In the shadow of the Sage, Gatehead lies a small (by comparison) rectangular building, hugging the south bank of the Tyne. This is HMS Calliope, a “stone frigate“, although prior to the establishment of the current building in the late 1960’s the Royal Naval Reserve had berthed ships on the Tyne which were used in training, and both of the predecessors bore the name Calliope at some point in their lives.
It always strikes me as a strange choice of name for a warship originally; naming a ship after the muse who supposedly was Homer’s inspiration doesn’t seem calculated to fire up the resolve of the crew on board or chill the blood of the enemy. Names like Dreadnought, Hercules, Colossus, Thunderer, Valiant and Audacious seem more appropriate (and have all been used). And then there’s the pronunciation. I wonder how many Tynesiders have passed comment on HMS Cal-ee-ope rather than Cal-eye-oh-pea.
So who was this Grecian beauty? The muse of epic poetry, her name means beautiful voiced. She was also the mother of Orpheus, the legendary Greek musician and poet credited with perfecting the lyre. Orpheus father was reputedly either Apollo or a King called Oeagrus whom Calliope married. Nevertheless she was also the lover of the war god Ares to whom she gave four sons. Ares seems the only martial connection for the muse.
In Neil Gaiman‘s
highly regarded Sandman graphic novels, she is also a former lover of the eponymous anti-hero, Morpheus, King of the Dreamworld and is rescued by him from a life in captivity. Gaiman was also responsible for the award winning Doctor Who episode “The Doctor’s Wife“, where the TARDIS became flesh in the shape of Suranne Jones.
What has any of this to do with photography?
I was in Seaham today and visited Seaham Hall, a building noted for being the location for Byron’s marriage, a poet whose Don Juan is ranked by some amongst the greatest epic poems alongside the works of Homer. Byron died in Greece where he is still held in high regard. He travelled to Greece on the brig Hercules, a ship destined to run aground just south of Seaham when it was the same age as Byron when he died.
The front of the hotel, apart from commanding views over Seaham’s coastline with its four beaches that would be worthy of any sandman, has an interesting artwork at it’s door; a constantly churning vortex of water, rising up and down within a translucent column. Must remind Doctor Who fan’s of something?
And is all this verbal meandering the work of Morpheus (who gives his name to morphine)?