So this shall be the last of my Aegean Edicts of 2020. Strictly speaking Im not by the Aegean anymore, in fact I’m only about 50 miles from the Adriatic, but the contents of this essay were produced largely by the Aegean. I am currently in the delightful town of Ioaninna, perch’d by a lovely lake & ringed by mountains. Ioaninna has a place in English poetry, being the citadel where Byron met Ali Pasha in 1809 on his Grand Tour of Europe, in which visit to Epirus he bough the famous costume in which he would be painted & immortalised as the personifiaction of the Romantic poet (by Phillips, 1813).
A couple of days ago I walked here from the site of the oracle of Dodona; traversing country roads, photographing everything, admiring the changing constantly mountainscape & passing through delightful villages called Kostaniani, Liggos, Kontsika & Marmara, before zig-zagging down a steep sheer slope to the Ioaninna basin.
I’m here to type up Axis & Allies & to also complete my other epic poem, the Silver Rose. This is, in essence, the Odyysey to the Iliad that is my Axis & Allies. Begun in 1998, it is a sequence of 154 sonnets, like Shakespeare’s (but its not a competition), which are interspliced with odes. A symmetrical piece, it tells the story of my Childe Haroldean wanderings through Britain, Italy, Greece, India & America; with Sally Cinnamon playing the part of a modern-day Penelope.
One set of sonnets are entitled ‘Marching On Parnassus’ which were composed in 2010. Now then, on my Aegean tour – which didnt get that far really so entranced was I by Samothraki – I composed four new sonnets, which nudged & barged four of the weaker sonnets from 2010 out of the picture. I also intend to compose the Samothrakean mysteries, a five part poem that will serve as a counterpoint to the odes I’ve been writing these passed few years of British political tumult. I’m also adding one more to the latter odes, mentioning covid of course, & I think I’d like to write an ode on a massacre by the Nazis of a village – Lyngiades – which overlooks Ioaninna. Its position in the epic would reflect that of the Loss of Hope ode I wrote earlier this year. Heres the final ‘track listing’ so to speak, of the Silver Rose epic.
To an Englishman with Liberty
The Grand Tour
Return of the Rose
Love at First Sight
The Language of Birds
Rose Goes North
Loss of Hope
Haiku from Heather Lodge
The Proposal – Celestial Samurai
The Thistle & the Rose
The Lost Poem
On Valentine’s Eve – The Art of Love
Marching on Parnassus
The Samothrakean Mysteries
Language of Flowers
Raj & the Rose
From An Englisman with Liberty (being)
1-The Bedroom Opera
2-Ballad of the Bataclan
5-The Insanity of Donald Flump
So these new sonnets & the two new poems will see another epic being concluded in Ioaninna – more or less at the same time, for I’m also uploading all the 100 cantos of Axis & Allies, while watching series 3 of Only Fools & Horses. Anyways, here’s the full & final version of the Marching on Parnassus series of sonnets for your perusal. Enjoy
During the long course of this poethood
My song has been prepar’d for one moment,
At last! to Grecia by my Muses sent
& in my heart I knew they always would!
Upon Italic plateauxs have I stood
Hoping to glimpse her shores through mountains bent
Between the mists, that shuffle innocent
From peak to peak, as only phantoms could!
As we are sailing to antiquity
Some laurel wreath to fix unto a brow,
Where oranges hang every second tree,
Antiquity seems almost here & now
As Greece, in rustic beauty, like a bay,
Before us spreads as breaks the cloudless day.
The sun is setting gold on Zacynthus,
The breeze is blowing freedom thro’ my hair
The waves at the beck & call of Phorcys,
Have dragg’d us ever closer to his lair.
O Cephalonia, Byronic isle!
Such promise holds mine animated mind
Beneath thy peaks I’ll spend some happy while,
Sensing, already, sights to stir my kind.
Am I some Telemachos coming home?
Or Eumea drifting in from Elis?
Or Phaecian vessel spurting thro foam,
Where in the hold slumbers Odysseus?
I am these things, & many more beside,
For they shall live ‘til poetry has died!
DEPARTING THE SANCTUARY OF OLYMPIA
Until we meet again, Olympia!
