"What a marvelous time it was when everything was alive, according to human imagination, and humanly alive, in other words inhabited or formed by beings like ourselves; when it was taken as certain that in the deserted woods lived the beautiful Hamadryads and fauns and woodland deities and Pan, etc., and, on entering and seeing everything as solitude, you still believed that everything was inhabited and that Naiads lived in the springs, etc., and embracing a tree you felt it almost palpitating between your hands and believed it was a man or a woman like Cyparissus, etc., and the same with flowers, etc., just as children do."
Giacomo Leopardi, Zibaldone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2013), page 77.
Yes, I realize there is no turning back. And I also realize that the soft golden light of Classical Greece is itself a myth. For instance, we know from Herodotus that, when the Persian heralds sent by Darius asked the Athenians and the Spartans for a tribute of earth and water (signifying obeisance), the Athenians threw the herald into a barathrum ("pit of punishment") and the Spartans threw theirs into a well. The heralds were told (a paraphrase): "There's plenty of earth and water down there." Herodotus, The Histories, Book VII, Chapter 133. Thus, I harbor no illusions. (Well, perhaps a few.) But we have lost something.
Charles Mahoney (1903-1968)
"Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden" (c. 1936)
Echoes of Hellas
O choir of Tempe mute these many years,
O fountain lutes of lyric Hippocrene,
On whose polluted brink no Muse is seen.
No more, between the gleaming vales, one hears
Apollo's footfall or the sobbing tears
Of Daphne budding finger-tips of green.
No nymphs are bathing with their huntress Queen
In the warm shallows of the mountain meres,
Great Pan is dead: he perished long ago:
His reedy pipes these uplands never heard.
What trembling sounds from yonder coppice come?
Some ravished queen, who tells the dale her woe?
Nay, since the maids Pierian here are dumb,
The nightingale is nothing but a bird.
John Leicester Warren (Lord de Tabley), Collected Poems (1903).
A note: I have previously posted John Leicester Warren's poem "The Knight in the Wood," which I highly recommend.
Charles Mahoney, "The Artist's Hand"
The chair squeaks in a high wind,
Rain falls from its branches;
The kettle yearns for the mountain,
The soap for the sea.
In a tiny stone church
On a desolate headland
A lost tribe is singing 'Abide With Me'.
Derek Mahon, Selected Poems (Penguin/The Gallery Press 1991).
Charles Mahoney, "The Garden" (1950)