Tag Archives: Mythology

TROILUS AND CRISEYDE

from Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde Book I, Lines 225-59; translated/adapted from Middle English by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

The Translation:
…It was thus for the brave and prideful knight.
As Priam’s son, a prince of Trojan race,
He’d never dreamed that any force’s might
Could pierce his heart and make it beat apace.
His heart was set ablaze by Beauty’s face,
And he, whose pride had soared so high above,
Was promptly put in chains by potent Love.

What better evidence can one adduce
To show those thinking, “Love can’t conquer me”
That Cupid wields the powers that reduce
To servitude a heart that once was free?
This rule has held and will eternally:
The chains of Love will bind whatever lives,
And none can break a law which Nature gives.

This truth’s been shown and will be shown again.
Some reading would reveal to all on Earth
That love enslaves the best there’s ever been.
It captures those with thoughts of endless worth,
Imprisons men with muscles great in girth,
And puts in thrall the peers of royal name.
The ways of Love have always been the same.

I truly think the ways of Love are fair,
And sages tend to hold the same belief.
So many men succumbing to despair
Have found that Love’s the perfect cure for grief,
And it provides the cruelest hearts relief.
It’s pushed the great to even greater fame
And made the shameless feel a sense of shame.

Since Love’s a god no person can resist
[and is the sea that’s Virtue’s flowing source],
Present to Love your willing heart and wrist,
Lest he decide to bind them both by force.
It’s better that a sapling take the course
Of wind that’d snap its tender trunk in two
… “Obey the god,” is my advice to you.

The Original Passage:
…So ferde it by this fierse and proude knyght
Though he worthy kynges sone were
And wende nothing hadde swich might
Ayeyns his wille that shuld his herte stere,
Yet with a look his herte wex a-fere,
That he now was moost in pride above
Wax sodeynly moost subgit unto love

Forthy ensample taketh of this man,
Ye wise, proude, and worthi folks alle
To scornen Love, which that so soone kan
The freedom of youre hertes to hym thralle
For evere it was, and evere it shall byfalle
That Love is he that alle thing may bynde
For may no man fordon the law of kynde.

That this be soth, hath preved and doth yit.
For this trowe I ye knowen alle or some,
Men redden nat that folk han gretter wit
Than they that han be most with love ynome
And strengest folk ben therwith overcome,
The worthiest and grettest of degree:
This was, and is, and yet men shall it see.

And trewelich it sit well to be so,
For alderwisest han therwith ben pleased;
And they that han ben aldermost in wo,
With love han ben comforted moost and esed;
And ofte it hath the cruel herte apesed,
And worthi folk maad worthier of name,
And causeth moost to dreden vice and shame.

Now sith it may nat goodly ben withstonde,
And is a thing so vertuous in kynde,
Refuseth nat to Love for to ben bonde,
Syn, as hymselven liste, he may yow bynde;
The yerde is bet that bowen wole and wynde
Than that that brest, and therefore I yow rede
To follow hym that so wel kan yow lede.

BEER

“Beer: a Ballad in Two Parts” [“Part II” will likely grow]

Part I: Dramatic Classical Intro

The Greeks believed in Hippocrene,—
An art-inspiring spring—
And Bacchus with his wine was thought
To make the poets sing.

If Homer were alive today,
He surely would agree
That beer’s a liquid that can set
Artistic powers free.

We need a song to grace a bar
Or local billiard hall.
I’m tired of hearing ‘bout
The “bottles…on the wall”–

So, darling, let us join in song
Like Greeks once did for wine.
Now lift your voice and help a bard
To prove that beer’s divine.

Part II: The Folk Ballad
A beer can make a person wise
And make a person witty.
It’s not allowed at school and work,
And that’s a bloody pity.

Though not allowed at school or work,
A beer enhances play.
My doctor recommends I drink
A pint or two a day:

“A pint to welcome morning’s sun,
Another one at noon—
Then, wash your dinner down with beer
To welcome Mother Moon.”

Those were the orders doctor gave.
I swear it on my life.
You’ll listen to the doc, I’m sure,
If you’re a loving wife.

It’s best you didn’t call the doc,
For he’s a busy man.
The only question left for now
Is “Bottle, draught, or can?”

The hours dissolve like foam, my dear,
Like bubbles in a cup.
Relax and have a beer with me
To bring your spirits up.

Recline a moment on the couch.
I’ll pour you out a glass.
I’ll pick a brew that’s fit for you,
That’s sweet but got some sass.

