2017-04-29

NaPoWriMo - 2017 - April 25th - Antikythera and other mechanisms

Not really following any prompt here, except there was a prompt about "space" which prompted me (sic) to look through my notes for various terms and something I saw there reminded me I intended to write this.

This was all written in two sessions today, with minimal editing, so it's a bit "first draft" please forgive any built-in insanities.

I have used few Greek names and terms, not many.  I initially tried to get authentic ancient words but in the end decided the main thing I needed was two broadly suitable names.

The Antikythera Mechanism is this.  There is a theory that the ship that was wrecked may have been carrying loot from Rhodes to Rome for use in a triumphal parade staged by Julius Caesar.  I tried matching up the dates to see if that works.  It isn't clear it does, but I've incorporated that into the set-up anyway :-)  I've arbitrarily picked the time when Julius was a consul, there's no actual reason to think this true but I had to give him some title...

I do not speak Greek, especially not ancient Greek, so I have no reason to show off with it.  If I did I might have used some epigram such as:

Είναι εύκολο να ακούγεται έξυπνος σε ξένες γλώσσες

(thank you Google Translate).  Obviously I would never do that...




Antikythera, and other mechanisms


Captain Τιμόν(*) views the device

Caesar has ordered strictly, that no one turns
the handle
the technikós(***) Αλέκος(**)
staggers slightly in the swell, his hand upon
the opened cratenobody is to see
events from future time laid out.  The Gods
alone know this by right and the consul shows
due deference and decrees that no-one use
this thing save him.
  Much later when the man
was drunk, the whole crew heard him often boast
he had no choice but frequently to wind
the dials back to a century before
his birth and forward again up to today.
He claimed this as the only way to see
the mechanism hadn't suffered hurt.

(*-Timon; **-Alekos; ***-technician, modern Greek, I needed a plausibly old term but I also needed to imply the modern meaning, so this is a compromise...)


Αλέκος explains the dials

Upon this side are those things of the Earth:
above, progression of the months and years
laid out in spiral form, and more than that:
the festivals and Games at Athens,
Olympia and Rhodes.  Now lower down
another spiral shows eclipses: Sun
and Moon; dancing in the sky.  I'll turn
it round.  This side is for the heavens,
Gods, their wanderings across the night.

The Moon, its place in things, the dark and bright
phases, the motion of the Sun, through houses
of the Zodiac, and far beyond it all

fixed constellations rise and fall, throughout the year.


The sea captain's dream

Captain Τιμόν rests uneasy, his salt
and water blood uncalm, the mechanism
in his hold offers no direct harm, but a man
who's watched the heavens forty years can't
simply
sleep comfortable with ideas of gears
outside the sky.  The calendars that form
his life are woven from much softer things
the winds round certain islands, his son, his wife
and festivals that come because the town
gather; not because some metal pointer pins
them to a dial.  He turns in bed, uneasy.

Part of him knows the wind has changed;
within his dream the same unease: islands that move,
brass spins beneath the waves, a giant hand winding...


Unseasonable

The wind has changed.  The sea grows mad.  The captain
invokes Poseidon beneath his breath and grabs
the steering oar himself.  Beneath the deck
the oarsmen also pray, but Αλέκος
turns from the raging sea and guards instead
the precious crate.  Even technicians pray
but to what spirits, Gods or fates he's kept
his peace
part of the artisan's secrets
but whatever powers they are fail him.  Down
come the sails, and the oarsmen struggle more.  The lea
of any shore might save their skins. 
Τιμόν
tries first for Kythira but as fear grows
turns instead for tiny Aigila(*).  He knows
he's got there only when they hit the rocks.

(* transliteration of ancient name of Antikythera)


The technician's dream

Αλέκος sleeps so soundly when they pull
him from the sea, that all believe he'll die.
They try to keep him warm, burn sage leaves, ply
the fates with secret gestures, muttered words
they've heard the shepherds using for sick lambs.

This is no sheep, nor yet a man: technikós
who holds construction in his hands.  So deep
his charge has drowned, in sleep it takes him down

and he sees, unsurprised, a new dial: sea level
clearly marked.  The needle turns as all grows dark
around it.  In his heightened state he notices
also for the first time another gauge
"πολιτισμός", now well into decline.
He wonders for how long the dark will last,

when everything he knows has passed, how long
before technicians once again will build
machines to map the heavens?  How long until
they pull a lump of metal from the waves?

(* "πολιτισμός" - politismos: civilisation, modern Greek again...)




No comments:

Post a Comment