Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Iliad

"Homer's Horses"

. . . the horses mourned,
longing for their driver, their luxurious manes soiled,
streaming down from the yoke-pads, down along the yoke.
- The Iliad, Homer (lines 566-8, p. 456)

Our reading and discussion of The Iliad has reached Books 16 and 17. We spent the morning discussing Patroclus' furious charge after Hector. He wreaks his vengeance on the Trojans "making them pay the price for Argives slaughtered".( line 473, p. 425) This passion grows over the pages of Book Sixteen to the point where even Homer seems awed by the fury when he asks:

Patroclus -
who was the first you slaughtered, who the last
when the great gods called you down to death?
(lines 809-11, p. 435)

Fate has decreed and with Apollo's help Hector brings the final blow down on Patroclus. At this point you realize why this poem has been read for millenia and loved by many. But just as touching, perhaps more moving are moments like the one described in the epigraph above. For in the next book as Menelaus leads the Greeks to retrieve Patroclus body and the Trojans battle the Argives we are told of Achilles' horses who "wept from the time they had first sensed their driver's death," (lines 493-4, p. 456). This brings home the momentous occasion of Patroclus' death in a way that transcends the battle scenes and suggests it is the fabric of their life that has been rent - not just another battle death.

The Iliad by Homer, trans. Robert Fagles. Viking Press, New York. 1990.

No comments: