if a cure for these dire ills he know

Recent publications: short story “Ruin’s Cure” in Big Echo.

The title of the story is a reference to a line from The Persians by Aeschylus (472 BCE, rendered in the title above as given in Anna Swanwick’s 1873 The Dramas of Aeschylus.) This is a play which is propaganda taking great pleasure in the military defeat of an enemy, like the Mahavamsa—but even more smug, if possible, for being written from the point of view of the defeated enemy, the royal family of Xerxes, so that their tragedy may delighted in by the Greek audience. Like schadenfreude, but more intimate still. The ghost of Xerxes’ father Darius is summoned to ask if in the wisdom of death he knows of some remedy for this ruin. But Darius fails to come up with an alternate history: he has only lamentations and curses to offer.

A sheet of preliminary sketches for John Flaxman’s c.1793 illustrations for The Persians; at top, the Dream of Atossa, Xerxes fallen from the chariot with Darius bending over him in pity; below, the Persians slain by the Greeks, who hurl rocks and darts from above; and at bottom a faint graphite sketch of Cassandra prophesying. (source: British Museum)