steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Steepholm's Dream Diary: 21

I am explaining the plot of The Iliad to my daughter. As I tell it, it's a poem of two halves. In the first, Achilles kills Hector. But then, in a change to our scheduled programming, the second half turns out to be about Agamemnon ordering Patroclus to kill Achilles in revenge. (I know, I know.) Patroclus isn't happy about his commission, and appeals to the gods, but Agamemnon points out that as Patroclus's king it's up to him what orders he gives. As he puts it later (and for some reason I'm now reading this in a book):

This stonied them, for well they knew
I was his king, by descent as trew
As theirs from th'Ash Tree.*

The next two books of the poem are devoted, I explain apologetically, to a lengthy description of Patroclus putting on his armour. Eventually, however, the two heroes fight, in what seems to be (and here I slip into movie mode) a vegetable market. There is much spilling of tomatoes and many topless towers of apples kiss their feet. In the end, Achilles has Patroclus at his mercy, but realises that in giving him the lethal blow he will inevitably destroy a very fine marrow. His hesitation is momentary, but fatal.

I realise that this whole narration has been overheard by a woman, who is looking at me sceptically, but with amused tolerance. I think it is my daughter's piano teacher.

* Yes, wrong mythology I know, but I'm actually very proud of my id for coming up with this, and happy to forgive it for yesterday's nightmare. What Shakespeare had Ulysses say about degree in thirty lines or so, this packs into two and half tetrameters, innit?
Tags: what does it all mean?
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