When I shall raise my daughter to the height
A toddling flame
& as the morn-pink roses, would show her
The very scene & in the very light
I chose her name
My love, as I sit waiting for a bus
To Tropea or Pirgos, either way,
I think of thee!
Wondering if the future holds for us
A glitter-girl to please us in her play
Our bouncing bee
Who, when she’s sleeping looks as sweet as you
& laughing, me!
Where Autumn-tinted peaks rise glorious
I hitch’d a lift, a lorry-load of bales
Whose little houses sing their hearth-side tales
Old stories of this hoary, mountainous
Region, of most hardy handsome hunters
Fed by their ever-fattening females
Where taxidermy, of the arts, prevails
& portraits hang with pride for ancestors!
The Mornou Dam sits like a precious stone
Heart of a highland chain that god-like rings
This world where only poets dare to chance
& each of them, I sense, was once a throne
For spirits older than Olympic kings,
Where Cronos dined & Titans loved to dance.
As careful steps & aiming for the post
Must bring us ever closer to our goal,
Thro’ sharp-barb’d thorny burnett hack’d my feet,
Urg’d on by robins perch’d on pungent spurge,
Along an ancyent path of broken stones,
Which Idomenus trod before the truce’
I mountain-goated past four snarling hounds,
Stone-showers scatter, man’s best friend or nay!
The bravest follows at a wise distance,
A fine black bitch, til gladly I arrive
By Delphi’s walls, the troubadour no more,
Strange tortoise, with a home flat on my back,
Ready to rest, & write, & relish life
Upon same rocks where Orpheus once roam’d!
So, this is the heartbeat of poetry,
From holy Parnassus, uprising sheer,
These magi-waters of empyrean,
Pulse down from such a theatre of stone,
Them pouring thro’ the depths of my studies,
Where in a sketch I see gargoyle faces –
Perhaps by Hobhouse in Lord Byron’s ‘Life’ –
Who came up, too, to taste this ancient spring
Upon his very famous ‘Pilgrimage,’
While mine is ended here… I sup the mead,
Faint hint of minerals, revitalised,
I swear to all my Muses I shall be
A poet still, & if they ride with me
To Scotland, I shall build them temples there!
Napoleon, in Amiens, the crown!
Wrested from papal clutches, his own hands
Placed steel upon his brow, Corsican clown
No longer, but an emperor of lands!
I came upon a plain of dreams & steam
A spartan in my body, duty, rhyme
Where Leonidas & his polis cream
Defied the best of persia in their prime
On noble Kolonos a monument
Topp’d by a laurel wreath, I gladly felt
That thro the muses it was sent to me
As I before phoenician letters knelt
Bending the branch into a perfect ring
& crown’d myself, at last, a poet-king!
Zeusian eagles hover’d oer the folds
Where I collected firewood, meanwhile
Immersed in poesy’s pristeen reverie
Of lofty pitch & classical alludes
The constitutions of a younger vow
Lay fully realized – Olympus rose
Oer tree-green gorge where chaunt I to the gods
Pulses initial to a final form,
An hour of velvet wonder in my life,
Idyllic launchpad of a lofty muse,
Far from the heavings of society,
I cook wild stew in Castallian mead,
Flavour’d by mountain herbs, & cared for naught.
EMAIL FROM THESSALY
Last night we camp’d under wonderful stars
& today, what a day, what adventure,
With the sky never-ending above us
Oer mountains rising on swarms of wild olives.
But something, someone is missing
That someone I need to be kissing
I want to wake beside you every day
Tell you I love you, ask if you’re OK
Give you a hug when you’re gong to work
Or hide if you’re menstrual & going bezerk
For ye are the one thing I crave here the most
Ycamped on the crest of this ocean coast
You’re the music, lass, that livens my drumming,
Be patient, my love, I am coming.
There is a heat they call the burn of Greece
Beginning in July, by Autumn screams
Out in the day we English pray for peace
In shady spots as lava spurts & steams
By graffitis of Thessaloniki
Thin street cats treated priestlike as they prowl
From door-to-friendly door, such unsneaky
Hunts for meaty morsels; fresh, fair & foul.
Oer the labyrinth of Salonika
Hat soak’d in sweat, what buenavista won!
