Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Iliad: Books 14-17

Book 14: Hera Outflanks Zeus

(To save time typing I'm using quotes from the Murray translation online, though it's not the one I'm reading. I notice the Fagles version has more wonder it's taking so long to read.)

Clever duplicitous Hera comes up with a plan to give her guys a break from all Zeus' meddling. First, a visit to Aphrodite:

Then with crafty thought spake to her queenly Hera:“Give me now love and desire, wherewith thou art wont to subdue all immortals and mortal men. [200] For I am faring to visit the limits of the all-nurturing earth, and Oceanus, from whom the gods are sprung, and mother Tethys, even them that lovingly nursed and cherished me in their halls, when they had taken me from Rhea...
Then, to Sleep, who is reluctant to cross Zeus, but caves quickly for a bribe:
“Come now, swear to me by the inviolable water of Styx, and with one hand lay thou hold of the bounteous earth, and with the other of the shimmering sea, that one and all they may be witnesses betwixt us twain, even the gods that are below with Cronos, [275] that verily thou wilt give me one of the youthful Graces, even Pasithea, that myself I long for all my days.”
You see where this is going...(315)

So Poseidon comes out of his sneaky depths and leads the Argives.

There seems to be a lot of missing of targets going on, but still they get glory because somebody dies.

Book 15: The Achaean Armies at Bay

Zeus is mad, of course. Hera lies, of course.
“Hereto now be Earth my witness and the broad Heaven above, and the down-flowing water of Styx, which is the greatest and most dread oath for the blessed gods, and thine own sacred head, and the couch of us twain, couch of our wedded love, [40] whereby I verily would never forswear myself —not by my will doth Poseidon, the Shaker of Earth, work harm to the Trojans and Hector, and give succour to their foes.
Achilles' bud Patroclus can't stand it anymore. He's got to join the fight, too many are dying. Last chapter, Ajax misses. This chapter, Hector misses Ajax, but kills another.

I keep picturing Vin Diesel, but with wild curly dreaded hair, as Hector.
But Hector all afire,
blazing head to foot, charged at their main force,
bursting down as a wave bursts down on a veering ship,
down from under the clouds it batters, bred by gale-winds--
showers of foam overwhelm the hull, blot it all from sight. (725 Fagles)
Others though, scattered quickly. I just think the poor guys were drafted. Why should they risk their lives for Aggie and Menelaus?

Book 16: Patroclus Fights and Dies

Patroclus begs to battle, and Achilles relents...even gives his friend his armor. But he says don't go all the way to Troy! Of course that is just what Patroclus does. And you know, the book title gives it away...
Three times Patroclus charged the jut of the high wall,
three times Apollo batter the man and hurled him back,
the god's immortal hands beating down on the gleaming shield. (823)
Then Euphorbus, "just learning the arts of war" (941) gets a lucky shot and wounds Patroclus.

Then you know who brings him down. Of course it has to be Hector.
And to him even in his death spake glorious Hector: “Patroclus, wherefore dost thou prophesy for me sheer destruction? [860] Who knows but that Achilles, the son of fair-tressed Thetis, may first be smitten by my spear, and lose his life?” So saying, he drew forth the spear of bronze from the wound, setting his foot upon the dead, and thrust him backward from the spear.
Fagles says "brazen spear" and for the first time I noticed that phallic stuff. No doubt it's been there all along, but this one really brought it home.

Book 17: Menelaus' Finest Hour

More battles over Patroclus' body. The Trojans want the coup, the Achaeans want the respect and honor. Euphorbus exaggerates his accomplishment, taunting Menelaus. Of course when he tries for Mene, "full center, not battering through--the brazen point bent back in the tough armor."(49) (Not such a tough phallus there.)

Did Thetis manipulate Achilles, or did she truly not know that Patroclus would die? If said previously, I don't remember.
Achilles never dreamed Patroclus would storm all Troy
without him, not even with him. No, time and again
his mother Thetis told him this was not to be,
she told him alone, in secret...
always bringing word of might Zeus's plans,
but not this time. (476)
Achilles' horses wept for their lost driver. (493) Immortal horses grieve.

Pallas Athena gives Menelaus his finest hour.
And the first one she roused was Atreus' son...
Hold on, full force--spur all our men to battle."(636)
...With such raw daring she filled his dark heart
and he bestrode Patroclus, flung a gleaming spear..
and there was a Trojan...(653)
Dark heart. Hmmm. Wonder what that means.

The battle still isn't over; they haven't quite got the body back to the ships yet.

These battles seem to go on forever.

No comments: