Sing out the song of sorrow, song of grief, but let the good prevail. — The WATCHMANIn one of the highest points in the history of tragedy, Aeschylus opens the first play of the Oresteia, Agamemnon. The scene is at the end of the Trojan war.
I'm still looking for that signal flare, the fiery blaze from Troy, announcing
it's been taken. These are my instructions
from the queen. She has a fiery heart,
the determined resolution of a man.
When I set my damp, restless bed up here,
I never dream, for I don't fall asleep.
No. Fear comes instead and stands beside me,
so I can't shut my eyes and get some rest. — The WATCHMAN
A weary watchman talks about the endless nights of watching for the relay of fires across the hills to Argos, home of King Agamemnon, Atreus's son. The fires, which arrive, signal the fall of Troy and the impending arrival of Agamemnon home. This should be a joyous event. Only home seals the king, and the never heeded prophetess Cassandra, to a brutal death at the hands of Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra and her lover Aegisthus.
As for all the rest, I'm saying nothing. A great ox stands on my tongue. But this house,
if it could speak, might tell some stories.
I speak to those who know about these things.
For those who don't, there's nothing I remember. — The WATCHMAN
The watchman knows far more than he feels safe to tell the doomed king, leaving fate to take its deadly course rages forward toward the destruction of the king, his revenge through son Orestes and the bloodthirsty persuit of Orestes by the Furies of matricide.
One disgrace exchanged for yet another, the struggle to decide is hard.
The man who sins is sinned against,
the killer pays the price.
Yet while Zeus sits upon his throne
this decree from god remains—
the man who acts will suffer.
Who can then cast from this house
its self-perpetuating curse?
This race is wedded to destruction. —The CHORUS of ARGOS
The eclipse that causes the crimson moon is an artistic liberty I have taken.
Quotes taken from the translation of Agamemnon by Ian Johnston of Malaspina University-College.
The Writing in the Shadows
I often set goals that I'd like to accomplish that I know I likely will not. Other goals are long lasting and may not be reached for some time, but hopefully will be reached sometime over the course of months and years. I've written somewhat about this before, but one of those goals is to accomplish a few things with the written word that would be far more meaningful than small articles and commentaries. I mentioned these writings in passing in the last post, but what kind was I referring to? I am glad you asked.
- A novel — yes, I'd like to write a great American novel. I've actually started on one, but never had time to take it very far. I have three chapters written as it stands — the first and second chapters of the story are in place, so the basic framework that sets everything in motion is done. I also have one chapter that might be toward the middle of the book, right before the climax of the story.
- A play — I've started one of these too (can you see I have a hard time sticking to one project at a time?). I'd like to write a good tragedy in the tradition of those of past times. A tragedy has a unique and powerful emotional impact and I have some ideas on how I'd like to harness that impact.
- A non-fiction book — I like fiction, although my speciality has been and continues to be non-fiction. I'm just not sure what I'd write here. I know I'm a bit odd for wanting to write a non-fiction book but not knowing what it would be about… but, hey, you already knew I was odd, did you not?
- A collection of sonnets — this is something that needs to accumulate over time, not be done quickly. So, I've started writing them when something occurs that seems like it could be captured well in this form. The sonnet form is challenging, yet its iambic pentameter seems to flow quite naturally for many thoughts. What will I do with these sonnets? I don't know. Maybe they will stay on my hard disk forever, maybe I'll post them online… who knows.
As I said, these are long term goals I cannot begin to complete anytime soon, but inch by inch I come closer to eventually realizing them and I think the process — almost as much as the end result — will make it worthwhile.
Why the title? Well, for one thing, the play and the novel both have a dark tone to them, so they are most definitely on the shadowy side (that also explains why the events I've been whining about this week would be helpful). Also, as I noted, I'm not sure any of these things will ever come off my hard disk, so they are, indeed, in the shadows. If you want to know plots… well, you are just going to have to live with a cliffhanger here — I don't want to spoil the plots!