Thursday, March 2, 2017
Thursday, January 5, 2017
Posted by Abecedarius Rex at 1/05/2017 12:13:00 PM
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
It's based on a folk song recorded by Adolf Dygacz
in the Silesia region in south-western Poland; "Where has he gone, my dear young son" (Kajze mi sie podzioł mój synocek miły), which describes a mother's mourning for a son lost in war.
The second movement here
is based upon
an inscription scrawled on the wall of a cell of a Gestapo prison in the town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland. The words were those of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, a highland woman incarcerated on 25 September, 1944. It read "O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie" (Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always). The composer recalled, "I have to admit that I have always been irritated by grand words, by calls for revenge. Perhaps in the face of death I would shout out in this way. But the sentence I found is different, almost an apology or explanation for having got herself into such trouble; she is seeking comfort and support in simple, short but meaningful words". He later explained, "In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: 'I'm innocent', 'Murderers', 'Executioners', 'Free me', 'You have to save me'—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me.. "
The third movement is a prayer by Mary to Christ on the Cross. "O my son, beloved and chosen, Share your wounds with your mother …" (Synku miły i wybrany, Rozdziel z matką swoje rany …)
and speaks of that miraculous event, depicted in the Passion narrative, of one person trying to take the pain of another away. The sorrow is that such a thing is not possible. The miracle is that such a thing is possible.
Gorecki seemed to have a very profound and remarkable insight into the nature of human cruelty and suffering and he had the amazing talent of translating that insight into fantastic art.
He died this last month (November 12, 2010). God rest him.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
They're all related. More later.
Path of the Hero (Thanks to Joseph Campbell and "The Hero with 1,000 Faces")
1. The "hero" (who at this point isn't; he's just a guy, a shlub, a trash collector, a farm boy from Tatooine) separates from society.
- due to trauma
- due to choice
- due to experience
- due to accident
2. He enters "the wilderness", the desert, the Wasteland
= that realm where there is nothing familiar, nothing to latch onto, the comfortable and the safe are disrupted and gone
3. There he experiences something that is terrifying and transformative which, if he survives it, gives him new insight.
= looking into the abyss, the meaninglessness of human life - puts him at the crossroads where he is posed with two paths he can go down, that of the monster or that of the hero.
Monster, Grendel, is consumed by darkness and tries to spread darkness and violence to others - sowing despair rather than hope and using other people for his own benefit
Hero, prophet, faces the darkness and transcends it to become something new
4. He returns as a changed being, the hero, to society bringing back some new insight, hope, joy, freedom.
Moses fits this model
Achilles fits this model
Gawain fits this model
Red Riding Hood fits this model
Wednesday, September 1, 2010
See the dragon embedded in the geography? Dragonishness was a central issue in both "The Hobbit" and the later work of "Lord of the Rings". Specifically in Hobbit the crisis of the work is whether or not Bilbo will become a dragon himself. Dragons are inhuman creatures, ancient, crafty, who delve in riddles and non-linear thought of all sorts. They are powerful, violent, hoarding of their wealth (both material and otherwise) and they seek to dominate over other creatures by sowing the seeds of despair, sorrow, discontent and doubt. To become like this snaky creature is to lose one's humanity and become an "unman" or Golem in the Yiddish. Bilbo must, therefore, travel to the heart of the dragon and confront the potential for dragonishness himself. Every encounter throughout the novel prepares Bilbo for that final encounter with the dragon.
Why, therefore, does Tolkien include the encounter with the three trolls in book 2, right out from Hobbiton? Are these images of dragonishness in some way? Certainly the trollness of the trolls is taken out of Norse myth and the great troll story of Beowulf. Yet, why are there three trolls (and not, say 2 or 14)? Do the names have significance? Are there other stories with sets of 3 in them to which Tolkien is referring? Tolkien's character "Treebeard" says of them in LotR,
"Trolls are only counterfeits, made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, in mockery of Ents, as Orcs were of Elves."
It seems that Tolkien frequently thought in these dualistic terms, that for every thing of goodness there was a dark and malevolent side as well, a counterfeit or doppelganger that mirrored something in the world of light yet abhorred the light. Why do the trolls get turned to stone by sunrise at the end of the chapter? What in the psyche of the reader is "troll-like", counterfeit & made by the Enemy in the Great Darkness, anyway?
The art at this website is good. Captures nicely that fireside quality Tolkien himself had in his painting. Interesting that Tolkien puts the three figures OUTSIDE the ring of firelight as creatures dwelling in the dark periphery of human subconscious; shadow monsters. This one brings them into the firelit circle of the conscious.
