Category Archives: Virgil

Lacrimae rerum and mono no aware

A few weeks ago, I wrote about lacrimae rerum – “the tears of things” – a phrase from The Aeneid, which suggests a deep sorrow that manages to sublimate itself into art. Today, someone pointed me to the Japanese phrase “mono no aware“, which translates into something rather similar-sounding: “the pathos of things”:

“The meaning of the phrase mono no aware is complex and has changed over time, but it basically refers to a “pathos” (aware) of “things” (mono), deriving from their transience. In the classic anthology of Japanese poetry from the eighth century, the Manyōshū, the feeling of aware is typically triggered by the plaintive calls of birds or other animals. It also plays a major role in the world’s first novel, Murasaki Shikibu’s Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), from the early eleventh century.”

The interesting part is that mono no aware, as well, is ultimately about taking a raw emotion – sorrow – and sublimating it into a deeper experience of existence:

“The well known literary theorist Motoori Norinaga brought the idea of mono no aware to the forefront of literary theory with a study of The Tale of Genji that showed this phenomenon to be its central theme. He argues for a broader understanding of it as concerning a profound sensitivity to the emotional and affective dimensions of existence in general. The greatness of Lady Murasaki’s achievement consists in her ability to portray characters with a profound sense of mono no aware in her writing, such that the reader is able to empathize with them in this feeling.”

The connection is made even more clearly elsewhere:

“With this mood, acceptance of impermanence and insubstantiality is elevated into an aesthetic sensibility, a state of mind that actually appreciates this ephemerality… Moreover, mono no aware recognises that this ephemerality is somehow integral to beauty, that beauty depends on this kind of transiency.”

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Filed under Classical Poetry, Epic, Japan, Virgil

Some Thoughts on Shakespeare and Inter-textuality

I’ve just returned from watching a stupendous Globe Theatre production of Twelfth Night at West End. I haven’t read Twelfth Night for a while, and watching the play tonight, at a couple of points, I caught myself thinking of a few issues of inter-textuality.

It’s interesting how the intertwined themes of youth, time, aging, love, death and immortality occur and recur throughout the corpus of Shakespeare’s work – obsessively, almost. Sonnets 1 – 17 are collectively known as “the procreation sonnets“, and follow a common theme: Shakespeare accuses the youth of wanton cruelty, both to himself and to the world, for refusing to marry and bear children; because time will, eventually, erase and deface his beauty, and the only way in which it is possible to defeat time’s work is by begetting a son who will bear the youth’s image in the world, once he himself has become old and decrepit. So, Sonnet II:

When forty winters shall besiege thy brow,
And dig deep trenches in thy beauty’s field,
Thy youth’s proud livery so gazed on now,
Will be a totter’d weed of small worth held: 
Then being asked, where all thy beauty lies,
Where all the treasure of thy lusty days; 
To say, within thine own deep sunken eyes,
Were an all-eating shame, and thriftless praise.
How much more praise deserv’d thy beauty’s use,
If thou couldst answer ‘This fair child of mine
Shall sum my count, and make my old excuse,’
Proving his beauty by succession thine!
This were to be new made when thou art old,
And see thy blood warm when thou feel’st it cold.

The very famous Sonnet XII:

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls, all silvered o’er with white; 
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves,
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
   And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

And one of my personal favourites, Sonnet XVI:

But wherefore do not you a mightier way
Make war upon this bloody tyrant, Time?
And fortify your self in your decay
With means more blessed than my barren rhyme?
Now stand you on the top of happy hours,
And many maiden gardens, yet unset,
With virtuous wish would bear you living flowers,
Much liker than your painted counterfeit:
So should the lines of life that life repair,
Which this, Time’s pencil, or my pupil pen,
Neither in inward worth nor outward fair,
Can make you live your self in eyes of men.
To give away yourself, keeps yourself still,
And you must live, drawn by your own sweet skill.

