Bedtime Stories #10.

Come Saturday Morning..; The Contract.

Fairytale Nation pt. II: Melissa Bedtime Stories (With images ...

Saturday mornings were a special moment for us youth in our little group. This was in the days of our mid-teens, too young to go to the pubs but old enough to have a motorcycle licence. All of us, to a lad, were apprentices…most of us were in the building industry.. a couple in the Auto industry. Our take-home pay was such that we had to make our own fun, fortunately, petrol was at such a low price (relative to our income) we could go tear-arseing through the hills playing at boy-racers, like our heroes on the Isle of Man TT. Circuit.

What has one gained

When a tally done?

Are pelf and possessions

Worthy of time gone?

If a smile is lost

And bright eyes grow dun.

We would meet at a certain cross-road and take off into our favourite “runs”. If it was a short run, we would go through Coromandel Valley / Clarendon…if it was an all-day affair, it would be the Murray Bridge run on what is now the “old road”, through Mt Barker, Nairne, Kanmantoo / Callington. With long straight stretches where you could unwind the bikes to see how fast they would go. On the winding roads, we’d make a single file, snaking through the corners on what was understood as ; “The Right Line”, after a short film of the era that featured a racing bike on a circuit, with the camera fixed to the front and it took you through the “line” most suited to the fastest speed in the corners…I believe the bike was a Manx Norton…I remember the throaty big-piston sound that they had….a thrilling ride ..then!

 

 

Sometimes , on those long straight lengths of road we would ride side by side and exchange chatter, my Japanese two-stroke a higher pitch than Ron Parker’s BSA or Russel Hamby’s Triumph…those British bikes had a certain smell of hot oil and a distinctive hum of chain driven gears…those Brits loved chains!…But I loved that smell of burning oil…it also was prevalent on the old steam trains, a smell of steam and oil would sometimes shisssh out from the front drive of the train as you walked past…shishhhwhoosh!..and there was that smell.

So I am now clasped in a hold,

I cannot stay young,

Dare not grow old.

But cannot stop feeling

What my heart  be told.

Was life,

And all its promises,

But a Judas kiss !

This idyll went on for several years in my youth, work was there, a sense of permanence was there, routine was in place and the reward of the inviolate weekend to relax permeated through the whole of society. Mums and dads were at home, doing things in the garden or the house, dinner, mundane as it sometimes was,  was always there. Kids were climbing trees or running over paddocks and we teens were going to the beach or the pictures watching banal American “teen-flicks” with Annette Funnicello, Gidget, Eric Von Zipper and a host of rhinestone cowboys and other ghastly indoctrination pieces. We were being shown “the good life”, the “American Dream”, like when television came along and we got “My Three Sons” or “Leave It To Beaver”, ”Father Knows Best” ..then those series of “Crime doesn’t pay” gumshoe-detective genre I believe was in the mix also. One is inclined now, with the wisdom of age, to ask ; “What were the adults thinking!!?”

But now, we do know just what “they” were thinking.

They were showing us “The Contract”. An unwritten agreement that “all this” could be yours if you stick to the line and the terms of the contract and just do as you are directed. It was the age of wall to wall Conservative Liberal Governments…Federal, State, Local, one great big broad church of conservatism with a capital “C”. The endless long-weekend with work aplenty, radio, tv, the flicks, sun, surf and an endless horizon that seemed as if it could have gone on forever….an endless ;”Come Saturday Morning”..and it wasn’t us workers who broke the contract.

Bring me no roses.

Bring me no roses, on this sad day.

No fancy words, no bright eulogy, pray.

Bring nothing but your tears,

Your regrets and fears..for what has gone awry,

And what is now come into play.

My people are dead, their works repealed,

Their strikes, their rights, their hard-won wages reviled.

Their lives of toil and camaraderie forgot,

Traded away as an auctioned lot,

Along with their “crude and clumsy jot”.

