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Classic and Contemporary Poetry: Explained

HORUS, by                 Poet's Biography


The poem "Horus," by Gerard Labrunie (more commonly known by his pen name, Gerard de Nerval), delves into the transformative power of myth and the clash of gods representing different cosmic forces. Nerval taps into egyptian mythology, weaving a narrative around the goddess Isis and her resolve against her "savage spouse," likely Seth or Osiris in his deteriorated state.

Isis represents the archetypal feminine force, a life-giver and healer. She opposes the aging god, referred to as "the king of winter, volcano's god," who embodies the destructive, cold elements of nature. The poem frames this confrontation as an earth-shattering event that even causes "the god Kneph" to tremble and "rock the universe."

The symbolism in the poem is deeply layered. Isis is the epitome of maternal energy, and her "ancient ardor" could imply both her agelessness and her passionate nature. Nerval hints at an unfolding shift in cosmic power, where the patriarchal force is weakened, and a "new spirit calls"-personified as Horus, the falcon-headed god often associated with war and hunting but also the sky and kingship. Isis has donned "the garments of Cybele," another mother goddess but from a different mythology, signaling a universal aspect to her character.

The sea and sky, represented by "her golden shell" and "the scarf of Iris," respectively, play an essential role in the poem's closing lines. They suggest that Isis's transformative actions have broad ramifications, echoing throughout the heavens and earth. In evoking these elements, Nerval alludes to the interplay between earthly and celestial realms, highlighting the all-encompassing reach of divine action.

The structure of the poem is noteworthy as well. Comprising a single stanza, the poem forgoes any break that would allow for reflection or transition. This structure is appropriate for a work concerned with cosmic upheaval and momentous shifts in power that defy segmentation.

The poem can be seen as a part of a larger 19th-century fascination with egypt and its mystical elements. Yet, Nerval's work transcends mere orientalism. By utilizing these powerful figures and stories, he explores themes of transformation, renewal, and the never-ending struggle between conflicting cosmic forces. This rich tapestry of ancient myths and modern poetic form exemplifies Nerval's ability to create a dialogue between past and present, infusing aged tales with contemporary urgency.


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