afb: Amsterdam 1982, Arbeiderspers



uit: Cyril Connolly 'The Unquiet Grave'

Epilogue: Who was Palinurus? (p.126-138)


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The winding shelves do us detain^
Till God, the Palinure returns again.

                                                                              FULLER,1640: Joseph's Coat


Let us examine him: study the Psychiatrist's confidential


Diagnosis. Strongly marked palinuroid tendencies.

Prognosis. Grave.

Clinical Picture. The story of Palinums is only to be
found in the third, fifth and sixth books of Virgil's
Aeneid. The third book forms part of ^Eneas* relation to
Dido of the events that befell him after the fall of Troy
and consequently everything and everyone in it are seen
through his eyes. This may be a cause of subjective bias,
where the references in that book are concerned.
Nothing is known of Palinums' heredity except that,
like the physician lapyx, he was a Trojan and descended
from lasus. ^Eneas addresses Mm as *Iaside Palinure'.
There is no evidence of any inherited psychopathic
tendency. The first mention of Palinurus exhibits him
in a confusion-state and suggests that, although usually a
well-adjusted and efficient member of society, the pilot
was experiencing a temporary 'black-out*. The passage


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introduces that undulant sea-music which will accom-
pany Palinurus on his all too rare appearances. The
translator is Dryden.

Now from the sight of Land our Gallies move,
With only Seas around, and Skies above.
When o'er our Heads, descends a burst of Rain;
And Night, with sable Clouds involves the Main:
The ruffling Winds the foamy Billows raise :u
The scatter'd Fleet is forc'd to sev'ral Ways:
The face of Heav'n is ravish'd from our Eyes,
And in redoubPd Peals the roaring Thunder flies.
Cast from our Course, we wander in the Dark;
No Stars to guide, no point of Land to mark.
Ev'n PaUnunis no distinction found
Betwixt the Night and Day; such Darkness reign'd

(* Palinurus in unda*—Note the theme at his first

The storm casts the ships on the Strophades, where the
Harpies foul and plunder the heroes* open-air buffet In
vain the trumpeter Misenus blows the call to action: the
Harpies are attacked but prove invulnerable and one,
Celseno, curses the leader and his band, prophesying war
and famine. They set sail again, the dactylic sea music
reappears—and with it the master pilot.

Tendunt vela Noti; fugimus spumantibus undis.
qua cursum ventusque gubernatorque vocabat
jam medio apparet fluctu nemorosa Zacynthos
Dulichiumque Sameque et Neritos ardua saxis.

South winds stretch the sails, we run over the bubbling
waters where the breezes and the Pilot call the course,


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now Zacynthos covered with woods appears in the
middle of the sea, and Dulichium and Same and Neritus
with its steep cliffs*—(*Zante, Zante fiore di
Levante1). . . .

At length the pilot's moment approaches—

The Night proceeding on with silent pace,
Stood in her noon; and view'd with equal Face
Her steepy rise, and her declining Race,
Then wakeful Palinurus rose, to spie
The face of Heav'n, and the Nocturnal Side;
And listen'd ev'ry breath of Air to try:
Observes the Stars, and notes their sliding Course:
The Pleiads, Hyads^ and their wat'ry force;
And both the Bears is careful to behold;
And bright Orion arm'd with burnish'd Gold.
Then when he saw no threatening Tempest nigh,
But a sure promise of a settled skie;
He gave the Sign to weigh: we break our sleep;
Forsake the pleasing Shore, and plow the Deep.

A situation of considerable strain arises on the passage
between Scylla and Charybdis:

First Palinurus to the Larboard veer'd;
Then all the Fleet by his Example steered.
To Heav'n aloft on ridgy Waves we ride;
Then down to Hell descend, when they divide.
And thrice our Gallies knock* d the stony ground,
And thrice the hollow Rocks return'd the sound,
And thrice we saw the Stars, that stood with dews

Harpies, Scylla, Charybdis, the Cyclops, Etna in erup-
tion I Each one of the trials which the exiled pilot must


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have undergone could occasion an anxiety-neurosis or
effort-syndrome in a man less well-balanced. One
wonders how he reacted to ^Eneas' public account of
them. Dido, we know, fell disastrously cin love* with
^Eneas, and it is when he departs (^Eneas abandoning
her after their cave-wedding), that Palinurus speaks
again. The fleet has stolen out in the early morning and
Dido has set alight her funeral pyre whose glow the
sailors see, but ^neas alone interprets rightly. At once a
storm gets up.

