Tom Simard

Poetry, Music, and Prose

Archive for the category “Homer”

Book 24

“But he found his father, alone, on a well-banked plot,
Spading a plant. He had on an old, dirty shirt,
Mended and patched, and leather leggings
Pieced together as protection from scratches.
He wore gloves because of the bushes, and on his head
He had a goatskin cap, crowning his sorrow.
Odysseus, who had borne much, saw him like this,
Worn with age and a grieving heart,
And wept as he watched from a pear tree’s shade.”

Book 23

“And death shall come to me from the sea,
As gentle as this touch, and take me off
When I am worn out in sleek old age,
With my people prosperous around me.

Book 22

“But everyone he saw lay in the blood and dust,
The whole lot of them, like fish that fishermen
Have drawn up in nets from the grey sea
Onto the curved shore. They lie all in heaps
On the sand beach, longing for the salt waves,
And the blazing sun drains their life away.
So too the suitors, lying in heaps.”

Book 21

“Odysseus strung the great bow. Lifting it up,
He plucked the string, and it sang beautifully
Under his touch, with a note like a swallow’s.”

Book 20

‘”You are shrouded in night from top to toe,
Lamentation flares, your cheeks melt with tears,
And the walls of the house are spattered with blood.
The porch and the court are crowded with ghosts
Streaming down to the undergloom. The sun is gone
From heaven, and an evil mist spreads over the land.”

Book 19

“Snow deposited high in the mountains by the wild West Wind
Slowly melts under the East Wind’s breath,
And as it melts the rivers rise in their channels.
So her lovely cheeks coursed with tears as she wept
For her husband, who was sitting before her.”

Book 18

“’Out of the doorway, geezer, before I throw you out
On your ear! Don’t you see all these people
Winking at me to give you the bum’s rush?
I wouldn’t want to stoop so low, but if you don’t
Get out now, I may have to lay hands on you.’”

Book 17

“There lay the hound Argus, infested with lice.
And now, when he sensed Odysseus was near,
He wagged his tail and dropped both ears
But could not drag himself nearer his master.

Book 16

“They fell to feasting. There was plenty for everyone,
And when they all had enough of food and drink,
Their minds turned toward rest, and they took the gift of sleep.

Book 15

“Telemachus and his crew were now near to shore
And furling the sails in the early light.
They struck the mast quickly and rowed the ship
Up to her mooring. They threw out the anchor-stones,
Made the stern cables fast, and then disembarked
Onto the beach, where they prepared their meal
And mixed the glinting wine.”

Book 14

“The sea grew dark beneath it, and Zeus thundered
And struck the ship with a lightning bolt.
She shivered from stem to stern and was filled
With sulfurous smoke. The men went overboard,
Bobbing in the waves like sea crows
Around the black ship, their day of return
Snuffed out by the god.”

Book 13

“At the harbor’s head a slender-leaved olive
Stands near a cave glimmering through the mist
And sacred to the nymphs called Naiades.
Inside are bowls and jars of stone
Where bees store honey, and long stone looms
Where the nymphs weave shrouds as dark as the sea.”

Book 12

“‘On the other route there are two rocks.
One stabs its peak into the sky
And is ringed by a dark blue cloud. This cloud
Never melts, and the air is never clear
During summer or autumn. No mortal man
Could ever scale this rock, not even if he had
Twenty hands and feet. The stone is as smooth
As if it were polished. Halfway up the cliff
Is a misty cave facing the western gloom.'”

Book 11

“Then out of Erebus
The souls of the dead gathered, the ghosts
Of brides and youths and worn-out old men
And soft young girls with hearts new to sorrow,
And many men wounded with bronze spears,
Killed in battle, bearing blood-stained arms.
They drifted up to the pit from all sides
With an eerie cry, and pale fear seized me.”

Book 10

“The winds rushed out
And bore them far out to sea, weeping
As their native land faded on the horizon.”

Book 9

“There we sailed in,
Some god guiding us through the murky night.
We couldn’t see a thing. A thick fog
Enveloped the ships, and the moon
Wasn’t shining in the cloud-covered sky.
None of us could see the island, or the long waves
Rolling toward the shore, until we ran our ships
Onto the sandy beach. Then we lowered sail,
Disembarked, and fell asleep on the sand.”

Book 8

“A stranger and suppliant is as dear as a brother
To anyone with even an ounce of good sense.”

Book 7

“Outside the courtyard,
Just beyond the doors, are four acres of orchard
Surrounded by a hedge. The trees there grow tall,
Blossoming pear trees and pomegranates,
Apple trees with bright, shiny fruit, sweet figs
And luxuriant olives.”

