In Greece there is trouble in the life scientific as well as in the body politic and it shows up in the muse of Delphi.
Dionysius of Halicarnassus once likened
Aeschylus’ poetry to this Cyclopean
wall beneath Apollo’s temple before us,
this wall I always gaze on whenever in Delphi,
blocks shaped like continents pre-early Jurassic
where capers cascade down landlocked Pangea,
polygonal Gondwanaland, in tasselly swathes.
At first I thought this new poem, Polygon, by Tony Harrison (of v fame), filling two whole pages of the current London Review of Books, might bring them together in the tradition of Byron.
During a visit to Delphi, Tony Harrison sees ‘blocks shaped like continents’, capers that ‘cascade down landlocked Pangea’, and shapes like ‘a polygonal Gondwanaland hanging in tasselly swathes’.
He drinks the water from the spring of Castalia and treads more polygonal blocks of marble.
He sees clouds ‘evolve and become extinct’, just some of the events over the past 542 million years:
and there is tragedy in the ‘heat around cicadas’.
He cooks with a handful of the capers gathered from Gondwanaland.
Here are conflicts between fire and water, earth and air: components of nature close to us all. But where are the links for this tectonic world? To me, Harrison fails to bring that art and science together.