Posted by Admin on 15 May 2006, 12:00 am

Profoundly moved I looked upon
those fragments of a frieze,
the relics from the Parthenon,
of sanguine war’s atrocities;
and in that chamber homage paid
to Pheidias’s skill,
as he did to the owl-wise Maid
atop that sacred hill.
In beauty there beyond belief,
by genius brought to light
they stood from walls in high relief
white as the Epicurean’s night.

Projected on my inward eye
I saw a lengthy train
forgather at Thriasian Gates
to celebrate yet once again,
beneath an azure Attic sky,
a pomp triennial – fête of fêtes
with due solemnity.

To represent authority,
nine Archons came to join
with ten of proven probity –
the keepers of Athene’s coin.
Came too the noble maidens,
the fair Canephori
their baskets fully laden
with gifts to please the Deity.
Conspicuous as false notes played
in that white company,
the red clothed aliens on parade
revealed their true identity
as visitors to Helas who came,
and saw, and stayed.

I saw them leave the Market Place,
and the Pelasgion, go through
the Propylaea; and to Athene’s Temple
No democratic concourse this,
with folk of low degree,
but the acme of Greek genius
and aristocracy.
Good order there the Heralds ensure,
all of one family,
who to the lex loci inure
the famed and worthy Enneidae.

To keep pace with pedestrians
quite slowly moved the quadricae
as did the State’s equestrians,
the vanguard Cavalry
with other riders from the land,
deserving an ovation,
their prancing horses well in hand,
supreme in equitation.
I looked in vain for instruments
among that varied throng,
for Pan-pipes, flute, or lyre,
that long procession to elate,
cohesion to acquire;
but then recalled how Heads of State
in Athens silenced their sweet song.

The vision gone, I saw instead
conceptual art – an unmade bed!
A mundane thing with no appeal
to intellect or eye,
which only a crass simpleton
as art would ever buy.
So why did some ass make a deal?
And echo answers “Why?”.


For white nights see Walter Pater’s Marius the Epicurean.

T. C. Hudson

© T. C. Hudson.
This work may not be reproduced without prior permission of the author.

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