Joost van den Vondel

March 10, 2008


Samson, or Holy Revenge

Like Milton, catastrophe takes place off stage and is related through a messenger
VDV’s messenger enjoys the suffering of the Philistines more than Milton’s
Compared to VDV, Milton skims over the suffering of the Philistines: VDV details the violent past between the Jews and Philstines through the Prince character

VDV’s Samson is important for his foreshadowing of Christ; he is read primarily as a divine figure
Milton’s Samson is notable as a great character, no limited heroism as in VDV

Sibyl seems to speak the language of the Chrsitian Bible, directly quotes Phil 2.2.

VDV stays close to the book of Judges: Delilah as a prostitue, Manoa is already dead, no Herapha

Play within a play is the context in which Samson brings the temple down: reversing the original seduction by Delilah


“Samson: Would I had shunned Philistia’s womankind,/ Deceitful bests! Well may I rue the day/ When I , near Sorek, loved the fair Delilah,/ Fickle and sly and loveless. For to drift/ At the mercy of a mistress is to sail/ In reckless danger on a silent sea./ Seduced by my foes’ money, night and day/ She clung to me, demanding that I tell her/ The secret of my strength, and even pled/ Amid the hottest fires of our love,/ A soul storm seldom weathered by a man.”

“My heart was blind with love; and all hr sobbing/ Grieved me to death. Continual lamentation/ Softened my heart like wax. The water-drop/ Thus conquers the hard granite.”
“Nevertheless, their rained into her lap/ A shower of silver coin, Where with my foes/ As with a dagger, pierced my mistress’ bosom/ And readily seduced her fickle heart.”

“My guard is coming back without delay./ But my hair grows again. I lie in wait/ To avenge myself upon the heathen race,/ Yea, earlier than men dream.”

“Prince: When your chief tribe, whose standard bears the lion,/ Crossed over our cold Jordan, and in rout/ Drove King Abonibezek from the field,/ They seized him in his flight and hacked the thumbs/ From off his hands and feet. Then he was forced/ Like some vile dog to gather up from earth/ With his own mouth the crumbs that daily fell/ Out of the dish, to crawl on hands and feet,/ To wallow and to rummage in the dust,/ Until, led to Jerusalem with joy,/ He died in fetters, yielding up his life.”

“Samson cannot reasonably complain./ He who plagues others, should himself be plagued.”

“If there be any stronger gpd by whom/ A prince may swear, I call on him to shatter/ Tjhe vaulted roof of Dagon’s house this day/ Upon the head of all the Philistines,/ And bury the o’erwhelm the revellers!”

“Men drag/ Crowned and anointed monarchs from their thrones./ Passions that burn and move are blended there/ Like colours which a needle on a loom/ Quanitly portrays; a master dramatist/ Can in imaginative tapestry/ So well portray that he who contemplates it/ Vows ’tis divine eye-music.”

“Men are a race of half-beasts and of whole./ The gods have made this difference innate.”

“For secular authority controls/ The body, but can never plumb the heart./ Hence came the fear of gods 9a high Power/ That knows the thoughts of each, and, like a sword,/ Pierces the human bosom mightily,/ Troubles the guilty conscience, yet assigns/ Peace to the pious, and can estimate,/ Within a man, each human soul’s deserts)/ For the support of states and governments/ Through introducing worship, to our good./ The prayerbook and the swrod, with like constraint,/ Both serve to rule mankind harmoniously./ There is a need for this two-handed Power/ Beneath which common men live happily.”

“Sibyl: We know these Hebrews, circumcized in body/ But not in spirit, care not for religion/ Beyond the laws that Pharao’s foundling founded;/ And thus they injure all old laws, and drive/ True princes from their lands with fire and sword.”

“Messenger: the hair on Samson’s head/ Suddenly seemed to grow.”

“Amid the ruins, red with oozing blood,/ Were mena nd women, crushed or partly crushed,/ Broken in neck, splintered in every bone,/ Dead, or just gasping forth a chocking ghost.”

“Fadael: That the example of his death and life/ Foretells a Saviour, of God’s spirit born,/ Who shall be persecuted, as was he,/ And dying, deal a fatal blow to death;/ But through a softer law He shall unburden / Each heart of its revenge- a law of love/ That puts the highest crown on human life.”


John Milton

March 10, 2008


Samson Agonistes

Chorus is both Greek and Euripidean (not more enlightened than other characters)

Samson’s betrayal of his secret divinity located in his hair is read as feminine
Sexual intimacy with Dalila empties Samson of manhood and fill him with a “foul effiminacy”

Is Samson a hero responding to God’s will?
-In a restoration context
-Samson feels internal motions, read as a divine impulse from God (Christ-like)

Samson Agonistes as autobiographical for Milton:
Milton’s desire for divine revenge
Nations that are slaves within doors embrace tyranny and not liberty- Milton’s political beliefs can be seen in Samson
Civil obedience does not mean false religious conformation
Samson’s blindness


“Samson: O glorious strength/ Put to the labor of a beast, debased/ Lower than bondslave! Promise was that I/ Should Israel from Philistian yoke deliver;/ Ask for this great deliverer now, and find him/ Eyeless in Gaza at the mill with slaves,/ Himself in bonds under Philistian yoke;/ Yet stay, let me not rashly call in doubt/ Divine prediction; what if all foretold/ Had been fulfilled but through mine  own default,/ Whom have I to complain of but myself?/ Who this high gift of strength committed to me,/ In what part lodged, how easily bereft me,/ Under the seal of silence could not keep,/ But weakly to a woman must reveal it,/ O’ercome with importunity and tears./ O impotence of mind, in body strong!/ But what is strength without a double share/ Of wisdom?”

