Argus

    WHEN wise Ulysses, from his native coast
    Long kept by wars, and long by tempests toss'd,
    Arrived at last, poor, old, disguised, alone,
    To all his friends, and ev'n his Queen unknown,
    Changed as he was, with age, and toils, and cares,
    Furrow'd his rev'rend face, and white his hairs,
    In his own palace forc'd to ask his bread,
    Scorn'd by those slaves his former bounty fed,
    Forgot of all his own domestic crew,
    The faithful Dog alone his rightful master knew!

    Unfed, unhous'd, neglected, on the clay
    Like an old servant now cashier'd, he lay;
    Touch'd with resentment of ungrateful man,
    And longing to behold his ancient lord again.
    Him when he saw he rose, and crawl'd to meet,
    ('Twas all he could) and fawn'd and kiss'd his feet,
    Seiz'd with dumb joy; then falling by his side,
    Own'd his returning lord, look'd up, and died!

    Alexander Pope (1688-1744)


Englishman Alexander Pope modeled himself after the great writers of classical antiquity. His verse translations, moral and critical essays, and satires, made him a foremost poet of his time. His highly polished work was often didactic or satirical and he brought the heroic couplet, which had been redefined by John Dryden, to its ultimate perfection. His talent lay in the brilliance in using this device giving his work a witty and occasionally biting quality. He enjoyed a great success in his lifetime; his poetic form became the dominant force of his century. Translated into many languages. His most renowned work is based on a true story called The Rape of the Lock which he translated and published in 1712. In 1717 a collection of his most noteworthy lyrics was published. Pope's translations of Homer's Iliad was printed in six volumes from 1715 to 1720; a translation of the Odyssey followed from 1725 to 1726. He also published an edition of Shakespeare's plays.

There are three Argus legends from ancient Greek mythology, a goliath, a boatswain and a dog. The giant Argus,also called Panoptes, was assigned as a guardian of Io. It was the goddess Hera, wife of Zeus in a fit of jealousy over her husband’s affections for Io that set him to this task. Zeus changed Io into a heifer to protect her from Hera and sent the god Hermes to rescue her. Hermes slew the one hundred eyed giant by lulling him to sleep with music and then severing his head. In one scenario of the myth, Argus becomes a peacock; another tells that Hera transplanted his eyes onto the peacocks tail.

The second story of Argus is about the builder of the Argo, the ship that carried Jason the Greek hero in his quest for the Golden Fleece. The third Argus is the old dog of Ulysses, Greek leader during the Trojan War. When his master returned to Ithaca after nineteen years, Argus recognized him and promptly died.

It is this scene from the Ulysses story about the faithful dog and his returning master where Pope creates his fanciful and ingenious mock-heroic work describing it in a detailed and concise poem. He uses a clever device while working his way through the verses. The tenth line is a good example of what is termed an alexandrine. Pope uses them frequently in his work to break up monotony. Containing six metrical feet and twelve syllables it changes the iambic pentameter to a heroic couplet. By employing this conversational tool Pope added two syllables to complete his idea in the first stanza. This "safety valve" saves him the trouble of having to rewrite the verse or of carrying it over into another couplet.

Sources:

Bram, Robert Philips, Norma H. Dicky, "Pope,Alexander" Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia , 1988.

Poets' Corner
http://www.geocities.com/~spanoudi/poems/

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/2001/pope0101.html

CST Approved.




Yesterday we lost our lives, tomorrow we were born
Fortune smiled upon us, sacrifice the Argus
All that he might help us see





The Argus as performed by Ween first appeared on the band's 2003 Sanctuary Records release titled Quebec. Featuring Gene Ween on vocals and guitar, Dean Ween on guitars and bass, Josh Freese on drums, and Glenn McClelland on keyboards and piano, the song was produced and mixed by Andrew Weiss at the Zion House of Flesh production studios. The only other release on which The Argus appears is the band's 2004 release of their "Live in Chicago" dvd.


Magna eyes the track for miles, looking for disease
Puzzled by the mountains - tricked by the sea
and the Argus is practiced compassion
with an eye on you, as one is on me
will the god eye grant his forgiveness
and allow he that's lived, a reason to see


Argus, as we learn from Greek mythology, is anything but a clearly defined image. Going by the names of Argus Panoptes, Argus All-Seeing, and occasionally the Man with Many Eyes or even Argos, Argus was a mythological creature of note and was said to have either four eyes (literally with two eyes in the back of his head) or to have one hundred eyes covering all parts of his body. Called by some an Arcadian hero, labeled by others as a cruel monster, but by all accounts the prototype for a near perfect watchman, Argus led quite the amazing life.


