Page 278. " the heavy-browed frown of the Northmen in the Bayeux Tapestry "

The Bayeux Tapestry is a 70 metre long embroidered cloth that pictorially tells the story of the Norman conquest of England, and the events leading up to it. The Tapestry (not actually a tapestry but an embroidery) resides in the Bayeux Tapestry Museum in Bayeux, Normandy. A full-size replica of the Tapestry, created in 1885 by 35 women embroiderers, can be viewed at Reading Museum in England.

The Bayeux Tapestry, explained scene by scene

Page 282. " When that the wat'ry palate tastes indeed "

This quote is from Act III, Scene ii of Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida.

Page 282. " he remembered reading Roderick Random "

 The Adventures of Roderick Random is a 1748 novel by Tobias Smollett. It is a picaresque tale, partly based on Smollett's experiences at sea.

Page 283. " it was like holding Proteus, he thought "

In Greek mythology, Proteus is a god of the sea who can foretell the future, but will change his form to avoid doing so, only answering to someone who can capture him.

Page 285. " She sang like Goethe's sirens and Homer's "

Odysseus and the Sirens. Detail from an Attic red-figured stamnos, c480BC
Public DomainOdysseus and the Sirens. Detail from an Attic red-figured stamnos, c480BC - Credit: Jastrow
In Greek mythology the Sirens were hybrid creatures, part woman, part bird, who lured sailors to shipwreck with their beautiful, seductive song. In Homer's Odyssey the sailors are able to escape the siren-song by plugging their ears with beeswax. All except for Odysseus, who is tied to the ship's mast in order to hear their song but resist it. In Goethe's Faust the Sirens are part of the chorus of mythical creatures, narrating and commenting on the action.

Page 288. " And if we cannot make our sun "

This is a (mis)quotation from Andrew Marvell's poem, To His Coy Mistress.

Page 292. " Who weeps for Scylla in her cave of bones "

In Greek mythology, Scylla was a nymph of such great beauty that the sea-god Glaucus fell in love with her. When she didn't return his love he went to the sorceress Circe to ask her for a love potion. But Circe fell in love with Glaucus, who refused her, and in her anger she poisoned the waters where Scylla bathed. The poison transformed Scylla into a monster with multiple heads and feet, and vicious canine heads sprouting from her waist. Now, in her anger and grief, Scylla destroys all that come near her.

Page 292. " The feline Sphinx roamed free as air "

In Greek mythology, the Sphinx is a creature with the head of a woman, the body of a lioness, the wings of an eagle, and a serpent-headed tail. The Sphinx guarded the gateway to the city of Thebes, and asked all who would enter a riddle, that they must solve in order to pass. The riddle was: "Which creature in the morning goes on four legs, at mid-day on two, and in the evening upon three, and the more legs it has, the weaker it be?" The answer is 'Man', referring to the ages of man as baby, adult and elder. Oedipus was able to solve the riddle, and the Sphinx, angered, killed herself.

Page 299. " Mummy Possest is of course a quotation from John Donne, 'Love's Alchemy' "

 John Donne (1572 - 1631) was an English metaphysical poet, satirist, priest and lawyer. You can read his poem, Love's Alchemy, here.