Christopher Logue’s re-performance of The Iliad is utterly stunning. I am deep into War Music and the next two installments, Cold Calls and All Day Permanent Red, have just arrived from Amazon. This is the opening of the first part of War Music, ‘Kings’. I am posting simply out of the need to share my excitement at reading poetry that is this dynamic, powerful and dramatic.
Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.
Now look along that beach, and see
Between the keels hatching its western dunes
A ten-foot-high reed wall faced with black clay
Split by a double-doored gate;
Then through the gate a naked man
Run with what seems to break the speed of light
Across the dry, then damp, then sand invisible
Beneath inch-high waves that slide
Over each other’s luminescent panes;
Then kneel among those panes, burst into tears and say:
You said that you and God were friends.
Over and over when you were at home
You said it. Friends. Good friends. That was your boast.
You had had me, your child, your only child
To save him from immortal death. In turn,
Your friend, the Lord our God, gave you His word,
Mother, His word: If I, your only child
Chose to die young, by violence, far from home,
My standing would be first; be best;
The best of bests; here; and in perpetuity.
And so I chose. Nor have I changed. But now-
By which I mean today, this instant, now –
That Shepherd of the Clouds has seen me trashed
Surely as if He sent a hand to shoo
The army into one, and then, before its eyes,
Painted my body with fresh Trojan excrement.’