Epode V: Kenny’s Capture (At, o deorum) [By All the Gods]
In the original Epode an innocent ‘…free Roman boy is captured by a coven of witches including Canidia, Sagana, Veia, and Folia. As the poem begins they suddenly burst in and strip him naked. He appeals to them all at first, but in line 5 the second person is singular, and he is addressing their leader Canidia.’(1)
‘Canidia’s speech opens with an address to goddesses, but at line 61 she realises that her normal potions have failed to win back her aged lover despite the fact that she has given him magic unguents to put on.’(2) ‘In the original the witches are torturing and then sacrificing the boy to obtain an aphrodisiac, and he will certainly die.’(3)
As mentioned in my general introduction, The Works is a narrative of life below the railway in Thornaby just after the end of the Second World Ward. It not only tracks the decline and fall of the iron and steel industry on Teesside, but also the decline of the community that surrounds ‘the works’ In the course of the book we are also able to follow the lives of certain individuals and this applies to ‘the girls’(4) who in ‘Kenny’s Capture’ become the witches. Kenny replaces the innocent Roman Boy who, unlike the boy in Epode V, is not innocent, but rascally, which is all part of the change of scene.
Kenny’s assertion that he never ‘laid a finger’ on Maureen suggests some sort of
sexual aggression, which then turns out to be pissing on her. ‘In Latin “piss” can mean “ejaculate”’ (5) In my version Sheila (Canidia) addresses Old Mary (Diana) (6)
and the boy is not killed though he does undergo a kind of torture at the hands of the girls. His sacrifice is implied later by the fact that Kenny has to join up for national service ‘join forces’ The old love (Varus) is represented by Dave in my version and Patricia represents ‘all his other loves’.
(1) West, D. (1997) Horace: The Complete Odes and Epodes. Oxford University Press,:Oxford (134)
(3) Harrison, Professor Stephen in personal correspondence
(4) See also ‘Girls Below the Railway’ non-Epode version (p.13) and ‘Grown-Up Girls Below the Railway’, Epode version, (p.27) in Almond, The Works, Biscuit Pub. 2004
(5) Harrison, Professor Stephen in personal correspondence. See also ‘Mams at War (The Close Woman) non-Epode version (p.25) and ‘Mams at War (Part II) Epode version (p.33) in Almond, The Works, Biscuit Pub. 2004
(6) See also ‘Old Mary’s Fire’, non-Epode version (p.22) in Almond, The Works, Biscuit Pub. 2004