Spoor of Desire: Selected Poems
is available for $16.00 from FootHills Publishing, P.O. Box 68, Kanona NY 14856 or see www.foothillspublishing.com.

Tourist Snapshots is available for $8.95 from Randy Fingland, CC Marimbo, P.O. Box 933, Berkeley CA 94701 or see www.ccmarimbo.com.

Dada Poetry: An Introduction was published by Nirala Publications. It may be ordered on Amazon.com for $25 plus shipping. American buyers may order a copy from me for $23 including shipping.

The other books are also available from the author William Seaton. Write seaton@frontiernet.net.

A categorized index of all work that has appeared on this site is available by looking under the current month in the Blog Archive section and selecting Index.

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Friday, June 1, 2012

The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Port Huron Statement

When I first attended the University of Illinois in 1963 there was no radical organization on campus. I joined the local NAACP, helped to establish a small Independent Socialist Club, and was active in our local imitation of the Berkeley Free Speech movement, originally Students for Free Speech and then SCOPE (the Student Committee on Political Expression). But in fact the political ferment of youth was well under way. Red diaper babies and those with experience in the Southern Movement joined with others whose reaction to poverty, racism, and the Cold War had opened their eyes to an America they had never learned about in civics class. Soon we had Friends of SNCC, Students Against the War, and Students for a Democratic Society. I attended the organizational meeting of SDS in Champaign-Urbana and remained involved until the breakup in 1969.
The Port Huron Statement was adopted by the first national convention of Students for a Democratic Society in June of 1962. On the fiftieth anniversary of this occasion, I offer a few comments on this seminal statement by the leading radical group of my generation, the most significant statement of what was called the New Left. The text of the Port Huron Statement is readily available online.

What differentiated the New Left from its elder parent was first of all inclusiveness. The youth of SDS annoyed their paternal institution, the League for Industrial Democracy, by welcoming all who cared to work together. For decades the Communist Party, the Trotskyist Socialist Workers, and other elements of the Old Left had insisted on the value of a dogmatic ideology and had mercilessly excluded those who did not toe the line. Often splinter groups splintered yet again, maintaining fierce polemics against those with whom they agreed on most issues. The actual enemy, of course, was much more difficult to combat than one’s fellow activists. In its early years, SDS was a model of breadth, including numerous Democrats as well as every variety of libertarian, socialist, communist, and anarchist with a good number of unclassifiable elements tending toward the yogic and vegetarian.

The youth-centered character of the movement of the sixties was novel. While it is true that most photographs of insurgent crowds anywhere in the world show predominately young and reckless men, earlier movements such as abolitionism, trade unionism, social work, the struggles for socialism and women’s suffrage in America were not age-based. Progressive movements around the world have often been campus-centered, but these often included significant participation by faculty and other elements of the intelligentsia. SDS, as a university group inherently youth-dominated, began by challenging the assumptions of the parent organization, to the frustration of comparative elders such as Michael Harrington.

Part of the reason that the movement was youth-oriented was the Selective Service System. The specter of the draft obliged every young man to decide where he stood on the Vietnam War, and I am typical of the educated people in my age cohort in having spent years evading the draft. The poor, both in cities and rural areas, were more likely to simply enter the military without reflection. Resistance to military service alone accounts for the large numbers temporarily swept up in the movement greater by several orders of magnitude from the number of committed civil rights activists in the early sixties. Put upon by huge demonstrations in the spring of 1970, Nixon adopted the air war strategy and relaxed the draft, causing the mass movement to evaporate once people did not feel their own lives were in jeopardy.

A further factor in the youth-consciousness of the New Left was the coalescence of the left movement with the bohemian artistic elements and drug culture that associated with the concept of hip in the sixties. This alliance is prefigured in the Port Huron Statement which bases rebellion in alienation rather than actual want. The Old Left focused for good reason on the material want of the masses. To most Marx’s own talk of alienation in the Economic & Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844 seemed tainted with idealism. Yet obvious and continuing inequity in the distribution of goods is not the sole symptom of capitalism’s failure. The very use of labor to accumulate wealth rather than for human fulfillment leads, Marx argues, to the fetishism of money and the replacement of earlier human ties by the cash nexus. (The term is actually older yet and had been used by Carlyle in The Chartists.)

