Saturday, 9 September 2017

For In That Sleep...

...of death, what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil
Must give us pause - there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life.

Those lines are from the famous 'To be or not to be' soliloquy as spoken by the famous Hamlet in the play written by the famous Shakespeare of course. More of which later.

First, I want to tell you about Thursday evening, because a funny thing happened on the way to the Dead Good Poets open mic night. We arrived at the venue (a very pleasant bar in Lytham St Annes that has been our regular haunt for some several months) only to find it all shut up and with a sign saying 'closed due to illness'. There had been no fore-warning, which in these days of global connectivity was a bit of a surprise. Hurried mobile phone calls to the owners bounced straight through to a message box. A bunch (a declamation? is there a collective noun?) of disconsolate poets and their entourages milled unhappily on the pavement outside. Expectation and disappointment mingled in the air; plus, it was turning cold and wet. What to do?

Fortunately for us, a nearby Greek taverna was experiencing something of a quiet Thursday evening and we cajoled them into giving us a performance space in the back half room of their restaurant, in return for our trade (much Mythos, Demestica and meze was consumed). Poetry At The Greek, of necessity, was different from anything we've done before - interesting to perform with the strains of bouzouki music in the background - but a great time was had by all and a huge thank you goes to the staff of Flame Greek Taverna for being so accommodating. Flame is well worth a visit, good people, even when there is no poetry on the menu. By a spooky slice of serendipity, Adele and I are off to Kos next week for some mid-September Mediterranean sun, so this was an excellent taster.

Back on theme with a bump, Hamlet's dilemma (good Greek word) about whether or not to commit suicide hinged partly on his fear about what form a possible afterlife (if any) might take, the worry being that it might be worse than the life he was living; (i.e. Hell might welcome one who took his own life).

Many of the world's major civilizations and religions have propounded the belief that death on this earthly, temporal plane is not the end. The Egyptians believed in reincarnation as do Buddhists; the Greeks in recycling (with memory wiped clean), Christians in Heaven and Hell (and resurrection). You know all this stuff and I'm no authority on the subject, so I won't tread on ground I'm not sure of.

Suffice it to say that no one knows for certain what may befall hereafter, if anything. Many believe and as many are sceptical. My own father, a devoutly religious man, told me when he was dying that he had no fear of death as he looked forward to meeting his God and being reunited with my mother (who had died nearly 20 years earlier). I was happy for him in his unwavering conviction. I'm sure it gave him strength to face that particular rite of passage; I'm not sure my mother would have been so happy (because of the snoring - but that's another story).

Accounts from 'flatliners', those who have 'died' for some minutes and been resuscitated, often retell an experience of going down a dark tunnel towards a bright light, but clinical evidence suggests it is an entirely temporal, physiological manifestation, an effect of the brain shutting down as it is starved of oxygen. If you know me, or have been reading the blogs for any length of time, you could probably hazard a guess that I would hazard a guess that once the spark of life has died there is nothing left of us or for us as entities. Our metaphorical sleep is of necessity a dreamless one.

I didn't feel inclined to write a poem on the subject of death/afterlife but I do have one about the living dream state of sleeping beauty (in what I assume must have been a coma), inspired by this rather fine painting.



Sleeping Beauty
She's going through a bad spell,
Sweet Cicely,
Bewitched, benumbed, benighted
Beside a brackish inky stream
Upon a bed of crushed spring flowers
Deep in the haunted dell
Of thwarted desire.

Who'd be a Sorcerer's daughter?
Such a thankless lot.

Sweet Cicely promised her heart
To one of whom her father disapproved.
She chose defiance and lost.
Angry magic has her in remorseless grip,
Immobilised; the retribution
Of parental ire for wishes crossed.

Such unnatural cruelty
Visited upon a favourite daughter
Might be expected to abate in short order
Excepting this:

For in that sleep her dreams are still of love
Of the bold soul who'll have the power
To break sorcery's rigid hold
And free her from the tyranny
Of comatose repose
Upon the forest floor
Before the rotting leaves of autumn
And harsh winter frosts
Blight this golden flower.

As an aural bonus, not so much an inspiration, more a complement, here's a beautiful Jimi Hendrix song born out of a dream. Play it loud: One Rainy Wish

Thanks for reading. Have yourselves a good couple of weeks, S ;-)
Reactions:

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Absolutely love this blog! Couldn't get the music link to work tho'.

Steve Rowland said...

Problem with music link will be down to which browser you use, in all likelihood. Works fine with Google Chrome.

Anonymous said...

What a great blog. Thank you.