Scrooby's Musings

Started by Scrooby, March 08, 2022, 12:28:53 AM

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ὄρσεο κυλλοπόδιον ἐμὸν τέκος: ἄντα σέθεν γὰρ
Ξάνθον δινήεντα μάχῃ ἠΐσκομεν εἶναι:

(Iliad, XXI, 331–332)

ἠΐσκομεν = "the one right tool"


ἀμφήριστος : "the issue is not certain."

Iliad, XXIII, 382.

The chariot race!


μύθοις λαβρεύεαι : "big talk"

Iliad, XXIII, 478.


Note the conjunction of the fine antique wood with the profile of the Mysterious Woman.

After Somerton, the Mysterious Woman is the fundamental item on Dr. Bill's mind. Hence, the wood filling the frame.

See the wood grain in shot 2? Notice the horizontal bars here (just after the scene above).

Then here (just after the scene above).

Then vertical bars (just after the scene above).

Mutations. Resonances. Making Connections. Art.



 " ( θεοὶ ) εἰσορόωντες "

(The gods) : "We'll look into it."

Iliad, XXIV, 23.


Full Metal Jacket :

Hartman : "Disappear, scumbag!"

King Priam : "Disappear, wretch!"

" ἔρρετε , λωβητῆρες ! "

Iliad, XXIV.239.



Thus the funeral games ended. And the people scattered back
to their tents, each man to his own precious ship, as at seedtime
the air delapses with pollen. They thought of supper and sleep
as light processed from sky, obeying the departure of the sun.
The season of the Trojan War was a-coming to an end,
though no-one down below on miserable earth yet knew it.
No one but Achilles, who knew not what, but resurrecting
his beloved in his head kept him tossing and turning this way
and that all the nights long in bed. He did not know how many
nights long he lay in bed, longing for the noble Patroclus,
loving with deep regret his goodness and courage and power
and manhood. The earth had taken away the good and the brave.
All-taming sleep unable to subdue him, he'd think of all
the odyssey of hassle they experienced together,
the many outrageously accomplished triumphs,
as they fought their way through men's wars and the omnifical waves.
Achilles thought with yearning on all this, turning himself from
one side to the other under the stars. When he considered
the hard way Patroclus had taken, and of himself as well,
everything revolving in his mind like a whirling Xanthus,
then tears dropped from his eyes and drowned his heart,
as he tossed and turned this way and that all the nights long in bed.
He lay even full on his face, frantic with pain, sounding out.
How could he put a limit on a loss of one so beloved?
So then he would get to his feet and go his solitary
way to the shore by the massive wavering sea,
in the darkest hour of night, as rest wearied him; alone,
untouched, fretted with grief all over, possessed of Patroclus
caught in pale immortal death, he wandered the lonely shore,
the sea acceding glistening up the sand, then retracting
back into the wild unconfined. Where his mother was,
who had not told him the truth of things, though she knew how things were.
Though Dawn came gliscent over the sea and the sands, revealing
herself fully to him, to give her light, he didn't notice.
With heart infracted he'd put his horses to, no matter the time,
and tether the body of Hector to the back of his car,
to drag him : and quickly galloping in circles three times round
the tomb of Patroclus Achilles dragged Hector, face downward,
so that he might scrape away every last bit of flesh from the bones.
Then, having brought new tears to Hector, Achilles would leave off,
and return to his tent, and let the body lie where it was,
lying low outstretched in the dust, face downwards.

So in this way ferocious Achilles disfigured the corpse
of δῖος Hector; and elsewhere and everywhere the gods,
convened in their open space, looked down on this maltreatment,
and the happy gods actually pitied the fallen Trojan hero.
So they encouraged sharp-sighted Hermes, slayer of hundred-
eyed Argus, to steal the corpse out from under crazy Achilles.
This plan the gods found agreeable, but for the faction of
Hera and Poseidon and the gleaming-eyed girl. The women
in this triumvirate persisted in antagonism
because of some distant indiscretion that goddesses never
forget. Back at the first they had come to Priam,
to stop the war before it began. The war was an answer
to the sinful idiocy of Alexandros, but each
action has more than one answer to it; hence the goddesses down
inside the lofty palace of Priam. Now the story is
fuzzy here, but it was possible Priam humiliated them
by showing favour to the cataclysmic Helen, and blaming
them, actually blaming Hera and Athena, for Helen's
rebellious behaviour. The goddesses left Troy wondering
why a man would choose a whore over a goddess.
Up in the heavenly bodies they nurtured their animosity
even to this day. And so explains the faction of the gods
against Priam and Troy. As for Poseidon, they let him follow
his impulses, which offered others occasions for laughter.

Then Hera spoke to Hermes :

"You who spread your tricky arts from heaven down to Hades,
shall you not find it funny to confuse the rage of Achilles?"

And Hermes was up for it. But such disputes in Heaven durate
for ages. So Dawn suffered coming for the twelfth time without
Achilles noticing her body of light, before Healer Apollo
responded, saying :

"Ah, loving stepmother, sweet rose of virtue and gentleness,
richest of us all in abundance in charm, but also in mercilessness!
You goddesses are wicked workers. What has Hector ever
done to you—but give you the best pieces of spotless sacrifices?
You'd save him now, and have his wife look onto him now? Cruel
sight for her to see, too cruel for mortals to endure. Only now,
after you got him dead, you want to celebrate his honour
with a monument over his bones, and the due obsequies
for heroes, with Priam, Hecuba, and the people
mourning in solemnity. No, this is too perverse to keep putting
into words! Meanwhile, you celebrate crazy Achilles,
who seems lacking in a single sensible thought in his head!
Worse, he's adamant against deserting his erroneous ways.
He's simply evil, a death-fated mortal with a mind crazy
and stubborn, a mad dog without sense of measure in his heart.
This man, whom the swarming Achaeans hail as their hero,
drags a dead body behind him from the back of a chariot!
The man actually bends down and fastens the corpse tight, with care.
What good can come from a man like that? And why encourage him?
I say he should start fearing our displeasure at his actions,
which have nothing good or pretty about them. What obtusion!
Continuously he drags behind him a bundle of senseless dust!
This is the mortal man you want all of us to get behind?"

Such words incensed Queen Hera to great anger, and she replied :

"So you say, Apollo, but your words aren't nearly as accurate
as your famous silver bow. If you would be so solicitous
with the dead Hector, why not allow one and and same respect
to the living Achilles? Hector is all mortal (as far back
as I can remember), while the mother of Achilles
is a goddess! And if mortals please you so well, his father
was a mere man, too. You, whose fingertips strum the curvaque
lyre, speak such rubbish sometimes! All this talk of Achilles
you should know, Apollo Seer, since you attended his father's wedding!
You sat there at the feast, that lyre in your hands! Obviously,
then, you're a friend to wickedness (ah, wicked Achilles!)
and not to be trusted."

And at this, Apollo replied that he had no memory
of any mortal's wedding, and refused to speak any more.

Gleaming-eyed Athena then spoke out, saying :

"Apollo, I will recall it all to you; and with these words
you may come to understand Achilles a little better.

Our Queen Hera's fondness with Achilles began when Zeus Father
restrained (for once) his passion for the mother, thereby granting
disgnissima Hera a victory. At first, his warmth outran his reason,
until he overheard (for Father hears all) a prophecy
delivered to Thetis from the shifty Old Man of the Sea.
He told her : 'You shall bring forth a child stronger than the father.'
When Zeus heard this, hot though the fires of love were burning in him,
he demurred from further interaction with Thetis, famous
for her free-spirited nakedness as her common, so-to-speak,
day- and night-wear. But for reasons only our father knows of,
he put the goddess into the hands of his son Aeacides,
and advised him to allow heaven's own grandson, Peleus,
to take his chances with the curvaceous aqueous goddess.

Now sparkling Haemonia-on-the-sea, its shoreline curved
outward like a bow, was an accustomed place to find Thetis,
for there was a cave there, obscured in a grove of olive trees,
where she was wont to rest. So Thetis came, astride her bridled
dolphin in all her shapely nakedness, when out jumped the bold
Peleus, who wrestled with her, at first playfully, then more
and more strenuously as Thetis resisted the mere man's
advances. Inside her cave, its curvature glowing with green algae,
she shape-shifted to a bird, but Peleus held firm to the feathers;
then stood stolid as a tree, but Peleus held her fast in his arms;
then, third, she came as a dappled tigress. It was at that point
that Peleus quit and fled. But her beauty was such that he
sought out a soothsayer, who gave him subtly-snaring cords,
which, he promised, would hold tenaciously anything they gripped.
He also gave advice : 'O sir,' he said, 'though she may imitate
through a hundred feigned forms and figures while caught on the bed,
keep hold, for finally she will metamorphose back to herself.'

So he returned to the cave in the olive grove by the sea,
and the beautiful goddess was asleep when he tied her up;
then he meant to have his way with her. And Thetis imitated
a hundred forms in his arms, but he held on; and finally
she stopped, and said : 'Curious as this sounds, you being here
on me was meant to be, for only a god would allow this.'
And so Thetis then meant to wrap her arms around Peleus
and yield to love, only to notice her arms and legs were still
spread out and fastened by the magical bonds. And Thetis said :
'Darling, don't untie them.' That's the story of the conception
of Achilles."

Thus spoke Athena.

Then came the orderer of all things, Zeus. Nothing did he dread,
but was ever dreaded. He answered his gleaming-eyed daughter,
and his wife, and all of them in Heaven, saying :

"My Immortals, here and now, cease this divisiveness! I will
decide : The respect we show to each man shall not be equal.
Hector was as decent as a man can be down there in Troy.
He knew right from wrong in his heart, and not from rote.
And he often sent out wondrous fragrances from the flames
of his altar, up to all that is ours, as appointed by
Destiny. His devotion I'll remember with affection.
But as for stealing any dead bodies, no, this will not do.
I, though, have an idea, that shall be followed to the letter.
Perhaps someone shall summon goddess Thetis here to my side,
so I may speak some words of wisdom into her ear, namely
that Achilles acquiesce, and accept gifts from King Priam,
and give the body back."

