Canadian actor and writer Kyle McDonald won our most recent Winning Writers War Poetry Contest last year with his masterful epic poem “The Rose of Ilium”, a stirring account of a battle between Greeks and Amazons in the Trojan War. His multimedia presentation of his poem is being broadcast this week on the UK’s AudioBookRadio.net (playing time: 23 minutes). You can also watch the video and read the entire poem on our website. Here’s an excerpt:
…Th’alarums sound with direful clarion
And forward races the bright Danàän,
Whose coursers, both bread of immortal stock,
Cause all the lesser steeds therewith to baulk;
Nor Amazon nor Dardan faced the youth,
Fearing an execution too uncouth;
Yet, this did not forestall their bloody fate,
As he with spear sought foes to extirpate:
One caught his javelin beneath the arm;
Another from his blade took mortal harm,
As head from neck was rashly severèd;
His spear recovered, to the fray he sped,
His ruby chariot thundering as he went.
A surly Amazon from life he rent,
Smiting her brains out with his weighty shield,
Her viscid claret plashing red the field.
His prey, like paltry ships upon the sea
Who strive in vain the tempest’s rage to flee,
Or, like the jackdaw flying from the hawk,
Could find no haven from the deadly shock.
Penthesilea cuts herself a path,
Voracious to expunge Achilles’ wrath,
Whereon he sees his adversary fume
And smiles grimly at the chance of doom.
Automedon his master’s manner knows,
And from a solemn nod, begins to close;
Likewise the Amazon her driver guides,
Who o’er the corpses of the fallen rides.
As this redoubtable twain prepared to meet,
The gathered armies stopped t’adhere the feat,
As though the Gods themselves strove on the plain,
Who to exchange life reaving blows were fain.
First she her javelin pitches through the broil
Expecting her fair quarry’s looks to spoil:
A rav’nous hawk could not so swiftly speed
As her sharp spear, careening with blood greed.
But lo! That mordant prong, so oft unerring,
Was thwarted by his shield, not even tearing
The third bronze layer; now his stout reply,
Which her broad scutcheon cannot stultify,
But from her supple arm is wrenched away,
Transpiercéd by his javelin’s assay.
The Queen now marvels at his martial might
Whilst he propels another dart in flight:
Screaming, the pointed tip cuts through the air,
And would have rent her flesh all smooth and fair
But for the valour of her charioteer,
Who placed herself within the point’s career.
The savage blow her eyes enclosed in night,
And in the earth both point and soldier pight.
Penthesilea seized the vacant reins
And sought to vindicate her comrade’s pains
By drawing out her ringing, bronze-cast blade,
Vengeance to visit as she hoarsely bayed.
Achilles from this conflict did not shy,
But towards the Queen he bade his driver fly.
As two contestant rams in wrath will rush,
So those two champions plied the brutal crush;
Towards his chariot she tilts her course,
Meaning to capsize his war-car perforce.
He swings his weighty sword and she evades:
Unto the sullied earth the troop cascades,
As battlecar with battlecar collides;
Automedon rolls clear and battle chides,
Whilst Queen and Prince rejoin the seething fray,
Their scalpels flashing in warlike display.