked the Icelandic college football team again to enchant and dazzle us for another hour before our flight home.  We’ve been smiling about it ever since.

Okay, Loki. I got it.  You made your point.  Loud and clear. When I was asking to see something beautiful, I was honestly imagining a beautiful natural landscape out of a Björk video or an aesthetically stimulating work of art in a museum or perhaps some ineffable spiritual experience or vision.  A statue of a poet, a sacred grove, a flicker in the corner of my eye revealing the presence of the divine in the landscape.  Instead, it’s now obvious that The Trickster noticed us checking out Loki #1 and Loki #2 at his eponymous café, and when I later asked him to show us a vision of beauty, he cut right through all my over-intellectualized philosophizing and abstract spiritual notions to get to the heart of the matter.  Loki ripped apart my elaborate intellectual edifice (with all of its Neoplatonist pretensions) and presented us – or rather hit us over the head – with a raw, outrageous, unforgettable, over-the-top, sexy, lusty, fleshy, lewd, physically embodied experience of beauty.  I tend to be a Platonist or Neoplatonist in most things, and a Platonic conception of Beauty itself (as in Truth, the Good, Harmony, Unity, etc.) is certainly a profound “Idea.”  But as far as I’m concerned, it seemed to me that Loki heard this Hellenic Neoplatonist’s prayer and basically said: “Fuck that.  I’ll show you beauty. Beauty that will make your head spin and your jaw drop to the floor.  I’m going to show you what turned Plato on.  And on top of all that, I’m going to make you smile.  I’m going to make you laugh.  And I’m going to make sure that you and your husband will never forget your eight hours in Iceland.”

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The 39th Day

for Annabel Lee

Within the House of Hades
An Orphic Fragment

Your soul has departed.
You arrive at a well-spring,
beneath a white cypress,
upon your left side.
Don’t drink of this water,
the water of Lethe.
You’ll forget your whole lifetime,
forget that you’ve died.

Over there,
to your right,
is the Well-Spring of Memory.
The water is icy,
fast-flowing, and yet —
you must drink of this water,
this fast-flowing water.
Remember your lifetime.
Don’t ever forget.

An Eighteenth Century Hymn/Prayer to the Gods by Mark Akenside (plus some Neoclassical Sculptures by Bertel Thorvaldsen)

Yes, there were even gay pagan poets in the 18th century. One of my obscure favorites is Mark Akenside (1721-1770), whose collected poems are available here via Project Gutenberg. According to the biographical introduction to his poems:
“Indeed, he [Akenside] never appears to have had much religion, except that of the Pagan philosophy, Plato being his Paul, and Socrates his Christ; and most cordially would he have joined in Thorwaldsen’s famous toast (announced at an evening party in Rome, while the planet Jupiter was shining in great glory), ‘Here’s in honour of the ancient gods.’” [More on Thorwaldsen below.]

Akenside was a lifelong bachelor (we all know what that often means), and was closely associated with his best friend (and sometimes patron), a lawyer by the name of Jeremiah Dyson. According to the 1911 Encylopedia Britannica: “His friendship with Dyson puts his character in the most amiable light. Writing to his friend so early as 1744, Akenside said that the intimacy had ‘the force of an additional conscience, of a new principle of religion’, and there seems to have been no break in their affection. He left all his effects and his literary remains to Dyson, who issued an edition of his poems in 1772.” This was the 1911 way of saying, “By the way, he happened to be gay and had a life partner.” An article on GLBTQ.com clarifies, saying that there was a circle of 18th-century gay men who joined together in ” a ‘little club’ formed in Leiden, Holland, that included the pre-Romantic English poet Mark Akenside and his lawyer-lover Jeremiah Dyson, and the group of European university students they fell in with.”

