Thursday, June 26, 2008

Poetry Thursday: Rupert Brooke

Menelaus and Helen

Hot through Troy's ruin Menelaus broke
To Priam's palace, sword in hand, to sate
On that adulterous whore a ten years' hate
And a king's honour. Through red death, and smoke,
And cries, and then by quieter ways he strode,
Till the still innermost chamber fronted him.
He swung his sword, and crashed into the dim
Luxurious bower, flaming like a god.
High sat white Helen, lonely and serene.
He had not remembered that she was so fair,
And that her neck curved down in such a way;
And he felt tired. He flung the sword away,
And kissed her feet, and knelt before her there,
The perfect Knight before the perfect Queen.

So far the poet. How should he behold
That journey home, the long connubial years?
He does not tell you how white Helen bears
Child on legitimate child, becomes a scold,
Haggard with virtue. Menelaus bold
Waxed garrulous, and sacked a hundred Troys
'Twixt noon and supper. And her golden voice
Got shrill as he grew deafer. And both were old.
Often he wonders why on earth he went
Troyward, or why poor Paris ever came.
Oft she weeps, gummy-eyed and impotent;
Her dry shanks twitch at Paris' mumbled name.
So Menelaus nagged; and Helen cried;
And Paris slept on by Scamander side.

Ok, so I'm a bit obsessed with the Trojan War. Which translates fairly naturally rather roundaboutly into a mild obsession with Rupert Brooke. It lessens a bit, as I get older and my affinity for youth and tragedy and tragic beauty wanes, but there'll always be room in my heart (and my lectures) for ol' Rupert.

So, Brian and I are in the studio today, and, as usual, he has the TV on while he's working, while I, as usual, have my headphones on and the music turned up as far as I can so that I can write and ignore him.

Until M*A*S*H comes on, that is. M*A*S*H is a show I used to sneak off to watch in our all but TV-free household, a bit of childhood memory-ville I find particularly hard to tune out. Especially when it awakens my other obsessions. As with this particular episode, which opens with Klinger lying out in the Korean countryside, reading Rupert Brooke.

"I love Rupert Brooke," I said to Brian.


"He's so tragic. He died on the way to the battle of Gallipoli, you know."


".....Rhumatic fever? I think? Maybe?"

"Romantic fever?"

"That's more likely."

It was sepsis from an infected mosquito bite, actually.

1 comment:

momeester said...

And he died on St. George's day!!