Tag Archives: Homer

“Sirens”

You quickly cross that peril off the list
Because the danger, you assume, has passed,
But other sets of Sirens still exist
And might enchant you when no ropes or mast
Or loyal friends with wax to stop their ears
Restrain your mad, unquenchable desire
To touch the blazing sun that sears
Without enduring its consuming fire.

It’s easy to resist when you’re in chains
And friendly prison guards can’t hear your voice,
But one who’s absolutely free refrains
When fatal pleasure has become a choice.
Until you’ve walked by foes without your crutch,
Surviving battles doesn’t mean that much.

a sonnet by Paul Burgess

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”

 

[Polyphemus, painted by Jean-Leon Gerome]

“The Rage of Odysseus and the Cyclops”
Escaping near disaster made me bold.
Against the pleas companions wisely spoke,
I would not cease to taunt a wounded foe—
To make him feel again the blow
That rendered sightless that unsightly eye—
An eye that saw a meal, and little more,
Where gentler eyes would see a man in need.

The crash of boulders and resulting waves
Alarmed the crew, but rage was further fueled,
Not quenched, by drenching rains of salty sea—
The fire inside my spirit roared with flames
That strove to match the waves in height.
I thought I’d shout the fire ‘til none remained.

Despite increasing vehemence and force,
The hills he hurled and fiery words I shot
Became more futile as our distance grew.
Although I was exhausted, flames still burned.

Enraged about the men he had devoured,
I had endangered friends who were alive.
The smoke I blew had made me nearly blind,
And boulders hurled did not restore his sight.

a poem in blank verse–by Paul Burgess

Certain scenes from Homer continue to inspire me. This is the third poem I have written on this scene. The other two are here: https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/06/09/cyclops/   https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-blinding-of-the-cyclops-polyphemus/[As with everything I post, this is a first draft.]

“Cyclops”

“Cyclops (Blinded by Odysseus)”
[A monologue in blank verse by Paul Burgess]

[painting: Polyphemus, Johan Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein]

…More like a twig or crunchy bread than bone—

Reducing them to mush, I didn’t strain

My jaws on brittle bones as slight as theirs.

One man provided meat too scarce to hush

The growling beast inside my angry gut.

Who would expect the hero Ulysses—

Of prophecies divining tragedy—

To be the head of men a mouthful’s size?

Though blind, there’s something that I clearly see:

The cause of drastic effects might be small.

[A second attempt to explore the scene also examined in this poem:

https://paulwhitberg.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-blinding-of-the-cyclops-polyphemus/

At some point, I will likely try again to bring out the possible layers of interpretation contained in this classic scene from Homer.

“An Offer of Immortality”

A brief dialogue between a poet and his love–by Paul Burgess [In response to Shakespeare, “Sonnet 18”]*

“My dear, immortal’s what you’d surely be—
Preserved forever through these lines of verse.”

“To share Criseyde or Helen’s infamy?
What poets know as ‘fame’, I’d call a curse.”

*from Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18”

…in eternal lines to time thou grow’st:
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.

“The Blinding of the Cyclops Polyphemus”

Modern Heroic Couplets by Paul Burgess–inspired by a scene in Homer [Book 9 of The Odyssey; one might view these lines as a compressed adaptation and modernization of a much longer passage.]

While clutching at his mutilated eye,
To Ulysses, the Cyclops gave reply:
“An oracle, whose words I could recite,
Predicted that the man who’d take my sight
Would be the famous hero Ulysses.
From mini morsels, shorter than my knees,
I had no fear of death or even harm—
A shadow might have caused me more alarm!
Assuming only force could make me blind,
I was not ready for a deadly mind.

 

–Anyone interested in Homer, Classical Poetry, or Early Modern English Literature* should check out George Chapman’s brilliant translations of The Iliad and The Odyssey. The following link leads to information on an inexpensive edition of the translation so famously praised by Keats: http://www.amazon.com/Chapmans-Homer-Odyssey-Classics-Literature/dp/1840221178/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1401367076&sr=1-3&keywords=wordsworth+classics+chapman%27s+homer

*from the Elizabethan and Jacobean periods in which Shakespeare was one among several brilliant minds

“Sirens” [Morals from Mythology, or Practical Advice from the Classics] by Paul Burgess

“Sirens” [Morals from Mythology, or Practical Advice from the Classics] by Paul Burgess

To safely hear the song that Sirens sing,
You must become a legendary king.

“Achilles in the Underworld” [adapting some lines from Homer]

“Achilles in the Underworld—A Modernization of Some Lines from Achilles (in the Odyssey) [Book 11 642-45]

I’d rather have a humbler life on Earth
As one who serves someone of nobler birth
Or labors hard to earn his daily bread
Than reign as first in fame among the dead.