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Location: Arlington, Virginia, United States

Friday, April 18, 2008

Okay, Seriously...



I actually have written a book of poems. Here's two of them (the second is a dramatized, sextupled sestina). I've had them for years. You're the first to see them. As always, don't feel obliged to comment.

"Achilles In Skyros"

He was obscure and was unknown although
He was the best; his mother, Thetis, feared
His great but dreadful gift and thought it best
To let it wither, unexpressed, at home.
And so this warrior was hid among
The maidens, cloistered in his mother's den.
He had mere hairpins for a sword and spear;
For headgear, far from bronze, he wore a veil
Of silk. He'd stare forlornly at the loom,
Whose round and spinning wheel invoked a shield.
He wept and sulked and bit his lip in shame.
He was the best in strength, and beauty, too,
But sitting there, among the giggling girls
Who ogled, he was just an ornament.
"I'm wasted, wasted!" he would cry when news
Was heard that men (inferior to he)
Won kudos and the honor meant for him
For feats of valor with the sword and spear.
Specifically, the sons of Atreus
Were all the rage, and overshadowing
The latent glory of this son of Peleus.
The elder brother, Agamemnon, with
The younger Menelaus, had become
The undisputed masters of the art
Of war. Achilles disagreed and seethed.
A connoisseur who knew the nuances
Of his fine art (that we call war), he'd shake
His head and would critique the clumsy strains
Of Agamemnon's poor technique: "He killed
But ten, and then let twenty get away?
He's lazy, and too sloppy in his work.
Mistakes like that cost victory in war."
And when these brothers would debase the code
Of honor with their vain and petty acts
(Weaknesses Achilles never saw
Within himself), he'd mutter with a frown
"Such men as these put war in ill-repute,
Whereas a man like me upkeeps the sport's
Integrity. Those dog-faced, pseudo-men!
They fight for low and earthly gain! I fight
For honor and for high Olympian glory."
And when those brothers (so unworthy in
Achilles' eyes) were awarded with
The fairest, richest sisters in the land,
The son of Peleus, cloistered and alone,
Would mutter by the matter of fact offended:
"Such heiresses as they deserve the best,
And that is me." Frustration made him dash
The hairpins on the floor and stand. The veil
Of silk fell from his face, as did the maids
Who fell back with a hush from eyes of fire.
Achilles turned from them and clasped his hands
And prayed to his Almighty God: "O Zeus,
My God, this awesome gift that You bestowed
Upon me withers on the vine. I don't
Belong in parlor-rooms with old nurse-maids
And ogling girls! The field of battle is
My stage, where I can put proud men to shame.
They'll say: `Behold! He's not a man, more like
The instrument of Zeus!' And thus, through me,
It's your Almighty Hand they'll see, and so
My glory will be yours." And Zeus was pleased
And bowed his head: "My gift in you will find
Expression. Thus will men acknowledge Me."
"What must I do to meet this Destiny?"
Achilles asked, "I sit unused, and your
Great gift lies wasted, mute, and unexpressed."
"You'll worry not," assured the God, "The gift
Appears inert to men and silent to
Their ears. Consider this: the stars above
Seem quiet and, mere ornaments, seem fixed,
But with a legion voices they do sing
While marching through the sky to mete out Fate.
Your gift of these same powers is composed;
What moves on earth moves not the gods, and what
Seems still to men is used by gods to move.
Be still, for now, until I choose to use."
Achilles bowed his head in thanks and sat
Back in his chair. He did not move but smiled,
For now he knew his gift would be expressed.


The Arguments at Troy

I. The Trojan Debate

KING PRIAM:
Good subjects! Brave and noble citizens of Troy.
We are a merchant power on the land and sea,
Our horses are the best; we're at the height of honor.
Not long ago, we sent a diplomatic ship
To Sparta, where my son romanced this beauty, Helen.
Why now the outrage, loyal councilor of war?

ANTENOR:

Indeed the fault is ours, were this to lead to war.
Your playboy son's romancing has endangered Troy.
This `beauty' is the married queen of Sparta, Helen.
And now the angered Agamemnon sails the sea,
Bedecked in bronze, invading with uncounted ships,
Because we brought upon his brother's head dishonor.

AENEAS:

The proud Achaeans are, I saw, obsessed with honor.
The Spartan king's cuckolded, and, for that, will war.
Mycenean Agamemnon has a hundred ships,
The Spartan king himself but sixty. Less than Troy,
Commercial power that we are on land and sea;
But are there more of them unknown? What say you, Helen?

HELEN:

Forgive me, all. So kind of you to call me `Helen,'
When other names might come to mind. Upon my honor!
I did not think that when I left him for the sea,
My husband, Menelaus, would cry out for war.
But now, I must confess, and say, I fear for Troy.
The Achaeans, when united, have a thousand ships.

QUEEN HECABE:

What's that, you say? My god, A thousand ships!
You wicked, wretched whore! I curse the name of Helen!
And you, my son! Were there no worthy maids in Troy?
Why must you always bring upon our head dishonor?
Now this, my god! Your shameless lust has caused a war!
When you were born, I should have drowned you in the sea!

PRINCE PARIS:

Oh mother, please! Achaeans bark and bluff, you'll see!
I'm not afraid of Menelaus, nor his ships!
What `this'? Their women run from them, and they cry war?
Look now who's crying, thanks to you! Come here, poor Helen!
Misunderstood, like me! Have we no sense of honor?
Since when has love and beauty been maligned in Troy?

CALCHAS (a Trojan prophet):

You stupid fool! You are the Firebrand of Troy!
The oracle had said: `Troy's doom comes from the sea!'
And then we give to you the undeserved honor
Of making you ambassador-at-large! The ship
You sailed was meant to bring back peace, and not this Helen!
Behold the prophecy! This boy has caused a war!

PRINCE PARIS:

Shut up, old priest! You talk too much of doom and war!
You're silly superstitions count for naught in Troy!
Father, look. The issue here is not fair Helen!
Those Greeks resent our tax, our tolling of the sea!
That's Agamemnon's protest, with his show of ships!
He wants our Dardanelles, disguising greed with `honor!'

AENEAS:

Indeed his cause is gold, but some will fight for honor.
It's those I fear; they fight the fiercest in a war.
Beware their best, the son of Peleus and his ships.
He's born to find his glory on the plain of Troy.
I've heard them talk of him, he's feared on land and sea;
In strength supreme, in beauty only matched by Helen.

PRINCESS CASSANDRA (aside):

He speaks of beauty. Empty is this phantom, Helen!
The last thing on her mind are thoughts of love and honor.
The priest is right; this blunder is our doom, I see:
I see the wrath and passion of a bloody war,
A wrath that will bring doom upon the House of Troy.
These men! I will be chained and thrown upon a ship...

KING PRIAM:

Here's what we'll do. We'll go and meet their coming ships
And hear their grievance. But we'll not give up fair Helen!
This beauty best resides with us in sea-side Troy.
She is, at least, my guest! I won't betray that honor.
And we, as well, have swords and spears enough for war!
And we'll make plain the terms of business in our sea.

PRINCE HECTOR:

Agreed. My men and I will meet them at the sea.
We will harass with jeers, and throw stones at their ships!
They'll find our Trojan mettle more than fit for war.
We will protect you from your brutal people, Helen!
We're not barbarians, but men with codes of honor.
We are the model of perfection here in Troy.

II. The Achaeans Assemble

AGAMEMNON:

Achaeans, one and all! I welcome you to Troy!
For weeks, with oars, for lack of wind, we've worked the sea,
Enduring loss, and heartache! for the sake of honor.
Now we've arrived, and are entrenched, we've beached our ships.
Dawn brings our interest from the principle of Helen.
You saw! They ran from us! They are not fit for war.

MENESTHEUS:

They're safe behind their walls, impregnable by war.

LITTLE AJAX:

Impregnate is my solemn motto here at Troy!

MENELAUS:

So we attack at dawn and get my wife, fair Helen!

(enter ACHILLES and PATROCLUS)

PATROCLUS:

Achaean chieftains! Look what's freshly brought by sea!
All rest assured now for the safety of our ships!

AGAMEMNON:

Your tardy presence, son of Peleus, does us honor.

ACHILLES:

Considering the circumstances, mine's the honor;
You've given me the opportunity to war.
First thing tomorrow morning, I will take my ships
And ravage all the allied lands surrounding Troy.
We'll sweep the land of goods, and rule the Trojan sea;
Then we relax and milk from them the price for Helen.

MENELAUS:

Campaigns like that will take us years to get back Helen!

AGAMEMNON:

The strategy's decided! Shortening your dishonor.
Tomorrow we smash Troy! And then take to the sea.

ACHILLES:

A lightning strike? You're mad. A siege will win this war.

MENESTHEUS:

He is correct. Attrition is advised for Troy.

NESTOR:

If so, we must then build a wall around our ships...

AGAMEMNON:

They're out-manned ten-to-one! They can not touch our ships!

MENELAUS:

I won't permit that prince another night with Helen!

AGAMEMNON:

Tonight's his last for that. Tomorrow we smash Troy!

GREAT AJAX:

The field of bloody battle proves the test of honor!
Tomorrow all will see my prowess in the war!
Stand by my shield! I'll be your bulwark! You shall see!

ACHILLES:

Ha ha, Great Ajax. My way's more sport, you shall see.
But first! we hunker down, and then dispatch the ships!

GREAT AJAX:

And nothing's better than a long protracted war!

MENELAUS:

Does this mean that...that man in there...he and Helen?

AGAMEMNON:

For many nights to come, if you remain dishonored.
But it is I whose chief commander here in Troy!
And my command suggests, tomorrow we burn Troy!

ACHILLES:

And by their arrows driven back here by the sea,
While carrying dead on shields? A stupid waste of honor.
The only things that burn that day...will be our ships!
And from the battlements! Who's looking down? It's Helen!
She'll see her husband running chicken in the war.

AGAMEMNON:

You son of...I am chief commander of this war!

ACHILLES:

We vote on this, as proper! while I'm here in Troy.

MENELAUS:

Do not forget! We are here for the sake of Helen!

NESTOR:

Now all you, hush! When I was young, I sailed the sea
With Jason. The Argo was a ship! The finest ship
And crew; our teamwork won us all the crown of honor!

MENELAUS:

The only thing I`ve won are horns to crown dishonor.
But I will make amends with hateful, bloody war!
He wrecked my home, that pretty prince, with his sleek ship!
Coveting wives, he wrecks two homes; mine, and Troy!
I'll drag him through the dust, and drown him in the sea!
And then I'll rescue, and apologize, to Helen.

ACHILLES:

You really should have patience, in regards to Helen.
For years to come, that Trojan prince must do the honors,
For first! We must take time to sweep and clear the sea!

NESTOR:

I fear he's right. This boy knows how to fight a war...

ACHILLES:

I do know how to fight. I'll make that plain in Troy.

AGAMEMNON:

And so you leave us, to go plunder with your ships?

ACHILLES:

I'll bring back gold, and wine, and women on my ships.

AGAMEMNON (to others):

A-ha! He's here, I see, for booty, not for Helen!

