Saturday, October 23, 2010

Falconer Wanted: All Qualified Apply Within

One of the passages from Herodotus' The Histories (one of my favorite books of all time) Croesus is advised by the Oracle when asked if he is not certainly the happiest of men:

"One should always look to the end of everything, how it will finally come out. For the god has shown blessedness to many only to overturn them utterly in the end.
“call no man happy until he is dead”, says the Oracle to Croesus.

Croesus (King of Lydia) misreads the Oracle & proceeds to wage a disastrous war against Cyrus and goes from being a man of great wealth and a wonderful family to losing his son and being utterly and completely defeated.

Simon Kogan has this great sculpture of a falconer and his charge gently lighting on his glove, still tamed, still controlled, still safe. Although simply a beautiful work, I never understood the significance of this work until recently. Before emigrating to the US, Simon was Russian, born in Kazakhstan the largest inland country in the world, where China, Russia and the ancient Persian Empires meet. Falconry is one of the national obsessions of his native born country. I was reading the Yeats lines from "The Second Coming", where Yeats uses the image of, "The falcon cannot hear the falconer" as a metaphor for social disintegration as a part of my literary wanderings related to the Herodotus passage:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world...

Upon reading Yeats I understood why Falconry was an integral part of the Kazakhstan culture. The steppes of the great expanse of this traditionally violence torn contested wild land hold a fragile balancing act between control & act of coaxing and control, magic & manipulation, bond and freedom. Much like the falcon & its falconer. Much like the fate of the fabled King of Lydia: Wealthy & loved one moment, alone & destitute the next.

I look at our own great country and our current circumstance wondering how well our center will hold. I long for a falconer to call off our own harbingers of anarchy, bring back a time of reason for I am fearful we will be like Croesus and suddenly find ourselves unhappy & apart.

This wonderful bronze can be seen at M Gallery of Fine Art, SE 11 S Broad Street Charleston SC

Post Script: further reading revealed: Anacharsis to Croesus: O king of the Lydians, I am come to the country of the Greeks, in order to become acquainted with their customs and institutions; but I have no need of gold, and shall be qui...te contented if I return to Scythia a better man than I left it. However I will come to Sardis, as I think it very desirable to become a friend of yours.[10] (Anachasis (Anarchy) was the most famous Scythian. Scythia is now modern day Kazakhstan)

Having been informed by Solon that Anachasis was employed in drawing up a code of laws for the Athenians, described his occupation, saying

"Laws are spider-webs, which catch the little flies, but cannot hold the big ones."[11]

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