I conjecture that the names are a bit like "Tom, Dick, and Harry" - common names meaning "Everyman". The threeness of the crew, though, reminds me of that great story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears which is about a careless child meeting the triune divinity for the first time. Her negligence and sense of being owed something lead to "falling asleep" (spiritual lethargy) and waking up to the terror of the divine bearness looming over her. This terrifying encounter leads her to flee from the home in the woods (subconscious) and never go back there again; in other words, the divine becomes for her set in stone as a place only of terror.
In Bilbo's story, though, the trolls are not wise inhuman powers bearing familial connections but stupid, blundering monoliths hell-bent on rampaging through the land. Gandalf himself wonders what has driven them from their mountainous homes, their Olympus. Unlike the positive aspect of the Trinity these trolls are slow and dim, comical in there Three Stooges shtick. Nevertheless, they represent an aspect of the divine AS BILBO PERCIEVES IT. Is God stupid? Do we consider Him stupid? Do we percieve religion as monolithic and predictable? Are we surprised by its potential for violence or its renditioin of bloodshed? Do we consider God as though He were in a box; the familial creative force of the Trinity forever under our thumb? Yet lurking in the shadowy periphery of the subconscious that maybe this is a force we need to reckon with, beyond our control, unexpected and ferocious. And then suddenly it looms up in front of us in the dark, or the alarm goes off when we try to steal from it sounding out the eternal religious question "Ere, oo are you?"
Who are we? Especially when faced with such immense, petrolithic images of nature's divine force - we are small and scared and trembling - more like a rabbit than a burglar. And will the divine force now have mercy on the poor little blighter or find a way to smash it into a pie? Bilbo attempts to confront this dark, protean fear in the firelight on his own, but must be saved first by the doggedly linear dwarvish aspect which determinedly and blunderingly wanders into the firelight and blinds one of the trolls, then by the power of the wizard himself, Gandalf (the Bilbo grown large) who riddles the trolls to linger until the new dawn & resurrection.
For Bilbo the facing of the divine power (or its terrible negative aspect) drags that power into the light of day and renders it innocuous. It's Bilbo's first meeting with the potential dragon in him.
Trackback = Tolkien: His Genius
Tolkien's own ink illustration of the trolls for "The Hobbit".
1890 Illustration of the Three Bears by Batten
Friday, August 20, 2010
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
Dear Mr. Suzanne,
1. the work appears to be a dialogue, wearing the mask or thaumatopoioi of a dialogue, but is indeed a monologue like the Apology. Socrates alone speaks. But to whom? For what reason? Is he addressing the gods? Other Athenians? Future generations? I think that the the monologue quality of the work is explained to some degree at the end of the text when Socrates says that through Justice we will be "friends to ourselves and to the gods." This seems to indicate that all of the above are true.
2. The connection to other mythological works (Odyssey, Orpheus) seems to be intentional as well. Socrates goes "down into Hades" when he goes into Piraeus. The opinions of men like Thrasymachus, Polemarchus, and Cephalus being the opinions of the underworld; the world of claustrophobic materialism and almost petty worldliness. The person they most effect is Glaucon, the Eurydice character, whose trepidation that there is anything beyond this world (and thus any point to striving for greatness rather than grasping at power or pleasure) indicates that he is dead or near dead in soul. Socrates, like Odysseus, attempts three times to clasp him to his breast (by defeating the arguments of Cephalus, Polemarchus and Thrasymachus) and still Glaucon fades into that other world of sorrow and hopelessness. If, then, a man is to effect any change for the positive, he must regain a vision of the light, of greatness, and of his own immortal significance (an event that occurs to Glaucon in Book 10). If he does regain such a vision then he can effect great change for the good in the world - be remembered - and have his tale, the story of his life, saved as an individual rather than lost in the oblivion of the faceless mob.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Thursday, May 6, 2010
The theophanic imagery of the thunder and earthquake represent Zeus (the god of lightning) and Poseidon (the earth shaker); who also represent the intersection of the two realms of heaven and earth respectively.
This hearkens back to the intersection of the two circles in the golden ration in the midst of which is the vesica piscis, or vessel of the fish; the representation of the birth canal; the entrance into the other world and the passage back out into this world. It is the chasm in the earth which Gyges sees after the thaumatoi of the thunder and earthquake.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
Three opinions about Justice in Bk 1 are expressed;
1. Cephalus (the head, the chief) = telling the truth and giving back what is owed
2. Polemarchus (one who begins, or leads a war) = do good to friends and harm to enemies
3. Thrasymachus (bold fighter) = advantage of the strong
Justice, ton dikaion, righteousness or goodness is all these things. The righteous man does tell the truth and gives back what is owed; he does good to his friends and harm to his enemies; he has the advantage over other b/c he possesses the strength of being beyond the law and obedient to the law.
