THE EAR OF DIONYSUS


Ships ride in Syracusa’s harbour

a couple of hundred metres below.

The amphitheatre, seating twenty thousand,

is a monolith carved from the limestone hill.

Behind us a natural fountain pours.

Near it is a square hole cut in the rock.

 

Shaped by design like the auditory

canal and tympanum of the human ear

this slave-made cleft in the limestone, some

forty feet high, echoes with the babel

of snatched arias and football songs.

At the entrance, our tour bus guide taps

his crumpled pack of Marlborough and,

despite the hubbub, we hear the echo clearly.

‘Allora!’ High up, we can see a square

of light at the furthest point of the cleft.

 

Our teacher, in his stained Ralph Lauren sweatshirt,

tells us that winds, blowing from the sea

during the day, would project the actors’ words.

‘Alas, how terrible is wisdom when it

brings no profit to the man that’s wise!

This I knew well but had forgotten. I

would not have journeyed here otherwise.’

 

As the sun begins to set, the wind shifts,

blowing from the land. Sails are hoisted

for serious journeys – navigated by nous

not compass or charts – with serious cargoes,

uncertain landfalls. So, our pilot muses,

maybe not so good to have aboard the god

of wine, art, ecstasy – and yet, and yet…

 

He hears the anchor drawn, the ropes hauled,

the sharp flap of the yard taking the wind,

the slap of the quickening wave beneath the prow.

 

 

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  1. #1 by Steve Crewe - September 29th, 2014 at 15:42

    Very enjoyable quintet, David, about a neck of the woods about which I know nothing – must admit the only part of continental Europe I ever visited (and then only just included) was Turkey.

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