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Greek Mythology

Symbol Analysis

Any time a poet or an artist makes reference to Greek mythology, you know that they're pulling out the big guns. See, in Western literary and cultural traditions, "Greek" is sort of the same thing as Culture, with a capital C. From esteemed career paths to snake-faced hellions, this poem has it all.

We could chalk all the greekiness (sorry) up to Graves' own interest in mythology, but we're betting that there's also something about the pagan nature of the Greek gods that is important here. The gods and goddesses aren't thought of as religious figures anymore (Graves, after all, is writing in a pretty Christian society). But they're still important. After all, lots of classical literature is still swirling in the minds of British public schoolgirls and boys. So why does Graves turn to Gorgon instead of Jesus? Well, we're guessing that it's a big, blaring clue that this poem is going to be teasing out some knots in social issues, but not necessarily religious ones.

  • Line 11: The goddess on a lion is likely an allusion to Athena. She's sort of a favorite of people who fancy themselves smart, since she's the goddess of wisdom—oh, and war (hence the lion). And if the goddess of wisdom goes naked, well, then, that's probably a good sign.
  • Line 23: The Gorgon is a female creature who is, all things considered, pretty hideous. You might know that most famous of Gorgons: Medusa. Why does she show up at the end of the poem? Is Graves imagining both the naked and the nude getting punished for being naked? Or is it just the case that all bodies get pretty beaten up once they're no longer living? You might even think of Medusa's whips as just the natural destruction of time. Ouch.

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