Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Of 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
   'Twix noon and summer.  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.

~ Rupert Brooke, Menelaus and Helen

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