A life is filled with bitter things
But also with delight,
So let us shun the bitter beers
And drink a Belgian White.

“Don Juan”

“I’ve been Narcissus–gazing at the pool,
Enchanted by the ghost reflected there,
Manipulating others like a tool
So they’ll assure me that my type is rare.
Those beautiful faces that have tempted me
Have never earned their share of guilt and blame.
They’re mirrors showing what I want to see,
Illusions forced to fit inside my frame.
The Siren songs I always curse and scorn
[Once pleasure’s poison has destroyed my ear]
Are like a skillful servant on a horn
Who’ll play the melodies I want to hear.
The charming predator inside’s been loosed,
and I’ve become seducer and seduced.”

DANTE

[from “In the Underworld” by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess]

We came then to a place where figures scoff
Eternally at those they call “unclean”.
Through verbal clouds of scorn that made me cough,
I spied that justly famous Florentine
Who put in Hell all men who’d pissed him off.
[…I shouldn’t use a phrase so damn obscene
To speak of he who used his words to paint
What Hell is plus a bit of what it ain’t].

Although the cloudy place was poorly lit,
I could perceive that Dante was quite sore,
And Will explained the cause of Dante’s fit:
“The poet, being one whom most adore,
Resents that some aspiring modern wit
Has housed him on the Righteous Scoffers’ Shore.
To Purgatory, Hell, or worlds below,
The Florentine had planned no more to go.

And now he feels as though he’s being mocked
And skewered by a batty youthful hack
[Not even thirty years from being rocked
Inside a cradle; lest he’d meet the rack,
The little lad should keep his dwelling locked
And, as you Yankees say it, watch his back.
[…but shields for blocking blows from weaponry
Don’t stop Assaults by Means of Poetry].

Increasing Dante’s rage, despair, and grief
Is that he’s been removed from Paradise
(To dwell in Hades’) by that scoundrel-thief.
This heathen underworld of fire and ice
Has gained his hate but never his belief.
To clarify, this couplet will suffice:
“I loathe this pagan place,” he oft insists
While still denying that the place exists.

The fruit produced by Dante’s fertile mind—
The works which landed him among the greats—
Include a realm of tortures he designed
[Where, by him, people were to hellish fates
And never-ending pain and woe consigned].
Into the pits of Hell they all were heaved
If not believing as he had believed.

He nonetheless will hold a stubborn grudge
Against this fledgling poet who now dares
To judge the man who likes to play the judge.
Although he whines, his torture’s one that bears
A gentler stamp…he pushed but gets a nudge:
He’s forced to visit all the lonely lairs
Where those condemned before (by him) now dell
[That is, he visits those he sent to Hell].”

Although I didn’t verbally reply,
I thought, “It’s sad but not the least unjust
To see believers in “an eye for eye”
Enraged when that belief in which they trust
Is plucked from dwelling in the holy sky
And brought to where one might perceive its rust.
But soon I had a change of attitude
[Which better fits a kind, compassionate dude].

[It’s only fair to say he does presume
To place some souls in Paradise, as well…
But readers mostly like to read of gloom
And tend to focus on the book of Hell.
(Of Milton’s epics, it’s the one of doom
That English teachers have to learn so well…)
Unless you have an academic post,
The happy books are where your cup might coast.]”

“In the Underworld”

[Selections from The New House of Fame by Paul “Whitberg” Burgess

In epic poems, it’d be a fatal fault
To find no journey to the world below.
To shield myself from critical assault,
I’ll lead you, readers, where I dread to go:
The House’s dank and dreary burial vault
As black as feathers from the darkest crow.
[No matter how you earn your daily bread.
The worms and flies will feast upon your head.]

“That hair, those lashes curled by skillful hand
Will fall one day from your decaying skull.
That skin you have so diligently tanned
Will fade until it has become quite dull.
Your famous frame, your sunken ship unmanned,
In time,  will be a rotting, hollow hull.
For many decades your body will endure
without a perm or proper pedicure.”


“Who’d think that Death could take so many souls

across the river Greeks once knew as Styx?
The Reaper reaps the carriers of coals.
He buries builders skilled at laying bricks
and people smiling when the cam’ra rolls
[but,when it’s off, assaulting aides with kicks].
Of spirits dead there’s such a high amount
that I’d not try to take a thorough count.
————————————————————

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”

 

[Polyphemus, painted by Jean-Leon Gerome]

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”
Escaping near disaster made me bold.
Against the pleas companions wisely spoke,
I would not cease to taunt a wounded foe—
To make him feel again the blow
That rendered sightless that unsightly eye—
An eye that saw a meal, and little more,
Where gentler eyes would see a man in need.