“But peace, I must not quarrel with the will/ Of highest dispensation”

“Then with what trivial weapon came to hand,/ The jaw of a dead ass, his sword of bone,/ A thousand foreskins fell, the flower of Palestine/ In Ramath-lechi famous to this day”

“But what more oft in nations grown corrupt,/ And by their vices brought to servitude,/ Than to love bondage more than liberty,/ Bondage with ease than strenuous liberty”

“Appoint not Heavenly disposition, father,/ Nothing of all these evils hath befall’n me/ But justly; I myself have brought them on,/ Sole author I, sole cause”

“foul effeminacy held me yoked/ Her bond-slave”

“To what can I be useful, wherein serve/ My nation, and the work from heav’n imposed,/ But to sit idle on the household hearth,/ A burdenous drone; to visitants a gaze,/ Or pitied object, these redundant locks/ Robustious to no purpose clust’ring down,/ Vain monument of strength; till length of years/ And sedentary numbness craze my limbs/ To a contemptible old age obscure.”

“This one prayer yet remians, might I be heard,/ No long petition, speedy death,/ The close of all my miseries, and the balm.”

“Dalila: First granting, as I do, it was a weakness/ In me, but incident to all our sex,/ Curiosity, inquisitive, importune/ Of secrets, then with like infirmity/ To publish them, both common female faults”

“Thine forgive mine, that men may censure thine/ The gentler, if severely thou exact not/ More strength from me,than in thyself was found.”

“Samson: All wickedness is weakness: that plea therefore/ With God or man will gain thee no remission./ But love constrained thee; call it furious rage/ To satisfy thy lust: love seeks to have love;/ My love how couldst thou hope, who took’st the way/ To raise in me inexpiable hate,/ Knowing, as needs I must, by thee betrayed?”

“Acknowledge them from God inflicted on me/ Justly, yet despair not of his final pardon/ Whose ear is ever open; and his eye/ Gracious to readmit the suppliant;/ In confidence whereof I once again/ Defy thee to the trial of mortal flight,/ By combat to decide whose god is God,/ Thine or whom I with Israel’s son adore.”

“My nation was subjected to your lords./ It was the force of conquest; force with force/ Is well ejected when the conquered can./ But I a private person, whom my country/ As a league-breaker gave up bound, presumed/ Single rebellion and did hostible acts./ I was no private but a person raised/ With strength sufficient and command from Heav’n/ To free my country; if their servile minds/ Me their Deliverer sent would not receive,/ But to their masters gave me up for naught,/ Th’ unwortheir they; whence to this day they serve./ I was to do my part from Heav’n assigned,/ And had performed it if my known offense/ Had not disabled me, not all your force:/ These shifts refuted, answer thy appellant/ Though by his blindness maimed for high attempts,/ Who now defies thee thrice to single fight,/ As a petty enterprise of small enforce.”

“The Philistian Lords command./ Commands are no constraints. If I obey them,/ I do it freely; venturing to displease/ God for fear of man, and man prefer,/ Set God behind: which in his jealousy/ Shall never, unrepented, find forgiveness.”

“Manoa: For his redemption all my patrimony,/ If need be, I am ready to forego/ And quite: not wanting him, I shall want nothing.”

“Manoa: But death who sets all free/ Hath paid his ransom now and full discharge./ What windy joy this day had I conceived/ Hopeful of his delivery, which now proves/ Abortive as the first-born bloom of spring/ Nipped with the lagging rear of winter’s frost./ yet ere I give the reins to grief, say first,/ How died he? Death to life is crown or shame.”

“Messenger:He unsuspicious led him; which when Samson/ Fellt in his arms, with head a while inclined,/ And eyes fast fixed he stood, as one who prayed,/ Or some great matter in his mind revolved.”

“Semichorus: But he though blind of sight,/ Despised and thought extinguished quite,/ With inward eyes illuminated/ His fiery virtue roused/ From under ashes into sudden flame”

“Manoa: Samson hath quite himself/ Like Samson, and heroic’ly hath finished/ A life heroic, on his enemies/ Fully revenged”

“Chorus: With peace and consolation hath dismissed,/ And calm of mind, all passion spent.:


March 10, 2008

(ca 4 BC- 65 AD)

Hercules furens

Translated by Haywood 16C

Only Roman tragedian whose tragedies survive
Stoic drama- virtue goes unrewarded
in staging: a lot of long speeches, no real character development, all have the same voice
Conversations take place on an abstract level
No Euripidean thread of humanity following virtue of the gods

Juno- Hera
Opening speech does elicit some sympathy: seems to come under the influence of the furies

Juno is afraid of Hercules’ strength: implication of Hercules’ power

How Lycus is different (from Euripides’ tragedy): Debates terms of virtue and tyrant with Megara, offers first to marry Megara, develops a poetical position (another figure exercising power)

Defacto political theory: developed by Hobbes, subject is required to obey the reigning authority; public safety is more important than opposition
Resistance theory: (Milton)

Hercules represents resistance theory and Lycus represends defacto theory

Amphitrion: consistent with Euripidean Amphitrion, tells Hercules it is no fault of his, Junoo’s doing

Theseus introduces ambiguity: guilt with Juno and Hercules

Hercules’ moment of madness is read more as anger or rage, he imagines he is killing Lycus’ sons, there are no scenes of paternal care to pair with his moment of murder, only the subdoing of the three deaded dog

Chorus comes in in tetrameters: everything else in fourteeners, preeches wealth in poverty, distinction between public and private life


“Juno: He proves what father him begot: both thence where light opprest/ Hath sea, and where it showde agayne, where Titan day doth tryane,/ And with his brand approaching nere doth dye those Aethiops twaine,/ His strength untamde is honoured: and God eche where is he”

“For heaven I may be frayde, lest he may get the highest rayne,/ That lowest wonne, the sceptors from his father wil he take,/ Nor hee to starres (As Bacchus dyd) his way wil gently make:/ The way with ruine will he seeke, and hee in empty skyes/ wil reygne alone”

“Seekes thou a match t’Alcides yet?/ Thers none, except hymselfe: let him agaynst himselfe rebell.”

