March 7, 2006

Searching Among the Ashes

Posted in mythology, poetry at 11:47 am by Jerry

Mutability
by Percy Bysshe Shelley

We are the clouds that veil the midnight moon;
How restlessly they speed, and gleam, and quiver,
Streaking the darkness radiantly!–yet soon
Night closes round, and they are lost forever:

Or like forgotten lyres, whose dissonant strings
Give various response to each varying blast,
To whose frail frame no second motion brings
One mood or modulation like the last.

We rest.–A dream has power to poison sleep;
We rise.–One wandering thought pollutes the day;
We feel, conceive or reason, laugh or weep;
Embrace fond foe, or cast our cares away:

It is the same!–For, be it joy or sorrow,
The path of its departure still is free:
Man's yesterday may ne'er be like his morrow;
Nought may endure but Mutability.

[There's no error here. Both poets from the Romantic period were inspired to write about the same theme, giving their poems the same title.]

Mutability
by William Wordsworth

From low to high doth dissolution climb,
And sink from high to low, along a scale
Of awful notes, whose concord shall not fail:
A musical but melancholy chime,
Which they can hear who meddle not with crime,
Nor avarice, nor over-anxious care.
Truth fails not; but her outward forms that bear
The longest date do melt like frosty rime,
That in the morning whitened hill and plain
And is no more; drop like the tower sublime
Of yesterday, which royally did wear
His crown of weeds, but could not even sustain
Some casual shout that broke the silent air,
Or the unimaginable touch of Time.

Lately, I've been wanting to wear a pair of magical glasses with one lense that would only reveal that which is unchanging and the other lens revealing that which can change. It would be a curious experience, to look at the living and see if there is anything that doesn't move, their own statue self.

After reading Homer, I thought the Greek gods were created to represent statues that exist beyond the experience of one person. These statues are "Love," "Thunder and Lightning," "Marriage," "Sea/Earthquakes," "War," "Artisans," "Wisdom," "Travel/Thievery," "Home," "Agriculture," "the Sun/Poetry," "the Moon," and "Death."

What remains among the ashes? What can endure the power of Mutability?

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1 Comment »

  1. Shuana said,

    What a great observation! I taught Odyssey in my internship last fall. I thought the gods were created to personify abstract concepts. For instance, how do we explain thunder/lightening to kids? We personify it by saying stuff like “God is bowling.” Moving the child from the known to the unknown. What is so great about greek mythology is that the peronifications (ie gods) are shown in relationship to one another. This helps us visualize how concepts interact and relate/oppose each other. For instance, the dynamics between Love (Aphrodite or Venus) and War (Ares or Mars) shows a relationship between these two forces (and of course the War of Troy was fought over Helen!)

    I realize my comments have nothing to do with mutability. I have to ponder this connection.


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