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The Lute of Pythagoras
Extracts Υ, Φ, Χ
By William D’Alessandro

Υ. Memoir of Abaris the Hyperborean


The torrid seas and terrible murrain

then having passed: the golden god’s command

abeying death or dotage til I gained

what I was promised in this strange demesne,

in Hellas, where divine whim made us land.

Soon as I might consulting with the sign

of slaughtered entrails given me to read,

I gathered in the main the god’s design.

The one I met took his belief for mine;

in untaught mysteries we two agreed.

His face was soapstone-carven, longing-fair,

his hands an anxious prophet’s instruments.

The Golden One mused on his fibril hair

when he walked beaches, strode the marble stair

in Kroton market. All opposed to sense

he loved the stars most ardently, whose light

piecewise advancing catches in its span

wan truths for which full noon is overbright.

And he: “And what a beauty is the night.”

And I: “And what a beauty is the man.”

How deep a well! – I can but circle round

his soul’s wall, making it my utmost station.

I bear with thirst for fear of being drowned,

but cannot lose such fortunes as I found.

Take, then, the man; beware the inspiration.


A few things impress me yet – the austere, fresh rendering

of autumn, when the world knows evening must come,

casts off air-blur and blunted light, posits an affirmative shadow,

disrobes to disclose its pure self to itself

that, planing the dumb, hibernal meantime growth, after a long privation

it should even reappear...

Apenninos, all-contemning tyrant hill of ice, I do not resist

you, who spares not even the lowest place.

We have made common cause against a popular

porosity, pried apart the seeming-solidest, and if

the shuttled, adventitious cold of our apartness

has ruined something of the lands outlying...

Agree with me that all this is required, agree,

unvain and mirthless, smoking mountainwinds, nearer than Metapontion

to his stark seat.

Χ. Sapphic Stanzas

All you seething lineaments of the scrolled sea,

your soft-throated, terrible voice of witness,

my unsteadiness is your ceaseless tossing,

cataracts, blue winds...

Aigyptos upon the blurred rim of waters,

where she will not know me, and I forget her,

maybe, though all-gathering cordage faultless

fastened, will fasten...

Hellas, hope my homecoming. Save me something

of the white oak’s ruffled bloom, save the night-time

drowsy or extravagant, save my body

shielded by soft grass...

Bill D’Alessandro is a postdoc at the Munich Centre for Mathematical Philosophy. He is from the US and speaks English, some Spanish and some German. Bill is also an amateur photographer. (Insta: @patienceintheblue)

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