Saturday, September 13, 2008
Friday is for Ad Fontes
I'm still reading Ovid's Metamorphoses and this is what I've seen this week:
1. After death, don't bring flowers, become flowers. After Narcissus died his body transformed into a flower with a circle of white petals round a yellow centre. I call this resurrection for the flower children!
2. Ovid sues Shakespeare for plagiarism. You know how in Romeo and Juliet that they were from warring families and the lovers die in the end when Juliet fakes her death, Romeo didn't know it was faked so he committs suicide, and then Juliet wakes up finds Romeo dead and then committs suicide herself? This is straight out of Metamorphoses book four about Pyramus and Thisbe. I am most disappointed in Shakespeare and I think that all teenagers taking English literature 101 should boycott the class as a protest against this kind of unbridled plagiarism.
3. How do you get to Hades? According to Ovid, "There is a road that slopes downhill, all gloomy with funeral yew. It leads to the underworld, through regions mute and silent. There the sluggish Styx breathes forth its mists, and by that path descend the ghosts of those newly dead, the shades of mortals duly laid to rest in their tombs. Far and wide the desolate spot is wrapped in gloomy chill. The ghosts, but lately come, do not know where the road lies, that leads to the Stygian city, nor where to go to find the grim palace of dusky Dis. His populous city has a thousand approaches, and gates on every side, all standing open. As the sea absorbs rivers from all over the earth, so does that place receive every soul: it is never too small, however great the throng. New crowds arriving make no difference. Lifeless shadows without body or bones wander about, some josting in the market-place, some round the palace of the underworld's king, while others busy themselves with the trades which they practised in the old days, when they were alive. others again, are subjected to punishment, each according to his crime."
4. Don't ever, ever let a nymph hug you! Why not, well a demi-God named Hermaphroditus, when he was only 15 years old, had the unfortunate luck of being the object of infatuation of a nymph named Salmacis. Salmacis tried to grope poor Hermie who strenuously resisted the designs of the amarous and love-lusting nymph. She then twined herself around him, they fell into a pool, and she said: "You may fight, you rogue, but you will not escape. May the gods grant me this, may no time to come ever separate him from me, or me from him!" So it goes: "Her prayers found favour with the gods: for, as they lay together, their bodies were united and from being two persons they became one. As when a gardener grafts a branch on to a tree, and sees the two unite as they grow, and come to maturity together, so when their limbs met in that clinging embrace the nymph and the boy were no longer two, but a single form, possessed of a dual nature, which could not be called male or female, but seemed to be at once both and neither." Hermie then prays that if any man goes into the same pool that he would rise out of it both male and female. Can't help but notice that going into the waters and rising out of it both male and female is a little reminiscient of Gal. 3.27-28 (with differences of course since Paul negates ethnicity, election, and gender)!