PATROCLUS:

Ungrateful man! He's here to win your war on Troy!

ACHILLES:

I'm here for glory, and for high Olympian honor!
You dog-face! I'll show you the glorious sport of war!

LITTLE AJAX:

He'll bring us wine, and women! Let him go to sea!

ODYSSEUS: (aside, to Diomedes):

What fun. Our chief and best do not agree, I see,
And they will learn to hate, when quagmired by the ships.

DIOMEDES:

The gods themselves, it seems, are meddling in this war.

NESTOR:

Good Menelaus. Think how you'll be missed by Helen!
Great Agamemnon. Prudence calls for no dishonor.

AGAMEMNON (quickly standing, then sitting, discomfitted):

I have decided! We will sit, and starve out Troy.

III. Ten Years Later: The Achaean Gambit

AGAMEMNON:

Equivocating Calchas! Renegade of Troy!
You left your people and have joined us by the sea!
Your cowardly life, you say, being worth more than your honor?
And here you hide among our huts, and earthbound ships,
While there your people revel, with the pampered Helen!
And still you prophecy that we will win this war?

ODYSSEUS:

Ten years gone by, and we've been pasted in this war!
The gods, it seems, decided to deny us Troy.
Achilles and Patroclus, dead for faithless Helen!
All we can do is while away the years by sea,
And throw dice while we watch the rotting of our ships.
My life was wasted here, in vain pursuit of honor!

CALCHAS:

Why do you think I brought upon my head dishonor,
If not because I knew that you would win the war?
A prophet does not lie. This year you board your ships!
The god Poseidon holds a grudge against proud Troy;
He sends a giant horse, a horse spawned by the sea!

MENELAUS:

You mean to say a horse will come to rescue Helen?

ODYSSEUS (aside, to Diomedes):

A well-hung stud. That seems appropriate for Helen.

MENELAUS:

I heard that jest! I warn you, don't provoke my honor!

AGAMEMNON:

So great Poseidon sends a horse from out the sea.
And how, pray tell, can giant horses win our war?
By dropping giant hills of dung and burying Troy?

CALCHAS:

Blasphemous man! Don't ask the gods to save your ships!

ODYSSEUS:

A horse from out the sea...built from the planks of ships...
A gift for them...we'll make them think we gave up Helen...

NESTOR:

Now watch him go! His wily mind is feared in Troy!

TEUCER:

And hated here! He robbed Great Ajax of his honor!
Insulting him, we lost our bulwark of the war!
Our mighty giant took his own life by the sea.

ODYSSEUS:

Great Ajax lost his wits, while brooding by the sea!

NESTOR:

Gods' breath of paranoia kissed him by the ships.

AGAMEMNON:

Your plan, Odysseus, can it really win the war?

ODYSSEUS:

It's crazy, but can work! By the breasts of Helen!

MENELAUS:

Take back that oath! Don't force me to defend her honor!

ODYSSEUS:

I know men well. It's men, not gods, who live in Troy.

IV. The Trojans Deliberate

KING PRIAM (astonished, on the battlements):

Is this a dream? Empty is the yard of Troy;
And there, across the plain, I see the sparkling sea!
I hesitate to claim the victory and honor;
Although I see no troops, and not a single ship!
Go summon my good councilors! And fetch fair Helen!
Come one, come all, and see! I think we've won the war!

QUEEN HECABE:

I've lost my boys, all but one, because of war.
But still, inside, I've always held out hope for Troy.

PRINCE DEIPHOBUS (in Helen's bedchamber):

You have been widowed by my brother, poor, sweet Helen!
But I am now your husband, and for that you'll see
The part you play as harbor, for my sturdy ship...

(Enter PRINCESS POLYXENA)

PRINCESS POLYXENA:

Get up, you two! Deiphobus! You are always on her!
Do you not hear without, the clarion call of honor?
Make haste, get dressed, and see! They say we've won the war!

HELEN (aside, to her herself):

I do not think they'd leave without me on their ships.

KING PRIAM (on the plain, with others):

They are all gone! But what is this? A gift for Troy?

QUEEN HECABE:

A monstrous horse! As if it galloped from the sea!

PRINCE DEIPHOBUS (gazing up at horse's phallus):

A great, grand horse! A perfect gift for pleasing Helen!

PANTHOUS (a Trojan priest):

It's carved out: "To the goddess Pallas," not to Helen!
We'll haul the trophy in! A prize of highest honor!

LAOCOON (High Priest of Troy):

You fools! Ten years they fought, and now fly over sea?
You bring that monster in, indoors you'll find the war!
And Pallas favors them! What fool reigns over Troy?

KING PRIAM:

Shut up, old priest! All doom and gloom! Do you see ships?

ODYSSEUS (quietly, within horse):

They'll find my man in hiding, while searching for stray ships.
My man's trained well to speak his part; can we trust Helen?

MENELAUS:

I know my wife. She knows who'll win the fight for Troy.
To save her selfish skin, she won't betray our honor.

ODYSSEUS:

You hear? They've found my man; he's saying we left the war.
Tonight, they sleep; and then a signal's sent to sea.

CASSANDRA (from the tower):

They cheer, and pull that monstrous horse inside, I see.
Indeed, behind that island, hide a thousand ships.
Best brother, Hector! Killed and dragged in vain for war.
Ignoring me, a seer, they hear the lies of Helen.
Hot smoke and ashes will substantiate our honor;
And only poets, now, will make out ghostly Troy.

MENELAUS (within horse):

Tomorrow I will re-embrace my dearest Helen!

DIOMEDES (grumbling):

This slyness doesn't sit well. Where is manly honor?

ODYSSEUS:

All that's hot air. It's brains, not brawn, that's conquered Troy!

55 Comments:

Blogger Farmer John said...

This is meant to be constructive criticism... forgive me though if I concentrate on perceived flaws and not the parts I liked...

Overall, not bad, interesting.... but I fail to see any point for writing the poem. What message is it attempting to convey? It seems to relate a boy's impatience with his feminine circumstance in Skyros and to justify the necessity of war (in general), but there isn't sufficient information in the poem for it to stand alone as a contribution to the Achilles legend. In other words, it appears as a "fragment" of Statius' "Achilleid" and not a stand-alone work. And although the allusions to stars and gods is very good, it has been done before pretty well...

And I also found Achilles 'jealousy' a bit far fetched, as the Atreides won their brides when Achilles was merely nine or so?... and Achilles fathered his own son before departing for battle (which Neoptolemus, eventually joins).

The whole time-line is actually ridiculous in the "Skylos" version of Achilles youth, as Paris attended the wedding of Thetis to Achilles father Peleus (resulting in the contest and curse), as well, on his way to steal Helen... deux ex machina time, I guess... and Odysseus "outs" Achilles by bringing weapons and armour to court, and the only "boy" exposes himself... and where Phoenix and Patroclus fit into this story, escapes me, since Patroclus wears Peleus' armour once Thetis fashions new threads for Achilles. When did the boy learn to fight?

I prefer the Chiron version of Achilles youth.

I think this poem needs more first person passion. It picks up when Achilles get angry and the poem's perspective shifts to first person from narrator, but just kinda sits there during the opening/ narrative portions. And the "gift of Zeus" part is a bit overdone as well, as for the life of me I can think of any gifts given Achilles from Zeus... (I could be wrong, though).

12:54 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

My reference...

12:57 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

btw - Do you see the subject of poem one to be "epic" or "lyrical". Homer was master of the former, Archilocus the latter...

1:16 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Poem II - I loved it and much more "epic", but for a few modernisms that crept in. Dardenelles... milked... hot air...

And also, Virgil's "Aeneid" has already covered the events of the Trojan horse, so why repeat if not to embellish and make it better?

and I hate to say it, but where are the gods in all this? Pallas wouldn't give a whit for a horses schlong... it would be much more fitting as a further tribute to Poseidon, earth shaker and breaker of horses.

I also miss the many allusions to "well benched ships," sunlight glinting off helms, the river Scamander, the genealogy/traits of heroes, Teucer's bow, Nestor's home in Pylos, etc...

and where is Aeneas?

All in all, it's an Iliad-lite.... which is okay if you're going to tell a more complete version of the story... but then how far would you take it... through the Trojan Women? the Aeneid?

2:50 PM  
Blogger Kelly said...

Actually, if you compare the poetry in this entry with the poetry in the previous entry, I must applaud this one.

I, most certainly, could not write something like this.

I liked the way the end of some sentences was carried over into the next line. This seemed to give emphasis. I liked that.

"And bowed his head: "My gift in you will find
Expression. Thus will men acknowledge Me."
"

I haven't read the next ones yet...but I wanted to comment on this one.

4:20 PM  
Blogger John said...

"This is meant to be constructive criticism..."

I expect nothing else.

"forgive me though if I concentrate on perceived flaws and not the parts I liked..."

Of course.

"Overall, not bad, interesting.... but I fail to see any point for writing the poem. What message is it attempting to convey?"

Both of these were written towards the end of my first foray into poetry (many years ago), which was comprised of stages beginning with short, observational vignettes in free verse before venturing into meter: first couplets, then sonnets, and then extended narratives in blank verse (like "Achilles in Skyros") and culminating with this sextupled sestina *The Arguments At Troy* in iambic hexameter (the sestina is the most complex of verse structures).

Homer wrote in dactyllic hexameter, but that was too formidable, so I went with iambs.
However, since modern English is not ancient Greek, and I'm not playing a lyre, to force d.h. into English verse for the sake of imitating the meter of a Greek one (that was accompanied by music) can be a good tribute but will always sound strained, even artificial, by *comparison,* anyway (no matter how skilled the poet) so going for the iamb is not necessarily a cop out.

Okay, okay, how about...

POETIC LICENSE? :)

No?

Okay, I'm a slacker. :(

Anyway, so they were basically exercises, the main point being in learning economy as demanded by structure and meter so as to discipline my tendencies at long windedness and veering off onto tangents (and write poetry in the process).

I chose to work with these subjects because, for one, they're great subjects to work with (especially as starting points) and, two, I was weaned on Greek mythology and felt intimately comfortable with them.

There are no "messages," just re-workings of a familiar subject, as was done and re-done since the poets and playwrights of the Athenian Golden Age, of Rome (e.g. Virgil’s *Aeneid*), of the Mediaevalists (e.g. Chaucer's *Troilus and Criseyde*), the Renaissance (e.g. Shakespeare's *Troilus and Cressida*) and so on to the present day by writers great, mediocre, and bad alike, so I felt no qualms about my own beating of that dead horse (which still rears and bucks when you stick a spur in it).

"It seems to relate a boy's impatience with his feminine circumstance in Skyros and to justify the necessity of war (in general)..."

I premised Statius' understanding of the circumstances, i.e. a *full-grown* Achilles being ensconced there right after Thetis discerned Paris and Helen heading back to Troy and she connected the dots of prophecy:

"Thetis--ah! never vain are a parent’s auguries! [i.e. that Akhilleus was destined to die at Troy.]--started with terror beneath the glassy flood at the Idaean oars [i.e. when she saw the ship of Paris carrying Helene to Troy]. Without delay she sprang forth from her watery bower...(to hide her son)"

As a warrior chomping at the bit, his "impatience with his feminine circumstance in Skyros" is precisely what I explored, an angst also premised by Statius:

"Mother, I have obeyed thee, though thy commands were hard to bear; too obedient have I been: now they demand me, and I go to the Trojan war and the Argolic fleet.’ So speaking he leapt into the bark, and was swept far from the neighbourhood of land by the whistling south wind."

