• By David B. Gosselin

The Lament of Tros


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 the reason Earth abounds with sin!”

Thought Zeus with his propitious eyes

Fixed on high Phrygian mountains,

For one who could attend his fountains,

Which lonely streamed with pleasure’s sighs.

And there he was, happily singing,

With bleating lambs through green hills ringing,

Young Ganymede and his dear flock,

Departed 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.

Not yet a man, but soon would be

With strides and grace which all could see

Would stun Apollo's fiery eye,

And make the grey-eyed Juno cry;

For havened on his brow were golden

Curls, fresh like Bacchus’ vine,

Which left this mightiest God beholden

To a boy so fair to bear his wine.

Thus Zeus did feast with leering eyes

Upon the flesh which tells a thousand lies,

Upon such beautiful carrion,

Which blinds men more than bright Hyperion;

To seize upon one gentle mortal,

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],

Sings hymns with Polyhymnia,

For Ganymede his cherub son;

Through Troy his love 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.”

So hoary Zeus sought out legions,

To send down to the earthly regions

With a plan, which by himself devised

Might win for him what Gods most prize:

For a mortal kiss if caught

Is sweeter than a honeyed rose,

Melting in midst of very picking,

Even before the day can close.

“With dances and banquets and sparkling wine

No more can Fate lay you supine

Upon the mortal sod in lamentation,

As earth is leveled with execration;

While Cupid renders hearts asunder

On the plains of sad mortality,

Above you’ll hear nothing but thunder

Of Gods who reign in ecstasy.”

Zeus sang—his Godly plan devised—

Then selected 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 was still sweet with dew—

As sheep and lambs were bleating,

About the breezes softly fleeting.

But the image for Tros forebodes

As the eagle gracefully fanned

Through Trojan skies, perhaps for folds,

So wont to steal a Phrygian lamb.

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 his claw,

The boy shepherded his new lamb,

And only from a distance saw

An eagle of such wide 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 eagle’s guile hid in his smile,

To which fair Ganymede began to yield—

So curious and innocent a child.

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

As Tros did helplessly plead,

And Zeus like hounds was salivating.

But frozen like a helpless deer,

The boy stood still transfixed with fear,

To flee such talons he did not dare,

Despite the cries that filled the air:

He could not move, nor father heed,

His feet helpless feet began to float;

How from his heart the tears did bleed

As he vanished passed the heavens’ moat.

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:

In vain did the hills of Troy stare,

Hearing his bleating orison,

While carried back to Zeus’ lair.

June 2017

[1] Translation by Richard Lattimore

[2] Tros the reputed founder of Troy


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