Two Thousand Years and the Sexual Male: The Angst That Never Changes

Romantic scene from a mosaic (Villa at Centocelle, Rome,
20 BC–20 AD)

Sexuality. Exciting, erotic, passionate, heartbreaking. Perhaps no other human behavior is so fraught with identity, especially for men. In countless cultures throughout time, the sexual male has been idealized and his prowess pivotal in terms of his place in society. Of course, there were shifting sexual mores throughout the centuries, but male sexuality largely remained a highly prized trait regardless of culture, time or geography.  Today, with the advent of modern science and psychology, we now realize that male sexuality is weighted with conflicting emotional and societal consequences. More jarring to the traditional paradigm is the fact that male sexuality and the entitlement it bestowed are now being challenged.  We have the roles of heterosexual and LGBTQ men and women as well as non-gender conforming individuals evolving in the twenty-first century to inevitably create new paradigms of identity and new ways of relating to each other.

As we see below, however, some things haven’t changed, or at least make for interesting comparisons. Two poems, written thousands of years apart, speak to the anguish of a man facing the inescapable diminishing of years and the sexuality that defined him.

The first poem is by Philodemus of Gadara (ca. 110–ca. 30 BCE), an Epicurean philosopher and epigrammatist who, having studied in the Epicurean school at Athens when it was led by Zeno of Sidon (c. 150–c. 75 BCE), moved to Italy, probably in the 70s BCE.1 The second poem was written by David Thorpe, a modern day poet and artist living in Germany who did his own lyrical turn at the notion of male identity.

*     *     *

Already more than half the pages have been torn out of the little book of my life; Look, girl, already white hairs are sprinkled on my head,

 Announcing that the age of wisdom is drawing near.

 But still all I care about is laughing and drinking and the pleasures of the night;

 Still, in my unsatisfied heart, a fire is burning.

 Oh, Muses, my guides, write an end to it: Say, This girl, this one here,

 She is the end of your madness.

                      (AP XI.41)2

Philodemus

*     *     *

Deception

The aging playboy phenomenon or Peter Pan syndrome…

The rising sun detects the moment

of the moist track of a fallen tear

before it dries,

the feeling of frustration,

manifested

on her quivering lips, 

usurped by an affected smile  

He had played his role of Casanova,

yet youth long not his ally,

his lines though not forgotten

had lost their enchantment,

their once spontaneity  

languid on a dry tongue lingered,

his performance without applause

His eyes are witnesses

as she leaves in silence,

the closing door forgetting

to take the lingering air,

pregnant with her perfume.

A deception of the night,

or rather a self-deception

 

David Thorpe ©®

 

1 https://plato.stdu/entries/philodemus/

2 http://www.writing.upenn.edu/library/McEvilley_Greek-Anthology.html

 

David Thorpe

Thorpe was born in the Yorkshire textile manufacturing town of Huddersfield, Yorkshire , England. After a career that spanned a number of industries and locations, including Venezuela and the Netherlands, he now lives in Sinsheim near Heidelberg where he writes poetry in English and Spanish and paints in oil.

“Deception” was originally published in the April 17, 2019 edition of Poetry of Spring’s Embrace.

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