This set of three is repeated in the three types of good presented by Glaucon (the Eurydice figure)
1. good enjoyed for its own sake
2. good enjoyed for its sake and what it produces
3. good produced from something that is hateful (which is where Glaucon says most people equate Justice)
And this set of three is reiterated in the idea of justice as a mean between two extremes
1. best = doing injustice w/o penalty
2. justice = not v. great, but not too painful; doing some smaller injustices w/o penalty of severe punishment
3. worst = suffering injustice w/o revenge
This set of three is like unto the setting of the dialogue, namely
1. Acropolis (Olympus; realm of the gods, or the land of light & life)
2. the main or middle city
3. Peiraeus (Hades; realm of the dead, darkness & chaos)
This is parallel to the metaphysical states of
But Glaucon/Eurydice, who has accosted Socrates/Orpheus in his return to the light, suggests that most people live in that limbo realm of the long grey day - justice is a compromise, and the best that we can hope for, in this life and the next, although not too thrilling or inspiring is at least not too painful.
The Acropolis/Olympus of doing injustice w/o penalty, is like the Playboy mansion, the bling of the gangsta, the pimp with the money and the babes and the convertible. Most of us will not achieve that, but if we were able to with impunity we would jump at that chance. Who, after all, wants to be a millionaire?
The Peiraeus/Hades of suffering injustice is a horrible prospect; malaka; utter degradation and despair coupled with eternal pain. No one wants that and the fear of its prospect keeps most people, as Nietzsche pointed out, from "aspiring to greatness". We are like Macbeth,
To be the same in thine own act and valour
As thou art in desire? Wouldst thou have that
Which thou esteem'st the ornament of life,
And live a coward in thine own esteem,
Letting 'I dare not' wait upon 'I would,'
Like the poor cat i' the adage?
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Some critics seem to suggest that the poem ought not to be read too deeply. Stuart Small, for instance, in his article "On Allegory in Homer" suggests that
It is, however, inadvisable to take the view that Homer's chief aim in composing this passage (the visit to Circe) was allegorical or didactic; it is similarly inadvisable to attempt to extract symbolic meaning from Odysseus' encounter with Hermes before he meets Circe, or from Hermes' advice to the hero, or from the description of the famous drug moly. After all, in the tale of Circe as in most of the rest of the Alkinou apologoi the poet's intention is not primarily to instruct but to entertain, and to entertain by telling marvellous tales of romantic adventure "in faery lands forlorn." (Small, 427)
Similarly J. Gwyn Griffiths in the article "Allegory in Greece and Egypt" offers that
In its original Greek sense allegory implies that an author proclaims a meaning other than the one which is instantly apparent. The Greeks who explained Homer from this point of view were superimposing the second meaning upon a narrative which usually does not, in our opinion, bear any traces of such a meaning being deliberate. (Griffiths, 89)
Perhaps Griffiths is correct about the critics of 5th century Greece who wished to read Homer as a mere moralist; indeed there is a long history of "reading into" the work of Homer morals or values which would have been anachronistic to his own culture. Yet the implication of Griffiths statement, namely that there was no deliberate meaning within Homer's work, or even that the later critics read moralism into the work rather than ignoring or overlooking meaning in addition to the moral level, seems to be erroneous. The Odyssey reads on many levels, one of which is the moralism which the Greeks of the Golden Era in Athens still perceived within the rites and chthonic imagery of religious practices current at their time. Similarly, Small's comment that the poet sought primarily to entertain seems dismissive of the fact that great art goes beyond entertainment alone. As any artist worth their salt knows, the primary job of art is to entertain. But great artwork uses entertainment, rhetoric, beauty, as the bait to draw the audience in to contemplate the greater implications of the work, and a great artist will both entertain and intentionally (or sometimes unintentionally) use imagery in a calculated way, troping prior stories, adding nuances of his own, retelling the themes common to the culture in order to suggest meaning. Artists use the thaumatopoioi, as Plato called them, the shadow puppets in order to direct the mind toward the Eidoi, or the unchanging truths of our existence.
