Something Lost

To draw from Xandra’s post a bit, I also found the relationship between violence and sex to be a significant thread that connects the two Ovid readings and the Weston chapter. Tireseas, given the particularly precarious position of being caught in the middle of an argument between two gods (even worse, an argument about sex), is blinded by Juno. Tereus’s lust results in the rape and maiming of Philomela, the death of Itys, and the ultimate transformation of Tereus, Philomela, and Procne into birds (a metamorphosis is, in itself, a type of violence against the body). Lastly, in reading Weston’s work, we learn of the connection between Greek tragedy and the vegetation cults.

However, what I would like to call attention to specifically is not just the theme of violence but the idea of its irrevocability. One of the major themes so far this semester has been the unpaid debt, the older generation’s taking from the younger generation without giving back. And without the succession of a younger generation past the older, the system, as we’ve seen in the different versions of the Grail quest, crumbles. The world becomes a waste. We might recall Sibyl, from the epigraph of The Waste Land. Without youth, there can be no sustainability.

We see this type of disruption of the natural order in the tale of Tereus, Philomela, and Procne. The end of the tale takes place during the time of the Bacchus festival. Bacchus is a god of ritualistic madness, and madness certainly seems to fit well with the violent end of this story; yet, Bacchus is also a god of fertility. Procne’s murder of her son and Tereus’s ingesting his son both go against the natural cycle. As Philomela says earlier on in the tale, “All is confused!”(Ovid 138)

In the Weston chapter, we learn that the Medicine Man was a type of precursor to the “Redeemer” in the Grail story (104). However, in the Ovid stories, and potentially in the Waste Land, there is no one who can heal the wounds that have been afflicted. There is seemingly no redeemer, as “He who was living is now dead” (Eliot 16). The damage cannot be undone. When Juno blinds Tireseas, it is permanent “since no god has right to undo what any god has done” (Ovid 61). Philomela’s rape leads to the death of Itys; thus, the patriarch takes both the innocence of Philomela and also, ultimately, steals the life of the younger generation. World War I leads to massive amounts of young men being killed. The natural order is disrupted.

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