Thus Zeus; so air-crossing Iris goddess sprung to it, and sped
away down to earth, bearing a message from the Orderer.
And somewhere in the sea between island Samos and rocky
Imbros, with Helicon shining in the distance, goddess Iris,
dewy with living hues, dived down into the immersive dark
of the sea, and the waters roared over her, sealing her in.
She sank as fast as a pillar of light implants the sea, or
as a lead sinker, joined with an ox-horn, plummets at speed,
bringing treacherous death to the gullible and the baited. 
Indeed, Iris brought quick destruction to all fishes and sea-
monsters who came too close with their sharp teeth bared.
So she came to a luminous cave where many naked nymphs
of the sea were assembled together, consoling Thetis
in their midst, for the mother shed many a tear for her son. 
Of his destiny there in Troy, she knew, but had no answer.
The wonder Thetis felt was something she never felt before.

And wind-swift Iris, among the glowworms and weedy algae,
came close, and spoke to her, saying :

"Up! Up, Thetis! Zeus Ineluctable summons you to him!"

Then the goddess, low in variegations of silvery
foam, spoke out through her weeping, to reply :

"What does he want from me now? To see the shame of all my griefs
up close and plain on my face? And to be seen among them now,
considering what my son is doing—no, that's not a pleasant
invitation. Yet I must go. What can one do, when the God
has spoken His word?"

Thus Thetis. So, to match her mood, she wrapped her shapely body
in one long wind of dark linen, and straightened a dark veil
over her wondrous face, then hastened to go, following
swift, wind-walking Iris on the way. And the sea, drawn onward
and back, according to the hour, now withdrew down themselves
while they streamed up the depths of the sea and came to the sands
of the shore. Then they shot straight up into the open space of heaven.
There, they entered the presence of all those who shall live forever.

So while the gods were enjoying forever, Zeus Father
spirited Thetis away (under Hera's watchful notice)
to a private spot of space. And he sat beside the grieving
goddess, and offered her a golden cup of ambrosia,
delivering subtle lines of sympathy while she drank;
then she returned the cup to her long-ago would-be lover
Zeus, foremost of gods and men in all things, who looked into her
eyes with heart-breaking sympathy. He sidled ever closer
to the tender, shapely goddess; and her grief made her sorrow
sadder, and it grieved him sore to see her weep. Then he began
to speak, using words courteous, mild, meek, and well-devised :

"Be still, my darling, rest awhile; and when we're done, perhaps
sweetly smile? Sweet Thetis, I know full well why you sit this way
on Olympus. I, too, grieve terribly for your Achilles.
And though your grief may be comfortless, perhaps I can comfort
you in some manner? Do you hear these words I whisper? I know
your heart (which is why you are here). All this trouble down below
has brought itself up into heaven. For a barely endurable
duration of time the Immortals have set to quarrelling
on a subject touching the body of the other, and on
your Achilles, heroic wrecker of cities. The others
would snatch that abominable body from your Achilles,
and encourage Hermes to bring off their pleasure.
My affection, though, sweet Thetis (and you may come
closer), is with Achilles. And I treasure the affection
and the love that you and I feel for one another! Deeply
I do, my enchanting fresh-faced goddess, scented of the sea.
So hear now what I can do for you. Straightaway go down (but
not yet) to the Argive army, and deliver to your son
the following helpful aid. Explain to the hero, the wrecker
of cities, that all the other gods are aroused in their hearts
with anger at his passion, and would have him punished, but Zeus,
however, has a care to make things straight for all parties concerned;
and suggest in your way to the wrecker of cities that he
return the body to its rightful place. With this Word, we shall see
if he fears me. And goddess Iris I will send to Priam,
to seek release of the body by bearing an endowment
of gifts to Achilles, which may bring your son satisfaction."

Thus spoke Zeus, king of men and gods.

And goddess Thetis sped like fleeting years down from the summit
of gods to the battlefield, and to the tent of her son. Inside,
he sat sighing in a desolate air, and his friends were quiet
around him as they briskly prepared their breakfast.

His mother sank ladylike down by his side, and took his hand,
and called him by his name, and said :

"Child, how long will you weep this way? How long will your soul
stay troubled? You think neither of food nor of sleep. And no woman
lies by your side. Achilles, I'm sorry I did not tell you
all I knew of fate invulnerable. I thought it for the best."

And Achilles spoke out, as if he hadn't heard her, saying :

"Ah, God. If my love were in my arms, and I in bed again.
Could you do this for me, Zeus, if you wanted to? But you won't.
Piety is powerless against death, isn't that as it is?"

And his mother answered him :

"Listen now to what I say to you. I come with a message.
The gods you're now scorning are already in a state of hate
for you, and Zeus himself is, shall we say, taking an interest.
Come now! It will be best for everyone if you quit your rage,
and stop all this with Hector by the ships. Give the body back.
Hear me. Son! Give the body back, and accept some recompense."

And Achilles answered :


Thus, in this way, mother and son spoke together by the ships.

Meantime, Time itself brought Iris Wind-Walker to sacred Troy,
for Zeus had a plan :

"Up!" he said, "Up, Iris! Go from the open space of Olympus
down to strong-standing Troy himself, Priam, and enlighten him
that the better way to proceed from the present is to give
gifts to Achilles, if Priam and Troy would have Hector back.
Let him go, if he determines that his gifts are such that will
mollify the heart of Achilles. And he will go alone.
No Trojan shall walk beside him. But I have no care if he
chooses a helper, an older man, to work the wagon, and
steer the mules, so that the bodies of the dead may be brought
back to the city, all those men killed by δῖος Achilles.
We shall have Hermes, who knows all the ways, accompany him,
till Priam is brought near to the mighty presence of Achilles.
And when the old man is led into the tent of Achilles,
and the two men look into each other's faces, let us see
how much wisdom may be inside our beloved δῖος Achilles.
If I am correct, dear Iris, the boy is not senseless, not
aimless, and not wicked. I say he will spare old King Priam."

This was the word of Zeus. So Iris rode in with the storm clouds
to Troy, to bring the Word of God to the old man. She entered
the palace and heard all its halls echoing with wailing,
men and women weeping, and their mingled outcry was chilling
to hear. She wandered down to the outdoor courtyard, where the sons
sat round their father, all with heads bowed, and tears dropping to earth.
Priam sat in the centre wrapped up in clothing made filthy
by all his rolling and writhing in the dust. And now he sat
spent, with a handful of dust in his lap, and his eyes fixed some-
where. And coming from the house all round him were the wailings
of women : his daughters and his sons' wives mourning the good men
gone down under the earth, destroyed by the hands of the Argives.

And then it was night, and Priam sat where he was, even there
under the stars, in his filthy garments. His sons, too, were there,
but they lay asleep variously round him; and he, too, slept.
It was then that Iris goddess stepped to the king, and whispered
into his ear, and as she spoke, a trembling took hold of him,
for she delivered the message, and a part of him expected
an ill welcome from the Achaean warriors.

"Courage, Priam!" said Iris, who entered his mind as ever-
reshaping colours, then disappeared; and the old man awoke
with a grim foreboding in his heart. Still and all, King Priam
followed his night-thoughts, and requested of his sons to prepare
the four-wheeled wagon and the mules that pulled it, and specified
that the wicker basket be placed on the bed of the wagon.

Then old man Priam led Hecuba his wife down under the
palace to the storeroom of treasures, a private spot with wide-
arched ceiling and air scented with cedar, where much jewellery
was kept. And he spoke to his wife, the Queen, and said :

"Good lady, my sleep brought me a Word from the gods. I'm to go
now to claim the body of our great son, in the hope that I
may mollify the murderer's heart with gifts. What do you think?
The idea to me is exceeding strange, but my heart commands
me to cross the plain and enter into the camp of the Achaeans."

And Hecuba cried out when she heard this, and answered him with :

"Disaster. What of that man whom men in places all over
speak of as a master of masters? And what of the people
you rule? It will be said you chose to go on your own, to see
with your own eyes the man who has stripped you of so many sons,
strong and courageous sons. Your sleep has shaped your heart into stone!
If you catch his eyesight, he'll kill you. He won't show you pity.
He is a cruel and wicked man. We might almost say a beast
of prey. This faithless man will show you no mercy.

Let's you and I leave everything for all the others to work.
You and I must mourn, as we can, here in the house,
far from our son. That was Destiny's work, who laid out the thread
of his life when he came from inside me. How can we know why
Destiny would leave him to the dogs? I would bury my teeth
in that man, if chance allowed for it. I would feed as the dogs
feed till not one particle was left. Then my revenge were done.
For our son fell with honour, standing firm, defending our Troy,
protecting the women and the men. He stood firmly in place,
mindful only of protection, with not a thought of escape."

And her husband answered her :

"I cannot be held back, so please allow yourself to trust me.
Please no twittering like a caught bird of omen in our halls.
I seem to have no choice, and that is how it will be. I wasn't
made to believe from the words of a priest, or the visions
of a seer. I saw the goddess myself, and heard her voice.
So I will go. For how will we fare if we leave her word undone?
If my fate is to be cut down by those damned Achaean ships,
then that is what it will be. Achilles himself can have me,
if only after I have one last embrace of my son."

Thus was the word of Priam, the king of long-enduring Troy.

And then he went among his cherished treasures, lifting the lid
of one chest after another, and gathered together twelve
garments exceptionally beautiful in hand-work, each weighted
with personal meaning to the king. These elaborate robes
he placed, still squarely folded, in a pile beside the chests;
and all this before him expressed memories of his lifetime
with his wife, and his family, and his people, and his city.
The selection of the gifts followed an uncommunicated
sense in his heart, for better or worse, rather than following
his reason, and choice. So, alongside the splendiferous robes
he lay twelve simple cloaks; and twelve coverlets, which could be laid
over thrones, to warm them, adding comfort. And twelve tunics were
placed atop the cloaks. Carefully, then, he weighed out ten measures
of gold. And to the glittering gifts he added two delicate
pitchers; and four very beautiful cauldrons, looking a-blaze
with light; and also a cup, that the men of Thrace had given him,
when he had gone there on an embassy : a great item to the king.
There was nothing in his Halls that the king would not have added
to the gifts, for his one thought now was to reclaim the body
of his son.

