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Donald W. Foster I OF THE CYCLOPS: THE HERDSMAN-POET The continuous development of art, in Nietzschean terms, is die result of a constant interplay between two contending elements in die creative life of man, die Apollonian and the Dionysian. The Dionysian is the ultimate metaphysical reality, die "mysterious primordial unity" in which all distinctions between self and other, self and nature, are obliterated. And for die individual die Dionysian is, in addition, a psychological state, attainable only in drunkenness or ecstasy, in which one participates in this unitary primal reality, and so, in some sense, comes to know it — at least in retrospect, with die recovery ofselfconsciousness . In the Dionysian revel, the individual forgets himselfcompletely; and while die emotional state engendered by such passion is one of suffering, it embraces also die terror and joy that always accompany wild abandon — whetiier in the Dionysian rites per se, or in sexual passion, or dance, or in die heat of slaughter. The Apollonian, on the odier hand, is die realm of individual images, in which die self is perceived as a separate entity, distinct from nature and from all odier selves. For die individual person, it is a state closely related to dreaming; for the Apollonian as a cognitive state is a means of interpreting life through images — images perceived not by die intellect but by the aesthetic sense. And while the dreamer takes a great delight in the images he creates, it is essential that he maintain die sensation that these forms are illusory, else they fail as art and present instead only "crass reality." The Apollonian, dien, as a means of imposing form and order upon the world, represents not only the world of appearance but also die cognitive state which focuses on illusion as a means of preserving the separation of the self. The Apollonian artist, by turning from the Dionysian reality, is able to achieve emotions of the most peaceful sort, and to maintain or intensify individuation in die contemplation of form. In no literary mode is diis phenomenon experienced more fully than in pastoral poetry and drama. If Greek tragedy may be viewed as a Dionysian chorus discharging itself in an Apollonian world ofimages, pastoral may be viewed as a world ofmere appearance which exists to preserve separation of self dirough an illusory and purely Apollonian image of the Dionysian. In other words, in tragedy one beholds Apollo, but it is Dionysus 250 Donald W. Foster251 who speaks from behind the mask, whispering that it is best not to be; in pastoral, one beholds a pale image ofthe Dionysian, but it is Apollo who speaks, proclaiming the joys of individuation. In this respect, Greek pastoral is akin to the earlier epics: in neither is Dionysus absent; he is merely pressed into the service of an Apollonian artist, in a seeming triumph over life's darkest problems. But in no sense is Greek pastured a return to the Homeric agon. Homer was made possible by an overthrow ofTitans, a slaying ofmonsters, a triumph — by a people — over an abysmal and terrifying view of the world. The Olympian order of joy, to which Homer's narrative art belongs, evolved through die Greeks' Apollonian impulse toward beauty and form, in their struggle to transcend die pain of existence. Greek pastoral, on die odier hand, tends to manifest itself as a highly self-conscious and personal expression of a poet's response to the allure of Dionysian ecstasy. As a result, Greek pastoral bears little resemblance to epic, even when treating of the same myths, as, for example, in the radical transformation by Theocritus of Homer's Polyphemos. In book nine of the Odyssey, the Cyclops Polyphemos appears as the perfect embodiment of the Dionysian. When Odysseus enters the cave of die beast, he immediately loses his identity; Odysseus becomes Outis, or "No-one." And Homer's Polyphemos is no bucolic poet, but a lawless brute with no respect for god or man. Rather than show any hospitality to his human guests, he prompdy seizes two of the men, dashes their brains out, tears them limb from limb, and has them for supper while Odysseus, as Outis, looks on in...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 250-260
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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