This Sunday, my sermon title is “Greedy Guts,” in honor of the biggest shopping weekend of the year here in the United States. While searching for appropriate readings, I came across this summary of the King Midas story, in Robert Graves’s Greek Myths:
Midas, son of the Great Goddess of Ida, by a satyr whose name is not remembered, was a pleasure-loving King of Macedonian Bromium, where he ruled over the Brigians and planted his celebrated rose gardens. In his infancy, a procession of ants was observed carrying grains of wheat up the side of his cradle and placing them between his lips as he slept — a prodigy which the soothsayers read as an omen of the great wealth that would accrue to him….
One day, the debauched old satyr Silenus, Dionysus’s former pedagogue, happened to straggle from the main body of the riotous Dionysian army as it marched out of Thrace into Boeotia, and was found sleeping off his drunken fit in [Midas's] rose gardens. The gardeners bound him with garlands of flowers and led his before Midas, to whom he told wonderful tales of an immense continent lying beyond the Ocean stream — altogether separate from the conjoined mass of Europe, Asia, or Africa — where splendid cities abound, peopled by gigantic, happy, and long-lived inhabitants, and enjoying a remarkable legal system. A great expedition — at least ten million strong — once set out [from] thence across the Ocean in ships to visit the Hyperboreans; but on learning that theirs was the best land that the old world had to offer, retired in disgust…. Midas, enchanted by Silenus’s fictions, entertained him for five days and nights, and then ordered a guide to escort him [back] to Dionysus’s headquarters.
Dionysus, who had been anxious on Silenus’s account, sent to ask how Midas wished to be rewarded. He replied without hesitation: ‘Pray grant that all I touch be turned into gold.’ However, not only stones, flowers, and the furnishing of his house turned to gold but, when he sat down to table, so did the food he ate and the water he drank. Midas soon begged to be released from his wish, because he was fast dying of hunger and thirst; whereupon Dionysus, highly entertained, told him to visit the source of the river Pactolus, near Mount Tmolus, and there wash himself. He obeyed, and was at once freed from the golden touch, but the sand of the river Pactolus are bright with gold to this day…. [pp. 281-282]
That the Midas legend is herein tied to a tale told by a drunken debauched satyr of a fabulous land of plenty lying westward across the Atlantic Ocean makes a kind of mythic sense for my purposes, don’t you think?