by FORREST REID
With an Introduction by Michael
|Price: £14.99 ISBN-13: 978-1-908274-05-2 Book Dimensions: 210 × 148 mm|
Publication: August 2021
|‘Beyond the grave of laurels sacred to Artemis
lay a blue, crinkled sea. It glittered dazzlingly in the hot sunshine;
out in the bay where water and sky met, the dark rocks of Salamis rose
dream-island, because a God had dropped a haze about them.’
begins this magical odyssey of ancient Greece, a tale of enchanted seas
and islands, where
all the world was young; a romance of wonder and adventure, of Gods and
beasts, of the strange and familiar.
Admired, amongst others, by E.M. Forster and
Walter de la Mare, Forrest Reid brought to literature something new,
world unlike any world that has been created before, a vision and a
of beauty, previously unexpressed.
opening line of Demophon, the reader is transported to Greece; and, for
the duration of one year, he never once leaves the "golden
isles". Details drawn from the everyday life of an agricultural
people give an earthiness to this imaginative tale. Keleos, Demophon's father,
on the threshold of old age, seems like a figure of Father Time as he walks
home with his daughter, who "rubbed a dirty hand" across a "very
dirty face." His "beard was grizzled, his skin tanned like leather,
and the sweat ran in beads from the roots of his matted hair." Reid
captures with this figure of venerable old age with a child by the hand the
simplicity of a rustic character who takes his nobility from the earth itself.
Again, in an image of fields "yellow with ripened corn" until
"the spirit of the great earth mother passed over them changing their colour,"
Reid paints a description of earth's fertility and bounty.
Within Demophon's educational odyssey, Reid thematically
structures a search for spiritual meaning as a search for a divine friend. Like
each of Reid's imaginative, exceptional boy heroes, Demophon is marked by
"a touch of the divine" that makes him different from ordinary boys.
Demeter, the goddess earth mother, saved him from death by anointing his body
in fire which purged grossness and sensuality from it. Because his mother
Metanira interrupted the deification process, Demophon feels incomplete and
lonely; and, when his cosmic and personal loneliness cries for companionship,
his desire brings Hermes from the woods. Hermes, a boy of Demophon's age, is
first called brother and later friend; he appears whenever Demophon needs him;
and by the end of the story Hermes promises to remain forever with him. To
Demophon, Hermes is "the most wonderful person in the world. He could make
toys out of wood or clay or pomegranate skin; he made a pipe of hemlock stalks
(binding the hollow stems with white wax), and when it was finished he showed
Demophon how to blow out of it musical sounds, He taught him how to throw a
spinning quoit; he taught him how to run and leap and wrestle and box and swim;
he turned the sylvan glade into a green gymnasium and Demophon himself into the
smallest of small athletes."
his review of Norman Douglas’s Birds and
Beasts of the Greek Anthology (1928), the Ulster novelist Forrest Reid
(1875-1947), who ever resided in Belfast, claims that his own imagination had
always been rich enough to transfigure what he felt to be the provincial
surroundings of his upbringing into some place elsewhere: ‘[I] created in
boyhood an imaginary Greece on the banks of my native river [the Lagan].’ This
never changed, such that a critic for The
Times Literary Supplement was able to assert in March 1953 that, for his
entire life, Reid ‘sought, in Belfast, to live in accordance with the spirit of
Greek Mediterranean culture.’…
needful for an introduction to Demophon,
such biographical and contextual considerations will begin immediately to dissipate
when even an informed reader begins this ‘little Odyssey’, for the novel within
these covers is so splendid and self-contained, so intriguing and elegant, that
all extraneous considerations (however interesting they are for a scholar such
as myself) will be duly and pleasantly brushed aside and forgotten. A reader of
Demophon cannot but be transported
beyond such considerations, into a world endowed with mystery, a world where
centaurs, pirates, giant serpents, witches, and gods are as real as such
staples of adventure have ever been.
the Introduction by Michael Matthew Kaylor
(b. 24 June 1875, Belfast, Ireland;
d. 4 January 1947, Warrenpoint, County Down) was an Irish novelist,
critic and translator. He was, along with Hugh Walpole and J.M. Barrie,
leading pre-war British novelist of boyhood. He is still acclaimed as
greatest of Ulster novelists and was recognised with the award of the
Tait Black Memorial Prize for his novel Young Tom. Comparisons
have been drawn between his own coming of age novel of Protestant
(1912), and James Joyce's seminal novel of growing up in Catholic
Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1924).
Faber Finds have reissued Apostate (1926), Private Road (1940) and Peter
This edition of Demophon,
the first since the novel's original publication in 1927, is newly
typeset and features an illuminating introduction by Michael Matthew
Kaylor, an acknowledged authority on Forrest Reid.