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n. Greek Mythology
The river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades.

[Greek Lēthē, from lēthē, forgetfulness.]

Le′the·an adj.
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She has seen that the tears are not dry on These cheeks, where the worm never dies, And has come past the stars of the Lion, To point us the path to the skies -- To the Lethean peace of the skies -- Come up, in despite of the Lion, To shine on us with her bright eyes -- Come up, through the lair of the Lion, With love in her luminous eyes.
Minds that have been unhinged from their old faith and love, have perhaps sought this Lethean influence of exile, in which the past becomes dreamy because its symbols have all vanished, and the present too is dreamy because it is linked with no memories.
Had Juliet so seen her love tokens dishonoured the sooner would she have sought the lethean herbs of the good apothecary.
They ferry over this LETHEAN Sound Both to and fro, thir sorrow to augment, And wish and struggle, as they pass, to reach The tempting stream, with one small drop to loose In sweet forgetfulness all pain and woe, All in one moment, and so neer the brink; But fate withstands, and to oppose th' attempt MEDUSA with GORGONIAN terror guards The Ford, and of it self the water flies All taste of living wight, as once it fled The lip of TANTALUS.
The Atlantic is a Lethean stream, in our passage over which we have had an opportunity to forget the Old World and its institutions.
Less than a century later (1866) Swinburne launched a much more passionate, not to say hysterical, version of the same charge, blaming the cult of the "pale Galilean" for the dismal state of a world where, "We have drunken of things Lethean, and fed on the fullness of death.
An example is provided in the poem Enrich my resignation, where Crane wishes time to end, as a return to the peace of the fathers, possibly conceived of by him as a Lethean ethereal realm of pure rest-like a kind of Nirvana; or as a Goethean complementary reflex of the primordial "mothers," Goethe's "Urmutter," who were supposed by Goethe to have created all of reality:
Here anti-art becomes true art in a constant war of position with the degeneration of art's critical potential into the lethean waters of the contemporary.
in the vale below, As to the sea your limpid waves you bear Can you one kind Lethean cup bestow, To drink a long oblivion to my care?
The risen, cloudy brilliances above," the pool is illuminated from below, its surface unreflective; in the midst of the deck-slats' mimetic firmament, the Lethean swimming pool forms the last in the long line of graphical, verbal, and mnemonic blanks drawn in "Losing the Marbles.
Oft in pity we've gazed on some ragged young form, Struggling and fighting its way against the wild storm, Searching in vain for one who her mother should be, But whose love has long sunk in the Lethean sea.
While Matilda appears by a Lethean river in a dark place with "perpetual shade which never lets sun or moon shine there" (367) ("l'ombra perpetua, che mai / raggiar non lascia sole ivi ne luna" [28 32-33]), in the shadow of a mountain, Shelley's enigmatic "shape all light" (352) appears in a "deep cavern" (361), with "gliding waves and shadows dun" (342) and walks on, as Matilda walks beside, a Lethean stream.