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Month: September, 2020

“Ocyrrhoe transform’d into a Mare” (II) – Ovid


      Indigo Sky Mares


             Laurel Burch





         Thus entring into destiny, the maid

         The secrets of offended Jove betray’d:


the maid, Ocyrrhoe, daughter of Chiron

and [t]he nymph Charicle


Ocyrrhoe had offended Jove, but

especially Hades, Jove’s brother,

ruler of the Underworld, when she

had prophesied that Apollo‘s child

with Coronis would be an acclaimed

healer, thus defraud[ing] the tomb,

thereby saving people from the 

clutches of Hades, the especially 

aggrieved god

         More had she still to say; but now appears

         Oppress’d with sobs and sighs, and drown’d in tears.


Occhyroe would have had more

to prophesy, but was impeded by

involuntary physical spasms


         “My voice,” says she, “is gone, my language fails;

         Through ev’ry limb my kindred shape prevails:


kindred shape, the bodily

characteristics of her father,

her kin, the centaur Chiron 

         Why did the God this fatal gift impart,

         And with prophetick raptures swell my heart!


prophetick raptures, Occhyroe, who

knew her father’s arts, and could

rehearse The depths of prophecy,

had inherited through her father,

Chiron, who had himself received

it from Apollo, his own father, the 

gift of divination, for better, for 

either, we’ll learn, or for worse


         What new desires are these? I long to pace

         O’er flow’ry meadows, and to feed on grass;

         I hasten to a brute, a maid no more;


what’s happening, What new desires

are these?, Occhyroe cries, or nearly

neighs, rather, at this point, I’m

becoming a brute, she groans, an

animal, a maid, no more, she objects


         But why, alas! am I transform’d all o’er?

         My sire does half a human shape retain,

         And in his upper parts preserve the man.”


why, Occhyroe asks, since my

father, Chiron, is partially a man,

am I transform’d all o’er?, why

is there nothing left of me that

is human

         Her tongue no more distinct complaints affords,


distinct, clear, easy to decipher


affords, allows, permits

         But in shrill accents and mis-shapen words

         Pours forth such hideous wailings, as declare

         The human form confounded in the mare:


Occhyroe has become a horse,

the proof is in her braying

         ‘Till by degrees accomplish’d in the beast,

         She neigh’d outright, and all the steed exprest.


all the steed exprest, was

everywhere the very picture 

of a horse

         Her stooping body on her hands is born,


born, borne, carried

         Her hands are turn’d to hoofs, and shod in horn,

         Her yellow tresses ruffle in a mane,

         And in a flowing tail she frisks her train,

         The mare was finish’d in her voice and look,

         And a new name from the new figure took.


