Protesilaos and Iphigenia


Protesilaos and Iphigenia

As the Trojan War between Mycenae and Illium opened in the 12th Century before Christ, Iphigenia was sacrificed at Aulis. Protesilaos was the first Greek warrior killed in battle.


Prelude


Iphigenia, first sacrifice, to be drowned!

The coarse delight of Theban bloodshed

still valiant in men’s hearts, gathers,

weighted now by sore offense

the great-numbered Danaans sail to reclaim

Menelaos’s most prized possessions:

stolen dowry and adulterous Helen.

Destinied Trojans!

Aulis - fearful balance of days

till all drawn down the jaws of Hell.

Aiolos knows not his son’s profession.


Achilles pours libation and inhales fate,

"You do not live forever,"

the whisper of God before sleep,

his mind swept by the dead.

Beloved Patroclus, and there was faded Protesilaos

setting earliest foot before Illion’s towers,

falling earliest, bloodied invader

whose ship later burned at Hector’s hand,

since stilled, and burned, rising from the pyre

with the dark steam of Andromache’s tears.

For nothing


Had come the injured Myceneans…

out of dissatisfaction with reality,

needful of cleansing

this stagnant dream of kulchur!

So the bloody waters rose,

streams to rivers, rivers to torrents,

torrents to seas until oceans breathed

this rain of emotions upon Achilles.

The very stuff of the Styx:

molten droplets of ideology,

vomitus of the ugliest volcano.


The absurdity of sorrow!

No bodhisattva to succour this grief,

Priam’s harsh lyre stings the bitter twilight

over this remorse-wrought plain.

In deep thirst he unshoulders his wineskin,

yet full and still flowing as Paris draws his bow.

The strains of empty music reach Achilles’ ear:

the world changes.

Much later comes technics,

the bold talk of slaveowners

and the murky dreams of prophets…


Sad, sad child-days

when the horizon sinks

carrying away all light.

So Achilles finds himself,

bereft of friends and one leg at the knee.

"Glory or death," cried the warrior,

"I would embrace the moon in that river!"

Neither shall the victor leave the scarlet lake.

Bemused by the drifting strains

and humid passion -

facing the queer fortune


To be a man once more,

he draws the stout ale to his innards

and takes stock all around:

muffled pale flesh, painted women and dishonest men.

"I see cowardly faces here, and weakness,

and no companion of mine,"

Stout ale!

Have I sinned or not sinned?

"not Hades nor Valhalla,

this can only be the World."

The strong Achean called for more ale,

"What tender creature is this,

servant girl like spring rain?"

The warrior is gone from me,

I sing songs of peace!


Her breasts rise, her eyes warm, her lips full,

wonder to taste they are,

her face of promise shrinks away

dissolving to jawbone, barren skull:

"Return to the shades,

Marauder crazed by slaying!

Your fear has made you drunk-"

a stumblebum across the room toasts the dead poet,

the lost beauty,

the unrecovered time,

Priam’s tormentor.


Achilles takes up his hard stick, hobbling,

missing heel screaming in pain,

longing for the sweet voice of Patroclus,

and so it comes:

the myriad who died before him,

the myriad who died after him,

every soul from the heat and hatred of war,

whispering like the loosened arrow,

"No more, Achilles, no more!"

"Who shall listen to slain Achilles?" he cries.

"No one, Achilles, no one!"

 

Act One. When They Arrive

Protesilaos:

Once again, men’s minds are shaped

by other men’s persuasion,

the lot of them shunning their spirits

and the rare of life

for sideshows of blood and genitals!

Chorus:

Food and energy will catch up to our friends,

the snows will bury enemy and comrade alike.

Our wine from the genteel slopes of California,

our grail is filled with Sonoran mescal.

Iphigenia (awakening here for the first time):

I know you!

Before - before the Argives

set sail for Illion…

P.

We witnessed that dawn together.

 

Act Two. When They Stroll

P.

Corner of our eternal night: seasons!

I.

To rain forever,

to never rain…

(The stars reel about them.)

P.

Sweet nectar of the flesh!

Your innocence - your gentle moments…

(They kiss.)

We will let this be real.

(Her robe falls away.)

 

Act Three. On the Plutonian Shore

I. (giggling)

The sun sets into the sea.

I am in another world!

P. (taking her hand)

We are brought together here,

entwined like Earth and Moon,

our God within us -

I.

Don’t be silly.

(She kisses him and dashes down the beach.)

P. (running after happily)

I love you more than life!

 

 

Peter Ahrens

1971

 

 

 

Nexial Quest


(c) Pete Ahrens 2001