Lupercalia / Lady Lazarus

File:Circle of Adam Elsheimer The Lupercalian Festival in Rome.jpg

The Lupercalian Festival in Rome: 
Cupid and Personifications of fertility
encounter the Luperci dressed as dogs and goats.
Circle of Adam Elsheimer (1578-1610)



The dog loved its churlish life, 
Scraps, thefts. Its declined blood 
An anarchy of mindless pride. 
Nobody's pet, but good enough

To double with a bitch as poor. 
It had bitten ears and little stone eyes, 
A mouth like an incinerator. 
It held man's reasonable ways

Between its teeth. Received death 
Closed eyes and grinning mouth.


This woman's as from death's touch: a surviving 
Barrenness: she abides; perfect, 
But flung from the wheel of the living, 
The past killed in her, the future plucked out.

The dead are indifferent underground. 
Little the live may learn from them— 
A sort of hair and bone wisdom, 
A worn witchcraft accoutrement

Of  proverbs. Now the brute's quick 
Be  tinder: old spark of the blood-heat 
And not death's touch engross her bed, 
Though that has stripped her stark indeed.


Goats, black, not angels but 
Bellies round as filled wine-skins 
Slung under carcase bones. 
Yet that's not brute light

And no merely mountain light-- 
Their eyes' golden element. 
Rustle of their dry hooves, dry patter,
Wind in the oak-leaves; and their bent

Horns, stamp, sudden reared stare 
Startle women. Spirit of the ivy, 
Stink of goat, of a rank thriving, 
O mountain-listener.


Over sand that the sun's burned out 
Thudding feet of the powerful, 
Their oiled bodies brass-bright 
In a drift of dust. The earth's crammed full,

Its baked red bellying to the sky's 
Electric blue. Their attitudes— 
A theorem of flung effort, blades: 
Nothing mortal falters their poise

Though wet with blood: the dog has blessed 
Their fury. Fresh thongs of goat-skin 
In their hands they go bounding past, 
And deliberate welts have snatched her in

To the figure of racers. Maker of the world, 
Hurrying the lit ghost of man 
Age to age while the body hold, 
Touch this frozen one.

Ted Hughes (Lupercal, 1960)

Quod non noris, non ames [Latin proverb].

(Latin proverb - do not love what you do not know)
Pan, seeing fire for the first time, rashly reaches out to embrace it (print, 1712/ Mid-Manhattan Library)

Lady Lazarus

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it--
A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot
A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.
Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?--
The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.
Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.
This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.
What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot--
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies
These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,
Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.
The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut
As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.
Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.
I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I've a call.
It's easy enough to do it in a cell.
It's easy enough to do it and stay put.
It's the theatrical
Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:
'A miracle!'
That knocks me out.
There is a charge
For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart--
It really goes.
And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood
Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.
I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby
That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.
Ash, ash--
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there--
A cake of soap, 
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.
Herr God, Herr Lucifer
Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

23-29 October 1962

Sylvia Plath (1965) 

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