Saturday, July 10, 2004

Lament of Alcestis Draft

Here is the current draft of an opening of a verse-tragedy I've been writing (off and on) on the myth of Alcestis and Admetus.

Lament of Alcestis

Alas! The day is here so long in dread;
Time, ever-traitor, has betrayed.
I feel it in my bones; death is near,
Perhaps today, perhaps when morning comes,
But soon - alas! the day we know will come,
The day that always is a day too soon.
O Love, yours is the hardest rule,
The sharpest pain, the never-ending grief
That is to know, before the day, of parting
(For every love must end, this wicked truth
Is harshest of all sorrows, the purest ache).
Alas! The day is near; I feel it close,
Close as friendship's kiss, and yet no friend;
Today may be the day, or mayhap the morrow's dawn
Will bring to me the ending and the night.
But can I weep, who brought this on myself?
I, who set my fate by choice - such rare choice -
Can such as I show grief and bitter pain
Without guilt of vain - absurd! - impudence?
Apollo knew my husband, tended kine
Upon the plains of Thessaly at Zeus' behest
As punishment divine for deed misdone.
Admetus, ever kind to all he knew,
Respecter of no person, impartial in good will,
Was good master to his servant-god;
The Healer in his thanks sought out the Fates,
They who spin the fates of gods and men,
To counteract Admetus' greatest fear,
The fear that chilled his heart with terror's ice,
Which was the fear of death; to die
Brought to his heart a flight of desperation.
Fate's decree was clear: all men must die,
But one exception can be made for this,
One even they must allow or fall aside.
True substitution is the highest law
In all this cosmic order, which it makes;
It alone is deeper yet than death, and more strong -
Thus sacrifice vicarious is our holy rite -
It is the heart of pure piety and love,
The core of faith, the key of hope and health,
Justice in its nature manifesting act.
One may stand for one; and even death itself
Has no defense against the sacred high exchange;
Death must bow to law, this law beyond all other law.
Admetus, fearful, begged the aid of friend and kin;
In desperation's voice he made appeal.
I, I alone responded to his plea.
I gave myself vicarious for his life;
Now soon death's hawk will swoop upon my wings.
Although I brought it on myself and chose myself,
I cannot but in heart cry out, Alas!
The day draws near, the day of death is nigh,
And woe is come, for now I, face to face,
Will meet with death who rapts us all away.

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