Poetic License

For Anne Carson In the second book of the Iliad, he calls him a mighty king: λάσιον κῆρ – in Rieu’s prose: “Pylaemenes of the shaggy breast led the Paphlagonians”. In the Fifth Book, he decides to have him killed – without too much fuss, in just two lines: “the great spearman Menelaus son of Atreus struck him        with a javelin, which landed on his collar bone”. In the Thirteenth Book, however, he changes his mind, and describes in a moving scene the death of Pylaemenes’ son: “Meriones shot at him with a bronze-headed arrow and hit him on the right buttock. The arrow went clean through his bladder and came out under the bone. Harpalion collapsed forthwith, gasped out his life in the        arms of his friends, and lay stretched on the ground like a worm, while the dark blood poured out of him and soaked the earth,” and then has his weeping father drive him on a chariot, together with the other Paphlagonians, back to Troy, “leaving his son’s death unavenged”. In this episode he skips the usual phrase: “Then night descended on his eyes”. It’s his work after all. It’s not like he’s accountable to anyone else. He’s the one that decides who lives, who dies. Who should be resurrected.        * When later he heard about Lazarus he permitted himself a smile of satisfaction at being some centuries ahead in the art of funerary management.

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