If but the Greeks could make reply - a poem by Andrew Calimach
If but the Greeks could make reply
What is the cause the bookish philologue
Holds that the Greeks were by their bent abusive?
And wherefore the hoary pedagogue
Strains to convince us that they were intrusive?
Is search for truth that drives these academics?
Does love of pleasure lead them the Greeks betray?
For some it’s pure bigotry systemic,
While others in plain sight argue pro se.
Thus wed in queer marriage of convenience,
The lettered bigots of th’academy
And the fey profs they scorn for deviance
Drag down the good Greek name in infamy.
The “straights” of dominance accuse the Greeks
While the gays are desperate for a foil.
Antiquity, they claim, of abuse reeks,
Unlike us modern wags, so don’t recoil.
Oh, could the Greeks awake and raise ajar
The heavy lid of time, and with a smile
Across the gulf of eons, from afar,
Give lie to all these accusations vile.
There, men who stood in awe of what was best,
Together with their sons, well trained in thought,
Stripped off their robes and showed themselves undressed
And naked exercised and learned and taught,
Not by some primitive impulse possessed,
But so that by their eyes truth naked might be caught.
Thus out of struggle fought by men farsighted
The fires of art and science first ignited.
From their hands mute stone first sprang to life,
From their stages theater laughed and cried,
Their deep thinkers wisdom took to wife,
And in their hearts the truth of love descried.
This was a love not merely reproductive,
It was a love of life-long friends productive,
Of bonds so strong they stoked tyrants’ worst fear.
This love did young eyes open to all truths
For love leads lads the mentor’s word revere.
The love Greeks found was between men and youths.
Though now the mouths of Greeks are stopped with dust
They sent an envoy whose words we can trust.
Their written word, that centuries endures
Reveals to the discriminating eye
How well they told love pure from impure
And that to claim Greeks boys defiled is but a lie.
Aesop man’s greed and foolishness did skewer.
And in this tale Zeus helped him ford a sewer:
Fair lady Shame defied the Olympic king
And warned that she would fly from men, unchained,
Should Eros from behind try entering.
Shameless such men by Aesop were ordained.
Hear now Plato, whom Ganymede inflamed
And verses penned his boyfriend, not some dame.
His ageless laughter rings from the tomb’s night
Chiding grown men who restraint lack in bed
And his wise words mock them in black and white
As selfish louts mating like quadrupeds.
Speak, old Aeschines, you fiery orator,
Athenian lads you courted and adored.
But you knew chaste from beastly love of boys.
Before all Athens, one you named a whore:
Timarchus, who youth did squander as sex toy,
Damned him for flinging open his back door.
And say you more, in this Areopagus?
The ancient lore of love would you teach us?
Then pray, make known to all, what kind of man
A woman makes of his beloved male?
“Two stains mark out for us that noisome clan,
Brutal are they, uncultured too, beyond the pale.”
And Plato now has one last thought to add
For lovers can be wise, as well as bad.
When looking for a loving friend, seek not
Just youth, seek one who‘s old enough to think.
And Xenophon the crucial point has wrought:
You must have leave from the boy’s father, in ink.
And so if on this earthly train’s wild ride
We’re ever to progress beyond “gay pride,”
First ask, does freedom mean “anything goes”?
To hard-won ancient lore then make obeisance,
That Male love might grow as culture grows,
And youths might join men in loving Renaissance.
Andrew Calimach, June 2012