Song of the Mytilenian Women, v3
#1
Song of the Mytilenian Women


I have become convinced that Sappho in her poetry 
does not express her own emotions 
but speaks, either in her own voice, or through a chorus,
for the community... --André Lardinois


Dressed in their finest linen, their ears and necks
spangled with gold and silver, the women of Mytilene
gather to form a chorus: hear them intone the words
of their black-haired chief

as they imagine men in the place of the woman
their chief had wished that deathless Aphrodite,
the one they now address, would return
to end her longing.

High voices reach the goddess, while the low
drone that ties the performance together
honors with its pre-verbal "Na" the goddess
who rules the dead.

"Some say that an army of ships is the most beautiful
thing on this black earth", the chorus sings
to welcome those returning from the perils 
of vengeance and the sea

while the infernal queen prepares for her return
to her gloomy realm, but now she sits
where once she roused her husband grant the wish
of despondent Orpheus

with tears -- but now it is winter -- and the women
must rouse the men help bring new life
to the city. "Come to us now", and their ode
transforms into a paean

as the chorus scatters: the maidens start for the fields
where they'll weave crowns out of flowers they dried
over the summer, the wives march to their homes
side-by-side with their husbands,

and black-haired Sappho joins the low-voiced crones
to the temples of their protector Hera,
their preserver Hestia, and their bosom-friend
Persephone.




v1 was untitled; it was composed and shared during NaPM 2022

Song of the Mytilenian Women


Dressed in their finest linen, their ears and necks
spangled with gold and silver, the women of Mytilene
gather to form a chorus: hear them intone the words
of their black-haired chief

as they imagine men in the place of the woman
their chief imagined deathless Aphrodite,
the one whom they address, would return
to end her longing.

High voices reach the goddess, while the low
drone that ties the performance together
honors with its pre-verbal "Na" the goddess
who rules the dead.

"Some say that an army of ships is the most beautiful
thing on this black earth", the chorus sings
to welcome those who return from the perils of vengeance
and the treacherous sea

while the infernal queen prepares for her return
to her gloomy realm, but now she sits
where once she roused her husband grant the wish
of despondent Orpheus

with tears -- but now it is winter -- and the women
must rouse the men help bring new life
to the city. "Come to us now", and their ode
transforms into a paean

as the chorus breaks up: the maidens start for the fields
where they'll weave crowns out of flowers they dried
over the summer, the wives march to their homes
side-by-side with their husbands,

and black-haired Sappho joins the low-voiced crones
to the temples of their protector Hera,
their preserver Hestia, and their bosom-friend
Persephone.
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#2
(05-01-2022, 06:24 PM)RiverNotch Wrote:  Song of the Mytilenian Women


Dressed in their finest linen, their ears and necks
spangled with gold and silver, the women of Mytilene
gather to form a chorus: hear them intone the words
of their black-haired chief                                             not crazy about word choice of chief, if you are referring to a priestess

as they imagine men in the place of the woman              lost you here; why are they imagining this?
their chief imagined deathless Aphrodite,                       should there be a comma after chief?  is imagined deathless Aphrodite being referred to?
the one whom they address, would return
to end her longing.                                                      again, a little lost here as to who is returning and why she (Aphrodite?) is longing

High voices reach the goddess, while the low
drone that ties the performance together
honors with its pre-verbal "Na" the goddess
who rules the dead.                                                    this stanza is wonderful, even if I don't fully comprehend the "pre-verbal Na" business

"Some say that an army of ships is the most beautiful
thing on this black earth", the chorus sings
to welcome those who return from the perils of vengeance
and the treacherous sea                                                   another fine stanza that is clear to me

while the infernal queen prepares for her return           Persephone's appearence seems to come from nowhere
to her gloomy realm, but now she sits
where once she roused her husband grant the wish           
of despondent Orpheus

with tears -- but now it is winter -- and the women               so this is some kind of winter ritual to bring back Spring?
must rouse the men help bring new life
to the city. "Come to us now", and their ode
transforms into a paean

as the chorus breaks up: the maidens start for the fields
where they'll weave crowns out of flowers they dried
over the summer, the wives march to their homes                 another word choice I'd revisit; "march" seems too strident
side-by-side with their husbands,                                         a fine stanza, love the details of the ritual

and black-haired Sappho joins the low-voiced crones
to the temples of their protector Hera,                                  something seems missing here before the "to", a verb of movement or singing?
their preserver Hestia, and their bosom-friend
Persephone.