But soon the Heav'ns with shadows were o'erspread;
A swelling Cloud hung hov'ring o'er their Head:
Livid it look'd (the threat'ning of a Storm},
Then Night and Horror Ocean's Face deform.
The Pilot Palinurus cry'd aloud,
'What Gusts of Weather from that gathering Cloud
My Thoughts presage; e'er yet the Tempest roars.
Stand to your Tackle, Mates, and stretch your Oars;
Contract your swelling Sails, and luff to Wind*
The frighted Crew perform the Task assign'd,
Then, to his fearless Chief, * Not HeavV said he,
' Tho' Jove himself shou'd promise Italy,
Can stem the Torrent of this raging Sea*
Mark how the shifting Winds from West arise,
And what collected Night involves the Skies I
Nor can our shaken Vessels live at Sea,
Much less against the Tempest force their way;
*Tis fate diverts our Course; and Fate we must obey.
Not far from hence, if I observed aright
The southing of the Stars and Polar Light,
Sidtia lies; whose hospitable Shores
In safety we may reach with strugling oars*.,.
The Course resolv'd, before tbe Western Wind
They scud amain; aad make the Port assign' 4


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It seems clear that Palinurus who had led the fleet
between Scylia and Charybdis, recognized that this
storm could not be ridden out because he knew it
followed on ^Eneas' betrayal of Dido. He also read the
true meaning of the fire which they had seen and from
that moment realized that /Eneas was guilty of hubris
and impiety; he was 'not the Messiah'.
In Sicily ^Eneas celebrates his arrival with elaborate
games. In these—although they include various sailing
contests—Palinurus himself does not join and lets the
other pilots fight them out. One can imagine him brood-
ing over the storm and his leader's conduct while the
noisy sport proceeds around him. Finally, to prevent the
men leaving, the women set fire to the ships and four are
destroyed. Here occurs an incident for which no scientific
explanation is forthcoming, and which, if the narrator
were Palinurus and not Virgil, we would be tempted to
ascribe to a delusion of reference. Venus begs Neptune
to guarantee that her beloved ./Eneas and all his men will
not be subjected to any more disasters and storms at sea
by their enemy, Juno. Neptune agrees, but warns her
that * In safety as thou prayest shall, he reach the haven of
Avernus. Only one shall there be whom, lost in the flood,
thou shalt seek in vain; one life shall be given for many/

Unus erit tantum, arnissum quern gurgite quaeres
iimim pro multis dabitur caput.

Then the fleet sets sail.

A Head of ail the Master Pilot steers
And as he leads, the following Navy veers.
The Steeds of Night had traveiTd half the Sky,
The drowsy Rowers on their Benches lye;
When the soft God of Sleep, with easie flight,
Descends, and draws behind a trail of Light.


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Thou Palinurw art his destin'd Prey;
To thee alone he takes his fatal way.
Dire Dreams to thee, and Iron Sleep he bears;
And lighting on thy Prow, the Form of Phorbas
Then thus the Traitor God began his Tale:
' The Winds, my Friend, inspire a pleasing gale;
The Ships, without thy Care, securely sail.
Now steal an hour of sweet Repose; and I
Will take the Rudder, and thy room supply/
To whom the yauning Pilot, half asleep;
* Me dost thou bid to trust the treach'rous Deep 1
The Harlot-smiles of her dissembling Face,
And to her Faith commit the Trojan Race ?
Shall I believe the Syren South again,
And, oft betray'd, not know the Monster Main ? *
He said, his fasten* d hands the Rudder keep,
And fix'd on Heav'n, his Eyes repel invading Sleep.
The God was wroth, and at his Temples threw
A Branch in Lethe dip'd, and drunk with Stygian
The Pilot, vanquish'd by the Pow'r Divine,
Soon clos'd his swimming Eyes, and lay supine.
Scarce were his Limbs extended at their length.
The God, insulting with superior Strength,
Fell heavy on Him, plung'd him in the Sea,
And, with the Stern, the Rudder tore away.
Headlong he fell, and struggling in the Main,
Cry'd out for helping hands, but cry'd in vain:
The Victor Daemon mounts obscure in Air;
While the Ship sails without die Pilot's care,
On Neptwe*$ Faith the floating Fleet relies;
But what the Man forsook, the God supplies;
And o'er the dang'rous Deep secure the Navy flies.
Glides by the SyrenV Cliffs, a shelfy Coast,
Long infamous for Ships, and Sailors lost;


