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Homer

From the Aegean’s ancient shores, with wingèd words

Homer sang of lust and pride and ire,

Vain princes’ scourging arrows, swords,

Battle-clangour, blunt blood, 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 kinder 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 Achilles’ 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,

Shared sorrow, pain, late-learned compassion,

In counterpointed stain, but, more, the same

Compromised lives, grief, stuff, 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.
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Submitted by LindsayGeorge on May 01, 2021

Modified by LindsayGeorge

1:40 min read
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Lindsay G H Hall

Ancient schoolmaster. Prone to write Latin poems. Indigestion with most modern crap, give me Virgil, Milton, Keats, Tennyson. more…

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