((Or, ‘Feast of the Dogs’) (547 BC – 490 BC))
Myron, from Hydra
It was the year his father died; he had all his poems in his head.
There he was—no, he wasn’t there, mentally, his sister, Axothea, he saw in the morning. He had recited his poems of course; some to himself, a few now to his sister. Myron, son of Kritias of Hydra (an island in the Aegean Sea, dating back to the 12th Century BC, no more than twenty-five square miles, depopulated, then in the 8th Century somehow resurrected, with farmers, and herders, and sailors from Ermioni, who took ownership of the island, then sold it to Samos in the 6th Century, and ceded it to Tizina, then and there), Myron had finished with an Ode to the Crow, fifteen-years old now. A group of people could hear him also; his molars just ripping throughout his gums.
Poets are a long-winded breed, all wanting to make Olympia buzz with poetic envy, like a hornets nest. Now fifty-years later his poems are still recited on Hydra, Samos, Crete, Athens, Teos, Lesbos, quoted by tyrants from Miletus, Macedonia, Carthage. A glittering group of poets and actors now call themselves, “Myron Artists.” Even the Persian elite know of him, all the way to Sicily his name is renowned.
But in those early dark days, after his father—a poet of the people—lesser known among the elite, than Myron would be in time, had died of ((Consumption ) (disease)), it was in his lungs, his mother had died of it a year earlier. Neither the boy nor his sister inhaled their father’s infection; he had learned from the death of his mother, it was contagious plus his father having him avoid any near contact.
Now his sister, whom was a year younger than the poet to be, he was pledged to his creative art, likened to his father, like to like, like two peas in a pod. Thankful, no doubt, he stayed in Hydra, where everyone knew of him, and his parents. Unfortunately, both the boy and his sister were left innocently to sleep wherever they found shelter, and were never sought after for truancy. But pray he did, to Apollo and Dionysius, to be as great a poet as Sappho, who had died not but a quarter century ago, or Solon who had died but a decade before he was born.
At sunrise he and his sister were up and about, greeted one and all civilly, and like so often, was offered a cup of watered wine, “For a boy’s strength,” the head of the household, had said. And then he and his sister, Axothea, found a corner in the market place—as often they did—for him to recite his poetry, and for her to play the lyre, as was their only means of support (he could write and read, although circulation of the written word was not prevalent in those days, while actors and poets, had personal written scripts.) And thus, the day stretched out, as he recited his poetry, as if a gift to Apollo, and Zeus.
“Yes, sir,” I said to my mind’s eye when I saw him give heart and soul to the god’s—with his ode, “This does amaze me.”
A youthful and beautiful lad, his sister keeping out of sight but playing her lyre softly as he spoke his ode, as if he was alone. As I listened I too, sang his poetic lyrics into my heart and mind, I dreamed his libretto, as if I were among the crows themselves, I could picture them, weaving in and out of Apollo’s festival, chanting behind Homer’s back, fighting to get away from the flames of Troy, I seemed to be dreaming, daydreaming, aloud, he could have enchanted lions, a sullen boy indeed (as he chanted “The Ode to the Crow”).
(Song of the Crow)
Heavy he leans his feathered headGazing at the blood red mistTired, — his face shows time has pastAnd on his tarnished-gray wings-The world rests…Has God forsaken you-?To grief and painTo love the sparrow instead?Are you not the largest of the perching birdsCrowned with a grayish hood?Or are you just a crow…
The farmers hate (or should)…?Your breath has left youMy feathered friend…Too weak to lift your head againWhat separates you from man?Is it the sky and land?Or the road each must go?Each unto his own…!It seems to meLife’s a test for you as wellBut man must ponder on,And reason.What is the question you askI see, within your stareWithin those silent dark eyes:“Who are these masters who rule the land,Give back to me the sky!”However, –will you fly againTouch the heavensLight your wings on fireFrom the scorching sunGlide with the wind until dawnYou are the mystery that cries within…but then, you are not made inHis Image, my Friend…!
