It’s been a little while since I posted a poem on here, so I thought I’d share this one today. It was inspired by a poem by the Roman poet Catullus (one of my favourite poets), from which I took the title – it means, roughly, ‘evil Troy’. Just across the straits from Troy is Gallipoli, which saw more slaughter millenia later, prompting me to wonder what the dead of those two wars might say to each other.
Do they wander unseen among the hordes
of tourists in the crumbled ruins of Troy?
Those shades of Trojan and Achaean lords,
of noble Hector, fearsome Achilles
and the unnumbered wraiths of lesser men
culled as the harvest of the heroes’ spears.
And are they glad that still, time and again
their deaths are re-imagined for the screen;
romanticised, as if each stolen life
was taken in a worthwhile cause, and not
a pointless struggle over someone’s wife?
And do they turn their dead eyes to the west,
where in another age, across the strait
another generation spilled their blood
in someone else’s symphony of hate?
Do those men in their turn look to the east
and see their ancient kindred? Do the two
lost armies speak in strange tongues of the dead
of what has changed between the old and new
and what has not; and see for what they are
the hollow mask of glory on the face
of war; the curse of history that binds
resentful souls forever to this place.
Troia (nefas) is published in In the Company of Poets, by the Holme Valley Poets.
The painting is Achilles Displaying the Body of Hector at the Feet of Patroclus, by Jean Joseph Taillason, 1769.