Pyramus And Thisbe - Poem by gershon hepner
Separated by a wall and then by death,
Pyramus, in love with Thisbe, is the paradigm,
in Ovid first, and then in Shakepeare’s shibboleth
that’s mispronounced by Bottom in crude prose and rhyme,
for lovers’ misinterpretation of events.
Pyramus, although no lioness kills Thisbe, kills
himself, mistakenly distraught. In love all sense
dissolves while lovers, like Quixote, tilt at wind and mills.
Some divisions are impossible to breach,
but that between the madness that’s the inspiration for
all love and minds that are so sound they cannot reach
love’s crazy depths few doctors, but most poets, can explore.
Inspired by Kathryn Harrison’s review of Leah Hager Cohen’s third book “House Lights”:
“House Lights” asks if growing up is a metamorphosis or the fulfillment of our essential selves. Can it be both? The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is the central myth Cohen chooses for her novel, one taken, fittingly, from Ovid’s “Metamorphoses.” Shakespeare’s inspiration for “Romeo and Juliet, ” “Pyramus and Thisbe” is a story of lovers separated first by a wall and then by death, and it resonates throughout this novel of tragic lovers and impossible-to-breach divisions. The role of Thisbe made the career of Margaret Fourcey, and it begins the career of Beatrice Fisher-Hart, who does satisfy her dream, but whose ability to act — to direct her own fate — may be confined to the stage.
“Transgression, defiance, noncompliance. Each one of these myths contains a crucial act of contravention, ” her director tells her. She marries this man, a longtime collaborator of her grandmother who is nearly 30 years her senior. What is the reader to make of her choosing a father surrogate for a husband? Risk? Conformity? Theater offers a controlled arena for transgressing, and Cohen, who has written a nonfiction book (“The Stuff of Dreams”) on the topic, is very aware of the place it provides for journeys never made in the real world.
At the end of “House Lights, ” after the death of her mother, Beatrice finds herself forgiving the father she rejected when, years earlier, he made it clear that having a relationship with him required her to accept his denial of responsibility — to agree, as her mother did, to believe his lies. Returning to his side, the adult Beatrice admits confusion: Never has she been “less certain” of her role. The reader, too, is left uncertain, because the gesture that accompanies Beatrice’s forgiving her father — she touches her “lips to the velvet back of his head” — is one she describes as sensually as any she shares with her elderly husband.
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