Saturday, 29 March 2008

Of Sanguine Spires

Beside a Fountain's sacred Brink we rais'd
Our verdant Altars, and the Victims blaz'd;
('Twas where the Plane-tree spread its Shades around)
The Altars heav'd; and from the crumbling Ground
A mighty Dragon shot, of dire Portent;
From Jove himself the dreadful Sign was sent.
Strait to the Tree his sanguine Spires he roll'd,
And curl'd around in many a winding Fold.
The Topmost Branch a Mother-Bird possest;
Eight callow Infants fill'd the mossie Nest;
Herself the ninth: The Serpent as he hung,
Stretch'd his black Jaws, and crash'd the crying Young;
While hov'ring near, with miserable Moan,
The drooping Mother wail'd her Children gone.
The Mother last, as round the Nest she flew,
Seiz'd by the beating Wing, the Monster slew:
Nor long surviv'd; to Marble turn'd he stands
A lasting Prodigy on Aulis' Sands.
Such was the Will of Jove; and hence we dare
Trust in his Omen, and support the War.

– Ulysses to the Grecian army
(The Iliad, Book 2, Lines 368-387, trans Pope)



I propose this seriously. K mentioned last year at the Pigtails Fest in Cambridge that To Pollen is a pun off an Aristotle phrase about the polis (I forget the particular wording). Jarvis' article Clear as Mud enumerates a few possibilities for "sanguine fire", but can to these be added Pope's "sanguine Spires"? It's not irrelevant to the poem itself, which I don't have an expert knowledge of admittedly...

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