Excerpts from all day permanent red: the first battle scenes of
homer's Iliad, rewritten.
(from the opening section)
Go back an hour.
See what the Mousegod saw.
Double the width of Troy
Divided by a strip
30 yards wide.
The gentler, longer slope,
Via its ridge onto the Trojan plain,
Is occupied by 50,000 Greeks
Silent behind their masks, yearning to fight
But not until:
Hector emerges and commits
the Ilian host
Their coffin-topped rhinoceros and oxhyide shields
Packing the counterslope
And presently the Skean
Gate is closed.
Out on the Panachean right
Some cross-slope skirmishing.
The Trojan centre has begun
to edge onto the strip.
King Agamemnon views Troy's
"It will be ours by
Not far from him, concerned
That in this final action those they lead
Should fight and fight and fight again,
The hero lords:
Nestor, his evening star.
Ajax, his silent fortress. Goodeven on soft sand.
Odysseus (you know him), small but big.
Fourthgrizzled and hook-tap nosedthe king of Crete,
Would sign a five-war-contract on the nod.
The Gatestill closed.
Across the strip
Lord Pandar spots a Greek called Quist, and says
to his admirer Biblock as
He beckons up his Oriental bow.
Then a shield hit Quist.
"Biblock, my father
I have a dozen. Lovely things.
I cannot bear to lose my horses in this war.
No mind. My motto is: Start the day well. An early kill.
It gets one in the mood.
You know it was my shot
that saved the war?"
"I know it, Pandar.
mood, important though it is, is"
Tapping his temple"worthless minus brains."
The armies hum
As power-station outflow cables do.
The Trojan's edge.
The light goes upright through the sky.
Child Diomed to those who follow him:
The King: "I know
Prince Hector. We will strike
When, as he always does, he stops to incite his host."
Odysseus and Bombax have
Slope-centre to their Ithacans.
The Trojans jeer: "No
fight!" and edge.
"Biblock, my eyes
But what your brain takes from your sight
Before it tells your biceps what to do, is key.
When the fighting starts you stick by me.
See brainwork work, not what the stars foretell."
Which was, unluckily, what Biblock did.
"Hold on, there is
And there was Quist.
To the sigh of the string,
see Pandar's shot float off;
To the slap of the string on the stave, float on
Over the strip for a beat; and then
Carry a tunnel the width of a lipstick through Quist's neck.
The Skean Gate swings up.
Nothing will happen until
There is a touch of thunder
in the west.
Odysseus: "Thank God."
Idomeneo: "And about
And, save for the edgers-on
along the strip,
Prince Hector's thousands turn;
Then genuflect; then whisper:
And now the Lord of Light
filled Hector's voice
Him moving on, on, forwards, down, towards the strip
And descant to his thousands:
That full, clear voice rose like an arrow through the air:
"Are you ready to
"Are you happy to kill?"
"Are you willing to
"Then bind to me! I
am your Prince!
In my command you will win fame!
The victory is God's!"
See an East African lion
Nose tip to tail tuft ten,
Slouching towards you
Swaying its head from side
Doubling its pace, its gold-black
That stretches down its
belly to its groin
Catching the sunlight as
Twice its own length a beat,
Great forepaws high great
The scarlet insides of its
Parting a roar as loud as
And lands, slam-scattering
"That is how Hector
came on us."
Bread trucks have begun
across the vast plateau,
fair skies, high cumulus cloud
the birds are in full throat
as the sun lights up the east.
Who is it sees
Set in the north Aegean sea, their coasts
Nosegays of seaweed toasting Ida's snow,
The Isles of Imbros and of Samothrace?
And over theregrapes
ghosts and vocal grottoes
Greece. Above it, Macedon,
Its wooded folds declining till they meet
Those of Carpathia at the Kagan Gorge,
Through which, fed by a hundred tributaries since
It crossed the northern instep of the Alps,
The Danube reappears.
Eyes onto Italy
(Where squirrels go from coast to coast and never touch the ground)
Then up, over her cyclorama peaks
Whose snow became before the fire before the wheel, the Rhine,
Below whose estuaries beneath an endless sky,
Sand bars and sabre grass, salt flats and travelling dunes
Lead west, until, green in their shallow sea
That falls away into the Atlantic deeps
He sees the Islands of the West.
He who? Why God, of course.
Who sighs before He looks
Back to the ridge that is, save for a million footprints,