Whereas earlier left movements had typically arisen when people were pushed too far into actual want, and sympathetic intellectuals pointed to that physical suffering as the primary evidence of the need for change, the very first sentence of the Port Huron Statement points in a decidedly different direction. “We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherit.” The postwar prosperity and the labor movement had combined with neo-imperial profits to bring comparative affluence to a large sector of American workers, and an unprecedented number of people were attending university. Yet the text goes on to speak of “troubling” elements in their experience, “deeply felt anxieties,” “complicated and disturbing paradoxes,” “the emptiness of life,” “loneliness,” “estrangement,” “isolation,” “doldrums,” “malaise.” The language reflects the fact that Existentialism was enough past its crest to have been absorbed by undergraduates by 1962. While Sartre may have influenced the language, the philosopher was not slow to support the students’ cause.

Even in the black community, where the experience of outright injury and insult was universal, the mission statement of SNCC is largely expressed in spiritual language: “The redemptive community supersedes immoral social systems.” For a significant anti-war movement to arise in an aggressor nation is rare, though the American experience has elements in common with the earlier experience of the French in Algeria and the later one of the Portuguese in Africa. Surely it is historically unique for such a sizable political movement to arise from alienation among a population that might seem more privileged than oppressed. The Port Huron Statements records the conscious attitudes expressed by an obscure group fifty years ago which, six years later had spread to millions of Americans and a good share of the rest of the developed world, and, by the spring of 1970 had become normative on campus.

On virtually every issue Tom Hayden and his fellow delegates have been vindicated history. No one today would defend racism, yet the gap in pay and wealth between white and black is greater than ever. By all social standards (such as rates of drug addiction and incarceration) inner-city black communities are worse off than they were before the Civil Rights Act. The Vietnam War is now regarded across almost the entire political spectrum as a colossal mistake, yet America continues to launch neo-colonial military adventures. The students’ concern for the poor received government sanction in the so-called War on Poverty. Yet gains in economic democracy have been rolled back in recent decades, by both Democratic and Republican politicians. The self-critical analysis of the youth of 1962 seems admirable indeed in a twenty-first century USA in which a belief in American exceptionalism, once thought of as indicating erroneous thinking on its face, is required of every politician. Their vision of true community satisfying all its members in the practice of “participatory democracy” has been replaced by unapologetic pursuit of empty riches even by many of the more intelligent among our youth.

Liberal critics of American policies tend to view racism, neo-colonialism, environmental degradation, and exploitation of workers as problems caused by correctable factors such as mistakes, miscalculations, the fruit of unfortunate faulty advice or of stupid, wicked, or ignorant office-holders. It was the wisdom of SDS from the start to recognize what Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) and Martin Luther King eventually came to believe, that all these negative social effects are the result of capitalism, that the flaw is a systematic and institutional requiring radical change. Far from errors, the injustice and suffering are naturally caused by corporations when they function as they are designed to do, privileging the bottom line to the exclusion of all other consequences.

The social movements since the sixties have achieved significant victories in the fields of feminism and gay rights and have mobilized a great many people in support of the environment and in opposition to nuclear weapons and power generation. Yet as long as these struggles are separate, activists will never address the root cause of the evils they combat.

I believe it is more than nostalgia that makes me feel the Port Huron Statement is relevant today. What we once thought of as the grey Eisenhower fifties in fact had far higher marginal tax rate for the rich, a more vigorous union movement, less egregious maldistribution of wealth and a considerably larger middle class. Today the greedy seek an ever bigger share for themselves while offering the rest of us little but junk food, three hundred television channels, and the opportunity to spend a career working without health benefits or pension to make a few fat cats fatter. There is no need to be nostalgic for the sixties. The far-sighted youth who gathered in Port Huron in 1962 set righteous priorities for America that, unfortunately, remain distant goals to this day. For anyone horrified by the violence and venality of our culture, anyone seeking a more meaningful life in true community with compatriots, will find much useful thought in this fifty-year-old document.

Notes on Recent Reading 9 [Plutarch, Tacitus, Williams]

Parallel Lives [Plutarch]

Though his purpose was to praise and blame, Plutarch, like an old history book, is heavy with wars and politics and not so good on culture and thought. His Lives would be improved with fewer accounts of battles, but the stories never fail to engage the reader. It is fascinating to see how Athens and Rome, even in their days of power, were like small towns in that everyone knew everyone and historic changes might be initiated on a street-corner after a chance meeting.

Though the so-called Dryden edition was not exactly translated by Dryden it is accurate enough and readable. I haven’t seen Sir John North’s version of Amyot’s French translation; perhaps it is more appealing.

