What the Hades?

pomegranate.jpg

Sylvia Plath did not come up on the English Leaving cert exam yesterday.  To the relief of about 70% of Irish students they did feature Eavan Boland.  Disaster avoided for now.  But one of these days some evil death god of an examiner will set an exam that features no female poets and when that happens the moaning and wailing will be heard for many, many years.

The Pomegranate ;by Eavan Boland

 

The only legend I have ever loved is
the story of a daughter lost in hell.
And found and rescued there.
Love and blackmail are the gist of it.
Ceres and Persephone the names.
And the best thing about the legend is
I can enter it anywhere. And have.
As a child in exile in
a city of fogs and strange consonants,
I read it first and at first I was
an exiled child in the crackling dusk of
the underworld, the stars blighted. Later
I walked out in a summer twilight
searching for my daughter at bed-time.
When she came running I was ready
to make any bargain to keep her.
I carried her back past whitebeams
and wasps and honey-scented buddleias.
But I was Ceres then and I knew
winter was in store for every leaf
on every tree on that road.
Was inescapable for each one we passed.
And for me.
 
It is winter
and the stars are hidden.
I climb the stairs and stand where I can see
my child asleep beside her teen magazines,
her can of Coke, her plate of uncut fruit.
The pomegranate! How did I forget it?
She could have come home and been safe
and ended the story and all
our heart-broken searching but she reached
out a hand and plucked a pomegranate.
She put out her hand and pulled down
the French sound for apple and
the noise of stone and the proof
that even in the place of death,
at the heart of legend, in the midst
of rocks full of unshed tears
ready to be diamonds by the time
the story was told, a child can be
hungry. I could warn her. There is still a chance.
The rain is cold. The road is flint-coloured.
The suburb has cars and cable television.
The veiled stars are above ground.
It is another world. But what else
can a mother give her daughter but such
beautiful rifts in time?
If I defer the grief I will diminish the gift.
The legend will be hers as well as mine.
She will enter it. As I have.
She will wake up. She will hold
the papery flushed skin in her hand.
And to her lips. I will say nothing.

Eris; discord and strife

Peleus, one of the Argonauts, is one of the more interesting characters in Greek mythology.  After his adventures with Heracales and the Amazons and Jason and the Golden Fleece he settled down to marry Antigone.  After a hunting accident he was purified of the killing of King Eurytion (his father in law) by another Argonaut, Acastus.

The wife of Acastus, Astydamia fell in love with Peleus, but he scorned her.  In retribution she sent a messenger to Antigone telling her that her husband was marrying another, and Antigone hanged herself.

She also told her husband that Peleus had tried to rape her (not a nice lady).  Acastus took Peleus hunting and stole his sword so that he would be killed by the Centaurs.  But Peleus got his sword back, sacked the city that had tried to kill him, chopped up Astydamia in to little pieces, and marched his army between the bits.

Peleus then went on to marry Thetis the sea nymph and a shape changer.  Peleus had to sneak up on her when she was asleep and bind her tight.  She changed into flame, a lioness, water and a serpent, but he clung on tightly.  At last she settled down and agreed to marry him.  The child of Peleus and Thetis was Achilles.

But we are here today because of their wedding.  Lots of Gods and Goddesses were invited to the wedding, in particular Aphrodite, Athena and Hera.  Eris, the goddess of strife and discord, was not invited, because she was always causing trouble!  She was very upset and in response she tossed the “Apple of Discord” into the middle of the celebration.

The golden apple from the Garden of the Hesperides was inscribed “for the fairest one”.  So the ladies started fighting over who should get it.  The job of awarding the apple was given to the hapless Paris of Troy.

Hera bribed him with power, the Kingship of Europe and Asia.  Athene bribed him with wisdom.  Aphrodite won the bet by offering him the most beautiful mortal woman in the world, Helen, wife of Menelaus of Sparta.  The result was the Trojan War.

So it all came down to not inviting Eris to the wedding!  On January 5th in 2005 the Palomar Observatory discovered a new planet that they named “Eris”.  True to her name she sowed discord amongst the astronomical community.  Larger than Pluto she was originally posited as the 10th planet.  Then the rules were changed in 2006 and the designation of “Dwarf Planet” was introduced.  Pluto lost status as a planet and was demoted to join with Eris, Ceres, Haumea and Makemake.

Epic; by Patrick Kavanagh

I have lived in important places, times
When great events were decided, who owned
That half a rood of rock, a no-man’s land
Surrounded by our pitchfork-armed claims.
I heard the Duffys shouting “Damn your soul!”
And old McCabe stripped to the waist, seen
Step the plot defying blue cast-steel –
“Here is the march along these iron stones.”
That was the year of the Munich bother. Which
Was more important? I inclined
To lose my faith in Ballyrush and Gortin
Till Homer’s ghost came whispering to my mind.
He said: I made the Iliad from such
A local row. Gods make their own importance.