Their fumbling demands for rights at work,

Dismissed by “class-less” finishing-schooled jerks,

With soft, crème’d hands and a tongue that is forked.

No..bring me no roses on this, such a day,

For I am still weeping for my lost comrades..

Give flowers to the “pretty people” as they go about their play,

The soft, sweet scent will hide the stench as they betray.

I was apprenticed to a builder who held a major contract with the then Housing Trust, and he ran one of those old family businesses, a Latvian whom I now suspect of being one of those Nazi collaborators in the 2nd. WW. I worked in the joinery / machine shop. I was in my third year of the apprenticeship and I was keen to extend my carpentry knowledge with a stint on the job with roofing and wall structures. I asked if I could leave the joinery shop and go on the job.

I was told ; no, as there was only sub-contractors on the job, not company employees.

I then asked if I could be assigned with one of these subbies so I could learn more about carpentry. I was told no, and that was the end of it. ..I was to stay in the shop.

I then started to wonder how this system worked.. Why were there so many apprentices in proportion to tradie joiners?…Were these “joiners” really tradesmen or just bench-hands? I soon worked out that not only were the workers there not tradesmen, but that there were more apprentices as that was the cheapest labour…and when I queried both the “apprenticeship commission” and my union on the situation, I was told to shut-up and not to make trouble.

Our Father.

That meager kitchen light

Cut his reflection on the glass.

He looks…the collar of his overcoat tugs,

A fumbling with the latch.

Another dawn interminably,

The workplace calls him down.

The trains, the jostle, the silent journeys

Through winter’s cutting edge.

Though visible within my memory,

No touch, no talk, no sound,

But an awkward gentle smiling,

That baleful knotted frown.

The evening family rosary;

Pray God maintain our health.

HIS prayers I’d say were directed

To stay the creeping stealth

Of years, that cut a swathe

Through the patience of the man,

The blocks, the bricks, the working tools

Raised welts of callouses on his hands.

When the cup of love went empty,

Would do to fill it up with wine.

He drank to forget the future,

He drank for Auld Lang Syne!

The weakness was his, they tell us;

The drink, the swearing, the hand

That struck us fiercely stinging…

But I see the courage in the man.

And though his “achievements” were empty,

And poverty enriched our band,

I’d do worse than esteem his persistence,

Nor prefer I memories of “better” men.

So there it was..; the perfect fool’s paradise..; The factory filled with cheap labour churning out a product for a conservative govt’ being run by a conservative opportunist with the permission of conservative govt’ authority overseen by a conservative / R-wing union.. As long as the status quo was maintained, all would be sweet..; Work would come in, wages would go out, “The Real McCoy’s” (with Walter Brennan) or “Rawhide” (with Ward Bond and Clint Eastwood) would keep repeating and every weekend would be another ; “Come Saturday Morning”.

But the bastards got greedy, they got away with the shit wages and conditions for so long, they saw it as their privilege, so that when the workers did finally get some unions with balls and did kick up about it, they got heavy and then the shit really hit the fan! It was called Vietnam and protest songs and freedom!

Time for a bit of protest poetry!

A Gap in the Line.

He touched the medals tenderly, the ribbon colours sublime,

The case of burnished velvet, the soft attractive shine,

He touched the medals tenderly, an Uncle’s Great War “shrine”.

Posthumously given for courage, in “closing a gap in the line”.

In closing a gap in the line he died, in mud, gore and slime.

It was for these tokens of honour, he marched, to fill a gap in the line.

With Union men, many of them with those medals he’d proudly stride.

Union men, many of them and a title his Uncle wore with pride.

Himself, a Wharfie, born and bred, right down the family line,

His Uncle too, t’was always said, could lump a hundred-weight a time,

Bagged sugar, sticky with sweat, soaking wet, at eighty tons an hour,

The men would lug from those cargo holds with no break for tucker.

In the Summer strike of ’98  they marched for conditions fair,

When “Patrick” crawled to Howard’s Government to send the coppers there.

