A Note from the Cimmerians

The Cimmerians have not been heard of for 2600 years, but they are still talked about! How’s that for fame? Granted, I personally only heard about this people group recently, and that through a poem. By making the mystery of “those shapes of antique hearsay” the subject of his exploration in verse, Merwin provoked me to do a little reading about them and to muse on the wonderfulness of the phenomenon, that humans can get very interested in some of our relatives about whom so little is known, or can be known: “questions that we are helpless not to ask.”

It is thought that after the Cimmerians disappeared, they likely settled in Cappadocia. Many things believed about them are inferred from linguistics, such as the Armenian name for Cappadocia, Gamir, which seems to be a version of Cimmer.


By the time it gets to us
we can make nothing of it
but questions or else it makes
us turn out to be only
questions that we are helpless
not to ask
in the first place
is it real which is to say
is it authentic which is
to say is it from someone
not one of us and if so
how do we know that and where
has it come from what petal
of our compass or from what
age of the orbiting phrase
before us as we say it
in the language we speak now
and for whom was it set down
or to whom is it addressed
now or will it speak later
in another meaning and
is it a question
advancing or receding
from our point of view and are
we to believe they exist
in truth those shapes of antique
hearsay whom no one has seen
by day the Cimmerians
who dwell in utter darkness
it is said or perhaps live
on the other side of it

-W.S. Merwin

World of the Cimmerians

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