Life after Death
For them the sun shines ever in full might
Throughout our earthly night;
There, reddening with the rose, their paradise,
A fair green pleasance, lies,
Cool beneath shade of incense-bearing trees,
And rich with golden fruit:
And there they take their pleasure as they will,
In chariot-race, or young-limbed exercise
In wrestling, at the game of tables these,
And those with harp or lute:
And blissful where they dwell, beside them still
Dwells at full bloom perfect felicity:
And spreading delicately
Over the lovely region everywhere
Fragrance in the air
Floats from high altars where the fire is dense
With perfumed frankincense
Burned for the glory of Heaven continually.
Pindar – Greek lyric poet (c. 522 – c. 443 BC)
Translated by Walter Headlam – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_George_Headlam
It is Remembrance Day today and we remember the many that suffered in the first World War. You may think this poem is an unusual choice for this day. However, I intend reading my poem ‘The Fragrance at Flanders’ at a special University of the Third Age event to mark Remembrance Day followed by the above where ‘fragrance’ is also featured. It’s just that I think it would be nice (or poetic) if those that suffer greatly in life – those that never really have a life – have some sort of justice in an after-life – that is if of course there is an after-life.
And the first two lines of the poem remind me of those well known words … ‘they do not grow old as we that are left go old’.
I am, of course, using Pindar’s words thinking of war heroes but they were written in relation to the great sporting heroes of his day …
From Wikipedia … Almost all Pindar’s victory odes are celebrations of triumphs gained by competitors in Panhellenic festivals such as the Olympian Games. The establishment of these athletic and musical festivals was among the greatest achievements of the Greek aristocracies. Even in the 5th century, when there was an increased tendency towards professionalism, they were predominantly aristocratic assemblies, reflecting the expense and leisure needed to attend such events either as a competitor or spectator. Attendance was an opportunity for display and self-promotion, and the prestige of victory, requiring commitment in time and/or wealth, went far beyond anything that accrues to athletic victories today, even in spite of the modern preoccupation with sport
Incidentally, Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784) who started to compile a dictionary of English usage many years ago had a wonderful definition of ‘Justice’ – ‘the virtue by which we give every man what is his due’. Of course there is no such thing as justice in this life – but the after-life is another matter.
Even if you don’t believe in God or a creator with affinity for humanity it’s nice to create one in the mind, especially one capable of giving some form of justice to those that have suffered unduly.
Link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pindar#Values_and_beliefs
And here is a bugle playing of The Last Post’ courtesy of You-Tube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=McCDWYgVyps
2 thoughts on “Life After Death – Pindar – Remembrance Day”
I loved the fragrance and hope of Pindar’s “Life After Death”. It took me gratefully away from the self-absorbed point of view of the survivor in my poem of the same name:
Life after death
is a new colour
I did not know existed.
The colour a newly blind person
sees on the traumatised retina
a shade that morphs at sounds and smells and tastes
shimmers with the memory of a touch
hovers in the uncertain dark.
We can’t sing it.
We have to live this colour.
Thank you for sharing your poem on the colour of survival!