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Christopher Logue’s Homer – 4 Patrocleia vs later books

In Pax, Logue imagines that the hatred in Achilles’ eyes is so violent and has such power that it might damage the metal of his divine armour if he looked at it with fully open eyes. If the poet simply said that this did happen the idea would immediately go flat and lose all its wonder. Instead he says that when Thetis laid the armour on the sand

     Nobody looked. They were afraid.

     Except Achilles: looked,
Lifted a piece of it between his hands;
Turned it; tested the weight of it; and then
Spun the holy tungsten like a … Continue Reading

Christopher Logue’s Homer: Patrocleia – 3

One great contrast between Patrocleia and the later sections of War Music is the human scale of Patrocleia’s heroes. Another is in the presentation of the gods. When things get serious the chasm between the human and the divine is absolute. The poem’s climax comes when Patroclus, excited by success and blind to the extent to which all men are only the puppets of the gods, forgets his mere humanity, forgets Achilles’ warning against overreaching himself, and collides with Apollo’s divine power. At the point I’m going to quote Patroclus has started to scale the walls of Troy. Apollo shouts … Continue Reading

Christopher Logue’s Homer: Patrocleia – 2

The changes of perspective in Patrocleia (1981) are a constant imaginative astonishment that keeps our response to the poem fluid and alive. This is true even in purely visual terms, in the ceaseless shifting of the imaginary camera of the poem, for example between extreme close-ups and the perspective from which Zeus sees “minute Patroclus” as like a fleck of radium and Hector like a silver mote. It’s much more so when you include the dazzling shifts between an external view, such as a film might present, and our momentarily becoming the characters as if we were acting their parts … Continue Reading

Christopher Logue’s Homer: Patrocleia – 1

Narrative poetry doesn’t come much finer than in the version of Patrocleia in Christopher Logue’s 1981 War Music: An Account of Books 16 to 19 of Homer’s Iliad.

It’s thrilling to read through fast, as an action narrative should be, but its lyricism and its imagistic brilliance hold the reader’s mind and keep the story fresh through endless rereading.

One thing the work is famous for is the film-like vividness and particularity of its descriptions. The influence of cinema appears very obviously in things like the explicit use of the language of screenplay to mark a narrative shift (“Cut to the fleet”) … Continue Reading