Shakespeare’s brooding, melancholic preoccupation with time and mortality and their destruction of all beauty, has been familiar to me through his sonnets, where these themes form a very self-contained whole. But tonight, I started when I heard the identical sentiment voiced in Twelfth Nigh, this cry of anguish from Viola as she attempts to persuade the hard-hearted Olivia to accept the Duke Orsino’s suit:

‘Tis beauty truly blent, whose red and white
Nature’s own sweet and cunning hand laid on:
Lady, you are the cruell’st she alive,
If you will lead these graces to the grave
And leave the world no copy(Twelfth Night, Act I Sc V)

Here again, you have the language of the sonnets: praise of beauty, anger at the beauteous one’s unwillingness to marry and procreate, and an affirmation that the only way to defeat time is through producing the likeness of your beauty in your children. I now wonder how often this theme recurs in this way throughout Shakespeare’s plays.

The second issue, even more interesting. Consider this famous wooing scene from Webster’s Duchess of Malfi:

DUCHESS: Sir, this goodly roof of yours, is too low built;
I cannot stand upright in’t nor discourse,
Without I raise it higher. Raise yourself,
Or, if you please, my hand to help you: so.

ANTONIO: Ambition, madam, is a great man’s madness,
That is not kept in chains and close-pent rooms
But in fair lightsome lodgings and is girt
With the wild noise of prattling visitants
Which makes it lunatic beyond all cure.
Conceive not I am so stupid but I aim
Whereto your favors tend: but he’s a fool,
That being a-cold, would thrust his hands i’th’ fire
To warm them.

DUCHESS: So now the ground’s broke,
You may discover what a wealthy mine
I make you lord of.

ANTONIO: O, my unworthiness!

DUCHESS: You were ill to sell yourself.
This darkening of your worth is not like that
Which tradesmen use i’th’ city; their false lights
Are to rid bad wares off. And I must tell you,
If you will know where breathes a complete man
(I speak it without flattery) turn your eyes,
And progress through yourself.

ANTONIO: Were there nor heaven nor hell,
I should be honest: I have long serv’d virtue,
And ne’er ta’en wages of her.

DUCHESS: Now she pays it.
The misery of us that are born great!
We are forc’d to woo, because none dare woo us.

And Maria’s imitated letter, in the hand of Olivia, to Malvolio in Twelfth Night:

If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I
am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some
are born great, some achieve greatness, and some
have greatness thrust upon ’em. Thy Fates open
their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;
and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,
cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be
opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let
thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into
the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee
that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy
yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever
cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art
made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see
thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and
not worthy to touch Fortune’s fingers. Farewell.
She that would alter services with thee,

Ignoring for a moment that one is a dialogue, and the other a letter, there are some striking similarities in content (in Shakespeare’s case, let us suspend our knowledge of the farce for a moment). Both are instances of high-born women taking the (rare) initiative to initiate proceedings through a declaration of love, since they know that the difference in social hierarchy between themselves and the men they love will always prevent him from making the first move. Both contain very similar imagery, and the exhortation to the man that “his life is made“, if only he will overcome his inhibitions and take what is offered. And indeed, the two even use similar vocabulary, albeit in different contexts: “born great” is a striking phrase present in both.

Twelfth Night was performed in 1602, and The Duchess of Malfi ten years later. I suppose it is probable that Webster was well-aware of Twelfth Night, and consciously or sub-consciously modeled the essence of his scene on Shakespeare’s prototype. Of course, there is one crucial difference: in Twelfth Night, the fake letter is a device of the comic form, and is the starting point for some of the most farcical and hilarious incidents in the play. On the other hand, the parallel scene in Malfi is the foundation of all the tragic events that follow – you couldn’t possibly have a more serious scene, more gravitas, than when the Duchess decides to woo Antonio. So, same motifs – but in entirely different contexts.

This, I think, lets us reflect upon fascinating issues of inter-textuality and allusive reference within literary traditions. Allusion was the stock-in-trade of the classic scholars, and from what I’ve read, it served broadly two purposes: it allowed the poet to place himself within the tradition – and thus, in a sense, define himself (in a relatively stable way) to his readers; by referencing known and established authors of a canon, the poet defined his genre, placed at least approximate limits upon the scope of his creative exercise, and generated certain specific expectations of form and content within his readers. But in changing the context of the allusion, and thus making it mean or signify something different, the poet also established his own individuality and unique voice for the reader.

