Dithyramb

By Shane Devine

Written March 2015


“Dionysos” from the Richelieu Collection; 2nd century CE, discovered in Italy. Credit:
© Marie-Lan Nguyen / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY 2.5.

The sun gives life to dewdrop’d grass.
Reflection off the morning bay
Illumes the temple’s colored glass
To bathe us for the coming day.
Upon the altar lies the thing;
Sparks of vigor it shall bring.

The sun goes down
The vesper rings
Throughout the town
The poet sings:

“Cease to sigh and cease to think,
Gods have given wine to drink.
Gaze among the fairest girls;
Healthy prancing golden curls –

“How grand a pleasure’s Woman’s task,
To drown the heavy in a cask:
To take the heavy and the blight
And turn them to sublime delight.
They dance the dance sublime
Where roaring Life shoos Wisdom’s slime,
Beneath the weary dream,
Beyond the dreary Scheme
Where souls defrost their ugly rime –

Such as this, the clearest sign
That Life itself was meant to shine.”

He stopped the rhymes;
And then the chimes
From woods around
Began to sound
And call us down
Away from town
On through the glen
Unto the den:

And nature sings
Of earthly things
Along the track,
And in we pack
The woodsy den
To hear again
The poet’s voice
In full rejoice:

“Festive nights are bathed in Sun
Though the Night is not undone:
Sleeping satyr gladly snores;
Thus we know that Life adores
Not the minus but the plus;
Heavy thought – be gone from us!
Show instead the dancing song:
Boys with fifes, the whirling throng;
Stamp the thyrsus, bang the drum,
Something vital is to come!”

At once the sky
Enraged itself
With thunder’s cry
And water’s wealth:
A lightning strike
Enflamed with heat
Then shot a spike
Into their feet;
Away they danced
With revelry
And leapt entranced
To devilry.

The wine then teemed
And flowed from bowls;
The dancers seemed
Like flame on coals;
They laughed and cried
And shook about,
So hard they tried
To stand all stout,
But Night made lean
Their meek attempt
And wrought a scene
Like something dreamt.

Some girls’ conceit
Had shed their clothes
And acted sweet
With lovely shows;
The boys returned
Their flirt with looks
And happ’ly burned
Like food for cooks.

From out behind
Appears the mind
Who wills ferment
And measurement;
His satyrs too
Who make anew
The shade of night
Shake with might.


“Listen:” spoke this curator of festive
Scamps, “destroy all pieties: you too, you
Men of science; serving Truth instead of
Man is just the same as serving God – the
One that died, and with him all the other-
Worlds. Whatever’s not sublunary is
But illusory. The earth deserves your
Praise; this life you must allow, and curse the
Dam of Law which holds this forceful river
Back; desire greatness, – not sleep: Glory, –
Not salvation; forge your lives like works of
Art, the Will as saint and guiding-hand, and
Sins as that which threaten such creation.
Hear! The ancient music calls to shatter
“I” for the greater kosmic ekstacy!”

All was shook, the speech was done,
Off they went to have good fun.
Return ye now to lavish seats;
Remember this ‘til time repeats:
To resurrect, the cross must go!
The golden trees need time to grow!
There is a wait
But soon be sate
The child’s sick’ning quest to know.

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