Sunday, February 03, 2008

Another Classical poem

It is an occasional Sunday 'tradition' of mine to share a favourite poem of mine with you.... and I am particularly pleased today to have discovered this previously unknown-to-me piece by my great favourite, Robert Graves. I mentioned a few weeks back that, as a Classicist, I have always been a cherisher and collector of poems and stories with a Classical theme - I can't think how I can have overlooked this one for so long!


To the much-tossed Ulysses, never done
With woman whether gowned as wife or whore,
Penelope and Circe seemed as one:
She like a whore made his lewd fancies run,
And wifely she a hero to him bore.

Their counter-changings terrified his way:
They were the clashing rocks, Symplegades,
Scylla and Charybdis too were they;
Now they were storms frosting the sea with spray
And now the lotus island's drunken ease.

They multiplied into the Sirens' throng,
Forewarned by fear of whom he stood bound fast
Hand and foot helpless to the vessel's mast,
Yet would not stop his ears: daring their song
He groaned and sweated till that shore was past.

One, two and many: flesh had made him blind,
Flesh had one pleasure only in the act,
Flesh set one purpose only in the mind -
Triumph of flesh and afterwards to find
Still those same terrors wherewith flesh was racked.

His wiles were witty and his fame far known,
Every king's daughter sought him for her own,
Yet he was nothing to be won or lost.
All lands for him were Ithaca: love-tossed
He loathed the fraud, yet would not bed alone.

Robert Graves (1895-1985)

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