Biographical details aside, Mark Akenside wrote some beautiful neoclassical poetry. His (rather long) “Hymn to the Naiads” is justly praised as a remarkably early example of Pagan Romanticism, but the following hymn/prayer is especially lovely:

VIII. (From Inscriptions)
by Mark Akenside

Ye powers unseen, to whom, the bards of Greece
Erected altars; ye who to the mind
More lofty views unfold, and prompt the heart
With more divine emotions; if erewhile
Not quite unpleasing have my votive rites
Of you been deem’d, when oft this lonely seat
To you I consecrated; then vouchsafe
Here with your instant energy to crown
My happy solitude. It is the hour
When most I love to invoke you, and have felt
Most frequent your glad ministry divine.
The air is calm: the sun’s unveiled orb
Shines in the middle heaven. The harvest round
Stands quiet, and among the golden sheaves
The reapers lie reclined. The neighbouring groves
Are mute, nor even a linnet’s random strain
Echoeth amid the silence. Let me feel
Your influence, ye kind powers. Aloft in heaven,
Abide ye? or on those transparent clouds
Pass ye from hill to hill? or on the shades
Which yonder elms cast o’er the lake below
Do you converse retired? From what loved haunt
Shall I expect you? Let me once more feel
Your influence, O ye kind inspiring powers:
And I will guard it well; nor shall a thought
Rise in my mind, nor shall a passion move
Across my bosom unobserved, unstored
By faithful memory. And then at some
More active moment, will I call them forth
Anew; and join them in majestic forms,
And give them utterance in harmonious strains;
That all mankind shall wonder at your sway.

***

And speaking of Neoclassicism . . . the Thorwaldsen making a toast to the ancient gods in the above quote is the great Danish-Icelandic sculptor, Bertel Thorwaldsen [aka Bertel Thorvaldsen], who created some incredibly beautiful (and often homoerotic) Neoclassical statues. Below are some of my favorite examples (as always, all photos were found on the web and none were taken by me):

Ganymede Waters Zeus as an Eagle by Bertel Thorvaldsen. Located in the Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen.

Bertel Thorvaldsen. Mercury. Marble Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen, Denmark

Bertel Thorvaldsen: Adonis, 1808. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

Bertel Thorvaldsen: Cupid Triumphant. The Thorvaldsen Museum, Copenhagen

Bertel Thorvaldsen – Apollo [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

Bertel Thorvaldsen – Bacchus [photo by Bjørn Smestad]

Because the Truth is in His Eyes – “A Canticle of Bacchus” by Witter Bynner

The following poem is a lovely and insightful tribute to Dionysos/Bacchus (and Silenus) by the great gay poet Witter Bynner (who is also my favorite translator of the Tang Dynasty poets  [Li Po, Tu Fu, Wang Wei, etc.] and the Tao Teh Ching).  The rhyme may at first seem a bit too sing-song-y for an early 20th-century modernist like Bynner, but I think you’ll see it works perfectly to capture this charming, light-hearted and yet also quite profound scene of “The most beloved boy / Who ever danced among the leaves /Of elemental joy”.  I love that Silenus makes a toast to Socrates, and the clever incorporation of “Auld Lang Song” by Robert Burns as an appropriate drinking song/folk song for the modern characters to honor “the merry god of vine-leaves”.  If you don’t have time to read the whole thing, at least have a look at the incredible speech by Bacchus (which I’ve marked in bold below), in which Bacchus asserts that he is the apple on the Tree of Knowledge, equating himself with choice, freedom, and free will in general.  Enjoy!

I am a godly companion,
A touchstone and a test,
And who chooses with the other gods
Bacchus — chooses best.
For what is life itself but wine,
And what am I but life?

[p.s. If you like this and want to enjoy many, many, many other literary representations of Dionysos throughout the ages, please go check out Sannion’s wonderful blog, Eternal Bacchus: Dionysos from the end of antiquity to the present.]

