Monday, February 9, 2009

He could talk the wings off a demon

Good news: Ulysses is in Hell.

RIGHT? The guy was such an ass in the Odyssey, I'm glad he's there now. With the false advice-givers. Or something. According to one of my notes on the eighth bolgia of Malebolge*, no-one is really sure what sin is being punished here. But one of the guys says something about giving false advice. Does that mean intentionally bad advice? Does that mean evil advice? No-one is sure. Oh well. Anyway, these guys are encased inside flames (which makes me think of this) and their flames sort the talking for them...
As the Sicilian bull that bellowed first
with the cries of him whose instrument
has fashioned it -- and that was only just --
used to bellow with the victim's voice
so that, although the bull was made of brass,
it seemed transfixed by pain,
thus, having first no course or outlet
through the flame, the mournful words
were changed into a language all their own.
But once the words had made their way
up to the tip, making it flicker
as the voice had done when it had formed them,
we heard it say: 'O you at whom I aim my voice...' (XXVII.7-19)

All that stuff in the beginning is about an Italian tyrant, Phalaris, who created a special kind of torture. He had Perillus (heh.) make him a big hollow bull statue in which he basically roasted people alive. And their screams sounded like the bellowing of a bull! Oh, Phalaris, you're so clever. Ahaha. Aha. You sick jerk. Oh, and the first victim was Perillus, just on principle.

The notes are also full of that stuff -- talking about how this or that hellish punishment was based on a real thing they used to do in Florence, crucifying people upside down in holes and then filling in the holes so they suffocated**, or putting them inside giant crucibles with lead capes on so the lead melted onto them. Ugh.

Anyway, back to Ulysses. He talks about his adventures on earth and his death at sea -- and his final rallying cry to his sailors to keep going into unknown waters:
'O brothers,' I said, 'who in the course
of a hundred thousand perils, at last
have reached the west, to such brief wakefulness
of our senses as remains to use,
do not deny yourselves the chance to know --
following the sun -- the world where no-one lives.
Consider how your souls were sown
you were not made to live like brutes or beasts
but to pursue virtue and knowledge.' (XXVI.115-120)

And he won me over. God, I hate Ulysses, and with this one speech I'm thinking WHY IS THIS GUY IN HELL?? LOOK AT THAT SPEECH.

At the very least, you'd think he could sweet-talk God.

*The eighth circle of Hell ... the bolgias are ten ditches, each containing people who committed a different sin, but they're all sins to do with fraud.
**I thought the point of crucifixion was a long, slow death? No? Huh.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

man, fuck Ulysses. i have hated him since we had to read the Odyssey in freshman English and he's just this asshole who fucks around on his wife a lot and like, fucks everything else up when he tries to get home. like maybe don't leave your bag of magical wind lying around where curious crew members can open it...or even be like, dudes, it's not gold, don't open that bag, it will be bad.

the best part about reading the odyssey was i got to dress up as Calypso and made a brochure for a brothel in the Greek islands. i've always been a sucker for whores.

oh man, i crack myself up.