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And white with Bones: Th5 impetuous Ocean roars;
And Rocks rebellow from the sounding Shores,
The watchful Heroe felt the knocks; and found
The tossing Vessel saiTd on shoaly Ground.
Sure of his Pilot's loss, he takes himself
The Helm, and steers aloof, and shuns the Shelf.
Inly he griev'd; and groaning from the Breast,
Deplor'd his Death; and thus his Pain expressM:
*For Faith repos'd on Seas, and on the flatt'ring Sky,
Thy naked Corps is doom'd, on Shores unknown to lye.'

The account is full of difficulties, *Te Palinure petens,
tibi somnia tristia portans insonti'—* Looking for you,
Palinurus, bringing you sad visions, guiltless though you
are.* But was Palinurus guiltless ? If , as we suggest, he was
tired of the fruitless voyage, horrified by the callousness
of ^Sneas, by the disasters which he seemed to attract by
his rowdy games, by the ultimate burning of some of the
ships by the angry women,—that act unforgivable in the
eyes of a man of the sea,—then was his disappearance as
accidental as ^Eneas supposed? Sleep first appears
disguised as Phorbas. Now Phorbas was already dead—
killed in the siege of Troy, He represents the 'old
school* of Trojan. In VirgiFs account, the God of Sleep
is angry when Palinurus refuses the first temptation* But
surely the clue we should notice is that, although the sea
is calm, Palinurus when he falls takes with him tiller,
rudder and a section of poop. Tillers may come off easily
but not part of the stern! Thus he provides himself not
only with a raft but inflicts a kind of castration on
£ineas by removing both his chief pilot and his means of
steering, and this within the dangerous orbit of the
Sirens! Surely this is a typical example of anti-social


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hysteroid resentment! And how does Jineas take the
helm, when it is there no longer?1

^Eneas* last words * For Faith repos'd on seas , . .':

O nimium coelo et pelago confise sereno
nudus in ignota, Palinure, jacebis harena.

are doubly ironical—for Palimirus boasted that he was
far too experienced to trust the sea again ('Mene huk
confidere monstro?'), and Dido has also prayed for
exactly the same fate for /Eneas,—'Let him fall before
his time*—*Sed cadat ante diem mediaque inhumatus
harena*, 'and lie unburied amid the sand*. It would not
be fair to the reader to let this subject pass without
referring to Mr. W. F» Jackson Knight's fascinating
study, Cumaan Gates (Basil Blackwell), where he makes
the supposition that Palinurus* removal of the stem of
the ship was a Virgilian echo of the Babylonian Epic of
Gilgamish, in which Gilgamish, bound for the lower
regions, loses some essential part of his boat, and has to
cut himself a quantity of punt-poles, even as j^Eneas had
to lop the Golden Bough, to ensure his crossing to the
Palinurus, still clutching the tiller of his improvized
raft, tosses on the pallid wastes of the heaving Sicilian.
Three times the red sun sinks and the sheen of opal
darkens on the cold and ancient gristle of the sea, three
times the cloudswept Plekds glimmer from the rainy
South before at last the creaming and insouciant sarf
relinquishes its prey. On the Lucanian shore by Yelia be
lands and is immediately set upon by tlae brutish
inhabitants. Not having received burial, he must wait a
hundred years on the banks of the Styx before he can

1 * What the Man forsook, the God supplies* is an inter polation of Dryden's. Clavus <ke?, tiBer) can also mean penis,


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cross. Here ^Eneas, on his official visit to the Shades,
rejoins him, to whom Palinurus at once appeals, pro-
testing his innocence in a manner with which those who
have had experience of such patients are familiar.

