Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Return of the Old Gods

The Cumæan Sibyl, The Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo
Now comes the final age of the Cumæan Sibyl's song;
The great order of the centuries is born anew.
returns the Virgin and Saturn's reign returns;
Now a new lineage is sent down from high heaven.
"Eclogue IV" (42 BCE), Publius Vergilius Maro*

They shall return, those gods you always mourn!
Time will bring back the order of old days;
The land has shivered with prophetic breath . . .

"Delfica" (1845–54), Gérard de Nerval† 

The Delphic Sibyl, The Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo

Bow down before her from whose lips the secret names of the immortals, and of the things near their hearts, are about to come that the immortals may come again into the world. Bow down, and understand that when the immortals are about to overthrow the things that are to-day and bring the things that were yesterday, they have no one to help them, but one whom the things that are to-day have cast out. . . . After you have bowed down the old things shall be again, and another Argo shall carry heroes over the deep, and another Achilles beleaguer another Troy.

 "The Adoration of the Magi" (1897), W. B. Yeats

See, they return, one and by one,
With fear, as half-awakened;
As if the snow should hesitate
And murmur in the wind,

            and half turn back;     

These were the "Wing'd-with-Awe",         

Gods of the wingèd shoe!

With them the silver hounds, 

            sniffing the trace of air!  

"The Return" (1913), Ezra Pound

The Argo, William Russell Flint

Another Troy must rise and set,
Another lineage feed the crow,
Another Argo's painted prow
Drive to a flashier bauble yet.
The Roman Empire stood appalled:
It dropped the reins of peace and war
When that fierce virgin and her Star
Out of the fabulous darkness called.

Song from The Resurrection (1926–31), W. B. Yeats


       . . . Those that Rocky Face holds dear,
Lovers of horses and of women, shall,
From marble of a broken sepulchre,
             [. . .] disinter
The workman, noble and saint, and all things run
On that unfashionable gyre again.

"The Gyres" (1936–37), W. B. Yeats



* Ultima Cumæi venit iam carminis ætas;   
Magnus ab integro sæclorum nascitur ordo.   
iam redit et Virgo, redeunt Saturnia regna,   
iam nova progenies cælo demittitur alto.


† Ils reviendront, ces Dieux que tu pleures toujours !
Le temps va ramener l'ordre des anciens jours ;
La terre a tressailli d'un souffle prophétique . . .
The first version of "Delfica", titled "Vers Dorés"
(1845), had the epigraph Ultima Cumeai uenit iam carminis ætas; a later version, titled "Dafne" (1853), had iam redit et Virgo.

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