ABSTRACT

The intricately devised opening stanzas lead from a description of the Grecian islands to Greek mythology. The link is Aeolus, whose winds disturb the seas and Ariadne's hair. The reference to Ariadne is the first key to the poem's theme. She is the goddess of vegetation, personification of Spring and returning life, symbol of fertility. On this level of interpretation a contrast is immediately suggested with 'this withered root ofknots of hair', associated with Sweeney and his bed-fellow. Theirs is a mating that has denied the aim of reproduction, a sterile coupling in a brothel. The contrast, then, is between this and the cycle of death and rebirth in the Ariadne fertility myth. Once this is seen the essence of the poem is revealed. Yet there is a further complexity in the classical allusions.