“here present wil I stand,/ And that his shaftes goe streyght from how, I wil direct his hand,/ The mad mans weapon will I guide, even Hercles fyghtyng, lo,/ At length Ile ayde. This gylt once done then leefull is that so/ His father may admit to saies those gylty haades of his”

“Chorus: He proude repayre to rpince in regall seate,/ And hard court gates without the rest of sleepe/ Esteemes, and endles happynes to hold/ Doth gather goods, for treasure gaping more,/ And is ful pore amid his heaped gold.”

“Lycus: If always men eternal hates should one to th’ other beare,/ And rage be gone out of the hart shold neuer fall away,/ But th’happy still should armour holde, th’unhappy sil obay,/ Then shall the battayles nothing leave”

“Amphitryon: he himselfe that guides the starres, & shakes the clouds at will,/ Did not that Infant lurke in Den of hollowe caved hill?/ The byrthes so great full troublous pryce to have loe alwayes ought:/ And ever to be borne a God, with coste full great is bought.”

“Lycus: No Juno did commaunde him this, nor none Eurystheus loe./ But these in deede his owne workes are.”

“Hercules: the Chaos of eternall nyght of hell,/ And woorse then night, the dolefull Gods I have that there doe dwell,/ And fates subdu’de, the death contemn’de I am return’de to light.”

“Theseus: As oft the ships agaynst thyr willes doth tosse the swelling surge,/ So downward doth that headlong way, and greedy Chao- urge:/ And back agayne to drawe thy pace thee never doe permit/ The spirits who what they catch hold fast. alowe within  doth flit/ In chanell wyde with silent foorde the quiet lake of lethe.”

“Theseus: What eche man once hath done, he feeles: and guilt to th’author the are/ Returnes, and th’hurtfull with their owne example punisht bee.”

“Amphitryon” Doth any place preseript of lymite shit/ The gylty Ghosts, and as the fame reportes, doth cruell payne/ The wicked men make tame that in’eternall bondes remayne?”

Christos Paschon

March 10, 2008

Christos Paschon/ Christus Patiens, or Christ Suffering

Unknown authorship

Very different tragic her: tragic will-Christ as divine will, no division with flawed human ethos, nothing is done despite himself

Criticism of Christian tragedy: isn’t tragic at all, the Christian tragic fall is read as divine redemption
Final words with Christ: promise redemption and threat of damnation
Tragic element as revenge ethic: Mary’s wish for vengance and anti-Jewish sentiments, Christ’s counter statements, to hate no one but ending statement of damnation for those who do not accept him as Christ

Awareness of maternal role in Mary makes vengeful emotions easily read as an aspect of flawed humanity: Mary represents both human maternal figure and divinity: Redemption for women in Mary as a second Eve
Mary’s anti-feminist language: original sin is Eve’s transgression, Mary claims that ‘men sin’ and asks for Christ to forgive Peter, which Christ obeys (divide in Christ as human son and divinity)

Threat of the mob to both Peter and Mary

Suffering as only human aspect of Mary- this suffering does not allow her to see the full meaning of Christ’s death (no divine sight)
Mary, like Christ, is fully divine besides her human suffering

Joseph: Jewish character that respects but does not accept Christ, Joseph must be exiled


“I shall proclaim the world-saving passion;/ As if from the mouth of the virgin-mother girl/ And the initiate loved by the Master./ For this story will present her first/ In maternal lament at the time of the passion/ And bewailiing it from the very beginning/ As if she herself were really the cause”

“Mother of God: If only the serpent had not slid in the garden/ Nor the snake lurked in the groves,/ Crooked-minded, for never would the offspring of the rib,/ Mother of the wretched race, have been deceived/ And dared to dare an over-daring deed,/ Thunderstruck with love of the fruit in her heart,/ Believing that from this she would obtain godhood”

“she was fated to bear with pains and groaning/ And to send successive generations into life”

“Indeed I believe it is the greatest salvation/ When a woman does not think apart from her husband/ And bringing all things before him, as is right,/ Does not listen to the allurements of another/ But is in agreement with her rightful husband.”

“For wretched woman does not cease from pains,/ giving birth, not giving birth and fleeing children”

“Alas, what new evil upon evil/ If we are betrayed by those who seem friends.”

“Messenger: Listen, wretch, who was before most blessed,/ Hear what ill-fated words I bring you.”

“Messenger, Quoting Peter: You, as is fitting, evil, will die evilly,/ First hanged from knotted ropes,/ Going swiftly into Hades,/ Wracked with pain since you betrayed him for silver/ And the lake of all-consuming fire will receive you.”
“For he would not be able not to be good/ But he would not help you if you are unwilling;/ For he has not placed a law of force upon mortals/ nor is his will tyrannical”
“For God will not force you to be wise:/ In the choice and decision of mortals/ Is his wisdom in all things, always.’ / Some angel or mortal,  I know not which, said these things,/ As I have said them, to the traitor.”

“Mother of God: May the doer die; Justice knows/ And the foul disciple will pay a just price”
“But the greatest of all human diseases/ is shamelessness.”
“Your faith is gone, it died long before./ Revealed as such, do you dare see the light, wretch?/ Or do you think the God of before does not still rule/ Or that the yoke of justice now lies idle?”
“Be gone, foul doer, destroyer of love:/ I spit, nor should I even mention your name/ For God abhors the betrayer./ O Child, why did you give to men/ Clear proofs to know the worth of gold/ But no bodily stamp of men by which/ To distinguish good from evil?/ Or, knowing yourself, do you want others not to know?”

