Fruits of the Pomegranate
The potent symbolism of the pomegranate in contemporary poetry in which this most exotic of fruits has taken on a range of new meanings.
In Classical mythology, the only food that Persephone was unable to resist in the dark halls of Hades was six seeds of the golden-red pomegranate. From this story came the explanation for the division of the year into death-like winter and fertile summer, and the common symbolism of the pomegranate as a fruit of fertility, love and resurrection.
This is the story on which the poet Algernon Swinburne drew in 'The Garden of Proserpine'. In turn, Vaughan Williams was inspired to compose his version, the world premiere of which is being performed in the second half of this evening's concert.
During this interval, Beaty Rubens explores a whole new range of meanings which the fruit of the pomegranate has assumed over the last few decades. With extensive illustrations from the poetry of Eavan Boland and Mimi Khalvati, Sarah Maguire, Dunja Mikhail and Zulfikar Ghose, she looks at the way that this fruit has come to represent bloodshed and a powerful sense of exile and longing for home, particularly amongst poets born in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.
Along the way, she also tells a story of a pomegranate tree grown in a small garden in Oxfordshire and of how the ruby-red seeds of the fruit continue to inspire a thriving sense of optimism.
Producer: Julian May.