Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Via The Shoulders of Atlas

Thus arm'd, the god [Hermes] begins his airy race,
And drives the racking clouds along the liquid space;
Now sees the tops of Atlas, as he flies,
Whose brawny back supports the starry skies;
Atlas, whose head, with piny forests crown'd,
Is beaten by the winds, with foggy vapors bound.
Snows hide his shoulders; from beneath his chin
The founts of rolling streams their race begin;
A beard of ice on his large breast depends.
Here, pois'd upon his wings, the god descends:
Then, rested thus, he from the tow'ring height
Plung'd downward, with precipitated flight.
- Virgil, Aeneid


 For those who know of such things, the shoulders of Atlas the Titan are not only a destination in themselves but also a gateway to all other possible destinations in the world.

Standing at the western edge of creation, Atlas leans in over the world so that his upper reaches can be reached from anywhere at all. Most flying creatures are able to travel high enough to land on his shoulders or his head, though few have the courage or determination to do so. From this vantage point, it is possible to look down on the entire world at once, and then plummet towards any destination one chooses. Though the philosophers are baffled by how this occurs, it is clear that for long journeys, a trip via the shoulders of Atlas is much quicker and easier than travelling straight from A to B.

Visitors to this cloudy realm may also visit the pine forests atop the Titan's head, where a strange race of mammalian humanoids dwell; the tangled ice caverns of his beard, where the remorhaz make their nests; and his snowcapped shoulders, where the meltwater collects into streams and flows down to waterfalls that end in the west where Atlas plants his feet.

It is not too unusual to meet other airborne travellers in the skies around Atlas's crown. Dragons, air spirits and hippogriff riders are the most common. Generally they prefer to ignore passersby, though there are a few sky pirates who like to lie in wait within the crook of the Titan's armpit.

(Note: It seems like the iconic image of Atlas holding up the globe is a later invention. In the original Greek myths, his job was to hold up the sky, which is more exciting in my opinion.)
(Note II: and yeah did you know that the reason he holds up the sky is because if he didn't then the sky and the earth would just be screwing each other all the time? What an apocalypse that would make!)

No comments:

Post a Comment