On the contrary, the Sibyl *can* die (and will, and does). In fact, she has
been dead about 500 years when Trimalchio claims to have seen her in the
I have no idea about the Fisher King.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Peter Montgomery" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, October 24, 2002 5:01 AM
Subject: Re: TWL epigraph
> The sibyl can't die.
> The fisher king can't die.
> We who were living are now dying with a little patience.
> Datta,damatta,dyathvam is directly counter to the hunt for eldorado.
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [log in to unmask] [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
> Sent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 8:49 PM
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Subject: TWL epigraph
> I've been looking (for the hundredth time) at the TWL epigraph, and it
> just gets "curiouser and curiouser". I'm hoping the TSE list can help
> it for me.
> While the translation of the Petronius' Satyricon passage seems to make
> perfect sense as an epigraph to TWL (. . ."Sibyl, what do you want" . ..
> want to die"), the 'sense' quickly evaporates when the passage is read in
> context in the Satyricon.
> For those not familiar with the rather bawdy Satyricon, let me give my
> man's synopsis: The narrator is a character named Encolpius, whose names
> means (according to the translation I am reading) "to inject into the
> vagina". Trimalchio, a millionaire and a freed slave, is holding a
> One of his guests is a rhetoric professor named Agamemnon, who obviously
> the same name as the Greek King in the Iliad who led the expedition to
> to recover Helen. Trimalchio is depicted as a fool and
> making statements that mix up works of literature ("what do you know of
> twelve labors of Hercules or the story of Ulysses and how the Cyclops got
> thumb pinched in the tongs? As a boy, I used to read these stories in
> Homer."). Even the lines about the Sibyl that are written in Greek
> the lines, "Sibyl, what do you want" and "I want to die") are the only
> lines of Greek in the Satyricon and follow Trimalchio' bragging at the
> banquet regarding his Latin and Greek learning: "Even if I don't plead in
> court myself, I did learn to read and write for home use. I'm no
> anti-intellectual. I own two libraries: one in Greek and one in Latin."
> In discussion I have had with a friend studying the classics, he claimed
> that the banquet scene in the Satyricon is meant as an attack on phony
> intellectualism, and specifically lampoons those who use fragments of
> literature out-of-context, without any real understanding as to their
> underlying meaning. If this is correct, it would seem to have direct
> relevance to TWL -- I can see TSE putting the epigraph there to "catch"
> lazy readers who THINK they know what all the TWL fragments add up to
> (including the epigraph itself), but actually haven't a clue. Is my
> interpretation of the banquet scene correct?
> I'm beginning to think that the epigraph serves many purposes,
> pointing the reader (via the Sibyl of Cumae reference) to the Aeneid. It
> in the Aenied, specifically at Cumae, that the Sibyl leads Aeneas into the
> underworld to search for his dead father -- and THAT, I think, has very
> interesting parallels to TWL.
> Comments would be greatly appreciated, as I am certain the TWL
> is much more than it appears to be, and I am trying to understand where
> all leads.
> -- Steve --
> P.S. For anyone interested, I am including at the end of this email a
> in translation of part of the Satyricon banquet scene leading up the TWL
> epigraph quote. The translation is by R. Bracht Branham and Danial Kinney
> (48) Trimalchio then gave us a friendly look and said, 'If you don't like
> wine, I'll change it. It's up to you to do it justice. Thank god I don't
> it. Whatever makes your mouth water here is grown on some estate, which I
> haven't seen yet. It's supposed to be a spread in between Terracina and
> Tarentum. What I want to do is to add Sicily to my little holdings; that
> if I want to go to Africa, I won't have to leave my own property!
> 'Now tell me, Agamemnon, what theme did you speak on today? Even if I
> don't plead in court myself, I did learn to read and write for home use.
> no anti-intellectual. I own two libraries: one in Greek and one in Latin.
> tell me, please, what was the theme of your speech?'
> When Agamemnon had begun, 'A poor and rich man were enemies-'
> retorted, 'A poor man? What's that?' 'Clever!' replied Agamemnon, as he
> proceeded to explain some hypothetical case. Again, Trimalchio shot back a
> response, 'If this happened, it isn't hypothetical; if it didn't happen,
> We accorded these and other responses the most extravagant praise.
> 'My dear Agamemnon,' said Trimalchio, 'what do you know of the twelve
> labors of Hercules or the story of Ulysses and how the Cyclops got his
> pinched in the tongs? As a boy, I used to read these stories in Homer.
> and at Cumae I saw the Sibyl with my own eyes hanging there in a bottle,
> when some little boys asked her in Greek, "Sibyl, what do you want?" she
> replied, "1 want to die!" '
> Trimalchio was still chattering on like this when our table was
> by a tray with a huge pig on it. We were astonished by how speedily it had
> been prepared and swore you couldn't cook a run-of-the-mill rooster that
> fast, especially since the pig seemed much bigger than the boar that had
> served a bit earlier.
> -- (end of scanned-in excerpt) --