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Homer

From the Aegean’s ancient shores, with wingèd words
Homer sang of lust and pride and ire,
Vain princes, spears, arrows, swords,
Battle-clangour, blood and fear and fire:
How Achilles wept at Patroclus’ funeral pyre
Before blind wrath drove him to hunt, find and send
To Hades the man who’d killed his bosom friend;

And how with fiendish rancour, he defiled
Hector’s body, lashed to his chariot,
Circled, drunk with blood, the walls in wild
Exultation, vaunting scorn, to excoriate
The corpse and, with purposed malice, humiliate
Hector’s sire, wife, and doomed baby boy,
As they gazed in horror from the towers of Troy.

But then Zeus said ‘Enough! Let gentleness prevail:
Even Achilles in his angry tent
Will yield to my bidding. Go Hermes, scale
The citadel, tell Priam you are sent
To let them know my will: he will relent,
If Priam but take him gifts, and handsome,
To make, for Hector’s body, proper ransom.’

And so it was: Hermes leads, covert in starlight,
Past narcosed Greek vigils, guards and lines,
His charge; and reaches, deep at night,
That terrifying tent. Stumbling, the old man finds
The savage – who now too at last inclines
To gentler ways: rage sated, even Achilles
Will have peace at last, and blessed release

From bonds and bands of wrath and vengeant
Pride. ‘Come in, Sir Priam’, wearily, he says, ‘Sit,
Eat and share my wine.’ And Priam, plangent,
Pleads for Hector’s body: ‘Before Zeus’ seat
Of Justice, please grant me this much.’ At the hero’s feet
He kneels, head bowed; and at these signs
His own pride too Achilles now resigns.

Face to face they see each other’s mortal frame,
Sorrow shared, late-learned compassion,
Worldly concern, yes, but, more, the same
Compromised lives, grief and fashion
Of us all that proves ourselves our own perdition.
And Homer, from those Aegean shores so long ago
You sing across the centuries to make us see it so.

[meant, in Rhyme Royal, as a tribute to Chaucer (as well as to Homer), whose Trojan Poem 'Troilus and Cryseide' was written in this form. I hope you enjoy it.]
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Submitted on May 02, 2011

1:47 min read
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Lindsay George Hall Claim this poet

British born and brought up, classically educated.Apart from the Greek and Latin Classics, my special enthusiasms are English and German romantic poetry, but also (outwith that loop) the spare New Englander Emily Dickinson and Gerard Manley Hopkins. My own stuff here is largely 'retro', but I make no apology for that. Poetry, to be poetry, needs discipline.I am happy to review (or preview) poems by request (lindsayxix@gmail.com). more…

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