Who Pays the Ferryman?






Don’t all good things appear in threes?
Lists, Christian deities, oils to ease
the rusted bolt? In Rome they broke the mould,
abandoning the triumvirs to confer state power
twice – on Caesar, then Octavian. Much good
it did them, for a while. Better those old Greeks
with three great rivers in Epirus: the Styx
whose waters plunged the gates of hell;
grim Kokytos, river of Lamentation;
and Pyriphlegithon, which flowed Flaming Fire.
They met at Acheron, and hereabouts you paid
the ferryman his fare, and crossed the lake to death.

No worries then. Today we come as Greeks
on holiday from all of that. In Parga, twelve
licensed cabs run pleasure seekers to their heavens.
filling beaches, bays, and boat decks, slowly turning
in the sun like peanuts roasting. We shelter vainly
from its basting fire in books, conduct an aimless
quest for memories with our mobile phones.
Or we can cruise the mythic waters, and bathe
like starfish in its azure deeps. Pleasure cruisers
nip like sharks about our heads. At night we cross
into a dazy sleep of comfort, sacrificed with cheeses,
meats and fishes, taken there by cocktails,
wines and brandy – forgetting Charon’s charges,
his calls upon our cares and bank accounts.

2 thoughts on “Who Pays the Ferryman?

  1. Thank you, John, for ‘Who Pays the Ferryman?’ which I enjoyed. However, there is another route into Hades which doesn’t require payment to Charon. How does Odysseus reach there in Odyssey book 11 to consult the dead who can tell the future?


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