Sunday, January 3, 2016

Month of Poetry #3: Ariadne and the Desertion of Theseus

Today's MoP, concerning Ariadne, seems to call for a kyrielle. Ariadne's story is a sad one in many ways, and I felt the melancholy of the kyrielle form would suit it admirably.

Ariadne was the daughter of Minos, King of Crete,and his queen Pasiphaƫ, daughter of Helios. She is mostly associated with mazes and labyrinths because of her involvement in the myths of the Minotaur and Theseus. Her father put her in charge of the labyrinth where sacrifices were made as part of war reparations.

According to an Athenian version of the legend, Minos attacked Athens after his son was killed there. The Athenians asked for terms, and were required to sacrifice seven young men and seven maidens to the Minotaur every seven or nine years. One year, the sacrificial party included Theseus, the son of King Aegeus, who volunteered to come and kill the Minotaur. Ariadne fell in love at first sight, and helped him by giving him a sword and a ball of thread, so that he could find his way out of the Minotaur's labyrinth.

She eloped with Theseus after he achieved his goal, but Theseus abandoned her sleeping on the island of Naxos, where the god Dionysus discovered and wedded her.

The key feature of a kyrielle, and the source of its name, is the repetition of the last line of the first stanza as the last line of each subsequent stanza. In this way, the poem follows the pattern of a kyrie-form prayer, which is a prayer in which each section closes with the same words (eg "kyrie eleison": "Lord have mercy on us").

A kyrielle is written in rhyming couplets or quatrains. Each line within the poem consists of only eight syllables.

The rhyme pattern is less challenging than villanelle, because the aa lines don't have to have the same rhyming sound in each stanza (the bb lines do, naturally, to preserve the kyrie as the final line). The main challenge is to find a powerful enough kyrie line to hold the poem together.

Hence ... Ariadne and the Desertion of Theseus.

Seven years the blood-tithe owing
Maids and men from life are going
Monster's lair where none can see -
My mercy not returned to me.

Balled-up thread, a blade for slaying
Promises of debt repaying
Into darkness, love, tis thee -
My mercy not returned to me.

Sleeping sweetly on the island
Waking, lone, on that bleak highland
The night has seen my lover flee -
My mercy not returned to me.

Bride of madness, wine and playing
Every year my heart more fraying
Life is never to be free -
My mercy not returned to me.

- Kathy, 3/01/16

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