Lethean


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Le·the

 (lē′thē)
n. Greek Mythology
The river of forgetfulness, one of the five rivers in Hades.

[Greek Lēthē, from lēthē, forgetfulness.]

Le′the·an adj.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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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.
(19) A few lines later, Milton mentions that the souls of the damned are punished by being ferried repeatedly to and fro over the Lethe, and strongly desire, but are ultimately prevented, from touching the waters of the river of oblivion: 'They ferry over this Lethean Sound / Both to and fro, their 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' (Paradise Lost 2.604-608).
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.
And you, Aruna!--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." It seems appropriate, at the conclusion of the poem, that Merrill should situate the abyss of forgetting at the center of the scintillating fete of life, but he also neutralizes the watery prisons menace through the enticements of its warm glow and gamboling ripples, which seem to invite the heedless pleasure of an "invigorating dip."
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.