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Delahunty - The Oxford Dictionary of Allusions (2001).pdf
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In the Bible, David was the youngest son of Jesse. He was noted as a musician and is traditionally regarded as the author of the Psalms. The young David relieved King Saul's melancholy by playing the lyre. When still a shepherd boy, David accepted the challenge from the Philistine champion Goliath to single combat. Although Goliath was nine feet tall and wore full armour including a brass helmet, David went to fight him armed only with a sling and five pebbles. Using the sling, he struck Goliath on the forehead and killed him. David's success was greeted by the women coming out to meet Saul and singing: 'Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.' From this time on Saul became jealous of David's popularity and on a number of occasions tried to kill him. David and Saul's son Jonathan had become bosom friends and had sworn a compact of love and mutual protection. Jonathan repeatedly tried to intercede on David's behalf with his father but eventually David was forced to escape to the mountains.

Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle against the Philistines. On Saul's death David was made king of Judah and later he was chosen as ruler of the whole of Israel. He made Jerusalem his capital and reigned there for thirty-three years.

King David had many wives, including Bathsheba. While she was still the wife of Uriah the Hittite, an officer in David's army, Bathsheba had been seen bathing by David from the roof of the palace. David sent for her and slept with her and she later let him know that she was pregnant. The Israelites were at the time laying seige to Rabbah, and David arranged for Uriah to be sent into the front line, where the city's defenders were strongest and where he was killed. After her period of mourning was over, David married Bathsheba.

David's later years were darkened by the rebellion and death of his favourite son, Absalom. The ambitious Absalom killed David's oldest


Amnon, and later raised an army and rose against his father, chas-


David out of Jerusalem. In the subsequent battle, David ordered his

men to deal gently with Absalom, but his commander, Joab, ignored this command and killed Absalom. On hearing of the death of his son, David wept, '0 my son, Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, 0 Absalom, my son, my son!'

Throughout this book there are references to David and to most of the figures and episodes mentioned in the above account.

See ABSALOM at Death and Rebellion and Disobedience BATHSHEBA at Beauty: Female Beauty

DAVID at Chastity and Virginity Music, and Victory



David continued

See DAVID AND JONATHAN at Friendship

GOLIATH at Large Size and Weakness

URIAH at Betrayal.


Most of the entries below personify or represent a generalized idea of

death. By contrast, a reference to ABSALOM, MARAT, or OPHELIA is intended

to bring to mind a particular way of meeting one's death.

Absalom Absalom was the favourite son of King David, who led a rebellion against his father but was eventually defeated in battle and killed by Joab, one of David's officers. According to the biblical account (2 Sam. 18), Absalom was fleeing on a mule, but was caught by his long hair in the branches of an oak tree, and 'he was taken up between the heaven and the earth'. Joab took three darts in his hand 'and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak'. David subsequently lamented the loss of his son: '0 my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, 0 Absalom, my son, my son!' • See special entry D DAVID on p. 90.

Well, doctor, 'tis a mercy you wasn't a-drowned, or a-splintered, or a-hanged up to a tree like Absalom—also a handsome gentleman like yerself, as the prophets say!

THOMAS HARDY The Woodlonders, 1887

Angel of Death Death is sometimes personified as a winged messenger, often cloaked and in the form of a skeleton, called the Angel of Death. The term can also be applied to a number of angels including Apollyon, Azrael, and Michael.


Some day soon the Angel of Death will sound his trumpet for me.


When Staunton died . . . his death was reported at some length in our Neue Zurcher Zeitung. That paper, like the London Times, recognizes only the most distinguished achievements of the Angel of Death.

ROBERTSON DAViEs World of Wonders, 1975

Every so often I thought: What if the engine dies on us—what then? And saw a skinny man, like the Angel of Death, watching us from the rag of a cactus's shade. PAUL THEROUX The Old Patagonian Express, 1978

Anubis Anubis was the Egyptian god of the dead and the protector of tombs, who conducted the souls of the dead to their judgement. Anubis was the son of Osiris and is often represented with the head of a jackal.


Azrael In Jewish and Islamic mythology, Azrael (literally 'help of God') was the angel who severed the soul from the body at death.

Black Death The Black Death is the name commonly given to the great epidemic of bubonic plague that killed between a third and a half of the population of Europe in the mid-14th century. The plague originated in central Asia and China and spread rapidly through Europe, transmitted by the fleas of black rats.

'What we need is a cataclysm,' Fish was saying. . . . 'A cataclysm. Another Black Death, a vast explosion, millions wiped from the face of the earth, civilization as we know it all but obliterated, then Birth would be essential again.'

