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The Lament of Tros

September 22, 2017

 

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!”

Quoth Zeus with his propitious eyes

Fixed on high Phrygian mountains

For one who could attend his fountains,

Which lonely stream 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,

With his eyes Jove devours the sights,

Which soon will be his mortal prey.

 

Not a man, but the promise of one

Whose strides and grace and gaze could stun

Even Apollo’s burning 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.”

 

But fairest Jove seeks out his 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 planes of sad mortality,

Above you’ll hear nothing but thunder

Of Gods who reign in ecstasy.”

 

Zeus sings with Godly plan devised,

As he selects 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 the morning still was sweet with dew,

As sheep and lambs were bleating

About the breezes softly fleeting.

But the image for Tros forebodes

As the eagle gracefully fans

Through Trojan skies perhaps for folds,

So wont to steal his Phrygian lambs.

 

For all the sky is emblazoned

With talons shining like diamond,

As he descends from high above

Upon the unsuspecting dove:

As he cuts through the airy seas,

The boy shepherds his new fresh lamb,

And only in the distance sees

A bird with majestic 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 makes a portly declamation

For all to aid and charge with steed

“Assist me in this harrowing deed!”

The women run throughout the fields,

While men race out with desperate horse,

Hoping that Fate to Beauty yields,

And Troy not bear the heaven’s curse.

 

But alone among the muted field,

The eagle’s guile is couched in a smile,

To which fair Ganymede begins to yield -

So curious and innocent a child.

The eagle asks 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.

 

But lambs scatter about the fields

As hills all shine 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 plaining

As Tros frantically plead

And Zeus like hounds was salivating.

 

While now, frozen like a deer

The boy stands 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 in air began to float,

And from his heart the tears now bleed

As he fades passed the heavens’ moat.

 

His father Tros of Dardania,

With tears now fills 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!”

The shimmering hills did helpless plead;

They cried and vainly shouted,

As the boy was mercilessly touted

Into Apollo’s blinding horizon:

In vain did the hills of Troy stare,

Hearing but 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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