Re: classicists hit the trenches

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Subject: Re: classicists hit the trenches
From: Elizabeth Vandiver (
Date: Wed May 12 1999 - 11:57:35 EDT

On Tue, 11 May 1999, Paul A. Iversen wrote:
> Why are "trenches" and the "weather-beaten sandbag wall" such a
> "stretch" when connected to the _Iliad_? The Achaeans did, afterall, dig
> a trench and build a defensive wall to protect their ships -- something
> they didn't have to do while Achilles held the field.
Okay, I can't resist; this is just too good a lead-in to Patrick
Shaw-Stewart's wonderful untitled poem, which he wrote while on a 3-day
leave from Gallipoli:

I saw a man this morning
Who did not wish to die;
I ask, and cannot answer,
if otherwise wish I.

Fair broke the day this morning
Upon the Dardanelles:
The breeze blew soft, the morn's cheeks
Were cold as cold sea-shells.

But other shells are waiting
Across the Aegean Sea;
Shrapnel and high explosives,
Shells and hells for me.

Oh Hell of ships and cities,
Hell of men like me,
Fatal second Helen,
Why must I follow thee?

Achilles came to Troyland
And I to Chersonese;
He turned from wrath to battle,
And I from three days' peace.

Was it so hard, Achilles,
So very hard to die?
Thou knowest, and I know not;
So much the happier am I.

I will go back this morning
>>From Imbros o'er the sea.
Stand in the trench, Achilles,
Flame-capped, and shout for me.

That's from memory (I'm at home, my books are at work)--I hope I haven't
made any mistakes in it.

I always recite that poem (reviewing it just beforehand to make sure I'm
letter-perfect!) to my myth classes when they've just read Iliad 18.


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