Thus it seems that Homer intentionally uses the imagery of pigs throughout the work to suggest something profound about the sun hero, Odysseus. The story of the Odyssey is, essentially, a retelling of the sun god story common to Western culture. In this story the sun hero descends into the world of darkness, battles his nemesis in the form of a many-headed dragon, triumphs, and returns to the world of light and consciousness with the new dawn. The story has seen incarnations in Egypt as Ra descending into the Duat to battle Apep, in Babylon in the form of Mithras battling Tiamat, in Greece as Heracles battling the Hydra. In each incarnation the powers of darkness, madness, chaos and destruction threaten failure and annihilation. The hero seems to be overwhelmed by the pain and darkness of his experience, which appears as a many-headed beast, the crowd or mob, zombies, seeking to engulf or devour him in anonymity until he becomes a faceless nobody, slave to the seeming common fate of the human race. Ultimately, though, the hero triumphs against this perilous dragon, throws off the guise of death, and returns to the realm of light, consciousness, health and joy.
The Odyssey tells a similar story; Odysseus lost at sea (the realm of chaos and darkness) and at odds with Poseidon (the god of chaos, uncertainty - earthshaker) and Odysseus in his travels and Odysseus amidst the Phaeacians is like the sun hero, Ra, who descends into the dream realm of the underworld. Facing the many-headed mob of the Phaeacians, and of his own voracious crew eating the cattle of Helios, Odysseus faces Apep and returns, asleep, to his home of Phaeacia. Yet even there the story repeats itself in a different form. He associates with the pigkeeper, Eumaios, (a comic version of the underworld god and of Circe), returns to his home and confronts the many-headed Apep of the suitors. Only in defeating them does he fully emerge resurrected as the sungod, Helios Apollo Ra. It may seem a form of prestidigitation to note that the characters of Poseidon and Circe are forms of the underworld god of darkness, Seth, in Egyptian mythology. But the stories of Egypt predominated throughout that part of the Mediterranean and it is not a far stretch to conjecture that Homer must have been influenced by such common stories. As Ruth Ilsley Hicks writes in "Egyptian Elements in Greek Mythology"
Egyptian influence on the architecture and art of Greece has often been noted. The Greeks believed that they owed a debt to the country of the Nile in the fields of mathematics and philosophy. Mythology is another realm in which there are Egyptian elements, as the stories of Io, Helen, the Danaides, and Busiris show. These reveal in their plot and visual form features drawn from the religion, art, and history of Egypt. (Hicks, 108)
Thus the myths of the Greek culture are related to the Egyptian myths. Therein, the sun god, Ra, takes on the form of Helios, of Heracles, and even of Persephone and her mother Demeter. The nemesis, lord of darkness and decay, Seth, is transformed into Hades and his queen Persephone. In Homer these figures are mirrored in Odysseus and in Circe. The pig, which embodies the excessive pleasures of desire and the mindless animalian wallowing in chaos and destruction which such pleasures tend to bring, seems an animal particularly suited to be sacred to both Seth and to Demeter; Seth, it would seem, because of the affinity between the god of darkness and the pig, Demeter because of her triumph and control over the creature. Lewis Farnell notes the connection between the pig and the cults of Persephone and Demeter in his article "The Cults of the Greek States." There he points out that the names of Demeter and Persephone are occasionally synonymous within the cult practices;
In the rare cases where the name Persephone was the official title, we may assume that a specially chthonian character attached to the religion. It attached also to most of the leading Kore-worships. Among these we may specially note the Potnian, with its sacrifice of sucking-pigs thrown into the subterranean shrine, a sacrifice that reminds us of the Thesmophoria; the Argive, with its singular fire-ritual, in which lighted torches were thrown into the sacred pit; and the somewhat similar Mantinean, in which a perpetual fire was maintained in the shrine of Demeter and the daughter. (Farnell, 122)
Elswhere he notes the ubiquitous use of pigs in the ritual celebration of death and rebirth which were at the heart of the Eleusinian mysteries of Demeter;
At Potniae, in Boeotia, we hear of an underground megaron into which a sucking-pig was thrown as an offering to Demeter and Kore, to miraculously reappear at a certain season of the year at Dodona; and a Potnian inscription speaks of “a priest of Demeter and Persephone,” the latter being the special name of the chthonian goddess…In Attica this aspect of Demeter is sufficiently salient in the Thesmophoria and the Eleusinian mysteries, and the curious statement of Plutarch that at one time the buried dead in Attica were called Demetreioi shows, if we can trust it, a reminiscence of an earlier period when she was recognized as one with the earth-goddess, and as the Power that ruled over the departed. (Farnell, 64)
The pigs which were thrown into cavernous regions seemed to have represented the death of the old piggish self, the mindlessness of the animalian nature and its sublimation into the earth from whence grows new and plentiful life. As Martin Nilsson points out in "Greek Popular Religion" the pig and this cult of death / rebirth were intimately united;