All the same, he was not well prepared, how could he be at such a young age. Then he saw me—here I was, a stranger and guest to the land, pleasant-faced I was, what evil was I wishing him, I would make him famous—that in itself has two sides—too often, so often, it gives a bountiful life, but a short life; yes, I could make him famous, I could see in his eyes—through his thin eyelids, he never dared to think it. I, Datis of Carthage (Greek-Persian oratory tutor), I would make him the bard of the times, his time, my time, I could do this. The less he knew of me, the better off for him (it’s called scruples), lest he despise me, for I had a tongue with no hair on it in those far-off days, and I knew the world at large, the boys-strength was in learning, loyalty, no doubt, because of my age I would not be the heir to his fortune, unless he died in spite of my teachings, pleasure of the feast can pull a man down from his peak, right in the middle of his ascension to the gods—to the House of Hades, for the Feast of the Dogs, it has been done before. So I watched a while longer, “Let us walk together,” I said, and he knew I was sent by Apollo, his eyes told me so, but he didn’t know all.
The October chill was in the wind, the flowers were becoming pale, as winter neared, the sun was low over the Mediterranean, and Aegean Seas, Axothea watched us from afar—, curious no doubt.
“I have the gift of prophecy,” I remember telling the lad, which was somewhat of a lie, I just had connections, and good insight to talent—and my intuition was good, matter of fact, I trusted my instinct much more than my feelings and thinking, the gods forbid, it has broken many a good men to have trusted their emotions.
Myron, son of Kritias of Hydra, said in a most shy voice: “What is it that you see?”
“You are the poetic voice of Apollo’s snake,” so I told him.
“I have always wanted to be a poet, perhaps a worthy one, if not great; but dare not tell my dreams to anyone, lest they vanish never to return; thus let it be a dream, unless with certainty, you can possible tell me how…?” said the charming lad, so composed and innocent of the wilds of the world, then he continued: “never have I heard the voice of Apollo’s serpent, seeks out poets to express his words. And perhaps I wish them to be mine, anyhow.”
“Do not blasphemy the gods,” I told him frankly, “it leads into a short life span.”
I picked up an old dying flower, I was going to try to tell him the best way I could, yet not as a friend, rather more as an advisor, counselor, an orator tutor. I had managed actors, and singers, and poets before, I could be his manager and tutor at the same time. Other than that, he had the art of words pretty well down for his poetry; that is to say: symbolism, and metaphor, prosody and meter and foot, alliteration, and tone, themes—in one word, he had his ‘form’ he knew the end of the poem, before he wrote his first stanza—eliminating the dagger so many find at as they try to figure out end words, stanzas—he did it in his head first. Much of his poetry unrhymed. He had the gift—as did his father—having a unique schematic diagramming system for all forms known, and structuring his one from those various forms, concise, complete. For me this area was a little ambiguous, in no instance had he ever claimed to invent a form, however his odes indicated he might have.
Perhaps what I could teach him I told myself was the difference between loud, soft and silent poetry (declamation).
There is no mystery behind this just an intercourse between hemispheres. To transcend the particularities of a poetic story better, for all poetry in one way or another is a story. In short, how to sort out and implant, psychology and philosophy and economic conditions and political issues, mingle them together, with profound reflections, imaginations, to make a point. Should not poetry have a goal? He needed to know density and complexity, for does not prose and poetry have different voices, I mean, poetry cannot do certain things, so we must depend on something else, lest we be helpless at sea. This with tone intonations, and acting, yes acting, it is all entertainment, when it comes right down to it. He could mix poetry with prose, I could teach him that, like poetry there is a rhythm and intensity to the combination.
I would teach him one must open their eyes, listen, be silent and wait for the inward voices; they chant, murmur and whisper…thus, the poetry becomes naked.
But we lived in a world that had limits, one I needed to teach him about that at the same time, that, being, use your compassion, the rowdiness of man, even savagery in your course of poetry to get your point across. Use your instincts, march clear and forward: see the road and with intensity follows it, to its end, but understand, the truth does not always set man free, it angers him—although a great poet is one who can affect you. You must measure the consequences. This I told him, and more.