****************************

A Canticle of Bacchus
by Witter Bynner

(The First and Second Cantors stand at either side of the stage. Bacchus enters, concealing with a vine-draped arm all of his face below the eyes)

The First Cantor
Why hide your face with vines, lad?
Why stand mysterious?
Show your face and tell us why
And what you want of us.
I wonder if I know you, lad.
I’ve seen your eyes before.
There s a glow in them as genial
As an opening door
With a yellow light behind it
And a handshake and a song
And a welcome to a fellowship
Where happy folk belong.
I wonder why your presence,
Half-hidden, seems to be
The reaching of the redwoods,
The slipping of the sea
And the swaying of the heart of wine
Within the heart of me.
Lad, are you the merry god
Of vine-leaves?

Bacchus (showing his face)
I am he.
Though not so merry nowadays
As I dared to be
In the days of Alexander,
I am Bacchus, I am he
Whom young men choose, old wives chastise
And solemn men abhor,
Because the truth is in my eyes,
Because my mother bore
A light and easy soothsayer,
Natural and wild,
Fierce and happy as the sun,
When Bacchus was her child.
I stole the grapes from her other hand,
She pretended not to look,
And the heat of my fingers turned them to wine
And that was the milk I took,
Till I grew and flourished and became
The most beloved boy
Who ever danced among the leaves
Of elemental joy.
And everybody laughed my name
And pulse was never quicker
Than when the unforbidden hills
Blessed the world with liquor
And everybody drank it
And everybody knew
Festival-hymns and holiday-tunes . . .

The First Cantor
Here are singers too!
“For he’s a jolly good fellow—”
Sing to him — all of you!

The Company (singing and concluding)
“For he’s a jolly good fellow,
Which nobody can deny.”

Bacchus
And how can a jolly good fellow
Bear to say good-bye?
O let me pledge you in a drink
Before I hide my face!

The Second Cantor (refusing the proffered cup)
No, thank you. You have earned too well
Your measure of disgrace.

Bacchus
And who are you who will not drink?

Silenus (entering eagerly)
By the gods, I’ll take his cup!

The First Cantor
He s a tale-telling teetotaller.

Silenus
A meddler and a pup!

The Second Cantor (to Bacchus, indicating Silenus)
Look well at him, if you wonder why
I spurn what you propose —
At the purple viney pattern
Of the veining of his nose!
He followed you and the dryads,
He dreamed a dream in his youth,
And his house has tumbled about him
In ashes — that’s the truth!

Silenus
What do I want of houses
While a cave holds off a storm?
And what do I want of a hearthstone
While there’s wine to keep me warm?

The Second Cantor
You had a wife who pleaded,
With children at her knees!

Silenus
My wife was like Xantippe,
Who scolded Socrates
When he went the way of drinking men
With Alcibiades —
When he went the way of thinking men
And dodged the homely pot,
As I have dodged the missiles
Of the whole confounded lot.
Sir, can you quote me wisdom
From men who never tipple
That has made a stir in the world like his?
No, sir — not a ripple! —
So here’s to poets, philosophers,
By all the seven seas,
Greek, Roman, Gallic, British, Dutch
And Persian and Chinese!
Though it double me rheumatic —
Here’s to Socrates!

Bacchus
You it is, with disregard
Of measure and time and place,
Who have brought on both of us this day
Of exile and disgrace,
Yet, Silenus, you’re forgiven,
For I’d rather live in a hut
Away from all my friends but you
Than have had you learn to shut
A virtuous mouth like a trap for birds
And a fist like a purse for squeeze —
You’ve an open mouth and hand and heart,
And they have none of these.

The Second Cantor
Are you meaning me?

Bacchus
Yes, even you,
Too careful to be bold.
Before you take a step, you look,
Before you’re young, you’re old.
Before you think in your own terms,
You think in other people’s
And stilt your life as orderly
As pulpits and as steeples.
What can the ocean mean to you,
Draining the shore,
And the wind that drinks the redwoods
And waves its arms for more,
And the dogs that romp in the flowers,
And the cats that sing in the alleys,
And the skylarks in the zenith,
And the waterfalls in the valleys?
In this happy, crooked, drunken world
How you can bid us go
As dry as dust and as straight as a corpse
To a graveyard, I don’t know.