At a certain time of the year, perhaps at another festival of Demeter and Kore, the Skirophoria, which was celebrated at the time of threshing, pigs were thrown into subterranean caves together with other fertility charms. At the Thesmophoria the putrefied remains were brought, mixed with the seed corn, and laid on the altars. This is a very simple and old-fashioned fertility magic known from Athens, Greece, the swine was the holy animal of Demeter. (Nilsson, 22)
The ancient world saw pigs as seemingly mindless creatures, driven by desire and the more base aspects of nature, eating, sleeping, rutting. Not only were they sacred to Demeter and to Seth, they were also closely associated with the Egyptian goddess of lust and fertility, Taweret, the wife of Apep, who later, when Seth replaced Apep as god of evil and darkness, she became Seth's concubine. Her counterparts in other cultures were Inanna, Ishtar, Astarte, and Aphrodite. The flesh of the pig was eaten at celebrations of Taweret as it was at the celebrations of her counterparts in other cultures, followed, at least in Babylon, by mindless orgies of sexuality and narcotics (the very thing the Jews objected to in their edicts against eating pork). To succumb to pigishness, then, would mean failure for the rational creature; it would mean darkness and inevitable death - the very thing which Seth threatens against Ra. Yet Demeter controls the pigs in her cult. If the maiden, the kore, Persephone is thought of as the young Demeter, then she could be the youthfulness driven by piggish desire which dies in the underworld and rises again to the new life of rational control.
Such control means a harsh knowing of self, a gnothi seauton. It also means experiencing and delivering pain. But as G.E. Dimock suggests in his article "the Name of Odysseus" this is precisely what odyssasthai means;
...for Odysseus to grow up, to achieve his full stature, will be for him to "odysseus"--to live up to the meaning of his name, whatever that may be. "To odysseus" (odyssasthai in Greek) is usually said to mean "be wroth against," "hate," and to be connected with Latin odisse... in the Odyssey odyssasthai means essentially "to cause pain (odyne), and to be willing to do so." (Dimock, 1, 53)
Essentially, Dimock claims, the story of the Odyssey is about finding oneself: "the whole problem of the Odyssey is for Odysseus to establish his identity" (Dimock, 1). It is a story about being a somebody rather than a nobody. I would suggest the story is more than just that, just fame. The Nobodies of the world are the mob, the average, unthinking, desire-driven slavish man. To be somebody is to be "one man alone"; to oion; a man in control of himself constantly. In order to accomplish this one has to live polytropically, by twists and turns. One has to wear a mask, a persona, of tricks and stories. One has to become, to a degree, like the snake in order to beat the snake of Apep, the mob.
Odysseus is a man who lives by his wits. He has learned early on, when he received a wound delivered to him by a boar, that the world is a cruel and brutal place. He has also learned to mistrust the many headed mob. Mobs can turn dangerous quickly. They are self-serving, driven by passions, swayed by entertainment and rhetoric. Mobs, basically, are piggish and Circe, in her role as the counterpart to Persephone, threatens engulf Odysseus in this state of existence. As Stuart Small suggests,
The meretrix Circe offers men not knowledge, but the pleasures which degrade and brutalize the human body without diminishing the mind's capacity for grief and remorse. (Small, 427)
Yet in changing the crew to swine she becomes a prophetess of sorts, revealing the true nature of the crew who later will, despite numerous warning, consume the cattle of Helios, the symbols of gloriously divine beauty and the representations of home. The crew, in this case, led by Eurylochus, are Apep. They are the mob. They do not wear a persona mask, they are not wary of the world, and they do not live by twists and turns. Rather they charge directly into what appears to be a banquet in order to satisfy their own carnal desires. The crew represent conventional thought versus nuanced introspection - they are, to a degree, civilized pigs. As Richard Ruderman in "Odysseus and the Possibility of Enlightenment" notes, such men are incapable of achieving resurrection because they have become enslaved to the status quo;
People who have come to think of themselves as “civilized” or not in need of “myths” in order to be moral are apt to overlook this essential ground of morality. Comfort with the status quo, taking pride in the civilization one is a part of, or even the lazy preference for the safety of morality to the risks and daring of its opposite – all these can lead people simply to equate morality with reason and civilization. (Ruderman, 151)
Eurylochus and the others consider their lives to be fairly swell. Like Richard Adams' rabbits in the warren of snares in "Watership Down" they no longer believe in the myths and tales of old. Their pigishness, consequently, makes them slaves to devouring darkness because they think things are due to them. Their eating of the cattle of Helios, like Goldilocks eating the porridge of the three bears, denies them entrance back into the holy bliss of home.