Here, as in most things classical, Virgil leads the way. Right from the opening line, “Arms and the man, I sing…“, which, in a dual reference to The Iliad (“arms”) and The Odyssey (“the man”) establishes that The Aeneid is going to be both a war-epic and a quest-epic, Virgil’s epic is full of allusions to Homer, to Ennius, and to all the other epic poets of note. And Virgil, as I’ve noted on a few occasions before, is master of subversion and defamiliarisation. It would be the subject of a full, separate post to go into the complexity of the allusions in The Aeneid (and I am only just about competent to skim the surface), but I think that even this much is enough for us to think seriously about our ideas of authorship, of originality, and of where the point lies in literature. Is it that when one writer has come up with a motif, or a theme, or a particular treatment of it, that we ought to recognise it as his, and to castigate others who incorporate it into their own works as lacking in originality? Or ought we to regard those motifs and everything else as part of the tradition, and simply judge a writer on the basis of how well he uses them? In his essay, What Is An Author?, Foucault points out that the idea of single, individual authorship in the strong sense as we know it is an invention of the modern world. Perhaps that explains the allusion-heavy, intertextual nature many classic writings; and also explains why, in responses to allegations of plagiarism, Virgil was able to reply, blandly, “It is as easy to steal the club from Hercules as a line from Homer” – because it didn’t really matter whether he had used the same words or images, or motifs, or even themes as Homer – what mattered was how well The Aeneid read, how good an epic it was. Perhaps, then, there is no given, a priori, in-the-nature-of-things reason for our convictions about individuality, authorship and originality to be as they are (they certainly weren’t this way in the genre of oral epics, for instance). Perhaps we ought to think about them as deeply and as carefully as we think about, say, the ethical dimensions of writing literature; and perhaps, if we find that there is no basis or warrant for them, we ought to modify, or even discard, these basic notions with which we, now, approach all our texts.

The Duchess of Malfi

Twelfth Night:


Filed under Allusion and Inter-textuality, Epic, Literary Studies/Criticism/Theory, Shakespeare, Virgil

Musings on The Aeneid – II: Carthage, Dido and Empire

Ostensibly, The Aeneid is a paean to the Roman Empire, a triumphant celebration of Roman overlordship over the known world, and a joyous vindication of Roman virtues. What, then, are we to make of Book IV, and the encounter between Aeneas and Dido, Queen of Carthage? In brief: Aeneas lands upon Carthage, and is warmly received by Dido who, herself originally a refugee, is now engaged in building a great city. By the machinations of Venus and the arrows of Cupid, Dido is made to fall passionately and irrevocably in love with Aeneas. During a hunt, they shelter in the same cave from a ferocious storm, and something – we are never told what – happens between them. Subsequently, Dido believes they are married; Aeneas’ own actions, in adopting the Carthaginian dress and customs, and himself overseeing the building of the city, suggests nothing to the contrary. Until Mercury, sent down by Jove, sternly comes to Aeneas and reminds him of his heaven-decreed mission – the founding of Rome. Struck by remorse, Aeneas determines to promptly set sail. All of Dido’s entreaties are in vain. Aeneas, courteous but firm, leaves; and Dido commits suicide by throwing herself on a funeral pyre and burning to death.

Maurice Bowra, in his From Virgil to Milton, has a straightforward explanation. The story is a synecdochic representation of the inevitable advance of Roman civilisation and Roman virtue, and the corresponding yielding of the “barbaric”. Dido, it is to be noted, is a classically Homeric character (much like Turnus, who also dies at the end of The Aeneid). Strong-willed, highly individualistic, uncontrollably passionate – all qualities that would have stood her in good stead in The Iliad or the The Odyssey, built as they are on the cult of larger-than-life individual heroes. But the Roman world, with its focus on duty, self-control and the priority of Rome over the individual, simply has no place for Homeric – barbarian – characters, and the fate of Dido is simply an inevitable – if sad – corollary to that undeniable truth.

And yet, as ever, in The Aeneid, things aren’t quite so simple. In my earlier post, I wrote about Parry’s description of the two “voices” of The Aeneid – the “public voice”, that is, the glorification of Empire – and the “private voice” that, side by side, casts doubt upon and subverts the public. In Book IV, the private voice, I think, is at its strongest.

