An episode from 8/22/21: Tonight, I read a poem of mine called “Cauldron & Drink.” It was originally published in Crannóg back in 2016, and appears with my other poems from prehistoric Europe in Bone Antler Stone.
The poem was certainly inspired by the famous Gundestrup Cauldron, but more generally it is an ode to the reverence that preshistoric Europeans felt towards huge drinking vessels of this kind. (A similar find, the krater found in the Vix grave in France, could hold nearly three hundred gallons of wine.) Listeners to my series of episodes on Celtic Myth will remember the outsized importance given to feasting and plenty, almost as if conspicuous consumption were a barrier to famine and hunger.
But there is also, clearly, the religious and spiritual component that has always been given to intoxication, and the flourishing excess that artisans could lavish on the design of these vessels. I tried to imbue the poem with this sense of expansiveness and joy, and indeed the last five stanzas are one long rolling sentence.
Cauldron & Drink
They love their honey and they love the vine,
the wine and beer they engender with fire
and the altered world each takes them to.
They name their vessels like newborns, they name
their goblets and flagons and mixing bowls
and give titles to their cauldrons, those cornucopias
of bronze or clay or silver, a few or
a few hundred gallons deep for meaningful
intoxication and the huge feast,
faces beaten into the metal sheets
polished with running honey and mead and wine:
the gorgon or the boar or the winged deer
or the antlered god, legs crossed, the animal
master with serpent in hand and surrounded
by canine and feline and stag – and so
take a long drink and go for some outsized
strength, go for some feat of appetite and bragging:
drown your faces in grapes, drench your faces in gold.
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