I didn’t have a classical education. There is a whole aspect to mythology that goes beyond the Greek gods. The internet defines mythology as “a collection of such stories that is a vital feature of every culture. Various origins for myths have been proposed, ranging from personification of nature, personification of natural phenomena to truthful or hyperbolic accounts of historical events, to explanations of existing ritual.” My knowledge of mythology has been gleaned from watching TV programmes like “Zena, Princess Warrior”, “Hercules, the Legendary Journeys” and, much more recently, the BBC series “Atlantis”. It would not be my chosen topic if I applied for Mastermind.
I managed to find a Carol Anne Duffy poem – her take on Medusa, and a poem about Eurydice by Sue Hubbard. It wasn’t Sue’s poem that enthused me but the story about it being written in an underground pass. It had become a familiar landmark. I dare say that people walking through the underground pass regularly could recite it not because they had learnt it by heart, but through taking in the words unconsciously just walking by them. Did the poem get into Trip Advisor or Planet Earth as a must-see landmark in London? Whatever, a clean-up operation saw it painted over. Following complaints there might be plans to put it back up.
The various themes that the Poetry Appreciation Group comes up with has encouraged me to hunt down poems. Once upon a time I was a poet-dunce. I could write poetry but reading was not my forte. Since joining the group I have become familiar with poets – even made friends with a few. There are gems out there,
“Icarus” by Edward Field is my latest favourite. In the original story Icarus flew too close to the sun, the wax on his wings melted and he plummeted into the sea and drowned. But, suggests Mr Field, what if he didn’t drown but simply swam off and landed on some distant shore? Read the whole poem about Mr Hick and what he does. The final stanzas are heart breaking.
And nightly Icarus probes his wound
And daily in his workshop, curtains carefully drawn,
Constructs small wings and tries to fly
To the lighting fixture on the ceiling:
Fails every time and hates himself for trying.
He had thought himself a hero, had acted heroically,
And dreamt of his fall, the tragic fall of the hero;
But now rides commuter trains,
Serves on various committees,
And wishes he had drowned.
There are times when I think I have led a very ordinary, mediocre life. I think I haven’t done anything heroic. But that isn’t true. I don’t know what percentage of the population live ordinary lives and don’t really have adventures. I’m not one of them. Sometimes I forget the extraordinary things I have done.
Icarus, in the poem, spends his time trying to replicate his heroic flight, but finds it impossible. There isn’t really a next thing for him. He is stuck in a memory of an extraordinary experience and there isn’t anything to top it. He has nowhere to go in terms of adventures. Life in a house, with a garden, saying “Hello” to neighbours is a poor substitute for what he had.
Icarus challenges me to really think about some of the things I try to do, or choose not to do. How much of my past successes, or past failures, dictate the way I live my life?
Then I remind myself that it isn’t my success as if I did anything extraordinary by myself – but God’s success. And failures are there not to nail my feet to the ground and make me think I am incapable of having adventures. They cause me to lean on God and learn from Him and launch myself into the next step.
I’m looking for something more than small wings and a lighting fixture on the ceiling to fly to.