Pluto Fly By

Pluto heart

A big day today in astronomical circles as the NASA New Horizons space probe makes its closest pass to the dwarf planet Pluto.  The latest image to capture the imagination of the public is a picture of Pluto with a Heart Shaped coloration.  The latest data also suggests that like Mars, the planetoid Pluto is coloured red.  A veritable love heart in the outer reaches of the solar system.

So I thought the poem below seemed appropriate to mark the day.  Hades was the Greek lord of the underworld, Pluto the Roman equivalent.  Both share the tale of doomed love with the daughter of Demeter,the Goddess of Fertility.  The myth is that Persephone refused all food and drink, which would have allowed her to gain freedom from the underworld.  But she was tempted by a pomegranate and sucked out 90 of the 365 seeds in the fruit (I haven’t gotten around to counting a real fruit yet).   For three months she was bound to remain in Hades.  As a result, every year, we have 90 days when all plants die, and we call it winter.

A Myth of Devotion; by Louise Glück

When Hades decided he loved this girl
he built for her a duplicate of earth,
everything the same, down to the meadow,
but with a bed added.

Everything the same, including sunlight,
because it would be hard on a young girl
to go so quickly from bright light to utter darkness

Gradually, he thought, he’d introduce the night,
first as the shadows of fluttering leaves.
Then moon, then stars. Then no moon, no stars.
Let Persephone get used to it slowly.
In the end, he thought, she’d find it comforting.

A replica of earth
except there was love here.
Doesn’t everyone want love?

He waited many years,
building a world, watching
Persephone in the meadow.
Persephone, a smeller, a taster.
If you have one appetite, he thought,
you have them all.

Doesn’t everyone want to feel in the night
the beloved body, compass, polestar,
to hear the quiet breathing that says
I am alive, that means also
you are alive, because you hear me,
you are here with me. And when one turns,
the other turns—

That’s what he felt, the lord of darkness,
looking at the world he had
constructed for Persephone. It never crossed his mind
that there’d be no more smelling here,
certainly no more eating.

Guilt? Terror? The fear of love?
These things he couldn’t imagine;
no lover ever imagines them.

He dreams, he wonders what to call this place.
First he thinks: The New Hell. Then: The Garden.
In the end, he decides to name it
Persephone’s Girlhood.

A soft light rising above the level meadow,
behind the bed. He takes her in his arms.
He wants to say I love you, nothing can hurt you

but he thinks
this is a lie, so he says in the end
you’re dead, nothing can hurt you
which seems to him
a more promising beginning, more true.

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.