Occhyroe can no longer be called

Occhyroe, she is no longer she,

but a new figure, needing to be

identified as something else



R ! chard

Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium” – Leonard Bernstein


       Plato’s Symposium


          Anselm Feuerbach




imagine my surprise when having put

on a concert I’d recently taped from

television and, not having checked

out the program, apart from having

noted the featured violinist, someone

I, however peripherally, knew, then

heading out to the kitchen to do

some kitchen things, chop vegetables,

stir a pot, watch water, maybe, come

to a boil, a piece came up with which

I wasn’t familiar, thought maybe it

might be Shostakovich for its atonality,

though with, here again, his signature

decipherable melodies, ever, and

characteristically, maimed, twisted,

contorted, for, too, its Eastern

European rhythms, its apparent

Jewish folklore, touches of Fiddler

on the RoofI thought, hints of

Schindler’s Listmaybe, when the

work turned out to be, however

improbably, by Leonard Bernstein,

most famous, rather, for his Broadway

shows, West Side Storyfor instance,

but especially as a conductor


his Serenade for violin, string orchestra,

harp and percussionknown also as

Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium”,

was written, in 1954, in commemoration

of a couple of personal friends, husband

and wife, after their demises


Plato‘s Symposium is one of his several

dialogues, a clutch of noteworthy

Athenians meet socially after an earlier,

more crowded, revel, a kind of debriefing,

and decide to each give his definition of

love, the work remains one of the great

disquisitions on the subject, not tackled

much sincesurprisingly, in the history

of philosophy


there are seven people in attendance,

though Alcibiades, yes, the Alcibiades,

orator and statesman, stumbles into

the gathering, late and last


Bernstein has a voice for each

participant, though in five rather than

seven movements, two couples, the

first and the last, have no break

between their conjoined movements


 I. Phaedrus: Pausanias lento and allegro

 II. Aristophanes allegretto

 III. Eryximachus, the doctor – presto

 IV. Agathon adagio

 V. Socrates: Alcibiades – molto tenuto and allegro molto vivace


in the Symposium, Eryximachus speaks

before Aristophanes, yes, the Aristophanes,

the playwright, cause the bard has the

hiccoughs, and the doctor, Eryximachus,

agrees to go first, if out of the agreed upon

order, an order that Bernstein chooses not

to follow, for reasons to do with tempo, I

suspect, otherwise the progression is as

in Plato


Eryximachus, interestingly, advises

Aristophanes to make himself sneeze,

a cure apparently for hiccoughs, in

order to be ready for his turn, which

he does, and indeed manages


Agathon was a poet, his adagio here

is accordingly gorgeous, melting,

completely appropriate for a writer

of verse, and entirely, incidentally,

worth the price of admission


Socratesmolto tenuto, even and

tempered, measured, is, likewise, 

totally apt for a philosopher 





R ! chard

“Ocyrrhoe transform’d into a Mare” – Ovid



       Centaur and Nymph


              Arnold Böcklin




                  Old Chiron took the babe with secret joy,                 

                  Proud of the charge of the celestial boy.

                  His daughter too, whom on the sandy shore

                  The nymph Charicle to the centaur bore,

                  With hair dishevel’d on her shoulders, came

                  To see the child, Ocyrrhoe was her name;


Ocyrrhoe, daughter of Chiron and [t]he

nymph Chariclec[o]me …[t]see

the child


With hair dishevel’d on her shoulders,

there’s a suggestion here, regarding

Charicle, of madness, or possession


the child, the babethe celestial boy,

the infant, ript, by its very father,

Apollo, from his unfaithful lover,

Coronis’, womb, and [given] … to

the centaur Chiron”s charge, into

its, or his, care


                  She knew her father’s arts, and could rehearse

                  The depths of prophecy in sounding verse.


it appears that Ocyrrhoe, daughter of

Chiron and the nymph Charicle, was

a poetess, was possessed, on her

father’s side, of poetry, could reveal,  

decipher, or rehearse / The depths

of prophecy, in sounding verse, was

able, as wordmongers sometimes do,

to tell truth, deliver, in rhyme, incisive


              Once, as the sacred infant she survey’d,


the sacred infant, the child born of

Apollo and Coronis 


              The God was kindled in the raving maid,


The God, the child, the sacred infant,

by virtue of being half, if only half,

divine, having been fathered by the

god, Apollo


kindled, inspired


the raving maid, Ocyrrhoe, beset by

neurotic, irrational, though prophetic,

it is proposed, powers

                   And thus she utter’d her prophetick tale:

                  “Hail, great physician of the world, all-hail;


great physician of the world, the fated

child of Apollo and Coronis would

become a healer of legend


                  Hail, mighty infant, who in years to come

                  Shalt heal the nations, and defraud the tomb;


defraud the tomb, recall from the

hereafter, resuscitate, revive,

return to life

                  Swift be thy growth! thy triumphs unconfin’d!

                  Make kingdoms thicker, and increase mankind.


thicker, more populated

                  Thy daring art shall animate the dead,


Thy daring art, medicine, the mighty

infant will eventually be recognized

as a celebrated man of healing 

                  And draw the thunder on thy guilty head:


guilty head, when Hades, king of the

Underworld, complained to Zeus, his

brother, that the mighty infant was

stealing his subjects, the departed,

Zeus shot the great physician down,

acknowledging the healer’s guilt, of

his defraud[ing] the tomb, condemning

the culprit with a punishing, an

annihilating, thunderbolt


                  Then shalt thou dye, but from the dark abode

                  Rise up victorious, and be twice a God.


Apollo, aggrieved, had had his son,

the child, the sacred infant, reinstated,

after tortuous ministrations, as an

immortal god, an entirely, however,

other story


                  And thou, my sire, not destin’d by thy birth

                  To turn to dust, and mix with common earth,

                  How wilt thou toss, and rave, and long to dye,

                  And quit thy claim to immortality;

                  When thou shalt feel, enrag’d with inward pains,

                  The Hydra’s venom rankling in thy veins?


the child, the sire, not destin’d by [its] birth

/ To turn to dust, which is to say, to be no

longer mortal but immortal, how will it, not

wanting particularly to survive, quit [its]

claim to immortality, deal with the

impossibility of dying, [w]hen [it] shal[l]

feel, enrag’d with inward pains, agonies,

that compel it to seek personal annihilation


Hydra, a snakelike monster with many

heads, whose venom and very breath

were poisonous, stationed at one of

the entrances to the Underworld


                  The Gods, in pity, shall contract thy date,

                  And give thee over to the pow’r of Fate.”