To start with, recall who Dido is. She is the Queen of Carthage, Rome’s fiercest, deadliest and most implacable historical enemy. During the three Punic Wars, Rome came as near to its destruction as it ever during its history. Hannibal marched his army right up to the gates of the Eternal City, and it is said that even at the time of Virgil and Augustus, Roman mothers would frighten their children with tales of Hannibal. We know of Cato’s delenda est Carthago to the Senate, and we know that at the end of the third Punic War, the Romans furrowed the Carthaginian soil and sprinkled salt over it to signal their determination that Carthage would never be allowed to rise again.

With all that in the background, note lines 12 and 13 of Book I:

urbs antiqua fuit (Tyrii tenuere coloni)
Karthago, Italiam contra Tiberinaque longe

That is, “an ancient city there was, named Carthage/ inhabited by a colony of Tyrians.”

What is crucial to observe here is that the very first time “city” is mentioned in The Aeneid, a poem presumably about the city of Rome, it is Rome’s greatest enemy, Carthage, and what’s more, this comes immediately after Virgil’s invocation of the Muse! This, it would seem, would have had a profoundly destablising effect upon the Roman reader. And this is continued later in Book I, where the description of Carthage closely matches that of Rome. There are “marvelous buildings, gateways, cobbled ways“; there is the “din of wagons“; the building of citadels, the enactment of laws, the choosing of magistrates, and of a senate, the dredging of harbours, the building of a theater – the entire scene is compared to that of a hive of bees, and it could not be more Roman in character. Dido herself welcomes Aeneas’ company, and invites them to live in Carthage “on equal terms” with her own Tyrians. Remarking on this entire scene, Davidson puts the point beautifully:

“Virgil’s punic passages, in short, provide a perfect opportunity for the discourse of orientalism. Confronted with Carthage Flaubert comes up with Salammbo and Petrarch with his epic Africa, two monuments of Western discourse of the Eastern Other, but Virgil misses his appointment with anti-Semitism. Why isn’t Rome’s greatest enemy a cruel and foreign nation? Why isn’t Juno Tanit? Why don’t the Carthaginians practice human sacrifice? Why aren’t the Carthaginians more Carthaginian?” 

(And this is especially fascinating when one considers that historically, one of the grounds for the Roman claim of cultural superiority over Carthage was the continuing Carthaginian practice of human sacrifice.)

And if Carthage is like a Rome, then logically, Dido, as its leader and governor, exhibits quintessentially Roman virtues (until the gods intervene). She is kind and hospitable to the Trojans, and she acts in every way a ruler should – comforting them and providing them refuge. And she is also a ruler in a more general sense, as the entire building of Carthage is taking place under her supervision – she is, essentially, an ideal Roman administrator! The character of Dido is fascinating – despite being female and Carthaginian, she is depicted as a ruler, as well as possessing a strong character. In other words, she is the precise opposite of the passive vessel that is Lavinia, but neither is she villainous, like Turnus becomes, at a certain point.

But most starkly, perhaps, this sense of defamiliarisation is heightened further in the beginning of the famous cave scene:

Speluncam Dido dux et Troianus eandem deuenient...”

Ostensibly, this means “Dido and the Trojan leader to the cave came.” However, the word “dux” can apparently classify either “Dido” or “the Trojan”; in other words, another grammatically correct way of reading this line is “Dido the leader and the Trojan…” – and this has Dido, not only as a Carthaginian, but also as a woman, taking the lead in her interactions with Aeneas (see here for a nice analysis of the Latin grammar at issue).

So at this stage, we have Carthage, an almost Rome, and the queen, despite being Carthaginian and female, being a “leader”. The private voice is in full flow.

Not only that, Dido’s grief and fury at her abandonment by Aeneas is not simply the passion of a woman scorned. On learning that Mercury himself, at the behest of Jove, has commanded Aeneas to leave, she bursts out:

What fit employment/ For heaven’s high powers! What anxieties/ To plague serene immortals!

