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2 THE GREEKS

Kenneth Verity Shepheard-Walwyn ePub

AN EXAMINATION of the Graeco/Roman periods in greater detail is helpful since they formed the context within which some important poets were at work. The next figure expands the outline of events in the Prehistoric Period:

Bronze Age
c1184


Mycenaean Period.
Fall of Troy.

3000 BC-

Dark Age
1100


Collapse of Mycenaean Empire.

       -1000 BC

Iron Age, also called Heroic Age

 

1000 BC-

1000

Development of Iron Age culture at Athens.

 

900-700

Greeks begin colonizing in East and Italy.

 

776

First Olympic Games.

           700 BC

Notes:

1 Mycenae lies in the north-east corner of the Argive plain, nine miles from the sea; the name Mykene is not Greek but Carian. The city was first inhabited at the beginning of the Bronze Age (3000 to 2800 BC), but the culmination of its power and prominence occurred between 1400 and 1150 BC.

2 Between the years 900 and 700 BC the Homeric epics Iliad and Odyssey were being compiled.

3 During the 8th century BC Hesiod’s Works and Days and the Theogony were composed.

Throughout the first era (Prehistoric or Heroic periods) the most outstanding literary achievements were the works of Homer and Hesiod.

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Shapes and Surfaces

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Or else a rabbit’s. So our world behaves.

We have grown lax and comfort-loving, watched

The act of sex on big screens in the dark,

Have eaten, drunk too much. We are to blame

And this small, broken, violated child

Must be the scapegoat. I’m ashamed and hate

The helplessness I feel, my world’s cruel work.

Shapes and Surfaces

Edges of things, surfaces, smooth grain of wood,

Natural showing of rings of growth when a great

Tree is felled. Glass blown wide and light

Seen in Murano, seen in the Pueblo Espana

In Barcelona. All these things I praise –

Nature working with man or man with Nature.

I’ve walked on sea-shores when the tide was out

And picked up pebbles smoothed by hands of the sea,

Laid them on one another and observed the different

Shades of grey. What a bonus given by creation,

The working of time and tides on rock and crystal.

Then I’ve seen our Cotswold walls built patiently

With stones that are tapped and shaped, and thinned to lie

Upon each other in harmony, in order,

With only cement on top of the walls to hold

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Makings

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Shivering, he clings fast to

A virgin’s breast, finds comfort there.

All stars are his, all wisdom too

But for our sake he comes down here

And we wait for his little hand

That all the world may understand.

Makings

Early we start making

Worlds and empires, even a language, often

At least a civil war.

Is war then in the blood

Early on? I still believe in a Fall,

That crucial one that made us feel ashamed,

Afraid of our bodies, putting out our hands

In the many crevices. We were frightened too

But of what? Afraid of being afraid and so

Building intimate castle walls, deep moats,

Guards night and day on duty?

One of the worlds I made with a friend of mine

Needed a totem pole with figures on it

(My friend was clever with paint brushes)

We made alarms and many mild tortures too.

Our world had a singular God

Who lived round every cloud but sometimes showed

Part of his face to us.

He had a cunning smile.

So we made ourselves new fears, new treasures too.

Explanations were not

Needed, ‘Here’ and ‘Is’ and ‘When’ and Now’

Were spectacular words indeed for things we only

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For the Times

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

You also knew was glad surrendering

Without a dread. So God himself was laid

Gently in his tomb, all suffering

Wiped from his face. You understood men prayed

And found right peace when they could speak and sing

As Francis did for whom the birds delayed.

For the Times

I must go back to the start and to the source,

Risk and relish, trust my language too,

For there are messages which need strong powers.

I tell their tale but rhythm rings them true.

This is a risky age, a troubled time.

Angry language will not help. I seek

Intensity of music in each rhyme,

Each rhythm. Don’t you hear the world’s heart break?

You must, then, listen, meditate before

You act. Injustices increase each day

And always they are leading to a war

And it is ours however far away.

Language must leap to love and carry fear

And when most grave yet show us how to play.

The Way They Live Now

You make love and you live together now

Where we were shy and made love by degrees.

By kiss and invitation we learnt how

Our love was growing. You know few of these

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Legacies and Language

Elizabeth Jennings Carcanet Press Ltd. PDF

Legacies and Language

I have learnt my tongue

From cities that are neighbourly and near water,

Where wren or rook or sea-gull lance the air,

Where the land is flat and above it the sea sows its salt.

That was my first home,

Born in Boston, Lincolnshire,

Reared in a flat land of sugar-beet and tulips

But with mind attuned to the tides, the heart ready for journeys,

I learnt the song of storms and ships at anchor

Where the tide governs the mind. Till I was six

These were legacies but my inheritance then

Came from the damp, soft valley of Oxford’s Thames

Where the air is slow and easily misted, where minds

Cogitate, think long and companionably but do not draw

Easy conclusions. For rest, for recreation,

The bells of the churches oddly ring for services

Which are not so often attended. I was a cross-breed also,

Christened to Catholic Christianity, oiled and marked

With the name of Rome on my lips. I learnt the Latin

Of stone and pillar. The Greek was soft and persuasive

But Rome spread out the glory of the Renaissance

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