"Priestess of Bacchus," John Collier, 1889, WikiArt photo.
“Priestess of Bacchus,” John Collier, 1889, WikiArt photo.

Invocation of gods in dancing firelight,
Tribes of Greek Iron Ages, Thracian
Highland shepherds recounting folklore,
Each turn memorized, unity of action,
Simplistic eloquence, recounted around
Campfires, one standing before his or
Her kin, oral tradition brought to life,
Nascent origins Greek dramatic theater.

Such were fall nights, at sacred meeting
Stones, centered on wine rites, four or five
Composed clan troupes, shoulder-draped
Skins served to identify characters, props
From earth they fashioned, wooden staff
Portrayed lost wanderer, shepherd, soldier,
Wheat sheaves for farmers, simple yet
Effective imaginings.

"Electra at Tomb of Agamemnon," Frederic Leighton, 1865, WikiArt photo.
“Electra at Tomb of Agamemnon,” Frederic Leighton, 1865, WikiArt photo.

Dawn of catharsis, pottery shards pictured
Life’s misfortunes, cart wheel turning, rise
To glories, festive life, ignoble fall by fated
Tragedy. Honoring ancient gods, Dionysus,
Angst of another’s pains amid sky-reaching
Flames, wine-evoking tears in primitive hearts,
Stories all learnt to tell, in competing plays,
Days of rustic ceremonies.

Decades passed, plots and characters arose,
Shared dramas spread across Attic shores,
Reverence of fire persisted, stones formed in
Simple circles, actors across from audience,
Few reciting staged parts, dignity and decorum,
Children and elders with lines of dialogue, each
Well practiced, memorized verses presented,
Costumes and props added, removed on cue.

As if hearts were pricked by pain, two or three
Took to feet, evoking gods, emotive experiences
Shared, tales of fighting, accounts of woe, no
Lines to recite, they related acted drama to
Their lives, spontaneous odes of fears, secrets.
Music of aulos added, prayers in unisoned songs,
Actors rising above mortal roles, actions more
Defining deities, first Greek chorus to behold.

"Reading from Homer," Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1885, WikiArt photo.
“Reading from Homer,” Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema, 1885, WikiArt photo.

From oral traditions, plays presented without
Written word, gave way to Greek playwrights,
Their scripts surviving from antiquity, trilogies
Performed in grand amphitheaters, characters
And dialogue, collective voice of the chorus,
Originated from Thracian shepherds, forests
And mountain meadows of remote Iron Ages,
Storied accounts of life, gods, human tragedy.

Derived from pre-dawn dreams, this poem is of
ancient imaginings. No scholarly research indicates
that early Greek theater originated as presented;
however, the concept is intriguing and poem-worthy.

For more on origins of Greek theater, see this link.

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