A short excerpt from Alice Oswald’s epic poem, Memorial: A Version of Homer’s Iliad, published in 2011 by Faber and Faber Ltd., pages 68-71.
And Hector died like everyone else He was in charge of the Trojans But a spear found out the little patch of white Between his collarbone and his throat Just exactly where a man's soul sits Waiting for the mouth to open He always knew it would happen He who was so boastful and anxious And used to nip home deafened by weapons To stand in full armour in the doorway Like a man rushing in leaving his motorbike running All women loved him His wife was Andromache One day he looked at her quietly He said I know what will happen And an image stared at him of himself dead And her in Argos weaving for some foreign woman He blinked and went back to his work Hector loved Andromache But in the end he let her face slide from his mind He came back to her sightless Strengthless expressionless Asking only to be washed and burned And his bones wrapped in soft cloths And returned to the ground Like leaves who could write a history of leaves The wind blows their ghosts to the ground And the spring breathes new leaf into the woods Thousands of names thousands of leaves When you remember them remember this Dead bodies are their lineage Which matter no more than the leaves Like chaff flying everywhere at threshing time The winnowers waft their fans and the wind does its work And a goddess is there picking the grain from its husk While a fine white dust covers everything
In Anne Oswald’s own words: “This translation presents the whole poem as a kind of oral cemetery – in the aftermath of the Trojan War, an attempt to remember people’s names and lives without the use of writing. I hope it doesn’t need too much context. I hope it will have its own coherence as a series of memories and similes laid side by side.: an antiphonal account of man in his world. ”