Knowing the hot-blooded character of the warrior as presented by Homer, I worked backward from there to imagine how that warrior felt dressed in drag at Skyros among the daughters of Lycomedes.

"...but there isn't sufficient information in the poem for it to stand alone as a contribution to the Achilles legend."

I don't know of any other poem, novel, or movie that gets into his head like that before the war, and his attitude is consistent with the one we know he had during the war.

"In other words, it appears as a "fragment" of Statius' "Achilleid" and not a stand-alone work."

Well, it starts with him in that humiliating situation and his famous brooding grows into his famous temper until he reaches out to Zeus (who his mom was pretty tight with). Zeus assures him of his famous Destiny and Achilles acquiesces in faith to that, and, implicitly, accepts the fine print (we know in *The Iliad that he knows what his mother knew,* that he wouldn't survive the war).

So several elements of his character demonstrated in *The Iliad* (and its classical subsidiaries) are shown here in their early manifestations, and there is consistency in character and also a beginning, middle and end (as Aristotle demands in *Poetics*), and begins *en medias res* for good measure.

Also, the arc of his emotions coincides with their arc in *The Iliad,* from frustration to wrath to entreaty and finally to atonement.

(in *The Iliad* his mother plays the role for him that Zeus does in my poem, but even then she’s an intercessory to Zeus)

"And although the allusions to stars and gods is very good, it has been done before pretty well..."

Good mind, Farmer. I love *Les Miserables,* both the novel (unabridged, of course) and the musical, and used to be able to sing along (to myself) to most of the songs from that stage production, back in the day.

I saw it years before I wrote that poem (which itself was written years ago), but I was not thinking about Javert's meditation when I wrote it.

I detest thievery and plagiarism is theft.

But then I accessed your link, and there's Javert: "Stars, in your multitude...silent and sure..."

His theme of them is different from mine. To him, the stars represent Order, Justice, THE LAW, and Punishment, whereas in my poem, as Zeus explains, they astrologically represent Fate.

However, I did start when you brought the song back to me. I absorbed that story and musical and so have to admit that it's possible I was unconsciously haunted by some of its musical imagery, and it echoed in the poem.

If so, it was not intentional.

"And I also found Achilles 'jealousy' a bit far fetched..."

I'm glad you used "jeolousy," because it reminded me to replace "envy" (the original word I used) with it.
The gods themselves can get jeolous ("I Am a jeolous God," Yahweh warns Moses) but only villains--like Agamemnon and Milton’s Lucifer-- are envious.

I don't think Achilles' own jealousy is far-fetched. He's a very proud character.

"...as the Atreides won their brides when Achilles was merely nine or so?"

Not necessarily. Remember, that depends on what variation of the legend and/or timeline you subscribe to.

Furthermore, the poem says "When news was heard," without specifying *when.*

Granted, if I’m going to rely on Statius and have Achilles ensconced right after Paris and Helen eloped, then there’s no way Achilles could have heard of the brothers’ weddings to the sisters while he was at Skyros, to which I’d once again claim…

Poetic license. :)

"... and Achilles fathered his own son before departing for battle (which Neoptolemus, eventually joins)."

Check. And that fits my timeline (he's surrounded day in and day out by "giggling" and "ogling" girls, which is sexually charged and leaves plenty of room for hanky-panky for a protagonist who is obviously restless and is pacing around like a caged animal).

“The whole time-line is actually ridiculous in the 'Skylos' version of Achilles youth, as Paris attended the wedding of Thetis to Achilles father Peleus (resulting in the contest and curse)...as well, on his way to steal Helen."

More “credible” versions have the three goddesses and Hermes seeking out Paris (as shepherd) on Mount Ida any number of years afterward, but all of that is what happens when ancient mythographers-- and poets-- take separate bits of myth from here and there and combine them (or scrunch them together) in an attempt to form one coherent narrative.

Behold that dynamic, here.

"... deux ex machina time, I guess."

Generations temporally overlap and bump in to each other here and there in Greek myths, but most of the action can be pretty well-ordered around three generations: Heracles’ (which includes his contemporaries like Nestor, Jason, Orpheus, etc,), Theseus,’ and then Achilles.’

“... and Odysseus ‘outs’ Achilles by bringing weapons and armour to court, and the only ‘boy’ exposes himself... “

Depending on the version…

“…and where Phoenix and Patroclus fit into this story, escapes me, since Patroclus wears Peleus' armour once Thetis fashions new threads for Achilles. When did the boy learn to fight?”

Perhaps the later Stratius pondered those very conundrums and tried to reconcile them by making Achilles older…

Waitasec, FJ, Patroclus is dead when Achilles gets his new armor.

I prefer the Chiron version of Achilles youth, and so—a trained warrior—he squirmed at Skyros.

“I think this poem needs more first person passion. It picks up when Achilles get angry and the poem's perspective shifts to first person from narrator, but just kinda sits there during the opening/ narrative portions.”

Well, you mentioned its inability to “stand alone.” I had to provide some omniscient, background material towards that end.

“ And the ‘gift of Zeus’ part is a bit overdone as well, as for the life of me I can think of any gifts given Achilles from Zeus... (I could be wrong, though).

That’s a contribution. :)Actually,

There’s an intentional, subtle shift from polytheism to monotheism, where super-mojo lightning-god Zeus begins to resemble the Judeo-Christian god (the bestower of gifts)--here-- and Achilles’ prayer to him sounds like something a Samson would pray.

The Roman Jupiter dramatically moved in that direction.

But the evolving concept of an all-powerful, King of Gods—a Sky Father—is indeed evident in The Iliad itself, when we hear about the time when the other gods and goddesses gang up on a “tyrannical” Zeus—a la Milton’s Lucifer trying to gang up on a “tyrannical” God in *Paradise Lost*--and are put in their place in a “Who’s Your Daddy?” kinda way (like Lucifer and the other rebellious angels were, although Zeus let his rebels stick around on Olympus as long as they behaved themselves, often casting a threatening frown at any uppity behavior, causing the receiver to cringe).

The rise in power of Zeus and his evolution into Jupiter made the ancient Greeks and the Romans ripe for the embracing of Christianity. They understood the concept of an almighty god. The rest of the pantheon got Christianized as saints by the Greek Orthodox and Roman Catholic faiths, certainly echoing the pagan past.

“btw - Do you see the subject of poem one to be 'epic' or 'lyrical'. Homer was master of the former, Archilocus the latter...”

I don’t know.

“Poem II - I loved it and much more "epic", but for a few modernisms that crept in.”

Anachronisms are not uncommon in poetry (“poetic licence”--seriously).

“ Dardenelles”...
I’m pretty sure the name Dardanelles preceded Hellespont, but if not it was in existence, and I had the Trojans refer it as such because if they called it the "Hellespont” would validate the Greek’s territorial claim to it.

“milked... hot air...”

Don’t forget “round and spinning loom.” I don’t think that was invented yet. That’s pretty legitimate poetic license, though.

“And also, Virgil's "Aeneid" has already covered the events of the Trojan horse, so why repeat if not to embellish and make it better?”

I did embellish it. It’s in sestina form.

“…and I hate to say it, but where are the gods in all this?”

The deities are mentioned often, if not explicitly, then implicitly as represented by the priests and prophecy (all of which are fulfilled).

“Pallas wouldn't give a whit for a horses schlong...”

Deiphobus thought of it as being a gift for Helen when he saw the schlong. The priest angrily corrected him that the horse was a gift for Pallas, and didn’t mean to imply that the schlong was, too.

“it would be much more fitting as a further tribute to Poseidon, earth shaker and breaker of horses.”

Poseidon is honored by being the god of two of the sestina’s key words: “sea” and “ships.”

“I also miss the many allusions to 'well benched ships,' sunlight glinting off helms, the river Scamander, the genealogy/traits of heroes, Teucer's bow, Nestor's home in Pylos, etc...”

I wanted to be original (without offending the integrity of the plot and characters). The tightness of the structure did not allow me to indulge in formulas.

“and where is Aeneas?”

Right here:

AENEAS:

The proud Achaeans are, I saw, obsessed with honor.
The Spartan king's cuckolded, and, for that, will war.
Mycenean Agamemnon has a hundred ships,
The Spartan king himself but sixty. Less than Troy,
Commercial power that we are on land and sea;
But are there more of them unknown? What say you, Helen?

And here:

AENEAS:

Indeed his cause is gold, but some will fight for honor.
It's those I fear; they fight the fiercest in a war.
Beware their best, the son of Peleus and his ships.
He's born to find his glory on the plain of Troy.
I've heard them talk of him, he's feared on land and sea;
In strength, supreme, in beauty, only matched by Helen.

“All in all, it's an Iliad-lite.... which is okay if you're going to tell a more complete version of the story... but then how far would you take it... through the Trojan Women? the Aeneid?”

Ever see anything that resembled the material in Part I & II?

And I started with the abduction of Helen and ended it with the horse. It’s done. “Iliad-Lite” is fine by me.

Thank you FJ.

6:48 AM  
Blogger John said...

"I liked the way the end of some sentences was carried over into the next line. This seemed to give emphasis. I liked that."

That's called enjambment. Its purpose is not emphasis but to maintain the integrity of the meter.

Thank you Kell. I'm glad you liked it.

7:22 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

So, you feel your youthful Achilles in Skylos was 'true' to his heritage and character? I'm not so sure, and I'll tell you why (and here is why the deities and genealogy of heroes is vital to Homer's poem and WHY it is so great and why some "poets" are MUCH better than others).

Prometheus, in Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, as punishment for stealing the fire from the gods was bound by Kratos, Bias & Haephaestus for ALL ETERNITY by Zeus. Only one thing. Prometheus is eventually freed by the titan Atlas (or Hercules - I forget which) in one version, but in others by a particular prophesy extorted (or planted by/) from Prometheus by Hermes (a trickster/deceiver) giving Zeus further need of him (and thereby cutting short Prometheus sentence from ALL ETERNITY to a few thousand years). For in it Prometheus prophesizes that should Zeus wed a particular Neriad, her son will overthrow him. (and Zeus worries since he ovethrew his father Kronos-through a trick/deception of his mother, who overthrew his father Uranus-through a trick deception, who was castrated and had his genitals thrown into the Pontus, out of the foam of which Aphrodite/desire was born).

And of course, this Nereid is eventually-later identified as Thetis.

Now, who is Zeus? He is "Necessity/Power".

Who is Prometheus? He is Foresight, aka "Invention" (aka a trick/deception). Epimethius (Promethius' brother) represents Hindsight or afterthought.

Who was Nereus (Thetis' Father)? He was the old man of the sea. In other words... Truth.