Then he came out to the light of the sun, and stood in his court,
and saw Trojan men standing everywhere, and the king attacked
them with abusive words, saying :

"Disappear, all you shameful spectators! What do you see here
that appeals to you so much? Would you rather no one lead you?
Haven't you enough grief of your own to suffer in your own homes?
Yet you come here to see every step I take. A light matter,
you think, that one should lose the best of oneself? Because of the
decision of our god? A light matter, that the best of you, too,
is gone? He who saved many a person standing here? How much
easier do you think it will be for Achilles to strike you down
now? This is the word of your king you hear, what you deserve
to hear, and to have : I hope I step into Hades with my back
to the fall and slaughter of Troy."

Thus Priam. Holding his staff of office he stepped toward the men.
In reply the men scattered busily out of the courtyard
and away from the palace of Troy. Then the king summoned
his sons, who gathered by him : Helenus τε Alexandros
τ᾽ Agathon τε Pammon τ᾽ Antiphonus τε Polites,
τε Deiphobus τε καὶ Hippothous καὶ goodly Dius.

The old man spoke to these nine men, and gave command :

"Get going, all of you failures! I have you all at the price
of Hector. Ah, God. I am utterly ill-fated in all ways,
yet never knew it—till now. I brought the best sons into Troy,
into great Troy, and not one is left behind. Mestor, Troilus,
Hector—he who seemed the son of no man but of a god—
 Ἄρης has destroyed them all. Who survives now are the weak ones,
the cowards, those worthy of disgust : fake men, great at the dance.
You have no care but to ruin all that is best of your city
to satisfy your own sorry selves. You rob the kids from your
own people! Common robbers of lambs! You harm the prosperity
of your many Trojans for your own low selves? It's atrocious
to think on any further. Quickly now, use your feet, prepare
a wagon, and put in it all the treasures piled in our storeroom."

Thus was the word of the king. So, for a time, all of these men
worked in harmony together, and created a fine sight to see.
As they worked, they also remembered, with terror, their father's
threatening tone, which contributed to their exacting care.

They brought out a four-wheeléd wagon meant to be mule-drawn.
It was a handsome piece, newmade. The wicker basket was put
inside. Then they took down the yoke for the mules. Of box-wood
was the yoke made, and fitted with rings to receive all the reins
prevailed to guide the mules. This yoke they tied to the pole
of the wagon—polished, smoothed, glazy—with a securely-stitched
yoke-band nine ancient cubits long. They wound the band three times round
till it was tight, then took in the slack with a knot underneath.
Now the yoke for the mules was tied to the pole of the wagon.

Then up from the underground storeroom came the many treasures,
too valuable to quantify, meant as ransom for the body of Hector;
and the brothers placed everything into the well-polished wagon.
Then they yoked the strong-hoofed mules, serene-working in harness,
which long ago the Mysians, famed for their wondrous animals,
had given to the king for his own private use, a kind gift.

And Hecuba stepped up to her husband, sorrowing at heart.
She held out in her right hand a golden cup of honey-sweet
wine, so that he might pour to the gods before his departure.
So she stood by the animals, and voiced an out-of-the-ordinary
question to her husband :

"Come! Come and pour for Father Zeus, and pray
to return home from there, from those hateful creatures,
those demons. All this work is strange to me, yet resolutely
you continue, so I shall say no more but pray to the God
of Time, the son of Cronos, the manipulator of clouds
from Ida's peak. From there he sees all of us down on the plain;
pray to him. Ask him for a sign; let us see what he shows us.
Let his bird of omen come to us, the bird of prey, his strength
coming up on the right hand, and by that you shall know safety
along your passage to the ships of the extreme Achaeans.
But if the god who hears and knows everything decides to show
us nothing auspicious, then I call on you to turn around,
and even in your eagerness to go forth to the Argives,
do not go."

Then Priam, king of Troy, answered his wife, saying :

"My good wife, you ask me to bend the knee to the god who took
everything from us, and will keep doing so, until we're no more.
Why things are as they are does not bear looking into closely,
for fear of what might we discover of ourselves in our hearts.
Yet, perhaps we might receive everything that happens to us
as a testing, which demands us to face suffering with strength,
or live with the consequences of what we've chosen to be—
weak. If we allow life to beat us down to nothing, what were we
worth in the first place? Through suffering we come to know what we are.
Along no other path do we come to Truth. Like it or not : as the gods will it.

So I shall obey you. I will lift up my face to the one
who took everything, Zeus, and pray for him to show us mercy."

Thus spoke Priam. He requested of his housekeeper to pour
water over his hands. So she came with the pure, clear water,
and stood by him with pitcher and silver basin in her hands.
And the basin was carven all round with imagery of Troy,
memories of the duration of its glorious history.

And so she poured the water and he washed his hands.
Then Hecuba his wife poured the wine-offering on the earth.

Wife and husband then took hands, and knelt, and looked up to the sky,
and the man began to pray aloud for all of them, saying :

"Origin and orderer of all things past, present, and to come,
who looks down on us, who sternly keeps us in our place,
whether we remember you or not—and it is Sin to forget you,
you whose power makes a toy of ours;—To you I pray we come
to Achilles unharmed. And, inside his tent, we are welcomed,
and respected in our low position. If you hear me now,
Zeus, bring confidence to our way, show us all is not lost, yet;
may the sky bring us the bird of omen, your beloved bird
of the infinite air, the mighty bird of prey with outstretched
wings and great strength, rising in the east, and I see, with my
eyes, that my way forward will be the beginning of my return.
I will survive the galloping tread of the strong Achaeans."

Thus was the prayer of the husband, knelt beside Hecuba,
in the open-air court, bound within colonnades of pillars.

And Zeus Counsellor heard, and an eagle came up clear and sure
with fully-outstretched wings : dark hunter whom men call Black Eagle.
Its wings stretched as wide as the door of a storeroom, the hand-work
well-confining, with the strong bolts barring the treasures inside;
just so wide were the open wings of the eagle rising on
the right. And the whole city saw, and all the hearts were softened.

Then, briskly, with single-minded purpose, the old man stepped from
the court, and walked beside the wagon to the palace front gates,
and the front gates blazed in the sun, they glowed like stargates,
and they went through, out onto the plain, Idaeus his helper
managing the stride of the animals. Priam urged himself on,
his mind like a whip that spurs the fast horses, from the city,
and walked forward toward the plain. Behind him, back in the city
walls, the women wailed with ululations, thinking himself
walking to his death. But when he reached the plain, his sons left him,
and all the wives, and turned back, to re-enter Troy.

Zeus, who is everywhere, saw the old man, and would show mercy;
so, while Priam walked on the plain, Zeus faced his beloved
son Hermes and spoke, saying :

"Hermes! Guide of the Blessed, it pleases you to associate
with men as well. Go, then! Go bring Priam to the Achaean ships.
You lead men down all pathways, including the last way forward.
Use your wiles to contrive a way for Priam to reach Achilles."

Thus Zeus. And Hermes eagerly obeyed. The runner fitted
to his feet his golden ambrosial sandals, which lifted him
along the waves of the sea, and over vast distances of earth,
quick as the breezes of the wind. And with him he brought his wand
of sorcery that lowers some eyelids to sleep, or rouses
others awake. Holding the ῥάβδος indescribable in words,
he came to the mouth of the mighty Hellespont, where the ships
stood arrayed in a black square on the sandy shore at land's edge.

So came to Priam the splendid, luck-bringing god, the giver
of good things : a child at heart, with the extent of a child's
guile, even when deceiving—such as now. For just now,
having passed the ancient tomb of Ilos, its stone discoloured
and crumbling, Priam had halted, and the mules drank from the river.
By now darkness had come down to earth. And Idaeus leaned close
to Priam, and said :

"My king, look there. We must consider things, and act with caution.
I see a man, a young man who looks well in my eyes, handsome
and secure; there is a radiance about him that makes him
easier to see in the dark;—he may be about to kill us."

And old man Priam watched as Hermes walked up to him, and all
the hair on his arms stood on end, and he stood up onto his
weak limbs and waited. And the god stood by him, and took his hand,
and spoke to the old man, saying :

"Why, father, are you up so late in the dark, when all people
else through the infinite night are asleep? Have you no fear
of the Achaean strength coming in on the breezes here?
You know there are monstrous enemies—strange, implacable—
hard-by here, don't you? If a single man of them came here
and saw this pile of wealth utterly hidden in the darkness,
do you think your words, or your hopes, would help you then?
You have no youth about your body, and your friend here is older
still; so how are you to stop a man from working his will
on you, come what may? I'm to be trusted, though. You are lucky
you met me. Not only will I not hurt you, I will defend you
against whomever other. For you remind me of my own dear father."

Then old man Priam answered him :

"Is it as you say, dear child? Perhaps the god holds his hand
over me now, since I meet such a traveller as yourself,
here in this dangerous place. An auspicious sign,
and so admirable in look and stature. And wise at heart,
besides. Your parents much be very fortunate. Blessed ones."

And tricky Hermes replied to him :

"Indeed you speak rightly in all things, old sir. But come, tell me,
truly now, are you off for a foreign land, and taking all
that is yours, in the hope of keeping yourself safe and sound there?
Are you turning your back on sacred Troy in fear?
For the best man there is now dead, your son.
He never stopped fighting the Achaeans."

And Priam answered him :

"Who are you? Which great family is yours,
that you speak so well of my son?"

And tricky Hermes replied to him :

"You would have me answer that? That would be
some doing. I have seen your son, δῖος  Ἕκτορα ,
with my own eyes, many times, fighting man-to-man
in war, in war that wins men glory, many times,
pushing the enemy back to their ships in a rage,
splitting Argives down the middle with the sharp bronze.
All we could do was stand and look on with wonder.
For Achilles would not allow us to fight, on account of
his anger for son of Atreus Agamemnon. I am one
of his warriors, and I came here to Troy on the same ship.
I'm a Myrmidon. Polyctor, a wealthy man, and as old
as you are, is the name of my father. He has six sons, and
I'm the seventh. Of all my brothers, it was my luck with the
pebbles to come here. Now here I am on the plain by the ships.
At dawn, you should know, the Achaeans are preparing to go
encircle the city, and make war with accustomed rapacity.
Sitting idle has become too much work for the lot of them,
and the leaders can no longer hold the men back from battle."

