Gilbert Seldes: The ICBMs Arrive


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December 17, 1958, Vol. IV, No. 8

The Lively Arts

By Gilbert Seldes

HEADLINE of the century:

Jupiter and Thor
To Be Dropped In
Favor of ICBMs
–N.Y. Herald Tribune

They are not the first of the gods to go. The great–perhaps greatest, most dramatic and startling–legend in history tells that at the moment of the Crucifixion, the veil of the Temple rent, and a great cry went up, and the sailors on the Aegean Sea turned homeward in fear because they had heard it: Ho megas Pan tethnekai, the Great God Pan is dead!

But his place was not taken by the Intercontinental Ballistics Missile.

Your mind’s eye goes in two directions at once, to Valhalla and to Mt. Olympus, as the news reaches the parties concerned. Forgotten now the ancient rivalries, in the face of the common danger. It was all very well for Vulcan to explode and Loki to sink without a trace, but this is getting to the top–the two thunder-shakers, the head man in one place and the son of the head man in the other. I shouldn’t wonder if they had Operation Earthbound all really for just this emergency, and all that was needed was for the two principals to get on the phone and say: “This is it, bud” to one another.

We’ll hear from them yet.

As for us, the whole situation was covered by a poet a long time ago. Amazing, his prophetic vision! He wrote:

When half-gods go,
The ICBMs arrive.

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