Poetry has always been the handmaiden of mythology, and vice versa. Sometimes poets are in the business of collecting and tweaking existing myths, as with Ovid’s “Metamorphoses” and the Poetic Edda. Other times poetry applies a mythological glamour to stories and characters from history, legend or even other myths (the hero of the “Aeneid” is a minor character from the “Iliad”). Then there are poets who equate the idea of myth with the supposedly irrational essence of poetry itself. Here is Robert Graves in 1948: “No poet can hope to understand the nature of poetry unless he has had a vision of the Naked King crucified to the lopped oak, and watched the dancers, red-eyed from the acrid smoke of the sacrificial fires, . . . with a monotonous chant of ‘Kill! kill! kill!’ and ‘Blood! blood! blood!’ ” Which might sound more like a strip club picnic gone badly awry, but you get the idea.
more from David Orr at the NY Times here.