River,

I really want to understand this poem better.  Perhaps a more specific title, for starters.  What kind of ritual are you describing?  I feel like a few more details would do it.  Or a preamble (even in prose) to give me a better launch into the specifics of the poem.  I really enjoy the subject matter and the details you've worked into the poem.  I am just lacking context, so I'm stumbling from the start.

TqB
“All persons, living or dead, are entirely coincidental.”  Kurt Vonnegut
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#3
Thanks for the response. I'll wait for more before trying to edit.
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#4
v3 (v2 is what I posted; v1 is in NaPM 2022, day 23) posted. The quote specifically comes from an Andre Lardinois article called "Lesbian Sappho Revisited", published where I don't quite know; I had read a New Yorker article about Sappho before composing this that quotes Lardinois, so I looked him up specifically for this revision. Hopefully the quote is enough to clarify things. I'm still not sure if the title itself is "enough", though. Any suggestions?

notes for TqB specifically (thanks again)
-The strident language is intentional.
-"Na" is the way a Byzantine liturgical text I have seems to transcribe the drone underneath much of the liturgy. I imagine that Byzantine liturgies are the closest performances we have to the chorales of Sappho's day that isn't a mere reconstruction, but I'm no scholar.
-"the goddess / who rules the dead" is Persephone. The following stanzas use her to mark the time. Not sure if it's an ancient trick I executed well xD
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#5
.
Hi River,
I'm struggling with this, like TqB, it's the lack of context that's the real problem (and I don't think the quote helps.)

It feels very overwritten, so much telling, very little showing (which isn't always a problem, but I think it is here. The author getting in between the reader and the poem.)  And the narrative, if there is one, vanishes, for me, half way through.

S1. You've come together to form a chorus - by definition a chorus is a collective, so the coming together is redundant. But, if it matters, then why/under what circumstances have they done this?

TqB already raised the point about 'chief' in S1 (surely it's 'priestess' as he says?  And yet you've stuck with chief in the revision. I'm confused.)

Also, for a 'song', this isn't very lyrical, the language doesn't lift. I didn't find the language strident, just flat.

You have them intoning the words of their chief, then the one they now address (if copying their chief, isn't the chief addressing Aphrodite? They are simply mimicking.)

To be frank, I have no idea what S2 means.  For me you could cut it and lose nothing.

High voices reach the goddess, ................. this is fine, but the next bit sounds like something copied from an archaeology text-book
while the low
drone that ties the performance together
honors with its pre-verbal "Na" the goddess
who rules the dead.................................... you're telling me what you know/think, not what 'na' means, nor how it 'honours'.

"Some say that an army of ships is the most beautiful ............Who is 'some', and why do they matter? (I'm not entirely sure about 'army' but could be convinced.)
thing on this black earth", the chorus sings
to welcome those returning from the perils
of vengeance and the sea ...................you've tried to hide it Smile but it's still 'the perils of the sea'.  Too much the cliché for me.

Now, I'm interested, who are those who are 'returning'?  I don't see any mention of them later, so what is the point of this verse?

No idea what purpose S5 serves.

S6 and their ode
transforms into a paean
Which is, essentially, their song transforms into a song.
And, having thus transformed ...

S7. the chorus scatters Why?

S8. Who and/or what are the 'crones' (I know, old women, but) where have they come from?  And why.
TqB already pointed out the problem with 'to the temples' but it's still there in the latest version.  It makes no sense River.

You've called this the 'Song of ... ' but where's the song?

their ears and necks spangled with gold
and silver, in finest linen dressed,
the noble women of Mytilene have gathered

to sing to Aphrodite:
"an army of ships is the most beautiful
thing on this black earth, let us give

a welcome to those returning
from vengeance and the sea."




Best, Knot.


.
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