The Second Cantor
Do the dogs and the cats and the skylarks
Need booze to make them gay?

Silenus
What about cats and catnip?

Bacchus
Men need more than they! . . .
O the fruit of the tree of knowledge
Was a liquor on the tree —
And when they chose the apple,
Adam and Eve chose me!
And the children of Jehovah,
As well as the children of Zeus,
Were the better for their knowledge
When the godhead turned them loose.
For there’s nothing so sure as freedom
To make the heart rejoice.
The happiness of manhood,
The guerdon of life — is choice!
And a road that is rough is smoother,
So be it the road you choose,
Than a smooth road chosen for you
Where what you win you lose . . .
I am a godly companion,
A touchstone and a test,
And who chooses with the other gods
Bacchus — chooses best.
For what is life itself but wine,
And what am I but life?
And they who cut our kinship
Use a deadly knife.
And even he who, reckless,
Comes too close to a god
Is wiser than he who numbers his bones
To fertilize the sod . . .
Hear the truth from Bacchus —
My blood is spring in the veins,
And he who would deny the spring
Shall perish for his pains . . .

Silenus
There s a place in the woods where wild apples grow
And the feet of young Bacchus shall tread them,
And if venturers find us, they’ll ask us when they go
What nectar it is we have fed them.
We shall hew a rock-hollow and seal it with clay
And mark it with Bacchus’s fillet —
Wild honey and attar of roses and hay
Shall sweeten our wine and distill it.

Bacchus (moving slowly away with Silenus)
There where the sun sets, winey in the mountains,
There where the moon uplifts her frosty cup,
Bacchus shall come and free the merry fountains
And drink the winter down and the springtide up.
And a welcome shall well there for fortunate companions,
From Silenus or from Bacchus, whichever you prefer.
We shall crown you and lead you through the wildgrape canyons
And comfort you with apples and laugh at the cur
Who would harry at your heels and snarl the woods about you,
We shall hear him faintly barking beyond the happy peaks.
Exile is sweet when fools are left without you
And the wild wine of wisdom is the color in your cheeks.
You may learn there of nature, as Bacchus has learned,
How hemlock is deadlier than grapes are to quaff,
Or if you never find us, or have left us and returned,
You still shall hear us echoing the sound of your laugh . . .

So remember us and praise us, though the time be long,
And sing a song of other days when Bacchus came and went.
And so the heart of Bacchus shall be happy in your song
And the foot of Bacchus steal within your tent.
For you who once have known me never can forget me.
Your other friends are mortal, Bacchus is divine.
Now for a little while evil days beset me . . .
But sing me into exile “for auld lang syne”!

The Company (singing, as Bacchus and Silenus leave them)
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And never brought to mind,
“Should auld acquaintance be forgot
“And the days of auld lang syne?”

(Even the Second Cantor joining, with a cup)
“For auld lang syne, my boys,
“For auld lang syne,
“We’ll take a cup and drink it up,
“To the days of auld lang syne.”

“Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light” – One More by Emily Dickinson

“Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light”
by Emily Dickinson

Pass to thy Rendezvous of Light,
Pangless except for us –
Who slowly ford the Mystery
Which thou hast leaped across!

It’s all I have to bring today – Nine Short Poems by Emily Dickinson

I’ve been trying to get back into blogging on a more regular basis, but since my grandmother’s death I just haven’t had much to say or the energy/focus to say it. However, the following short poems by the immortal Emily Dickinson perfectly capture both my feelings and my experiences during this difficult time.

“It’s all I have to bring today –”
by Emily Dickinson

It’s all I have to bring today –
This, and my heart beside –
This, and my heart, and all the fields –
And all the meadows wide –
Be sure you count – should I forget
Some one the sum could tell –
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.