Along with the Farmer mercenaries trained by the covert ; “Sandline,”

They sought to break the strikers…to break through a gap in the line.

In the middle of the night they sent in the thugs, the scabs and the dogs,

It was hard to tell which was which among the slavering, crawling hogs.

And deals were made and rights were trade between the ruling class,

That left the strikers on their own to hold the line tight to the last.

Howard set the dogs on the men and the women and children in kind,

Reith, the crawling bastard, banked the scabs through a mercenary company; “Sandline”,

And the Journalist sucks and the Murdoch hacks lent their honour to that shameful crew,

And wrote of “overpaid wharfie bludgers” when of sweat and blood they NEVER knew.

And he saw the hate in the breaker’s eyes, he saw that hate confined,

So clasping tight, holding the next striker’s arms with all his might,

He called and bellowed fit to wake in fright..:”Hold boys, Hold!”

“ Hold my bastard boys!…we’ll not let them force a gap in the line!”

There comes a time in everyone’s heart, where honour and justice combine,

We must choose which side we’re marching on..what a sense of honour defines.

Would his Uncle have him march for nought, but just a place in a line,

Or should he honour best his Uncle’s pride with his class aligned.

Today he touches those medals tenderly, with a habit long refined,

But he’ll not march on Anzac Day…not while those Tory scabs declaim,

No..there’ll be a space where he held his place with the others marching time,

And owed in respect for his Uncle’s indebt’..they’ll now see clearly outlined,

That in the place of his marching space…there’ll be a gap in the line.

There’ll be a gap in the line my fellows…there’ll be a gap in the line.

Owed in respect to an Uncle’s indebt’…Today there’s a gap in the line.

 

Now it’s time to make for some sleep, lest we wake the souls of the dead with our songs…So it’s goodnight and goodbye from me to thee…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKYjUn-SBcg : Graham Nash ; “Our House”.

 

The Puppets of Margie Meagher.

96 Best Waldorf Puppet Story images | Waldorf, Waldorf inspired ...

“ If you could imagine us all walking side by side toward a sunset, with our lives trailing away behind; a shadow drawn in perspective from the point of our birth. We are all facing the front so none of us really knows the substance of our neighbor’s ‘shadow’, and we can only make calculated guesses from facial expressions and mumbled half truths.” (From The last writings of Carl Jung. )

It seems to be always some physical event that motivates humans to “get up and do something constructive.” Such events have a propensity to the catastrophic, like a sharp jab in the collective ribs of  humanity, otherwise we’d probably just lie prostrate in the dirt like a contented sow with half a dozen piglets suckling on its teats! So it was not long after her husband left her that Margie joined the “puppet group” at the school. She joined to ; “Break that cycle of thought that possesses and locks one into a cycle of hate – contrition.” She had read that in a therapy pamphlet, and nodding in agreement, decided to join the puppet group.

They met once a week at Mauve’s house; this group of parents from the school. They met at eleven o’clock every Thursday to encourage and assist each other with their dolls. They made soft-bodied hand-puppets for the little plays they would perform for the younger children every month or so and at festivals through the year. When she joined, Margie did not know how to make a puppet in a pink fit! but, with the sympathetic encouragement from the other mothers (sympathetic to her marital situation, that is), she soon got the hang of it, and by and by the materials became “putty” in her hands. In fact, it wasn’t long before she was producing puppets with such beautiful and tender features that one of the women: Pamela, was moved to say that “It’s a gift….pure and simple…a gift.'” and Margie blushed  and said “Oh surely not,” and went on to explain that she had always been good at crafts; “From me mother…I ‘spect.”

