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Pedantic Babylon

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The God Abandons

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The Wistman



While working with my Cleopatra thread on the Ancient Mysteries subforum, I came across this piece and it struck me, but it wasn’t appropriate to include it there.  It contains a large intimated truth: the more that someone has in life – the more material rewards – the harder it is for them to lose it, or let go of it.  This is especially true when one gets those rewards and doesn’t experience, along the way, losses to temper the ego’s gold-plated crown.

The ancient Roman we know as Marc Antony had lived the richest of rich lives: handsome, aristocratic, virile, athletic, an officer, tactician, protégé of Julius Caesar, orator, Triumvir of Rome, paramour of Cleopatra…Queen without peer (until, perhaps, Eleanor of Aquitaine), co-ruler of Alexandria at its peak, living in splendor and luxury and fame; it all came to him in a stream of battle and glory almost without fail.  Until…he blundered at Actium and it all fell apart.  Thinking Cleopatra already dead and all his vast possessions and position lost, he mortally stabbed himself and, learning she was still alive, was brought to her in her high tomb where she’d barricaded herself, and slowly died in her arms, gazing out over the magnificent city that his defeat had now delivered into Rome's hands. 

Here is the gentle, sympathetic poem by the late 19th century Greek poet Constantin Cafavy about Antony’s final curtain:


             The God Abandons Antony

At midnight, when suddenly you hear

an invisible procession going by

with exquisite music, voices,

don’t mourn your luck that’s failing now,

work gone wrong, your plans

all proving deceptive—don’t mourn them uselessly:

as one long prepared, and full of courage,

say goodbye to her, to Alexandria who is leaving.

Above all, don’t fool yourself, don’t say

it was a dream, your ears deceived you:

don’t degrade yourself with empty hopes like these.

As one long prepared, and full of courage,

as is right for you who were given this kind of city,

go firmly to the window

and listen with deep emotion,

but not with the whining, the pleas of a coward:

listen—your final pleasure—to the voices,

to the exquisite music of that strange procession,

to say goodbye to her, to the Alexandria you are losing.



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I believe that is the point of the "eye of a needle" parable in the Bible? 

I also note that the more you have, the more you want.   Hence so many today with far more than they need (ie most of us!) are unhappy.

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There's another instance in the different reactions of people during the 1929 stock market crash.  Middle class people lost their jobs and their homes (which were all mortgaged...the banks, the ones that survived, happily foreclosed.)  Many, many people were on soup lines or laboring for food as pay.  But they did it, they had families, they had to keep going.  On the other hand, the rich investors and business tycoons who were ruined (and couldn't find a way to recuperate) flung themselves out of their office windows.  They didn't know how to cope, how to let go of all they had, how to live without it.  This is the way the BBC television series from the 1970's "Upstairs Downstairs" ended its run:  the downstairs servants who had lost all their savings put their heads down and tried to figure out how to go forward or just stay afloat.  The master of the house, the aristocratic Mr. Bellamy, shot himself.

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Losing fear by subtraction 


then addition of nothing at all

further fair fall her as elixir

useless when the cure

is far more terror than the ill

yet fear itself needs no mirror

or clearer face to face

as the city of scripts

and volumes of text

was a lady subscribing

to a newer world falling

so the most ancient well

deep dug ditch or hole

more twine to braid

is all you asked for

so say fair fall thee

and safe journey

as Croesus on pyre

did by dipping below

his patron trepidation

to the denominator 

and understanding

of fearlessness 

as the Han can hug

any invader and say

lead us well yet know

within few generations

you too will think, speak

Mandarin my lady liege

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