contract thy date, make mortal,

subject once again to Fate



R ! chard

Preludes and Fugues, Op.87 – Shostakovich


  Tatiana Nikolayeva





during this period of self-isolation, it

is nearly an unavoidable consequence

of such imposed solitude that one

would become contemplative, though,

I must admit, this is not for me an

especially unusual state


lately, I’ve returned to the Preludes and

Fugues of Shostakovich, a reinterpretation

of the form that Johann Sebastian Bach

had initiated in 1722, and indeed

reinterpreted himself between 1739 and 

1742, each set known separately as 

Books 1 and 2


a prelude is, as the name itself suggests,

an introductory piece, and I won’t get into

any further explanations of it, which would

be technical, and not especially relevant



a fugue is a line of music, however, that 

is repeated a few bars in so that the tune 

ends up essentially analyzing itself, for

voice we know this as singing in canon,

you’ve probably done this yourself, in a

group, singing, for instance, Row, Row,

Row Your Boat, or, even in French,

 Frère Jacques


but the strictly instrumental form becomes,

by virtue of re-examining itself over and

over again, nearly, by definition,



there are neither highs nor lows, which

is to say, alterations in volume, in a fugue,

so that the couple of hours it takes to get

through any set including them would be

restful, though never not intellectually

intriguing, much as mental meandering,

or daydreaming, speculation, is


Shostakovich, much as Bach did,

composed his in every key, major

and minor, for a total of 24


here are his first 12


here are the remaining dozen


they were written by Shostakovich for

Tatiana Nikolayeva, who plays them

 herself in both of these iterations


sit back, relax, enjoy



R ! chard

“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” (IV) – Ovid


   “Apollo and Coronis (1606 – 1608)


                Adam Elsheimer





               On her incestuous life I need not dwell 
               (In Lesbos still the horrid tale they tell), 
               And of her dire amours you must have heard, 
               For which she now does penance in a bird, 
               That conscious of her shame, avoids the light, 
               And loves the gloomy cov’ring of the night; 
               The birds, where-e’er she flutters, scare away 
               The hooting wretch, and drive her from the day.” 


Nyctimene, daughter of Epopeus

king of Lesbos, a Greek Island in

the Aegean Sea, had been defiled 

by her father, Minerva, out of pity,

transformed her into an owl, the

above verses tell the story of

that owl, Nyctimene


               The raven, urg’d by such impertinence, 
               Grew passionate, it seems, and took offence, 
               And curst the harmless daw; the daw withdrew: 
               The raven to her injur’d patron flew, 
               And found him out, and told the fatal truth 
               Of false Coronis and the favour’d youth. 


the raven, Apollo’s own bird, having 

discovered Coronis to be unfaithful 

to their master, its and hers, remained

intentdespite the daw’s warnings,

earlier here reported, on informing

the god of the Sun 

               The God was wroth, the colour left his look, 


wroth, angry

               The wreath his head, the harp his hand forsook: 


[t]he wreath, … the harp, Apollo’s

usual attributes, symbols of his

harmony, concord

               His silver bow and feather’d shafts he took, 
               And lodg’d an arrow in the tender breast, 
               That had so often to his own been prest. 


though Apollo is not usually 

associated with bows and arrows,

his twin sister Diana, goddess of

the Hunt, always is, it would not 

be unusual to conflate the two 

deities for poetic, or indeed

mythological, purposes

               Down fell the wounded nymph, and sadly groan’d, 
               And pull’d his arrow reeking from the wound; 
               And weltring in her blood, thus faintly cry’d, 
               “Ah cruel God! tho’ I have justly dy’d, 
               What has, alas! my unborn infant done, 
               That he should fall, and two expire in one?” 
               This said, in agonies she fetch’d her breath. 


it is supposed here that the unborn

infant is indeed Apollo’s


               The God dissolves in pity at her death;

               He hates the bird that made her falshood known, 
               And hates himself for what himself had done; 
               The feather’d shaft, that sent her to the Fates, 
               And his own hand, that sent the shaft, he hates.


