The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Monday, September 04, 2006


I read on Michael Gilleland's blog a while back a quote from George Gissing, which chimed with me, as it made me think about my own continuing interest in the culture of Southern Italy, which is a little irrational as it's a place I have never been and whose language I don't speak. Chimed twice over, in fact, as Gissing himself was in Southern Italy when he wrote it.

Then I came across this in a poem by Wilfred Owen:

For after Spring had bloomed in early Greece,
And Summer blazed her glory out with Rome,

An Autumn softly fell, a harvest home,
A slow grand age, and rich with all increase.
But now, for us, wild Winter, and the need
Of sowings for new Spring, and blood for seed.

This fetishistic attitude to ancient Rome and Greece has of course been going on for centuries, and is more than a little ridiculous. I suspect it has to do with a deeply ingrained notion of the Fall, at least in the Christian West, or possibly a more general belief in a lost paradise. As the introduction to Kevin Rushby's new book on the subject points out, we only start believing in paradise when we feel that we have fallen from it, that things have been going to the dogs ever since - and in the comfortably solid artifacts and literature of Greece and Rome - comfortably distant so that we can project out hopes and fears onto them - we have the proof that it really used to exist. It even gets into Star Trek.

Then again, when I was listening to The Odyssey recently, I suddenly realised, my God, this is Star Trek - captain and crew land on strange island, mysterious seductive woman with tame monsters beguiles them and tries to seduce captain, who has to use his wits get them all out of trouble, etc etc.


At 26 September 2006 at 11:45 , Blogger Yvonne said...

Hesiod's Works and Days contains the classical Greek account of the fall, from the Golden Age, to the Silver Age, to the Bronze Age, to the Iron Age. (lines 109-201)


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