As this article, and many others, point out, this is not only a protest, it is a presentation of another worldview altogether, one which is opposed to the dominant theme of the Aeneid. What this suggests is the Epicurean idea of disinterested gods, who have far better things to do with their time than meddle in petty human affairs. Of course, throughout The Aeneid, on the other hand, it Aeneas’ mission is near-constantly referred to as being divinely-sanctioned and heaven-approved. While Dido’s death may represent Epicureanism’s defeat, just as it represents the defeat of the Homeric character, it is nonetheless an instance what D.P. Fowler calls “deviant focalisation” in the Aeneid – that is, the presentation of perspectives that are at variance with the narrator’s perspective, with Virgil’s perspective. To put it in a way that I think captures the issue, The Aeneid is extraordinarily susceptible to a resistant reading – or, more accurately, many resistant readings.

This is buttressed by what Feeney says, even more simply: that there is available in the Aenid, the material to construct an opposite kind of argument. A reading of Book IV will illustrate the point – Dido is far more eloquent than Aeneas. Perhaps it is now an inescapable modern sensibility speaking, a bondage within a Gadamer-esque horizon, but surely, Dido’s speeches are more convincing, more passionate, and far more beautifully spoken than Aeneas’ – whether it be about Epicureanism, or her own agony at being abandoned. So Virgil essentially gives the best lines to the very person who is supposedly destined to be pushed aside in a world that no longer has any use for her like, who is doomed from the start, whose entire raison d’etre is to only provide Aeneas with another barrier on his obstacle-laden quest for founding Rome.

And that, in summation, is why I enjoy reading The Aeneid so much, and why I think it absolutely must be on any list of great works of Western literature or, for that matter, on any to-read list. It is supposedly a song of Empire, but it makes the Empire’s greatest enemy hold up a mirror to itself. It is apparently the celebration of a man, the founder of Rome, a hero – but that man is anything but heroic, plagued as he is by self-doubt, and prone to committing morally dubious acts. It is meant to be a celebration of Roman virtues, but the so-called barbarians have the best and the most eloquent lines. And so on. The poem deals with themes crucial to the human condition, and even as it builds up one narrative, it simultaneously undermines it, directly at times, and subtly at times; perhaps Fowler exaggerates when he says that The Aeneid has as many ways of interpreting it as there are readers – but for me, that is, indeed, the core of its greatness – the multiplicity of meanings and ideas in the text, and the conflict that subsists between them, while all the time being acceptable readings and interpretations of the text itself, leaves one with no easy conclusions, and forces one to think about these things, afresh and deeply. And all the way, through the medium of unforgettable characters such as the likes of Dido, queen of Carthage. And not only this, it is especially instructive, I think, to think about how most Empire writing voluntarily or involuntarily, deliberately or reflexively, consciously or unconsciously, always casts the “Other” as fundamentally different and opposed, so that the self can be defined more sharply, more starkly, by the opposition. It is beautiful – and moving – to see how such definitions simply break down and dissolve in The Aeneid, the supposed archetype of Empire writing, how this trite, annoying play of opposites expands into something infinitely more subtle, more complex, and ultimately, non-judgmental. Like an impressionist painting, it is the reader who must complete, for himself, the full picture, from the brush-strokes and play of colours before him.

To end: some passages from Book IV, which is certainly my favourite part of The Aeneid.

Virgil on unspoken love:

Alas, what darkened minds have soothsayers!                                                                             What good are shrines and vows to maddened lovers?                                                                 The inward fire eats the soft marrow away,                                                                                   And the internal wound bleeds on in silence.

Dido in agony:

“What shall I say first, with so much to say?”

She prayed then to whatever power may care                                                                                    In comprehending justice for the grief                                                                                                 Of lovers bound unequally by love.

It was not given to me to lead my life                                                                                                  Without new passion, innocently, the way                                                                                          Wild creatures live, and not to touch these depths.


Filed under Empire, Epic, Virgil

Musings on the Aeneid – I

I will start by discussing one of my favourite lines in all of poetry.

Arva neque Ausoniae semper cedentia retro 

(Virgil, Aeneid, Book III, 496 – 7)

My Fitzgerald translation has this down as:

No quest for dim lands of Ausonia/ Receding ever.

