When you wear that frowning mask and speak,
it is, to me, nothing but gibberish, Greek,
and though you claim to be a tragedienne
I see you as nought but a comedian
like Aristophanes and his tale of frogs
or Priapos sporting his big phallic logs;
nor could any deus ex machina save
you from the shameless melodrama you crave
while you appeal to the chorus in strophe
to win you your Dionysian trophy.
Though you claim a Stygian monopoly,
your woes are less like that of Thermopylae
and more like Artemisia upon her prow,
lost to hysterics, smashing fleets like a plow.
Euripides grants no ambiguity
about your woes, or any gratuity;
he would offer you not one word of solace
while the mad mobs chased you out of the polis,
nor would Sophocles offer you a short verse
of sympathy for your much-lamented curse —
he would invite the Great Sphinx to devour you
or entomb you with Electra, out of view.
Aeschylus could not pity you any less,
sending after your sobs the Erinyes.
And poor old Homer, though so blind to the task,
could see how loose you wear that aggrieving mask,
thinking you like a Paris as you flee, thus,
from your lover ’s first husband, Menelaus.
Oh, but the Greeks haven ’t enough of such tales
to match your sobs and moans and woebegone wails,
so perhaps I should look to later, to Rome,
and therein find you a theatrical home
far from the fall of Troy, the Aeneid now,
the rise of Rome, or Augustus, anyhow,
and tracing Virgil to Catullus, in time,
and on to Ovid and each beautiful rhyme —
not to praise you, my persona non grata,
nor any of the other automata
that imitate tragedy out of boredom
like a debauchee lounging in his whoredom,
but to show how drama and poetry mean
more than an actor speaking lines for a scene.