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omoi peplegmai kairian pleghn esw.
(omoi peplegmai kairian pleghn esw.)

1     Apeneck Sweeney spreads his knees
2     Letting his arms hang down to laugh,
3     The zebra stripes along his jaw
4     Swelling to maculate giraffe.

5     The circles of the stormy moon
6     Slide westward toward the River Plate,
7     Death and the Raven drift above
8     And Sweeney guards the horned gate.

9     Gloomy Orion and the Dog
10   Are veiled; and hushed the shrunken seas;
11   The person in the Spanish cape
12   Tries to sit on Sweeney's knees

13   Slips and pulls the table cloth
14   Overturns a coffee-cup,
15   Reorganized upon the floor
16   She yawns and draws a stocking up;

17   The silent man in mocha brown
18   Sprawls at the window-sill and gapes;
19   The waiter brings in oranges
20   Bananas figs and hothouse grapes;

21   The silent vertebrate in brown
22   Contracts and concentrates, withdraws;
23   Rachel née Rabinovitch
24   Tears at the grapes with murderous paws;

25   She and the lady in the cape
26   Are suspect, thought to be in league;
27   Therefore the man with heavy eyes
28   Declines the gambit, shows fatigue,

29   Leaves the room and reappears
30   Outside the window, leaning in,
31   Branches of wistaria
32   Circumscribe a golden grin;

33   The host with someone indistinct
34   Converses at the door apart,
35   The nightingales are singing near
36   The Convent of the Sacred Heart,

37   And sang within the bloody wood
38   When Agamemnon cried aloud,
39   And let their liquid droppings fall
40   To stain the stiff dishonoured shroud.


Composition Date:
The epigraph, from Aeschylus' play Agamemnon, is this king's dying words as his wife Clytemnestra kills him: "Alas, I am struck deeply with a deadly blow."  We discussed this incident when we were studied Yeat's "Leda and the Swan."
maculate: spotted.
River Plate: Rio de la Plato, between Argentina and Uruguay, an estuary of the Uruguay and Parana rivers on which can be found Buenos Aires, La Plata, and Montevideo.
the Raven: the constellation Corvus.
horned gate: dreams in classical mythology are sometimes said to emerge from the underworld through this gate.
Orion, a constellation, includes the dog-star Sirius and is near the constellation of the Dog, Canis Major.
wistaria: ornamental flowering vine.
The Roman Catholic Church includes nuns from the Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary.
The bloody wood could be the grove of the classical Furies, in Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, a place where there are singing nightingales and where bloody tragedies such as Agamemnon's death would have been spawned. It could also be the wood where Tereus raped and mutilated Philomela, who was later turned into a nightingale (a story Ovid tells in his Metamorphoses).
droppings: Eliot revises to "siftings" in a later edition.




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© The editors, the Department of English (University of Toronto), and the University of Toronto Press, 1998.

Thanks to Linda Corman (Trinity College Library) for her warm support of the Representative Poetry On-line project and Wally Brooker (University of Toronto Press) for granting publication permission of materials originally printed by the Press from 1912 to 1967.