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129 TheTerror of Divine Revelation and Apollo’s Incorporation into Song: Swinburne’s Apollonian Myth Y isr a el Lev in • The pivotal position that the figure of Apollo occupies in Swinburne’s poetry becomes very much apparent in the second half of his poetic career. Following the 1878 publication of Poems and Ballads 2,Apollo’s presence can be traced throughout his later poetry. Different critics have noticed and discussed Swinburne’s poetic treatment of the god: Meredith Raymond regards Apollo as a symbol of a Swinburnian aesthetic unity (75–76); David G. Riede sees Apollo as a personification of Swinburne’s Romantic ideal (132–33, 144–49, 156–59); Thaïs E. Morgan views Swinburne’s Apollo as the Christian god in disguise (150, 156–61); while Margot K. Louis argues that Apollo represents Swinburne’s search for an alternative, non-Christian divinity (119–25, 139–40). This paper takes Louis’s approach a step further and discusses Swinburne’s attempt to establish a spiritual system that revolves aroundApollo. Focusing on three poems, I will present the challenges Swinburne encountered while trying to create an Apollonian myth of his own.The result, I show, is a mythopoeic environment that introduces a unique conception of the god, as well as of his poetic representation. Within the general context of theVictorian fascination with Greek culture, Apollo occupies a special place. As J. B. Bullen writes in the introduction to the essay collection The Sun is God: Painting, Literature and Mythology in the Nineteenth Century, “the ancient, primitive, and powerful myths of the sun inspired the nineteenth-century mind” and the“imaginative power of sunlight lit up what many people saw as the gloom ofVictorian culture” (11). Probably two of the most influential figures in this regard were the German scholars Karl Otfried Müller and Friedrich Max Müller, whose studies of ancient Greek won great popularity among nineteenth-century English Hellenophiles. In The History and Antiquities of the Dorian Race, K. O. Müller writes:“In our inquiries…into the origins of the worship of Apollo, we are limited to the races of purely Greek offspring” (1: 221).Apollo, he argues, was“one of the principal deities of the Dorians,” and thus his worship “is found to have predominated in all the settlements of that race” (219).As Müller would later argue, the traditional view victorian review • Volume 34 Number 2 130 that regards Dorus, the mythological father of the Dorians, as the son of Hellen, the mother of all Hellenes, was not merely a mythical fable, but a genealogical documentation of the ancient tribes of Greece (489–91). According to that myth, therefore, the Dorians were the true Hellenes and their god the incarnation of the original Hellenic spirit.1 For Müller and his Victorian readers, then, Apollo was much more than a Hellenic deity; in their eyes, he epitomized Hellenism. F. M. Müller’s Comparative Mythology also emphasizes Apollo’s unique mythical position.According to Müller, all mythologies are essentially solar mythologies that revolve around sun-gods and their actions (xxvi–xxix). Thus, myths that involve solar deities such as Apollo are considered to be original myths that preceded all other myths.2And while the ideas presented in Comparative Mythology were criticized harshly during and after the mid-1870s ,3 Müller’s former academic reputation allowed “the influence of the solar theory to become quite widespread,” and as such, it “quickly penetrated the literary world” (Turner 111). Not surprisingly, therefore,Apollo became an appealing subject forVictorian writers. Matthew Arnold’s Empedocles on Etna, for instance, introduces us to Callicles, a poet and worshipper of Apollo (I. i. 18–20). Apollo is associated with poetry once again in Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Aurora Leigh, where the god is depicted as the source of poetic inspiration as well as a judge who shows no mercy toward incompetent poets (4, ll. 145–49).4 Robert Browning presents a rather different view of Apollo. In his “Apollo and the Fates,” the god is no longer the vindictive judge of Aurora Leigh; rather, he is a mischievous prankster who attempts to intoxicate the Fates in order to...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1923-3280
Print ISSN
0848-1512
Pages
pp. 129-148
Launched on MUSE
2015-10-07
Open Access
No
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