Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sisphyus continues... of course.

Stephen Mitchell published among his Parables and Portraits a short poem called "The Myth of Sisphyus". The objective of this miniature homily is to debunk the "myth" that Sisyphus must suffer his anguishing torment. Mitchell's novel observation is that Sisyphus has reached a point where he needs the rock. Without it, the sufferer's existence would be incomplete, "unimaginable". Bearing it constantly upward defines him.
       "The truth is that Sisyphus is in love with the rock. ... Life is unimaginable without it, ..."

Mitchell's sufferer "doesn't realize" that the toil is needless. In this conception, "at any moment he is permitted to step aside...."

Indeed, Homer's observation does not assert why Sisphyus pushes that boulder upward, merely that he does so ...  again and again. Mitchell's modern conclusion about Sisyphus' "tragedy" is worth pondering.

S. Mitchell, "The Myth of Sisphyus," in Parables and Portraits (New York: Harper Perennial, 1994) = N. Kossman, ed., Gods and Mortals: modern poems on classical myths (New York: Oxford University Press, 2001), 165. — OGCMA1009NOTSisyphus_Mitchell

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