Bellerophon and the Golden Bridle

He had to catch Pegasus, our Bellerophon, and couldn’t.  As Pindar tells it:

[Bellerophon] once strove in vain beside Peirene’s spring, and suffered much, seeking to yoke the snake-haired Gorgo’s offspring, Pegasos. Till Pallas [Athena], goddess maid, brought him the bridle and golden headband, and behold a dream was truth.

(Pindar, Olympian Ode 13. 63 ff, trans. Conway as found on the wonderful Theoi site.

So the Goddess gives him the means to catch and ride the winged horse.  In his series of Harvard lectures, collected in book form as The Lyric Impulse, C. Day Lewis identifies this as a description of ‘the creative process’.  I remember his point about the complicated dance between Bellerophon and Pegasus every time I’m having trouble with writing.  He says

Bellerophon would not have been granted the bridle if he had not spent all his energy and skill attempting to catch Pegasus: we may even imagine the golden bridle as a magical object woven out of all his complex, unavailing manoeuvres.

1965, The Lyric Impulse, London: Chatto & Windus, p. 131.

So, using his analogy, then, I might say that my poem is made of the wily and the wild (the unconscious?), the gift of the Goddess (chance? inspiration? confidence?) and my own, lumpen effort.

Incidentally, my own bridle – the charcoal one, that I have been trying to finish for so long – will be appearing in the next issue of The Rialto.  Still not finished, I think, but definitely paused in an interesting place.  (Who said that?  Some painter…must look it up…)


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