Odysseus, on the other, is the man of reason and this sets him apart from the piggish mob;
Reason, after all, as the wily Odysseus knows all too well, might counsel the performance of an unjust action, especially where one’s life or safety hang in the balance. And social influences, however powerful within a given society, seem unreliable in the fluid, many-cultured world of the wanderer. (Ruderman, 151)
Society might suggest satisfaction of the baser instincts but also paradoxically common courtesy to a hostess and sexual fidelity to one's wife. But if Odysseus is to master Circe, the power of the underworld, if he is to escape the pull of pigishness, he must make her his equal. Charles Segal in "Circean Temptations: Homer, Vergil, Ovid" suggests this very thing;
If Homer's Circe embodies the pleasures of the flesh in both their restorative and dangerous aspects, she is yet more than an allegory of sensuality, as she becomes in later literature. While on the one hand she can transform men into swine, on the other she is surrounded by beautiful and highly wrought furnishings tokens of a civilized refinement…. It belongs to the paradoxical mystery surrounding this character that the men who are to be transformed into swine meet her more civilized aspect, the beautiful singing and weaving, while Odysseus, wary of her charms, engages at once in a head-on conflict with her magic and her sexual allure. Recognizing the danger for what it is, he sees Circe as his men cannot. Hence he meets the goddess on her own terms: the counter-magic of Hermes against her potions, his sword against her wand. (Segal, 425)
Odysseus puts upon himself the mask of death by eating the moly flower, whose white blossom symbolizes the glory of light, and whose black stem represents the underworld. Thus he comes into her abode disguised as a nobody, a dead man, an Outis. Norman Austin notes that in doing so, in wearing a mask, Odysseus displays the great cunning, polymetis, for which he is known;
Odysseus’ polymetis, when he is exercising his Metis, then is he invariably Outis. His mask is his Metis; the face it displays to the world is Outis. Odysseus negates himself qua Odysseus, either by remaining anonymous, or by adopting, together with a pseudonym, a fictitious unreal persona. (Austin, 16)
Metis (widsom, skill, or craft) is, after all, the mother of Athena, Odysseus' patron deity. Only after he has avoided Circe's potions and held a knife to her throat does the witchrecognize him as that famous Odysseus of whom she has been warned. Only after he joins her in sexual union does he become her equal; thus making himself metaphorically controller of the pigs, king of the underworld, and lord of the breathless dead. But, as Achilles notes, such a lordship is not desirable; life isn't merely about eternal power or even about remaining separate from the crowd. The epic nature of the Odyssey suggests that the resurrection story, the sun god story, is really a return to full humanity; a restoration of the individuality of the man. As George de F. Lord proposes the encounters throughout the work jeopardize this revelation of Odysseus as a divine being;
In one way or another all these encounters jeopardize his human individuality, or at least that of his followers. ... Circe transforms men into pigs who yet retain the same minds they had before. Calypso promises to make him immortal and ageless if he will only live with her forever. ...Odysseus' recognition at this point that his innermost identity is inseparably bound up with his home and wife is the key to his escape from the fantastic world, just as his unprovoked attack on society... opened the door to his entrance into it. (de. F. Lord, 416)
Odysseus must still return to his own home and face the Apep mob of the suitors. To do this he must put himself at great risk. The first part of the epic, however, especially his experience of descending into the mob-like world of the breathless dead has prepared him to put himself forward. He survives the test of the cattle of Helios because he has seen what such piggishness results in, namely slavish oblivion. Odysseus is thus willing to risk himself in order to regain the beauty of his home. Howard Clark notes in "The Humor of Homer" that this risk is what makes the work a comedy rather than a tragedy;
...the curve of tragic action, then, is self-discovery; the comic curve is self-exposure. And whereas the self-discovery provided by tragedy is an emotional experience, the appeal of comedy is hard and intellectual. This seems to bring us to that old saw that life is tragedy for the man who feels and comedy for the man who thinks. It certainly brings us back to our initial definition of the comic: that it is an intellectual apprehension of incongruity. (Clark, p. 252)
When he returns to Ithaca, Odysseus is one with the comic ruler of pigs, Eumaios. He then adopts a remarkable persona mask in order to infiltrate the lair of Apep. E. Coughanowr suggests that this mask is related to pig imagery as well through the Greek word, μολοβρὸς.
