7. For Saturn

I have it in mind to write seven planetary odes— hymns for the seven classical planets of the ancient world, and the principal divine forces of the “seven heavens” as laid out in classical Hellenistic/Roman philosophy, and as later used by Medieval Christians, and as later used by Renaissance humanists.

Today being Saturday, the hymn in question is for Saturn.  Funny, that:

 Ethereal Titan, Time’s own father,
Ancient of Days, through eternities vast:
carry our spirits, as light as feather,
joining our present with future and past.
You govern all perfection and decline—
the seed in furrow, and the harvest scythe,
life’s final stages, and the gaping grave.
With trudging step, you walk the outmost line
of seven heavens, where abysses writhe
and tremble — fear stalks the steps of the brave

who venture to walk in your silent hall,
and only ghosts dance in your groaning tomb.
For everything that lives, must have its fall;
nothing last forever which leaves the womb.
Yet all that dies must in due course renew
what now begins, and moves toward completion.
Each generation in turn goes to dust,
as heat from the fire goes up the flue,
and fuel becomes ashen dissolution.
Even iron stoves crack and turn to rust.

Always in like manner does Time beat down
every growing and every shrinking thing;
forgotten solitude follows renown,
like cables unraveled to tangled string.
Rhea’s husband and Prometheus wise,
who binds obstetric nature in his chains:
propitious hear these prayers at sacred rites,
Lord Saturn, make our blameless lives the prize,
and come, peaceful death — reuse our remains,
as fuel for future lives, and future lights.

Not much re-writing here — the last six lines of the last stanza needed some fixing, but in general it was the same poem beginning to end.  Saturn and I have always had a bit of a complex relationship — I’ve had the experience of coming into a hospital room where a relative lay dying, and had them die in the room right then and there, to be entirely comfortable with my relationship with the powers of death and endings. At the same time, though, I don’t think it’s possible to completely ignore the presence of these powers in the world, and the result was that I had an easier time writing this poem than some of the others.

You can find the hymns in the Neo-Orphic Hymns series here: MoonMercuryVenusSunMarsJupiterSaturn

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