And Priam answered him :

"If it is as you say, that you are one of Achilles' men,
come then! I ask you to tell me plainly. Is my son still by
the ships? Or has he been cut into pieces by Achilles,
and all the parts thrown to the dogs?"

And tricky Hermes replied to him :

"Old sir, neither dog nor bird has yet feasted on the body,
though it lies by the black ship of Achilles, where all our tents
have been from the first. Twelve days now your son has lain
where he is, yet his skin shines with a freshness that startles one
who looks on it. All the other men believe the body should
be rotten by now. No squalid worms are able to nibble
into his flesh, such as flourish in the dead on a battlefield.
If you want the absolute truth, Achilles drags the body
around in a circle, tethered to the back of his chariot,
round and round the tomb of his dead friend, always at the first light
of dawn. But if you see the body now, good sir, you'll see it
fair as it ever was, and marvel. He lies as fresh as the dew
that gathers on him in the mornings. There is no blood, there are
no wounds.—Though many bronze spears passed through his body.
In this way the gods on high protect your son (though waited till
he was dead to do this). Yet, for all that, your son pleased the gods,
when alive."

Thus Hermes, and the old man nodded, then replied, saying :

"Child, take this cup. You see its fine workmanship, its value.
It's yours. Protect me on the way to the tent of Achilles."

And Hermes answered him :

"Good sir, you endeavour to test my faith, as I am a much
younger man than you, and you wish to know my character at heart.
You cannot persuade me through gifts or through any other way,
without Achilles coming to know of it. I fear the man,
and look on with wonder at the man, and would die for the man.
So I will do no little thing that might be called betrayal.
But I will bring you to the man, if that's what you want. I will
bring you to Achilles. Do you want to stand before Achilles?"

And old man Priam nodded, and Hermes took that as a yes.


So Hermes Luck-bringer darted up, and before the old man
knew it, they had swept past what was left of the collapsed trench,
and what was left of the demolished wall, and had passed unseen
by the watchers at their look-outs, for as they were preparing
their suppers, the full number of them fell asleep when Hermes
came near. Then the god unbolted the gates, which swung open
on their hinges, and Hermes escorted the old man inside,
along with all the shining gifts in the four-wheeled wagon.

Then they came to a lofty, high-beamed tent, Achilles' tent,
that his faithful Myrmidons had built for their master, having
hewn thick trunks of cut-up fir trees into shape, and roofing it
with a spiky thatching of reeds gathered from meadowlands.

Surrounding the tent stood close-packed spikes upright in close order,
also built by his men for their master. The door had one solitary bolt,
a thick piece of pinewood, but it took the strength of three men
to move it (Achilles alone could draw it back with one hand).

Here at the tent Hermes slid the bolt aside for the old man,
and brought all the gifts from the wagon through the opened door.

Then he spoke :

"Before I go, old sir, know that I am Hermes, sent to you
by my father, to escort you to this very spot. So now
I have done this, so now I can go. But you step inside.
Wrap your arms round his knees, and beg him however you can,
beg him by his father and his mother and his child.
Perhaps you may soften his heart."

Thus busy Hermes Luck-bringer, who darted up and away,
returning to the open space of infinite Olympus.

So Priam stood there where he was, at nightfall; then stepped forward,
leaving Idaeus behind him with the animals. He went
to the tent where he would come to find magnific Achilles,
beloved of Zeus. Inside, he saw the man with some of his
friends; but Achilles sat apart, sitting over the remains
of his supper. Warriors Automedon and Alcimus,
meanwhile, attended to him carefully and quietly,
standing behind him at table. Unseen of any of these,
the old man stepped further inside, and looked upon the sorrow
darkening the face of Achilles, whose mighty head was bowed low.

So now the old man took another step. And then Achilles
raised his head, and saw the King of Troy standing weak before him.

Then Automedon and Alcimus took some steps forward,
but their master raised his hand; so they obeyed him, and stood still.

So the mighty king of Troy sank to his knees, and wrapped his arms
round the legs of Achilles; and he kissed the hands that had killed
his son. He kissed the terrible, man-killing hands that had taken
all of his good children. 

And Achilles looked on with bewilderment ever-sinking
deeper into his eyes; and his friends turned to one another
in astonishment, but said nothing, in fear of Achilles.

The Trojan king lay low before the Achaean champion,
just as a man, whose many terrible mistakes in his homeland
leads him to flee elsewhere, and hopes for assistance from someone
of wealth, anywhere, and everyone looks on him with wonder;
just so did Achilles look down on this person with wonder.

And old man Priam was likewise amazed to be where he was,
and likewise amazed to be meeting the eyes of Achilles.

So Achilles waited for the old man to speak. Thus, Priam
now began his prayer, and said :

"Son of Peleus, godlike Achilles, think of your father.
He who cared for you is of such an age as mine.
He faces what last years he has left without his son
by his side to protect him. So his neighbours may
bully him, and he has no one to defend him
against ruin, and then death. But, in his hardship,
he rejoices at heart, when he thinks of his son,
his heroic Achilles; and hopes for the day
when the boy returns to come live with the father.
This dream of his he hopes for day by day.

And now I come here to see you. I have come far
only to lose everything I made. I tell you
all my good sons are dead. You look down on a man
ruined in all ways, with nothing left for his heart.
Fifty sons I had with me in indomitable Troy,
when the Achaeans came in their ships. Nineteen of my
sons came from the same mother's womb; the others by
the women of my Halls. Of all these sons, a great many,
insane  Ἄρης has taken far the best of them, and left me
with the weak. The one last hero, who with his solitary
strength, defended his city and his people, he, too, you have
taken from the father, even Hector, famous Hector.
You, Achilles, have proven stronger than my son.
I come before you at the ships of the Achaeans to ask
for his body, and I bring an abundance of gifts of honour
for you, too valuable to price. Think of the gods,
and show mercy to me, and remember your own dear father.
I am more alone even than he; and have endured beyond
what any man should; and now I reach out my hand, in kindness,
to the man who killed my children."

Thus spoke Priam. Achilles glared at him, and felt inside him
a longing to drop tears for his own father. And he reached out
and took the warm hand of the old man, and gently removed it
from his own. But they stayed together, each thinking of the dead,
and tears gushed down from both; the one, for magnificent Hector,
while bent upon his face before the feet of Achilles;
while the other wept for his father, and for Patroclus;
and their mingled lamentations filled the tent.

Then when all his tears were shed, δῖος Ἀχιλλεύς got to
his feet, and raised the old man up from the floor, feeling pity
for his ancient frame, the grey hair and the grey beard;
and he spoke to the king, and said :

"Ah, luckless man! You have tolerated much; and have much yet
of horror for your heart to take in. You had the grace to come
on your own through the Achaean ships and stand before me,
and look into the eyes of the one who took all your many sons.
How is this possible? Your heart is as stone. But come now! Sit.
You and I together will let our disasters lie quiet
in our heart. Somehow we will sit quiet through all the sorrows.
For what good is there in endless grief? This is how it is for us,
all of us. We each of us have a miserable destiny given us
at birth, a destiny to live in pain in a hateful world,
which no god truly cares for, not enough to brighten it all.
Zeus writes everything into the surface of space and that's that :
some men have blessings whether they earn it or not;
while others the lover of lightning is happy to see
luckless and maltreated wherever he wanders, and the world
leaves him crazy, and drives him on in that way, then is reviled
by both gods and men. I would not call that fair, and yet we pray.

As for my father Peleus, the gods gave him all the luck
he would want, for a time. At birth he was given many gifts
that would serve him well among men. He became wealthy, and a king,
the master of the Myrmidons, and though a mortal he won
as his wife a goddess of the sea. But all that now I know
means nothing to him, as he thinks on his son destined to die
here, his only son. My father grieves far away in a land
I will never see again. For I have come here to bring you
and your children and your people a misery without end.
But when I was a young boy I heard all about distant Troy,
about grand King Priam, most blest of men, who brought together
Lesbos and Phrygia and everything in between by reason
of your wealth and your sons and your wisdom.
All men everywhere know of you and your glory; your name has
sailed down the Hellespont into places beyond our knowledge.

But the gods had ideas for you, just as they had some for me.
So we traded our good fortune for war, for slaughter of men.
What are we to do now, but hold ourselves, till there's nothing left
to hold. Endless tears in our heart won't bring back what we have lost.
And, if you don't mind me saying so, we'll all be dead in Hades soon."

Then old man Priam replied to him, saying :

"Achilles, beloved of Zeus, for all those reasons you say,
I cannot accept your invitation and sit. No, not while
my son lies unburied. Please now, return my son to me,
so that I may see him one last time. All the riches I brought
with me are yours to keep, treasures beyond price. (Or so I used
to think.) May all its wealth serve you well when you return to your
homeland. They're tokens of your kindness in sparing my life,
to allow me to let be in the light of the sun, at least
for one more day—which is more valuable than any treasure."

Then δῖος Achilles, glaring at him from under dark brows,
answered him, saying :

"Irritate me no further, old man. I give you your Hector
of my own decision. As it is, all this was meant to be
just as it has fallen. I am sure of it. For there's no way
any man, even one young and strong, would dare
enter into an enemy camp alone and unarmed.
Somehow you escaped the notice of the watchers.
Somehow you drew back the bolts of our doors.
It is clear that some god led you to me.
Now say no more, old man, unless you wish to move
my heart to raise my hand and kill you where you stand,
regardless of the gods and any of their Words."

Thus Achilles; and the old man, pale with fear, obeyed his command.