Who were the 50 Nereids? They were all different laws of truths identified by sailors for navigation/harnessing the winds/etc., Themis (Thetis' sister) represents manmade law or Justice (sword & scales - blindfold) but Thetis represents one of the "natural truths".

Anyway... let's examine Achilles. He is physically 'perfect' and the best 'natural' man. He can outrun and outfight any man on the planet. Unfortunately, he is born of a mortal father (Peleus not Zeus), and so he can only become "immortalized" if he does what comes NATURALLY TRUE to him.... which is to fullfill his 'destiny' (written by the stars racing in their courses) and fight and die at Ilium.

Despite all her efforts, Thetis is unable to make Achilles immortal, and eventually Paris kills him w/a poisoned arrow which strikes at his one vulnerbility...mortality/ his heel. Had Zeus been his "father" he would have already been immortal and had no need to fight and die at Ilium.

Well, ONE way for a mortal man to achieve immortality is to "become a legend". Like the gods themselves, man must live in the thoughts of others (but not in the flesh). Immortality. ANOTHER way for a man to achieve a level of immortality is through the flesh (have a son/Neoptolemus)

Now does YOUR Achilles at Skylos act in perfect accordance with his nature. Acording to Statius, Thetis attempts to deceive through a natural deception substituting one sex for another). Okay, I guess there's a "chance" of a natural truth using a deception as an animal camoflauges it's young... but is it probably that the camoflauged young could "pretend" to be something it's not? I don't think so. And so the chances of Achilles actually "using" a spinning wheel or doing ANYTHING feminine is pretty far fetched. Think of Huck's encounter with the Widow in Huckleberry Finn where he tries to disguise himself as a girl, yet she catches him pretty quick (just as Odysseus catches the young Achilles).

And given Achilles "Rage"... I somehow doubt that Achilles could ever suppress his "manly" nature of action/courage in a femine manner of waiting/temperance. Achilles MUST ALWAYS act according to his nature.... just as ALL the heroes at Ilium must follow THEIR patron deities (Odysseus following Athena)... Aeneas - Aphrodite. It is their "tragic flaw"...

Now examine your words in Poem II from Aeneas... and do they suit one lead by Aphrodite/Venus/desire?

The Greek mind (and its' evolution) is best understood by reading Hesiod's "Theogony". The clusters of deities and their heritage represent the evolution of that mind from "childhood" through "old age".

The only way to overcome Zeus/Necessity is to trick him. But beware, each subsequent generation produces its' innovator, who overthrows the "old order".

To paraphrase Nietzsche, "Only when will to truth steps in the heels of will to power can it become INVINCEABLE". And the heel reference is an allusion to Achilles.

Well, enough mangling of Greek mythology. Are you really working on something "American"?

10:57 AM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

..as Nietzsche made many "heel" references...

...and please note that I've added the following HUMOUROUS & Illustrative purposes and please do NOT take seriously...(or else simply re-cast this play in whatever manner you see fit)

Nietzsche, "Zarathustra" Chapter 6

Then, however, something happened which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed. In the meantime, of course, the rope-dancer had commenced his performance: he had come out at a little door, and was going along the rope which was stretched between two towers, so that it hung above the market-place and the people. When he was just midway across, the little door opened once more, and a gaudily-dressed fellow like a buffoon sprang out, and went rapidly after the first one. "Go on, halt-foot," cried his frightful voice, "go on, lazy-bones, interloper, sallow-face!- lest I tickle thee with my heel! What dost thou here between the towers? In the tower is the place for thee, thou shouldst be locked up; to one better than thyself thou blockest the way!"- And with every word he came nearer and nearer the first one.

When, however, he was but a step behind, there happened the frightful thing which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed- he uttered a yell like a devil, and jumped over the other who was in his way. The latter, however, when he thus saw his rival triumph, lost at the same time his head and his footing on the rope; he threw his pole away, and shot downward faster than it, like an eddy of arms and legs, into the depth. The market-place and the people were like the sea when the storm cometh on: they all flew apart and in disorder, especially where the body was about to fall.

Zarathustra, however, remained standing, and just beside him fell the body, badly injured and disfigured, but not yet dead. After a while consciousness returned to the shattered man, and he saw Zarathustra kneeling beside him. "What art thou doing there?" said he at last, "I knew long ago that the devil would trip me up. Now he draggeth me to hell: wilt thou prevent him?"

"On mine honour, my friend," answered Zarathustra, "there is nothing of all that whereof thou speakest: there is no devil and no hell. Thy soul will be dead even sooner than thy body; fear, therefore, nothing any more!"

The man looked up distrustfully. "If thou speakest the truth," said he, "I lose nothing when I lose my life. I am not much more than an animal which hath been taught to dance by blows and scanty fare."

"Not at all," said Zarathustra, "thou hast made danger thy calling; therein there is nothing contemptible. Now thou perishest by thy calling: therefore will I bury thee with mine own hands."

When Zarathustra had said this the dying one did not reply further; but he moved his hand as if he sought the hand of Zarathustra in gratitude.

1:11 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

btw - One way to conceive of Hesiod's Theogony as the evolution of a Greek mind is to think of every "cluster" of reigning gods (ie the Olympians) as a neuronal "ego cluster" and a psychic break in memory formations representing the overthrow Uranus' by Kronos' generation, with new memory structures being built upon the ruins of old ones (the old ones being "chained in Tartarus" or "dissappearing underground" [like the Eumenides/Oedipus])... and hemispheric control ego-superego shifting to the opposite brain hemisphere...and repression originating in the "old" non-dominant hemisphere.

Freud, Abstracts...

Psychoanalytic research has recognized the existence and importance of the masculine protest, but it has regarded it, in opposition to Adler, as narcissistic in nature and derived from the castration complex. We have learned that libidinal instinctual impulses undergo the vicissitude of pathogenic repression if they come into conflict with the subject's cultural and ethical ideas. For the ego, the formation of an ideal is the conditioning factor of repression. This ideal ego is the target of the selflove which was enjoyed in childhood by the actual ego. Sublimation is a process that concerns object libido and consists in the instinct's directing itself towards an other than sexual satisfaction. Idealization is a process that concerns the object; by it that object is aggrandized and exalted in the subject's mind. There is a special psychical agency which performs the task of seeing that narcissistic satisfaction from the ego ideal is ensured and constantly watches the actual ego and measures it by that ideal. Delusions of being watched present this power (watching, discovering, criticizing) in a regressive form, revealing the origin of the ego ideal. Self-regard appears to be an expression of the size of the ego. The self-regarding attitude is discussed for normal and neurotic people. The relations of self-regard to erotism (libidinal object-cathexes) may be expressed after 2 cases are distinguished: whether the erotic cathexes are ego-syntonic or have suffered repression. The development of the ego consists in a departure from primary narcissism and gives rise to a vigorous attempt to recover that stage. This departure is brought about by means of the displacement of libido on to an ego ideal imposed from without; and satisfaction is brought about from fulfilling this ideal. The auxiliary relation of the sexual ideal to the ego ideal is discussed. The ego ideal binds not only a person's narcissistic libido, but also a considerable amount of his homosexual libido, which is in this way turned back into the ego.

ps - Fear of castration... hey after what Kronos did to Uranus...

2:38 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Hesiod on the "nature" of Thetis and Achilles...from Theogony

But of the daughters of Nereus, the Old man of the Sea, Psamathe the fair goddess, was loved by Aeacus through golden Aphrodite and bare Phocus. And the silver-shod goddess Thetis was subject to Peleus and brought forth lion-hearted Achilles, the destroyer of men.

Silver-shod. FYI the only "other" footwear he mentions is that of Hera... golden-shod Hera (2x).

6:53 PM  
Blogger Farmer John said...

Okay, I read them again.

If you can divulge to me the "charm" or "drug" that Thetis used to bewitch Achilles into "youthful/womanly temperace" then I would gladfully withdraw most of my objections to the Skylos piece. But without some "great deception" being used to trick Achilles into not acting consistently with manly courage, I find the Skylos piece un-believable. He would never obey his mother, otherwise. And since yours was a re-wroking of Statius, I shouldn't really blame you for the original error, but I will blame you for not correcting it. ;-)

I also find it disconcerting that you later have Achilles preach "temperance" to Meneleaus regarding the "speed" of the war. Achilles was a man of bold action, not cautious and "deliberate" restraint. It seems out of character for him to act 'temperately/ wisely' in the manner depicted. And it is also out of charater to have him speak of "slow/controlled financial gain" to Agamemnon (milking the Trojans). That, too, is a trait of womanly temperance.

For 'failed' strategems, Nestor should speak. He would advise things he's seen work successfully in the past... but could not, like Odysseus, devise new ones.

It's brains, not brawn, that's conquered Troy

Odysseus was the brains, and Achilles the brawn. And btw... in Sophocles "Philoctetes", Odysseus employ's a successful "deception-strategy" upon Achilles son, Neoptolemus (who's character is derived from Achilles)... which fails... but was also designed to fail.

Perhaps you could use it as inspiration for a Thetis charm, should you ever decide to rewrite "Achilles in Skyros" one day. Who knows, perhaps it might even involve "Phoenix" somehow... ;-)

8:12 AM  
Blogger John said...

"So, you feel your youthful Achilles in Skylos was 'true' to his heritage and character?"

Pretty much.

"I'm not so sure, and I'll tell you why (and here is why the deities and genealogy of heroes is vital to Homer's poem and WHY it is so great and why some "poets" are MUCH better than others).

Prometheus, in Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound, as punishment for stealing the fire from the gods was bound by Kratos, Bias & Haephaestus for ALL ETERNITY by Zeus. Only one thing. Prometheus is eventually freed by the titan Atlas (or Hercules - I forget which) in one version..."

It was Heracles, but your forgetfulness is understandable as variations of the same myth (the 11th Labor which features Atlas and the golden apples of the Hesperides) interchange Proteus with Prometheus, sometimes including both).

His liberation of Prometheus may have been a separate myth that was inserted by the mythographers into the 11th Labor.

"...but in others by a particular prophesy extorted (or planted by/) from Prometheus by Hermes (a trickster/deceiver) giving Zeus further need of him (and thereby cutting short Prometheus sentence from ALL ETERNITY to a few thousand years). For in it Prometheus prophesizes that should Zeus wed a particular Neriad, her son will overthrow him. (and Zeus worries since he ovethrew his father Kronos-through a trick/deception of his mother, who overthrew his father Uranus-through a trick deception, who was castrated and had his genitals thrown into the Pontus, out of the foam of which Aphrodite/desire was born).

And of course, this Nereid is eventually-later identified as Thetis.

Now, who is Zeus? He is ‘Necessity/Power.’

Who is Prometheus? He is Foresight, aka "Invention" (aka a trick/deception).

Epimethius (Promethius' brother) represents Hindsight or afterthought.

Who was Nereus (Thetis' Father)? He was the old man of the sea. In other words... Truth."

Hm. I don't know about that last one, FJ. Nereus was a shape-shifter who wouldn't tell Heracles the Truth until after several metamorposes and attempts to break free of Heracles' grip…
…which I suppose could be interpreted as the elusiveness of Truth and it's multi-faceted quality--but only if considering it to be relative, nuanced, ambiguous, and/or equivocating.

