Epi oinopa ponton

Looking out the window and considering. Outside, across le Promenade and the beach, are the Baie des Anges (Angels’ Bay), and the Me2015-08-03 09.45.01diterranean. Incidentally, the angels that laid name to the bay where not the kind with wings and halos, rather they were a species of fish, related to rays and sharks.

That is not my consideration, rather, I am remembering an article I read a few days ago, how the word ‘blue’ is a fairly recent addition to human language – perhaps I should say ‘concept’, rather than color. Homer, e g, never mentions any word depicting the color blue. Rather, when he speaks of the sea, which he does quite often, he calls it “epi oinopa ponton” which translates, more or less, into “the wine-dark sea”, indicating, I suppose, that he saw the sea as kind of purple – well he didn’t, did he? The legend tells us he was blind so … James Joyce lets his portrait of (stately plump) Buck Mulligan waggishly translate it into the “snotgreen sea”, but returning to Homer, he never describes the sky as blue, either, nor anything else.

Here, the sea is indeed very blue, light with a silver sheen over it, a greenish tinge close to the beach. Near the horizon, darker, a bit grey, and the silhouette of one of those yachts that appear to have stealth capabilities (missile launchers added at no extra cost). Sky over the horizon yellowish white, then, a lighter blue.

If it were the case that the contemporaries of Homer did not perceive blue, it is even more clear that the tourists of the early 19th century did not notice the sea. Odd, that. Diaries and letters of the leisured classes speak of the orchards (many of them planted expressly for the delight of the tourists), or, rather less often, the mountains – never the sea. The small town of Hyères further to the west was built to accommodate tourists, and it was situated away from the sea. No one bothered about the sea, except as a means of transportation. Persons who actually did bathe and swim were considered highly excentric, if they were rich, and bonkers if they were not but if you weren’t rich, you were not here and not a tourist. So probably not bonkers, then.

My considering leads me to the conclusion that there might be colors I do not perceive, even though I have the potential ability (the ancient Greeks were no more color blind than we are today), and, that possibly, 200 years from today, some guy will wonder why we did not admire … whatever we take so much for granted that it passes totally unperceived, as the sea did for the 19th century tourists.

I might tell you about the bakery, later.



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