“’Twas comfort in her Dying Room”
by Emily Dickinson

’Twas comfort in her Dying Room
To hear the living Clock,
A short relief to have the wind
Walk boldly up and knock
Diversion from the Dying Theme
To hear the children play
But wrong the more
That these could live
And this of ours must die

“The right to perish might be thought”
by Emily Dickinson

The right to perish might be thought
An undisputed right
Attempt it, and the Universe
Upon the opposite
Will concentrate its officers –
You cannot even die
But nature and mankind must pause
To pay you scrutiny –

“I’ve seen a Dying Eye”
by Emily Dickinson

I’ve seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room –
In search of Something – as it seemed –
Then Cloudier become –
And then – obscure with Fog –
And then – be soldered down,
Without disclosing what it be
’Twere blessed to have seen –

“A throe upon the features –”
by Emily Dickinson

A throe upon the features –
A hurry in the breath –
An extasy of parting
Denominated “Death” –

An anguish at the mention
Which when to patience grown –
I’ve known permission given
To rejoin its own.

“The last Night that She lived”
by Emily Dickinson

The last Night that She lived
It was a Common Night
Except the Dying – this to Us
Made Nature different

We noticed smallest things –
Things overlooked before
By this great light upon our minds
Italicized – as t’were.

As We went out and in
Between Her final Room
And Rooms where Those to be alive
Tomorrow, were, a Blame

That others could exist
While She must finish quite
A Jealousy for Her arose
So nearly infinite –

We waited while She passed –
It was a narrow time –
Too jostled were Our Souls to speak
At length the notice came.

She mentioned, and forgot –
Then lightly as a Reed
Bent to the Water, struggled scarce –
Consented, and was dead –

And We – We placed the Hair –
And drew the Head erect –
And then an awful leisure was
Belief to regulate –

“She died – this was the way she died.”
by Emily Dickinson

She died – this was the way she died.
And when her breath was done
Took up her simple wardrobe
And started for the sun –
Her little figure at the gate
The Angels must have spied,
Since I could never find her
Upon the mortal side.

“The Bustle in a House”
by Emily Dickinson

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

“That Such have died enable Us”
by Emily Dickinson

That Such have died enable Us
The tranquiller to die –
That Such have lived,
Certificate for Immortality.

We kneel before the portals of our past in vain . . .

Antinous
by Robert Hillyer

I.
Dim gardens sleep in darkness, quiet trees
Weave their uncertain boughs against the sky;
Out of the prison of a cloud there flees
The fugitive moon, slender and whitely shy.
There is music faltering upon the breeze
Despairing like the phantom of a sigh;
The night dreams deep in loveliness, yet I
Have deeper dreams and lovelier memories.

For I have seen leaping from out the grey
And sombre groves the young Antinous,
Dancing and chanting, vanishing away.
Leaving the passionate gardens tremulous.
O Love! O Laughter! fleet and sinuous,
Full swiftly follows the despondent day.

II.
How wan and weary-eyed the cloudy dawn
Creeps through the mist with sick and halting tread;
The splendour of these wasted bowers is gone,
The old illusion of the dark is dead.
Some godly auspices have been withdrawn,
On high some awful sentence has been said;
See how the garlands rot upon the head
Of yon dispirited and stony faun.

And Adrian’s ship with wild teeth in the foam,
With blazoned pinions to the foggy breeze,
Bears on its decks the mightiest lords of Rome,
Imperial hosts upon disconsolate seas, —
The gods shall spare the majesty of these.
But one white laughing boy returns not home. . . .

III.
Come, let us hasten hence and weep no more,
The sinking sea resumes its tranquil ways,
Night looms expectant at the eastern door
And trails the last cloud into lifeless haze.
Antinous is dead; we kneel before
The portals of our past in vain, nor raise
The laughing phantoms of our yesterdays
Upon this desolate and empty shore.

Now deepening pools of shadow overflow
Into the sea of dark. A far-off bell
Sobs with a sweet vibration, long and slow,
A last farewell, forevermore farewell.
And will he wake and hear? We cannot tell.
And will he answer? Ah, we do not know.

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