Starred sky. Calm sky.
Only the water’s luminosity
Marks the land’s end.
A light is moving down the beach.
It wavers. Comes towards the Fleet.
The hulls like upturned glasses made of jet.
Is it a God?
Now we can hear a drum.
And now we see it:
Six warriors with flaming wands,
Eight veteran bearers, and one Prince,
Patroclus, dead, crossed axes on his chest.
Upon a bier.
Gold on the wrists that bear the Prince aloft.
Tears on the cheeks of those who lead with wands.
Multiple injuries adorn the corpse.
And we, the Army, genuflect in line.
Five years ago Achilles robbed a Phrygian citadel
And kept the temple cauldron for himself.
The poet who accompanied him to Troy
Deciphered the inscriptions on its waist.
“I AM THE EARTH”
And when from zigzagged ewers his female slaves
Had filled and built a fire beneath its knees,
Achilles laved the flesh and pinned the wounds
And dressed the yellow hair and spread
Ointments from Thetis’ cave on every mark
Of what Patroclus was, and kissed its mouth,
And wet its face with tears, and kissed and kissed again,
And said: “My love, I swear you will not burn
Till Hector’s severed head is in my lap.”
An Account of Books 16 to 19
of Homer’s Illiad
Thirty Bedford Square London