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Memorial (excerpt)


The first to die was PROTESILAUS
A focused man who hurried to darkness
With forty black ships leaving the land behind
Men sailed with him from those flower-lit cliffs
Where the grass gives growth to everything
Pyrasus    Iton    Pteleus    Antron
He died in mid-air jumping to be first ashore
There was his house half-built
His wife rushed out clawing her face
Podarcus his altogether less impressive brother
Took over command but that was long ago
He's been in the black earth now for thousands of years

Like a wind-murmur
Begins a rumour of waves
One long note getting louder
The water breathes a deep sigh
Like a land-ripple
When the west wind runs through a field
Wishing and searching
Nothing to be found
The corn-stalks shake their green heads

Like a wind-murmur
Begins a rumour of waves
One long note getting louder
The water breathes a deep sigh
Like a land-ripple
When the west wind runs through a field
Wishing and searching
Nothing to be found
The corn-stalks shake their green heads

ECHEPOLUS a perfect fighter
Always ahead of his men
Known for his cold seed-like concentration
Moving out and out among the spears
Died at the hands of Antilochus
You can see the hole in the helmet just under the ridge
Where the point of the blade passed through
And stuck in his forehead
Letting the darkness leak down over his eyes

ELEPHENOR from Euboea in command of forty ships
Son of Chalcodon nothing is known of his mother
Died dragging the corpse of Echepolus
A little flash of flesh showing under the shield as he bent
Agenor stabbed him in the ninth year of the war
He wore his hair long at the back

Like leaves
Sometimes they light their green flames
And are fed by the earth
And sometimes it snuffs them out

Like leaves
Sometimes they light their green flames
And are fed by the earth
And sometimes it snuffs them out

SIMOISIUS born on the banks of the Simois
Son of Anthemion his mother a shepherdess
Still following the sheep when she gave birth
A lithe and promising young man unmarried
Was met by Ajax in the ninth year of the war
And died full tilt running onto his spear
The point passed clean through the nipple
And came out through the shoulderblade
He collapsed instantly an unspeakable sorrow to his parents

And LEUKOS friend of Odysseus
Little is known of him except his death

And someone's face pierced like a piece of fruit
That was Priam's son unlucky man
Who made his living in the horse country
North of Troy he was stepping backwards
When the darkness hit him with a dull clang
His name was DEMOCOON

Like a man steps back
Seeing a snake almost under his foot
In a heathery hollow
The fear flutters his knees it
Sucks him white he steps back

Like a man steps back
Seeing a snake almost under his foot
In a heathery hollow
The fear flutters his knees it
Sucks him white he steps back

[. . .]


Alice Oswald

Memorial: A Version of Homer's Iliad
W.W.Norton


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