“Oh no,” said Pamela, shocked, “It’s a gift…a real gift'” and Margie blushed again and said

“Oh well…”

The first play that they put on for the year was “Hansel and Gretel”…. Margie was given the job of making Hansel. The finished product was so good, so fine, that the other women gazed upon him open mouthed. He had a soul almost, behind those eyes, and what eyes! “as crisp as a Summer dawn, the left hand of God,” and his costume and the cut of the cloth made his shape, his proportions seem so unnatural, uncanny, so that next to him poor Gretel looked like a cheap “tart”….so much so that Margie was asked, nay: ‘implored’ to take Gretel home and to “fix her up,” and gosh! did Gretel ever look so beautiful, so innocent? that together; Hansel and Gretel as puppets matched the immortality , almost, of the classical tale.

After that performance, Margie was given the job of making the star puppets. And didn’t she fulfill that task admirably.

“It’s a gift…a real gift,” Pam would repeat in her parroting voice.

“I’d say it was a release from the stress,” Mauve would comment with a nod of the head then pinch her lips together.

Mauve was the expert on stress…. “Yes….you’re stressed,” was her usual prognosis whenever someone expressed a weariness. Yet another: Jocelyn, who held a degree in humanities and had studied a year in psychology, would pronounce in dry, measured tones (not for psychologists the heady passions of mankind!) that the beauty of the dolls was ;

“…quite naturally an acceptance…a bringing to the front, the beauty of self…the awakening..so to speak..of respect for self and realization of self after the defeat…so to speak…of the broken relationship…you understand?”

Others added their opinions to the pot also, but all were equal in their admiration of the puppets. And Margie basked in their praise, though her big, round  face would colour in a blush, she would smile and finger the dolls tenderly and say:

“Well, yes, it does bring me out of myself…helps me to distance myself from me troubles.” And she’d bend to her work, her clumsy-looking fingers deftly sewing a smock or line stitching a vest for the prince.

So it went on, story after story: Hansel and Gretel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, all perfect joys and didn’t the children Ahh! and the parent’s Ohh! and the applause after each show witnessed their appreciation, and Margie’s puppets were eagerly touched and stroked by the children as if they were exotic talismans.

“It’s a gift,” Pamela could be heard at one side telling a parent, “It’s a real gift.”

One woman: Bea, started to notice a certain similarity about the puppets, an air of something familiar about them, but, not having them all side by side (“….like a police line-up,” she would later say), could not be certain of her memory. But she had a feeling that behind those fabric faces, those carefully stitched costumes, deeper than the wool fibre stuffing in those familiar shaped heads, was the “raison d’etre” for their very being!

For, having once cast off all the shrouds of resistance, each of us enters the creative obligations of the psyche, whether we succeed or fail in these pursuits of desire depends on the depths of the individual’s well springs of courage, of the risk of surrendering to the will of the muse.

Bea, of all the women, was wary of Margie’s seeming fatalistic acceptance of the breakdown of her relationship, and though she had never met Margie’s husband, she, like any group of school parents still felt on “common ground” with the family. But now the family was broken, and Bea worried less the disappointment was too much for someone as exacting as Margie to bear, so she “studied” Margie, looking for cracks in the facade much as we all “study” people under trauma with that guilty morbidity of wondering if and when they will “crack”! Pondering on this, Bea decided to pay Margie a home visit.

As she knocked on the front door, she heard a raised voice emanating from within the house. It was the middle of the day, so the children were at school and although the voice was muffled, it nonetheless was quite tense. Bea knocked louder and the voice stopped, there was a hiatus and then the door was gingerly opened….Margie’s face appeared, flushed and wary in the opening.

“Bea?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Just popped ‘round to say hello.”

“Well…come in then.” Margie eased the door open, Bea hesitated with one hand raised in gesticulation:

“But do you have visitors….I thought I heard….?” Margie glanced furtively to one side.

“Oh….no…no, it was just the cat….” and she stood clumsily to one side so Bea could enter. A pot of tea was suggested and accepted so Margie adjourned to the kitchen while Bea sat on the edge of the lounge sofa and let her eyes wander around the trimmings of the room.