The ancient Greeks liked to associate Truth with the sun: High, bright, singular, unchanging, and obvious, and any playing or twisting of it was identified as trickery or outright lying.

The names in mythologies often give a clue to what the character represents, but Nereus just means “wet one,” so it appears your assignation of the role of Truth to him is arbitrary—but an interesting analysis, nonetheless (sounds Neitzchean).

"Who were the 50 Nereids? They were all different laws of truths identified by sailors for navigation/harnessing the winds/etc., Themis (Thetis' sister) represents manmade law or Justice (sword & scales - blindfold) but Thetis represents one of the 'natural truths.'"

Interesting. That's how an alchemist like Isaac Newton (according to his journals) read the myths, assigning values to every deity corresponding them with the equivalent, earthy element (thinking that the myths were coded cookbooks on how to make gold).

I understand how your poetic systematizing works. The mother of the Nine Muses--the sister of Themis--was Mnemosyne, which is Memory.

Hence,none of values that her nine daughters represent can be begotten without memory (related to Platonic anamnesis).

"Anyway... let's examine Achilles. He is physically 'perfect' and the best 'natural' man. He can outrun and outfight any man on the planet. Unfortunately, he is born of a mortal father (Peleus not Zeus)…”

Check. In the poem, Achilles addresses him as “my god,” not “father.”

“…and so he can only become ‘immortalized’ if he does what comes NATURALLY TRUE to him.... which is to fulfill his 'destiny' (written by the stars racing in their courses) and fight and die at Ilium."

Although I think his mom being a titaness and baptizing him in the river Styx as a baby might have something to do with his godlike prowess and Destiny (mythical superheroes often are often ascribed divine or royal lineage. It’s hard to find an ordinary commoner of purely human stock rising above his state (none even come to mind right now).

"Despite all her efforts, Thetis is unable to make Achilles immortal."

She came close to making him fully invulnerable (which is suggestive of immortality and may have been her intent with the baptism of fire).

"...and eventually Paris kills him w/a poisoned arrow which strikes at his one vulnerbility...mortality/ his heel."

Right. Paris. Of all people--one of the most unheroic characters in the entire epic, as represented by his preference to fight from afar with a bow & arrow.

Poetic justice demanded that he dies the same way (a poison arrow), and the same poetic justice demanded that the woman who could have cured him—the sweetheart of his youth and first wife, Oenone, who he abandoned—reject the great seducer and let him die in poisoned torment.

"Had Zeus been his 'father' he would have already been immortal and had no need to fight and die at Ilium."

*Au contraire,* my good man, Zeus was the father of Heracles (and other heroes), and he had to go through his own fights and death to earn his apotheosis (as did others begotten by Zeus).

"Well, ONE way for a mortal man to achieve immortality is to 'become a legend.' Like the gods themselves, man must live in the thoughts of others (but not in the flesh). Immortality."

Right. That's all that Achilles cared about.

However, he changed his tune in the Odyssey and said that the living, breathing peasant was better off than a dead hero, however immortalized through song.

"ANOTHER way for a man to achieve a level of immortality is through the flesh (have a son/Neoptolemus)."

Right, as your recent Platonic posting discussed.

"Now does YOUR Achilles at Skylos act in perfect accordance with his nature."

I think he does.

He's conflicted, but conflict--inner as well as outer-- is in accordance with his nature (as well demonstrated in *The Iliad*).

"Acording to Statius, Thetis attempts to deceive through a natural deception substituting one sex for another."

She's hiding him very well, putting him in a setting in direct contrast to his nature.

Who would look for him there?

"Okay, I guess there's a 'chance' of a natural truth using a deception as an animal camoflauges it's young... but is it probably that the camoflauged young could 'pretend' to be something it's not?"

No. The camouflaged is just obeying its mother and waiting it out.

It’s clear that Achilles is having a hard time “pretending” that he’s something he’s not.

It’s also clear in *The Iliad* that Achilles is a momma’s boy who sits out the fight as ordered by his mother, sulking in his tent while his friends and compatriots get slaughtered without him.

True, his sitting the fighting out was fine with him (out of spite), but his mommy directed him.

"And so the chances of Achilles actually 'using' a spinning wheel or doing ANYTHING feminine is pretty far fetched."

Well, the poem doesn't say he was using it, only that he saw it (he's in a parlor room) and thought of a shield.

And besides, if he was sitting there using it, obviously he wasn't enjoying it and was thinking about shields.

He remained in character, and the obvious contrast with that character and his unseemly situation is made clear.

“Think of Huck's encounter with the Widow in Huckleberry Finn where he tries to disguise himself as a girl, yet she catches him pretty quick (just as Odysseus catches the young Achilles).”

The “giggling” and “ogling” girls in the parlor room are obviously not fooled, either.

“And given Achilles ‘Rage’... I somehow doubt that Achilles could ever suppress his ‘manly’ nature of action/courage in a femine manner of waiting/temperance. “

He doesn’t in the poem. He’s a friggin’ time bomb.

“Achilles MUST ALWAYS act according to his nature.... “

He does. Part of that nature though is obeying his mother—up to a certain point when that nature finally forces him to say, “Sorry ma, gotta fight.”

“just as ALL the heroes at Ilium must follow THEIR patron deities (Odysseus following Athena)... Aeneas - Aphrodite. It is their ‘tragic flaw’...”

I disagree. Their tragic flaw usually involves something that strays from their patrons’ behavioral expectations.

Achilles' tragic flaw—like the biblical Samson’s—was lust.

That’s not following their deities who want them to keep their eyes on the ball.

“Now examine your words in Poem II from Aeneas... and do they suit one lead by Aphrodite/Venus/desire?”

It’s his mom, but he’s not lustful/desirous anywhere. He’s a proper, serious man who’s not guided by his passions but by a sense of duty. Indeed, he dissed the lovely and powerful Dido because of that serious sense of duty in fulfillment of his destiny (i.e. the founding of Rome).

Aeneas strikes me as one of the most noble, well-mannered characters in the epic.

Aphrodite looks over him and protects him as a son (though, try as she might, she’s not too reliable to have around on the battlefield).

She’s the patron goddess of Paris, and his behavior --both in *The Iliad* and my poem—is indeed suited to one lead by Aphrodite/Venus.

I’ll try to address the rest later.

2:48 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

"So, you feel your youthful Achilles in Skylos was 'true' to his heritage and character?"

Pretty much.

Before I go too far... Can you describe for me what you feel the "difference" is between an 'ancient' hero, a 'modern' hero and a 'post-modern' hero? I'll tell you what I think it is. Ancient hero's were "NOBLE" men of a Nietzschean "master" morality (hoi agathoi)... Modern heroes are "COMMON" men of a Christian "slave" morality (hoi polloi)... and Post-Modern heroes are "Miscreants & Discontents" with (a criminal 'relative' self-advantaging) morality (hoi kokoi).

I think YOUR "Achilles" is depicted as a modern, and not an ancient, hero.

It was Heracles, but your forgetfulness is understandable as variations of the same myth (the 11th Labor which features Atlas and the golden apples of the Hesperides) interchange Proteus with Prometheus, sometimes including both).

Thanks for clearing that up. My memory can be pretty atrocious.

Hm. I don't know about that last one, FJ. Nereus was a shape-shifter who wouldn't tell Heracles the Truth until after several metamorposes and attempts to break free of Heracles' grip…
…which I suppose could be interpreted as the elusiveness of Truth and it's multi-faceted quality--but only if considering it to be relative, nuanced, ambiguous, and/or equivocating.

The ancient Greeks liked to associate Truth with the sun: High, bright, singular, unchanging, and obvious, and any playing or twisting of it was identified as trickery or outright lying.

The names in mythologies often give a clue to what the character represents, but Nereus just means “wet one,” so it appears your assignation of the role of Truth to him is arbitrary—but an interesting analysis, nonetheless (sounds Neitzchean).


"Truth and it's multi-faceted quality--but only if considering it to be relative, nuanced, ambiguous, and/or equivocating..." and doesn't Kronos MAKE it so? The truth is that I, as a man, cannot TODAY bear children... but given advances in the medical ARTS, perhaps we can come "to grips with" the truth, and in "good" order, "pin it down" and perhaps later "overthrow" it...further reducing man's need to bow to Zeus powers (Necessity).

The ancient Greeks liked to associate Truth with the sun: High, bright, singular, unchanging, and obvious, and any playing or twisting of it was identified as trickery or outright lying.

Indeed they did, Apollo/Artemis as male and female forms of reason (shooters of arrows) and Athena atop Mt. Helios at noon (poor BLIND Tiresias(who I might add, had the distinct perspective advantage of once having been male AND female)). But the truth was blinding and often "incredible" to mortals (as perhaps CASANDRA can attest).

The names in mythologies often give a clue to what the character represents, but Nereus just means “wet one,” so it appears your assignation of the role of Truth to him is arbitrary—but an interesting analysis, nonetheless (sounds Neitzchean) I'll admit Nereus was a slippery old devil, but I would challenge you to devise a "reason" for his "existence" within the Greek pantheon as well as for the ancient archangel "Gabriel", with whom Jacob is purported to have "wrestled".

Interesting. That's how an alchemist like Isaac Newton (according to his journals) read the myths, assigning values to every deity corresponding them with the equivalent, earthy element (thinking that the myths were coded cookbooks on how to make gold).

...and as Emerson would say, "Chemistry takes to pieces, but it does not construct. Alchemy which sought to transmute one element into another, to prolong life, to arm with power, -- that was in the right direction. All our (modern) science lacks a human side. The tenant is more than the house. Bugs and stamens and spores, on which we lavish so many years, are not finalities, and man, when his powers unfold in order, will take Nature along with him, and emit light into all her recesses. The human heart concerns us more than the poring into microscopes, and is larger than can be measured by the pompous figures of the astronomer."

I understand how your poetic systematizing works. I'm glad you realize that there IS a "system", anyways... I'm not quite so sure you know it well enough to make it "dance", though... for you don't "believe" in it, as I do. Perhaps you should take lessons with some Corybantes ... ;-)

Although I think his mom being a titaness and baptizing him in the river Styx as a baby might have something to do with his godlike prowess and Destiny (mythical superheroes often are often ascribed divine or royal lineage. It’s hard to find an ordinary commoner of purely human stock rising above his state (none even come to mind right now). G_d is dead (the gods are dead to 'moderns')! And you thought that I was the Nietzschean...

Paris. Of all people--one of the most unheroic characters in the entire epic, as represented by his preference to fight from afar with a bow & arrow. B&A un-heroic? there's nothing wrong with fighting from afar... that's how the one-breasted Amazon's used to do it... and in fact it was said that Iliad could not fall without the aid of "Achilles" bow (Neoptolemus). Besides, the Great heroes often fought with chariots and threw "darts"... hero is not a term reserved for "close-in" grapplers/ fighters... if there was anything un-heroic in Paris, it was the "poison" in his arrow (a "womanly" device not requiring much "skill" to wield and compensating for one lacking in Paris - he wasn't a "good enough shot").

poetic justice... I'm glad you appreciate it's eye-for-an-eye I-rony.

