The Graeae

Theseus and the Graeae

They can have had no childhood. Old women, poor old women, with one eye passed between them and one tooth in three mouths, with unending patience they chew through iron bars. Aeschylus has them half-swan, half woman, grey hair gone to feathers. They are called beautiful, cruelly, but like Ran’s children, they are strong together; with one eye they see well enough, with one tooth eat well enough. They neither seek the light, nor shun it; neither hope nor despair, but argue causes and cases, foods and fashions interchangeably.

The Graeae are the ineradicable mass of humanity. They are not loved, and they are not regarded. Perseus extorts the location of a more glorious danger and throws their eye in a lake; exit hero, laughing. They endure, they persist. They are chthonic figures, sea goddesses. They are never single, never paired: they are a society unto themselves. Winston Smith looks out a window and sees them singing to themselves, and sneers, enviously, happy proles.

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