5 SEPTEMBER 1958, Page 20

A Letter to Dice


I cannot for the moment recall, and Lempriere's Classical Dictionary sheds no light on, the cir- cumstances in which you became the Goddess of Summer. I assume that the appointment formed part of 'a package deal under which your sisters Eunomia and Irene were simultaneously put in charge of Spring and Winter; and I strongly suspect that your mother was a prime mover in the matter.

* *

'Jupiter,' she said one day, 'it's time those other girls had something to do.'

'Which other girls?' Your father had much progeny as well as many cares.

'Really, dear!' said Themis. 'Don't be so vague. Dice and Irene and Eunomia, of course. They're growing up and they ought to have some sort of interest.', 'How do you mean ?' asked Jupiter suspiciously. In his experience young ladies were interested in only one thing.

'A useful hobby. Look at the way their sisters have come on since you told them they could be the Fates—spinning and snipping away all day long, as good as gold. Atropos is eating properly and Clotho's stopped biting her nails. You really must do something for the others. You owe it to them.'

`It's all very well,' said Jupiter, 'but there's a limit to the number of sinecures ' `Sinecures!' yelped your mother (who, as no doubt you remember, married your father against her will and became in consequence a bit of a shrew). 'I'm not having any sinecures for my children, thank you. You may be able to placate that bitch Mnemosyne by calling her odious brats the Nine Muses; and Eurynome's too dense to sec how screamingly funny it is that those scone- faced mountains of puppy-fat should be the Three Graces. I tell you straight out, there aren't going to be any guinea-pig appointments for my lot. 1 want proper, dignified positions for those three sweet things : something to occupy their minds and their talents and stop them standing on one leg and .blushing whenever they're introduced.'

Not for the first time, Jupiter wished that there were fewer females in and around his domestic circle.

'As a matter of fact,' he said lamely, was thinking only the other day that we ought to put somebody formally in charge of semi-precious stones. A lot.of them haven't even got names yet.

How about ' `Jupiter!' Themis interposed sharply. 'Be your age! Think again!'

Your father groaned. 'What about volcanoes and earthquakes?' he suggested tentatively. 'No, no. I seem to remember some damned clause about them in Pluto's lease.'

'Not good-enough, anyhow,' said Themis. 'It's got to be something universal, and something there are three of.'

'I know !' cried Jupiter with spurious zest. `What about the Seasons'? Couldn't have anything more universal than that.'

'1 thought there were four of them?' objected Themis.

`There were,' said Jupiter hurriedly, 'but I altered that last week. They tell me there's practi- cally no autumn at all in places like the Antarctic and the tropics, so I decided to cut it out. Stream- lining, you know. Does away with 'a lot of paper-work.'

'I rather like the Seasons,' Themis admitted. `The darlings can draw lots for them. By the way, what were all these revolting little feathers in your dressing-room this morning?'

'Oh, those?' said Jupiter. 'Just swan's down. It's supposed to be frightfully good if you cut yourself shaving. Goodbye, dear. I must fly.'

I cannot be certain—and nor, probably, can you, Madam—that I have accurately recon- structed the transaction whereby you assumed the tutelage of what is still, from force of habit, called the Summer; but something on these lines must have happened. It was a long time ago. You were .a more important person then than you are now, as well of course as being several thousand years younger. A glittering future seemed to stretch before you, and no doubt you accepted your new appointment with the same casual condescension as a young duchess might agree to become president of the local amateur dramatic society or a starlet to be the patron of a darts club in Maidenhead.

Your career, however, has been disappointing. Nobody in his right mind knows the names of all the Nine Muses; but everybody knows that there are nine, just as everybody knows that there are Three Graces. Both syndicates of your half- sisters have been in fairly steady demand as allegory-fodder and as subjects for artists and sculptors, as well as making regular appearances at speech-days and on quiz programmes. Even your sisters, the Fates, though nowhere near the top of the bill, are still vaguely remembered as a once popular act. But when, Madam, did your name last appear in print?

* * * I cannot blame you for being embittered by this long neglect. There is nothing ladies dislike so much as being taken for granted, and one sees, too late, how inevitable it was that you should exact your revenge.

The purpose of this letter is to let you know that your reprisals have been highly efficacious. Ad- miration is being expressed on all sides not only for the thoroughness but for the feline cruelty with which you have ruined our, or rather your, summer. Your sister Atropos, in her crude way, would have drowned all the young partridges at birth with a single snick of her whacking great scissors; you so cleverly staggered the June deluges that the coveys dwindled week by week before our eyes until only the old birds were left. In other summers bad weather has often driven the holiday-makers indoors; the gambit of driving them out again by flooding their hotels is entirely novel.

It was an ingenious idea to delay the haysel until the farmhands had gone on their normal summer holiday, and the chocolate-coloured bales still standing in. many fields are a tribute to your talent for the game of cat and mouse—as, in- directly, is this letter, which I might never have found the time to write had not a thunderstorm of tropical intensity interrupted the thankless task of burning thirty acres of hay, which will now have to be disposed of by some other means before the ploughs can get into the ground.

As for the harvest—But perhaps by the time these words appear in print you will have either relented or, more probably, handed over your responsibilities to Irene, the Winter Goddess. What sort of a mood is she in? Shall we have snow in September? And, finally, is it altogether too much to hope that, having reminded usl forcefully of your powers, you will follow the example of Juno and the other Olympian ladies in The Tempest and, `to a strange, hollow, and confused noise, heavily vanish' back into the pages of Lempriere's Classical Dictionary?

Yours most respectfully,