Jul/Aug 2013 Poetry

Three Hellenic Sonnets

by Peter Bridges

Digital artwork by Adam Ferriss

Digital artwork by Adam Ferriss

The Truth of Troy

(Herodotus, Histories, Book II)

"Not here! Our Paris took her up the Nile
To Memphis, where their king keeps her unharmed."
But Menelaus thought the Trojans lied,
So stormed their town... and Helen was not there.
They took the town in days. Some agent's guile
Had made Greeks think her there and Troy well armed,
A false report; yet many true men died.
A wise king surely would have been aware
How battles bleed both families and states,
But Menelaus' deputy gained gold
From selling arms and urging men to glory:
Crooked and foul, he fanned the monarch's hates.
So Greeks made war and later Greeks were told
A lace of lies, in Homer's bloody story.


Farewell to Nausicaa

(Odyssey, Book VIII)

...A perfect princess, but too young for me
Though now washed clean of brine and nightmare seas
I dream again of love and women's arms,
Passion long overlaid by storms and wars.
This sunny kingdom tempts me not to flee
But stay, and loaf in dales of doves and bees
And hunt fierce boars and deer on stony farms
And woo this girl each evening, by bright stars.
I must sail on. Both honor and old love
Are lodestones to my aging bones and brain.
Each dawn, that tender green of thrones above
Reminds me of my queen. I have known pain
Long years, yet trust Athena still to bring
Me home again to Ithaca the king.


The Harbor of Phorcys

(Odyssey, Book XIII)

At five, in fog, the ship slid up the bay
The fifty oarsmen pulling smooth and slow
Until the bow ran solid on the sand.
The grizzled passenger was home, for good
Or was it bad? Too early in the day
To see beyond the oak grove, or to know
What all these years had done to men and land
In Ithaca—and to his wife. He stood:
The ship has gone, and nothing ripples now
The still blue bay at delicate new dawn.
He starts up the stony path, his storm-creased brow
Perplexed and sweating soon as he walks on
Into the oaks that hide his town and fate.
The king comes home at last. The king comes late.


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