CLIMBING OLYMPOS, PART 3
All right, here goes nothing.
Depending on your outlook, this column is either
the most mind-numbing you’ll ever read, or the most
fascinating. As I told you in previous installments, I’ve
endeavored to locate all the quotes in OLYMPOS, in order to
find their French translations (if any) and use them in MY
for your edification, all of you literature-lovers out there,
here is a complete rundown. But before that, a few well-deserved
To my friend and colleagues of the Babeliste
discussion board, who helped me in my research.
To the Bibliothèque d’Etude et du Patrimoine
of Toulouse, a beautiful place full of old books
and competent librarians.
And to my colleague Peter Robert, who is
busy right now translating OLYMPOS into German: thanks to
this column, we were able to help each other. All OLYMPOS
translators are welcome to use this research–and to
correct and complete it if needed.
Now, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty.
“When we chat, it is no longer we who speak–”.
This comes from Marcel Proust (A L’OMBRE
DES JEUNES FILLES EN FLEUR)
“But your reach should always exceed your grasp.”
Orphu alludes here to ANDREA DEL SARTO, a poem by Robert
Browning, who says: “a man’s reach should
always exceed his grasp”.
This conversation between Mercutio and Benvolio comes from
Shakespeare’s ROMEO AND JULIET, act
1, scene 4.
The Virgil quote comes from book 1 of THE AENEID.
In their dialogue, Prospero and Setebos often quote THE TEMPEST,
act 1, scene 2.
“Manesque exire sepulcris”: this is from Ovid’s
METAMORPHOSES, book 7, verse 206 (look it up!).
A quote from Seneca’s TROADES, as mentioned. There is
another one on page 141.
A quote from Propertius’ ELEGIES, book
3, poem 11. My most heartfelt thanks to Thomas Hockenberry,
Ph.D., who always mentions his sources.
The expression “star-crossed lovers”
comes from the prologue of ROMEO AND JULIET. My thanks to
Harman, who follows Hockenberry’s sterling example.
As he (it?) did in ILIUM, Dan Simmons’
Caliban quotes Browning’s CALIBAN UPON
SETEBOS–which I’ll have to translate from scratch.
He (it?) does it again on page 286.
This quote from Homer’s ILIAD was already
used at the beginning of ILIUM.
“Hell is empty, and all the devils are here”:
this comes from THE TEMPEST, act 2, scene 2.
Dan Simmons’ Ariel quotes Shakespeare’s
Ariel, from THE TEMPEST, act 5, scene 1.
Another TEMPEST quote, from act 1, scene 2.
Hockenberry quotes sportswriter Jimmy Cannon,
and I’ll write a footnote here, as he is unknown in
This long quote from Marcel Proust–which
figures twice in the text, here and on page 459–comes
from LE COTE DE GUERMANTES. This might be the crux of the
ILIUM/OLYMPOS diptych, if not of Dan’s entire œuvre.
“Above, half-seen, in the lofty gloom–”
These verses come from REVERIE OF MOHAMED AKRAN AT THE TAMARIND
TANK, by Laurence Hope. Note the Khajuraho
connection here–shades of PHASES OF GRAVITY.
“The centre cannot hold./Mere anarchy is loosed upon
the world–” This is from Yeats’
THE SECOND COMING, which Prospero already quoted
en passant on page 128.
“A dreadful sound troubled the boundless sea–”
Now, the jury is still out on this one: Peter Robert
thinks it may be from Milton, while I think
it’s a particularly bombastic translation of Hesiod’s
THEOGONY. Maybe it’s Milton quoting Hesiod.
“Those who walk in darkness”: this come from ASH
WEDNESDAY, by T.S. Eliot.
“Fumigation with torches–”
This does come from an Orphic Hymn, as mentioned by Nyx herself.
Here we have Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s
TITHONIUS, as mentioned in the text.
The poem quoted here by Ariel and Moira is Percy Bysshe
Shelley’s TO A LADY, WITH A GUITAR (or TO JANE,
WITH A GUITAR–sources vary).
Moira concludes in a blaze of glory by quoting (surprise!)
John Keats’ THE FALL OF HYPERION.
“The imagination may be compared–”
Another Keats quote, which Dan already used
in his own THE FALL OF HYPERION. Did you say intertextuality?
This is the complete text of William Blake’s
poem THE CRYSTAL CABINET.
William Blake again, with a poem called TO
THE ACCUSER WHO IS THE GOD OF THIS WORLD (an epilogue to THE
GATES OF PARADISE).
Odysseus quotes Tennyson’s ULYSSES
(for which I found a French translation this time).
“They say that Achilles in the darkness stirred–”
These verses are apparently Rupert Brooke’s,
but their exact source remains elusive so far. Note that Brooke
was buried on Scyros, where Achilles lived as a boy.
“No stone there without a name.”
According to Mahnmut, this “probably” comes from
Lucan, but I’m not so sure. The closest
thing I found in Lucan–in the poem he wrote about the
battle of Pharsale (book 8)–is: “But if the stone
deserves/So great a name.” Wait and see.
As mentioned in the Acknowledgments, “Still Born”
was written by Jane K. Simmons (source unknown).
These two long quotes are from Shelley’s
Orphu playfully misquotes THE TEMPEST, act 5, scene 1: “Oh
brave new world, that hath such people in it.”
“I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”
This “Miltonic line” comes from the BIBLE (Isaiah,
“An old trunk of olive–”
This, of course, is from the ODYSSEY (book 23).
“What is your substance–”
This is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet #
“High barrows without a marble or a name–”
This is from Lord Byron’s DON JUAN,
book 4, poem 76.
“Ay, but to die, and to go we know not where–”
This comes from MEASURE FROM MEASURE, act 3, scene 1.
“The crisis consists precisely–”
A quote from Antonio Gramsci’s huge
PRISON NOTEBOOKS, as mentioned in the text.
“Be not afeard./This isle is full of noises–”
THE TEMPEST, of course–act 3, scene 2.
And we come full circle on the last page…
… where Orphu quotes the ILIAD.
Here you have it. I hope this enlightens you as you read
the masterpiece that is OLYMPOS.
PS. Here is a new entry in the “As if I didn’t
have work enough already” dept. I’ve signed a
book contract and have to deliver next year an essay about
one of my favorite authors who:
–once wrote a story whose plot followed a chess game;
–wrote several stories inspired by mythology, including
two about Greek myths;
–was fond of using and quoting poetry in his novels
(he even wrote a space battle as an epic poem);
–imagined an alternate universe in which everybody was
reliving Shakespeare’s plays;
–mostly wrote science fiction but occasionally dabbled
in mystery and horror fiction;
–once wrote that his main claim to fame would probably
be that he fathered his daughter.
Oh, and his initials ain’t DS.
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