by Joy E. Stocke
It’s been a few years since West Coast Editor, Angie Brenner, and I have “sailed” toward Byzantium. Friends have gone back and forth, moved there – particularly to Istanbul, or what our Greek friends call (Byzantine ) Constantinople And so, we’ve kept in touch and up to date on the latest news.
The city rests just within our minds’ eyes - Europe/Asia – separated by the Bosphorus. We stand on the Galata Bridge – the bridge of milk (Gala is the Greek word for milk.) spanning the Bosphorus (the word Bosphorus (again Greek) means “cow crossing” metaphorically and literally ) – the great leap of faith from Asia toward Europe and back again – the mythical bull of Mesopotamia leaping and playing on the seas of our minds.
So, stay tuned – we shall surely travel from the lofty to the mundane, especially after our first few rakis – the national drink of Turkey. But is seems appropriate to start our journey with words of the poet, William Butler Yeats:
SAILING TO BYZANTIUM
THAT is no country for old men. The young
In one another’s arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations – at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.
O sages standing in God’s holy fire
As in the gold mosaic of a wall,
Come from the holy fire, perne in a gyre,
And be the singing-masters of my soul.
Consume my heart away; sick with desire
And fastened to a dying animal
It knows not what it is; and gather me
Into the artifice of eternity.
Once out of nature I shall never take
My bodily form from any natural thing,
But such a form as Grecian goldsmiths make
Of hammered gold and gold enamelling
To keep a drowsy Emperor awake;
Or set upon a golden bough to sing
To lords and ladies of Byzantium
Of what is past, or passing, or to come.
Joy E. Stocke is editor in chief of Wild River Review. Her book, Anatolian Days and Nights, co-written with Angie Brenner, and based on the travels in Turkey will be published in 2010.