Midnight Odyssey – “Sorrow of Daedalus”

Starting with the iconic anthem by Iron Maiden, the myth of Icarus has not infrequently been taken up by metal bands as a tale of one pushing the limits of humanity and nature to achieve immortality, even if that immortality comes in the form of deathless fame after a tragic but memorable downfall. But the focus on Icarus and his own actions often overshadows the role and presence of his father Daedalus. He was the Da Vinci of classical mythology, but also a prisoner and father of a son. The myth is indeed most tragic when one imagines Daedalus watching helplessly as the wax melts on his son’s wings and he falls to death. Yes, he had warned him not to fly too high, but as a father he would nevertheless have blamed himself for the loss of his son.

At least one ancient author writes of Daedalus’ grief. The Roman epic poet Vergil, near the beginning of Book 6 of his Aeneid, describes a shrine in Cumae, Italy, that Daedalus dedicated to the god Apollo in thanks for his own successful winged escape from king Minos of Crete. The poet describes how Daedalus had worked in metal on the doors of the temple various mythical scenes from Crete, including the Minotaur’s labyrinth. When it came time for Daedalus to artistically memorialize his own son’s downfall, Vergil writes (Aen. 6.30-33, my translation):

“You too, Icarus, would have occupied a large part of so great a work, had grief permitted. Twice [Daedalus] had tried to sculpt your tragedy in gold, twice fell your father’s hands.”

tu quoque magnam
partem opere in tanto, sineret dolor, Icare, haberes.
bis conatus erat casus effingere in auro,
bis patriae cecidere manus.

In a previous post, we discussed how the Australian atmospheric black metal band Midnight Odyssey drew directly from the poetry of Ovid, even quoting his Latin, in their song “Son of Phoebus.” It would be unsurprising, then, if Dis Pater had taken these lines of Vergil as inspiration for this track, part of a 2017 compilation of mostly unreleased material titled Silhouette of Stars. While Daedalus could not express his grief through his art, thanks to Midnight Odyssey’s style of somber black metal that evokes sorrow and contemplation, there is a channel for a father’s grief. This is the “metal” work that Daedalus could not finish.

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