MARGARET ATWOOD The Edible Woman, 1969

Charon In Greek mythology, Charon was the ferryman who ferried the souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron into Hades.

So there I was at Bush Hill, where Rush had assigned me with my brother, to bury the flow of dead that did not ebb just because the Charon who was their familiar could no longer attend them.

JOHN EDCAR wiDEMAN Fever, 1989

Death Death was one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: 'And I looked, and behold, a pale horse, and his name that sat on him was Death' (Rev. 6:8). The other horsemen were Pestilence, War, and Famine.

Not knowing whether to expect friend or foe, prudence suggested that he should cease his whistling and retreat among the trees till the horse and his rider had gone by, a course to which he was still more inclined when he found how noiselessly they approached, and saw that the horse looked pale, and remembered what he had read about Death in the Revelation.

THOMAS HARDY The Woodlanders, 1887

Grim Reaper The Grim Reaper, a cloaked figure wielding a scythe, is the personification of death.

Virginia is the No 1 source-state for handguns on the East Coast .. . We must stop the trafficking or become known as the Grim Reaper State.

The Independent, 1993

Holocaust The Holocaust is the name given to the mass murder of Jews and other persecuted groups under the German Nazi regime. In the period 1941-5 more than 6 million European Jews were killed in concentration camps such as Auschwitz, Dachau, and Treblinka as part of Adolf Eichmann's 'final solution'.

Baroness Thatcher stepped up the political pressure for a military crackdown on the Serbs last night—with a call for air strikes, a suggestion that Western inaction had 'given comfort' to the aggressor and a warning of a 'second Holocaust!

The Independent, 1992

Lethe In Greek mythology, Lethe was one of the rivers of the underworld Hades, whose water caused those who drank it to lose all memory of their past life on earth. Lethe thus represents oblivion or forgetfulness and, occasionally, death. • See special entry HADES on p. 172.


Abused river! You bear upon your face wares as deadly and soporiferous as the very waters of Styx or Lethe.

TIMOTHY MO An Insular Possession, 1986

Marat Jean Paul Marat (1743-93) was a French revolutionary politician and journalist. He founded a radical newspaper which supported the French Revolution and criticized the moderate Girondists, contributing to their overthrow. Earlier forced into hiding, he had hidden in the Paris sewers, where he contracted a skin disease which meant he spent much of his later life sitting in his bath. It was here that he was stabbed to death by the Girondist Charlotte Corday. There is a famous painting called The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David.

On moving my hand above the surface of the water, I experienced the greatest fright I ever received in the whole course of my life; for imagine my horror on discovering my hand, as I thought, full of blood. My first thought was that I had ruptured an artery, and was bleeding to death, and should be discovered, later on, looking like a second Marat, as I remember seeing him in Madame Tussaud's.

GEORGE AND WEEDON GRossMiTH The Diary of a Nobody, 1892

Ophelia In Shakespeare's Hamlet (1604), Ophelia is the daughter of Polonius whose grief after her father's murder at Hamlet's hands drives her out of her mind. Later it is reported that, while making garlands of flowers by the side of a stream, she fell in and drowned. Ophelia's death scene is the subject of a famous painting (1851-2) by John Everett Millais, which depicts her floating face-upwards in the stream, surrounded by flowers, and about to slip beneath the water.

How do you know that Hetty isn't floating at the present moment in some star-lit pond, with lovely water-lilies round her, like Ophelia?

OSCAR WILDE The Picture of Dorian Gray, 1891

I just hoped there was no way he could trace back to my connection with Tim. Otherwise my lifeless corpse would probably be found floating down the river on Sunday evening after the river cruise, an Ophelia in polluted waters.

LAUREN HENDERSON The Black Rubber Dress, 1997

Styx In Greek mythology, the Styx was the dark, gloomy river that flowed around the underworld Hades, across which Charon ferried the souls of the dead. Other rivers in Hades were the Acheron, Lethe, Cocytus, and Phlegethon. • See special entry n HADES on p. 172.

The report Dr. Fraker had dictated effectively reduced Rick's death to observations about the craniocerebral trauma he'd sustained, with a catalogue of abrasions, contusions, small-intestine avulsions, mesenteric lacerations, and sufficient skeletal damage to certify Rick's crossing of the River Styx.

SUE GRAFTON C is for Corpse, 1990

Research had assured Jonathan that although some of these intruders from the past were not fussy about requiring darkness or any particular ambiance in which to operate, some of them appeared to work to a species of timetable not discernible from this side of the Styx.

STAYNES AND STOREY Dead Serious, 1995

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