Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Agamemnon Must Die

My current writing projects include Agamemnon Must Die. This is my attempt to satisfy myself about Aeschylus' Oresteia. It includes my first attempts to compose and use poetry in a novel. As I thought about it, there were times when it seemed appropriate--the Greek choruses, the paranormal utterances or dreams, etc.

(This image was discovered by Heinrich Schliemann in Mycenae in 1876. He was a man with few doubts, having "discovered Troy" a decade earlier. The mask is now dated to the 16th century B.C. and more commonly called The Mask of Atreus, a reference to Agamemnon's father. It is on display as the Mask of Agamemnon at the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. )

I have attempted a form of hexameter, in imitation of Homer. But Greek meters are very different from English; they depend on vowel length as opposed to "stress" in English. I hope for comments on how to improve on these. They have been posted, along with several chapters from the project on This link is to the chapter from which the following is excerpted.  Small differences show the restless reworkings indulged in by an author.

What insanity drove the Greeks to sail against
Troy? A thousand ships and a hundred thousand men!
Half the principalities sent their best warriors,
Leaving enough to man their walls, and those too old
Or too young for the expedition. Fewer than half,
A quarter or a tenth would return years later.
The others had listened to Atreus’ sons, Agamemnon
And Menelaus, pleading for support to punish the violation
Of the law of hospitality—the abduction of
His wife Helen by the Trojans! Having listened,
They firmly declined. Truth be told, they were wise.
Troy was a storied legend of wealth and power. No Greek
Had ever measured strength against Priam’s walls,
Or even braved the blue-green seas to assess the dangers
They would face. Brilliant Achilles agreed to go;
He sought his own glory for it had been foretold
That he alone could vanquish Hector, the doughty defender;
He scorned the oracle that tied his fate to this matchless deed.
He would not live long beyond this glorious moment,
Perfidious Paris, a mere archer, would fell this hero.

Insanity, the Judgment of Paris they called it, a divine jest
Was perhaps intended, but it brought tragedy:
Three goddesses who should have known better, vied
For the golden apple inscribed “To the most fair.”
And Paris the clueless presumed he could decide among
Goddesses which one should win this worthless prize.
So he chose Aphrodite who promised the fairest woman—
Helen, Menelaus’ wife—spurning wisdom and domestic
Bliss as promised by Athena and Hera respectively,
As bribes! Thus was set in motion events that would bring
Shame and pain, all the worst in gods and men.
The earth was young, gods and men still consorted;
Helen herself was said to have been sired by Zeus.
Who, insatiable, lusted also for Thetis, spirited
Goddess of the sea, beloved of Hephaestus
God of craft. But an oracle warned that any male offspring
Born to Thetis would eclipse his father. So Zeus
Chose brave but mortal Peleus whose son by Thetis, Achilles,
By brilliant and heroic deeds would slay Hector and rip out
The heart of Troy’s resistance and defense.
But to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis, Zeus decreed
That Eris, goddess of discord and strife not be invited.

The “Judgment of Paris” would cause the Greeks much hurt.
It also broke the heart of the wood nymph whom Paris had
Seduced. She had tripped gaily through the woods
On Mount Ida when a Trojan hunting party
Led by Paris wandered, lost and confused by the
Trails cleverly fashioned by elves and nymphs in mischief
Within the forest. Mother Ida’s child was o’erwhelmed
By the beauty of the Trojan prince and allowed
Him to catch a glimpse of her. He loved her then
And came often to the sloped woods, until
Those three goddesses came shamelessly to seek his “Judgement.”
Olympians though they were, they could not escape the malice
Of Eris, provoked by exclusion from the wedding. Forlorn
And joylessly did the wood nymph wander around the valleys
Near Troy. What of Menelaus, brave, prudent and loyal?
He was left to bay like a young wolf wounded and lost,
Straining with every atom of his being and energy to find
The world he lost—Argos, Agamemnon and Helen.
Did all-seeing Zeus or far-seeing immortal Apollo,
His son, think they could out-wit Eris by dismissing her?
Big mistake, to belittle the goddess. The gods were foolish,
The goddesses no less, Eris alone did not
Deserve the blame. Agamemnon too, with his
Compliant brother, might have stepped back from war.

Yet he slew his own daughter, first-born Iphigenia. 

The whole poem may be seen at this link.

Book Reading - Six Stories

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