Agricola and Germania [Tacitus]

Tacitus’ praise of the work of his father-in-law Agricola in subduing the Britons serves as a vehicle for his expression of the old Roman values. His straightforward style is nonetheless susceptible to irony, archness, and some good set-pieces. The Agricola describes the assimilation of such “demoralizing temptations” as Roman “arcades, baths, and banquets,” saying that the “unsuspecting Britons” regarded these as “civilization” whereas they were more accurately enslavement. In the Germania he notes with approval the northerners disregard for gold and silver, their hardihood, and their strict sexual morality. “No one in Germany finds vice amusing, or calls it ‘up-to-date’ to seduce and be seduced.”

His account of Boudica is sympathetic. The report of Calgacus’ speech rallying Rome’s enemies is eloquent, damning the imperial power for bringing “robbery, butchery, and rapine” while calling it government. His passionate cry of liberty or death must surely be a coded lament for the loss of the Roman Republic whose ineffectual Senate could only ratify the madness of one emperor after another. He goes so far as to implies that Domitian, whom he says had a “hatred of merit,” killed Agricola.

In Tacitus one sees the dilemma of a man of principle seeking to take an honorable role in a tyrannical state. He is surely offering his own apologia when he says in the Agricola that “even under bad emperors men can be great,” and, through “a decent regard for authority” may attain “distinction,” whereas opposing even a wicked monarch can bring only an unseemly and “ostentatious self-martyrdom.”

A modern reader of the Germania can hardly avoid reflecting on recent history when reading of the northern tribes passions for racial purity and for war. My old copy of the Penguin translation by Harold Mattingly from 1948 makes a number of contemporary references. Whether or not Tacitus was mistaken on the first point, the Nazis were only too glad to appropriate his words. As for the latter, Tacitus considers them a bit mad on their eagerness for battle and their scorn of farming. According to his account, when not fighting, they spend their time in idleness. The book includes solid anthropological information on governance, divination, and human sacrifice.

White Mule [Williams]

William Carlos Williams’ novel (1937) is narrated in a pure distilled straightforward American idiom that moves fatalistically from each word to the next. Much of the book is colloquial, reproducing American working class accents of African Americans, Irish, German, and Norwegian immigrants will such precision the good doctor must surely have kept a notebook handy for years, making memoranda of expressions he heard in his daily life.

The fact that the novel’s first reviewers (Alfred Kazin in the New York Times and N. L. Rothman in the Saturday Review) compared the book to Joyce only shows us what conventional narratives they expected. The stream of consciousness is mild indeed, though the figure of the infant Flossie, bearing the name of the author’s beloved wife on whose family the story is based, is original and unsentimental. The Stecher family’s further experiences are detailed in the sequels In the Money and The Build Up.

Surreal Cabaret 2

1. press release

A Surreal Cabaret will be presented at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, May 25 at the Orange County Citizens Foundation, 23 White Oak Drive in Sugar Loaf. Admission is free. The event, produced by David Horton and William Seaton as part of an ongoing Surrealism Festival, will feature a series of short acts with local artists in performance. Refreshments will be available and admission is by donation.
Like the first Surreal Cabaret last December, this event is a tribute to Surrealist émigré Kurt Seligmann (on whose estate the event will be staged) each work will contain elements influenced by Surrealism. Acts may cross genres from poetry and drama to dance and music. The audience can expect conceptual play, experimentation, improvisation, and audience involvement.
Producers of acts include James Antonie, Michael Sean Collins, Kevin Geraghty, Janet Hamill, David Horton, Steve Roe, William Seaton, and John Toth. Further details are below.
Surrealism Festival events will continue at least through next fall. A show of contemporary collage curated by Jonathan Talbot and Jessica Lawrence is currently on exhibit. Upcoming events include a film screening with director Jacob Burckhardt on April 27, a dining event with pasta made on Seligmann’s etching press in July, and a poetry workshop with Janet Hamill in September. In addition, next fall an exhibit will open featuring Seligmann’s own work and rare photographs documenting Surrealism in Orange County.
The series is produced by the Seligmann Center for the Arts at the Seligmann Homestead with the cooperation of Orange County Citizens Foundation.
Further information is available from William Seaton at seaton@frontiernet.net or David Horton at doctortinker@gmail.com.

2. invocation by the Lama Swine Toil

I am pleased to see that you have returned for a dose of our salutary spring tonic. Open wide – your eyes, your ears, and your mind. In preparation for our setting out for unknown realms, at once so distant and as close as each of our skulls, I shall invoke the ancient goddess called by many names whom artists know as that most fickle beloved, the Muse.