“women who are close to this disaster,/ I will not bear the unbearable;/ I will hurl myself away, I will release my body, dying,/ I will recede from life; farewell: I am no longer myself.”

“Give, give me a word, oh Word of God the Father,/ Do not pass by your lowly mother in silence./ For now I need to hear the voice.”

“Chorus: Go to those terrors; now is the struggle of courage./ And we will follow with tearful step./ For the raging mob runs round him/ And one must not get too close to their anger./ Their heart is grave, the hateful mob will not bear/ To look at us; murderous, violent,/ It swings with the sway of hateful judgement.”

“Mother of God: First of all, whether blame does or does not/ Attach to woman, she will have bad reputation/ If she does not remain at home inside”
“I kept silent tongue and placid gaze”
“The serpent contrived, by the error of woman,/ To cast him from the garden and the sky:/ But God contrived against him in return/ To be born from woman and, remaining God,/ To become mortal and slaughter the destroyer/ Of mortals, destroy him and cast him underfoot”

“Chorus: Illustrious, most beautiful maiden,/ Rich, as you say in your offspring God,/ These things you know; now consider the future./ For we know that you are wiser than mortals/ And that, seeing these things, you also know their end.”

“Mother of God: I lament them/ And I bewail the deed that would next be done/ By those who crucified you, Child”
“For you will easily kill our enemy/ And you will cast down death and, arising swiftly,/ You will take revenge upon your torturers./ But woman is weak and naturally prone to tears./ And so, I lament and am struck/ By barbs of pain and grieve wretchedly./ I have glory, but nevertheless am destroyed/ Since I am stripped of your divine sight”

“Why do you cry, Peter? You have done terrible things/ But you can still obtain forgiveness./ Oh Child, oh beloved, oh Word of God,/ Forgive him. Men sin, Child,/ And Peter sinned from fear of the mob.”

“Christ: Virgin mother, go away now, strong,/ I absolve the sin of Peter as you ask/ For I have always obeyed your words/ Because of your pious and noble heart”

“Mother of God: My heart desires to know everything/ And even in your sufferings is greedy./ Oh, oh, oh oh;/ I knew these things from the prophecies./ Ai, ai; what shall I do? For my heart is gone.”

“Theologian: For nobly scraping away the bane of old age,/ The bane of man-ruining corruption,/ Let him make me a flourishing young man:/ Since now most evil old age emaciates all,/ Oh, how old age destroys me with a burden of pains/ From the outrage of our ancient mother decieved.”

“Half-Chorus: Of all things that have souls and sense/ We women are the most miserable creatures/ Who, having begotten children, see them die”
“But you, virgin, have now known the bed of a man;/ You heard your conception from an angel of God, you say:/ How can you now bear to see him as a corpse?”

“Joseph: For as is fitting, though I have no relation/ Of kin, I also honor his corpse as mine./ How we should take him or what we should do/ for the corpse to please you, consider, but if you follow my counsel,/ Keep silent, for this is always most seemly./ Nor will you see outrage against your dead Child:/ for I do not deny that I am Jewish:/ But I will never be able to believe/ that your Child was not noble,/ Not even if the whole race disagrees/ Or fills the mountain wood with words,/ Since I know that he was noble.”

“Mother of God: These wretches have not et recognized your birth/ Which came down to earth from Father’s heaven./ And so you must show them that you are God;/ And you will show them entirely; and if the race of Jews/ You wish to expel from the land in anger,/ You will drive them to the Roman hosts/ Whom they thoughtlessly chose to rule them,/ Since they rejected your mastery/ And took up Caesar as their lord./ For I see the punishement of your life-bearing death,/ Fire near homes and the foundation of palaces/ Already in ruins, the unquenchable gleam of fire,/ The immortal anger of God at this city”

“Magdalene: I saw two angles dressed in white/ Sitting above and below the tomb,/ The one at the head, the other at the foot/ And, seeing their divine brilliance,/ I stood astonished with joy and fear:/ And then I heard a voice in my ears,/ Unlike anything, and began to tremble again,/ And straight away I saw Christ in a new appearance;/ I have said it was not easy to approach his form,/ And I fell on the ground and embraced his feet.”

“Christ: Look at my hands and feet,/ And, seeing my pierced side clearly,/ Know me, that I am again myself,/ For a spirit does not have flesh at all/ And a spirit does not possess bones/ As you now see that I have them;/ And, touching me, see that I have these things./ This is how my Father sent me here;/ In this way too I send you to the world/ And I breathe the Holy Spirit into you, my friends;/ And you must take this and announce me to all/ With the Father and the Holy Spirit.”

“Narrator: Roayl one, queen, most blessed Virgin,/ You dwell in the seat of the blessed, heaven,/ Having escaped all mortal suffering,/ Wrapped in the robe of immortality,/ Always ageless and known as God;/ From above, please be kind to my words.”
“You have my true dream, something not made up/ Nor stained with the dung of mythic trash”


March 9, 2008

ca. 480 BC–406 BC

Heracles (416 BC)

 The introduction states:

“Heracles has no visible hamartia; if he falls, he falls for no flaw of his own nature or failure of judgment, but as the innocent victim of divine brutality.”

Euripides reversese the story of Heracles; the myth states that Heracles first kills his family and then decends to repay for the debt of his killing
Themes of paternal care: celebration of Zeus as divine father, but in moments of madness Zeus is scorned for lack of paternal care and Heracles calls Amphitrion his real father; Amphitrion is elevated to the level of Zeus through his noble paternalism; Megara’s father and lack of Heracles presence with his own sons; Emphasis on paternal duties over heroic obligation; Images of Heracles heroism in the context of the paternal/domestic

Godliness and humanity: To Euripides, any true divinity would not conduct themselves the way that the Greek gods do, it is only through the lies of poets that Hera is made a goddess (Euripides speaks to an Athenian audience); inscrutability of divine will makes it hard to decipher between goodness and evil; Loyalty of friendship creates nobility/ divinity in humanity- Heracles rescues Theseus from Hades and Theseus in turn is there to support Heracles, Heracles’ family is exposed because friends don’t defefnd against the tyrant Lycus

Milton is concerned with Euripides for his investment in political tyranny and resistance: external tyranny is a restult of internal insanity.

