Ariadne’s Song – A Ballad

O Theseus! Let out your clue of thread
that it may lead you all undauntedly;
for though it is the loathsome lair
of my brother the Minotaur
this Labyrinth is also home to me.

The seven youths and maidens who were brought
as tribute to these shores do not deserve
to die an ignominious death,
limbs rent asunder; bodies wrought
as fodder for the beast whom we must serve

Since my unnatural mother long ago
transformed into the likeness of a cow;
consorted with a bull sent by
The Earthshaker, from out the sea
and bestially she bore its fearsome calf:

And he must feed on human flesh, most pure
and slake his monstrous thirst with virgin blood
so that my father’s kingdom might
endure throughout milennia
And we might safely sleep within our beds;

But your young flesh, dear Theseus, was not meant
for my half-human brother’s appetite;
and I would sooner claim it for
My yearning, starving-hungry self:
your hair like silk, your smell so hero-sweet.

*** ***

And Theseus! Say have you slain the beast?
Though most unnatural, I mourn him still;
For though he was a monster, he
was still my brother, blood and kin:
I trust it was your right, and the gods’ will
.

And now sweet Theseus, let us escape
in your strong ship on this bold summer night:
And as the surging storm swells up
put into Naxos harbour, safe;
take shelter and in secret love delight.

*** ***

And Theseus! Say have you left me here?
Here on this barren rock without a friend?
It seems you left me without thought,
without remorse, regret or care:
The red sail swells which only ill portends.

Your father-king shall see the sail unfurled
whilst scanning the horizon out to sea
see now in that dark water his
own body, grief-wracked he has hurled
And Theseus shall never say goodbye:

Now Dionysos takes me for his bride
And once-dear Theseus means nought to me:
For though he was the princeling of
my youthful foolishness, and pride
my destiny was pure divinity.

I am posting this for Earthweal’s Open Link Weekend #41. This week, I wrote about the Minoataur for Earthweal’s weekly challenge. This poem seeks to tell the story from Ariadne’s perspective: perhaps she is a goddess wearing the mask of a goddess.

I’m actually going to call it a poem-in-progress as it’s quite a difficult metre and I’m not sure the words are quite right in all of the stanzas. It seems appropriate to post it in keeping with the Minotaur theme, and also because it’s a ballad of sorts, which is the subject of this week’s EIF Poetry Challenge.

23 thoughts on “Ariadne’s Song – A Ballad

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  1. I’m enjoying these re-tellings, Ingrid, which are reminders of stories I haven’t revisited in a long while. I like the alliteration and half-rhyme of ‘loathsome lair / of my brother the Minotaur’, and the phrases ‘to die an ignominious death, / limbs rent asunder’ and ‘your smell so hero-sweet’.

  2. It reads beautifully to me. You have such knowledge of the ancient world, its myths and characters. Wonderful, Brendan!

    1. Whoops, so sorry Ingrid! I forgot I clicked on your name, because Brendan writes so often about mythical characters, I called you the wrong name. Sigh. I am old. It happens.

  3. Oops, I got so into the poem that I forgot I clicked on your name and thought this was Brendan’s poem. You both have such amazing knowledge of all the mythical figures. So sorry. I am old. Confusion happens.

  4. Some great work you’re doing here Ingrid. The route into the myth’s labyrinth must begin with the heart. Or is it that the mind leads us there, the heart leads us out? (Kerenyi in his monograph on Dionysos says that the way out depended upon a decisive turn at the center, taking one up and out of what went down and in.) The poem’s formality — the careful rhyme, its weaving — is resonant of Ariadne’s dancing floor, created by Daedalus as was the Labyrinth, intricacies intricately interwoven–bull dance and Minotaur at the center. Keep singing, keep weaving, the loom is great and old and has many tapestries in store! – Brendan

  5. I thought it was perfect. I loved the gentle telling of the story in verse. I felt like a child curled up and being read to as it transported me to a magical world.

  6. This is so beautiful! I remember seeing a musical adaptation of the Theseus story back in high school, but I forgot all about Ariadne’s perspective.

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