Book 6

“The grey-eyed goddess spoke and was gone,
Off to Olympus, which they say is forever
The unmoving abode of the gods, unshaken
By winds, never soaked by rain, and where the snow
Never drifts, but the brilliant sky stretches
Cloudless away, and brightness streams through the air.”

Book 5

“Tendrils of ivy curled around the cave’s mouth,
The glossy green vine clustered with berries.
Four separate springs flowed with clear water, criss-
Crossing channels as they meandered through meadows
Lush with parsley and blossoming violets.”

Book 4

“When the sun is at high noon, the unerring
Old Man of the Sea comes from the salt water,
Hidden in dark ripples the West Wind stirs up,
And then lies down to sleep in the scalloped caves.
All around him seals, the brine-spirit’s brood,
Sleep in a herd. They come out of the grey water.
With breath as fetid as the depths of the sea.”

Book 3

“The sun rose from the still, beautiful water
Into the bronze sky, to shine upon the gods
And upon men who die on the life-giving earth.”

Book 2

“Hear me, god of yesterday. You came to our house
And commanded me to sail the misty sea
In search of news of my long-absent father.”

Book 1

“Athena spoke, and she bound on her feet
The beautiful sandals, golden, immortal,
That carry her over landscape and seascape
On a puff of wind. And she took the spear,
Bronze-tipped and massive, that the Daughter uses
To level battalions of heroes in her wrath.”

An Odyssey

Are you interested in the ultimate adventure? If so, why not join us as we begin the Odyssey?

The Odyssey

A very early heads up for those who might want to join others in reading the Stanley Lombardo translation of the Odyssey.  As you might recall, last year we did the same with the Stephen Mitchell translation of The Iliad, which I found to be an incredible read.  The idea is to begin mid-December.

Book 24

Another incredibly moving book.

Priam goes to Achilles to retrieve his son’s body.
“Never beneath my eyelids have my eyes closed
since the moment when my dear child died at your hands.”

Reading the Iliad has been a great experience.  I cannot recommend enough this translation.  Superb.

Book 23

“At the time when the morning star announces the daylight
all over the earth and dawn spread its saffron glow
upon the wide waters, the flames began to die down,
and the two winds flew back, and htey crossed the Thracian sea,
stirring it into a frenzy. Achilles turned
away from the smoldering pyre and sank down, exhausted,
in an instant sweet sleep descended upon him.”

Book 22

Achillles speaking says:
“There is a dead man lying inside my hut,
unmourned, unburied – Patroclus, whom I will never
forget, as long as I breathe and have life in my body.
And even if other forget thier dead when they go down
to Hades, I will hiim there as well.”

Book 21

“My beautiful streams are clogged now with dead men’s bodies,
and I cannot pour myself into the shining sea,
choked as I am with the dead. Enough of this brutal
slaughter, Achilles. Stop now. I am appalled.”

Book 20

Speaking of Achilles it says:
“Later on he must endure what Destiny spun
for him with her thread on the day that his mother bore him.”

Book 19

“As when snowflakes fly thick and fast as they fall from the heavens,
driven on by the chilling blast of the north wind:
so thickly did the bright helmets and shields and spears
and massive breastplates emerge from among the ships.”

Book 18

In Book 18 we read of Achilles’ grief over his friend’s death.

Any of us who have known loss will understand.  Another powerful book.

“A black cloud of sorrow enfolded Achilles.  He stooped
and with both his hands he picked up some soot and dust
and poured it over his head, and his handsome face
was filthy with it, and black ashes fell all over
his sweet-smelling tunic.”

Books 16 and 17

Since Book 16 deals with Patroclus dying, and Book 17 with the fight over his body, I’ve included them together.

Phenomenal books.

“And so they continued to fight, like a blazing fire.
You would not have thought that the sun and moon still existed,
so thick was the darkness that covered all the brave men
who had taken their stand around Patroclus’s body.”

Wonderful notion, “Sleep and Death, those twin brothers.”  (16.618)

Book 15

“Many spears lodged in the bodies of quick young men,
and many spears, hungry to glut themselves on white flesh,
stuck in the ground before they could reach it.”

Book 14

Of Hector:
“But when they came to the ford of the swirling Xanthus,
they lifted him out, laid him upon the ground,
splashed water over his face, and he came to
and opened his eyes and got up onto his knees
and coughed up dark blood, then sank back to earth, and night
covered his eyes, for the mighty blow still overwhelmed him.”

Book 13

“As they saw then come closer, tears welled up in their eyes;
they did not think they would ever escape destruction.”

The Ilaid depicts war as I imagine it actually is.  Besides the never-ending gory slaughter, there are the human emotions, which are never glossed over.

Book 12

“You tell me to put my trust in the flight of birds:
but why should I care which direction birds fly in – whether
to the right and the rising sun or the left and darkness.”