-- May she come among us this evening and every evening.
-- May she awaken our soul like a new Rip Van Winkle, wandered back to town again but this time to find that everyone else has been asleep and only he awake and thus he is little understood!
-- May she bring order to those parts of our minds that are disordered while, at the same time disordering the orderly!
-- May she stir our hearts to small leaps and bounds like goats in a field running nowhere!
-- May we feel her texture like most intimate moss, like quizzical tomato leaf, like the orderly asphalt, like cleverest rabbit fur, like thoughts yet unthought . . .
-- May our work tend always toward the enlightenment of all sentient beings!

The vision passes from world to artist to work to you, the saving remnant, o practitioners of sensibility, and what you will do with it will make tomorrow.

3. Featured artists:
After opening words by Surrealist chaplain, the Lama Swine Toil, William Seaton will read his “adult nursery rhymes” before a background of projected images.
Next Janet Hamill performs her surreally inspired poetry to the ambient drone rock and roll of Lost Ceilings featuring Bob Torsello, Mark McNutt, and Greg Feller.
Then Steve Roe presents an excerpt from and variation on Robert Ashley’s opera That Morning Thing performed and adapted by COPE (Council of Poetic Experimentation) for voice, dance, musicians. Al Margolis (of Pogus Productions) has agreed to perform as musician. The excerpt deals with the relationship between the rational and its opposite. A description of a strange erotic encounter is described while a dancer performs to live music.
Kevin Geraghty will next present The Conference, a brief theater piece in which he, Larry Portner, and Steve Roe portray businessmen engaged in a most curious non-verbal conference.
James Antonie, known for the University of Utopian Determinants and the Micro-Gallery, will then perform The Alchemist showing the process of transformation and the discovery of the philosophers’ stone.
The Four Grape Theory of Human Functioning will be explained by Dr. Thelonious Tinker with an introduction by David Horton. There will be a live demonstration of Dr. Tinker’s Creation Vibration Booster.
Michael Sean Collins will perform a surreal theatrical poetic narrative of the absurdly macabre.
Finally John Toth will present The Nurse's Back: Apparitions on a Landscape, a work Holly Fairbank (choreographer/dancer) and John Toth (sculptor/digital artist) collaborate on a performance-installation piece inspired by Salvador Dali. Using fabric as pages of a life-size “book” to create places for video and photography projection, Fairbank has opportunity to interplay with her own image as well as other images to examine an interior mind-scape much as Salvador Dali alluded to in many of his surrealist paintings. Various sections of the piece can be viewed at www.johntoth.net/dali/nurses_back.htm.

4. poster by David Horton

The Web of Myth in the Story of Heracles

A myth is a symbolic narrative current throughout an entire community. Myths tend to grow and link to form all-but-endless comprehensive webs whose warp and woof define the world-view of a culture (or subculture). One figure leads to another and then to others without limit. Mythic texts are often difficult for readers outside the originating culture because, far from telling their tales in a linear and direct manner, they typically assume the audience’s familiarity with the myth and mention details in telegraphic, even sometimes oblique or ironic references.

Heracles is admittedly an odd case: a hero who acceded to divinity and won a place among the Olympians according to Hesiod by his sheer effort and ability. Herodotus thought there must be two Heracles: one mortal and one divine. Though not only pagan, but often something of an uncontrollable thug or an appetitive clod to judge by his actions, he became an emblem for moral striving in Christianity.

His epithet in the Homeric Hymn “lion-hearted” [1] is totemic, rich with magical associations. The hero has incorporated the power of the great cats that were once the predators most likely to threaten humanity. He embodies the traits most identified with males in the animal kingdom and, since archaic times, among people as well: virility, courage, and power. The first of Heracles’ penitential labors is combat with the Nemaean lion and he is customarily depicted wearing a lion-skin in token of this victory. [2]

Two-thirds of his celebrated labors consist of his repeatedly reproving his strength by overcoming such monstrous beasts in battle. [3] The motif of the great man’s taming the wild earth to make it safe for human life is typical of culture heroes. Even the cleaning of the Augean stables, which strikes some as less than heroic, doubtless also relates to the civilizing influence of water-management in earliest civilizations.

Surely his reputation as a defender of humanity against the indignity of unwelcome death in part derives from his position between human and divine. Like Christ (and Dionysos, Tammuz, Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus, and Odin) he is linked to mankind through this common experience of humanity’s trying experiences including death prior to his apotheosis. Surely this explains the friendly intimacy with which he was approached in popular cult.

