The Journey Back, Day 2: The Ekphrasis

And now they pause on that hill where Dedalus,

At the end of his flight, first fluttered to earth:

He had risked himself to the sky, away and afloat

To the north, through the cold air, unprecedented,

Rowing with wings—which he then dedicated

To you, Phoebus Apollo, there on the spot

Where he landed, and built in your honour

A mighty temple, the doors of it decorated

With scenes in relief. First the death of Androgeos.

Then the stricken Athenians, doomed to deliver

Seven grown-up sons for sacrifice every year.

There too stood the empty urn, from which

Only now the fatal lots had been drawn.

On the opposite leaf, the land of Knossos

Rising out of the sea: here was the horn-cruel bull

With Pasiphaë under him (a congress

Her cunning arranged), whence would be born

The Minotaur, crossbreed and offspring

Of abominable desire. Also shown:

The bewildering, intricate maze— Never got through until

Dedalus, out of pity For infatuated Ariadne,

Guided a prince’s blind footsteps

With a payout of thread, past every wrong turn

And every dead end he himself had devised

And constructed. In which grand design

You too would figure significantly,

Icarus, had sorrow allowed it. Twice

Dedalus tried to model your fall in gold, twice

His hands, the hands of a father, failed him.

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