Wednesday, March 28, 2012

King Midas Story

Midas is the name of at least three members of the royal house of Phrygia.

The most famous King Midas is popularly remembered in Greek mythology for his capacity to turn everything he touched into gold. This came to be called the Golden touch, or the Midas touch. The Phrygian city Midaeum was most possibly named after this Midas, and this is probably also the Midas that according to Pausanias founded Ancyra. 

According to Aristotle, legend held that Midas died of famine as a result of his "vain prayer" for the gold touch. The legends told regarding this Midas and his father Gordias, credited with founding the Phrygian capital city Gordium and tying the Gordian knot, indicate that they were believed to have lived sometime in the 2nd millennium BC well before the Trojan War. However, Homer does not mention Midas or Gordias, while instead mentioning two other famous Phrygian kings, Mygdon and Otreus.

King Midas was a really kind man who ruled his kingdom fairly, but he was not one to think very deeply about what he said. One day, while walking in his garden, he saw an elderly satyr asleep in the flowers. Taking shame on the old fellow, King Midas let him go without punishment. When the god Dionysus heard about it, he rewarded King Midas by granting him one wish. The king thought for only a second and then said I wish for everything I touch to turn to gold." And it absolutely was.

The beautiful flowers in his garden turned toward the sun for light, but when Midas approached and touched them, they stood rigid and gold. The king grew hungry and thin, for every time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His beautiful daughter, at his loving touch, turned hard and fast to gold. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and ultimately the whole palace were gold.

King Midas saw that soon his entire kingdom would turn to gold unless he did something right away. He asked Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been and get back his golden touch. Because the king was ashamed and very sad, Dionysus took pity on him and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer that he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Mourning Dove

The Mourning Dove may be a member of the dove family (Columbidae). The bird is also called the Turtle Dove or the American Mourning Dove or Rain Dove, and formerly was known as the Carolina Pigeon or Carolina Turtledove. It is one of the most abundant and well-known of all North American birds. 

It is also the leading game bird, with more than 20 million birds (up to 70 million in some years) shot annually in the U.S., both for sport and for meat. Its capacity to sustain its population under such pressure stems from its prolific breeding: in warm areas, one pair may raise up to six broods a year. Its mournful woo-OO-oo-oo-oo call gives the bird its name. The wings can make an unusual whistling sound upon take-off and landing. The bird is a strong flier, capable of speeds up to 88 km/h (55 mph).

Mourning Doves are light grey and brown and usually muted in color. Males and females are similar in look. The species is generally monogamous, with two squabs (young) per brood. Both parents incubate and care for the young. Mourning Doves eat almost completely seeds, but the young are fed crop milk by their parents
The Mourning Dove is a medium-sized, slender dove approximately 31 cm (12 in) in length. Mourning Doves weigh 4-6 ounces, generally closer to 4.5 ounces. The elliptical wings are broad, and the head is rounded. Its tail is long and tapered. Mourning Doves have perching feet, with three toes forward and one reversed. The legs are short and reddish colored. The beak is short and dark, usually a brown-black hue.

The plumage is generally light gray-brown and lighter and pinkish below. The wings have black spotting, and therefore the outer tail feathers are white, contrasting with the black inners. Below the eye is a distinctive crescent-shaped area of dark feathers. The eyes are dark, with light skin surrounding them. 

The adult male has bright purple-pink patches on the neck sides, with light pink coloring reaching the breast. The crown of the adult male is a distinctly bluish-grey color. Females are similar in appearance, but with more brown coloring overall. The iridescent feather patches on the neck above the shoulders are nearly absent, but can be quite vivid on males. Juvenile birds have a scaly appearance, and are generally darker

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Harpies and the Suicides

The Wood of the Self-Murderers: The Harpies and the Suicides are a pencil, ink and watercolor on paper artwork by the English poet, painter and printmaker William Blake (1757–1827). The work was finished between 1824 and 1827 and illustrates a passage from the Inferno canticle of the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri (1265–1321).The work is part of a series which was to be the last set of watercolors he worked on before his death in August 1827. It is held in the Tate Gallery, London.

Blake was commissioned in 1824 by his friend, the painter John Linn ell (1792–1882), to create a series of illustrations based on Dante's poem. Blake was then in his late sixties, yet by legend drafted 100 watercolors on the topic "during a fortnight's illness in bed”. Few of them were actually colored, and only seven gilded. He sets this work in a scene from one of the circles of hell depicted in the Inferno (Circle VII, Ring II, Canto XIII), in which Dante and the Roman poet Virgil (70–19 BCE) travel through a forest haunted by harpies—mythological winged and malign fat-bellied death-spirits who bear features of human heads and female breasts.

The harpies in Dante's version feed from the leaves of oak trees that entomb suicides. At the time Canto XIII (or The Wood of Suicides) was written, suicide was considered by the church as at least equivalent to murder, and a contravention of the Commandment "Thou shalt not kill". Many theologians believed it to be a deeper sin than murder, because it constituted a rejection of God's gift of life. 

Dante describes a tortured wood infested with harpies, where the act of suicide is punished by encasing the offender in a tree, therefore denying eternal life and damning the soul to an eternity as a member of the restless living dead, and prey to the harpies. Blake's painting shows Dante and Virgil walking through a haunted forest at a second when Dante tears a leaf from a bleeding tree. He drops it in shock on hearing the disembodied words, "Wherefore tear’s me thus? Is there no touch of mercy in thy breast?”

In Dante's poem, the tree contains the body of Pietro Della Vigna (1190–1249), an Italian jurist and diplomat, and chancellor and secretary to the Emperor Frederick II (1194–1250). Pietro was a learned man who rose to become a close advisor to the emperor. 

However, his success was envied by other members of Frederick II's court, and charges that he was wealthier than the emperor and was an agent of the pope were brought against him. Frederick threw Pietro in prison, and had his eyes ripped out. In response, Pietro killed himself by beating his head against the dungeon wall. He is one of four named suicides mentioned in Canto XIII, and represents the notion of a "heroic" suicide.