Counting days and building walls, bells ring so's to warn
All the signs that guide us, chosen by the Argus
Tell me has chosen you


Argus was involved in numerous adventures in his Peloponnesian home of Arcadia, most of which were began with Argus’ self-imposed quest to rid the land of its pests. This began with killing a wild bull, afterwards hunting a beast named the satyr which was stealing cattle from his countrymen. Argus then went on to kill Echidna (a juxtaposition of a beautiful woman and a horrible serpent, rumored to be the offspring of Tartarus and Gaia) to complete his homeland’s cleansing.


Led by form we’ll shed our soul
Trusting like a child
See the dark face that saved us
Drink from his empty eyes


Argus’ end came indirectly at the hands of Zeus. The goddess Hera had asked Argus to watch over Io, an attractive young priestess with whom Zeus (Hera’s promiscuous husband) had fallen in love with. At some point before Hera asked Argus to watch over Io to prevent Zeus from being with her, Io was changed into a cow. Some sources blame Hera’s feminine temper for this transformation, other sources claim Zeus himself changed Io so that he may protect and hide her from his jealous Queen/wife. In any event, after Io became four-legged Hera asked Argus to watch over her; since Argus never slept with all four (or 100) of his eyes at once he complied.

This, needless to say, perturbed Zeus, who was not accustomed to being denied of his worldly wants in such a manner.

It was Zeus then who went to Hermes, the god of thieves, to steal Io away. Hermes promptly dressed as a shepherd and bored Argus to sleep with long stories (Hermes Slays Argus) and his shepherd’s pipe (just invented by Pan prior to his acquisition thereof) and then kidnapped the heifer-priestess. Another version claims that Hermes distracted Argus with his shepherd’s pipe and then killed him with a stone when Argus came within range.


and the Argus is practiced compassion
with an eye on you, as one is on me
will the god eye grant his forgiveness
letting droplets of light erupt from the sea...


Musically, The Argus is one of Ween's sweetest sounding songs. Slowly drifting through major chords and picked progressions the song is full of an ancient sound. The live version attains a quiet, though stirring, potential by lulling the audience into listening to the fantastic tale of the mythological creature. A clear departure from the generally quick and upbeat, jamband-like sound to their music, the Brothers Ween do an excellent job of flaunting their musical theory while they change gears and produce what can only be called a masterpiece. The overall feeling of the song, if no lyrics were ever provided, transport you to lying on your back in the summer-time, watching knights fight dragons in the clouds or feeling the sun pass over your closed eye lids; the sound is that type of sensation, soothing.


Lying in beds of garlic and orchids, he closes an eye, which closes another
and in sleep he dreams, of watching and looking and feather clouds dancing
He curls up his lid and sleeps...


A close reading of the lyrics to The Argus reveals Ween's interpretation of the legends surrounding the Arcadian Watchman. Clearly they place him higher than most folk tales as they associate Argus early and often with kind deeds; "with an eye on you, as one is on me", looking after other citizens of his land; and the reiteration that the Argus is practicing compassion, showing that Argus most certainly cares for his fellow countryman and not a creature of malicious intent. Interpretively, it seems as though Argus is considered to be of little intelligence, as it is the wit and mental quickness of Hermes which brings Argus' doom. When Ween sings "allow he that's lived, a reason to see" they are referring to the great deeds that he has done for Arcadia such as ridding of the wild bull, the satyr, and Echidna so why should he not be allowed to see, or understand rather, the consequences of actions that would befall him (such as Hermes trickery).

Just as in the legends, where Hera commemorates Argus by placing his eyes in the tail of the peacock, her favorite bird (suggesting that Hermes truly does kill Argus) Ween again immortalizes Argus with a beautiful rendition of the story concerning a legendary man.


Swirling with visions on man's confusion
All of the work, done just to appease him
The Argus he cries, though love has it's place in the sun
It's only man's fear that carries him on...


Sources:
http://www.ween.net/disc9.htm
http://www.loggia.com/myth/argus.html
http://www.mythweb.com/encyc/entries/argus_(2).html
http://edweb.sdsu.edu/people/bdodge/scaffold/GG/creature.html
Citation:
Small type is The Argus by the brothers Ween

Ar"gus (#), n. [L. Argus, Gr. .]

1. Myth.

A fabulous being of antiquity, said to have had a hundred eyes, who has placed by Juno to guard Io. His eyes were transplanted to the peacock's tail.

2.

One very vigilant; a guardian always watchful.

3. Zool.

A genus of East Indian pheasants. The common species (A. giganteus) is remarkable for the great length and beauty of the wing and tail feathers of the male. The species A. Grayi inhabits Borneo.

 

© Webster 1913.

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