Then son of Peleus Achilles sprang up quick as a lion
and went out of the tent, followed close by his two attendants,
Automedon and Alcimus, now his closest friends, now that
Patroclus was dead. They released the mules from the yoke,
and brought old man Idaeus into the tent and had him sit
in a chair. Then they removed the shining ransom for Hector
from the bed of the wagon. But Achilles left two richly-
embroidered robes behind, and a simple tunic, so that he
might wrap the corpse, thereby making its transfer decent for all,
and a gentler sight for his mother when brought back to his home.
So Achilles summoned the handmaidens and requested of them
to wash the body and anoint it, arranging for this work
to be done out of Priam's sight, so the father might not see
his son, and lose himself in anger and rage, because Achilles
would have to kill him if this happened. So the handmaidens bathed
the body and rubbed in oil, then draped it in a fine cloak
and tunic. Achilles then lifted it up, and lowered it
down onto the bier. Then, he and his two attendants carried
the body out to the four-wheeled wagon, and set it inside.

Afterwards, Achilles sighed sadly, and cried out to his friend :

"I beg you, Patroclus! Show no anger if down in Hades
you come to hear that Hector has been given to his father!
All this has been done rightly, and in honour of your good heart."

Thus δῖος Achilles, who then turned back and re-entered his tent.

Inside, he lowered himself onto his chair, a beautifully-carven
piece, ornamented with imagery of myths of his homeland,
a past and a place he had no chance to ever return to.
This chair was set across the space from Priam's, and with all that
distance between them, Achilles began to speak to the king,
saying :

"Your son is now set free, as you wished. He lies upon a bier,
and when Dawn comes you will see him in the light, and take him home.
But for the moment we should consider some supper for you.
Think of Niobe of the infinite tears. Even she kept
herself alive with food, even after all that she suffered.
Her twelve children made her believe herself the most fortunate
of mothers. Not her husband's arts, not his or her own
magnificent families, not the kingship they held : none of this
gave her pleasure at heart the way her children gave her pleasure.
Then, one day, graceful Niobe in her woven robe of golden thread
stood before the people, and proclaimed the precedence of her
children over all others, even those of goddess Leto,
which would mean Apollo and Artemis. So the gods killed them all.
Apollo, in his anger, aimed his silver bow, and took down
the six brothers in their Halls. Then, arrow-shooting Artemis
destroyed the six daughters, each in the eyes of the others,
as her arrow-points came in and ripped through their flesh,
there in their beloved house, beside their beloved brothers.
Niobe had begged the gods for her youngest girl to be spared,
but even as she prayed, her youngest child died in her arms.
And so the gods took all the children of Niobe away.
For nine days they lay in the shambles of blood over the floor
and walls, for Zeus had turned the people of the city to stone.
I suppose the story means that we should stop thinking so much
of ourselves. As any rate, on the tenth day the gods above us
buried them; and Niobe thought for the first in all that time
of food, for all her tears had wearied her down past endurance.
Even she took in food, although she had thought herself past taking
in anything more. Nowadays, they say, she, too, has turned to stone,
and sits atop Sipylus, where she broods endlessly on her cares.
No blood runs through her veins; and her tongue does not move in her mouth;
but from the peak of the mountain her tears flow as a fountain
spring down and forever. Thus, good king, think on food for yourself;
then afterwards you may bring your son back within your city walls,
and mourn him with all the tears a desolate heart can produce."

So δῖος Achilles rose, took hold of a silver-white ram,
and cut its throat, as a sacrifice so that men might live on.
His companions flayed it, then prepared the meat excellently,
slicing it, and spitting the pieces, and roasting them well.
Then they drew off all the flesh and put it onto a platter.
Automedon then filled beautiful woven baskets with bread
and placed them on the table, while Achilles served the meat.
So they reached out their hands to the goodness set before them.
Then when they had eaten, they sat in a momentary peace,
and Priam, king of Troy, looked on with wonder at Achilles,
admiring the sort of man he was : handsome in aspect
and poise, and wondrous with words. So, when each was satisfied
with his contemplation of the other, then the old man
begin to speak, Priam, the godlike king of Troy, and he said :

"I shall lay myself down now, if that is acceptable to you,
master Achilles, faithful friend of God. Is there a bed here
for me to rest on?—so that in sleep I may release myself
of all my troubles for awhile? That is sleep's sweetest gift.
For I have not closed my eyes since your hands took my son from me.
Ever since, I have sat in my courtyard in mourning, in the dust,
thinking on my many sorrows. And now I have tasted bread
and meat for the first time as well; for in all that time I sat
careless of my own life and death, and let nothing pass my throat."

Thus Priam, and mighty Achilles nodded. He requested
of his friends and handmaidens to prepare two beds
within the tent, and to furnish them with soft purple blankets,
and to spread coverlets over them, and on those a layer
of cloaks of thick, fleecy wool, to keep old Priam warm at night.
So straightaway the handmaidens left with flaming torches in
their hands, to get on with their domestic work in quiet haste.

Then Achilles addressed the old king with a smile, saying :

"Good Priam, you should know that on any ordinary night
one or another of the Achaean leaders or ministers
are wont to come to me to talk strategy and devise plans
against your city. If now one came out of the dark and saw
you here in my tent, it wouldn't take long for Agamemnon
to find out, and my own life might end even faster than that.
As for you, I wouldn't have any better expectations.
But let us see if we can get to the coming of the dawn.
If we pull this off, please tell me now, and be straight about it :
How many days do you have in mind before you bury your son?
Because for all that time I'll do my best to hold the army back."

And Priam answered Achilles :

"Friend, if you are willing to do this for me as you promise,
and allow my good Hector his rightful burial, if you,
mighty Achilles, indeed grant me this wondrous kindness,
then please obey these words. You know my people have shut themselves
inside the city, where resources are scarce now. The forests
are far, and though my Trojans are terribly afraid to show
themselves just now, we will travel to the mountains, and carry
back the wood we need. For nine days we shall weep in the palace,
and wait. And on the tenth day we shall honour my son with burial,
and the people shall assemble and feast. Then, on the eleventh
day, we will raise his tomb. And on the twelfth we fight, if we must."

And Achilles answered Priam :

"Great king, it will be as you say. I will hold the army back
for all the time that you have specified to me."

And so the two men clasped each other's hands,
right on right, a pledge for Priam to feel no fear.
Then they laid themselves down to sleep, Priam
and his attendant Idaeus, and their wise hearts
beat through the silence of the night. But Achilles
stayed awake a while longer, lying in bed
with a very beautiful woman at his side, Briseïs.

Now, under the stars, the people of earth slept all the night through,
and even some gods, too, but not tricky Hermes Luck-bringer.
The wily slayer of hundred-eyed Argus was wide awake,
contemplating how to get old Priam away from the ships,
past the sharp-eyed gate-keepers, and back safely to his city.

So Hermes came up close to the king and whispered in his ear :

"Good sir, why are you sleeping so peacefully among enemies?
Achilles has spared your life, but too many dreadful ones won't.
You came across the plain for your son, and have set Hector free :
but what if Troy is obligated to gather a ransom
for you, if you're found where you lie, and Agamemnon is told
of this? The price to be paid for Hector's funeral will rise
to an unimaginable value, if you're taken captive here."

Thus Hermes. Suddenly Priam awoke and got to his feet,
and stirred his attendant, Idaeus. The tent of Achilles
was dark and quiet, and the two old men made their way outside,
where their four-wheeled wagon stood ready, with their mules yoked,
and the body of Hector, enrobed on his bier, in the back.

So Hermes watched over them as they drove through the starry night,
following the paths of the broad Argive camp, yet no one saw them go.

Dawn, then, lifted her veil, and revealed all of her beauty
to the people of the earth. By this time the two men had come
to the crossing of the fast-flowing river, the whirling Xanthus.
There, splendid Hermes left them to care for themselves, while he
stepped up to the open space of high Olympus.

So the two men crossed the river, and continued down the plain,
with Idaeus driving the mules, and old man Priam walking beside
the wagon, and the lifeless body of his son in the back.

As they neared the lofty city of Troy, neither man nor woman
noticed the approach of their king. Only one of all the Trojans
saw—Cassandra, daughter of Priam, and as beautiful as
golden Aphrodite. Hearing her god-given intuition,
Cassandra had rushed up the high tower by the Scaean gate,
and looked out onto the wide plain, and saw her father. She saw
him walking beside Idaeus driving the four-wheeled wagon.
And then she saw her brother's dead body lying in the back.
At that she shrieked in the night, and all the city heard her cry :

"He comes! Hector comes home from the battlefield! Troy!
Come see your hero return to your city!—the great glory
of all you men and women when he was alive, and fighting
for you!"

Thus Cassandra. Then no man nor woman was left within the city,
for all the people came streaming forth through the opening gates.
All the Trojans fell weeping when they saw Priam returning
with his dead son, their hero, the incomparable Hector.

Hector's wife Andromache cried out, and took hold of the body,
and would not let go; while his noble mother tore at her hair
and garments in a mania of woe; and all the people
crowded round the rolling wagon, and walked along beside it,
dropping tears all the while. So all day long until the sun
went down the people of Troy would have mourned their fallen hero,
weeping beside the gates of the city, had not King Priam
spoken out for all of his people to hear him :

"Make a way, good people, for a hero to pass through into
our city. When I have brought him home where he belongs,
back in Troy, then you may weep your every last tear."

And so, at the word of their king, the people spread out, making
a way for the mule-wagon to move forward.

Then, when δῖος Hector was brought to the glittering palace,
he was laid on a curtained bed. And the poet-singers came
to lead the threnody, and all the women joined in lamentation.
And among them was precious Andromache, low-sunk in tears,
holding her powerful husband in her arms all the while.

She said :

"My husband, they have taken you from me, so young. You have left
me a widow in your halls. You have left your son, just an infant.
You and I brought him into a world of everlasting woe.
Terrible to say it, but I don't think he'll come to manhood,
for the city will fall to dust long before that. You are gone.
You have left us, you who watched over the women and children
and kept us safe. I fear all these I speak of will soon be sailing
the black ships, to be brought who knows where; and I and your child
shall be slaves to a hateful master, and forced to labour at
disgraceful things. Or some Achaean, angry at you for all
your killing, will lift up your baby and throw him from the wall,
a miserable death. Ah, child, your father was never gentle
with the Achaeans! Now they want their vengeance, and the weak
will have to pay. Hear all the sorrow that fills the city air;
nothing awaits any of us now but pain and misery.
Your parents suffer as I suffer, as your one son suffers.