A photograph setting on a side table caught her eye….something familiar?….the slope of the eyebrows?…the cheeks? or maybe the soft contour of the face?…

“Your….your husband?” she enquired. Margie popped her head through the door.

“Oh…yes…ex-husband'” and she came into the room and took up the framed photograph listlessly.

“Richard….”the rat”….sometimes I call him “Dick,” short for….well, you know what” She dusted the glass with her T-shirt and replaced it on the table.

There, Bea realized, was the similarity between the male puppets….Richard Meagher with one “sleepy eye” and the brows sloping away “just so”, and those boyish cheeks that Margie had captured somehow in an abstract way in all the male puppets….”It’s a gift…a real gift.” Pam’s voice resonated in Bea’s mind…curious, the flow of mood from mind to hand in a clever person, again, that artistic interpretation of psyche. Bea gazed hypnotically at the photograph and wondered about the other woman, but discretion forbade mention of so delicate and wounding a subject. Having solved one of her curiosities, she was satisfied she would soon find the other elsewhere so she settled down for small-talk and tea.

“Who did Margie’s husband clear off with?” Bea asked Mauve one day.

“No-one I know, but I’ll tell you who does.”

So with a little discreet enquiry and conversation Bea was able to see a photograph (thank heaven for that invention that fixes time and place to deed!) of the woman in that duet of complicity. Bea came away from that visit with the second mystery solved: that of the similarity between the female puppets. And …also the knowledge that Margie’s husband had left with Margie’s own sister! a double blow! betrayal and treachery! Oh woe is the bearer of a broken heart, but even more vexed is the spirit betrayed….especially by one’s own kin.

Bea went quiet after finding out the background of Margie’s domestic life, sometimes enough is enough when it comes to insights into others tragedies, after all…one’s own life has to be journeyed, eh?

Then the time came for a production of that immortal theme of love and betrayal – “Rapunzel.” Once again the little group fell to making miniature props and scenarios and puppets for this, the end of year show and it was to be a real bang-up affair. Margie seemed to put all her efforts into the two main puppets. Rapunzel was beautiful, her eyes glowed with an innocence enchanting and childlike, her body lithe and well proportioned as one could imagine in such a waif with yet maidenly allure! like the eyes of a portrait that seem to follow you around the room, so in reverse were one’s eyes attracted to that doll….and then the hair…such golden bounty was unnatural, uncanny, it flowed (can that be the word?), flowed….like some mythical fall of golden fibres…so long…so silky…not a hand could resist trailing it through the fingers…ah!… And the prince, too, such were Margie’s skills that he complemented Rapunzel  impeccably, equally without over-shadowing each other, like a matched pair of flamenco dancers, each a part of the other. You can imagine the Ohhs! and the Ahhs! of complimenting Margie received for these puppets, even Bea, wary of over-reaction now she knew the hurt behind these marionettes, could not but help admire sighingly the aura of that duet of complicity.

“It’s a gift…a real gift,” Pamela sighed and they all laughed at the familiar compliment.

Around the middle of rehearsals for this play, Bea on returning home from the city one evening remembered a bolt of cloth she had to pick up from Margie, and as it was not too late, decided to turn down the street to Margie’s house on her way home. It was late spring and the wind rippled freshly through the new-leafed trees, almost like the tittering giggles of youngsters at play, such is Spring when the waking of nature seems to bring a friskiness even to the breezes! And the flowers…like the halting twirls of a carnival calliope their petals would duck and sway while overhead a mellow darkness swept upward through the trees into the night.

An old place, was Margie’s, with a laced wire gate sprung on squeaky hinges. The path led straight off the street to a flight of three steps to a verandah. Bea knocked gently on the front door, being aware as she did so not to knock too loudly as to wake the children. On receiving no acknowledgement from her gentle knocking, she gazed around perplexed as to her next move. A glow of light brushed silver over the flickering leaves of a rain-washed tree, a light from down the side of the house. Bea stepped off the verandah and made her way quietly down the side-path, the light from a nearby window was enough to show the precise, ordered garden beds between the fence and the path and like the front yard, they reflected the meticulous discipline of Margie’s personality.

