Narratives for Survival #3

hangg_heemskerck

The first line of this poem comes from a poem by Trumbull Stickney. It got stuck in my head the other day, and since I was working on an oratorio or possibly musical about the Hanging Gardens allegedly built by Nebuchadnezzar, I thought I would play around with the ideas some more, and because I am a glutton for punishment, use blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter) to do it. If you are going to go classical antiquities, after all, go all the way.

 

“Be still. The Hanging Gardens were a dream,”

Just as Eden was a paradise

Where animals could frolic, never die,

And trees provided all the fruit for all

The hungry mouths who had not yet learned pain.

Such dreams are necessary for our hearts

To learn the blueprint of a truer world.

 

When Babylon, the center of the world,

Was young and shining in the desert sun,

The emperor, it’s said, once came upon

His consort, Amytis, just lingering

Alone and staring eastward toward her home

In far-off Persia–fair, beloved, and green–

And in that moment knew what pity was.

 

A moment only. (Though that moment was

Enshrined in history. Three thousand years

Have passed and carried with them this one tale,

The birthing of a wonder of the world.

We know such men as emperors do not

Amass empires in order to appease

The heartsick longings of a simple girl,

 

However regal her paternal price

In dowered lands.) A moment later, he

Envisioned legacy, his glorious name

Forever linked to this vast garden, tiered,

Wild, green and flower-blazoned (built by slaves

In exile, sons of Israel of old),

And fountains blossoming to ward off heat.

 

Herodotus recorded measurements–

How high the walls, how tall the topmost tree–

But archaeologists, who deal in truth,

The truth that lies in layers of dirt on dirt,

Tell us Herodotus did not see truth

The way we do, that history back then

Was story first and only afterward

 

A thing of facts. The poet was not wrong:

The Hanging Gardens were a dream. It’s true.

But then, what does it mean that this green dream

Has filled the sleeping minds of women, men,

A thousand generations sharing these

Wild, verdant tendrils of this single dream?

Through this, a need is answered, so be still.

9 comments on “Narratives for Survival #3

  1. I’m thinking you won this game, set and match. Love “the moment.” I see it clearly. Fond memories of my classics class. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. pastpeter says:

    I like your spiritual insight and your verse.

    Like

  3. Oh, heck, that. Yep. I see things clearly sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This is wonderfully rich. Well done 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Especially, I like this:

    Herodotus recorded measurements–
    How high the walls, how tall the topmost tree–
    But archaeologists, who deal in truth,
    The truth that lies in layers of dirt on dirt,
    Tell us Herodotus did not see truth
    The way we do, that history back then
    Was story first and only afterward

    A thing of facts. The poet was not wrong:
    The Hanging Gardens were a dream. It’s true.

    Liked by 1 person

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