• By David B. Gosselin

The Lament of Tros

The Abduction of Ganymede - Rembrandt 1635

Ganymede was the loveliest born of the race of mortals, and therefore the gods caught him away to themselves, to be Zeus' wine-pourer, for the sake of his beauty, so he might be among the immortals.

— Homer, Iliad, Book XX, lines 233-235.[1]

His eyes cut through the misty grey

Like hawks when they espy their prey:

“Those rose red cheeks and pearl white skin

Are why the Earth abounds with sin!”

Thought Zeus with his propitious eyes

Fixed on Phrygia's mountainsides

Where a beautiful shepherd lies— 

The face where innocence resides.

He stood there singing happily,

His bleating lambs roamed carelessly— 

Young Ganymede and his dear flock,

Had set out on their rustic walk.

But distant eyes from heaven’s heights,

Like hawks before they seize their prey,

The eyes of Jove devoured the sights,

Which soon would be his mortal prey.

No man— although he soon could be— 

With strides and grace for all to see,

A sight to blind Apollo's eye

And make the grey-eyed Juno cry.

For havened on his brow were curls

So fresh and pure like Bacchus’ vine,

So delicate like frosted whorls— 

That precious soul could pour his wine.

Stout Zeus looked on with leering eyes

On flesh which tells a thousand lies,

Upon such fine and classic form

It shakes men's hearts like ships in storms;

He'd seize upon the gentle soul

Whose race like frightened ghosts

For one sad moment tread earth’s portal,

And then sink down to Dis’ coasts.

His father Tros of Dardania[2],

Sang hymns for Polyhymnia

With Ganymede, his tender son— 

Through Troy his love was always sung:

“He is by all the stars beheld

With beauty brighter than the sun,

He’ll never know the joy, whose never held

Something so dear as Ganymede, my son.”

Zeus called upon his bright legions;

To send them down into the regions

Of Earth, where by a plan devised

He'd win for him what Gods most prize:

Because a mortal kiss, if won,

Is sweeter than a honeyed rose,

More precious than that by Gods done,

More delicate than night's primrose.

“With dance and song and sparkling wine

No more will Fate lay you supine

Upon the sod in lamentation,

As Earth is stained with execration;

While Cupid renders hearts asunder

On plains of sad mortality,

Above you’ll hear nothing but thunder

Of Gods who reign in ecstasy.”

Zeus sang—his Godly plan devised—

Then called upon his pet most prized

To steal from Troy a mortal boy,

Whose Beauty then none could destroy:

An Olympian eagle with golden

Beak and silver pointed talon,

Who each by him beholden

Was a soul he sent to Charon.

Quicker than Pegasus he flew

—While morning still was sweet with dew—

As sheep and lambs were bleating,

About the breezes softly fleeting.

For Tros the scene foreboded ill:

The eagle's wings cut through the skies;

Flying over both fold and hill,

It watched the lambs with sparkling eyes.

For all the sky was emblazoned

With talons shining like diamond,

As he arrived from high above

Upon the unsuspecting dove:

Just as the bird prepared its claw,

The boy shepherded his new lamb,

And only from a distance saw

An awe-inspiring bright wing-span.

For there he was, so happily singing,

With bleating lambs through green hills ringing,

Young Ganymede with frightened flock,

Where all but he in fear did walk.

For distant eyes, from heaven’s heights,

Like hawks before they seize their prey,

Keen eyes will first devour the sights,

Which soon become their mortal prey.

King Tros, with deepest trepidation,

Now made a portly declamation,

For all to aid and charge with steed,

“Assist me in this harrowing deed!”

The women ran throughout the fields

While men raced out with desperate horse,

Hoping that Fate to Beauty yields,

That Troy not bear the heaven’s curse.

Alone, among the muted field,

The curious boy began to yield

Unto the eagle's beckoning—

So innocent— unquestioning.

The eagle asked him with a grin

If he would like to see the stars,

To live in joy without a sin,

In paradise, with heaven’s cars.

The frightened lambs fled from the fields

As hills all shined with Troy’s bright shields,

Like seas when sun-rays shimmer

Over the deep horizon’s glimmer;

“Release poor helpless Ganymede!”

One heard the hills all crying,

One heard the helpless father plead,

One heard the fearless Trojans riding.

But frozen like a helpless deer,

The boy stood still, transfixed with fear.

He dared not flee the golden claw;

He met the bird in trembling awe.

He could not move, nor father heed;

Helpless, his feet began to rise.

How from his heart the tears did bleed;

He rose into the Trojan skies.

His father, Tros of Dardania,

With tears now filled his cornucopia,

Upon his knees and supplicating,

And to the God of Gods lamenting:

“He is by all the stars beheld,

With beauty brighter than the sun:

You’ll never know the pain until you’ve held

Something so dear as Ganymede, my son.”

“Release poor helpless Ganymede!”

One heard the Trojan people plead;

They cried and vainly shouted,

As the boy was mercilessly touted

Into the twilight horizon.

The Trojan guards looked on in vain:

They heard a bleating orison,

They felt a strange, unworldly pain.

June 2017

[1] Translation by Richard Lattimore

[2] Tros was the reputed founder of Troy

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