Heracles as a revengeful character, kills Thebes to secure a reign, celebration of bloodshed, Heracles imagines he is murdering his enemies sons in which he is commiting the same act as Lycus

Aristatelian unities: Action (a tragic plot must have a beginning, middle and end united by causal relationship), Time (24 hours), Characters (consistent traits)- Heracles flaunts Aristotilian unity of action, nothing about Lycus’ plot leads to Heracles’ madness


“Amphitryon: And of our friends, some prove no friends at all,/ while those still true are powerless to help./ This is what misfortune means among mankind;/ upon no man wo wished me well at all,/ could I wish this acid test of friends might fall.” 

“Lycus: What was so prodigious in your husband’s deeds? / Because he killed a hydra in a marsh:/ Or the Nemean lion? They were trapped in nets,/ not strangled, as he claims, with his bare hands./ Are these your arguments? Because of this,/ you say, the sons of Heracles should live-/ a man who, coward in everything else,/ made his reputation fighting beasts,/ who never buckled shield upon his arm,/ never came near a spear, but held a bow,/ the coward’s weapon, handy to run away?/ The bow is no proof of manly courage;/ no, your real man stands firm in the ranks/ and dares to face the gash the spear may make./ My policy, old man, is not mere cruelty;/ call it caution.”
“Amphitryon: But the man whose hands know how to aim the bow,/ holds the one best weapon: a thousand arrows shot,/ he still has more to guard himself from death.”

“Chorus: Never shall you boast that I am your slave,/ never will you reap the harvest of my work,/ all I labored for. Go back whence you came;/ rage there. So long as there is life in me,/ you shall not kill the sons of Heracles.”

“Chorus: But corrupt with evil schemes/ and civil strife, this city lost its mind;/ for were it sane, it would not live your slave.”

“Megara: I am in terror/ of their death. And yet how base a thing it is/ when a man will struggle with necessity!/ We have to die. Then do we have to die/ consumed alive, mocked by those we hate?-/ for me a worse disaster than to die./ Our house and birth demand a better death./ Upon your helm the victor’s glory sits,/ forbidding that you die a coward’s death;/ while my husband needs to witness to swear/ he would not want these sons of his to live/ by living cowards.”

“Amphitryon: For nothing, then, O Zeus, you shared my wife!/ In vain we called you partner in my won!/ Your love is even less than you pretended;/ and I, mere man, am nobler than you, great god./ I did not betray the sons of Heracles.”

“Heracles: All those men of Thebes who took my goodness and returned me ill-/ this bow with which I won the victor’s crown/ shall slaughter them with rain of winged shafts/ till all Ismenus chokes upon the corpses/ and Dirce’s silver waters run with blood./ What should I defend if not my wife and sons/ and my old father? Farewell, my labors!/ for wrongly I preferred you more than these./ They would have died for me, and I should die/ in their defense. Or is this bravery,/ to do Eurystheus’ orders and contend/ with lions and hydras, and not to struggle/ for my children’s lives? From this time forth,/ call me no more ‘Heracles the victor.’
Chorus: This is right, that a man defend his sons,/ his aged father, and his wedded wife.”

“Heracles: Here all mankind is equal:/ rich and poor alike, they love their children.”

“Strophe I: But old age I loathe: ugly,/ murderous. Let the waves take it/ so it comes no more to the homes/ and cities of men! Let the wind/ whirl it away forever!”

“But evil men should live their oap,/ one single life, and run no more./ By such a sign all men would know/ the wicked from the good,/ as when the clouds are broken/ and the sailor sees the stars./ But now the gods have put/ between the noble and the base/ no clear distinction down.”

“Amphitryon: I’ll go in and watch/ his boedy fall. This is sweet: to see your foe/ perish and pay to justice all he owes.”

“Strophe I, Chorus: Disaster is reversed!/ The tyrant’s life turns back to Hades!/ Justice flows back! O fate of the gods,/ returning!”

“Antistrophe 3: O marriage-bed two bridegrooms shared!/ One was man; the other, Zeus,/ who entered in the bridal bed/ and with Alcmene lay.”

“Madness: O Sun, be my witness: I act against my will./ But since I must perform the service you and Hera ask,/ in full cry, like the hound that bays the huntsman,/ go I will: to the heart of Heracles I run”

“Amphitryon: Take care, take care. My grief is such,/ I have no fear to leave the light and die./ But if he murders me who begot him,/ he shall add a greater grief to these,/ and have on him the curse of father’s blood.”

“Heracles: Why then am I so sparing of this life,/ born the killer of my dearest sons?/ Let me avenge my children’s murder:/ let me hurl myself down from some sheer rock,/ or drive the whetted sword against my side/ or expunge with fire this body’s madness/ and burn away this guilt which sticks to my life!”

“Theseus: Are you afraid mere words would pollute me?/ What do I care if your misfortunes fall/ on me? You were my good fortune once:/ you saved me from the dead, brought me back to light./ I loathe a friend whose gratitude grows old,/ a friend who takes his friend’s prosperity/ but will not voyage with im in his grief./ Rise up; uncover that afflicted head/ and look on us. This is courage in a man:/ to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends.”

“Theseus: No mortal man can stain what is divine.”

“Theseus: Your wretchedness towers up and touches heaven.”

