In 2008, Outside the Wire, a theater company, began productions of Sophocles' Ajax and Philoctetes to audiences of soldiers and marines returned from Iraq and Afghanistan.
And whither must I go? What end, what purpose Could urge thee to it? I am nothing, lost And dead already. Wherefore- tell me, wherefore?- Am I not still the same detested burthen, Loathsome and lame? Again must Philoctetes Disturb your holy rites? If I am with you How can you make libations? That was once Your vile pretence for inhumanity. Oh! may you perish for the deed! The gods Will grant it sure, if justice be their care And that it is I know. You had not left Your native soil to seek a wretch like me Had not some impulse from the powers above, Spite of yourselves, ordained it. O my country! And you, O gods! who look upon this deed, Punish, in pity to me, punish all The guilty band! Could I behold them perish, My wounds were nothing; that would heal them all.[more inside]
"The plays can reassure a soldier, she says, 'that I am not alone, that I am not going crazy, that I am joined by the ages of warriors and their loved ones who've gone before me, and who have done what most in society have no idea our warriors do.' " The Philoctetes Project. (video available)
Love that can't be withstood, Love that scatters fortunes, Love like a green fern shading The cheek of a sleeping girl. Seamus Heaney's search for the soul of Antigone. (more inside, with Christopher Logue)
New Sappho poem found. Combining a Cologne University fragment found in the cartonnage of an Egpytian mummy with a fragment from Oxyrhynchus has allowed the reconstruction of Sappho's fourth poem. The Oxyrhynchus papyri have been much in the news lately, what with the discovery of the earliest fragment of Revelations to give the number of the beast as 616 and the publication of several lines from Sophocles' lost tragedy The Progeny (scroll down). Infra-red imaging techniques may not be sexy, but Sappho sure is. After all, Plato said she was worthy of being considered not only as a poet but as a muse. Sappho herself is a palimpsest or a sort of cypher. We know next to nothing about her -- including whether she was lesbian or not. One thing's for sure: she almost certainly wasn't a schoolmistress.