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This article is taken from PN Review 42, Volume 11 Number 4, March - April 1985.

Finlay's Fane: Metamorphoses at Stonypath Stephen Bann


. . . While this they admire,
Lament their neighbours ruine, and desire
To see their cottage, which doth onely keepe
Its place; while for the places fate they weepe;
That humble shed, too little even for two,
Became a Fane. To columns crotches grew,
The thatch and roofe shine with bright gold; the doores
Divinely carv'd; the pavement marble floores.

(Ovid, Metamorphoses, Bk VIII, trans. G. Sandys)


The eighth book of Ovid's Metamorphoses is well stocked with mythic figures who seem to epitomize aspects of the artist's destiny. Daedalus, the artificer who 'alters nature', makes his appearance there; as does his son Icarus, the foolhardy bird-man who flies too close to the Sun and perishes in the Aegean Sea. Then there is Meleager, chosen by Swinburne to be the real, if not the eponymous hero of Atlanta in Calydon, whose ascetic dedication to the chaste maiden-heroine leads to a gruesome death and makes him a close cousin to the Hippolytus of Walter Pater's Greek Studies. Among these paradigms of artistic striving, especially cherished towards the end of the nineteenth century and at the beginning of the twentieth, the tale of Baucis and Philemon has a somewhat incongruous effect. The pair of them are home-dwellers, not apparently tempted by the upper air or by the excitement of the chase. Yet it is their destiny to receive Jove and Mercury under the guise of travel-stained ...


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