Monday, August 30, 2010

Inspirational Homeric Gore

I've recently finished Robert Fagle's English translation of Homer's Odyssey. It's not the chanted, sung, dactylic hexameter of ancient Greek, but it's pretty kick ass nevertheless.

If you're not up for reading this whole epic, then I don't know, read the Spark Notes or something, and then flip to book 22, which is where Odysseus reveals his identity and slays the suitors in his own hall. It might be my new pre-race ritual.

Some archery action :

But Odysseus aimed and shot Antinous square in the throat
and the point went stabbing clean through the soft neck and out --
and off to the side he pitched, the cup dropped from his grasp
as the shaft sank home, and the man’s life-blood came spurting
from his nostrils--
thick red jets---
a sudden thrust of his foot --
he kicked away the table--
food showered across the floor,
the bread and meats soaked in a swirl of bloody filth.

and again:

he [a suitor] drew his two-edged sword, bronze, honed for the kill
and hurled himself at the king with a raw savage cry
in the same breath that Odysseus loosed an arrow
ripping his breast beside the nipple so hard
it lodged in the man’s liver --
out of his grasp the sword dropped to the ground --
over his table, head over heels he tumbled, doubled up,
flinging his food and his two-handled cup across the floor--
he smashed the ground with his forehead, writhing in pain,
both feet flailing out, and his high seat tottered--
the mist of death came swirling down his eyes.

Now, onto the larger projectiles, and a groin-shot bonus:

as Odysseus, fighting at close quarters, ran Agelaus
through with a long lance--Telemachus speared Leocritus
so deep in the groin the bronze came bunching out his back
and the man crashed headfirst, slamming the ground full-face.

Avian metaphors laced with some graphic ultraviolence:

The attackers struck like eagles, crook-clawed, hook-beaked,
swooping down from a mountain ridge to harry smaller birds
that skim across the flatland, cringing under the clouds
but the eagles plunge in fury, rip their lives out--hopeless,
never a chance of flight or rescue--and people love the sport--
so the attackers routed suitors headlong down the hall,
wheeling into the slaughter, slashing left and right
and grisly screams broke from skulls cracked open--
the whole floor awash with blood.

Odysseus doesn't spare holy men. After Leodes begs for his life...

And snatching up in one powerful hand a sword
left on the ground--Agelaus dropped it when he fell--
Odysseus hacked the prophet square across the neck
and the praying head went tumbling in the dust.

A man in full:

She [the nurse] found Odysseus in the thick of slaughtered corpses,
splattered with bloody filth like a lion that’s devoured
some ox of the field and lopes home, covered with blood
his chest streaked, both jaws glistening, dripping red--
a sight to strike terror. So Odysseus looked now,
splattered with gore, his thighs, his fighting hands,
and she, when she saw the corpses, all the pooling blood,
was about to lift a cry of triumph--here was a great exploit...

Then, as if the violence meter hadn't already been shattered, Homer cranks it up beyond Mel Gibson levels. After separating out the dozen or so of his women servants who were "unfaithful" while he was gone,

Odysseus called Telemachus over, both herdsmen too,
with strict commands: “Start clearing away the bodies.
Make the women pitch in too. Chairs and tables--
scrub them down with sponges, rinse them clean.
And once you’ve put the entire house in order,
march the women out of the great hall--between
the roundhouse and the courtyard’s strong stockade--
and hack them with your swords, slash out all their lives--
blot out their minds the joys of love they relished
under the suitors’ bodies, rutting on the sly!”

The women are hanged by a cable used on a "dark-prowed ship". Gulp!

Then, as doves or thrushes beating their spread wings
against some snare rigged up in thickets--flying in
for a cozy nest but a grisly bed receives them--
so the women’s heads were trapped in a line,
nooses yanking their necks up, one by one
so all might die a pitiful, ghastly death...
they kicked up heels for a little--not for long.

Really really not cool, man.


Jim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim said...

Yeah, that's pretty cool.

But keep in mind it's the ~1200 BC Greek ass version of a redneck coming home and catching the mailman trying to bed his wife, and committing a shotgun murder on the mailman.

Get a decent poet to write about it, it sounds *EPIC*. Johnny Cash sang some decent songs about this, as did a few other country stars. Have JayZ sing it and talk about puttin' a cap in he ass, and it'd win an emmy.

But you do the same thing in Charles County, and it gets written up in the Metro section, and you and I would turn our noses up at it.

Consider the possibility that "Homer" wasn't his proper name, but the root noun of Homeslice, Homeboy, or Homedog.