Amidst the Spirits Palinurus press'd;
Yet fresh from life; a new admitted Guest.
Who, while he steering view'd the Stars, and bore
His Course from Affrick, to the Lotion Shore,
Fell headlong down. The Trojan fix'd his view,
And scarcely through the gloom the sullen Shadow
Then thus the Prince. * What envious Pow'r, O
Brought your lovM Life to this disastrous end ?
For PhcebuS) ever true in all he said,
Has, in your fate alone, my Faith betray'd ?
To God foretold you shou'd not die, before
You reach5 d, secure from Seas, th* Italian Shore ?
Is this th* unerring Pow'r ? * The Ghost reply'd,
* Nor Phoebus flatter'd, nor his Answers ly'd;
Nor envious Gods have sent me to the Deep:
But white the Stars, and course of Heav'n I keep,
My weary'd Eyes were seiz'd with fatal sleep.1
I fell; and with my weight, the Helm constraint,
Was drawn along, which yet my gripe retain'd.
Now by the Winds, and raging Waves, I swear,
Your Safety, more than mine, was then my Care:
Lest, of the Guide bereft, the Rudder lost,
Your Ship shou'd run against the rocky Coast.
Three blust'ring Nights, born by the Southern blast,
I floated; and discovered Land at last:

1 In the original, Palinurus makes no mention of being asleep, nor is there any other mention of Apollo's prophecy, which may be a trap set by JEneas. Notice how Palinurus* reply is calculated to allay suspicion.


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High on a mounting Wave, my head I bore:
Forcing my Strength, and gath'ring to the Shore:
Panting, but past the danger, now I seiz'd
The Craggy Cliffs, and my tir'd Members eas'd:
While, cumber'd with my dropping Cloaths, I lay,
The cruel Nation, covetous of Prey,
Stain'd with my Blood th* unhospitable Coast:
And now, by Winds and Waves, my lifeless Limbs
are tost.
Which, 0 avert, by yon Ethereal Light
Which I have lost, for this eternal Night:
Or, if by dearer ties you may be won,
By your dead Sire, and by your living Son,
Redeem from this Reproach, my wand*ring Ghost;
Or with your Navy seek the VeUn Coast:
And ha a peaceful Grave my Corps compose:
Or, if a nearer way your Mother shows,
Without whose Aid, you durst not undertake
This frightful Passage o'er the Stygian Lake;
Lend to this Wretch your Hand, and waft him o'er
To the sweet Banks of yon forbidden Shore/
Scarce had he said, the Prophetess began;
* What hopes delude thee, miserable Man ?
Think'st thou thus unentomb'd to cross the Floods,
To view the Furies, and Infernal Gods;
And visit, without leave, the dark abodes ?
Attend the term of long revolving years:
Fate, and the dooming Gods, are deaf to Tears.
This Comfort of thy dire Misfortune take;
The Wrath of Heav'n, inflicted for thy sake,
With Vengeance shall pursue th* inhuman Coast
Till they propitiate thy offended Ghost,
And raise a Tomb, with Vows, and solema Pray V;
And PaKnums* name the Place shall bear/
This calm'd his Cares: sooth'd with his future Fame;
And pleas'd to hear his propagated Name.


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It Is noteworthy that not ^Eneas, but the stern Sibyl
makes reply. Palinums moreover makes no mention of
having fallen asleep, but says 'the helm was violently
torn from him*. It is worth remarking that his fate bears
a close resemblance to that of Elpenor, in the Eleventh
Odyssey. We may contrast Palinurus* appeal cnunc me
fluctus habet ... da dextram misero* with Elpenor's
request for a burial and a proper tombstone, * memorial
of an unhappy man for those who come after*.

His death is very closely paralleled by that of Misenus,
the trumpeter of ^neas, who was drowned in the surf at
Cumae a few days after Palinurus, while jffineas was
consulting the Sibyl and whose fame was also secured
after burial by the naming of a cape after him. Misenus
may never have recovered from the ignominy of his
ineffectual trumpeting to the Harpies. That -^Eneas
should lose two of his most skilled technicians, pilot and
trumpeter, and shortly afterwards, his old nurse, Caieta,
at this moment when he visits the underworld, and there
consecrates himself entirely to his Empire-building
mission, may suggest that there was an 'old guard* who
had had enough of him, who unconsciously did not wish
to enter the promised land or to go through with the
slaughter necessary to possess it.1
Phrontis, pilot of Menelaus, also died mysteriously
while at the helm off Cape Sunium (Od. iii, 1. 285).