Though Hera tried to prevent his birth and bedeviled him afterwards, his name likely signifies “Hera’s glory,” (though some once traced it to the word hero). She may have been his cruel stepmother, but his father was generally said to be Zeus. Due to Heracles’ position as both human and divine, one finds a variety of opinion among the ancients about his human father Amphitryon. This odd double status is defined as early as Homer when his shade appears to Odysseus and is said to be a mere eidolon or phantom while “he himself is feasting with the immortal gods.” (Even this statement is somewhat ambiguous since the same term is sometimes used for ordinary run-of-the-mill deceased spirits.)

Heracles’ adversarial relationship with Hera, the threatening stepmother, is one of a series of gender-defining episodes in the hero’s career. Even this original conflict is ambiguous and nuanced. Heracles is often depicted on pottery sucking at Hera’s breast. His theft of the Amazon Hippolyte’s belt of authority indicates victory of patriarchal authority and thus of the individual son and husband in Greek society. The ambiguity of male dominance, though, is suggested by the fact that Heracles’ task is undertaken at the urging of Admeta, Eurystheus’ daughter, and that Hippolyte is usually represented as giving in voluntarily, though Hera stirs up war with malicious rumors, and some tellings have Heracles kill Hippolyte in error, regretting it later. Heracles is also said to have made off with either Hippolyte herself or her sister Antiope.

The eleventh labor, the theft of the golden apples of the Hesperides again involves defeating women. Heracles frustrates Hera’s will and outwits the Hesperides in the enchanted garden of the west with its apples of immortality. The fact that Heracles is depicted in harmonious converse with these mymphs in Classic Attic pottery again implies the ambivalence of gender relations.

Heracles’ marriages provide a broad spectrum of outcomes: his first alliance to Creon’s daughter Megara ends in horror as he kills their children (and her as well in Euripedes) in a fit of madness induced by Hera. He later married Omphale (a name meaning “navel,” as Delphi was called the omphalos of the world), the Lydian queen whom he had served for a year as a slave in penance for killing Iphitus. He is depicted in a Roman mosaic from Lliria in drag. While Heracles is dressed in women’s clothes and holds the spindle, Omphale wears his lion-skin and carries his club. In order to marry his third mate, Deianira, he had to fight Achelous who assumed the forms of a bull, a river, and a snake (a veritable catalogue of important early fertility images) first when asking for Deianira’s hand and again while fighting Heracles. She inadvertently brought about his death when she became suspicious he was having an affair with Iole by unwittingly sending a garment tainted by the Hydra’s blood. In Olympus he married the “beautiful-ankled Hebe” with whom his relationship seems to have been excellent.

As a goddess primarily of youth Hebe is a guarantor of Heracles’ immortality. As cupbearer for the gods, she is also a model of the serviceable wife, providing an ample table, in which role she is sometimes known as Ganymeda by analogy with Ganymede.
Heracles’ gargantuan characteristics include his violence such as the offhand murders of Linus while yet a young child and of his guest Iphitus as well as of his own children while possessed by madness. The first tablet of the epic of Gilgamesh tells us (in Maureen Gallery Kovacs’ translation) how an earlier hero is too strong too live in the world without doing damage. He needs a balancing force.

"You have indeed brought into being a mighty wild bull, head raised!
"There is no rival who can raise a weapon against him.
"His fellows stand (at the alert), attentive to his (orders !),
"Gilgamesh does not leave a son to his father,
"day and night he arrogantly ...
"Is he the shepherd of Uruk-Haven,
"is he their shepherd...
"bold, eminent, knowing, and wise,
"Gilgamesh does not leave a girl to her mother(?)!"

As a sexual being Heracles is even more titanic in his appetites. He made love to the fifty daughters of Thespiae in one night, making all pregnant (hence the royal families of Sparta and Macedon). A researcher who listed his heterosexual affairs from all sources, (rather as Leporello had done with Don Giovanni’s), counted forty lovers and well over a hundred children. In addition there are stories of twenty or so homosexual affairs. Plutarch, in his Eroticos says he had “countless” male lovers and tell us that male lovers would swear loyalty to each other at the tomb of Heracles’ lover Iolaus. As for his appetite for food one need look no further than Aristophanes The Frogs for the gourmandizing Heracles of satyr plays and comedies. In Euripedes’ Alcestis he becomes drunk and obstreperous.