In the Odyssey, where the word μολοβρὸς occurs, Odysseus, disguised by Athena as a wretched old beggar, is also deprived of his hair. This may perhaps have caused the inference to the ringworm disease and / or baldness in both passages where the epithet μολοβρὸς appears in Homer. In Od. 17.219 Melanthios addresses Eumaeus, at the sight of Odysseus:
πῇ δὴ τόνδε μολοβρὸν ἄγεις, ἀμέγαρτε συβῶτα, πτωχὸν ἀνιηρόν δαιτῶν ἀπολυμαντῆρα;
In Od. 18.26 Iros, referring to Odysseus, says:
ὢ πόποι, ὡς ὁ μολοβρὸς ἐπιτροχάδην ἀγορεύει, (Coughanowr, 229)
μολοβρὸς might also mean ‘young’; molobria ‘the young of wild pigs’ (probably so called because hairless when born).
Consequently, Odysseus disguised as the beggar is Odysseus Molobros, a word associated with 'the young of wild pigs', or molobria. He comes into the palace as a pig man; a man of the underworld; thrown into the chasm as in the Eleusinian rites. But as the slaughter of the suitors indicates this is not his final form.
After proving himself with the bow, Odysseus immediately throws off the pig guise and stands dazzling before them all. Here he is Helios, shining, bow in hand like Apollo, and ready to slay with graphic carnage the many-headed mob dragon that threatens to metastasize in and destroy his home. Odysseus who has traveled through the darkness of failure, terror, war, loss, and death has risen from the dead and wreaks havoc with the forces of darkness that threatened to engulf him.
Piggish imagery serves a crucial purpose in rendering the resurrection story of the sun god in the Odyssey. Ultimately, Odysseus survives this piggishness of the mob mentality. He rids his home of the slavish fate, ananke, which threatens to benight his family and loved ones. Like a man awakening from a dream the hero rises with the dawn and comes back to the empyrean of eternal bliss, the home for which he is truly destined. This is the story of Western culture, a story which suggests that our failures are not eternal, death is not final, the underdog can triumph, and the home for which we are bound is not ultimately darkness, but light.
- Austin, Norman. “Name Magic in the Odyssey". Studies in Classical Antiquity, Vol. 5 (1972)
- Clarke, Howard W. “The Humor of Homer”. The Classical Journal, Vol. 64, No. 6 (Mar., 1969)
- Coughanowr, E. “The Meaning of Molobros in Homer”. The Classical Quarterly, new Series, Vol. 29, No. 2 (1979), pp. 229-230. Cambridge University Press
- de F. Lord, George. "The "Odyssey" and the Western World". The Sewanee Review, Vol. 62, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1954), p. 416
- Dimock, G.E., jr. "The Name of Odysseus". The Hudson Review, Vol. 9, No. 1 (Spring, 1956)
- Farnell, Lewis Richard. "The Cults of the Greek States". Vol. III. 2005 Adamant Media Corporation.
- Griffiths, J. Gwyn. “Allegory in Egypt”. The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, Vol. 53 (Dec., 1967)
- Hicks, Ruth Ilsley. “Egyptian Elements in Greek Mythology” Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 93 (1962)
- Nilsson, Martin Persson. Greek Popular Religion. Forgotten Books, 2007.
- Ruderman, Richard S. “Odysseus and the Possibility of Enlightenment”. American Journal of Political Science. Vol. 43, No. 1, (Jan. 1999)
- Segal, Charles. “Circean Temptations: Homer, Vergil, Ovid”. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association, Vol. 99 (1968)
- Small, Stuart G. P. “On Allegory in Homer”. The Classical Journal, Vol. 44, No. 7 (Apr., 1949)
Thursday, March 4, 2010
William Blake (1757–1827)
TO see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.
A robin redbreast in a cage
Puts all heaven in a rage.
A dove-house fill’d with doves and pigeons
Shudders hell thro’ all its regions.
A dog starv’d at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.
A horse misused upon the road
Calls to heaven for human blood.
Each outcry of the hunted hare
A fibre from the brain does tear.
A skylark wounded in the wing
A cherubim does cease to sing.
The game-cock clipt and arm’d for fight
Does the rising sun affright.
Every wolf’s and lion’s howl
Raises from hell a human soul
The wild deer, wand’ring here and there,
Keeps the human soul from care.
The lamb misus’d breeds public strife,
And yet forgives the butcher’s knife.
The bat that flits at close of eve
Has left the brain that won’t believe.
The owl that calls upon the night
Speaks the unbeliever’s fright.
He who shall hurt the little wren
Shall never be belov’d by men.
He who the ox to wrath has mov’d
Shall never be by woman lov’d.
The wanton boy that kills the fly
Shall feel the spider’s enmity.
He who torments the chafer’s sprite
Weaves a bower in endless night.
