Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Day 95: Medusa

Here we have Carol Ann Duffy present the terrible mythic figure of Medusa with some sympathy. Yes, she was monstrous. Yes, she'd turn you to stone in the blink of an eye. Yes, she scared the living daylights out of men. But, all because of a weakness - a deep-seated fear of betrayal - which quickly turned itself into malevolent jealousy. 

The real 'monster' of jealousy is what it can make us become, 'Love gone bad showed me a Gorgon. I stared at a dragon.'  Not a very attractive trait!

And just look at the witty use of language, and especially the ambivalence of the last line, 'look at me now.' Is Medusa regretful here of what she has become, or about to reign death on the observer? Is she to be pitied or feared?

Medusa - Carol Ann Duffy

A suspicion, a doubt, a jealousy
grew in my mind,
which turned the hairs on my head to filthy snakes
as though my thoughts
hissed and spat on my scalp.

My bride’s breath soured, stank
in the grey bags of my lungs.
I’m foul mouthed now, foul tongued,
yellow fanged.
There are bullet tears in my eyes.
Are you terrified?

Be terrified.
It’s you I love,
perfect man, Greek God, my own;
but I know you’ll go, betray me, stray
from home.
So better by for me if you were stone.

I glanced at a buzzing bee,
a dull grey pebbly fell
to the ground.
I glanced at a singing bird,
a handful of dusty gravel
spattered down

I looked at a ginger cat,
a housebrick
shattered a bowl of milk.
I looked at a snuffling pig,
a boulder rolled
in a heap of shit.

I stared in the mirror.
Love gone bad
showed me a Gorgon.
I stared at a dragon.
Fire spewed
from the mouth of a mountain.

And here you come
with a shield for a heart
and a sword for a tongue
and your girls, your girls.
Wasn’t I beautiful
Wasn’t I fragrant and young?

Look at me now.


  1. Love this.

    I wrote a poem of my own about Medusa AGES ago, I don't even know if I still have it...but it was a sympathetic sort of poem,like this one.I think as women, we can't help but root for a character like this. There's something so terribly lonely and sad about her situation...even as she appears evil and murderous...there's also the haunting 'look at me now', the regretful, the bitter, the lost.

  2. Hi Cheryl - I wrote a poem about her too once, as a way of explaining how hurt can turn into something much worse if we're not careful... I totally agree - I've always had a soft spot for Medusa! And especially after reading this poem. I think she has to be pitied.

  3. This is such an amazing take on the dreaded jealousy face! It does give a sympathetic treatment to that state of being -- no one really wants to be jealous and to feel it gives one a sense of no control, which is also a terrible feeling. So, anyone going through it having a hard time whether it is jealous without foundation or jealousy lit by real events. I love the way Carol Ann portrays the person who has created the situaiton as seeming waltzing about free from any knowledge that he's guilty of any wrongdoing in any way--the innocent and she's feeling jealous for no reason. Interesting.

  4. That's an interesting point Mary. That's men for you! I think it's Perseus she's referring to - a Greek hero who came to the island to slay Medusa and her sisters. I'm a bit shaky on my Greek myths - but if you google it, you should find out more!

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