A terraced garden circling a tiered palace,
crystal fountains with pale nymphs strewn
like peeled grapes served in a gilt chalice
where water sparkles, lusty, upon stone.
He lounged among ladies divine in form
and in feeling and nature as delicious fruits
in dream country both welcoming and warm
where garden and woods grew with eternal roots.
Slow lolling eyes and trembling thighs,
cherry-nippled breasts and flushed cheeks,
all sprawled beneath Mediterranean skies
and the shadows of distant mountain peaks.
Harps and hearts were played upon strings
in the trickling cadences of an easy brook—
dreamy and hazy, yet open in all things,
never fearing secrets in any naughty nook.
The gods themselves did not herein intrude,
nor men of envy or resentful ire,
nor jealous woman, tiresome and rude;
only himself, the nymphs, bound in desire.
Bowls thus brimmed and wine overflowed,
as did appetites of many resplendent means
from sunup to sundown, even as the moon glowed
to palely paint these pleasure palace scenes.
With his maidens in leisure laid all around
while starlight sparkled in a night like rum
a lullaby of beating breasts did thereby sound
to insure that a sweet, perfected sleep did come.
Dreams, too, visited like muses upon the mind
of a poet whose poor verses could only wither
in want of words equal to the feelings he lined
so crudely compared to the fantasia thither.
Yet, no frets were felt in his failing arts,
for the delights of his rich life remained—
ineffable, true, but intoxicating all hearts
so long as moment-to-moment pleasure reigned.
Foxes in fanciful play in the verdant brush
and full-fleeced lambs buoyant in the hills,
and the songbirds warbling at Dawn’s holy hush
while salmon and trout crisscrossed in the rills.
The nymphs offered themselves at the altar
of his lust, like flower buds opening to Spring,
and he availed himself of them, without falter,
like promiscuous Pan, that frottage-foamy king.
What shadows dwelt, they were but blue,
never so dark as of thoughts pooling black,
except the far-off Shadow on the hill, who
paced beneath a tree, futile to attack.
And upon the fountain a frieze was featured
of Hippolytus beneath hooves, thus overridden
by passions from which he desperately demurred
despite being repeatedly tempted and bidden.
And Adonis, who was beloved of Aphrodite,
and there, among the flowers, wasting Narcissus,
and Orion, slain with an arrow as remorseful as mighty—
all men unwilling to make love with goddesses.
For, even pleasure may rub raw the jaded soul,
chafing to callousness via voluminous vice,
and, timelessly though the world did continue to roll
he stung sore, souring in the lap of paradise.
Recently I had the luck of finding The Golden Bough for a quarter at the local charity book store (my fiancee actually found it for me) and, so, I have been gradually plowing through that rather dense, and demanding, classic. While I know Frazer’s ideas have been somewhat discredited (or at least criticized) I can’t help but admire the poetry and feeling with which he wrote his magnum opus (despite his inclination to repeat himself multiple times). Much like with Freud and Jung, Frazer’s antiquated ideas are useful for artists and poets rather than professional Psychologists or Anthropologists. While I know to take it with a grain of salt, so, too, do I know to take the myths of Greece and Japan and whatever else strikes my fancy around the world.— which is to say, I know not to take them literally, but to certainly extract meaning and edification from their metaphorical truths. In short, the poem above was inspired by The Golden Bough, and I don’t know why I should be embarrassed by such a revelation.