Bea came abreast of the lighted window and through a small gap in the damask curtains could see a figure bent over a table. It was Margie, her large body adorned in those heavy woven clothes that she used to make her dresses, her hair pulled back in a wispy roll on the back of her head. A soft overhead lamp threw its light onto the work bench. Margie’s face was intent on the two puppets she was arranging on front of her on the table…her lips moved in a tight then relaxing pout as she sat the two dolls facing her, a slight musical hum in three notes of a descending order issued from her lips at small intervals of a few second each. She sat back, crossed her arms and stared at the two puppets, they were “Rapunzel” and the “Prince.”

“Well now, there yer be,” Margie sat back and put her hands on her knees.

“And now, my dear Shelia, what would you be havin’ to say for yourself?” This wasn’t Margie’s usual voice..She spoke a curious softened Irish brogue in a different pitch than her usual voice.

“Will ye not answer your own mother?” the voice more tense “just to be a sittin’ there dumb as pots!”

“I told her, Shelia,” this was the old Margie’s voice, “I told mother what you did.”

Bea frowned, for indeed this was something new to her, this behaviour, for with just a slight change of inflection in her voice, Margie had conjured up an entirely new personality; her apparent mother, a person long deceased..a sudden split in personality, then just as swiftly a return to herself, like an actor playing two roles at the same time on the one stage!

“Hush now, Marg!” the ‘mother’ interrupted, “You’ll not be interrupting me.” The puppet fell to one side and Margie leant to gently prop it up again, her tongue pinched between her lips in concentration. She sat back again.

“So you’ll cower in silence before me, daughter….Not answer to my accusation….you would be stealin’ your own kin’s spouse while all the time shelterin’ under her roof…. while eatin’ at the same table…exchangin’ glances of wicked delight all the while I’ll surmise, and there, in golden innocence your own sister ignorant of the treachery you and your lover conspire,” Her voice rose in intensity as she went  on.

Margie jumped up excited:

“They did, they did, Mother…Oh, the sin of it, all the while I worked, all the while I looked after the house they were scheming and smilin’ and I was the fool…the silly, silly fool for all their wicked coupling….and under my very nose….” She shook her fist at the puppet’s face.

“Well, I’ve got the thing to pay you for your treachery, my sweet,” and Margie swiftly took up a large darning needle and raked it again and again across “Rapunzel’s” face so the cloth fretted and shredded in its wake.

Bea put her hand to her mouth to stifle a cry, but still she watched. “What sort of madness was this?” she was thinking. Margie paused, put her needle down and astutely took up another with red thread in it and without a word set to swiftly and deftly line stitch red marks across the puppet’s face so it looked as if it had been raked by a claw! She completed this morbid make-up with little dots of red ink to simulate blood. All this was done so swiftly that Bea still had her hand to her mouth.

Margie then turned her narrowed eyes upon the “Prince.”

“And you, Richard,” (the mother’ again), “could you be so vulgar so underhand to your own wife?”

Margie stood and turned side on to talk out of the corner of her mouth.

“Yes…why Richard….why would you betray me so….was it for a bit of skirt?…an easy ‘conquest’?” Margie sneered the last sentence, “or would you just be a sheddin’ and avoidin’ your responsibilities….hmm?….”