1 * Virgil knew the cost of Empire; the cost in suffering, and the cost to conscience and to so many graceful things. That he knew the cost his poem shows so clearly that it has lately been thought to be a savage attack on Augustus and autocracy*.— W.J. K Night T , op. cit. p. 168.
The Palinurus passages are so charged with haunting images and golden cadences as to suggest that Virgil has identified himself with his pilot (as did Milton with Orpheus). Both poets refiect their unconscious death-wish. Palinurus: Virgil i Augustus.


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Virgil in fact makes use of three doubles: Palinurus-
Phrontis, the pilot who falls into the sea, Palinurus-
Elpenor, the unburied corpse who pleads with the hero
in hell, and Palinurus-Misenus, the Cape-christener.
Dionysus records an older tradition in which ^Eneas and
his fleet first touched land at Cape Palinuro, in which
case Virgil has stolen the honour from the pilot for Cape
Miseno and Cumse.
Those are all the known facts about Palinurus,
Whether he deliberately tried to abandon ^Eneas,
whether he was the innocent victim of divine vengeance
or a melancholy and resentful character who felt his
special nautical gift was soon to become unwanted cannot
be deduced from the evidence. His bluff sailor's manner
may belie his real state of mind. I am inclined to rule out
both suicide (there are no symptoms comparable to those
of Dido when she felt all nature prompting her to the
deed) and accident, for the sterns of ships do not fall off
in calm seas. We are left, therefore, with design—a
planned act of escape and revenge by Palinurus—or with
supernatural intervention, in the shape of a propitiatory
sacrifice of the Pilot to Juno, who might otherwise have
prevented the safe arrival of ^Eneas and his whole

Which of these alternatives we accept is» in the fast
analysis, a question of the claims of reason versus those
of revealed religion.
As a myth, however, and particularly as a myth with
a valuable psychological interpretation, Paliaurus deariy
stands for a certain will-to-failure or iepuguaace-to-
success, a desire to give up at t&e last moment, an urge
towards loneliness, isolation and obscurity. Palinurus, ia
spite of his great ability and his conspicuous public
position, deserted his post m the moment of victory sad
opted for the unknown shore.


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With the sea—age-old symbol of the unconscious—
his relations were always close and harmonious, and not
until he reaches land is he miserably done to death.
And as with so many of those who resign from the
struggle, who quit because they do not want to succeed,
because they find something vulgar and even unlucky in
success itself—immediately he feels remorse and misery
at his abdication and wishes he had stuck to his job.
Doing is overrated and success undesirable, but even
more so the bitterness of Failure. Palinurus, in fact,
though he despises the emptiness of achievement, the
applause of the multitude and the rewards of fame, comes
in his long exile to hate himself for this contempt and so
he jumps childishly at the chance to be perpetuated as an
obscure cape.1
One last clue: The name Palinurus (iraXivovpos)
in Greek, (and we know the importance attached to their
names by neurotics), means * one-who-makes-water-
again ', and is so used in an epigram of Martial (III. 78)—
* Minxisti currente semel, Pauline, carina.
Meiere vis iterum? Jam Palinurus eris.'
'You have made water once, Paulinos, while your boat
was moving fast. Do you want to pumpship again ? Then
you will Palinurinate' (i.e. will fall overboard).
These words *oup<=cj>, mingere, meiere, possess as
well a sexual significance and this opens up possibilities
of a deep analysis on Freudian lines, should time permit
—and funds be available.

1 Cape Palinuro soon acquired a reputation for shipwrecks. The Roman Fleet met with disaster there in 253 B.C., and again in 36 B.C. Horace also had a narrow escape. On the summit of the headland (home of primula Palimtri) are visible some ruins which are popularly known as the Tomb of Palinurus.
The promontory, through which runs Lat. 40°, retains its ancient name.


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