Thursday, 15 August 2013

Goat Song

I am reading Poul Anderson's "Goat Song" for the first time, in his collection Homeward And Beyond (New York, 1976) although it is also in Winners (see attachment). As with "The Visitor," I had not read it before because I could see that it was different and difficult.

It is a science fictional retelling of the Orpheus myth. Here again, we find a parallel with Neil Gaiman. That myth is retold, in its original mythological form, in Gaiman's graphic series, The Sandman, where Morpheus, the Lord of Dreams with his bag of sand, is Orpheus' father.

"Goat song" was the original meaning of the Greek word for tragedy. This I learned in Mike Carey's graphic work, The Furies, one of Carey's several sequels to The Sandman.

In Anderson's "Goat Song," the Harper chants that song about death with the refrain, "Timor Mortis conturbat me." (pp. 136, 137, 143)

He includes the line that I liked but misremembered:

"Victor he is at all mellie: -
"Timor mortis conturbat me." (p. 143)

- meaning that death is the winner of all battles.

This poem is in ER Eddison's The Worm Ouroboros. James Blish admired Eddison. John Brunner read the poem at a Memorial Evening for James Blish. Wanting to refer to that Evening here, I googled in the hope of finding its date but I found only one reference to the Evening, on my own James Blish Appreciation blog.

So far, this post has not been very much about Anderson's story but has been about its many rich associations. I will continue to read the story...

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