…So through my cold lucidity of heart
I thought to send you careful rules of song,
But gulls ensnare me here; the sun fades; thought
By thought the tide heaves, bobbing my words’ damp wings;
Mind is the moon-wave roiling on ripples now.
Sun on the bone-hulled galleons of those gulls
Charms my immense irrelevance away,
And lures wings moonward. Openly she soars,
A miracle out of all gray sounds, the moon,
Deepening and rifting swell and formal sky.
Woman or bird, she plumes the ashening sound,
Flaunting to nothingness the rules I made.
Scattering cinders, widening, over the sand
Her cold epistle falls. To plumb the fall
Of silver on ripple, evening ripple on wave,
Quick celebration where she lives for light,
I let all measures die. My voice is gone,
My words to you unfinished, where they live
Common and bare as stone in diamond veins.
Where the sea moves the word moves, where the sea
Subsides, the slow word fades with lunar tides.
Now still alive, my skeletal words gone bare,
Lapsing like dead gulls’ brittle wing and drowned,
In a mindless dance, beneath the darkening air,
I send you shoreward echoes of my voice:
The dithyrambic gestures of the moon,
Sun-lost, the mind plumed, Dionysian,
A blue sea-poem, joy, moon-ripple on wave.
— from: “The Morality of Poetry”
by James Wright in his book, SAINT JUDAS
Wesleyan University Press, 1959
Note reference to “Dionysian” in the above poem:
“Sun-lost, the mind plumed, Dionysian,
A blue sea-poem, joy, moon-ripple on wave.”
And refer to this context:
Wine Used as an emblem of life and spirit, as in the Mysteries, where at one stage of the initiatory rites wine and bread were offered to the candidate as symbols of spirit and body, the meaning being the same as that conveyed elsewhere by fire and water, or blood and flesh. It was necessary for the aspirant to be perfected in both ways.
The rite was very early adopted from the Dionysian Mysteries by the Christian churches in the sacrament of the Eucharist where wine represents the blood of Christ, and the bread his body. Wine is also connected in the same mystical manner with the Greek god Dionysos or Bacchus, for this divinity represented the Christos or initiator, teacher, and savior of mankind; and thus wine stands for inspiration and holy enthusiasm, varying from divine inspiration and spiritual quickening all down the scale to merely phrenetic exaltation, and even when grossly degenerate, orgiastic, and drunken excitement, such as marked the degraded forms of Bacchic worship.
In the New Testament the parable of the turning of water into wine is another way of stating that exoteric or mythologic teachings were explained and illustrated so that the inner wisdom became known, the wine standing for the inner aspect. Only an adept or initiate is able to do this.
“Dionysian” in this context is not about the experience of gluttony or drunkenness — as some are wont to apply the expression as also the substance of wine itself — but is about the experience of immensely inspired, epiphanic moment. He whose mind has become “Dionysian” is, therefore, in the poem’s context, ecstatic before a sea or state that is like wine: a very good thing.
Noting, also, that the emphasis by Wikipedia in their leading reference to “Dionysis” is on a flesh-gender-drunken-hedonistic-epicurean context, which entirely misses the point of divinity, even as to who Dionysis was in Greek mythology: a “god” as in, divine. People drink, they consume, they swoon and it may be good to the flesh and indulge the senses (and ego), but as mortals consuming inspired edibles, one remains mortal, not “Dionysian” as described by Wright as to the atmospheric conditions in his poem.
That limitation by Wikipedia’s ‘definitions’ avoids the context of the divine revealed between individuals in this mortal life — while that context is, rather, the point of James Wright’s poem: the divine revealed between individuals.
It’s not all that complicated when one “lets all measures die” and enjoys the sublime not-mortal made.
This has been one long-and-winding post about where my attention has been for the past week if not more. It’s not a post about alcohol, or wine as alcohol consumed, it’s a post about absence: where I haven’t been and where I have.