Apollo is suffused with regret, anger,


               Fain would he heal the wound, and ease her pain, 


Fain, with pleasure, gladly

               And tries the compass of his art in vain. 


the compass of his art, the range 

of his ability, in this case vain, 

faulty, ineffective

               Soon as he saw the lovely nymph expire, 
               The pile made ready, and the kindling fire. 


pile, pyre


the sentence lacks a verb here, it 

should read The pile was made 

ready, just saying

               With sighs and groans her obsequies he kept, 


obsequies, funeral rites

               And, if a God could weep, the God had wept. 


I’ll have to watch out for gods

weeping, I suspect some have, 

some can


               Her corps he kiss’d, and heav’nly incense brought, 
               And solemniz’d the death himself had wrought. 


corps, body, corpse


wrought, brought about, made



               But lest his offspring should her fate partake, 
               Spight of th’ immortal mixture in his make, 


Spight, in spite 

               He ript her womb, and set the child at large, 
               And gave him to the centaur Chiron’s charge: 


Chiron, first among the centaurs,  

half man, half horse, was highly 

revered as a teacher, having 

been raised by the twins, Apollo 

and Diana / Artemis, supremely

accomplished deities

               Then in his fury black’d the raven o’er, 
               And bid him prate in his white plumes no more. 


black’d, Apollo turned the snowy 

plume[d], [w]hite as the whitest 

dove’s unsully’d breast raven 



prate, babble, talk incoherently



R ! chard


“The Story of Coronis, and Birth of Aesculapius” (III) – Ovid


   “Minerva, or Pallas Athena (1898) 


             Gustav Klimt





             But you, perhaps, may think I was remov’d, 

             As never by the heav’nly maid belov’d:


says the daw to the still snowy plume[d], 

[w]hite as the whitest dove’s unsully’d 

breast raven


remov’d, rejected, discarded and



the heav’nly maid, Minerva

             But I was lov’d; ask Pallas if I lye; 


Pallas, another name for Minerva

             Tho’ Pallas hate me now, she won’t deny: 


hate, note, is in the subjunctive here, 

the mood of conjecture, where the s 

is removed from the ending of the 

third person singular, that she, he, or 

one, for instance, read, no s on read, 

Ovid, would be a part of any Latin 


             For I, whom in a feather’d shape you view, 
             Was once a maid (by Heav’n the story’s true) 
             A blooming maid, and a king’s daughter too. 
             A crowd of lovers own’d my beauty’s charms; 


own’d, admitted to, acknowledged

             My beauty was the cause of all my harms; 


to a vain friend once who complained 

to me of the rigours of being beautiful, 

I said, your beauty, girl, to upend the, 

otherwise tiresome, conversation, is 

your curse, get over it, which he did, 

it did, in at least that instance

             Neptune, as on his shores I wont to rove, 


Neptune, god of the Sea


wont, to be used to, predisposed to

             Observ’d me in my walks, and fell in love. 
             He made his courtship, he confess’d his pain, 
             And offer’d force, when all his arts were vain; 


all of the gods, it appears, are engines, 

ever, of irrepressible lust, perhaps 

allegorically alluding to the unquenchable 

generative powers of very Nature 

             Swift he pursu’d: I ran along the strand, 
             ‘Till, spent and weary’d on the sinking sand, 
             I shriek’d aloud, with cries I fill’d the air 
             To Gods and men; nor God nor man was there: 


who hasn’t been there, forlorn, 

abandoned, desolate, forsaken

             A virgin Goddess heard a virgin’s pray’r. 


virgin Goddess, Minerva / Pallas 



note that Minerva / Pallas / Athena,

the virgin Goddess, remains, however 

unconventionally, however irregularly,

the mother of Erichthonius 


             For, as my arms I lifted to the skies, 
             I saw black feathers from my fingers rise; 
             I strove to fling my garment on the ground; 
             My garment turn’d to plumes, and girt me round: 
             My hands to beat my naked bosom try; 
             Nor naked bosom now nor hands had I: 


the king’s daughter, still unnamed, note, 

attesting to the interchangeability of 

virgin’s in Greek and Roman mythology, 

is in the process of becoming a daw, a

black bird

             Lightly I tript, nor weary as before 
             Sunk in the sand, but skim’d along the shore; 


it appears there are advantages 

to becoming a bird

             ‘Till, rising on my wings, I was preferr’d 
             To be the chaste Minerva’s virgin bird: 


go, girl

             Preferr’d in vain! I am now in disgrace: 
             Nyctimene the owl enjoys my place. 


Nyctimene, Minerva’s owl


friendship, it appears, can turn 

on a dime, or an inadvertent,

but decisive, irritation



R ! chard