Here is the full context: Aeneas has escaped from the sack of Troy, and has been charged with the burden of founding Rome (Virgil sums up the gravity of Aeneas’ task with another line, beautiful for its brevity – “Tantae molis erat Romanam condere gentem” (Bk I, 33), translated by Fitzgerald as “so hard and huge/ A task it was to found the Roman people). He has been sailing the seas, seeking Italy, the pre-destined place, the only place where he can come to land permanently, and he has been meeting one peril and misfortune after another. At length he arrives in Epirus, where his kinsman Helenus has established himself, and rules in peace and plenty. He is also an augury, and he predicts a long and troubled journey for Aeneas before he can succeed in his task. When the time then comes to say farewell, Aeneas can scarce forbear to weep; and he laments:

‘Be happy, friends; your fortune is achieved,/ While one fate beckons us and then another./ Here is your quiet rest; no sea to plow,/ No quest for dim lands of Ausonia/ Receding ever.‘”

In his beautiful article, “The Two Voices of Virgil’s Aeneid“, Adam Parry cites this as one of the examples of a “private voice” in The Aeneid, that sets itself up in opposition to, and regularly subverts the dominant, commonly understood “public voice”, that is, the paean to Augustus Caesar and the Roman Empire. In this line, the private voice suggests that although, of course, Aeneas will eventually reach Italy and establish Rome, in another, more meaningful sense, his labours are destined to have no ending, and, in Parry’s words, the “end… will see him as far from his fulfillment as his beginning. This other Italy will never cease receding into the distance.” (Parry, 1963). I’ll take the truth of this argument as my starting point.

Let me try to explain my response to this understanding of the lines by quoting one of my most-loved poets, Lord Byron, at his most Byronic:

Man’s greatest tragedy is that he can conceive of a perfection that he cannot attain.”

This, of course, is the tragedy of Manfred, maybe of Childe Harold, in parts, and certainly of Byron, in his last poem, “On This Day, I Complete my Thirty-Sixth Year.” Byron’s words are simple, blunt, almost brutal – and for that reason, utterly compelling. Their power, I think, lies in the fact that they identify the truth, and present it to us unvarnished and unadorned. For anyone who has ever struggled with anything that seems greater than himself, be it the writing of a poem or the building of a bridge that for all its elegance, still seems incomplete in some unidentifiable way (take any other example here – details don’t matter) cannot, I feel, fail to be profoundly moved by this line. Camus understands this aspect of the human condition perfectly when he makes one of his characters, throughout all the pages of The Plague, struggle with the opening line of his planned novel, struggling for a perfection that he knows exists, but which always evades him, eludes him, flees from him even as he grasps futilely for it. He dies of plague before he can finish the first page.

What Byron achieves through a perfect phrase and Camus through a perfect example, Virgil does in an infinitely more powerful way – through a perfect image. In that one line and a bit, by presenting a single picture of your destination that is receding from you even as you’re striving to reach it, he enters your soul. The Ausonian fields are a metaphor for life. You are always striving, striving for that goal, that destination, a destination that, like those Ausonian fields, you know nothing about apart from the fact that you’re striving for it, and like the horizon, it always recedes from you, so that it doesn’t matter how fast and how long you run, how determined and resolute – or lucky – you are. There it is, at the edge of your vision, so that you always know that it exists, and you’re always reaching, trying, running (sigue corriendo!), and yet deep inside you, you’re aware of the Sisyphean futility of the endeavour, because the horizon will always remain as far away as it is when you begin.

And that, I think, sums up the greatness of Virgil. A single line and a word. A perfect image. And you come out of it deeply affected, deeply troubled, and deeply moved.

Of course, not all poets are so pessimistic. C.P. Cavafy, in his brilliant – and justly famous poem, Ithaka, compares life to Odysseus’ journey home after Troy. Only, Cavafy’s traveler faces no Scylla or Charybdis, no annoying sorceresses with a penchant for turning people into pigs, and no terrifying one-eyed cannibalistic monsters. On the contrary, there are summer mornings of pleasure and joy, when you discover new harbours, Phoenican traders with exquisite wares, and Egyptian cities with great scholars. And in the end, you do reach Ithaka, in your old age, and the journey has made you rich beyond your dreams.

It is a beautiful poem. Cavafy inspires and makes us dream. But Virgil, I feel, plumbs the truth.


Byron on his 36th:

They are both brilliant poems, although in very different ways. Much recommended

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Filed under Camus, Epic, Existentialism, Lord Byron, Romanticism, Virgil