By The Skin of Our Teeth, a Sonnet of Hope

by Thomas Davis

Sweet Bacchus in a passion ate his heart
As spirits floated through his pounding head.
The wood nymphs cheered, and rogues proclaimed the start
Of celebrations for the grateful dead.

The world went mad, and all the heavens rang
With shouts of drunken gods and mortal fools.
The mad embraced the mad. Chimeras sang
That chaos had replaced all laws and rules.

The stars inside the sky flew at the sun.
The peaceful moon turned red with hidden fires.
The night turned white and then began to run
Like liquid paint into the fires of funeral pyres.

But just before destruction raised its lovely head,
Sweet Bacchus died. Sweet Eros died.  Was dead.


Filed under Poetry, Thomas Davis

7 responses to “By The Skin of Our Teeth, a Sonnet of Hope

  1. An outstanding piece, Thomas. It got me thinking about Michael Moorcock’s fantasies. I am puzzled by the title, which speaks of hope while the sonnet ends with death. Am I being dense ? Please enlighten me, if you would be so kind.

    • Well, Bacchus, and his brethren, made the world mad. Then, just before destruction raised its lovely head, Bacchus, and his brethren, especially Eros, died. Thus, at least in the logic of the poem, killing destruction. So, at least on the surface, there is that hope that the passions leading the world toward madness will always self destruct, saving us, in Thornton Wilder’s term, by the skin of our teeth. But is this all the poem is about?

      • I thought I detected a resonance with the licence and madness of the 1960s-70s. (Perhaps misled by “celebrations for the grateful dead”and In addition I had been rereading your comments on my poem “Upon The Shoulders Of Giants”.) That destruction might be described as “lovely” seemed strange, until I thought of Eris, but then you wrote that Eros, not Eris, died and I was left confounded. I have always pictured Eros as being essentially beneficent, despite all the mischief eroticism can lead/has led to.

        The main metaphor here though appeared to me about the madness and intoxication of our contemporary shenanigans, which have brought us to the brink of the dissolution of not only our species but much else of the world.

        Sorry this reply has taken a while. I could do with a few parallel realities to keep pace. There is also a partly written e-mail in limbo, along with several I owe other folk.

  2. Im no scholar Tom, but this is a terrific sonnet. You are a fount of knowledge as well as being wonderfully creative.

  3. Thomas, your sonnet left me fascinated – the content/theme, along with the hypnotic flow of meter and rhyme. I too sensed the days of the late 60’s in this, and so found your discussion with Ben very interesting. (I’m familiar with Eros but not Eris – guess I need to do some brushing up on my mythology. And “sweet Eros” – I had thought constructive. Again, my ignorance showing!)

    Changing times tends to polarize the energies – which perhaps creates a cleansing, and thus hope, as you say…. unless the cleansing fails and it goes the opposite way.

    • Eros can, Betty and Ben, be a good force in the world, but when combined with the wildness of Bacchus, it can also be very destructive, at least in my experience. Bacchus is not necessarily evil, or even bad, but can certainly lead into madness. This is a sonnet of hope, not despair, although despair is easy enough if you look backward at the sixties or dwell upon the state of human affairs today. Still, doomsayers, though an ancient breed, forget about the power of life.

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