Hymn for Dionysius

Feast of Dionysius
October 3

Hail, tipsy god, reveling in the street:
today we perform your celebration!
Both the common people and the elite
crowd your altars to perform libation—
the pouring out of word, song and story
in drama, comedy and tragedy,
and music to awake the heart and mind,
whether with love or with bloodbaths gory,
raunchy language or high-flown poetry…
every type of tale human thought can find.

It’s said a singer stepped from the chorus
to chant in counter-point to massed voices.
Your rites soon became fluid and porous,
a stage to report results of choices
in mortal time. First came man’s folly,
doom attained by trying to outwit gods.
Then comedy, man’s folly done to man.
Every tale from raunchy to most holy
rests on this frame of intangible rods
which shape our stories again and again.

Dionysius, thank you for the stage,
for actors to perform our history
with every emotion from love to rage.
The theater is your profane mystery:
outward party concealing inner truth,
and deep truth conveyed through outward fiction—
false tales that speak honestly of ourselves—
lonely widower and love-tortured youth,
fierce soldier, hypocrite politician,
and all mad roles the human psyche delves.

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