"OLD LOVE STORY"
BY ALLEN GINSBERG
Some think the love of boys is wicked in the world, forlorn
Character corrupting, worthy mankind's scorn
Or eyes that weep and breasts that ache for lovely youth
Have no mouth to speak for mankind's general truth
Nor hands to work manhood's fullest delight
Nor hearts to make old women smile day and night
Nor arms to warm young girls to dream of love
Nor thighs to satisfy thighs, nor breath men can approve --
Yet think back to the time our epic world was new
When Gilgamesh followed the shade of his friend Enkidu
Into Limbo's dust to talk love man to man
So younger David enamored of young Jonathan
Wrote songs that women and men still chant for calm
Century after century under evergreen or palm
A love writ so sacred on our bible leaf
That heartfire warms cold milennial grief.
Same time Akilleos won the war at Troy
Grieving Patroklos' body, his dead warrior boy
(One nation won the world by reading Greek for this
And fell when Wilde was gaoled for his Bellboy's kiss)
Marvellous Zeus himself took lightning eagle shape
Down-cheeked Ganymede enjoyed God's thick-winged rape
And lived a youth forever, forever as can be,
Serving his nectar to the bearded deity
The whole world knew the story, the whole world laughed in awe
That such love could be the Thunder of immortal Law.
When Socrates climbed his ladder of love's degrees
He put his foot in silence on rough Alcibiades
Wise men still read Plato, whoever they are,
Plato whose love-lad Aster was his morning star
Plato whose love-lad was in death his star of Night
Which Shelly once witnessed as eternal light.
Catullus and tough Horace were slaves to glad young men
Loved them, cursed them, always fell in love again
Caesar conquered the world, top Emperor Power
Lay soft on the breast of his soldier of the hour
Even Jesus Christ loved his young John most
Later he showed him the whole Heavenly Host
Old Rome approved a beautiful bodied youth
Antinus Hadrian worshipped with Imperial Truth
Told in the calm gaze of his hundred stone
Statues standing fig-leafed in the Vatican.
Michelangelo lifted his young hand to smooth
The belly of his Bacchus, a sixteen-year youth
Whose prick stands up he's drunk, his eyes gaze side-
Ways to his right hand held up shoulder high
Waving a cup of grape, smart kid, his nose is sharp,
His lips are new, slightly opened as if parted to take a sip of purple nakedness,
Taste Michelangelo's mortal-bearded kiss,
Or if a hair-hooved horny Satyr happens to pass
Fall to the ground on his strong little marble ass.
Michelangelo loved him! What young stud
Stood without trousers or shirt, maybe even did
What the creator wanted him to in bed
Lay still with the sculptor's hand cupped on his head
Feeling up his muscles, feeling down his bones
Palm down his back and thighs, touching his soft stones --
What kind of men were the Slaves he tied to his bed?
And who stood still for David naked foot to head?
But men love the muscles of David's abdomen
And come with their women to see him again and again.
Enough, I've stayed up all night with these boys
And all my life enjoyed their handsome joys
I came with many companions to this Dawn
Now I am tired and must set my pen down
Reader, Hearer, this time Understand
How kind it is for man to love a man,
Old love and Present, future love the same
Hear and Read what love is without shame.
I want people to understand! They can! They can! They can!
So open your ears and hear the voice of the classical Band.
October 26, 1981
Allen Ginsberg "Old Love Story",White Shroud, Harper and Row, 1986.