Relief: Hercules and the Cretan Bull
(c.460 BCE. The Louvre, Paris)
How strange and ironic that something
like a half-spoken word or an incomplete image
can still be complete and carry out
its full import? So this labor of Hercules
frozen in stone. For the god’s arm, broken off
at the shoulder, still carries the struggle upward
in a curve of action that strains to run
its course into an arm and hand that now
can only be imagined as wielding a sword
about to bring the beast down
while the legs, broken at the hips, brace
unseen like pillars on ground no longer there.
So, too, the bull’s face, partly sheared off,
its head turned defiantly towards the slayer
it cannot see yet tells something of its rage
as the sword remains forever suspended
in its impending blow. So, too, the angry mouth,
the exposed teeth, the snorting nostrils –
are they not all there plain to see as the snapping
sound of the tail’s violent whiplash?
For there is no victor, no victim, no victory here
except what the ancient legend tells. What remains
for god and beast is the interval, an interminable waiting,
a fate more cruel than the blow that never falls.
Copyright © Maurice Rigoler | Year Posted 2021
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