Wow! Good ideas. Thanks for your help. I'm pretty enthusiastic about this now and I'm going to look into it. I've had some other ideas too and I'll ask for some advice when I'm ready to do it--probably in conjunction with the REH WotW avatar!
Never thought about an avatar and don't really know who or what would reflect who I am. I'll think about it though and ask for your assistance when I'm ready. I'm a real Harry Dresden fan so perhaps a mysterious looking woman with the long black coat and the slouch hat he wears that half hides the face. I'll work on it.
Hmmmm. Avatar, Huh. Sounds like a good selection for WotW for December. Thanks for another good idea, Sorceress.
And many thanks to you and VK and everyone for being such great supporters of WotW. I don't think I say that often enough...
This week’s prose poem is “Skulls and Orchids” and the word a repeat from November, 2010.
“Skulls and Orchids” is a story of passion, betrayal and revenge. It’s written from the viewpoint of a woman. Here are some excerpts from this five page story:
I wore little except sandals on my slim white feet, and a wide sash flung carelessly about my form, and my hair, half restrained by a cloth of gold stephane, fell in black waves about my agile shoulders. And I was beautiful.
“You are handsome as Apollo himself, today.” I said.
“Demetrius, take me to hear Aristophanes’ latest drama, will you not?”
He sighed as if in weary resignation.
“Astaihh,” he said, “you are wasting your time with me—have I not told you that all is over between us? Go your way, girl, there are many men who desire your love. Menander the poet would sell his soul into Hades for a single smile from you.” “That idler, that scribbler of airy nothings?” my red lips curled, “Demetrius—”
“Demetrius,” I coaxed, “you loved me once! From the hard life of a soldier I led you in my arms and taught you the wonders and mysteries of luxuries and arts—and other things beside.
“Demetrius, do you owe me nothing? Remember, I left the gynæconitis forever to follow the life of a ‘companion,’ losing my Athenian citizenship thereby, and all because of you. For you are a Spartan after all, Demetrius, and no Athenian gentlewoman may marry a foreigner, even though he be a Hellene and high in Athens’ ranks. I cared not; I never loved the monotonous and ignorant drudgery of the Athenian home, and while you were true to me, I was happy.”
“Girl, be silent! I would not lay upon you in anger the hands that caressed you aforetime, but go your way and let me go mine!”
At that moment another entered. A slim, golden-haired boy, whose limbs were carved of ivory and whose rose-leaf mouth curved in a happy smile, whose fair cheeks blushed as he saw Demetrius. The Spartan’s face softened, and with a warhardened arm, he drew the boy gently to him, uptilting that girlish face for a kiss. While I stood by, my nails sinking into the palms of my hands between rage, shame, and jealousy.
The female point of view that REH adopts is interesting. There are four characters in “Skulls and Orchids”:
Demetrius, the Spartan warrior,
Astaihh, his Athenian lover. The story is told from her point of view;
a young man who is Demetrius’ new lover;
Menander, the poet who also loves Astaihh.
What’s remarkable about this prose poem is that Menander was an actual person historically and from his birth and death dates, we can guess when this prose poem story took place in Athens. According to the Britannica:
Menander(born c. 342—died c .292 bce), was an Athenian dramatist whom ancient critics considered the supreme poet of Greek New Comedy—i.e., the last flowering of Athenian stage comedy. During his life, his success was limited; although he wrote more than 100 plays, he won only eight victories at Athenian dramatic festivals.
Menander’s works were much adapted by the Roman writers Plautus and Terence, and through them he influenced the development of European comedy from the Renaissance. Their work also supplements much of the lost corpus of his plays, of which no complete text exists, except that of the Dyscolus, first printed in 1958 from some leaves of a papyrus codex acquired in Egypt.
The known facts of Menander’s life are few. He was allegedly rich and of good family, and a pupil of the philosopher Theophratus, a follower of Aristotle. In 321 Menander produced his first play and In 316 he won a prize at a festival and gained his first victory at the Dionysia festival the next year. By 301 Menander had written more than 70 plays. He probably spent most of his life in Athens and is said to have declined invitations to Macedonia and Egypt. He allegedly drowned while swimming at the Piraeus (Athens’s port).
One of the most popular writers of antiquity, his work was lost in the Middle Ages and is known in modernity in highly fragmentary form, much of which was discovered in the 20th century. Only one play, Dyskolos, has survived almost entirely
I checked REH’s bookshelf and there is no listing for Menander which isn’t surprising since only one whole play has survived. However, Sappho, who lived about the 6th c BC is mentioned. She does appear in his bookcase and he quotes
And he also mentions her in his poetry “Sappho, the Grecian hills are gold”
Sappho, the Grecian hills are gold,
And Grecian girls are not,
But I was bred on Devon wold
And rode with Lancelot.
Probably REH’s best known reference to her is in a rebuttal letter to Harold Preece ca December 1928 (The Collected Letters of Robert E. Howard, v1, p. 287+)
You’re right; women are great actors. But I can’t agree with you in your statement that the great women can be counted on the fingers of one hand. Men have sat at the feet of women down the ages and our civilization, bad or good, we owe to the influence of women.
Let us look at the records of the great women.
Sappho: doubtless the greatest woman poet who ever lived; certainly one of the greatest of all time. The direct incentive of the lyric age of Greece, the age that for pure beauty, surpasses all others. How shall a pen like mine sing of the beauties of Sappho, of the golden streams which flowed from her pen, of her voice which was fairer than the song of a dark star, of the fragrance of her hair and shimmering loveliness of her body? Has it been proven that she was a Lesbian in the generally accepted sense of the word? Who ever accused her but the early Christian — ignorant monks and monastery swine who were set on breaking all the old golden idols; and Daudet, a libertine, a groveling ape who could see no good in anything; Mure, a drunkard and a blatant braggart whose word I hold of less weight than a feather drifting before a south wind. May the saints preserve Comparetti who was man enough to uphold pure womanhood, and scholar enough to prove what he said. No prude was Sappho but a full blooded woman, passionate and open hearted with a golden song and a soul large enough to enfold the whole world. Listen:
“Lo, Love once more my soul within me rends
Like wind that on the mountain oak descends.”
And again she sings:
“Lo, Love once more, the limb-dissolving king,
“Wild-beast-like rends me with fierce quivering.”
“Early uprose the golden-sandaled-Dawn.”
What male poet has achieved a finer imagery?
Again: “The moon has left the sky:
Lost is the Pleiades’ light;
It is midnight
And time slips by;
But on my couch alone I lie.”
“From the sound of cool waters heard through the green boughs
Of the fruit bearing trees,
And the rustling breeze,
Deep sleep, as a trance, down over me flows.”
Of the rainbow she speaks:
“Rainbow shot with a thousand hues.”
Of the night she speaks:
“And dark-eyed Sleep, child of Night.”
The translation is weak and pallid in comparison with the “winged words” of the original Greek. But even so we catch the haunting melody, the wistful yet powerful, almost overcoming beauty of the songs of Sappho. God be with her — gone to the dust twenty-five hundred years ago — more than two thousand years ago. Let us sigh with Swinburne:
“I, Sappho shall be one with all these things,
With all things high forever; and my face
Seen once, my songs once heard in a strange place
Cleave to men’s lives, and waste the days thereof,
In gladness and much sadness and long love.”
Prose and Poets from Classic Greece. "Skulls and Orchids" is an interesting name for this piece....does anyone have any thoughts on the meaning of this title?