Texas Liberal

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Gilgamesh On Grief

The following is about the grief of Gilgamesh after the death of his friend Enkidu in the ancient poem Gilgamesh—  

All that is left to one who grieves

Is convalescence. No change of heart or spiritual

Conversion, for the heart has changed

And the soul has been converted

To a thing that sees

How much it costs to lose a friend it loved.

It has grown past conversion to a world

Few enter without tasting loss

In which one spends a long time waiting

For something to move one to proceed.

It is that inner atmosphere that has

An unfamiliar gravity or none at all

Where words are flung out in the air but stay

Motionless without an answer,

Hovering about one’s lips

Or arguing back to haunt

The memory with what one failed to say,

Until one learns the acceptance of the silence

Amidst the new debris

Or turns again to grief

As the only source of privacy,

Alone with someone loved.

It could go for years and years,

And has, for centuries,

For being human holds a special grief

Of privacy within the universe

That yearns and waits to be untouched

By someone who can take away

The memory of death.

August 22, 2008 - Posted by | Books, Poetry | , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Hello Neil,
    I stumbled on your site and was pleased to see this quote from Herbert Mason’s wonderful verse narrative Gilgamesh. I use some of this stanza and other lines of his in my new Gilgamesh oratorio. This piece began in Dallas Texas in 1971 when I first read Professor Mason’s beautiful translation while working at the Dallas Theater Center. The theatrical production we were planning to do based on his text was never realized but this ancient story and especially this translation stuck with me all my life. In the late 90’s I produced a radio show for the Pacifica Radio Network based on world mythology and created a half hour musical presentation of Gilgamesh, but it took another 15 years to finally finish the complete oratorio. And in 2014 we will be premiering it onstage with chamber orchestra, chorus and 8 opera singers.

    Glad to hear my friends in Austin aren’t the only liberals in Texas.
    Speaking of liberal I wrote this short piece for 8 voices and piano in May 2013
    and here is a performance of it we did in Glendale California in June.

    I like your site very much,
    Barry Gremillion

    Comment by Barry Gremillion | January 13, 2014

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