If you had died in this bed, you might have reached out with your hand
and held my own, and given me words to remember for life,
to think on night and day, with tears; or you might have simply said,
'I love you', one last time."

Thus unhappy Andromache. Then the mother of Hector,
noble Queen Hecuba, took the lead in the lament, saying :

"Hector, most beloved of all of my children, my spirit,
my very soul, ah, no! Let it not be so! The gods favoured
you while you lived, and they watched over you and all that's yours,
and yet they still took you in your prime. But that wasn't enough
for the gods. That crazed murderer kidnapped many of our sons
and sold them across the sea in foreign places, to Samos
and Imbros and Lemnos. That wasn't enough for him, either.
No evil is ever enough for the worst people on earth.
After he robbed you of life with the horrible bronze, he had
to rob you of your dignity, too : insulting your body,
dragging it round the grave of his friend Patroclus—
though all that effort will not give him one more moment of life.
And how strange it is to look on you now, my son. You lie here
as if freshly gone away, still full of colour, as if taken
painlessly, by one of the gentle arrows of Apollo.
If only you might open your eyes, and see your mother here."

Thus Hecuba in lamentation, and all the women wept.

Then, third to lead the lament, was Helen, saying :

"Great Hector, kindest of all Trojan men! Dearest to my heart
of all my husband's brothers! Twenty years ago your brother
Alexandros led me from my homeland and took me as wife,
and I left behind me a family of my own, which brings me
many scornful words from the people of this city. If I
had only sunk to the bottom of the sea before my foot
touched Troy! Then everyone here would know happiness.
As it is, the city has lost its gentlest soul. I never
heard a word of unkindness from you, not a word of distaste;
if such came from others in the palace, who also wish me dead,
you'd turn to them and say, 'Be gentle, be kind-hearted, be good.'
(Noble Priam alone is as gentle with me as you were with me.)
And so with these same tears I mourn for you and mourn for myself,
for I have lost a great friend and ally. No one else in Troy
looks at me without a shudder, and needless words of cruelty."

Thus spoke Helen in lamentation, and all the women mourned.

King Priam, meantime, stood before the men and spoke :

"All good Trojans, hear me! Bring firewood into the city.
And none of you men shall dread the Achaeans along the way,
for Achilles gave me his word, when I came from the black ships :
They will do us no harm until the twelfth coming of the dawn."

So the men of Troy yoked the oxen and the mules to the carts,
and gathered themselves together, and went forth from the city.
For the space of nine days they hauled in a vast supply of firewood;
but when the tenth Dawn came with light to bless the peoples of earth, 
then they lifted Hector up to the summit of the pyre,
weeping all the while; then they flung onto him the fire.

Then, at the time when Dawn came to spread her rosy fingers wide,
and light fell gently to earth, the people came from the city
and stood round the pyre of fearless, stout-hearted Hector.
First they quenched the fire, pouring the red wine over the flames
that were left. Then his brothers and his friends collected the bones,
and all the while tears trickled down their faces, yet they neglected
to wipe them away. They laid the remains in a golden urn,
wrapped up in soft, sea-purple robes, then lowered the memory
of the man into an open grave, and covered it over
with heavy, well-ordered stones, and raised the tomb of their hero.
During this the Trojans stationed watchmen all around, in case
any bronze-armoured Argives came skulking over to ruin things.
Then when the tomb was complete, they went back into the city
and shut the gates, and bolted them tight; then gathered together
in the palace of the king, where Priam hosted a glorious
feast for his fallen son, while Zeus Father watched from above.

Thus was the funeral for Hector, hero of long ago.

The End
The Iliad of Homer

22 January 2022 – 29 October 2022


Requiescat : last great telephoto shot on film . . . ?


The Master's daughter Elizabeth, at the moment of betrothal, turns to look Freddy in the eye. She is prompted by an inkling, seemingly inexplicably so. What does she see? 

Is it random, what Elizabeth does? Or something other? (Recall Freddy and the Master, at their first meeting, both noting the strange connection they already share.)

In this most consequential moment of her life, Elizabeth and Freddy are joined. To some degree in her memory, Freddy is now forevermore imprinted there ("You may kiss the bride")—and therefore also imprinted in her heart.

This otherworldly moment is a creepy capture of a highly-charged unspoken.

In the midst of joy, Elizabeth gazes into the darkness of a foreboding.


Oedipus the play begins :

Οἰδίπους :
"ὦ τέκνα, . . .


Oedipus the king steps into view of some citizens of the city he rules, Thebes. Oedipus the king begins with addressing the people : "ὦ τέκνα" : " O children". Oedipus is the father. Oedipus is the ruler—the right measure. Oedipus is Reason and Control. Oedipus is the State. Oedipus is Right.

Oedipus the man is confident, sure, reasonable; practical and trustworthy; helpful and caring; utterly responsible. Oedipus is certain on his feet.

In approximately sixty minutes his entire Self collapses from the highest height to the lowest low. Oedipus the character is a surrogate for the audience. Thus, what a wild ride for spectators to experience the continuum of Oedipus!

Isn't it funny that Oedipus the character is entirely, ingenuously with his whole heart, committed to tracking down, uncovering, and curing the Problem of the State, and spends the duration of the play employing Logic and Reason to follow the tracks of the Situation to its Origin, only to discover that He is the problem? Now, isn't that funny? (e.g., "First to go, last to know.") The tone of Oedipus the play, as devised by its playwright Sophocles, is a continuous mix of the dead-serious and the perversely funny : the sickest mix—considering the Situation. The play's tone is a fusion of colossal contrasts. This fusion is simultaneous at all times in the narrative. The play is not now-and-then funny, then now-and-then serious : the play is both, simultaneously and continuously.

Here, we must remember to hear the word "funny" as "the most perverse humour possible"; and the word "serious" as "the most serious Situation imaginable".

Mixing with virtuosity—fusing like Brundlefly—these two hyper-contrasts, these Opposing Poles of Perspective, the Serious and the Funny, is the mark of a first-rate narrative. The two-tone tone of Oedipus the play is matched, for example, by Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut.

This virtuoso tone is what Phantom Thread is after.


In fact : Oedipus the play has for its continuous tone a triple mix of contrasting-yet-homologous elements : (1) the dead-serious, (2) the perversely funny, and (3) the Most Horrifying, Sickly, David-Lynch-Strangely-Surreal, Stomach-Queasy Shockingness. This triple mix might make Oedipus the play, arguably, the greatest technical feat ever realized by a storyteller. Oedipus the play has the most complex tone of any story ever written.


How close does Phantom Thread come to this triple tone? Let's look.


Οἰδίπους :
"ὦ τέκνα, . . .


2. The Perverse in Oedipus


ὦ τέκνα, Κάδμου τοῦ πάλαι νέα τροφή,
τίνας ποθ᾽ ἕδρας τάσδε μοι θοάζετε
ἱκτηρίοις κλάδοισιν ἐξεστεμμένοι;
πόλις δ᾽ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει,
ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων:
ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾽ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα,
ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾽ ἐλήλυθα,
ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος.

O children, freshest raised of long ago Cadmus,
why have you gathered here, and sit before me,
holding appealing olive-branches crowned with leaves?
Why is the city air heavy with incense, why is the air heavy
with hymns and sighs? Judging it right to come to you
myself, o children, and not hear second-hand of things,
I am here, a name well-known to all, Oedipus.    

Thus the first 8 lines of the play. By the end of line 14, the State, Religion, and Self-confidence are all already fatally undermined by Sophocles.


ἁγὼ δικαιῶν μὴ παρ᾽ ἀγγέλων, τέκνα,
ἄλλων ἀκούειν αὐτὸς ὧδ᾽ ἐλήλυθα,
ὁ πᾶσι κλεινὸς Οἰδίπους καλούμενος.

Judging it right to come to you
myself, o children, and not hear second-hand of things,
I am here, a name well-known to all, Oedipus.

Line 7 : "ἐλήλυθα" ("to come to"). Oedipus enters the play at an elevated pitch, at the height of stature. Falling downhill is the only direction he follows from here. The continuum of the narrative as devised by Sophocles is one long surreal fall. Reason is applied until Reason reveals the Absurdity of the Origin. But, just here, in his first words, Oedipus is at his highest position, the lofty starting-point of his long fall. Here, at the first, the speech is on the grand scale : Oedipus the play opens akin to the sound of the Big Bang; and progresses to a mostly empty darkness. Here, already, is perversity : "ἐλήλυθα". The grand-scale effect that Sophocles engineers in lines 6–8 (a broad, open-mouthed exclamation belted out with supreme confidence) includes, as a component, the ululatory use of six "L" sounds. "ἐλήλυθα" evokes "ἀλαλητῷ" in the use of the double "L". The ululant ἀλαλητῷ (from ἀλαλητός) is a war-cry or "shout of victory" (dictionary definition (dd)) and is "usually a triumphant outcry" (dd) in the Iliad (e.g. XII.138). It's one of those words in Ancient Greek that imply an improvisatory phonemic stream, such as "ἒ ἔ, παπαῖ παπαῖ" (Aeschylus, Agamemnon 1114); or "ὀτοτοῖ" (Aga., 1076), which appears elsewhere as, for example, "ὀτοτοτοτοτοτοῖ" (Euripides, Trojan Women, 1294). Oedipus stands before the people triumphantly ululative, not realizing he's already lost.

Later, Oedipus affirms his total commitment to tracking down the source of the Situation : a pestilence is ravaging the city. A fact is relayed to him : the previous king of Thebes, Laius, was murdered. On this subject Oedipus says (ll. 139–41) :

"Whoever killed him might possibly come to me
with hands raised in similar violence—so by
helping him, surely I am helping myself."

but—he himself—Oedipus—killed "him". Oedipus is the culprit Oedipus is after! Eventually, the man who raises up his hands against him is—himself!

In "helping", Oedipus is actively, zealously, and unwittingly, destroying himself.

Example : later, his fingers tear out his eyeballs from their sockets.

