Saturday, February 11, 2012

Agamemnon Halftime Report

Greetings from the 51% mark! This is the first time in a good long while that I've read a Greek classic. The language takes some getting used to. Yes, it's translated, but the constraints of a rhyming translation produced some pretty twisted syntax that left me re-reading phrases a lot initially. Once you get in the groove though, you'll find some nice gems. I mean, sure, you'd expect something like this from a dusty old tome:
Think I perchance to sing or troll a tune
For medicine against sleep, the music soon
Changes to sighing for the tale untold
Of this house, not well mastered as of old.*
Yeah, people used to know how to properly master a house. Kids these days, I tell ya. Argos is going to hell in a handbasket. Sentimental foreshadowing aside, how about this treat for your olfactory senses:

The wrack-wind liveth, and where Ilion died
The reek of the old fatness of her pride
From hot and writhing ashes rolls afar.
Mmm, Trojan bacon! That seems a little below the belt though, Agamemnon. Troy was fat and now she's smelly? And not the good smelly, like bacon?

The most perplexing and evocative image I've read so far is, appropriately, a description of the (in)famous**, legendary SHE, without whom we would have so many fewer Greek classics to torture students with.
And how shall I call the thing that came
At the first hour to Ilion city?
Call it a dream of peace untold,
A secret joy in a mist of gold,
A woman's eye that was soft, like flame,
A flower which ate a man's heart with pity.
See, now, that's unexpected and stunning. Nice one, Aeschylus. A flower which ate a heart with pity? I could've sworn those words didn't go together. Well, except maybe ate and heart. I stand corrected.

So what about Helen of Troy, nee of Sparta? When I first heard the story of her as a wee one, I heard she was carried off. I thought that meant kidnapped, or in my wee one literality, that Paris actually picked her up and carried her to his house. But of course I know now that she was a much more willing traveler. Her description in Agamemnon certainly falls on the latter side of the victim or vixen? debate:  Though maybe vixen isn't the right word. Helen is certainly a destructive force here, but one that seems more an instrument of other wills rather than a mistress of her own. She's "Strife-encompass√®d," you see. Strife keeps stalking her, no matter how many times she changes her number or moves to a kingdom across the sea.

What do you think Kim? Helen only pawn in game of life?

* I learned to cite sources in 7th Grade Remedial Language Arts, and since Amazon made it easy by providing the citation, I really would have no excuse for omitting it: Aeschylus (2004-12-22). The Agamemnon of Aeschylus Translated into English Rhyming Verse with Explanatory Notes. Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.
** Later on in Medieval Studies 101, I learned to cleave words creatively into self-contained contradictions by means of carefully (mis)placed parentheses. You (dis)like, yes?

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