“Any fool with a cleaver mind, and first-class vocabulary, can create a poem that any other fool can listen to. But a good poet creates a poem so that an insightful mind can share and be encouraged by his thoughts….
“You see, the scent of the flower dies, and fades into nothingness, hence, this is why I must train you, or in a short time, you will be a lovely flower shriveled to nothingness. I need to prepare your voice, so you can recite your most ambitious odes, this will make the listeners ears pink, you must be dignified, many poets are just plunderers, they seek a podium, to hoard and plunder of the nearby store, merchant, king, the rich and the poor alike.
Myron listened, looked about, around, that first day. Not knowing me, Datis, “Yes,” he said, “I will recite the Ode to the Crow, for you,” but then hesitated, for some reason shyness, or insecurity seeped into the marrow of his bones. Now I knew he would be dependent on me, to polish him like the agates on the seashore, I would make not only Apollo happy, but Dionysius.
“Come,” I said, “you can recite later.”
The Voice of Apollo’s Snake
Indeed, many things befell him in the years to follow, especially after that first year we had met—after his twentieth birthday that is, feeling at that time he was not much more than a babe trying to learn to walk, as if on stilts. What I did those first two years of his training was to: heightened his awareness, stimulated his imagination, sharpen his concentration, improve his visualization, and enhanced his communicational skills in general, for narrating those long odes of his. These skills and techniques I had taught him, I had him use while participating in the theater: monologues and scene work, various readings relating to the theater and performance, all theatrical experiences that in time would enhance his poetic value.
Hence, we traveled to: Athens, Macedonia, Carthage, Ionian Islands: Chios, Miletus, Lesbos, Samos, Teos, Priene…his sister came along, and often wanted to give advise, I don’t blame her, but I told her nonetheless, she’d have to stop this, I said to Myron: “Never mind her, she will talk.”
She did not know a poem from a tulip, although she brought in many customers with her fine figure and Athena looks, she was a dandy of a fine looking girl. Myron never asked me why I silenced her, just said, “I understand,” and I wondered if he really did—perchance he did.
An Army, ready for battle, can only have one general in charge, if indeed they are to win the battle, otherwise, he invites confusion. In a like manner, a poet apprentice, needs only one teacher, there are too many parts in making of a great poet, to include the entertainer part, a good poet is also a good actor, orator. A great general is no different he must impress, and win; and he most likely has learned leadership skills which in a nutshell are simply: to influence.
I wanted to create in Myron, not just a poet, but a great poet, all a poet could be, if I could do this, this would be my reward. In a like manner, if I was to be famous, it would be because of my training of him, and his performance. And what I needed from him was his full participation and preparation, anything less, was not worth my time. In consequence, he would learn the voice of Apollo’s snake, and forevermore be remembered.
The House of Hades
I took Myron, as often I’m sure as his father did, to the Temple of Zeus, his eyes turned to me though, more so, and more often than, to Zeus’ image. Now at twenty-three years old he had asked me: “Tell me, maestro” he said, this one day, in a weakening tone: “if I have not done my best these past four-years, and if not what more do I need to know to be a great poet? Give me your advice; do I now have what you refer to as the voice of Apollo’s snake?”
“Let me tell you,” I said, “about Apollo, and then secondly, I’ll give you my last advise,” and we sat on the stone pier looking out into the sea from Hydra, “Apollo, God of light, he is the favorite son of Zeus, as I’m sure you already know, he is my light, for he is also god of prophecy, but he wasn’t always, he got it from the snake, let me explain in more detail of this happening: he is also known as an overachiever, like you, at four years old, he started archery, at the same age you started poetry. He had a sister, as do you, and he fought a great python—this is where the voice of the snake appears—. Anyhow, he played the lyre, as you sister does, many similarities. Also he became a philosopher and poet.