So is it an understatement to describe his encouraging pronouncement of faith as spectacularly wrong?

4. State vs. Religion : both spectacularly wrong

Oedipus speaks his opening words, then invites a Priest of Zeus to respond on behalf of the people. The Priest speaks (ll. 14–57). By line 58, the Situation has been exposed as Ridiculous.

The Priest of Zeus has no idea what Zeus is doing. (e.g. "Whoa, let's say you have no idea and leave it there. No idea. Zip, none.") Funny? The Priest appeals to Oedipus to save the city, unaware that Oedipus is the problem. Worse, the Priest speaks confidently of the Gods—he even parades his erudition with a cringeworthy joke. The Priest of Zeus is a silly oblivious idiot, yet a supremely confident man.

State vs. Religion : examples : (3) Oedipus invites the people to "rise" (ἵστασθε 143), but the people remain, until the Priest bids them "rise" (ἱστώμεσθα 147). (2) The Priest endeavours to educate Oedipus before the people. (1) The Priest delivers to Oedipus a monumental opening speech of 33 lines—then Oedipus responds by ignoring him completely.

By line 58, State, Religion, and Self are caught in pestilent darkness. By line 87, all three actors in Oedipus the play so far are "wrong about everything"!

Creon, the most trusted friend of Oedipus the king, returns from a fact-gathering trip to the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi, and his very first word is spectacularly wrong.

Oedipus to Creon : "What is the Word of the prophetic god?" (86)

Creon : "Good." (87)

In retrospect—considering an eyeless Oedipus exiled; his incestuous mother dead; his daughters traumatised; his sons dissolving into chaos and long war—this prediction is inaccurate.

Creon adds : "I say heavy suffering, if things chance to turn out well, may lead to some good." (87–8)

5. The Priest's cringeworthy joke

"πλουτίζεται" (30).

In the midst of his monumental speech, the Priest of Zeus remarks : "Hades grows rich in corpses  . . . !" πλουτίζεται : "make wealthy, enrich" (dd). Πλούτων : "Pluto", another name for Hades, God of the Underworld. πλουτίζεται / Πλούτων. The Priest of Zeus makes a stupid pun. Why? Because he is a moron. There is also a crucial technical reason for this dumb joke. Sophocles foregrounds a joke, one so obvious it's unmissable, and thereby sets a benchmark of humour for the Spectator. Since nothing else in Oedipus rises to that dubious level of obviousness, the Spectator might completely miss the (perverse) humour, and remain in the depths of a profound seriousness. This dumb joke is a key element that Sophocles uses to bring the triple-fold tone into being.

6. Undermining Reason

Oedipus is the most intelligent person in Thebes, the man who solved the riddle of the Sphinx. Sophocles conveys Oedipus' Reason reasonably. Example : Sophocles has Oedipus speak in "either-or" sentences (e.g. 11; 89–90) to convey that Oedipus sees many sides of Situations, and condenses his Thought succinctly and well.

But about himself Oedipus knows nothing!

Oedipus : "οἳ δ᾽ εἰσὶ ποῦ γῆς?" / "Where on earth is the murderer?" (108)

7. Plainly Perverse

"μίασμα χώρας" (97) : "miasma in the land".

Earlier, the Priest addresses Oedipus as "ὦ κρατύνων Οἰδίπους χώρας ἐμῆς" ("O Oedipus, king of my land" 14).

Creon returns, and delivers the oracular news : because of the murder of the king, there is a miasma in the land.

Since Oedipus is equated with the State from the start (Oedipus = χώρας), obviously the Oracle is speaking obviously : miasma = Oedipus. But nobody hears it this way.

Funnier, Creon says :

ἄνωγεν ἡμᾶς Φοῖβος ἐμφανῶς ἄναξ
μίασμα χώρας . . . (96–7)

"Apollo Seer commands us plainly (ἐμφανῶς) . . ."

8. prophetic ashes (μαντείᾳ σποδῷ 21)

As Oedipus progresses, Truth continually clarifies until the Spectator sees it clearly, and Oedipus blinds himself. Sophocles engineers this "shimmering slow-focusing knowledge" effect through technics, including word-repetition; double-meanings; strangely-apt metaphors. Key themes recur in the manner of alarm bells—(e.g. eyes, feet)—apparently unheard by the characters. Yet, as Oedipus progresses, a suspicion ever-increases that somehow, somewhere inside him, he already knows his Fate, but only intuitively, so cannot yet recognize the truth inside his own words.

(With his every word, one part of himself is speaking to another part of himself : a call from afar to afar.)

9. Seeing

The first 150 lines include many references to seeing (e.g. 15, 22, 45, 105). Example :

ὦναξ  Ἄπολλον, εἰ γὰρ ἐν τύχῃ γέ τῳ
σωτῆρι βαίη λαμπρὸς ὥσπερ ὄμμα τι ! (80–1)

Oedipus : "Apollo Healer! May He come as saviour, brilliant as an open eye!"

Not the most apt metaphor in retrospect?

10. Line 100.

Creon : "ἀνδρηλατοῦντας . . ."

Oedipus asks Creon : Did the Oracle reveal the cure to end the pestilence?

Creon's first word in answer: "ἀνδρηλατοῦντας . . ." : "to banish from house and home" (dd).

Oedipus has now heard his Fate. With another 1,400 lines to go!

11. ὀλωλότος

Creon says : "Λαΐου δ᾽ ὀλωλότος
οὐδεὶς ἀρωγὸς ἐν κακοῖς ἐγίγνετο." (126–7)

"After Laius' ὀλωλότος, no one helped us when the pestilence came."

ὀλωλότος = death / murder.

ὀλωλότος  (126)
ἀλαλητῷ (shout of victory)
ἐλήλυθα (7)


Oedipus welcomes Creon's return from Delphi, saying :

τάχ᾽ εἰσόμεσθα: ξύμμετρος γὰρ ὡς κλύειν. (84)

Oedipus : "We shall soon know (what's going on) : he's within fit distance for hearing." (dd)

ξύμμετρος = "within fit distance" = "he's close enough to hear him speak the truth of things."

The perverse humour here recalls the last lines of Double Indemnity : the truth is actually : "closer than that."

13. Sick-footed

Just as with the repetitive theme of "seeing", so : feet (e.g. 50, 128). The Origin of the Situation involves Oedipus' feet—indeed, his name means "swollen foot" (dd). 

14. Repetition

Oedipus the play is mystic and incantatory early on. Techniques used by Sophocles to maintain the mystic mode include : hypnotic repetition of words or themes. Examples :

πόλις δ᾽ ὁμοῦ μὲν θυμιαμάτων γέμει,
ὁμοῦ δὲ παιάνων τε καὶ στεναγμάτων (4–5)

φθίνουσα μὲν κάλυξιν ἐγκάρποις χθονός,
φθίνουσα δ᾽ ἀγέλαις βουνόμοις . . . (25–6)

γνωτὰ κοὐκ ἄγνωτά (58)

τίν᾽ ἡμὶν ἥκεις τοῦ θεοῦ φήμην φέρων (86)

ἀλλ᾽ αὐτὸς αὑτοῦ τοῦτ᾽ ἀποσκεδῶ μύσος (138)

πρός τε Παλλάδος διπλοῖς : to the two temples of Athena (20)

15. What is the message?

Oedipus : "ἔστιν δὲ ποῖον τοὔπος?" (89)

Oedipus : "What is the message?" (of the Oracle). Or : What is the Word? What is the Truth?

τοὔπος is virtually a homophone of τόπος ("place").

So Oedipus is also saying (unwittingly) : "What is the place?"

The place—where his Reason hasn't arrived at yet—is "τριπλαῖς ἁμαξιτοῖς" (716) : "where three ways meet". The place where the murder took place. The murder he committed. The murder of his father.

ἁμαξιτοῖς : ways, paths, roads, pathways.

In retrospect, isn't the following metaphor strange?

Oedipus, to the people :

"ἀλλ᾽ ἴστε πολλὰ μέν με δακρύσαντα δή,
πολλὰς δ᾽ ὁδοὺς ἐλθόντα φροντίδος πλάνοις" (66–7)

"Know that I have shed many tears, and have wandered many ὁδοὺς of Thought."

ὁδοὺς : ways, paths, roads, pathways.


Oedipus and his birth mother are separated at his birth. Later, they meet, marry, and have children together, all unwittingly (apparently). How disturbing, that Nature didn't engineer-in safeguards against such behaviour!


Oedipus is Mind. His first line is a question. His Mindfulness is referenced at 6, 58, 67, 73, 132, etc. The Priest of Zeus remarks that Oedipus solved the riddle of the Sphinx "οὐδ᾽ ἐκδιδαχθείς"—"without any instruction from us". (38)

In Oedipus, questioning leads straightaway to cataclysm.

18. The Best Intentions

Grandly before the people of the city Oedipus says :

τῶνδε γὰρ πλέον φέρω
τὸ πένθος ἢ καὶ τῆς ἐμῆς ψυχῆς πέρι (93–4)

"I care more for all these people than for my own life."

Later, he will be forced to worry about himself.

Funny? Serious? Horrible?

Phantom Thread : Part I of Film


Alma enters the film and promptly trips up. "I simply don't have time for confrontations" : i.e. "I don't have time for life" : a perverse paradox recalling paradox-play in Sophocles and Henry James. The way "my old so-and-so" Cyril slides into her breakfast chair recalls the ghost of an actress in a 1930s movie (4.52–5); her immemorial grace returns at the fashion show (43.54–9). "I make dresses" : the amusingness of the naive-sounding experienced-one (e.g. Alice saying "Thank you" at Ziegler's party). "Confirmed bachelor . . . incurable" : perfectly amusing dialogue for, say, Cary Grant or Robert Montgomery or Clark Gable in the 1930s. Blue is "bit serious", then Cyril promptly walks in wearing blue. (Throughout the film Lesley Manville has the 1930s look all over her shape.) "She told me she wants to be buried in a dress that you make" : a nexus moment—the marriage of comedy and death : an absurd joke, a "foregrounding" joke, like the Priest of Zeus' πλουτίζεται ! Breakfast is a locus of the light-hearted throughout PT. Woman wants the man sexually, "I'm working" (41.39)—a comic moment in any narrative. The comedy swiftly continues as "the other woman" sweeps in : Cyril with tea. The fashion show involves a comedy of degree : 'tis a very proper meltdown : "Let me do it. Let me do it. . . . Let me do it, let me do it. Damn it. You're no good to me just standing there, Pippa! I need your hands on this. . . . Just go. Go, go! I'm sorry." End of Part I of PT.