“Heracles: Listen: let me tell you what makes a mock/ at your advice. Let me show you my life;/ a life not worth living now, or ever./ Take my father first, a man who killed/ my mother’s father and having such a curse,/ married Alcmene who gave birth to me./ When a house is built on poor foundations,/ then its descendants are the heirs of grief./ Then Zeus- whoever Zeus may be – begot me/ for Hera’s hatred. Take no offense, old man,/ for I count you my father now, not Zeus.”

“Theseus: Fate exempts non man; all men are flawed,/ and so the gods, unless the poets lie./ Do not the gods commit adultery?/ Have they not cast their fathers into chains,/ in pursuit of power? Yet all the same,/ despite their crimes, they live upon Olympos./ How dare you then, mortal that you are,/ to protest your fate, when the gods do not?”

“Heracles: I do not believe the gods commit/ adultery, or bind each other in chains./ I never did believe it; I never shall;/ nor that one god is tyrant over the rest./ If god is truly god, he is perfect,/ lacking nothing. These are poets’ wretched lies.”

“Heracles: O my weapons, bitter partners of my life!/ What shall I do? Let you go, or keep you,/ knocking against my ribs and always saying,/ ‘With us you murdered wife and sons. Wearing us,/ you wear your children’s killers.’ Can that be worn?/ What could I reply? Yet, naked of these arms,/ with which I did the greatest deeds in Hellas,/ must I die in shame at my enemies’ hands?/ No, they must be borne; but in pain I bear them.”

“Take my children out, take them to their graves,/ while I, whose whole house has gone down in grief,/ am towed in Theseus’ wake like some little boat./ The man who would prefer great wealth or strength/ more than love, more than friends, is diseased of soul.”

Katherine Philips

October 22, 2007


Born Katherine Fowler
Father was a London merchant and a moderate Puritain
Married to James Philips, 38 years older than her, when she was 16
Began writing poetry shortly after she was married
Discovered by Henry Vaughan
Used “Orinda” as her pen name
Saw only 2 of her books in print
Died of smallpox


“Let the dull brutish world that know not love/ Continue heretics, and disapprove/ That noble flame; but the ferined know/ ‘Tis all heaven we have here below./ Nature subsists by Love, and they tie/ Thngs to their causes but by Sympathy. / Love chains the differing Elements in one/ Great Harmony, linked to the heavenly throne;/ And as on Earth, so the blest choir above/ Of Saints and Angels are maintained by love;/ That is their business and felicity,/ And will be so to all eternity./ That is the Ocean, our affections here/ Are bt streams borrowed from the fountain there;/ And ’tis the noblest argument to prove/ A beauteous mind, that it knows how to love./ Those kind impressions which fate can’t control,/ Are heaven’s mintage on a worthy soul;/ For love is all the arts’ eptome,/ And is the sum of all divinity./ He’s worse than beast that cannot love, and yet/ It is not bought by money, pains, or wit;/ So no chance nor design can spirits move,/ But the eternal desitny of Love.
For when two souls are changed and mixed so,/ It is what they and none but they can do;/ And this is friendship, that abstracted flame/ Which creeping mortals know not how to name./ All Love is sacred, and the marriage tie/ Hath much of Honor and divinity;/ But Lust, design, or some unworthy ends/ May mingle there, which are despised by friends./ Passion hath violent extremes, and thus/ All oppositions are contiguous./ So when the end is served the Love will bate,/ If friendship make it not more fortunate:/ Friendship! that Love’s Elixir, taht pure fire/ Which burns the clearer ’cause it burns the higher;/ For Love, like earthy fires (whch will decay/ If the material fuel be away)/ Is with offensiv smoke accompanied,/ And by resistance only is supplied:/ But friendship, like the fiery element,/ With its own heat and nourishment content,/ (Where neither hurt, nor smoke, nor noise is made)/ Scorns the assistance of a foreign aid./ Friendship (ike Heraldry) is hereby known:/ Richest when plainest, bravest when alone;/ Calm as a Virgin, and more innocent/ Than sleeping Doves are, and as much content/ As saints in visions; quiet as the night/ But clear and open as the summer’s light;/ United more than spirits’ faculties,/ Higher in thoughts than are the eagle’s ees;/ Free as first agents are true friends, and kind,/ As but themselves I can no likeness find.
– “Friendship” (in whole)

Robert Hayden

May 9, 2007


Born in Detroit, was raised by a foster family next door to his mother
Struggled with severe nearsightedness
Greatly admired W.H. Auden
Taught until his death
Poet of elegance and restraint, wrote about such emotionally fraught subjects as lynching of African Americans during the civil rights movement, the transport of slaves from Africa to the New World and his own perplexity as a youth raised in a Detroit slum
Poetry condenses and evokes feelings and ideas in intricate sonic textures
Approaches highly charged subjects indirectly, even risking adoption of the voice of victimizer
One of the leading African American poets of the twentieth century
Became Baha’i in 1943, embracing a religion that teaches the unity of all faiths and peoples
Put to powerful use modernist aesthetic principles as concision, allusion, juxtaposition, collage, and symbolism


Jesus, Estrella, Esperanza, Mercy:
Sails flashing to the wind like weapons,/ sharks follwing the moans the fever and they dying;/ horror the corposant and compass rose.
Middle Passage:/ voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

“10 April 1800-/ Blacks rebellious. Crew uneasy. Our linguist says/ their moaning is a prayer for death,/ ours and their own. Some try to starve themselves./ Lost three this morning leaped with crazy laughter/ to the waiting sharks, sang as they went under.”
Desire, Adventure, Tartar, Ann:
Standing to America, bringing home/ black gold, black ivory, black seed.
Deep in the festering hold thy father lies,/ of his bones New England pews are made,/ those are altar lights that were his eyes.
Jesus   Savior   Pilot   Me/ Over   Life’s   Tempestuous   Sea
We pray that Thou wilt grant, O Lord,/ safe passage to our vessels bringing/ heathen souls unto Thy chastening.
Jesus   Savior

Aye, lad, and I have seen those factories,/ Gambia, Rio Pongo, Calabar;/ have watched the artful mongos baiting traps/ of war wherein the victor and the vanquished
Were caught as prizes for our barracoons./ Have seen the nigger kings whose vanity/ and greed turned wild black hides of Fellatah,/ Mandingo, Ibo, Kru to gold for us.

