Thursday, 31 July 2014

Ode to Apollo OR Profile of a Life Force

I have just uploaded the second of three Stourhead videos/poems to You Tube, shot by my close friend Graham Collet and for which I wrote Ode To Apollo (see below). I am posting both here for the benefit of those readers around the world who tell me they cannot access You Tube for one reason or another. Any of you who can are welcome to go to:

Regular readers of my poetry will know that I have a strong affinity with Apollo, the sun god of Greek mythology, not least because he was reputed to be bisexual. The old gods are the stuff of mythology and legend now, but have we not replaced them with little tin gods of our own which, incidentally, have far less gravitas?

The Temple of Apollo at Stourhead stands high on a hill overlooking the gardens; it was built in 1765 by Henry Hoare as his finishing touch to the famous landscape garden. Renovation work was begun by the National Trust in 2009 before which the Trust spent months gathering historic paintings, family records, accounts, letters and visitors' diaries to find out how the monument would have originally appeared. 

The temple was designed by Henry Flitcroft and influenced by an engraving of a circular temple at Baalbec, an ancient Syrian city now part of the Lebanon, and the Temple of the Sun at Kew Gardens, which was destroyed in a gale during 1916. A favourite spot for romance, it was used as the location for a rain-drenched dramatic exchange between Darcy and Elizabeth Bennet in the 2005 remake of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Keira Knightley and Matthew Macfadyen. Timber from the Stourhead estate was used to form the structure of the new dome which has been covered in sheets of lead to keep it watertight. The walls inside the temple have been re-plastered and gilded plasterwork based on a description in a letter written in 1801 by Reverend Warner, the Rector of Stourton.

Rev Warner's letter states: "The roof of the Temple spreads into a dome and has a double ceiling; in the lower is the aperture, and in the coving of the other, a splendid gilt representation of the Solar Rays, which, receiving the real light of this orb by an artful construction, throws into the Temple below a most splendid reflection when the sun is in its strength."


Hear old gods mocking us
behind passing clouds
as a defeated foe well might
for observing its enemies
counting the ever rising costs
of victory

Only Apollo (still) brokers
an enduring peace
without taking sides or even
an ulterior motive
besides a voyeur’s delight
in human behaviour

Where the world rides out
its storms over land,
sea and air, find fair Apollo
behind the scenes
busy negotiating its survival,
albeit conditional

Where time wings past us
at a tangent,
see Apollo rein in his chariot
just long enough
to shine hope in our faces,
the rest up to us

For every bitter-sweet smile,
a bitter-sweet tear
at Apollo’s call to nature
and human nature
for nurture, reconciliation,
and regeneration

Meanwhile, all life presses on
with the act of Being;
the Here and Now engaging
with us for better
or worse, ugly or beautiful,
old gods…

Or new

Copyright R. N. Taber 2014

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