‘A drink! A toast! To those who must die! ‘On my land, before my sons, Do you accept this womb, my daughter, Helen, as your wife?’ ‘I do.’ ‘Her young shall be your own?' ‘They shall.’ 'You will assume her gold?' I will.” ‘Go. You are his. Obey him. And farewell.’ Troy. The Acropolis. The morning light behind the Temple’s colonnade. Then through that colonnade, Hector of Troy, Towards his mass of plate-faced warriors: And your heart leaps up at the sight of him, And wonders of courage are secretly sworn As he says: ‘Torches and Towers of Troy, the Greeks are lost. They dare not wait, but are ashamed to go Home in their ships to their belovèd land Without our city stowed. Therefore for them: This desperate advance. Therefore for us: Trumpets at sunrise from the mountain tops! Our gods are out! Apollo! Aphrodite! so close, You taste the air, you taste their breath, a loving breath That shall inspire such violence in us, Dear hearts, full hearts, strong hearts, courageous hearts, Relaxing on our spears among the dead, “Heaven fought for us, 100 bulls to Heaven,” Will be our pledge. I put my hands in yours. Prepare to be in constant touch with death Until the Lord our God crowns me with victory.’ These were his words, And knowing what you do you might have said: “Poor fool… Oh, but a chilly mortal it would be Whose heart did not beat faster in his breast As Quibuph set the cloche-faced gull-winged gold Helmut with vulture feather plumes on Hector’s head, and Hector’s trumpeter, T’lesspiax, Set the long instrument against his lips And sent: ‘Reach for your oars!’ ‘Reach for your oars!’ In silver out across the plain: And then, as Hector shook his shoulders out, again, Again, as Hector’s throng gave a great shout of rage As down from the Acropolis they flowed And through the streets they pressed. Breakfast in Heaven. Ambrosia alba wreathed with whispering beads. ‘In the beginning there was no Beginning, And in the End, no End,’ sing the Nine to the Lord, As Hera’s eyebrows posit: ‘Now?’ And now Athene goes. Think of those fields of light that sometimes sheet Low-tide sands, and of the panes of such a tide When, carrying the sky, they start to flow Everywhere, and then across themselves: Likewise the Greek bronze streaming out at speed, Glinting among the orchards and the groves, And then across the plain—dust, grass, no grass, Its long low swells and falls—all warwear pearl, Blue Heaven above, Mount Ida’s snow behind, Troy in-between, And what pleasure it was to be there! To be one of that host! Greek, and as naked as God, naked as bride and groom, Exulting for battle! lords shouting the beat out ‘One—‘ Keen for a kill ‘Two-three’ As our glittering width and our masks that glittered Came up the last low rise of the plain, onto the ridge, and ‘Now’ (As your heart skips a beat) ‘See the Wall.’ And you do. It is immense. So high So still It fills your sight. And not a soul to be seen, or a sound to be heard, Except, as on our thousands silence fell, The splash of Laomedon’s sacred springs, One hot, one cold, whose fountains rise or die Within a still day’s earshot of the Wall And in-between whose ponds the Skean road Runs downslope from the ridge, beneath the zigzags of God’s oak Across the strip and up, until, under the Skean Gate, It enters Troy, majestic on its eminence. Within: Prince Hector’s mass, Without: a pause, until Paramount Agamemnon, King of kings, The Lord of Mainland and of Island Greece, Autarch of Tiryns and Mycenae, looked Now right, now left, Then at the Wall, then into Heaven, and drew his sword. And as he drew, Greece drew. And this dis-scabbarding was heard in Troy Much like a shire-sized dust-sheet torn in half. A second pause. And then At Agamemnon’s word the Greeks moved on Down the long slope towards Troy As silently as if they walked on wool. The gates swing up. The Skean, the Dardanian, the South. Hector: ‘Not yet.’ ‘Not yet.’ Then: ‘Now.’ Think of the noise that fills the air When autumn takes the Dnepr by the arm And skein on skein of honking geese fly south To give the stateless rains a miss. So Hector’s moon-horned, shouting dukes Burst from the tunnels, down the counterslope, And shout, shout, shout, smashed shouted shout Backward and forth across the sky; while pace on pace the Greeks descended from the ridge towards the strip With blank, unyielding imperturbability. 100 yards between them. 50 Then, As a beam before its source, Hector sprang out and T’d his spear, halted his lines; Then lowered it; and stood alone before the Greeks. King Agamemnon calls: ‘Silent and still for Hector of the soaring war-cry, The irreplaceable Trojan.’ Then hands removed his shield, his spear, And all Greece saw his massive frame, historical In his own time, a giant on the sand, who said: ‘Greek King: I speak for Ilium. We have not burned you in your ships. You have not taken Troy. Ten years have passed. Therefore I say that we declare a truce, And having sworn before the depths of Heaven to keep our word, Here, on the strip, between our multitudes, I will fight any one of you to death. And if I die’ (this said within an inch of where he will) ‘My corpse belongs to Troy and Andromache; My body-bronze to him who takes my life; And to you all, Helen, your property, who was no prisoner, with her gold. And if I live: my victim’s plate shall hang Between the columns of Apollo’s porch on our Acropolis, But you may bear his body to the coast And crown it with a shaft before you sail Home in your ships to your beloved land With nothing more than what you brought to mine Pick your best man. Commit yourselves to him. Be sure that I am big enough to kill him. And that I cannot wait to see him die. Then in their turn, faring from world to world across our sea, Passengers who come after us will remark: ‘That shaft was raised for one as brave and strong As any man who came to fight at Troy, Saving its Prince, Hector, Superb on earth until our earth grows cold, Who slaughtered him.’ Now who will that Greek be?’ Answer him, Greece! But Greece has lost its voice. Thoal is studying the sun-dried heads And chariot chassis fastened to the Wall. Titters from Troy. Then cannon off lord Menelaos’: ‘Me.’ ‘No. Hector will kill you,’ from his brother. Yet he has gone — how could he not? — out Onto the strip. Alone. But someone is already there. Odysseus. The king of Ithaca. History says, Before Odysseus spoke he seemed to be, Well…shy — shuffling his feet, eyes down — the usual things. However, once it passed his teeth, his voice possessed Two powers: to charm, to change — Though if it were the change that made the charm Or charm the change, no one was sure. The sun gains strength. Thoal has taken Menelaos’ hand. Odysseus: ‘Continuing and comprehensive glory to you both, Hector, the son of Priam, King of Troy, Agamemnon, the son of Atreus, my King. And to us all. ‘I dare not speak for Heaven, But as our Lord, the Shepherd of the Clouds, Has honored us by following our war, Now, through Prince Hector’s lips He seems to say: Let the world flow through Priam’s gates again And Greece return to Greece with all debts paid. Lords of the earth, We are God’s own. Our law is His. Is force, What better way to end this generous war Than through the use of force — but force in small: Not, all to die for one, but one for all. The proverb says: The host requires the guest to make himself at home. The guest remembers he is not. This is the reason why no Greek Dared to pre-empt lord Menelaos’ right To take Prince Hector’s challenge, even if — Greece having sworn to keep the word it gives — The Lord our God returns him to Oblivion. Why wait, then? Comrades, in arms, Hector has fought and fought, has given blood, and now — Breathtaking grace — offers his armor and his life to end The hostilities he did not cause. Fighters! Brave souls! Surely that is enough? So who should Menelaus fight…? My friends, Your silence says: Only fools state the obvious. And as there’s no fool like an old fool, so It falls to me to state it: ‘Paris. ‘The handsome guest…’ ‘Yes.’ ‘…the one who started it…’ ‘Yes.’ ‘Yes.’ (and rising) ‘among us on the plain here…’ ‘Yes!’ ‘…who else to face the man whose property he stole, Soft in his bed up there on the Acropolis? Paris, with his undoubted stamina, Will give our Greek a long and vicious fight to death.’ ‘Yes!”’ ‘Yes!’ ‘What fitter culmination to our war, Or climax apter it to end?’ A beat, and then The great assembly pleased itself with cheers That bumped the Wall, and coasted on Over the foothills and the moony dunes, The woods and waterfalls of Ida, on — Bearing their favorite thoughts and plans, Their ‘Peace for me,’ their joy at going home. ‘Find him.’ At Hector’s word Like dancers on a note, the shields divide, And there, chatting among themselves, we see Prince Paris’ set; Pandar, his fan; Tecton, The architect who built his fatal ships, With Paris in their midst. Napoleon’s Murat had 50 hats And 50 plumes each 50 inches high And 50 uniforms and many more Than 50 pots of facial mayonnaise Appropriate to a man with tender skin; He also had 10,000 cavalry, Split-second timing, and contempt for death. So Providence — had he been born Later and lowlier — might well have cast Prince Paris. The centuries had not lied: Observe the clotted blossom of his hair, Frost white, frost bright — and beautifully cut, Queen Aphrodite’s favorite Ilian. And though his hands are only archer’s hands (Half Hector’s size) his weight half Hector’s weight, He is as tall as Hector (8 foot 9), And as he walks toward him, note his eyes As once his father’s were: pure sapphire. They have not spoken for five years. ‘Oh, there you are.’ (Blowing a speck off his brother’s plate.) ‘The world says yes to you before you ask. I curse the day that you were born. Your laughter pardons your betrayals in advance. I see the hairnet dangling by your bed. What does he do at dusk when other souls Beg God to see them through the night? The same thing that he does at dawn. Delicious sore — It is a long time since you had the chance To be the man you were the day you brought Helen and Greece ashore at Abydos — Now burnt, Odysseus’ work. Palookaville. Not worth the match. Liagalia, burnt. Hac, burnt - to Troy, — still standing, just — Here is your chance to be that man again. Take it, or I shall strangle you with my bare hands, Now, in front of Greece and Troy.’ Smoke from the morning sacrifice ascends. ‘Dear Ek, your voice is like an axe,’ his brother said. ‘My heart is weary with admiring you. How right you are. I brought the Greeks. Still if king Menelaos kills me, as he may, Mind this: I take no credit for my beauty. God gives to please Himself. If He is busy — Or asleep — one of his family may bless A mortal soul, in my case Aphrodite. I have been true to what she gave to me. Not to have fallen in with Helen Would have been free, original, and wrong.’ He stands. So debonair! ‘Hail and farewell, dear Ek.’ Then to the lords: ‘See that the armies sit With spears reversed and armor set aside. Then, he who had her first, and I, shall fight On measured ground, between you, till The weaker one, and so the wrong, lies dead. Thereafter, lawfully, retained or repossessed, Let the survivor husband lead Helen of Troy, And what was hers, away. As for yourselves: you shall, before we fight, Baptize your truce with sacrificial blood, And pray that you may keep the words you give, No matter who shall live. Then part, Troy to its precincts and its provinces, And Panachea in her troopships home Across the sea to the belovèd land Of Greece, of handsome wives.’ Eight o’clock sun. Some movement on the Wall. They hated him. He was exceptionally beautiful. Clouds. Clouds. Unanswerable magnificence. ‘Hear me as well,’ lord Menelaos says. ‘One person always comes off worst. For ten years, me. Never mind that. Though Paris started it Everyone here has suffered for my sake. But now that yo have left the war to us It does not matter which one dies, Provided, when he has, you part And ponder on it as you go your ways. One other thing. Though I have tried I cannot bring myself to trust Troy’s young. Therefore, old as he is, and ailing as he is, I ask for Priam! Laomedon’s son, Great King of Troy, the Lord of Ilium, To come down here onto the strip. With lambs — a black for Greece, a white for Troy. Then, watched by us all, old Priam shall Cut their young throats, and offer Heaven their blood, For only he is King enough to make Certain that Ilium keeps what Ilium gives, And only he, the Lord of Holy Troy, Adding his voice to ours, can turn those words Into an oath so absolute The Lord our God may bless it with His own.’ Agreed. Now dark, now bright, now watch — As aircrews watch tsunamis send Ripples across the Iwo Jima Deep, Or as a schoolgirl makes her velveteen Go dark, go bright — The armies as they strip, and lay their bronze And let their horses cool their hooves Along the opposing slopes. Agreed. But not in heaven. Queen Hera: ‘Well?’ Athene: ‘They are about to swear and sacrifice.’ So…’ Touching the left-hand corner of her mouth. ‘…they do it frequently.’ And now the right. ‘A common sacrifice.’ Glass down. ‘You mean, together? Greece and Troy? As one? ‘As one.’ Settling her loose-bead bodice. Turning around: ‘Who to?’ ‘To Him.’ ‘What for?’ ‘For peace.’ ‘Peace — after the way that Trojan treated us?’ ‘Peace, home, friendship, stuff like that.’ ‘It must be stopped.”’ ‘At once.’ ‘It will.’ With faces like NO ENTRY signs they hurried through the clouds. Snow on Mount Ida. Bearing king Menelaos’s wish Lord Thoal and Chylabborak’s son, Kykeon, walk Under the Skean terraces, and into Troy. Troy. Less light. A sweetwood roof. Sunshine through muslin. Six white feet, Two sandaled and four bare. They exit to the passages. Troy. The atelier. Stitch-frames and large warp-weighted looms ‘…Paris is hated…’ Right-angled to the sills ‘…and so is she…’ The passages. Approaching feet. The women hesitate. ‘Ah…lady…’ Soos (smiling) says and bows Helen, her maids, on by. ‘I see young Nain has fainted. Make sure he joins us on the terraces, Pagif.’ An inner court. Gold loops across the sluiced coclackia. ‘All stand.’ We do. She sits. She lifts her veil. She backs her needle out. ‘This is the only time she stops Thinking of how she looks…’ The terraces. Their awning set since Dawn Stepped dripping from the sea. And up and in Between the parapet, the flaps, Murmuring shimmers drift. Soos: ‘Neomab has the plan, Pagif will check the seating, Nain can watch. King Priam’s brothers first. Pagif?’ ‘On the back row —‘ ‘The highest row.‘ ‘—the fathers of King Priam’s four full-brothers’ wives; Those brothers, and their wives; their brothers, and their wives.‘ ‘Excellent.’ ‘Satraps of Thrace, of Bosphorus, Marmarine Phrygiland and Hittite Anatolium Beyond…’ The atelier. On Helen’s frame ‘…she will be fought for. In an hour…’ Achilles reaches Troy, a five-year work …‘to death?’… Whose stitchwort shows that lord …‘With spears?’… Tall on the forepeak of a long dark ship …‘Then they’ll make peace’… ‘Poo-poo.’… Dismantled chariots in its waist, who has The kind of look that perfect health, Astonishing, coordinated strength, Pluperfect sight, magnificence at speed, a mind Centred on battle, and a fearless heart Display when found in congruence. …’What will she wear?’… Observe his muscles as they move beneath his skin, His fine, small-eared, investigative head, His shoulder’s bridge, the deep sweep of his back Down which (plaited with Irish gold) His never-cut redcurrant-colored hair Hangs in a glossy cable till its tuft Brushes the combat-belt gripping his rump. What does it matter that he brought Only 1,000 men in 20 ships? For as they rowed their superchild between The army’s 30,000 upright oars, “‘Achil! Achil! The king,’ the fighters cried, ‘Whose godsent violence will get us home!’ so loud The local gods complained to Heaven. ‘Lady…my lady…We must go,’ Cassandra, Priam’s youngest girl, says as she lifts The needle out of Helen’s hand, who turns Towards this serious 13-year-old wife — As she once was — and lets herself be led Across the dry-by-now coclackia, into stone. ‘There is a huge array…thousands of them! And there’s to be a final fight for you. Not as per usual, though — blood everywhere. They have calmed down, both theirs and ours, All sitting quietly — their armor off, wheels parked, You cannot see the foreslopes for its shine. And round about the midday sacrifice, Your two…I mean, my brother Paris and—‘ ‘Yes, yes.’ ‘Will fight to death for you below the Wall. But first you must be viewed. You are the property. My father’s satraps want to see the property. It is their right. Please ask if I can watch.’ Cloud, like a baby’s shawl. ‘How many names, Pagif?’ ‘200 names.’ ‘And stools?’ ‘200 stools.’ Long rows of them. Silent and void. And suddenly All full! MUSIC An arch of bells, A tree of china bells, Two trees of jellyfish and cowslip bells, All shaken soft, all shaken slow, Backed by Egyptian clarinets. And they pass by. Then quadraphonic ox-horns hit their note, And as it swims from slope to slope Ten Trojan queens Led by son-bearing Hecuba Enter And sit. A lull. And then, And then again, but with a higher note, that note Instantly answered by the snarl of silk As Asia stands for Laomedon’s son, Priam of Troy, the Lord of Ilium, His litter shouldered high, lord Raphno walking by its couch, Onto the Skean terracing. Helen, her maids — Cumin and Tu —wait off, Nothing will happen till he nods. He nods. The strip. Chylabborak tumbles the lots. Diomed takes one. Paris’s. Paris will have the first throw. “‘We knew it was a fatal day,’ Tu said, ‘Long before Soos announced: “’Now see the beauty to be fought for with long spears’ And Nain said Go, and up we went, The sweat was running down between my breasts. But then we reached the top. And lo! The sun stood upright in the sky, and from beneath The murmuring glitter of the slopes.”’ What is that noise? The fountains? No, my friend — it is Creation, whistling… All still. 100,000 faces tilt to her, And Fate, called love, possessed each one of them. And each one caught their breath, Parting their lips, stressing each syllable, As one they breathed: ‘Ou nem’me’sis…’ ‘Ou nem’me’sis…’ The boy who came from Corinth Where the water is like wine: ‘Ou nem’me’sis…’ This man from Abigozor on the Bosphorus; And this unlucky nobody from Gla. ‘At first, as we descended,’ Cumin said, “The silence held. But as she walked across The level leading to the lower flight One of our earth’s great leaders gasped, and stood, And then another stood, and then the rest Casting their gasps before her feet As would the world its hats before a god. Of course, they were too old to fight, But they were brilliant speakers. Leaning together as they sat, they said: ‘You cannot blame the world for fighting over her.’ ‘There is no answer to a miracle.’ ‘But she must go — If only for our wives’ and children’s sake.’” The strip. Idomeneo carries round the winning lot. ‘Sit here,’ Soos said — between lord Raphno and the King. Who spat into his bow, then took her hand and said: ‘I had a wretched night. You lose a husband. I may lose my eldest son. Not that I blame you, child. You were godsend. Your people are incredible. Look there —’ (Idomeneo) ‘Tell Raphno who he is.’ She turns to him. ‘Once, though’ — taking her back — ‘I could have pushed you all Into the sea with my bare hands, but now — The young know nothing about it. Feel this’ — his thigh — ‘lolly-stick wood.’ Leaving her hand there, Helen says: ‘Of all the men I know You are the only one I would call great, Great, and still handsome, King go Fountained Troy.’ Her voice is like a scent. To keep its prick You must, as Raphno does, lean in. ‘I need forgiveness, too. Not that I am the kind of she who calls the priest Each time she has a cold. I always wanted my marriage to be perfect. To be his. Just his. As his is his. And that is what my father wanted, too. As did the world. And they are right. Quite right. But then this thing. Your son. I do not want to give that man a single thought. He will not apologize. He says A higher power gave me to him.’ ‘“It did, my child. It did.’ ‘I was destroyed. The world turned upside down. I have no saving touch of ugliness. I trust almost nobody now. Hector, of course. I know it would be better if I killed myself. But all I do is cry. And that is so annoying.’ She stands. She looks. You see that Greek with the green umbrella? That is lord Ajax, king of Salamis.. You like it when he comes into your room, His big, broad face, his slightly bulging, slightly shyish eyes Make you feel safe. A pious soul, Concerned with the opinion of his fighters, Not above asking them to pray for him, And such a fighter! Even Achilles Sees Ajax as the spear Greece counts on. Notice the lord just coming up to him. He is an Islander, Nyro of Simi. A distant relative of Agamemnon, Well born, well bred, bearing a celebrated name. No Greek — except Achilles — can match Nyro’s looks. The trouble with him is, he cannot fight To save his own, let alone someone else’s, life, So though his father gave him three pine ships No one would follow him to Troy Until lord Ajax filled them. The man now carrying around the winner’s lot Is called Idomeneo, king of Crete. Slack fighting niggles him, but though he lacks The noble heart of my dear Menelaos, My brothers say he has a valiant carelessness: When all seems lost, there Ido is, Grinning among the blades, inflicting big-lipped wounds, Keeping his host’s hearts high while thrusting them, And holding them, against the enemy. ‘And now,’ crossing to him, ‘for you, lord Thoal.’ My how they stare. My how they wish that they were him. ‘Like a white leopard,’ Beauty said, ‘The first thing that you sense in Thoal is, Not strength, impressive though his is, but understanding. Lord Thoal knows that people love to have a side, Taking a side as simply as a god. And he would like to find a god Who tapped his foot while humans danced. He will get home. That is to say, regain his ilex napped Snowcragbackfastnesses of Macedon. Ithaca is his uncle. His mother, Goo’io, Was my belovèd mother’s intimate. ‘Dear,Goo’io,’ My mother said, she was so douce, so funny, The whole world wanted her to be its wife.’ Lord Maha got her — though some said, Beneath the trembling leaves of Mount Neritos — What woman has not dreamt of it? — God had her first. The river Styxt flows east through Macedon, And through the the Styxt, but west, the Lethe flows. So still their voice, so smooth their interface, Lethe like oil, Styxt almost ice, And through their reeds you glimpse no further shore. Her voice sinks back into her throat. ‘Sometimes I think I am in bed at home, And as they did, my brothers come, and pull my covers off, And I wake up to find that Troy is nothing but a dream. Why are they not down there? Why have they never asked for me? They hate the shame that I have brought on them.’ But Troy was not a dream, and they lay dead, Killed by their neighbors in a hillside war, Beneath the snowy sheep that graze on Sparta. Soos coughs. Cumin and Tu lead her away. Lord Thoal says: ‘Favors from God to you, Priam of Asia, And may the smile He uses to calm storms Protect our truce. When wrong is done, one person always suffers most. For Greece, lord Menelaos is that one. He knows that Paris, your good looking son, Began, and has continued in this wrong, He also knows that everyone, Not least yourself, has suffered for it. Therefore, to make as sure as sure can be That this day is the last day of our war, Lord Menelaos asks that you, Great Sir, Come down onto the strip and sacrifice with us, For you alone are King enough to make Certain that Ilium keeps what Ilium gives, And can alone, as Lord of Holy Troy, Promote that word into an oath, so absolute, Our Father, God, may bless it with His voice.’ The windmills on the Wall are still. King Priam stands. Then lifts his withered arms, and says: ‘To the plain.’ And on the strip the drums begin to beat. White horses on the sea, and on the shore, Where the passing of the day is the only journey, See The first of the Immortals, known as God, Strolling along the sand. Poseidon surfaces. ‘Good morning.’ ‘And to you.’ A pause. And then: ‘Could I have Your opinion of the wall?’ ‘The Wall?’ ‘The new, Greek wall.’ ‘You mean their palisade.’ ‘I mean their wall.”’ ‘They have begun a palisade, but not a wall. Walls, as you know, are made of stone,’ God said, As He resumed His steps. ‘And as you know,’ his brother said (wading along), ‘We split the world in two. You got the sky. I got the sea. And the earth — Especially what the humans call the shore — Was common ground. Correct?’ ‘Correct.’ ‘Then why is Greece allowed to build a wall Across my favorite bay with nothing said? Did I hear aves? No, Paeans? Not one. Pfwah…do what you like with Lord Poseidon’s honey sand, No need to sacrifice a shrimp to him. Just up she goes! Renowned as far as light can see! The god — some seaside lizard sneezing in the weed. His dignity — a rag. A common rag.’ ‘Brother,’ God said, ‘your altars smoke on every coast, To catch your voice, grave saints in oilskins lean across the waves. Try not to let the humans bother you — My full associate in destiny. Between ourselves’ (Leading him out onto the sand) ‘I may wind up this war, And then, Pope of the Oceans, with Greece rowing home You will have sacrifices up to here…and as they heave Your train of overhanging crests can sink them pitilessly. But later — when I give the nod.’ Hardly are those words out, when: ‘Rubbish!’ They hear, and looking round they see (Steadying her red-sepal hat with the russet-silk flutes) Creamy-armed Hera with teenage Athene (Holding their scallop-edged parasol high) As they wobble their way down the dunes, Shouting: ‘…truce…’ ‘…and an oath…’ ‘For peace…’ ‘…shameful peace.’ ‘In Your name…’ But as they near their voices fall, And as they slow their eyes fall, too, For looking into His when He is cross Is like running into searchlights turned full on. “Imparadise Mount Ida, and,” God said, “Tell Heaven to me there,” Then He was gone. And Lord Poseidon, gone Backward into the depths, His tower of bubbles reaching to the light. Fierce chrome. Weapon-grade chrome Trembling above the slopes. And standing in it, leaning on their spears, among their wheels, The enemies. And over all, The city’s altars, smoking. A messenger runs along the strip. Then nothing. Then a boy selling water. Then nothing. Then nothing. ‘Come on! Come on!’ Then 50 kings walk through And greet — Dressed in a silver-wool pelisse, his crown Of separate leaves (of separate shades of gold) Each representing one of Ilium’s trees, As he is handed from his car— Priam of Troy. Who says: ‘King Agamemnon, from my Temple font, Accept this pyx of consecrated fire,” (Which Soos holds out), “Ilium’s eternal promise to our Lord That Troy shall keep the word it gives: That when your brother, or my son, lies dead, Our war will end.’ ‘Ave!’ That is: ‘Ave!’ As Thoal slips Into the line among the younger best ‘Ave!’ A lordly pace behind these lordly men As they process between their multitudes, As they process, carrying the black lamb and the white, King Agamemnon and Prince Hector, both, Behind Dynastic Priam (8 foot 6; indigo skinned), Correctly known as the Great King of Troy, Himself behind a boy, who gives, each second step, A rim-shot on his drum. In a plain bowl Soos and Talthibios mix Water and wine, and pour Half of it over Hector’s spear-arm hand, ‘Ave!’ (but soft — some, trembling) Then pour ‘Ave!’ (so soft — some, weeping) The half on Agamemnon’s spear-arm hand. Then these are dried. Then Hector took King Agamemnon's knife (His feasting knife) and crops a tuft Of lovely, oily wool from each lamb’s nape. And when these fingerfuls (By Akafact for Troy, for Greece Antilochus) Were taken to the overlords And each retained a hair, King Agamemnon said: ‘Your terms are granted, Troy. Paris may have first throw. But if he dies, as compensation for our long campaign, We will require ten times the bodyweight Of bronze, of tin, of silver, and of gold, Of she the dukes must fight for, now, to death.’ It is the moment for the prayer. ‘My son?’ Prince Hector prays: ‘God of all Gods, Most Holy and Most High, Imperial Lord of Earth, Sire of the Night, And of the Rising Stars of Night, true King Of waste and wall, and of our faithful selves. We ask You from our hearts to let us end Through one just death our memorable war.’ This was Prince Hector’s prayer, Tenderly, softly prayed. And as the silence that came after it Increased the depth and wonder of the day, The heroes filled their drinking cups with wine Sainted with water, which is best, and sipped; And what in them was noble, grew; And truthfulness, with many meanings, spread Over the slopes and through the leafy spears As Priam thrust the knife into the white lamb’s throat (Which did not struggle very much) and pressed it down; Into the black lamb’s throat, and pressed it down; Then, as the overlords spilt out their cups Lifted the pan of blood Talthibios had caught, Bright red in silver to the sun. Between his withered arms. ‘Amen.’ And then: —Two —Two —Two-three The drum. ‘Amen…’ (but stronger now) and now The shin and bodice bronze of those about to fight — ‘Yes!’ — — ‘Yes!’ — Is carried up and down the strip. The lords: ‘We swear to kill, and then castrate, whoever breaks the oath.’ And as the spears, the freshly gilded crests. — ‘Yes!’ — — ‘Yes!’ — Are carried up and down the strip, The lords: ‘Let both be brave, dear God. Dear God, See that the one who caused this war shall die.’ Silence again. Then from the blue A long roll of thunder, of the kind That bears fat drops. Though no drops came. Finally, though, the sky stopped muttering. And then, From all: ‘To You!’ ‘To You!’ Billowed into the light. Here comes a hand That banks Topples through sunlit music Into a smoothdownsideways roll Then Hovers above Ida imparadised Salutes the gods, and Out. They smile. They are the gods. They have all the time in the world. What science knows, they know. And Lord Apollo orchestrates their dance, And Leto smiles to see her son, the son of God, Playing his lyre among them, stepping high, Hearing his Nine sing how the gods have everlasting joy, Feasting together, sleeping together, Kind, color, calendar no bar, time out of mind, And how we humans suffer at their hands, Childish believers, fooled by knowledge and by art, Bound for Oblivion — Until TRUMPETS! SUSTAINED! Sustained by sunlit chords: ‘High King of Heaven, Whose temple is the sky.’ Now the Nine sing, as, Led by a flock of children through the dance, God comes, lofty and calm, and lifts his Hand. Then in the hush, but far and clear, all Heaven heard: ‘To You!’ ‘To You!’ ‘To You!’ ‘To You!’ Midday. The measured ground. In a fast slouch, the Trojan lord, the Greek, Come on to it. Both men stand tall. Both men look large. And though the Trojans hate him, they are proud of him, Paris, his mirror bronze, his hair: ‘Be brave!’ ‘He is more beautiful than God,’ the children cry. But heroes are not frightened by appearances. Under his breath lord Menelaos says: ‘I hate that man. I am going to kill that man. I want to smash his face. I want to shout into his broken face: You are dead. You are no longer in this world.’ The drum. The 50 feet between them. Then: ‘Begin.’ The Trojan turns. Five steps. Re-turns, and right arm back, runs —Four —three —two And airs his point for Menelaos’ throat. But heroes are not worried by such sights. Even as he admired the skill with which Paris released his spear ‘Dear God’ lord Menelaos prayed ‘Stand by me’ as he watched the bronze head lift ‘Think of the oxen I” then level out ‘have killed for You’ And float towards his face. And only then (As when, modelling a skirt, if childbride Helen asked: ‘Yes?’ he would cock his head) he cocked his head And let the spear cruise by. And —‘Yes!’— Cried the Greeks, but by that time Their hero has done more than hurl his own, and —‘Yes!’— He is running under it, as fast as it, and —‘Yes!’— As the 18-inch head hits fair Paris’ shield And knocks him backwards through the air (Bent like a gangster in his barber’s chair) Then thrusts on through that round And pins it, plus his sword arm, to the sand The Greek is over him, sword high, and screaming: ‘Now you believe me! Now you understand me!’ Smashing the edge down right, left, right, On either side of Paris’ face, and ‘That’s the stuff! That’s the stuff! Pretty to watch!’ Queen Hera and Athene shout, as Paris’ mask Goes left, goes right, and from the mass: ‘Off with his cock! Off with his cock!’ right-left, And on the Wall: ‘God kill him,’ (Helen to herself), As Menelaos, happy now, raises his sword To give the finishing stroke, and — cheering, cheering, cheering — Down it comes: and shatters on Lord Paris’ mask. No problem! A hundred of us pitch our swords to him… Yet even as they flew, their blades Changed into wings, their pommels into heads, Their hilts to feathered chests, and what were swords Were turned to doves, a swirl of doves, And waltzing out of it, in oyster silk, Running her tongue around her strawberry lips While repositioning a spaghetti shoulder-strap, The Queen of Love, Our Lady Aphrodite, Touching the massive Greek aside with one Pink fingertip, and with her other hand Lifting Lord Paris up, big as he was, In his bronze bodice heavy as he was, Setting him on his feet, lacing his fingers with her own, Then leading him, hidden in wings, away. Then both slopes looked this way and that and then around. For there was no one who would hide that man. And Menelaos is in torment, yes. Is running naked up and down Saying things like: ‘Where did he go?’ ‘Somebody must have seen him go?’ and then He has gone down on both his knees, naked, on both his knees, Shaking his fists at Heaven, and shouting out: ‘God God — Meek, Time-Free Trash, Your hospitality is mocked. And so a re You. And so is Greece. And so am I.’ Athene comes to God. ‘Signor?’ ‘Chou-Chou…how nice… Congratulations on your victory.’ ‘I beg your pardon, Sir.’ ‘A clear, decisive victory for your Greeks. So that is that. Their champion she goes home. The Sea can scrub that palisade, and peace can go the rounds.’ The armies wait. Picking a cotton from his sleeve: ‘Pa-pa,’ Athene said, ‘This is not fairyland. The Trojans swore an oath To which You put Your voice.’ ‘I did not.’ ‘Father, You did. All Heaven heard You. Ask the Sea.’ ‘I definitely did not.” ‘Did-did-did-did — and no returns.’ The armies wait. ‘Dearest Pa-pa, the oath said one should die. The Trojan was about to die. He did not die, Nobody died. Therefore the oath is dead. Killed by a Trojan. Therefore Troy goes down.’ Hector, Chylabborak, across the sand Towards the Atreus brothers. ‘Father, You must act. Side with the Trojans, Greece will say, Were we fools to believe in His thunder? Why serve a God who will not serve His own?’ And giving her a kiss, He said: ‘Child, I am God, Please do not bother me with practicalities.”’ Hector and Agamemnon. Slope sees slope. Drivers conducting underbody maintenance. King Agamemnon says: ‘Outstanding Prince, we live in miracles. Our Lord and God, Whose voice dethrones the hills, Has seen the beauty won. Let her first husband repossess her, and her all, and Greece obtain Such previously unheard of compensation for its pain, Those who remember us, will remember it As long as they remember anything. If not, I shall fill Troy with fire And give its sobbings to the wind.’ Hector: ‘Greek King, your brother, Menelaos. Shall lead his wife, and that wife’s gold, away. And while she says goodbye, and Wall and slope Wait while she walks across the strip into her husband’s arms, Let us, who fought for her together, Make shade, and sit, and eat together, Then listen to our story and shed tears Together, for our dead, and for ourselves, Among our horses and our hosts before we part, You in your ships to your beloved land, We to our open city, or Beyond, This afternoon, the favorable, on which, In answer to my prayer, our peace began.’ Rain over Europe. Queen Hera puts her hate-filled face around its fall And says to God: ‘I want Troy dead. Its swimming pools and cellars filled with limbs, Its race, rotten beneath the rubble, oozing pus, Even at noon the Dardanelles lit up, All that is left a bloodstain by the sea.’ ‘Hold on…’ ‘No, no,’ (wagging a finger in His face) “I shall not stop. You shall not make me stop. Troy asks for peace? Troy shall have peace. The peace of the dead — Or You will have no peace until it does.’ The terraces. Teethee, her granny-slave, calls Helen with her head. ‘Athena?’ Sniff. God sighs and says: ‘Magnificas, You know how fond I am of Troy. Its humans have believed in Me, and prayed to Me, For centuries. If I agree to your destroying it And them, you must agree to My destroying any three Greek cities of my choice — plus their inhabitants. And when I do so, you remembering Troy, will make no fuss.’ Their heads go close. Below, Cattle are being chosen for the sacrifice. Athene: ‘We accept Human for human, church for church Corinth and Sparta and Mycenae have Believed in us, and so forth, for as long As Priam and his ancestors in you. Let us kill Troy — do what You like with them.’ ‘I can be comfortable with that,’ He said. And as they smiled: ‘Except — According to the latest estimates — The total population of your three Amounts to less than two-thirds of My one…’ ‘Only,’ Athena urged, ‘if we include Women and atheists, Pa-pa.’ And hera said: ‘Must we go into details?’ ‘Ah well,” God said. “I like to please the family. Have the Nine sing again.’ ‘Dear Shepherd of the Clouds,’ His sister said, ‘I hate these quarrels just as much as You. Send ‘Thene to the strip, and while she finds Some Ilian to get the war back on the boil, You be the god who is a God to me.’ Cloud coral in deep seas. People with cameras. Those sunlit chords. ‘So, Prettyfingers, Do as My wifely sister asks.’ And she Cast herself earthwards with a shriek of joy, They echoed back as: ‘I know just the man!’ Note Pandar’s facts: Sired by lord Kydap of the Hellespont, Competitive, north Ilium’s star archer, He likes to chat, but has a problem keeping off himself. And now, as Hector says: ‘Make shade…’ we center him, Practicing bowpulls, running on the spot, Surrounded by the shields he led to Troy. But O, As Hector reached ‘…our peace began…’ a gleam (As when Bikini flashlit the Pacific) Staggered the Ilian sky, and by its white Each army saw the other’s china face, and cried: ‘O please!’ (As California when tremors rise) ‘O please!’ As through it came a brighter, bluer light Gliding, that then seemed like a pair of lips Hovering, and then a kiss, a nursing kiss On Pandar’s wide-eyed mouth, who closed his lids And sipped its breath, and thus became The dreaded teenaged god, Athene’s, host. Pandar has never felt so confident. So right. Didanam, his old bow-slave, massages his neck. ‘De-de, I am a man. Like day is light is how I am a man. But am I man enough, I ask myself, To put a shot through Menelaos’ neck, While he is out there waiting for his wife?’ ‘He is our enemy. Our duty is to kill him, sir.’ ‘And their cause with him, De-de. Think of that.”’ ‘Paris would give us a south tower, sir.’ ‘Appropriate for a winning shot.’ ‘A memorable shot.’ Along the slopes Horses are being watered. Fires lit. ‘However De-de, one thing is against it.’ ‘Sir?’ ‘With their cause gone, the Greeks will sail, So I shall lose my chance to kill Achilles.”’ ‘In that case, sir, —‘ ‘No, De-de, Troy comes first.’ He stands. ‘I have decided. I will shoot him now. Prepare the Oriental bow, and I will pray.’ The sweetwood roof. ‘Until I closed our doorbolt,’Cumin said, ‘Old Teethee nattered about Paris’ charm, his smile, etc. Then all at once her squeaky words became Spacious and clear. I sensed we were in trouble. Tu was green. At the same time I wanted to be kissed and licked all over. This is how Aphrodite sounds when she commands our flesh I told myself. And I was right. And we were lost. And then Twice in one day my lady was my lord… Putting her beautiful world-famous face Down into Teethee’s crumpled face, Greek Helen said: ‘I know your voice, lewd Queen. By using me You aim to stymie lake-eyed Hera’s spite.’ — Talking poor Teethee backwards around the floor — ‘So by some crossroad, or a lake, a cave, Only this morning catwalk for the son Of a Nyanzan cattle king whose Yes! to you Has accessed him to me. Tu, Cumin — pack Make sure my pubic jewelry is on top. Yours, too. God only knows whose threesome we shall be.’ — Teethee now edging sideways down the wall. — ‘And all because the winner wants me back, Lord Menelaos wants me back. Oh yes he does. Oh yes he bloody does. So your judge Paris kisses me goodbye. Well, that’s soon fixed As you and he have such a meaningful relationship Take my place. Of course you will give up your immortality: Paradise dumped for love! Become a she — How do I look? Will high heels help? And if, If you try hard, your best, he may — note may — Promote your exdivinity Wife. The apogee Of standard amenities. No. That is wrong. I take that back. Before the end of your productive life you bear ‘A boy?’ ‘Unfortunately not…’ Why did you make me leave my land? My child? Look at me. All of you. My head is full of pain. Ih! — there, it goes. Pepper my breasts. Why should I go to Paris. I am lost.’ Those were her words. And as the last of them Fell from her downcast face, Teethee reached up And with her fingers closed those vivd lips.’ Then in that handsome room, in Troy, it was Just as it is for us when Solti’s stick comes down And a wall of singers hits their opening note And the hair on the back of your neck stands up. As she pulled Helen close, her form rose up But not as Teethee’s form, nor as Miss Must Wringing her hair out, wet. But as she is: A god. As Aphrodité, Queen of Love, her breasts Alert and laden with desire in their own light, Gloss of a newly-opened chestnut burr, her hair, Her feet in sparkling clogs, her voice: ‘Do stop this nonsense, Helen, dear. You are not lost. You never shall be lost. You are my representative on earth. You look around you — and you wait. Try not to play the thankless bitch: ‘Such a mistake to leave my land, my kiddywink…’ What stuff. Millions would give that lot For half the looks that I have given you. You there: yes, you with the Egyptian eyes,’ Prepare her bath. And you, Miss Quivering, strip her.’ They do as they are told. ‘Turn round.’ Impartial as a sunbeam, her regard. ‘Your sweat, your wrinkle cream — quite useful. Eh? Go through.’ And as they did: “You wear a crown of hearts. Your duty is To stir and charm the wonder of the world. To raise a cry: ‘Beauty is so unfair!’ Leaves. Tiles. The sky. ‘And so it is. Free. And unfair. And strong. A godlike thing.’ The water’s net across the water’s floor. ‘Be proud. You have brought harm. Tremendous boys Of every age have slaughtered one another Just for you!’ Tu works the loofah down her spine, ‘And as God knows no entertainment quite So satisfying as war, your name has crossed His lips…’ (Now in a chair with one clog dangling.) ‘Think of it, Elly — crossed His lips. And one fine day The richest city in the world will burn for you, Lie on its side and cry into the sand for you — But, Sweetie, do not be too quick to leave. After that business with the palisade The Sea will see no Greek worth mentioning gets home. ‘Dry her.’ We did. ‘Oil her.’ We did. ‘Dust her with gold.’ ‘Come here.’ Tall, beautiful, alone, Wearing a long, translucent, high-necked dress. Gold beads the size of ant-heads separate her girdle’s pearls. ‘Bear this in mind’ Without my love, somewhere between the Greek and Trojan lines A cloud of stones would turn your face to froth. So, when they lift the curtains, and he looks — you hesitate. And then you say: ‘Take me, and I shall please you.’ Pause. ‘What do you say?’ ‘Take me, and I shall please you.’ ‘Good. Now in you go.’ Lord Pandar prays: ‘Dear Lord of Archers and Dear Lady Lord, Bare-chested Artemis of Shots and Snares, My blessings to you both For blessing me with perfect sight And for the opportunity to shoot The Greek who caused this war, A man scarce worthy to be killed By me, your gifted worshipper.’ His bow-slave slips the bowstring’s eye Over the bow’s iron ear, then plucks its string, And hearing — as his owner stands — the proper note, Hands him the bow, and bows. Then stands well back Watching his blameless fame-seeker assume The best position for a vital shot. The shields divide. Lord Pandar’s shoulder blades Meet in the middle of his back; the arrow’s nock Is steady by his nostril and its head Rests on the bosom of the bow. Someone has passed a cup to Menelaos, And, as his chin goes up, childe Pandar sights his throat, Then frees the nock: and gently as the snow Falls from an ilex leaf onto the snow Athene left him, and the head moved out across the strip. But the god did not forget you, Menelaos! Even as she left, Athene tipped the shot Down, past your brother, —Thock— Into your pubic mound. Wait for the pain, wait for the pain, and here it comes, Wham! Wham! ‘…aha…’ Shield shade. Field surgery. Odysseus, Ajax, Thoal, tears in their eyes, Then Makon, Panachea’s surgeon, saying: ‘Shears.’ ‘…aha…’ (but soft) and, Opening the loincloth (fishline rolled in silver) There it is: in past its barbs, A wooden needle resting in red wool, that Makon clips ‘…aha…’ Then: ‘This” (the vinegar) “may sting.’ And as it did, Paramount Agamemnon, King of kings, Sighed as he knelt beside you on the sand,’ And all his lords sighed, too, and all his underlords Sighed, and though they did not yet know why, the Greeks All sighed as Makon cut, and Agamemnon said: ‘I love you, Menelaos. Do not die. Please do not die,”’ (And cut) “for you are all I have. And if you die the Greeks will sail” (and cut) ‘Leaving my honor and your wife behind.’ Makon has nodded, and, as Jica kneels, He and boy Aesculapius pull ‘…aha…’ The quadrilateral tabs of flesh his cuts have made Back from the head for Jica’s finger-strength to hold Back and apart while Aesculapius swabs And Makon looks, and Agamemnon says: ‘Oh, Menelaos, I have done so much for you, Do not desert me now. You know what everyone will say. He was a fool. When have the Trojans ever kept their word? He should have done what they did — only first.’ Makon sits back…’ And as the Fleet pulls out, the Trojans will parade her, And her gold, along the beach.’ The arrow-head has gone, Into the cartilage coupling the pubic arch… ‘But nobody will blame Odysseus — Although he organized the fight.’ And looking up His brother said: ‘It may not be that bad…’ ‘It will be worse. I shall be treated like a strapless she. Ignored. Pushed to one side.’His head is in his hands. Now for the tricky part: as Jica parts the arch, Makon will use his teeth/his neck to draw The head out of the gristle by the stump. His face goes down. He breathes. He bites. He signs: And smoothly as a fighter-plane peels off ‘…aha…’ (my God, that man takes pain, As well as women do) lord Jica has the bones apart And sweetly as he drew his mother’s milk Makon has drawn the barbed thing out And dropped it into Aesculapius’ hand, Who says (as he unlids the anaesthetic paste): ‘Clean.’ Oh, stupid Pandar… King Agamemnon stands. His body shines. His face is terrible. His voice is like a cliff. taking a spear, and stepping, as his lords divide, Out inbetween the slopes, he calls into the sky: ‘Dear Lord, I know that You will not forget The wine we poured, the lambs whose blood we shed, And in Your own good time You will reduce Truce-calling Troy, truce-spoiling Troy, Oathmaking Troy, oathbreaking Troy, to dust.’ And now he takes a step, his lords behind, Towards Hector, and he says: ‘Bad Prince, God may take time. My time is now. To shed your blood. To shed your dark red blood. Your gleaming blood. And as you die The last thing that you see will be my jeering face, The last voice that you hear, my voice, Confiding how my heroes served your wife And kicked your toddler off the Wall.’ The terraces are empty. The speaker turns Back to his long bronze slope of men, and roars: ‘There they are!’ ‘There they are!’ ‘The traitor race!’ ‘Let them die now!’ Troy. They lift the curtains. Paris looks. ‘You sent for me?’ ‘You are my wife.’ ‘And his.’ ‘I have offended you.’ ‘Let’s not burst into tears over that.’ ‘I owe you flowers.’ ‘A thousand white roses will do.’ ‘What then?’ ‘You go back down and fight for me again.’ She has not raised her eyes. ‘It will be painless. He is fast — and heavy.’ ‘Tu.’ ‘My Lord?’ ‘My cloth.’ Naked. His curls Bursting around his head like sunlit frost. His eyes — so kind. ‘Your death will be the best for everyone. Troy will reopen. I shall sail for Greece. And you will not survive your cowardice.’ ‘I — ‘ ‘I am his better. I shall take his life,’ is what I heard, ‘So go back down and fight for me again.’ His shirt. His boots. On. On, and — ‘Cumin.’ ‘Lady?’ ‘Retie my girdle.’ While she does: ‘I have not finished.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘What happens if you kill each other?’ And through the lattice, in the pause — but far: ‘NOW!’ ‘NOW!’ ‘Close it, Tu.’ ‘My lord.’ ‘Leave it, Tu. I want to hear the strip.’ Shirt. Boots. All done. ‘Well?’ He stands. ‘If I had not said what I said you would have stayed,’ Turning away from him. ‘NOW!’ ‘NOW!’ ‘Oh go then — you know what they say. Up here: ‘The bitch will see us sold.’ Down there: ‘Leave her to Heaven.’ He goes towards her back. Cumin has closed the latticing, and now She leads the others out. ‘Beauty,” he says, ‘I bless the day, the month, the year, The season and the spirits of the place Where we two met. Such heat! But we were shivering with lust. And when the crew had gone ashore to sacrifice, Me, nude on the rug, you, little big girl, Still with one thing on: ‘Shall I be naked, too?’ you said, And then: ‘Watch me get rid of it!’ and threw it off, And then yourself into my arms, Into my arms, the world all gone, And the sun rose early to see us.’ Leading her to bed. ‘The world will tell our story to itself. And sit in silence to the end.’ Raise your binoculars. The dukes of Troy — Hector among them. Hector’s face. Faces near Hector’s face. Aeneas, Akafact, Sarpedon, Gray, Anaxapart. Faces near Hector’s face say Now. Who says: ‘When God says strike, we strike —‘ Swing to the Greeks. See them helping each other on with their bronze, Aeneas: ‘Now.’ Fastening each other’s straps. Sarpedon: ‘Now.’ ‘— but I will recognize that moment when it comes.’ Yet Now has caught his slope. And now, Quibuph, holding his vulture-plumed helmet, Catches his eye. Then with his silver yard Poised by his lips, T’lesspiax, his trumpeter, Catches his eye. And then it is his next, Chylabborak, adding his Now to theirs. But we are not in fairyland. We know that it was not till God turned to His son, The Lord of Light and Mice, and said: Let Thetis have her way.’ That Hector, whose clear voice Rose like an arrow through the trembling air, Cried: ‘Hearts, full hearts, courageous hearts, Our lives belong to God and Troy!’ and waved them on. And when the armies met, they paused, And then they swayed, and then they moved Much like a forest making its way through a forest. And after ten years the war has scarcely begun, And Apollo but breathes for the Greeks to be slung (As shingle is unto a road by the sea) Back down the dip, swell, dip of the plain. And now it has passed us the sound of their war Resembles the sound of Niagara Heard from afar in the still of the night.