Shuttles in the rocking loom of history,/ the dark ships move, the dark ships move,/ their bright ironical names/ like jests of kindness on a murderer’s mouth;/ plough through thrashing glister toward/ fata morgana’s lucent melting shore,/ weave toward New World littorals that are/ mirage and myth and actual shore.
Voyage through death,/ voyage whose chartings are unlove.

You cannot stare that hatred down/ or chain the fear that stalks the watches/ and breathes on you its fetid scorching breath;/ cannot kill the deep immortal human wish,/ the timeless will.

“It sickens me/ to think of what I saw, of how these apes/ threw overboard the butchered bodies of our men, true Christians all, like so much jetsaam./ Enough, enough. the rest is quickly told:/ Cinque was forced to spare the two of us/ you see to steer the ship to Africa,/ and we like phantoms doomed to rove the sea/ voyaged east by day and west by night,/ deceiving them, hoping for rescue,/ prisoners on our own vessel, till/ at length we drifted to the shores of this/ your land, America, where we were freed/ from our unspeakable misery. Now we/ demand, good sirs, the extradition of/ Cinquez and his accomplices to La/ Havana.

I tell you that we are determined to return to Cuba/ with our slaves and there see justice done./ Cinquez-/ or let us say ‘the Prince’- Cinquez shall die.”
The deep imortal human wish,/ the timeless will.
Cinquez its deathless primaveral image,/ life that transfigures many lives.
Voyage through death/ to life upon these shores.

-Middle Passage

Journey of slaves across the Atlantic from Africa to the Americas
Poetic voice changes in each part

Ted Hughes

May 9, 2007


Born in Yorkshire, father was a survivor of WWI
Married Sylvia Plath in 1956 and had two children; Hughes had a notorious affair and they were separated at the time of Plath’s suicide
Hughes destroyed Plath’s later journals and was repeatedly defaced from her tombstone
Subject matter is often violence: was brone to depicting brutal acts, found predators and victims in nature and humanity
Wrote a new kind of children’s poem
Liked things that have a life outside of their own, and his
Darkenss usually overcomes light in a dualistic vision


Pike, three inches long, perrfect/ Pike in all parts, green tigering the gold./ Killers from the egg: the malevolent aged grin./ they dance on the surface among the flies.
Or move, stunned by their own grandeur/ Over a bed of emerald, silhouette/ Of submarine delicacy and horror./ A hundred feet long in their world.

One jammed past its gills down the other’s gullet:/ The outside eye stared: as a vice locks-/ The same iron in this eye/ Though its film shrank in death.
A pond I fished, fifty yards across,/ Whose lilies and muscular tench/ Had outlasted every visible stone/ Of the monastery that planted them-
Stilled legendary depth:/ It was as deep as England. It held/ Pike too immense to stir, so immense and old/ That past nightfall I dared not cast
But silently cast and fished/ With the hair frozen on my head/ For what might move, for what eye might move./ The still splashes on the dark pond,
Owls hushing the floating woods/ Frail on my ear against the dream/ Darkenss beneath night’s darkness had freed,/ That rose slowly towards me, watching.


Gwendolyn Brooks

May 9, 2007


Grew up in Chicago
Appointed poet laureate of Illinois
Became the first African American woman to be appointed poetry consultant to the Library of Congress
Married to Henry Blakely and had a son and daughter
Often presents the characters of local people
Poetry is direct but sly and ironic
Determined to represent everyday lives of African American city dwellers in her work


We real cool. We/ Left school. We
Lurk late. We/ Strike straight. We
Sing sin. We/ Thin gin. We
Jazz June. We/ Die soon.

-We Real Cool (in whole)

The Pool Players.
Seven at the Golden Shovel.

Without my having known./ Policeman said, next morning,/ “Apparently died Alone.”/ “You heard a shot?” Policeman said./ Shots I hear and Shots I hear./ I never see the dead.
The Shot that killed him yes I heard/ as I heard the Thousand shots before;/ careening tinnily down the nights/ across my years and arteries.
Policeman pounded on my door./ “Who is it?” “POLICE!” Policeman yelled./ “A Boy was dying in your alley./ A Boy is dead, and in your alley./ And have you known this Boy before?”
I have known this Boy before./ I have known this Boy b efore, who/ ornaments my alley./ I never saw his face at all./ I never saw his futurefall./ But I have known this Boy.
I have always heard him deal with death./ I have always heard the shout, the volley./ I have closed my heart-ears late and early./ And I have killed him ever.
I joined the Wild and killed him/ with knowledgeable unknowing./ I saw where he was gong./ I saw him Crossed. And seeing,/ I did not take him down.
he cried not only “Father!”/ but “Mother!/ Sister!/ Brother.”/ The cry climbed up the alley./ It went up to the wind./ It hung upon the heaven/ for a long/ stretch-strain of Moment.
The red floor of my alley/ is a special speech to me.

-The Boy Died in My Alley (in whole)

They eat beans mostly, this old yellow pair./ Dinner is a casual affair./ Plain chipware on a plain and creaking wood,/ Tin flatware.
Two who are Mostly Good./ Two who have lived their day,/ But keep on putting on their clothes/ And putting things away.
And remembering…/ Remembering, with twinklings and twinges,/ As they lean over the beans in their rented back room that is full of beads and receipts and dolls and cloths, tobacco crumbs, vaces and fringes.