"Had Zeus been his 'father' he would have already been immortal and had no need to fight and die at Ilium."

*Au contraire,* my good man, Zeus was the father of Heracles (and other heroes), and he had to go through his own fights and death to earn his apotheosis (as did others begotten by Zeus).

And Just how did he die? Poisoned by a "deceived" woman, of course, with the very same poison that killed Paris... how I-ronic. Heracles exhibitted truthfully much in life of his "fathers" nature, didn't he?...

"Now does YOUR Achilles at Skylos act in perfect accordance with his nature."

I think he does.

He's conflicted, but conflict--inner as well as outer-- is in accordance with his nature (as well demonstrated in *The Iliad*).
I agree. CONFLICTED.

So where then is his rage, his REFUSAL to bow to "authority" (Agamemnon) and disobedience to mother Thetis? Although his men may have been Myrmidons (ant-like and order-following) HE certainly was not. He was a man of HONOR, action and examplar of MANLY VIRTU ("courage" which fights/ rebels against his motherly "temperance")

Although your character is "unhappy", IMO he is NOT unhappy ENOUGH to rebel! And the LAST thing he would do is content himself with a promise from Zeus that his power might "eventually" be used... He's a rebel of "SUPER-natural" birth... but with a difference from his mother in SEX. Temperance is a womanly virtue... it's sexual opposite is courage. Think Heracle's lion-skin cloak...

Some translators thought Achilles name meant "grief"... as in one who "gives grief" to men. Who doesn't give more grief to a friend than a rebel, or an foe as his "destroyer"?

Obedience to others... I believe... is a concept foreign to him. He goes where his cour (heart) takes him (not his brain).

However, he changed his tune in the Odyssey and said that the living, breathing peasant was better off than a dead hero, however immortalized through song. Indeed he did... as his "heart" was stopped by death, and all he was left with was mind, albeit don't the soul's (returning only?) sip water from the river Lethes and forget everything... or drink from the cup of Lethes).

It’s also clear in *The Iliad* that Achilles is a momma’s boy who sits out the fight as ordered by his mother... and all the time I thought it was because an authoritarian Agamemnon had taken away Briseis (awarded like a good conduct medal)... in other words, it wasn't his "mother" that decided when Achilles would or would not fight... elsewise he's have remained at Skylos. Thetis had a previously demonstrated ulterior motive for convincing him to stop fighting and come home...

He does. Part of that nature though is obeying his mother—up to a certain point when that nature finally forces him to say, “Sorry ma, gotta fight.” Nope. That's what "modern" men do... not ancient and noble men or men of birth 'divine'. They are like stars in their courses, unchanging... Do you, or do you NOT believe in gods? And if so, "which" ones in the Greek pantheon are the "more powerful" (ie - the battle between Athena and Poseidon on the "west" pediment sculpture of the Parthenon). That's why I label YOUR Achilles a modern... vs. 'Ancient' hero.

I disagree. Their tragic flaw usually involves something that strays from their patrons’ behavioral expectations.

Achilles' tragic flaw—like the biblical Samson’s—was lust.

That’s not following their deities who want them to keep their eyes on the ball.


You'll have to convince me that Achilles' tragic flaw was 'lust' although you defined his real flaw ("not following their deities who want them to keep their eye on the ball"). He was a rebel/destroyer of men. That may be a kind of "lust", but it's a "lust" for and dictated by "oneself" and not necessarily a lust for "power over others" that could bring "cooperation"... but only conflict.

btw - I like Aeneas, too!

7:13 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

ps - And yes, it's me, Farmer John. As you can see, I'm trying out a new skin.

7:14 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

btw - Have you any thoughts as to the "nature" of the differences in "birth-places" of Apollo and Artemis? It might lend you some "insight" into my message regarding the nature of Proteus... and ancient male/ female relations.

7:58 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

It normally helps a dancer to know how to "move his feet"... and who could possibly move it better than one born on a floating island at the center of the known universe... it musta given Apollo good sea-legs, too.

8:07 AM  
Blogger John said...

Please do not feel slighted if I don't get around to addressing all of your compelling points and counter-points.

I still have yet to finish the first set...

btw...

I said:

"interchange Proteus with Prometheus, sometimes including both)."

You replied:

"Thanks for clearing that up. My memory can be pretty atrocious."

Well, heh, I meant Nereus and Prometheus, but that slip should also be understandable...

9:16 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

...No problemo. Mine is a "hedgehogs" argument, anyway. The only point I was really trying to make was the first one. That what constitute's a "hero's" behavior to you MAY NOT be consistent with my expectations... as I rest firmly in the ancient's camp in the battle of the books.

7:25 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

...as for a post-modern author's expectations... I think you parodied them rather well in your scatological poetry renditions.

But be aware, there is a chasm between us. I am sympathetic to the moderns but am essentially, an ancient in outlook. My hero's of WWII will seldom be the "un-sung" foot soldiers... they will be the "oft-sung" Pattons and Rommels.

7:30 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

In other words, I have little interest in the fate of Private Ryan save that Eisenhower has planned the invasion with his usual "conservative over-kill"...

...thereby allowing hundreds of thousands of "Private Ryans" to return home safely to their families.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

As for proteus and nereus, we humans will always imitate Procrustes in our argumentation, anyway, and saw off all the parts that don't fit... ;-)

7:42 AM  
Blogger John said...

“If you can divulge to me the "charm" or "drug" that Thetis used to bewitch Achilles into "youthful/womanly temperace" then I would gladfully withdraw most of my objections to the Skylos piece. “

He wasn’t drugged or bewitched, and nothing in the pom indicates a zombie-like, mindless state.

He just went along, grudgingly, as desperately commanded by his goddess mother.

Keep in mind the phase of his life. He is not yet the fully-actualized Achilles in *The Iliad* who tells Thetis that he’s embraced his destiny and accepted the fate that comes with it so she must deal with that (and she does, lamenting and begging him to change his mind every step of the way, even trying to sabotage his destiny, until she, too, relents and delivers him his new armor).

It’s clear he’s beginning to rebel.

My poem (Achilles at Skyros, not Skylos—Skylos means dog)-- was actually a spin-off from a much larger treatment of the epic that paid tribute to tradition (particularly Statius’ take on it) and preserved the integrity of the story-line but recognized the absurdity of the situation. I made the most of it by turning it into a scene of comic relief (e.g. when the recruiting embassy arrives, Great Ajax becomes enamored of the anomalous Amazonian and tries to flirt, but shrinks back when the disguised Achilles stares at him minatorily.

Take it up with the mythographers, FJ. No matter what version you subscribe to—whether Achilles was ensconced at Skyros as a boy or a full-grown warrior, all of them have him there as a full-grown, ready warrior when Nestor, Odysseus, Diomedes, and Great Ajax arrive to recruit him.

“But without some "great deception" being used to trick Achilles into not acting consistently with manly courage, I find the Skylos piece un-believable. He would never obey his mother, otherwise.”

I disagree. Again, whatever version of the myth you subscribe to, he was there right before the ships gathered at Aulis.

He was either obeying his mother or enjoyed it of his own choice. You decided.

“And since yours was a re-wroking of Statius, I shouldn't really blame you for the original error, but I will blame you for not correcting it. ;-)”

Fair enough. But you can’t just blame Statius—who’s more credible since the others have him there as a boy who suddenly emerges out of there as a skilled warrior and general, while Statius leaves room for earlier training with Cheiron.

“I also find it disconcerting that you later have Achilles preach ‘temperance’ to Meneleaus regarding the ‘speed’ of the war.”

Why? “Temperance” prolonged the fighting.

“Achilles was a man of bold action, not cautious and ‘deliberate’ restraint.”

Only as occasion or strategy demanded. He was perfectly willing to sit out some of the fiercest fighting, deliberately, and at great self-restraint when he knew his compatriots were getting slaughtered, finally giving in and allowing Patroclus to out in his stead, but in pretension of himself.

“It seems out of character for him to act 'temperately/ wisely' in the manner depicted.”

While he went ravaging the surrounding countryside, raping and pillaging as per the strategy of winning the war?

“And it is also out of character to have him speak of 'slow/controlled financial gain' to Agamemnon (milking the Trojans).”

Why? His character is warfare. He will take the surest course to victory. Are you suggesting that he should be gung-ho like the others, and engage in an act of surefire futility?

Also, to say “And milk from the price for Helen” was just tossing a bone to Menelaus and the others who were there for her while he was there to fight.

It was at the end of his laying out of the strategy, an afterthought.

“That, too, is a trait of womanly temperance.”

Tell that to Nestor ansd the scores of others who advised restraint at this or that juncture of *The Iliad.*

“For 'failed' strategems, Nestor should speak. He would advise things he's seen work successfully in the past... but could not, like Odysseus, devise new ones.”

Understand that I was working within the confines of the sestina. I used what space I had to build on the established—and enduring—characteristics, like Nestor’s story-telling.

“It's brains, not brawn, that's conquered Troy.”

“Odysseus was the brains, and Achilles the brawn.”

Right. Great Ajax was the brawn, too, as were the 100,000 soldiers and 1,000 ships.

In the end, Troy was taken by a trick.

2:25 PM  
Blogger John said...

“If you can divulge to me the "charm" or "drug" that Thetis used to bewitch Achilles into "youthful/womanly temperace" then I would gladfully withdraw most of my objections to the Skylos piece...But without some "great deception" being used to trick Achilles into not acting consistently with manly courage, I find the Skylos piece un-believable. He would never obey his mother, otherwise.”


Again, Statius:

"Mother, I have obeyed thee, though thy commands were hard to bear; too obedient have I been..."

My poem:

"He'd stare forlornly at the loom,
Whose round and spinning wheel invoked a shield.
He wept and sulked and bit his lip in shame...
"I'm wasted, wasted!" he would cry...
Frustration made him dash
The hairpins on the floor and stand. The veil
Of silk fell from his face, as did the maids
Who fell back with a hush from eyes of fire."

FJ, it seems the entire episode
doesn't sit well with you for the reasons you discussed and you reject it outright. I myself had obviously noted the discrepancy in character but rather than rejecting the established tradition--as you appear to have done--I went for reconciliation.

As for him being a modern or ancient hero, it was the ancient authorities who put him in that setting, not me.

And his supplication and "obedience" to Zeus only makes him the kind of "Christian slave" that Nietzche was talking about if you think that theism of any sort is slavishness (as Nietzche thought, if it involved any degree of subservience).

But Achilles' character in *The Iliad* does "submit" to the higher powers, and in fact prays to Zeus.

Nietzche's a genius and makes sound points (and his analyses of tragedy and comedy and the Apollonian/Dionysian conflict is spot on), but the ancient Greeks--and their heroes--were a pious breed who recognized the higher powers and gave the deities their due, something Neitzche likes to ignore or psychoanalyze away, because to him, the highest power was Self.

Also, the episode at Skyros fits the mythical pattern of the hero--and the human being, for that matter-- beginning his life's journey in the sphere of the mother before breaking out into manly adventure, so his "beginning" in a parlor room surrounded by females before raising Hades on the Trojan battlefield in a clash of arms among men is consistent.

5:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

"But be aware, there is a chasm between us. I am sympathetic to the moderns but am essentially, an ancient in outlook. My hero's of WWII will seldom be the 'un-sung' foot soldiers... they will be the 'oft-sung' Pattons and Rommels."

FJ, the subject of my poem was ACHILLES, and his boiling SUPREMACY, not Polythemos the Chariot driver and his blisters.

And how does the poem end?

"For now he knew his gift would be expressed."

And what was his "gift"?

Precisely that which is in accordance with his nature. The conflict ends with that realization (because he was indeed in a setting that was not in accordance with his nature).

"Although your character is 'unhappy,' IMO he is NOT unhappy ENOUGH to rebel!"

Again:

"Frustration made him dash
The hairpins on the floor and stand. The veil
Of silk fell from his face, as did the maids
Who fell back with a hush from eyes of fire."

He STOOD.

"And the LAST thing he would do is content himself with a promise from Zeus that his power might 'eventually' be used..."

Not true. He had it on Zeus' authority that if he sat out the war his honor would be redeemed. So he--THE NATURAL WARRIOR--SAT OUT the war.

"Some translators thought Achilles name meant 'grief'..."

They're wrong, so any argument premising that is whimsical.

"It’s also clear in *The Iliad* that Achilles is a momma’s boy who sits out the fight as ordered by his mother..."

"...and all the time I thought it was because an authoritarian Agamemnon had taken away Briseis (awarded like a good conduct medal)..."

True, it was his own pride, and he prayed to Zeus for a Trojan victory out of spite, but his mother directly interceded on his behalf to Zeus and validated his prayer, and then told him to go ahead and sit it out (for her own ulterior motive of saving him), but this after he meets his mother on the beach and cries to her.

That's right, Achilles was dissed by the other boys and went crying to his mother.

"...in other words, it wasn't his 'mother' that decided when Achilles would or would not fight..."

Well, she took control of the situation.

"..elsewise he's have remained at Skylos."

That's Skyros.

But how did he get there to begin with?

"Part of that nature though is obeying his mother—up to a certain point when that nature finally forces him to say, 'Sorry ma, gotta fight.'”

Nope. That's what 'modern' men do... not ancient and noble men or men of birth 'divine.'

I ask again: How did Achilles end up dressed in drag at Skyros to begin with?

I'm assuming at this point that you reject that entrire episode as "inauthentic" myth.

"They are like stars in their courses, unchanging..."

Again, I was consistent with his passionate character as demonstrated in *The Iliad* but younger and less battle-hardened.

"Do you, or do you NOT believe in gods?"

Just One.

"And if so, 'which' ones in the Greek pantheon are the 'more powerful' (ie - the battle between Athena and Poseidon on the 'west' pediment sculpture of the Parthenon). That's why I label YOUR Achilles a modern... vs. 'Ancient' hero."

I don't understand, but I do know that Athena bested Poseidon in the contest for Athens, and she sends Ares--the god of war--running in a fight.

"You'll have to convince me that Achilles' tragic flaw was 'lust.'"

His death was a set up. He was promised marriage to Princess Polyxena and was fool enough to meet her unarmed and barefoot.

The implication is clear.

"He was a rebel/destroyer of men."

That's right. His "gift."

5:42 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

As for him being a modern or ancient hero, it was the ancient authorities who put him in that setting, not me.

Okay, perhaps again a minor clarification is in order. Homer & Hesiod were "ancients". Aeschylus was an early modern. Sophocles was a "middle" modern. And Euripides was a "late" modern. Aristophanes & Thucydides were full blown "middle" modern. And Plato and Socrates were the beginings of the post-modern. Then the cycle began again with the Romans...once as a Republic (ancient)... and again as an "empire" (modern) and finally as a confederation of Christian empires (post-modern) (with mini-cycles of ancient-modern-post w/i each one of those)...

The wheel of Ixion spins... as there are solar cycles, earthly cycles and lunar cycles within cycles. (Think Milankovitch cycles).

Nietzsche, "Gay Science"

115 - The Four Errors. Man has been reared by his errors: firstly, he saw himself always imperfect; secondly, he attributed to himself imaginary qualities; thirdly, he felt himself in a false position in relation to the animals and nature; fourthly, he always devised new tables of values, and accepted them for a time as eternal and unconditioned, so that at one time this, and at another time that human impulse or state stood first, and was ennobled in consequence. When one has deducted the effect of these four errors, one has also deducted humanity, humaneness, and "human dignity."

6:19 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

Orpheus (you) may be able to stop Ixion's wheel from spinning temporarily... but you cannot reverse the direction of it's spin...(Plato, "Sophist").

6:23 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

Momentum always carries you in the same direction of precession. ;-)

6:27 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

...at least when speaking in terms of a "moral" progression.

6:32 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

...and their corresponding "civilizational" ones.

6:34 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

Your Achilles is behaving not like a "star", but more like a "planet". He can change directions. Stars cannot.

I know... as Emerson said, "a foolish consistency is the humbug of a small mind". The ancients were a bit "small minded". That's what made them GREAT (and tragic)! ;-)

6:38 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

In other words, Statius wrote in the "Silver" Age of latin literature... not the "Golden".

9:42 AM  
Blogger John said...

"Momentum always carries you in the same direction of precession."

That's funny. My fraternity nickname at the university was "Gyro."

"In other words, Statius wrote in the 'Silver' Age of latin literature... not the 'Golden.'"

FJ, upon review, I must concede that you are correct. I thought that the episode at Skyros was part of the Epic Cycle (contemporary with Homer) but my memory morphed it with later, Roman Period versions (including Statius') which authorities have dismissed as fanciful. In Book IX 438-441 of *The Iliad,* Homer himself--through Phoenix-- has Achilles going straight from Phthia to Troy.

Be that as it may, I did what I could with the variant.

Thank you for the brush up.

5:42 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

I should be the one thanking you. You forced me to learn quite a bit about the nature of masculinity by discussing Achilles.

And you are an extremely gifted poet and writer. I hope you keep it up and continue to write. I'd love to see more of your work. And I'll only "pick" at the "nits" if you ask me to, I promise. ;-)

5:48 AM  
Blogger John said...

Thank you FJ. That means a lot to me.

8:11 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

I have been 'listening in' on this conversation. Though I am not as educated on this subject as the two of you, I have found it rather interesting to read.

This all reminds me of a discussion I had with a friend about the hero's journey (as is outlined in Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey). Campbell asserts that all myths had the same journey more or less.


"The Hero's Journey has 12 stages. They are:

1.Ordinary World - The hero's normal world before the story begins

2.Call to Adventure - The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure

3.Refusal of the Call - The hero refuses the challenge or journey, usually because he's scared

4. Meeting with the Mentor - The hero meets a mentor to gain advice or training for the adventure

5. Crossing the First Threshold - The hero crosses leaves the ordinary world and goes into the special world

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - The hero faces tests, meets allies, confronts enemies & learn the rules of the Special World.

7. Approach - The hero has hit setbacks during tests & may need to try a new idea

8. Ordeal - The biggest life or death crisis
9. Reward - The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear and now earns the reward

10. The Road Back - The hero must return to the Ordinary World.

11. Resurrection Hero - another test where the hero faces death – he has to use everything he's learned

12. Return with Elixir - The hero returns from the journey with the “elixir”, and uses it to help everyone in the Ordinary World
"



I have been reading The Hobbit to my kids each night. I find it interesting that Bilbo Baggins goes through much the same process as he comes to become the "hero", so to speak.

8:37 AM  
Blogger John said...

Right, and Achilles' at Skyros represents "1.Ordinary World - The hero's normal world before the story begins," not that dressed as girl among other girls is "normal" for Achilles, but that the feminine environment--under the auspices of his mother--is consistent with the first phase of the hero's journey (life begins with the mother).

That Achilles is still there right before going to Troy however is, as FJ insisted, inconsistent with his Heraclean character (Heracles--while still in diapers--killed two serpents with his bare hands).

Still, I felt I had to acknowledge that episode and saw in it an opportunity to present the stabled youngster as a colt chomping at the bit for the very sake of the consistency in character that FJ lamented.

9:15 AM  
Blogger Alice Gorable said...

Have you ever seen Mrs Doubtfire, john? It's quite a comedy!

5:47 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

How about "Tootsie"? ;-)

5:49 PM  
Blogger berty said...

Some Like it Hot?

5:54 PM  
Blogger John said...

All three. *Some Like It Hot* is my favorite (and check out Jack Lemmon in *The Out Of Towners* and *The Odd Couple*).

Let's not forget Alfalfa and Spanky in *The Little Rascals* episode when they dressed up as ballerinas to escape the wrath of the bullies Butch and Woim.

As I mentioned to you above, FJ, the Skyros poem was actually a spin-off from a screenplay of *The Ilad* that I wrote in the mid-nineties and in which I recognized the comic treatment of such traditionally absurd situations and made the most of it for comic relief (I demythologized the story and turned the goddess Thetis into a noblewoman):

INT. LEISURE ROOM OF SUMMERHOME

An aging KING LYCOMEDES is seen slumping in chair as CONCUBINES massage his neck and feet. Room is full of SERVANT GIRLS and DAUGHTERS frolicking in small POOL at center of room, playing games or tutored on musical instruments by effete EUNUCHS. Thetis approaches Lycomedes. Flute and lyres abruptly STOP PLAYING.

THETIS
Lycomedes.

Lycomedes sees her, struggles to compose himself, and stands, embarrassed.


LYCOMEDES
Ah, Most Great and Glorious Thetis!

He stumbles over and kisses her hand. Thetis is a tall, intimidating woman, a powerful aristocrat, with auburn-colored hair and wearing a lavish sea-green robe and pearls.

THETIS
I am here for my son, Achilles. How is he? Is he behaving himself as befits the prince of Phthia?

Lycomes glances around the room nervously. We see one of his daughters, an attractive red-head, who is clearly pregnant. She meets her father's eyes then drops her own, abashed.

Lycomedes glances at Thetis, embarrassed. Thetis impatiently turns from Lycomedes and walks away. Lycomedes starts and then follows her out to

CORRIDOR

THETIS
Agamemnon has declared war against the Trojans. They will no doubt seek out my son to lead the Myrmidons.

LYCOMEDES
Highness! Then his destiny has arrived! The oracle said...

THETIS
The oracle said that were he to go to war, he would be the best, and shine among men, and they would sing of his glory for posterity. But he would die young, and far from his home. Were he to stay, his life would be inglorious among men, but long. A mother chooses
what is best for her child, and I for one choose an inglorious life over a glorified death.

LYCOMEDES
You will find him in his room, Greatness.

Thetis turns away and heads for room, while Lycomedes blinks after her. In corridor, Thetis pauses before a door and glances in the room. She finds it empty, and then hears a GIRL'S GIGGLE echoing down hallway, then a MOAN.

THETIS
Achilles? Achilles?

