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Homer (Rhyme Royal)

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 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 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 04, 2021

1:37 min read

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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