“Richard!!” the ‘mother’ yelled. “Answer your wife! a coward’s life for a coward’s courage….and the devil take your soul,” she hissed while Margie turned slowly and leant to pick up a ‘Stanley’ knife lying on the bench, slowly she moved her left arm and grasped the puppet and raised him toward her, then with an angry gesture swiftly lifted her arm with the knife …

“This for your betrayal'” she cried hoarsely and swung her arm wildly to slash the puppet’s face from forehead to cheek so the tight-packed wool stuffing burst proud from the cut, and there, in jangling craziness of the light awry which she knocked in her violence, each in its own pigeon-hole shelved on the wall, leered and stared the other puppets made by Margie during the year. But! There were twins of each puppet! Twins of Cinderella, Prince Charming, Hansel and also Gretel and the rest, identically clothed and painted, doppelgangers in shape and face… except weirdly, while one would be whole and untouched, its twin was gashed, torn or mutilated this way or that… Hansel’s eye torn from a gaping socket and left hanging down by a thread, Prince Charming’s face too was slashed, Cinderella’s hair was almost ‘scalped’ from her head and so on, all of them sitting squat in their respective pigeon-holes and appearing to gaze interestedly down on this grotesque theatre of tortured souls. Bea looked back to Margie and saw that she was intently touching the lips of the slashed face with red dye on her fingertip so they bloodied with the ink, all the while humming that same three descending notes of sound in short intervals.

Bea’s eyes opened wider and a silent scream choked in her throat as there, in the flickering light, rack upon rack, stood the only witness to Margie’s despair, all those compliments she received must have driven her grief ever deeper into her soul, every “It’s a gift,” a nail into her heart so this charnel house of thread and cloth and dye grew out of the tempest of her hatred, this was the theatre of shadows that lurked behind her fatalistic psyche! And yes, there too in the recesses of that table, beyond the mutilated bodies of “Rapunzel” and the “Prince” stood their twins, gazing on in mute innocence with Margie busy putting the finishing touches to her macabre cosmetics while soft tears edged down her rouged cheeks and saying over and over with childlike hurt:

“You broke my heart, you broke my heart!”

Bea turned away shamefaced from the window, her curiosity satiated, her emotions wretched, for here in the silence of another’s despair she had gazed into the forbidden abyss and in doing so was she not edged just that little bit closer to her own?

 

Bedtime Stories #9.

Pin by Nikita on Place-Ageis (With images) | Ancient paintings

Those Roman Women!

(From “History of Rome” ; Theodore Mommsen)

An equally characteristic feature of this period was the emancipation of women.  In an economic point of view the women had long since made themselves independent; in the present epoch we even meet with solicitors acting specially for women, who officiously lend their aid to solitary rich ladies in the management of their property and their lawsuits, make an impression on them by their knowledge of business and law, and thereby procure for themselves ampler perquisites and legacies than other loungers on the exchange.

Ode to Women’s beauty.

Speechless and numb, I gazed on her beauty there,

Her limbs, her hands, her soft flowing hair.

Her voice the whisper of an angel’s prayer..

SHE..roamed her eyes over the banquet fair,

The roasts, the salads, the fruits so rare,

And of my adoration, just so….au contraire.

“There is so much beauty before us here ,

It is so hard to decide….you tell me, my dear,”..

She said..

”What to you is the most desirous fare?”

But it was not merely from the economic guardianship of father or husband that women felt themselves emancipated.  Love-intrigues of all sorts were constantly in progress.  The ballet-dancers (-mimae-) were quite a match for those of the present day in the variety of their pursuits and the skill with which they followed them out; their primadonnas, Cytheris (Volumnia Cytheris was an Ancient Roman actress and mimae dancer). and the like, populate even the pages of history.

But their, as it were, licensed trade was very materially injured by the free art of the ladies of aristocratic circles.  Liaisons in the first houses had become so frequent, that only a scandal altogether exceptional could make them the subject of special talk; a judicial interference seemed now almost ridiculous. An unparalleled scandal, such as Publius Clodius produced in 693 at the women’s festival in the house of the Pontifex Maximus (Julius Caesar at that time..hence his divorce from his wife, claiming that now famous line ; “Ceasar’s wife must be above even suspicion”), although a thousand times worse than the occurrences which fifty years before had led to a series of capital sentences, passed almost without investigation and wholly without punishment.

The twist of the knife.

“ ‘Twas the cruel hand of fate”, some will attest,

“Plain bad luck..had to give it best”.