SOUNDS of BUSTLING are heard. Thetis walks briskly towards another doorway. Before she reaches it, a nude GIRL leaps out and scurries down hall, disappearing around corner. Thetis purses her lips after girl, and, frowning, walks into

GIRL'S BEDCHAMBER

where we see a mosaic floor strewn with garments creating a trail which leads to the girl's bed. Achilles is shown laying supine on it, with lavender blanket pulled up to his chin. He has long copper hair and ice-blue eyes.

ACHILLES
(blinking innocently)
Hello, mother.

THETIS
Some men will be here looking for you. You are not to go with them.

Thetis bends down behind bed and comes up with the girl's long gown. She holds it out before her, and then tosses it to Achilles.

Gown covers Achilles' face where it falls. He uncovers his head.

THETIS
Wear that. And wear your hair and paint your face like a girl's.

ACHILLES
(self-righteously)
But...but that would be dishonorable!

THETIS
(desperate, fearing for her son's life)
To disobey your mother is dishonorable! You will obey me!

Achilles is befuddled by moral conundrum (not for the last time). He looks at gown and then his mother once more.

EXT. SUMMERHOME AT SCYROS--DAY

An ACHAEAN WARSHIP is seen moored next to Thetis' barge. Nestor, Diomedes, Odysseus, and Great Ajax are seen, in armor, walking up to summerhome from dock. Two soldiers follow, each carrying a large basket.

INT. CHAMBER ON SECOND FLOOR OF SUMMERHOME--SAME DAY

Thetis slowly approaches window and spies below. She sees Achaeans approaching threshold below her.

INT. SUMMERHOME--SAME DAY

Lycomedes and Achaeans carrying baskets are walking down corridor. Coy girls pass by them and GIGGLE.

LYCOMEDES
The land is like a hive abuzz with the preparation for war.

NESTOR
Aye. For robber flies have stolen our honey.

DIOMEDES
The day draws near, Lycomedes, when the beloved sons of Achaea will uphold the honor of the land with their own life's blood.

GREAT AJAX
Like stinging bees! And what better honor is there than
to die in battle for one's country?

LYCOMEDES
Yes. But I'm slightly confused. Why are you here, at a summer retreat for princesses?

ODYSSEUS
(impatiently)
Where's Achilles, the son of Peleus?

LYCOMEDES
Achilles? Are you jesting? There are no men here. I told you, this is a summer retreat. My daughters and their servants are cloistered here.

They reach leisure room. Lycomedes steps aside and presents leisure room to men. Armored men at entry cause girls to panic and SQUEAL, splashing out of pool and gathering together at one side of room. A huge girl walks over to join the others, grudgingly, her copper-colored hair wrapped in a bun. The others embrace her or crowd behind her for protection.

GREAT AJAX
Ah! Lycomedes! Who's the shy one? Such a strong girl! And durable! What's her name? Come now, Lycomedes, out with it!

LYCOMEDES
Her name? Her name is...Pyrrha.

ODYSSEUS
We've brought gifts for your daughters, Lycomedes, as is proper. May we?

LYCOMEDES
What? Oh! Oh, by all means!

Odysseus nods at soldiers and they march into leisure room carrying baskets. They place the baskets on table and remove covers.

Great Ajax is puckering his lips, grinning, and nodding encouragingly at Pyrrha. She stares back at him with merciless, ice-blue eyes. Great Ajax's smile quivers, then falls away.

Maidens glance into first basket, pass it, and then surround the other with SQUEALS of delight as they pull out long NECKLACES and other TRINKETS. First basket sits unattended.

Odysseus, who is very watchful, indicates Pyrrha to Nestor with a cock of his chin.

Pyrrha glances askancely into unattended basket, and then pauses before it. She slowly reaches into it and withdraws a beautiful SWORD. She admires the sword, grips it tightly, steps into exotic fighting stances, twirls and spins sword skillfully about and then thrusts it out with a WAR-CRY as other girls SCREAM and run for cover.

Nestor raises his eyebrows with the revelation, and Odysseus grins.

INT. CHAMBER ON SECOND FLOOR OF SUMMERHOME--AFTERNOON

Thetis is at window again watching below. She is hugging something wrapped in a blanket. She sees Achaeans walking back towards ship. Achilles comes up behind her. He places his hand on her shoulder.

ACHILLES
Mother.

Thetis rests her cheek on his hand as tears stream from her eyes.

THETIS
You will be glorious, my son. But you won't return to me.

ACHILLES
Mother. For as long as I can remember, I've felt a fire inside that burns, and burns *hot.*

THETIS
It is a fire kindled by the gods, branding your fate.

ACHILLES
I must do battle, mother! That is all I know.

Thetis unwraps the bulk she is holding. We see an old, scarred bronze breastplate. She presents it to Achilles.

ACHILLES
My father's breastplate.

Thetis helps him put it on. That done, she looks at him:

THETIS
Go.

Achilles steps back; and then turns and strides purposefully out of chamber. Thetis turns to look sadly out window. She soon sees Achilles dashing off of threshold below and running towards ship. She is heartbroken, but proud, looking after son who she knows is doomed to die young, but will be preeminent among men.

12:10 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

That was MOST EXCELLENT!, dude!

You rock!

4:10 PM  
Blogger John said...

Thanks, FJ...I think.

9:54 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

I think it's great, provided Thetis isn't a mortal. Because only a mortal would dress in drag because his mother "told him too". Hoffman, Williams, Curtis, Spanky, et al, all had good "reasons" for dressing up in drag.

Take it from an experienced cross-dresser... no one does it to please him mommy. There are too many potential complications. ;-)

11:07 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

erratum- "provided Thetis is portrayed AS a mortal"...

11:09 AM  
Blogger Alice Gorable said...

That's telling him, JSG!

11:10 AM  
Blogger berty said...

Best we Am-Scre now, Alice!

Bye-Bye, big boy! ;+

11:12 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

No, but seriously, the writing is EXTREMELY good. It's just that even an entirely 'mortal' Achilles would require a "self-serving" reason to cross-dress. Achilles WANTED to go to Ilium, he would literally "die" for the opportunity.

So tell me again why he's listening to his mother and trying to "avoid" going there?

11:59 AM  
Blogger John said...

"Best we Am-Scre now, Alice!

Bye-Bye, big boy! ;+"

Omen-We.

JSG, I did what I could with the material without compromising their integrity (although I would reconsider now knowing that the Skyros episode is a later variant and not part of the authoritative epic cycle).

The behavior I presented does not indicate an Achilles "avoiding" the war. When he gets the green light, he runs to it.

*The Iliad* indicates a close relationship with his mother. She intervenes on his behalf and goes right to the top to Zeus to get him preferential treatment.

Premising the episode at Skyros as authentic (vis-a-vis the Epic Cycle), the only way I could reconcile the warrior with the hiding transvestite is if I emphasized Thetis' desperate, protective authority over the still-green prince and ordered him to do it, and him following her orders dutifully but grudgingly, which provided comic opportunities in the process.

I can assure you that he lives up to your expectations in the second act.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

I think you've captured it with that one thought... "comic opportunities".

In the golden age, heroes were tragic and the "common folk" were comic. Heroes were never "comic".

As Aristophanes would say... "Wasps"

Come, I must explain the matter to the spectators. But first a few words of preamble: expect nothing very high-flown from us, nor any jests stolen from Megara; we have no slaves, who throw baskets of nuts to the spectators, nor any Heracles to be robbed of his dinner, nor does Euripides get loaded with contumely; and despite the happy chance that gave Cleon his fame we shall not go out of our way to belabour him again, Our little subject is not wanting in sense; it is well within your capacity and at the same time cleverer than many vulgar comedies

6:58 AM  
Blogger John said...

Well, I wasn't writing some piece in strict imitation of heroic Golden Age themes and style, but a screenplay for a modern audience.

I was not "selling out," though. I want to present the rich body of the classical Trojan corpus to a population that is largely ignorant of it in a way that is both entertaining to modern (or post-modern) sensibilities WHILE preserving the integrity and feel of the epic (something the last *Troy* movie failed to do).

Again, I assure you that the Achilles you know and love is fully actualized in the second act.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

I've no doubt, Republicus.

Like I've said before, I AM sympathetic to the moderns. It's just unfortunate that moderns must do EVERYTHING in their power to take down the ancient/classic hero a peg or two just so that they can retain the appearance of wielding political power... and that they can only tolerate that "moderns" themselves be portrayed "heroically" in our vulgarized culture... a "Private Ryan" type (who's type is actually fading in favor in post-modern criminal culture). That's why there are no "popular" Republican leaders today. Every flaw is magnified beyond reasonable proportion so that even a convicted thief (or an Al Sharpton) and murderer eventually looks more "authentic" and to be preferred in a comparison of character (is GW Bush really that bad a leader?). Moderns require that heroes to be humble and self-depracating, "average Joes" (the opposite of Shakespeare's Coriolanus.

Modern day heroes must flatter us and try and make us believe that we are like them and they are "one of us" and that "us average Joes" are each capable of rising to the great occassion (having had no preparation for doing so) and overcome innumerable overwhelming obstacles. Under no circumstances should a modern hero ever exhibit pride or are they to be lauded for their accomplishments. Like Coriolanus, they must grovel before us in their "humble weeds" baring the wounds they received in battle for us and begging for our votes, only to be betrayed and spurned in favor of some vulgar "nut & date tosser" like Obama.

Our heroes must also go "un-named" less they shame us into setting a higher standard for ourselves. The firefighters and policemen of 9/11. The soldiers killed in Iraq (and NOT those who win the CMH killing our enemies, for Audie Murphy is reviled in post-modern circles)... as the "victim" has become hero (ie - "The Color Purple").

I'm sorry for the rant. But unlike Zarathustra, I still suffer occassionally from my "last sin" and long for communion with "higher men"...

Nietzsche, "Zarathustra"

-Unto your distress did he want to seduce and tempt me: 'O Zarathustra,' said he to me, 'I come to seduce thee to thy last sin.'
To my last sin?" cried Zarathustra, and laughed angrily at his own words: "what hath been reserved for me as my last sin?"
-And once more Zarathustra became absorbed in himself, and sat down again on the big stone and meditated. Suddenly he sprang up,-
"Fellow-suffering! Fellow-suffering with the higher men!" he cried out, and his countenance changed into brass. "Well! That- hath had its time!
My suffering and my fellow-suffering- what matter about them! Do I then strive after happiness? I strive after my work!
Well! The lion hath come, my children are nigh, Zarathustra hath grown ripe, mine hour hath come:-
This is my morning, my day beginneth: arise now, arise, thou great noontide!"- -

Thus spake Zarathustra and left his cave, glowing and strong, like a morning sun coming out of gloomy mountains.


And so I will never write on/for Grub Street. And believe this or not, but the great books that survive the Ages to this day were not written for it either.

5:07 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

;-)

5:14 AM  
Blogger Just Some Guy said...

And please don't think I'm still criticizing the Skyros piece. I just think that perhaps in future you might consider writing with an eye towards satisfying YOUR own sensibilities, instead of those of the many Laputan hack writers (including myself) who surround you.

5:31 AM  
Blogger Kelly said...

John, I quite agree with what FJ (JSG) said.

8:27 AM  

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