Guest poem sent in by Russell Y. Webb
(Poem #1233) Ballad of Hector in Hades
Yes, this is where I stood that day, Beside this sunny mound. The walls of Troy are far away, And outward comes no sound. I wait. On all the empty plain A burnished stillness lies, Save for the chariot's tinkling hum, And a few distant cries. His helmet glitters near. The world Slowly turns around, With some new sleight compels my feet From the fighting ground. I run. If I turn back again The earth must turn with me, The mountains planted on the plain, The sky clamped to the sea. The grasses puff a little dust Where my footsteps fall. I cast a shadow as I pass The little wayside wall. The strip of grass on either hand Sparkles in the light; I only see that little space To the left and to the right, And in that space our shadows run, His shadow there and mine, The little flowers, the tiny mounds, The grasses frail and fine. But narrower still and narrower! My course is shrunk and small, Yet vast as in a deadly dream, And faint the Trojan wall. The sun up in the towering sky Turns like a spinning ball. The sky with all its clustered eyes Grows still with watching me, The flowers, the mounds, the flaunting weeds Wheel slowly round to see. Two shadows racing on the grass, Silent and so near, Until his shadow falls on mine. And I am rid of fear. The race is ended. Far away I hang and do not care, While round bright Troy Achilles whirls A corpse with streaming hair.
from First Poems (1925) What I admire most about this poem is it's consistent voice and construction of tension in conflict. The voice is distant and mythical while still being personal. The poem's conclusion is so indirectly stated that its meaning is felt only on reflection making it more powerful and horrifying. I read somewhere that this poem was in part Muir's reflection of being bullied in the school yard as a child. Russ Links: Biography of Muir: http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~crumey/edwin_muir.html http://www.tiscali.co.uk/reference/encyclopaedia/hutchinson/m0039469.html And Russ's reference to Muir's being bullied in the schoolyard recalled Benet's "The General Public", Poem #983