No plot nor plan nor Nemesis,

That loss of life, fortune..no redress.

There was that time for just the smile,

Luck, sweet mistress, walk a mile,

Friends, well wishes, oh wilful guile,

Was jealous intent? or blunt revile!

Chance will intervene yet awhile,

To arm the hand, repay the slight,

Fate; cruel mistress will plunge the knife,

Yes..Fate’s deft hand..would repay it best,

But truly I say ; ” ‘tis the twisting of the blade,

Gives most pleasure…

Above ALL the rest ”

The watering-place season–in April, when political business was suspended and the world of quality congregated in Baiae and Puteoli (Naples)–derived its chief charm from the relations licit and illicit which, along with music and song and elegant breakfasts on board or on shore, enlivened the gondola voyages.  There the ladies held absolute sway; but they were by no means content with this domain which rightfully belonged to them; they also acted as politicians, appeared in party conferences, and took part with their money and their intrigues in the wild coterie-doings of the time.

Any one who beheld these female statesmen performing on the stage of Scipio and Cato and saw at their side the young fop–as with smooth chin, delicate voice, and mincing gait, with headdress and neckerchiefs, frilled robe, and women’s sandals he copied the loose courtesan– might well have a horror of the unnatural world, in which the sexes seemed as though they wished to change parts.

A Cold, Cruel Dream.

I dreamt she’d died, unsatisfied..

And our children asked me to attend the rite.

And though divorced these many years,

Would I please to view her in state?

Now that, is not something I’d normally do,

The plastic presentation of death I eschew.

But curiosity urged me abide ,

To view that woman I’ve many years evade.

As I gazed on the broad, Irish face,

That had lied and cheated from my embrace,

I blanched at the look of innocence there,

Rose blossoms dappling her now grey hair.

As if to deny to me by this final sight ,

The justice for many years that was my right.

Forgiveness not what I sought,

But rather admission for the damage wrought.

Upon marriage, relationship and our children begot.

But now, in the silence of this final place,

No word from those lips so bitter she’d trace,

No reason, no ’scuse, no thought of disgrace.

Just an emptiness , as per her usual escape.

Nothing..save one long-stemmed rose strategically placed,

HER request, no doubt….sensitive to an image she’d like embraced,

Always keen to leave an impression entranced…

Enough!

I turned to go…then..in a moment inspired ,

I took that rose there so astutely attired,

Broke off part of the stem.. and did place

The thorny stalk, it’s vicious spikes,

Across those tight, pressed lips now forever chaste.

What ideas as to divorce prevailed in the circles of the aristocracy may be discernedin the conduct of their best and most moral hero Marcus Cato, who did not hesitate to separate from his wife at the request of a friend desirous to marry her, and as little scrupled on the death of this friend to marry the same wife a second time. Celibacy and childlessness became more and more common, especially among the upper classes.  While among these marriage had for long been regarded as a burden which people took upon them at the best in the public interest, we now encounter even in Cato and those who shared Cato’s sentiments the maxim to which Polybius a century before traced the decay of Hellas, that it is the duty of a citizen to keep great wealth together and therefore not to beget too many children.  Where were the times, when the designation “children-producer” (-proletarius-) had been a term of honour for the Roman?

Loss.

Into the fire she did cast,

Letter by letter until the last.

Her stern face, flame-lit aglow,

No pity nor sentiment did it show.

No regret, nor heartfelt loss,

As letter by letter she did toss.

Until the last in hesitant hold,

One short sentence writ in bold,

One final line that caught her eye,

And though the rest she did despise,

That one broken promise with love’s death,

Gave pause for memory’s catch of breath,

Forgotten above this, all the rest;

“Forever my Love, my love, to you,

I do bequeath”.

 

Time now, my little chickadees to sign off on both Roman Women and the day…night-night my little ones…

Joni Mitchell… “The Circle Game”.. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9VoLCO-d6U