Oh Camilla we love you get up

Book XI of the Aeneid features what was, for me, a surprise guest appearance by a warrior woman named Camilla. When she was an infant, her father tied her to a spear and threw her across the river to safety, to prevent her falling into the hands of his pursuers. Craziest. +++ Eunaeus, Clytius’s son, Came first: he faced her with unarmored breast, And with her shaft of pine she ran him through. He tumbled, coughing streams of blood, took bitesOf bloody earth, and dying writhed on his wound. … Then running as Orsilochus gave chaseIn a wide circuit, tricking…

from the Aeneid

+++ Volcen’s blade, thrust hard, passed through the ribsAnd breached the snow-white chest. EuryalusIn death went reeling down, And blood streamed on his handsome length, his neck Collapsing let his head fall on his shoulder — As a bright flower cut by a passing plowWill droop and wither slowly, or poppyBow its head upon its tired stalk When overborne by a passing rain. – Book 9, lines 430 – 37 +++ Rutulian prince and captains of Ausonia Marvelled first at all this, till they turnedAnd saw the sterns already nearing shore, The whole sea moving landward with the ships. Aeneas’…

That has no place in the years

+++ When You Go Away by W. S. Merwin for Dido When you go away the wind clicks around to the northThe painters work all day but at sundown the paint fallsShowing the black wallsThe clock goes back to striking the same hourThat has no place in the years And at night wrapped in the bed of ashesIn one breath I wakeIt is the time when the beards of the dead get their growthI remember that I am fallingThat I am the reasonAnd that my words are the garment of what I shall never beLike the tucked sleeve of a…

Whatever lands may call me

Passages from Virgil’s Aeneid, books 1 – 6, as translated by Robert Fitzgerald. +++ So long as brooks flow seaward, and the shadowsPlay over mountain slopes, and highest heavenFeeds the stars, your named and your distinctionGo with me, whatever lands may call me. -Book 1, line 600 +++ Chanting her spells she undertakes to freeWhat hearts she wills, but to inflict on othersDuress of sad desires; to arrestThe flow of rivers, make the stars move backward,Call up the spirits of deep Night. You’ll seeEarth shift and rumble underfoot and ash treesWalk down mountainsides. -Book 4, line 485 +++ as many…

Simone Weil on the Iliad, or ‘the poem of Force’

“Once the experience of war makes visible the possibility of death that lies locked up in each moment, our thoughts cannot travel from one day to the next without meeting death’s face. The mind is then strung up to a pitch it can stand for only a short time; but each new dawn reintroduces the same necessity; and days piled on days make years.” -Simone Weil, “The Iliad, or the Poem of Force,” 1940. As translated by Mary McArthy, 1945.

As though forever

+++ At this moment that unmanning thunder cloud,the aegis, Athena’s shieldtook form aloft in the great hall. And the suitors mad with fearat her great sign stampeded like stung cattle by a riverwhen the dread shimmering gadfly strikes in summer,in the flowering season, in the long-drawn days.After them the attackers wheeled, terrible as falconsfrom eyries in the mountains veering over and diving downwith talons wide unsheathed on flights of birds,who cower down the sky in chutes and bursts along the valley —but the pouncing falcons grip their prey, no frantic wing avails,and farmers love to watch those beaked hunters.So these…

I don’t suppose you walked here on the sea.

+++ No other Odysseus will ever come,for he and I are one, the same; his bitterfortune and his wanderings are mine.Twenty years gone, and I am back againon my own island. +++ Of mortal creatures, all that breathe and move,earth bears none frailer than mankind…Our minds are as the days are, dark or bright,blown over by the father of gods and men. — Book 18, 160 +++ As translated by Roger Fitzgerald. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, New York: 1998.

The Odyssey

+++ What shall Isay first? What shall I keep until the end?The gods have tried me in a thousand ways.But first my name: let that be known to you,and if I pull away from pitiless death,friendship will bind us, though my lands lie far.I am Laertes son, Odysseus. – Book 9, ‘New Coasts and Poseidon’s Son’ lines 15-20. … in one stride he clutched at my companionsand caught two in his hands like squirming puppiesto beat their brains out, spattering the floor. -315 – 320 … Should destinyintend that he shall see his roof againamong his family in his father…

The Odyssey is the weirdest

“He made his way to a grove above the wateron open ground, and crept under twin bushesgrown from the same spot — olive and wild olive —a thicket proof against the stinging windor Sun’s blaze; fine soever the needling sunlight;nor could a downpour wet it through, so densethose plants were interwoven. Here Odysseustunneled, and raked together with his handsa wide bed — for a fall of leaves was there,enough to save two men or maybe threeon a winter night, a night of bitter cold.Odysseus’ heart laughed when he saw his leaf-bed,and down he lay, heaping more leaves above him. A…

The Iliad, books 18 – 24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ Imagine how the pyre of a burning townwill tower to heaven and be seen for milesfrom the island under attack, while all day longoutside their town, in brutal combat, pikemensuffer the wargod’s winnowing; at sundownflare on flare is lit, the signal firesshoot up for other islanders to see,that some relieving force in ships may come:just so the baleful radiance from Akhilleuslit the sky. – Book 18, The Immortal Shield, lines 240 – 255 +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ You see, don’t you, how largeI am, how well-made? My father is noble,a goddess bore me. Yet death waits for me,for me as well, in…

The Iliad, books 1 – 17

+++ “The cry went out, the men came crowding, officers from their commander’s side went swiftly down to form each unit — and the grey-eyed goddess Athena kept the pace behind them, bearing her shield of storm, immortal and august, whose hundred golden-plaited tassels, worth a hecatomb each one, floated in air. So down the ranks that dazzling goddess went to stir the attack, and each man in his heart grew strong to fight and never quit the melee, for at her passage war itself became lovelier than return, lovelier than sailing in the decked ships to their own native…

The Razor’s Edge

+++ Favorite moments from The Razor’s Edge by W. Somerset Maugham. It’s Tender is the Night with a heart of gold. Such a dream to read. +++ “You make me tired. D’you think I sacrificed myself to let Larry fall into the hands of a raging nymphomaniac?” “How did you sacrifice yourself?” “I gave up Larry for the one and only reason that I didn’t want to stand in his way.” “Come off it, Isabel. You gave him up for a square-cut diamond and a sable coat.” The words were hardly out of my mouth when a plate of bread…