ZEUS




Head of ZEUS /022




Zeus, who first taught men to think

has laid it down that wisdom

comes only through suffering-learning.

Forever there drips in sleep past the heart

grief from an ancient memory. Against our will

we must live pure, restrained. Still, still,

from the gods who judge in grandeur,

redemption comes..... somehow? Comes

Grace in a hurricane of violence.




The text under the Zeus is from Aeschylos' Agamemnon, first choral ode. I took Lattimore's excellent translation but soon saw that there were things I thought better, and changed it here and there. But the real change which a Hellenic Classicist would notice is 'suffering learning,' which is the only neat way I have ever seen for Gr. 'pathei mathein' which usually calls for a whole phrase like 'laid it down that we must learn through suffering.' I even like the rhythm of my phrase, with its dactylic hexameter final cadence. Although it does sound like the 'suffering catfish' of old slang.

Someone is sure to ask: 'Do you think Zeus looked like that?' To which I would reply: 'Do you think God looks like an old man with a white beard?' At least it is different from the humanoid portrayals of Zeus in Greek art, where they were convinced he looked like an athlete just a little over his prime.

The ZEUS is vintage l964, and one of my early ones with welded steel pieces, a rough idea of something masterful and grim, and above all, dominant. Just for the sake of curiosity, the piece at the top is a gear from a Model T transmission, the ears are from old-fashioned bed iron ends, a little silver fused on here and there. The eyes are actually the adjustment nuts from the differential of a l949 MG TC. But these origins are secret, not the sort of things I mention -- for a reason. People get the idea that if you pick up bits and pieces, and call them 'objet trouve' ', you can make sculpture by welding them together. There is nowadays a lot of craft-made welded up cows and pigs and skiers, which is not my style. My pieces were much earlier than the craft metal scene; furthermore, they focus on a feeling or an innuendo, not representations of figures as such

William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris