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A brilliantly original new poem which is also a translation of Homer’s Iliad, by a poet who is also a classicist.
Matthew Arnold praised the Iliad for its ‘nobility’, as has almost everyone ever since. But ancient critics praised its enargeia , its ‘bright unbearable reality’ - the word used when gods come to earth not in disguise but as themselves. To retrieve the poem's energy, Alice Oswald has stripped away its narrative - the anger of Achilles, the story of Helen - and attended to its atmospheres: the extended similes which bring so much of the natural order into the poem, and the corresponding litany of the war-dead, most of whom are little more than names, but each of whom lives and dies unforgettably and unforgotten in the copious retrospect of Homer's glance.
‘The Iliad is a vocative poem. Perhaps even (in common with lament) it is invocative, as if speaking directly to the dead, in the aftermath of the Trojan War: an attempt to remember people’s names and lives without the use of writing; a series of memories and similes laid side by side; an antiphonal account of man in his world.’ Alice Oswald
The resulting poem is a war memorial, written, as David Jones said, ‘in memory of all common and hidden men’, and a profoundly responsive work which gives new voice to Homer’s level-voiced version of the world.
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