Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Poetry Break: "Dante's Odyssey"

Dante Descends the Flinty Steps in Canto 26
Envisioned by Paul Gustave Doré
(Descended at Wikipedia)

You occasional readers may not need another of my poetry breaks, but after yesterday's post, I deserve a break ... and it might as well be poetry.

In Ditch Eight of Hell's Eighth Circle, as recounted in Canto 26 of the Inferno, Dante encounters 'the fraudulent' Ulysses (Odysseus), encased in a flame that speaks for him, and the latter tells of his voyage beyond the Pillars of Hercules and heading due west into the Atlantic with his crew, sailing fearlessly, eagerly onward until they glimpse the dim outlines of a distant mountain, whereupon a whirlwind sprang from the perceived land, striking the vessel and sending it hurtling into the waves, under the sea, and downward to Hell.
Dante's Odyssey

Those nights I often dreamt
of broken labyrinths
where black, black flames rise up
in resurrected death
to prophesy with no one's tongue
on what shall come, is passing, or has passed.
I wrote this brief lyric in late 1986, shortly after arriving in the old Swiss town of Fribourg, built on the steep sides of the Sarine river, a little village of long, steep steps and -- at the time of my arrival -- deepening winter shadows.



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