How did the Flood of floods come about?  According to Hughes’ irresistible re-telling of Ovid’s tales, Jove quietly considered the best means to delete humanity.  Being a great zapper of thunderbolts, it is natural that he begins there, pondering mass electrocution. 

But then, realising there may be injurious consequences (for heaven, we’re not talking about the low lifes who deserve deletion), he has cause for pause.  Again, the genius of Hughes is for me in the choice of single words.  From considering electrocution, Jove cools to the idea and instead ‘dips’ his thinking into the notion of water, concluding this is the safest way to dispose of humanity without unpleasant side effects. 

Note the dry, passingly mentioned conclusion that human destruction can after all be wrought ‘harmlessly’. 


Source: Ted Hughes, ‘Creation; Four Ages; Flood; Lycaon’, Tales from Ovid (London: Faber and Faber, 1997), pp. 19-20

Photo credit:  WikimediaImages at pixabay

So now Jove set his mind to the deletion

Of these living generations.  He pondered

Mass electrocution by lightening.

But what if the atoms ignited,

What if a single ladder of flame

Rushing up through the elements
Reduced heaven to an afterglow?  Moreover,

God as he was, he knew

That earth’s and heaven’s lease for survival

Is nothing more than a lease.

That both must fall together –

The globe and its brightness combined

Like a tear

Or a single bead of sweat –

Into the bottomless fires of the first, last forge.


Afraid that he might just touch off that future

With such weapons, forged in the same smithy,

He reversed his ideas.

He dipped his anger in the thought of water.

Rain, downpour, deluge, flood – these

Could drown the human race, and be harmless.


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