Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Towers of Ilium

Wednesday, quoth annika, is poetry day. Here's one by me.

The Towers of Ilium

When fell the gleaming towers over Troy,
No answer to the Greeks’ deceptive ploy,
Collapsing from within upon the walls,
As stone and timber rained like waterfalls
In deadly showers crashing on those men,
And thousands crossed the Styx to Hades then;

When danced Odysseus on bloody sand
Before his blue-green tent along the strand,
His armor thrown aside, the battle done,
His armor burnished in the low red sun,
His naked dance to Nike, pagan howl,
He guzzled wine of Troy, ate Trojan fowl;

When wept the Trojan virgins in their chains
As Greeks befouled their beds with bridal stains,
As fists tore from their bodies dress and strap,
Then moisture mixed with moisture in the lap,
Those groping warriors, black with sweat and grime,
They mounted, muscles clenching, beating time;

When thrust the burning spears into the vault
Where treasure lay not safe from this assault:
Electrum pieces, emeralds and pearls,
And golden crowns inlaid with ebon swirls,
Pink coral set in silver winding wire,
Blue diamonds that held the light in fire;

Did then the vanquished Trojans blame their fall
On their own fighting back, on standing tall?
Did cowards say, ‘No Greeks would be inside
If we had beaten first our haughty pride;
If we had bowed our heads to best obey,
The Hellenes would have sailed their ships away’?

Such words would have been laughed at as insane
By men who tamed wild horses on the plain.
The Greeks were at the gate, the dogs of war
Unleashed to kill or be killed, nothing more.
No bended knee could stop them at the wall,
For those who will not stand must surely fall.


Brian Faulkner said...

Myrhaf, this is a beautiful poem. You have given vivid, present youth to the ancient past, while making of speech a pleasureable end in itself.
The run on of line four, with its very slight pause after 'waterfalls' sets up the faster trochaic words---'deadly showers crashing'---with the s's and sh's, especially in the more forceful 'crashing', so that the scene right here.
The 'blue-green tent' suggests that the heroic spirit of John Galt (or Ayn Rand) was there in the earliest heroes.
In the third stanza 'tore' is literally torn right out of 'fists'. The verbal music of 'moisture mixed with moisture' souds so much like what it means, and then comes the strength of the hard g's in 'groping' and 'grime'--the warriors strength---and the perfect verbs, the suggestion of clenching in the very pauses---great!
In the fourth stanza 'silver winding wire' should waken Swinburne to rise and sing, and the last line catches the eyes!
The fifth and sixth stanzas, sustained question, and proud, universal answer, round out the most perfect new poem that I know.
Thank you, Myrhaf

Now, I want to ask, where can I read more of your poetry?
Brian Faulkner
You can e-mail me at

Brian Faulkner said...

A few more comments.
First stanza. There is strong stress in the middle of the first two lines (gleaming, Greeks), and in line three that stress is much less, so that the line as a whole represents the 'collapsing' of which it speaks.
Second stanza. The 'd' alliteration in 'danced Odysseus' and 'bloody' suggests quick, sharp action, and thus high-spirited celebration. And then, though the armor is 'thrown aside', it is still alive---'burnished---like a trophy.
Third stanza. The tone of the rape is, fittingly, grim.
In the last stanza 'laughed at' sounds like laughing at because of the context and the low stress level of the preceeding 'would have been'.
The final four lines sum up and express the meaning of the poem. But there is some sad irony here, too; for, while '...those who will not stand must surely fall', those who did stand fell anyway.
BUT, only physically, not spiritually; so, that while they lived and fought, they did not fall at all.
Again I say, this is a beautiful poem. Brian Faulkner

Brian Faulkner said...

My previous comments focused primarily on the representative elements of the poem. As for presentation, the author, knowing the story of the abduction of Helen, presents the moment of justice: the towers (high values) of the initiators of force fall; the thinker odysseus, causer of their fall, celebrates; the maidens are raped; wealth is taken. This is full, revengeful justice. No pale "eye for eye and tooth for tooth" stuff here. Instead, "You have taken one of my highest values, you lose ALL YOUR values".
Oh that we had such justice-minded leaders in America today. What happened on 9/11 is the reverse of the poem. On 9/11 it was evil men who snuck in and destroyed our towers, there were some pseudo-americans who blamed the attack on our pride, our achievement, our virtue, and there was much less than a fully righteous response. In the poem it is the good men who sneak in and destroy, not fouly evil men, but brave men who comitted one crime. Can you imagine the response of the greeks if, instead of abducting helen, they had killed her, and for no other reason than to kill her? "The Towers of Ilium" is a teacher as much as it is a poem.

Cecil said...

Excellent poem, Myrhaf. Rhyming Iam. Pent. is the best means to convey tidal wave emotions, in my opinion, and you have excelled in its use - A. Pope is my favorite poet o the type.


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