For all this Heracles could be viewed as possessing a kind of charmed innocence. Like Parsifal he had a child-like quality. According to Aelian and Euripedes he was fond of play. [4] Further his great sinning seemed matched by great virtue. Having committed one of the greatest imaginable crimes in killing his children, he then did such prodigious penance that he redeemed himself. In the story of the choice of Heracles in Prodicus’ speech reported by Xenophon, he selects the difficult path of virtue over vice and immediate pleasure, allowing him to be viewed as a moral exemplar and even in the Renaissance in particular as a pagan premonition of Christ. [5] Can one read his cry of despair in his death agony “And there are men who can believe in gods!” [6] without thinking of Christ’s “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”

Over time this characteristic became diluted to a sort of vague beneficence. Aelian notes that Hercules had cleared the Sea and Land, and beyond all question shewed much kindness to men.” [7] As Heracles Alexikakos he averted evils and was often invoked in apotropaic charms. This is his role in the once-famous statue by Hageladas. Similarly, his image appeared as a guardian over tombs and doorways. He was a specific opponent of the keres, the spirits of the dead, conceived as posing a threat to the living. [8] In some contexts these spirits are identified with fate, and fate is most universally and plaintively associated with mortality. An Orphic Hymn calls to Heracles:

Brandishing thy club
Drive forth the baleful fates; with poisoned shafts
Banish the noisome Keres far away.

In one vase painting Heracles holds his club high, about to strike down a grotesque figure with a cane, labeled Old Age. He, after all, not only conquered death himself by attaining immortality; he also wrestled successfully with Death to save Alcestis.

Apart from aiding people to avoid baleful influences, he attracts good ones as well. He betrays vestiges of the archaic fertility role as wild man, or lord of the wild beasts. He is often depicted with a cornucopia made of the horn of Acheloos in the form of a bull, neatly signifying the production of human food from untamed nature.

Perhaps the most generalized referent for his divinity is suggested by Pausanias who refers to his image “in ancient fashion, as an unwrought stone.” (Ex. 20, 25) One may compare the pseudo-Dionysius, the Cloud of Unknowing or the Daoist idea of pu which might be translated “uncarved block” or “uncut log.”

Fragmentary though it is, this is a mere excursion into the forest of myth. I have briefly reviewed Heracles’ roles as a culture hero, as a masculine role model, a jouster, though not a clear victor in the gender wars, a magnification of human, all-too-human traits, a vicious or deranged destroyer, a moral paragon, a friend of humanity, a dying and reborn god, a fertility emblem, an archaic human, a beneficent friend, and as ineffable and absolute divinity. This is hardly more than the beginning of his story. Through close family connections, not to mention structural parallels, Heracles is linked to many of Greece’s central myth: Perseus, Oedipus, Helen, Agamemnon. Zeus’ own parents and grandparents, not to mention their siblings, descendents, and ancestors bring other tales. The process of semeiosis is, in fact, unlimited. One must chop the sprig useful for an immediate purpose.

1. The title may be late, even Byzantine.

2. Prehistoric felids seem likely to have been the animals most likely to prey on early humans. On the other hand, recent evidence has indicated that, at least on a few occasions, people dined on cave lions.

3. I am reminded of Vishnu’s various incarnations, becoming progressively human.

4. According to Thomas Stanley’s 1665 version titled Various Histories, “They say that Hercules alleviated the trouble of his Labours by play. The Son of Jupiter and Alcmena sported much with Children ; which Euripides hints to us, making the God say, I play to intermit my Toils.”

5. In 1709 Addison translated this passage for the Tatler 97 in hopes of curing the “endemic Idleness” he found afflicting Londoners. He wrote, “I have translated this Allegory for the Benefit of the Youth of Great Britain; and particularly of those who are still in the deplorable State of Non-Existence, and whom I most earnestly entreat to come into the World.”

6. Metamorphoses IX, 200

7. III, 5.

8. See Jane Harrison’s Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion, 165-75.

Hymn to Heracles the Lion-Hearted

Of Heracles I sing, Zeus’ son, on earth most strong.
Alkmena’s child was born in Thebes of lovely dance
for she had lain with Kronos’ son of darkling clouds.
He used to wander endless lengths of earth and sea
when he was sent by King Eurystheus.
He acted wild and reckless and suffered much as well,
but now he makes his seat in fair snow-topped Olympus
where he dwells, enjoying lovely-ankled Hebe,
Hail, king, you son of Zeus! Give me success and joy!