Saturday, November 17, 2012


Aeneas his contracted body bends,
And o'er him high the riven targe extends,
Sees, through its parting plates, the upper air,
And at his back perceives the quivering spear:
A fate so near him, chills his soul with fright;
And swims before his eyes the many-colour'd light.

I had the Iliad with me in the hospital. I've been reading it forever. I've been going back and forth between Chapman and Pope's translations because they're sort of legendary. The above is from Pope.

The scene is Aeneas, son of the goddess of love, warrior of the doomed city of Troy, looking up through the hole in his shield. He had raised it over his head to deflect the spear of the mightiest of Greek warriors, Achilles -- only the spear has shot right through it and is next to him, stuck in the ground, having missed him by inches.

What about this classic, epic representation of a man in the moment of realizing his own mortality seems relevant to me right now? Can't possibly imagine. Probably it's just because I love the expression "riven targe" so much.

But the most mysterious part of it is that last bit, Pope's invention. If you almost die, is there a many-colour'd light that you see? The physical manifestation of a rapid succession of flashbacks, perhaps? What is it about the close call that results in riven light? In seeing the many colors that make up the white?

No comments: