Sing, O Muses, of an epic poem,
Homer-written, but Fagles-translated;
Sing of the illustrious Iliad. And, regarding
The content, content competent readers
With a brief but brilliant description,
Of how Achaeans and Trojans
Became embroiled in bloody battle;
Hot-Helen was the cause,
Whom preening-Paris had taken
From her red-haired husband Menelaus.
At first it seemed that war may be averted,
When Paris proposed a pact:
He will fight mighty Menelaus, one-on-one;
The victor’s prize will be hot-Helen,
And no more blood need be shed.
But puny-Paris was pulverized, so fled,
With God-help, and took hot-Helen to bed.
And yet war was still not assured,
Until Menelaus was arrow-injured,
As he stood apart from the Achaean army.
In Pandarus’ mortal ear a God had whispered,
Convincing him to launch a swift shot.
So, war it was to be; the wrenching work of war!
King of the Achaeans, Agamemnon,
Would no longer be placated.
Of the illustrious Iliad, pray sing.
An ancient epic, but is it also ageless?
Many men fight over women to this day,
But most wars do not start this way.
Nor do we believe in a gaggle of garrulous Gods
Who intervene. So, what other theme,
O mellifluent Muses, can you sing of?
The perils of pride-pricked? Or how
Honour beats hard in the hearts of headstrong men?
Or the limitless lust for power, perhaps?
Or supreme bravery in extreme adversity?
All these and many more,
But most of all the horror of war!
[Which is sadly still so relevant].
To say The Iliad is very violent
Is a gross understatement,
For there is blood and gore galore,
And deaths described in grisly detail.
Spear-spiked Trojans and Achaeans
Fatally fall in great and gruesome number;
Sword-swings cleave many men in two;
Tongues are mouth-cut and arms are torn
From their sweat-soaked and swollen-sockets,
As the toiling tribes wage war for Troy.
Hard to remember, in name and number,
The people who populate the poem.
But there are some whose roles
Are bigger than others, and some
Whose names are more well-known.
Which renowned men will we meet with
In the ancient epic Iliad? Achilles
[He of famous fatal weakness] and
Odysseus, long absent from home,
Where suitors surround his spouse.
There’s the already-acknowledged Agamemnon,
Who’s life his wife’s lover takes upon his return,
And Helen of Troy, the celebrated beauty,
Who brings the bloody battle on.
Great Gods and Goddesses, The Iliad’s got plenty.
Apollo and Athena are in attendance, and
Powerful Poseidon, and cruel Zeus, kin of Cronus,
And angry Ares, even amorous Aphrodite.
All these immortals, and more,
Direct, and influence, the course of war,
Like masters of puppets, or players of chess
From Olympian heights or dark-sea depths.
Conclude, O Muses, with a verse dedicated
To eminent editions and treasured translations.
Sing of Fitzgerald’s and Fagles’ Iliads’:
The two most prominent and people-pleasing versions.
The former’s form is more precise,
And his style more elegantly poetic;
While the latte’s lines are looser,
With no set scheme or meter,
And his style more bold and brusque.
On this occasion famous-Fagles
Was the choice of choosy-P, who thought
His rough and rugged rendering well-suited
To serving the sometimes sordid subject matter.
Despite many trite modern phrases,
Picky-[P] was surprisingly impressed,
By famous Fagles’ fine translation
The readability, the almost-rhymes,
And the abundant alliteration.