Even the guards listened in
as he taught his eternal lesson,
how to live like a moral human. Politics
back then—as now—rampant, wretched corruption,
a den of sociopaths in sheep’s clothing.
When he left the palace, the streets were nearly empty
Save for the women wailing at the altar, rending air
With sobs and litanies, the smoke from their incense pots
Thick and fragrant, perfuming the shrouded dead.
As someone who writes about early Greek poetry, I spend a lot of time thinking about why its performance was so crucial to ancient life. One answer is that epic and tragedy helped ancient storytellers and audiences try to make sense of human suffering.