English poet Christopher Logue died last month, putting an end to the extremely gradual process by which he was retelling the Iliad in free verse. His obituary notes that, since he first started fiddling with Homer in 1959, this was “a literary endeavor noteworthy for lasting four times as long as the Trojan War itself.”
The bad news is that I’ll never get to read Logue’s take on Homer from beginning to end. The good news is that his existing work stands quite well as an Iliad in miniature. War Music hits all the highlights, from the opening confrontation of Achilles and Agamemnon, the original rock and hard place, to Trojan Hector’s off-screen but inevitable death. You get a little bit of single combat, cuckolded Menelaos versus Paris “with the curly-girly hair,” and you get a full-scale Greek-and-Trojan melee, with officers and grunts alike inflicting “high-reliability fast-forward pain.”
Enhanced the natural crackage of his skull,
And he quit being.
Logue, who famously knew no Greek, keeps to plain language and a rolling more-or-less iambic pentameter with a lot of forward momentum. Freely anachronistic, he incorporates WWII references and screenplay terms into something like a director’s cut of Homer’s epic poem. It hardly matters that his words are modern, when the tone and the themes are age-old: what are we fighting for, is it worth it, and will this nine, no, ten-year war ever end?
Check the WRL catalog for War Music.