The caterpillar on the leaf
Repeats to thee thy mother’s grief.
Kill not the moth nor butterfly,
For the last judgment draweth nigh.
He who shall train the horse to war
Shall never pass the polar bar.
The beggar’s dog and widow’s cat,
Feed them and thou wilt grow fat.
The gnat that sings his summer’s song
Poison gets from slander’s tongue.
The poison of the snake and newt
Is the sweat of envy’s foot.
The poison of the honey bee
Is the artist’s jealousy.
The prince’s robes and beggar’s rags
Are toadstools on the miser’s bags.
A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so;
Man was made for joy and woe;
And when this we rightly know,
Thro’ the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.
Under every grief and pine
Runs a joy with silken twine.
The babe is more than swaddling bands;
Throughout all these human lands
Tools were made, and born were hands,
Every farmer understands.
Every tear from every eye
Becomes a babe in eternity;
This is caught by females bright,
And return’d to its own delight.
The bleat, the bark, bellow, and roar,
Are waves that beat on heaven’s shore.
The babe that weeps the rod beneath
Writes revenge in realms of death.
The beggar’s rags, fluttering in air,
Does to rags the heavens tear.
The soldier, arm’d with sword and gun,
Palsied strikes the summer’s sun.
The poor man’s farthing is worth more
Than all the gold on Afric’s shore.
One mite wrung from the lab’rer’s hands
Shall buy and sell the miser’s lands;
Or, if protected from on high,
Does that whole nation sell and buy.
He who mocks the infant’s faith
Shall be mock’d in age and death.
He who shall teach the child to doubt
The rotting grave shall ne’er get out.
He who respects the infant’s faith
Triumphs over hell and death.
The child’s toys and the old man’s reasons
Are the fruits of the two seasons.
The questioner, who sits so sly,
Shall never know how to reply.
He who replies to words of doubt
Doth put the light of knowledge out.
The strongest poison ever known
Came from Caesar’s laurel crown.
Nought can deform the human race
Like to the armour’s iron brace.
When gold and gems adorn the plow,
To peaceful arts shall envy bow.
A riddle, or the cricket’s cry,
Is to doubt a fit reply.
The emmet’s inch and eagle’s mile
Make lame philosophy to smile.
He who doubts from what he sees
Will ne’er believe, do what you please.
If the sun and moon should doubt,
They’d immediately go out.
To be in a passion you good may do,
But no good if a passion is in you.
The whore and gambler, by the state
Licensed, build that nation’s fate.
The harlot’s cry from street to street
Shall weave old England’s winding-sheet.
The winner’s shout, the loser’s curse,
Dance before dead England’s hearse.
Every night and every morn
Some to misery are born,
Every morn and every night
Some are born to sweet delight.
Some are born to sweet delight,
Some are born to endless night.
We are led to believe a lie
When we see not thro’ the eye,
Which was born in a night to perish in a night,
When the soul slept in beams of light.
God appears, and God is light,
To those poor souls who dwell in night;
But does a human form display
To those who dwell in realms of day.
Monday, March 1, 2010
Moreover his death promises to be surrounded by others;
All this, the prophet said, will come to pass.
ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὅς κέ με πέφνῃ
γήρας ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον: ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ
ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται: τὰ δέ μοι φάτο πάντα τελεῖσθαι
(XXIII, 280 - 284)
...death shall come to me myself
far from the sea, a death so gentle, that shall lay me low,
when I am overcome with sleek old age, and my people
shall dwell in prosperity around me. All this, he said, should I see fulfilled.
(A.T. Murray, PH.D.)
θάνατος δέ τοι ἐξ ἁλὸς αὐτῷ
ἀβληχρὸς μάλα τοῖος ἐλεύσεται, ὅς κέ σε πέφν
γήραι ὕπο λιπαρῷ ἀρημένον: ἀμφὶ δὲ λαοὶ
ὄλβιοι ἔσσονται. τὰ δέ τοι νημερτέα εἴρω.
(XI, 134 - 137)
death shall come to thee thyself
far from the sea, a death so gentle, that shall lay thee low
when thou art overcome with sleek old age, and thy people
shall dwell in prosperity around thee. In this have I told thee sooth.
(A.T. Murray, PH.D.)
...though whether all that is true or part of a prevarication Odysseus relates to the Phaeacians remains unclear.
But it is what Odysseus says in book 23 where the sense is that at last he has come home; he has returned to unity with the woman he loves and will live out his days surrounded by people who love him. He is no longer τὸν δ᾽ οἶον - no longer one man alone, but a man with others in blissful happiness, heaven.