"Do you look very much like her?" "I don't know, I think so." (17.44) Does this exchange suggest Alma's family was lost to the Nazis? Alma doesn't seem to like very much any type of control. Woodcock invading her personal space to remove her lipstick, or to work on fashion, generates some anxiety for her (e.g. the CU at 24.22–47). The depersonalization, being reduced to measurements, a physical object occupying a space, doesn't seem to appeal to Alma very much. "Just jump up on the box for me" : the man could be ordering just anybody (24.12). Alma also doesn't find appealing her personality being forced down to zero; nor the sadistic monster Nazi overtones of "You have no breasts. . . . My job to give you some, if I choose to."

(39.52) Concentration camp wear? Note the face : light and dark.


"ashes . . . fallen to pieces." μαντείᾳ σποδῷ !  (21.26)

This shot marries silent film (tint) to Clockwork Orange : as directed by Murnau (11.10–19).

(9.18) Cyril flicking the napkin hard (like Jack sweeping junk into the lens in Shining) in a "get away" motion and signal. It is also aggressive : evocative of pent-up energy : finely-channelled energy. Cyril : the "I". Reason. "Cyril is right. Cyril is always right."

This quick "flick" movement is recalled in Woodcock's head gesture here :

"And where's the dress now?" Small talk is large intrusion. Woodcock's quick head gesture returns at "I think I don't like the fabric so much" (35.02). Patterns, resonances.

"And who's this lovely creature making the house smell so nice?" (27.18) : Silence of the Lambs motif. "My little carnivore" (33.16) Also evokes a fairy-tale motif : e.g. "Then l'll huff . . . and l'll puff . . . and l'll blow your house in!"

Bullying and dissent : "Yeah, you didn't say that" : correcting him (29.21). "but you do now" : correcting her (39.32)—which recalls Grady in Shining : "Did you know that?" : same off-hand power-games.

30:32–40 : "You have the ideal shape" : Fassbinder : the dolly-zoom. (An intrinsic tool in Fassbinder's technics.) Ominous. (The dolly-zoom returns in "Alma, will you marry me?"—but now includes Woodcock as well).

Fairy-tale element : Alma is nature caught in the castle like Danny in the Overlook. The fairy tale of the orphan child who works her will among bullies who think themselves gods.


The mad eye of the artist (a 1920s German-feel : Caligari etc). Oedipus : "like a bright eye".

The summit. "like a bright eye".

See Psycho (1960).

"That's your room" : similar in affect to Norman Bates and the "b-b-b-b-bathroom" (33.50). 

"I very much hope that she saw the dress tonight. Don't you?" : he sounds here uncannily like Hal-9000 (10.29).



Wedding dress : equated at the first with Mother (her second marriage /cf. Παλλάδος διπλοῖς). Marriage = Mother. Keeping Cyril close keeps mother close. Women work for him and help him create. The art produced is for women to wear. His sister runs the business. All women judge him.


"It's comforting to think the dead are watching over the living. I don't find that spooky at all." (10.40)


"No one can stand as long as I can" (34.49) has an epic sense, Homeric : the sense of "endure".


Judgment Day.

End of Part I of Phantom Thread.

Conclusion : Thankfully, PTA is reaching far.


Seneca / Thyestes

Unearthly light. Umbrageous cosmopolitan opulence. The ghost walks, looks, speaks :

Who has raised me out of the underworld,
unbound me from that hell of misfortune,
where food torments my eager grasping mouth?
Which horrible god shows me these hateful
homes to look on again? Perhaps a worse
torture's been found for me? Worse than dusty
thirst in water? or a mouth endlessly
gaping in hunger? What horror can outdo
Sisyphus hauling a rock unsteady
on his shoulders? Or what about one's limbs
spread out on a speedy spinning wheel? Or
the torture of Tityus, whose guts lie
open for greedy birds to feed on—then
night restores everything eaten by day,
and he lies as a fresh banquet again
for the fiends. What horror is it am I,
Tantalus, being written into? Ah,
whichever cruel administrator of hell
invents torments to bring upon the dead,
whoever you are with the power to judge :
whatever you can add to make even
the prison-keeper tremble, and make even
Acheron tremble, and make even I
myself tremble, give it to me! For I
know that as I say this, my family
is germinating a plot to outdo
its own past, to make me look innocent
by comparison, as they attempt things
unattempted yet in horror. Any space
unfilled with pollution I will supply
to the full! At no time, while the house
of the Pelopidae stands, will Hell's keeper
sit idle.

Go on then, you detestable creature!
Invest a fury in this wicked house.
Let them struggle to outdo each other
in crimes of all kinds, and unsheathe the sword
by turns. Let them know no limit to rage—
nor shame. Stir up in their minds blind fury,
and let the parents' frenzy persevere
and the long evil grow through the children!
Let there be no time to detest old crimes—
let new ones come constantly, and never
singularly—and while punishing crime,
let it flourish! In the magnificence
of their kingship let the two brothers fall,
only to slither back onto the throne.
Let the fortunes of this pestilent house
dither in uncertainty between the kings;
let the king be ruined, and the ruined
become king. Let their mettle thrash along
violent rapids. Banished for their crimes,
when god allows them their homeland again,
let them come for more crime; and as hated
as they are by all, let them loathe themselves
more. Let their rage think nothing forbidden.
Let brother fear brother; parent, the son,
son, the parent. Let children die horribly,
but come to birth even more horribly!
Let the wife menace the husband : in this
atrocious household let adultery
be the most trivial of villainy!

Let trust, and justice, and law all perish.
Let them bring war across the seas, and spill
a flood of blood over the lands; and let
the great kings who lead the peoples exult
in boastful debauchery. Not even
the sky shall be immune to your evil.
Why are the stars glimmering over us
now, preserving the honour of Heaven?
Bring on new night! Let day fall from the sky.

Throw the house into a confusion of self-
disgust, and slaughter, and death—fill the house
full of Tantalus! Ornament the high
doors and columns with cheerful laurel leaves,
let the hearth fire burn bright to welcome
your coming—then all old evils outdo!
Why are the uncle's hands empty? Not yet
the adulterer weeps for his children?
And when will he lift them up to his face?

Now, let the cauldrons boil on the fires,
and drop in them body parts, piece by piece,
letting their blood foul the ancient home,
as you prepare a banquet. You will sit
at table with the brothers and witness
a crime, one you will not find new to you.
You have been given a day of freedom,
and your hunger is ready to be filled :
so fill it! Watch while the wine is mixed
with blood, and drunk. You have come to a feast
that even you would run from. Stop! Why are
you running? Where're you going?

To the swamps and rivers, and the waters
that taunt me, and the tree that tricks my lips.
Let me go back to my gloomy prison,
if allowed. And if I'm not too awful,
may I change rivers? Let me stay in the
midst of your channel, Phlegethon,
surrounded by your fires! Whoever
anywhere is suffering punishments
of Fate; whoever lies long terrified
and hidden in caves, and fears the mountain's
coming collapse; whoever anywhere
is entangled in ravenous lions
and disgusting stinky-centred Furies;
whoever waves off with half-burnt body
all the flaming torches pitched at them,
hear Tantalus speak and what he tells you,
trust my experience : love punishment!
So now may I get down off this high ground?

First you must disturb the house. Your presence
must bring war. Bring to the great kings the love
of the sword; make their hearts shake in insane

It's right for me to suffer punishment,
but not to be one! You will let me loose,
awful like sickness breathing out a crack
in the earth, to burden people with ruin
filling up the air? You would have a grand-
father drop horror onto his grandsons?
Great God! (Indeed, Zeus, worker of evil,
is my true father—to my shame of course!)
Though I suffer a terrible penalty
for bold speech, and am tortured endlessly,
let my tongue punish me more! I won't keep
quiet about this! Hear me, my family!
Do not dip your hands in outrageous blood!
Do not let it stain your inner altars!
I stand firm to prevent this wickedness.

(to FURY)

Ah! Why are you snapping my mouth with that
wild lashing whip? Ah! The hunger infixed
in the marrow of my bones ignites again!
You set my heart a-blazing with thirst again!
Your fires nips my innards through my charred flesh!
Ok, ok, I follow you.

This! This fury of yours; fill up the house
with this fury—and burst it to pieces!
This! Just like this they must be driven on!
You must make them thirst for each other's blood,
turn by vile turn. Go inside! . . . The house
senses you enter : it shook around your
abominable presence. Good. Very good.
Now go away. Get back to the dark below,
and to the river you know! . . . . Ah, look there!
He makes the earth heavy with his sad step.
His presence sends the springs rushing backwards,
and the waters disappear at their source.
The rivers are empty between their banks;
and a burning wind takes the clouds away.
All the forests grow pale. The fruits drop,
and the branches hang naked. Waves crash on
the sides of the Isthmus, a thin landline
dividing facing gulfs, till the waters
recede into the distances; and in the
silence, sounds from far are clearly heard now.

The Lernan Lake has evaporated;
and Phoronides, the River God's son,
and all his rushing veins have gone away;
while another son, holy Alpheos,
denies the earth his water; and mountain
Cithaeron stands bare at its heights of its
deposit of snow; and those in Argos
who remember the past are filled with fear.

Look! The Sun-God, mighty Titan himself,
hesitates whether to bring forth daylight,
to take the reins, and bring it to its ruin.


At the colossally horrific reveal of Oedipus at l. 1297, one of his first colossal phrases is "οὐ γάρ με λήθεις". = "You are not hidden to me."

The word λήθεις is very close to ἀλήθεια .

λήθεις = "to escape notice".
ἀλήθεια = truth, reality, unconcealment.

"You, the chorus, are not hidden to me."


"The truth is hidden no longer."