Iris - Her Autumnal Errand

Spreading her wings, the goddess [Iris] took off from earth, describing a rainbow arc under the clouds as she flew." - Virgil

Inspired by Iris - 1886
John Atkinson Grimshaw

Oil on Canvas 32x48 inches
Leeds Museum, England

IRIS, the messenger of the gods, was sent to wither flowers in autumn, but she stopped to admire the water lilies, and as a punishment was turned into a rainbow. This brilliant phenomenon in the skies, which vanishes as quickly as it appears, was the messenger of the Olympian gods. She was often represented as the handmaiden and personal messenger of Hera and was a goddess of sea and sky - her father Thaumas "the wondrous" was a marine-god, and her mother Elektra "the amber", a cloud-nymph. Her name contains a double meaning, being connected both with iris, "the rainbow," and eiris, "messenger."

The Casino has replaced the traditional "Pot of Gold", and so . . . IRIS, the messenger of the gods, was sent to colour the leaves in autumn, but she stopped to try her luck at the casino, and as a punishment was turned into a rainbow. The gods can be so cruel - it wasn't enough that she had already lost her shirt. She deserved to be punished though - gambling away her paycheque like that. She should have been thinking about her future and investing in stock and bonds - maybe in something solid like shares in Bear Stearns or Leman Brothers or, perhaps, Enron. Or she could have bought CDO's, CPDO's, CDS's, CMO's, CLA's, CPO's, ABCP's, SIV's, mortgage backed derivatives - or a house in Florida.

But no - she just gambled it away.


My heart leaps up when I behold
A Rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth

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