Olympus of gorgeous tectonica
Uprisen in the distance, legend spun
When, in the shadow of the Genti Koyle,
I sit wide gazing, still, like a gargoyle.
I found myself in Paradise a few miles shy of Sarti,
I’d headed there solely beacuse it rhymes with ‘Wild Love Party,’
A wee secluded nudist beach with pyres of burnish’d driftwood,
& thought I’d stay as gracious while as Thracian poets should.
Across the soft Singitic Gulf Mount Athos rose redeeming
All souls who gazed upon its shark immortally updreaming,
There Monkish men swam out to heaven seven times a day,
Libating skinsalt to exalted Thetis in the spray.
So I gazed on Aphrodite & I swoon’d before Athena
& then I saw Cassandra – I’ll die happy cos I seen her
The infinite projections of her body sent me blushing
Into a catacoomb of lust, libido wolves enrushing.
Deep in a rockshade’s softening I drank my surfcool wine,
Watching Cassandra frolicking voluptuous, divine!
Gazing deep on Evening Star
She loves ME tonight!
Venus kisses earth
Four in the morning
Venus beaming bliss
Voluptuous woman light
Reflected in waves
Venus melts away
Within a rainbow sunset
Ripening in pink
“We’ll always have this island…”
She vibrated thro’ the waves
THE INVENTION OF THE LYRE
I am a Celtic bard, turn’d Druid, on the island where adolescent Orpheus
Follow’d two wise Cabeiroi on long walks over rocks, thro’ woods, to waterfalls,
The first fall shaped like an Egyptian short-bow or Nile canoe flipp’d standingly
The second resode in a fabulous canyon, enportion’d into four stunning quarters
“These parts,” said dwarfish Eurymedon, “transfer flowing waters pool-to-pool –
As such, the natural rhythm of Human music distill’d thro’ four sieves must be.”
“Penetrate,” said Alkon, “the everliving sounds of Nature’s ageless realm,
Then transfer them to a wooden shaft, bewebb’d by varying strings of goatwire.”
The tuning came to Taleisin via Hyksos & Herulian savants,
In whose own turn traditional taught me its secrets as I was dreaming
That night I dozed under Cadair Idris, when half-winds in the early morning
Disturb’d my sleep, compelling rais’d arms to offer my guitar to the chorus
Of morning birds; to tweak the pegs – a note here, half a note there, just a smidge
Of a twist on that string… with a soft strumm’d chord I stunn’d the forest to stillness!
Hiked up the slopes to Lyngiades this morning from Ioaninna – the view back to the town across the lake is stunning, but what’s more emotional is the monument to the women & children slaughtered by the Nazis in 1943 in retaliation for losing a high-ranking officer in an ambush to local Greek partisans – after a few days they found a baby still suckling his dead mother’s milk (see photo).
It was on the return down the rock-scruffy steepnesses that I began to ruminate once again on the Silver Rose & its conclusion – which led me to compose one final poem to slot into the ‘From An Englishman With Liberty’ series at the end of the sequence. So here it, is entitled ‘The Farewell to the Rose,’ a poignant moment for this poetical alter-ego has been with me since 1998, on & off; but then again I did always like the sound of ‘The Rose Goes Global…’
The Farewell to the Rose
I shone in the silvery starlight
As I serv’d up these verses for thee
My rose has now frozen to snow-white
For the artists, forever, are free.
I leave you an Odyssey’s odes’ worth
& sonnets a Shakespearean par,
With Milton & Byron & Wordsworth
My posterity’s epic shall spar
Yes its been such a hectic adventure
Tho of course cream’d with moments of calm
Reconstruct it with songs that I sent ya
WMy book plac’d on a perch in your palm
Like a sheet of old music before thee
As you play your violas or flute
& as you release me all syllably
Please remember me, my roseate repute
That swore, by this temple, he will remain
The gallantest guy on the glide
For I was the one who rode Sylvermane
Thro’ the age when dear analogue died
Take a valentine’s rose from my pocket
Pressing petals of silvery sheen
To be kept in a book or a locket
Or hung up where my poetry’s been.
Damian Beeson Bullen
September 7th, 2020