-The Bean Eaters (in whole)

Whose broken window is a cry of art/ (success, that winks aware/ as elegance, as a treasonable faith)/ is raw: is sonic: is old-eyed premiere./ Our beautiful flaw and terrible ornament./ Our barbarous and metal little man.
“I shall create! If not a note, a hole./ If not an overture, a desecration.”
Full of pepper and light/ and Salt and night and cargoes.
“Don’t go down the plank/ if you see there’s no extension./ Each to his grief, each to/ his loneliness and fidgety revenge.
Nobody knew where I was and now I am no longer there.”
The only sanity is a cup of tea./ The music is in minors.
Each one other/ is having different weather.
“It was you, it was you who threw away my name!/ And this is everything I have for me.”
Who has not Congress, lobster, love, luau,/ the Regency Room, the Statue of Liberty,/ runs. A sloppy amalgamation./ A mistake./ A cliff./ A hymn, a snare, and an exceeding sun.

-Boy Breaking Glass (in whole)

To Marc Crawford from whom the commission

Adrienne Rich

May 9, 2007


Born white and middle class
Married and had three sons before she was thirty
Separated from her husband and committed herself to radical feminism and lesbian vision
Leading feminist poet of the twentieth century
Populates her poems with emblematic female figures
Defies modernist injunctions and is in search of a common language to describe a shared historical experience
One of the most well-known contemporary love poets
Personal feeling can never be completely separated from politics


Living    in the earth-deposits   of our history
Today a blackhoe divulged   out of a crumbling flank of earth/ one bottle   amber   perfect   a hundred-year-old/ cure for fever   or melancholy   a tonic/ for living on this earth   in the winters of this climate
Today I was reading about Marie Cruie:/ she must have known she suffered   from radiation sickness/ her body bombarded for years   by the element/ she had purified/ It seems she denied to the end/ the source of the cataracts on her eyes/ the cracked and suppurating skin   of her finger-ends/ till she could no longer hold   a test-tube or a pencil
She died   a famous woman   denying/ her wounds/ denying/ her wounds   came   from the same source as her power

-Power (in whole)

First having read the book of myths,/ and loaded the camera,/ and checked the edge of the knife-blade,/ I put on/ the body-armor of black rubber/ the absure flippers/ the grave and awkward mask./ I am having to do this/ not like Cousteau with his/ assiduous team/ aboard the sun-flooded schooner/ but here alone.

I came to explore the wreck./ The words are purposes./ The words are maps./ I came to see the damage that was done/ and the treasure that prevail./ I stroke the beam of my lamp/ slowly along the flank/ of something more permanent/ than fist or weed
the thing I came for:/ the wreck and not the story of the wreck/ the thing itself and not the myth/ the drowned face always staring/ toward the sun/ the evidence of damage/ worn by salt and sway into this threadbare beauty/ the ribs of the disaster/ curing their assertion/ among the tentative haunters.
This is the place./ And I am here, the mermaid whose dark ahir/ streams black, the merman in his armored body./ We circle silently/ about the wreck/ we dive into the hold./ I am she: I am he
whose drowned face sleeps with open eyes/ whose breasts still bear the stress/ whose silver, copper, vermeil cargo lies/ obscurely inside barrels/ half-wedged and left to rot/ we are the half-destroyed instruments/ that once held to a course/ the water-eaten log/ the fouled compass
We are, I am, you are/ by cowardice or courage/ the one who find our way/ back to this scene/ carrying a knife, a camera/ a book of myths/ in which/ our names do not appear.

-Diving into the Wreck

Whenever in this city, screens flicker/ with pornography, with science-fiction vampires,/ victimized hirelings bending to the lash,/ we also have to walk… if simply as we walk/ through the rainsoaked garbage, the tabloid cruelties/ of our own neighborhoods./ We need to grasp our lives inseparable/ from those rancid dreams, that blurt of metal, those disgraces,/ and the red begonia perilously flashing/ from a tenement sill six stories high,/ or the ong-legged young girls playing ball/ in the junior highschool playground./ No one has imagined us. We want to live like trees,/ sycamores blazing through the sulfuric air,/ dappled with scars, still exuberantly budding,/ our animal passion rooted in the city.

Your dog, tranquil and innocent, dozes through/ our cries, our murmured dawn conspiracies/ our telephone calls. She knows- what can she know?/ If in my human arrogance I claim to read/ her eyes, I find there only my own animal thoughts: / that creatures must find each other for bodily comfort,/ that voices of the psyche drive through the flesh/ further than the dense brain could have foretold,/ that the planetary nights are growing cold for those/ on the same journey, who want to touch/ one creature-traveler clear to the end;/ that without tenderness, we are in hell.

No one’s fated or doomed to love anyone./ The accidents happen, we’re not heroines,/ they happen in our lives like car crashes,/ books taht change us, neighborhoods/ we move into and come to love./ Tristan und Isolde is scarcely the story,/ women at least should know the difference/ between love and death. No poison cup,/ no penance. Merely a notion that the tape-recorder/ should have caught some ghost of us: that tape-recorder/ not merely played but should have listened to us,/ and could instruct those after us:/ this we were, this is how we tried to love,/ and there are the forces they had ranged against us,/ and these are the forces we hand ranged within us,/ within us and against us, against us and within us.

The dark lintels, the blue and foreign stones/ of the great round rippled by ston implements/ the midsummer night light rising from beneath/ the horizon- when I said “a cleft of light”/ I meant this. And this is not Stonehenge/ simply nore any place but the mind/ casting back to where her solitude,/ shared, could be chosen without loneliness,/ not easily nor without pains to stake out/ the circle, the heavy shadows, the great light./ I choose to be a figure in that light,/ half-blotted by darkness, something moving/ across that space, the color of stone/ greeting the moon, yet more than stone:/ a woman. I choose to walk here. And to draw this circle.

-Twenty-One Love Poems