Book 11 (Questions)

1) Iphidamas fights on the side of the Trjoans, and we are told he died “trying to help his countrymen.” (11.239)  Yet it says he grew up in Thrace and later went to Troy.  Curious about the use of countrymen and wonder about what the word means in Greek.

2)  “With an onion as spice for the drink.”   (11.582)  Onion in a drink as a spice?

Book 11

“And then they captured a chariot with its riders,
the bravest men from Percote, the two sons of Merops,
an excellent prophet; he had forbidden his sons
to go to the war.  But they would not listen to him,
because the spirits of death were driving them onward.”

Book 9

Book 9, which tells the story of a group sent to try to get Achilles to reconsider his refusal to fight, is truly wonderful.

Some of the lines reminded me of Ecclesiastes, which I’ve often thought the best thing ever written.

“A man gets no thanks for his tireless
struggle against the enemy, day in, day out.
We all get just the same portion, whether we hang back
or fight with all our strength in the front lines of battle;
cowards and brave men are treated with equal respect.”

Book 8

I was struck by the horses in Book 8.

“And the Seasons touched the beautiful manes of the horses,
unyoked and tethered them at their celestial stalls,
and leaned the chariot against the bright wall of the courtyard.”

“A thousand watch fires were burning upon the plain,
and around each, fifty men sat in the glow of the firelight,
and the horses stood alongside the chariots, munching
white barley and oats, and waited for dawn to arise.”

Book 7 (Question)

“And soon, Menelaus, your life would have come to an end”

Am I supposed to read this as the poet speaking?

Book 7

“The sun was just now beginning to light up the fields
as it rose from the slow, deep-flowing stream of Ocean
to climb the sky, when the armies met on the plain.
It was hard to know whom the corpses belonged to, covered
with gore as they were and mangled, until the soldiers
with buckets of water washed off the clotted blood;
and they lifted them onto the wagons, shedding hot tears.”

Book 6

“No we must leave not a single
Trojan alive, not even the baby boy
that his mother still holds in her womb-not even one
must slip from our hands now. All the males must be slaughtered,
every last male in Troy, unmourned, unburied.”

That expresses things fairly succinctly.

It brings to mind examples in the Old Testament such as I Samuel 15:3  in which Saul is told by the Lord to “kill both man and woman, infant and nursing child, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”

It’s interesting to note that a little later in Book 6 (6.216-240) Diomedes and Glaucus although on opposite sides are not able to kill each other since their grandfathers were friends.

Book 5 (Ichor)

I still have images from childhood of books I read on the Greek gods and goddesses. Later in school, there were the difficulties trying to correlate the Roman gods (mostly known from the planets) to their Greek equivalents.  A similar feeling was felt toward the campaign in full charge at the time to Go Metric.  It’s interesting the things one remembers and forgets.  Speaking of which, ichor is the blood of the gods.

Book 5

We are told Athena infuses Diomedes with strength and bravery.

“He swept across the wide plain like a winter torrent
whose rushing water has bursts its embankments; the thick-built
dikes cannot hold it back, nor can it be halted
by the walls of the flourishing vineyards, when heavy rains
suddenly make it spill over, and farmers watch
as their beautiful fields of grain are destroyed beneath it;”

Book 4

We start off with a council of the gods.  If you don’t find that delightful, I swear there’s no hope for you…

At any rate, I liked it quite a bit, and it builds nice and slowly and to my mind reaches its climax with these spectacular lines:

“As when the sea’s swell keeps pounding against the shore,
wave after wave, hard driven before the west wind –
far out, it rises into a crest, then it breaks
on the land with a thundering roar, and around the headlands
it arches and comes to a peak and spits out the salt foam:
just so, on that day, did the Argive battalions move,
row after row, unceasingly, into battle.”

There are more lines to the poem, and from line 428 until the end we get the names of the killed, who killed them, and how they were killed.  While it’s a lot better than Book 2’s The Catalogue of Ships, there is certainly a degree of repetitiveness.

Book 3 (The Duel)

War is insane, and there is no particular reason why thousands of soldiers should lose their lives when one or two can.  I’d much prefer they’d shoot craps but blood in some form seems to be required.

You know the quote from Ecclesiastes, “there is nothing new under the sun?”

Were Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr familiar with the story? The differences are, of course, multiple. Although era and choice of weapon available are obviously important, I can’t help but think of the Deist God most of the Founding Fathers believed in and the gods of the Greeks, who it seems never miss a chance to be involved. In this case, most strikingly, Aphrodite skirting Paris off.

Book 3 (Impression)

I really liked Book 3.

“Quickly, my dear – come look at the wonderful thing
that is happening on the plain. Achaeaens and Trojans
are no longer killing and dying. Look: they have halted
this dreadufl war; they have stopped their fighting; they stand
and lean on their shields, with their long spears stuck in the ground.”

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