Thursday, September 25, 2014

111. A jumble of limbs } of ill-assorted limbs.

Certainly this observation is not new. Apollonius (the Rhodian) describes evolution in Book 4 of the Argonautica. Here, read, from E. V. Rieu’s translation, a description of the creatures that attend Circe:
A number of creatures whose ill-assorted limbs declared them to be neither man nor beast had gathered round her like a great flock of sheep following their shepherd from the fold. Nondescript monsters such as these, fitted with miscellaneous limbs, were once produced spontaneously by Earth our of the primeval mud, when she had not yet solidified under a rainless sky and was deriving no moisture from the blazing sun. But Time, combining this with that, brought the animal creation into order.
Time! From ancient oceans, under the right circumstances, with enough time, life happens and evolves.

From Richard Hunter’s translation:
Her beasts—which were not entirely like flesh-devouring beasts, nor like men, but rather a jumble of different limbs—all came with her…. Similar to these were the creatures which in earlier times the earth itself had created out of the mud, pieced together from a jumble of limbs, before it had been properly solidified by the thirsty air or the rays of the parching sun had eliminated sufficient moisture. Time then sorted these out by grouping them into proper categories.
Domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species!

(Apollonius’ Circe is wonderful. Alternately magic and mundane. Sunlight behind her eyes, as it is with “all Children of the sun.” Visions of blood that pours from the walls of her cottage. Then sympathy and harsh words to Medea who is only there for absolution from her aunt.

Circe reminds me of my beloved Sidhuri, the veiled tavern-keeper who tells Gilgamesh “You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted to him death, but life they retained in their own keeping.”)

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