The crash of boulders and resulting waves
Alarmed the crew, but rage was further fueled,
Not quenched, by drenching rains of salty sea—
The fire inside my spirit roared with flames
That strove to match the waves in height.
I thought I’d shout the fire ‘til none remained.

Despite increasing vehemence and force,
The hills he hurled and fiery words I shot
Became more futile as our distance grew.
Although I was exhausted, flames still burned.

Enraged about the men he had devoured,
I had endangered friends who were alive.
The smoke I blew had made me nearly blind,
And boulders hurled did not restore his sight.

a poem in blank verse–by Paul Burgess

Certain scenes from Homer continue to inspire me. This is the third poem I have written on this scene. The other two are here: https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/cyclops/   https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-blinding-of-the-cyclops-polyphemus/[As with everything I post, this is a first draft.]

From Ovid’s *Metamorphoses* [Lines on Impermanence and Inter-being];

From Ovid’s Metamorphoses [Lines on Impermanence and Inter-being]; all passages from the Horace Gregory translation (which, unfortunately, does not contain line numbers. The passages appear in the section called “The Philosopher,” who seems to be Pythagoras]

And so I ride (which is my metaphor)
A full-sailed ship upon an endless sea,
A universe where nothing stays the same.
Sea, sky, wind, earth, and time forever changing—
Time like a river in its ceaseless motion:
On, on, each speeding hour cannot stand still,
But as waves, thrust by waves, drive waves before them
So time runs first or follows forever new:
The flying moment gone, what once seemed never
Is now, which vanishes before we say it,
Each disappearing moment in a cycle,
Each loss replaced within the living hour

[Book XV, p. 419]

Nothing retains the shape of what it was,
And Nature, always making old things new,
Proves nothing dies within the universe,
But takes another being in new forms.
What is called birth is change from what we were,
And death the shape of being left behind.
Though all things melt or grow from here to there,
Yet the same balance of the world remains.

Nothing, no nothing keeps its outward show,
For golden ages turn to years of iron;
And Fortune changes many looks of places.
I’ve seen land turn to miles of flood-tossed waters,
Or land rise up within a restless sea;
Shells have been found upon a sanded plain
With never an ocean or a ship in sight,
Someone has seen an anchor turn to rust,
Caught among brushes on a mountaintop.
Stormed by great cataracts, a wide plateau
Turns to a valley and Spring floods have swept
Far hills into chambers of the sea.
And where a swamp once flowed beneath the willows,
Is now a strip of sand, and where a desert was,
A little lake sways under growing reeds.
[p. 421-22]

“The Blinding of the Cyclops Polyphemus”

Modern Heroic Couplets by Paul Burgess–inspired by a scene in Homer [Book 9 of The Odyssey; one might view these lines as a compressed adaptation and modernization of a much longer passage.]

While clutching at his mutilated eye,
To Ulysses, the Cyclops gave reply:
“An oracle, whose words I could recite,
Predicted that the man who’d take my sight
Would be the famous hero Ulysses.
From mini morsels, shorter than my knees,
I had no fear of death or even harm—
A shadow might have caused me more alarm!
Assuming only force could make me blind,
I was not ready for a deadly mind.

 

–Anyone interested in Homer, Classical Poetry, or Early Modern English Literature* should check out George Chapman’s brilliant translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. The following link leads to information on an inexpensive edition of the translation so famously praised by Keats: http://www.amazon.com/Chapmans-Homer-Odyssey-Classics-Literature/dp/1840221178/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401367076&sr=1-3&keywords=wordsworth+classics+chapman%27s+homer

*from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in which Shakespeare was one among several brilliant minds

“Sirens” [Morals from Mythology, or Practical Advice from the Classics] by Paul Burgess

“Sirens” [Morals from Mythology, or Practical Advice from the Classics] by Paul Burgess

To safely hear the song that Sirens sing,
You must become a legendary king.

Medusa’s Transformation from Beauty to ‘Petrifying’ Horror” [Morals from Mythology]by Paul Burgess

If Neptune rapes you and Minerva wakes,
She’ll turn your silky hair to slimy snakes.