Atlas and the Hesperides

ATLAS was one of the second-generation Titans. He personified the quality of endurance. After leading a rebellion against Zeus, he was condemned to bear the heavens upon his shoulders.

Atlas was the father of the Hesperides, the nymphs of sleep, and who (when they weren't sleeping) were supposed to guard the Hesperides' garden which contained a tree that produced golden apples. The goddess Gaia (goddess of mother earth) had given the tree to Hera when she married Zeus. Atlas also fathered the Pleiades. "And they who bear the name of Atlas's daughters seven oft bewailed their sire's supremest labour of sustaining heaven, where as wingless Pleiades they have the form of phantoms of the night.”

The Heavens have changed since the days of the Titans. The clear blue sky has been replaced by smoke and smog caused by the endless burning of fossil fuels. The animals in my “Canadian” version of the Zodiac are gagging. The “nymphs” have clearly been asleep at the switch. And the question is ‘Can Heaven and Earth withstand the continuing abuse of 6,700,000,000 humans?

Inspired by John Singer Sargent ’s
Atlas and the Hesperides
1922 - 1925

Oil on canvas 120 inches diamater (310 cm)
Boston Museum of Fine Art

"There [at the sources & ends of earth, sea, Tartaros] stands the
awful home of murky Nyx (Night) wrapped in dark clouds. In
front of it the son of Iapetos [Atlas] stands immovably upholding
the wide heaven upon his head and unwearying hands, where
Nyx (Night) and Hemera (Day) draw near and greet one another
as they pass the great threshold of bronze."

“By harsh necessity, Atlas supports the broad sky
on his head and unwearying arms,
at the earth's limits, near the clear voiced Hesperides,
for his is the doom decreed for him
by Zeus the counselor."


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