Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette
ysabetwordsmith

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Poem: "The Love of Brothers"

This poem came out of the February 4, 2014 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from [personal profile] mdlbear and LJ user Siege. It also fills the "wooing" square in my 2-1-14 card for the [community profile] cottoncandy_bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by Anthony & Shirley Barrette. It is set in nether-Earth, like The Steamsmith, but happens a lot earlier.


"The Love of Brothers"


Ariston and Sophos were apprentices
to the alchemist Archimedes.
Of all the young men in his service,
Ariston was the strongest
and Sophos was the smartest.

To defend the city of Syracuse
they helped build the Claw of Archimedes,
which lifted enemy ships out of the water;
and also the Mirror of Archimedes,
which lit ships on fire with the power of the sun.

Now Ariston had an eye for young ladies,
but Sophos never did, nor was he
attracted to young men instead.
It was personality rather than beauty
which appealed to Sophos,
and the loyalty of Ariston grew on him
like the leaves coming out on an olive tree.

Sophos took to following Ariston
everywhere around the city.
At first Ariston brushed him off
and told Sophos to find himself a girl.

Sophos just smiled and
trotted along beside him,
plying Ariston with souvlaki
and baklava and wine.

Then one day, the young lady to whom
Ariston had unwisely entrusted his heart
dashed it to the pavement of her father's courtyard
where it shattered like a cheap amphora.
Ariston ran back to the dormitory
and wept on Sophos' shoulder.

"Eros is like a torch, my friend,"
Sophos said to him.
"If you clutch it to your breast,
it is certain to burn you."

That type of passion frightened Sophos
and so he preferred to avoid it.
Lust and romance just got you in trouble;
surely there were better foundations
for supporting a relationship.

After Ariston finished weeping,
Sophos washed the salt from his cheeks
and then took him out into the city.
They went to see a comedy in the theatre
and then listened to a lyre player
who had put out his hat beside a fountain.

As they walked through the streets,
Ariston bumped his shoulder against Sophos
and Sophos gently nudged him back.
When they made their way down to the beach
to watch the sun set over the waves,
Ariston quietly slipped his fingers
into Sophos' hand.

The two friends went everywhere together.
Oh, Ariston still spent the odd night with a woman,
but he no longer sought to keep them,
for Sophos was always there for him instead.
Sophos had no interest in bedsports or courtship,
and although he was wooing Ariston in a sense,
it was altogether different in kind.

People leaped to the wrong conclusions anyhow,
for they were beautiful young men
and nobody could imagine
them spending so much time together
without mounting one another.

"It is not like that for us," Sophos grumbled.
"Then what is it like?" everyone asked.
"Hē philía tōn adelphṓn," Ariston replied.
The love of brothers.

This was what it came to mean to them,
what the two of them made it mean:
something that they could stand on
when they needed to move the world aside,
something that could warm them
if they focused on it carefully enough.

Ariston and Sophos were
the apprentices of Archimedes.
Love was never so simple a thing as physics,
but they were strong enough and smart enough
to figure it out anyway.

* * *

Notes:

the love of brothers
ἡ  φιλία  των ἀδελφών
hē philía tōn adelphṓn
I used Google Translate as one service for this. It renders love as agapi or eros and friendship as philia, although philia is one of the Greek words for love: the deep, abiding love between friends.  Special thanks to [personal profile] thnidu for translating this from modern Greek to the Classical Attic Greek in use at the time of Archimedes.  Notable is that classic Greek culture took a leery view of sexual love/lust because such passion could drive people to irrational acts. Presumably tastes varied, but it seems a very likely opinion for a Greek asexual to hold.

Ariston and Sophus have a queerplatonic relationship. This often entails picking and choosing different aspects through which to express affection. You can see them just beginning to piece together what things they want to do.

Archimedes was a famous historic figure, associated with science and alchemy. The Claw of Archimedes and Mirror of Archimedes are two examples of his inventions. For the purposes of this series, it is stipulated that alchemy makes both of those effective.

Greek food includes such delicacies as souvlaki and baklava. Greek wine was often stored in a container called an amphora. Also it was an everyday beverage, not something primarily intended for getting drunk at parties.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, ethnic studies, fishbowl, gender studies, history, poem, poetry, reading, romance, science fiction, weblit, writing
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