Even as parts of the world emerge from lockdowns imposed in the wake of the second and third waves of the coronavirus, it appears that yet another variant and wave could threaten to send us scurrying back indoors. Between trying to get back to life as we knew it and severe restrictions, we are having to navigate a tricky future.
Are we condemned to live a life of immobility, or of limited mobility, then? A stony world where we aren’t going to experience the freedoms that we once knew? For this month’s edition of Ovid in the Time of Covid, I have chosen the story of Perseus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses as the inspiration, likening the spiky coronavirus to the gorgon, Medusa’s head which, when viewed directly turned people to stone.
Many a month flew by in every land
From Wuhan in China to Europe and America;
Yet time stood still, unmoved its frozen hand
Similarly in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
For, while people thought the virus gone,
It was back in a new variant before long;
And so it was that Covid-19 was born
Several times, in waves, sweeping the world along
People began to tire of all the tests,
And keeping track of the daily new cases;
They stayed home since it was best
To avoid catching the virus,
Or passing it on,
Even if inadvertently;
No one could think it gone
Not even unwittingly.
And Perseus answering told
How ‘neath the snows of Atlas lay a spot,
Fenced round with solid rampart of thick wall,
Beside whose entrance dwelt the sisters, twain
Of Phorcys born, who with alternate use
Between them shared but one sole eye, and how
That orb, from one to other passed, his hand…
And rugged rock, and shaggy wood, to where
Their Sister-Gorgon dwelt; and, on that path
What lifeless shapes of men and beasts he saw
By glance of Medusa petrified…
The Story of Perseus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book IV, Lines 919-931
The world had to find names for the variants,
For how else could anyone tell which was which;
Alpha, beta, gamma, delta,
The last one like a spell cast by a witch.
It’s been galloping around the world
Since being detected in India, March 2021
And infecting people in its whirl;
Oh, it simply won’t leave folks alone.
Vaccines are the only hope of keeping it at bay,
But not all countries and people have the jab;
So, we just stay home and stay away
While pharma scientists work away at their labs.
It has taken our freedoms away,
Turned us into creatures of stone
By the time it has had its way
It would have worn us down to the bone.
“Yourselves will have it so! ” He cried
“Then meet your fate! What was my foe
Must friend me now. Comrades! If comrades yet
I have turned hence your eyes!”
And from its shroud The Gorgon-Head he drew. “Hence! Mountebank!”
Cried Thescalus, “On fools and children try “
These juggling tricks!” And, as his lance he poised,
In act to whirl, the man a statue stood!
The Story of Perseus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses Book V, Lines 226-233
Countries are trying to find a way around it,
Lockdowns are local, and restrictions eased;
With every slight improvement in the numbers affected
The general mood rises, thinking at last, peace.
Till some new outbreak strikes terror in people’s hearts
And crestfallen, they retreat into their shells
Frozen in time and space; no, this is no frieze art,
Everyone wonders when the end of this hell.
Imagine some countries in perpetual lockdown,
With no hope of vaccines ever reaching;
Not enough at any rate for every town
And every person help beseeching.
They will perhaps be locked down forever
Stuck in their homes, condemned
To live their lives out hereafter
Frozen in time, in lands damned.
Nileus, who from old Egypt’s seven-fold flood
Claimed lying origin, and on his shield,
In silver part wrought and part in gold,
Seven rivers bore, came next. “Behold ” he cried
“The badge that speaks my parentage! And bear
To Hades all such solace as thy Death
From hand like mine may yield!” The later words
Were choked in utterance; and the marble lips,
Open to speak, to no more speech gave way.
The Story of Perseus from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book V, Lines 238-246
A virus so deadly and yet never seen
Except under the microscope
Can ravage entire lands, so mean
Is its effect, no matter your horoscope;
Initially, people thought it worse on the elderly;
Later as it continued to spread
It attacked people of all ages cleverly,
People lived in constant dread.