August 25, 2009

Hades Welcomes His Bride

While an undergraduate student at Andrews University I took a poetry class. I studied some of A.E. Stallings' poetry. She studied lots of classical poetry and literature of Greece. She does translation of poetry from Greek to English. An interesting thing she said was that when she was at university to study ancient, Greek poetry, she came across some poems that described early springtime flowers such as hyacinths blooming at the same time as later spring flowers. She interpreted that as a "golden age". She was later surprised when visiting the Greek countryside and finding those flowers blooming at the same time. She said that sometimes we do have to take things literally.
This poem gave me the chills when I first read it. It is so deep and dark.

Hades Welcomes His Bride

Come now, child, adjust your eyes, for sight
Is here a lesser sense. Here you must learn
Directions through your fingertips and feet
And map them in your mind. I think some shapes
Will gradually appear. The pale things twisting
Overhead are mostly roots, although some worms
Arrive here clinging to their dead. Turn here.
Ah. And in this hall will sit our thrones,
And here you shall be queen, my dear, the queen
Of all men ever to be born. No smile?
Well, some solemnity befits a queen.
These thrones I have commissioned to be made
Are unlike any you imagined; they glow
Of deep-black diamonds and lead, subtler
And in better taste than gold, as will suit
Your timid beauty and pale throat. Come now,
Down these winding stairs, the air more still
And dry and easier to breathe. Here is a room
For your diversions. Here I've set a loom
And silk unraveled from the finest shrouds
And dyed the richest, rarest shades of black.
Such pictures you shall weave! Such tapestries!
For you I chose those three thin shadows there,
And they shall be your friends and loyal maids,
And do not fear from them such gossiping
As servants usually are wont. They have
Not mouth nor eyes and cannot thus speak ill
Of you. Come, come. This is the greatest room;
I had it specially made after great thought
So you would feel at home. I had the ceiling
Painted to recall some evening sky--
But without the garish stars and lurid moon.
What? That stark shape crouching in the corner?
Sweet, that is to be our bed. Our bed.
Ah! Your hand is trembling! I fear
There is, as yet, too much pulse in it.

first appeared in The Beloit Poetry Journal

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