“The Great Python serpent crawled back to her cave at Delphi after a defeating battle with Apollo; and the second encounter he had with the python, he killed it with an arrow this time, but the snake was really an Oracle of Delphi, and gave advice to Zeus. Consequently, Zeus was not pleased, and now he no longer had foresight. In turn, Apollo was punished, sent to live on earth with mortal man, under King Admetus. It is true, Apollo could not lie, only speak the truth, and his prophecies were most unerring.
“Apollo, said, ‘Know thyself’ meaning, to watch what you are doing or about to say (so the voice of Apollo, is really the snake’s voice, once learned—indirectly that is— now that the snake was dead, Apollo was forced to learn all the wisdom the snake had, thus, giving advise to and appeasing Zeus. This is the first insight,” I told Myron. Now for the second, the advice I gave him.
“What we do today,” I said, “in a hundred years, in a thousand years, will be fables, and mystery—things to be discovered that are realities of our time. You will be among the few poets, to be sought out, after.
“The strength of the gods is that the people believe in them—you will be, believed in…
“You see, the world is better off without bad poets, but they must come, if only to learn they will not be remembered, and this brings up the value of the greater few.
“When you are with tyrants—among the great and noble, do not get to close to the truth, when reciting your poetry. Remember what Apollo said ‘Know Thyself (or know your limits, or their limits)’ you see there are moments men can instantly like you, or like one another, and also hate one another.
“It is in the heart of many to smear the creative genius, out of envy, or jealousy, or what have you—meanness. No great artist will escape this oppression, learn to wear a mask. Last,
“You see, Myron, what muddled creatures we are…! Like little harlots.”
Feast of the Dogs
Well, great things came about after that, at which time, the island he knew, and he so loved—Hydra, he left never to return, to go among the men of great and evil, men of the world, he awoke in them—with the voice of the once great python snake, and with Apollo’s character, he awoke in them, their thick and dark spun webs—their macabre side, he did it with his tone of voice, his poetry, his life acting skills—with all that he had learned: and like Apollo, he could not lie. As a result, he was slain by one of the tyrants for blasphemy of the gods after having being asked, “What god has given you such wonderful talents?”
After hearing this, Myron remarked, in a most protesting manner: “Apollo and Zeus had nothing to do with my learning and performance this evening, it was long hours of training by my instructor, and the encouragement of my father, and my own will; if the gods had anything to with it, let the serpent out of he bag, and say-so!”
Evidently the rumor that was circulating around was that Apollo washed his hands of the Poet from Hydra—for right or wrong it was carelessness on the poet’s part—washed his hands at the request of the king, right then and there, as the king slew him, slewed him like a hog on a butcher’s table, and asked Apollo to cast him down to the House of Hades, where the flesh of damned heroes are left, for the Feast of the Dogs.
But there is more to this story than meets the eye, let me explain the background, for perhaps if King Aristagors of Miletus (Miletus was considered the greatest and wealthiest of Greek cities), was not under server stress and strain, the life of this now infamous, poet, long forgotten, might have been spread across the Mediterranean, as was Sappho, Alkaios, Solon, Achilles, Agamemnon (King of Men):
It was at this juncture in history, “Darius the Great, revenged, Athens and Eretria, it was at the “Battle of Lade” that Myron, had given his best and last performance, 494 BC, on Miletus. At which time a naval battle was fought between alliances of the Ionian cities, and the Persian Empire.
It was during this time period, the Tyrant of Miletus, King Aristagors—was to be removed from his position—for debacle of the mission, as a result, he had the poet killed for his insight, his so called blasphemy of truth—in the process of all this, the king incited the whole of Ionia into rebellion against the Persian King.
No: 728 (2-3-2011)
(Or, ‘Feast of the Dogs’)
Spun into a thick and dark web
By the voice of Apollo’s serpent
On the day of my birth
For great hopes and triumphs,
I became a poet!
Then like the swift wrap of a wind
Because of truth’s evil end
Cancelled alike by the gods
And their tyrants
Those – all men honor…
Thus, I was cast:
To the House of Hades,
For the Feast of the Dogs…!
No: 2894 (2-3-2011)