Whose deed delivered Heracles at last
(For on the pyre that he had built he cast
Himself, desiring to be free from pain:
His wound was mortal: he couldn’t best this bane)?
Philoctetes was he that took the fire
And set alight the hero’s funeral pyre.
The sword of Vulcan, beneficial flame,
Did, at last, the pain of Heracles tame.
To Philoctetes, the hero gave his bow;
Then, deified, to heaven did he go.
The arrow points with poison were still tipped
(Into the hydra’s blood had they been dipped).
But with Philoctetes, Hera made war,
As also with Heracles she had before;
He set sail for Troy: but from Hera, a snake
Bit him in his foot; such a wound did it make:
It festered and gave off such a foul stench,
That burned in men’s noses and made them blench;
Odysseus said to leave him behind,
So Philoctetes set hate in his mind.
Alone he was left, upon Lemnos’ shore,
To tend to himself, vexed, crippled, and poor;
He hunted his food with Heracles’ bow,
And ate it in sorrow and bitter woe;
Ten years did he pass, and lived in a cave,
To his foot’s sickness, both weak and a slave.
Then, Odysseus learned they must have the arms
Of Heracles, so besought he with charms
Neoptolemus, who was Achilles’ son:
But with dishonor, he’d not be undone;
Though first Odysseus’ persuasion prevailed,
At last, the heart of Achilles’ son failed;
For Philoctetes, in a moment of pain
Had given to him, what he’d hoped to gain:
He had the weapon, to Odysseus’ joy,
But Achilles’ son couldn’t bear to destroy
Philoctetes: he gave back what he should:
Odysseus too received what was good;
For though Philoctetes raged at the first,
He suffered them not in the end to be cursed;
He sailed with them to Troy: there was he healed,
And this done, with his arms, he took the field.
He hid in the horse they left to deceive,
Then mothers of sons at night did bereave;
They slaughtered the Trojans, and set the fire
That made all of Troy a funeral pyre.
So, healed of disease, the hero arose
And rained down upon Troy a hail of blows;
He’d borne the wound that the serpent had struck,
Though bitter and cursing his wretched luck;
He’d laboured in sorrow until the day,
He sailed for Troy’s shores, and entered the fray:
Then like a hero, he behaved on the field,
Strengthened by suffering, and by hardship steeled.
Then, in time to come, like also his friend
Heracles, men upward to him did send
Prayers, and they offered libations as one
Who fought to the end, and surrendered to none.


The goddess, wise, was born unmixed
From Zeus, and was his favorite;
All wisdom, craft, and justice fixed
By her strong hands and unmatched wit.
Her gifts to man are beyond count:
How could he thrive without her aid?
Descends she from the lofty mount,
All armed as war’s triumphant maid.
She taught the cultivation of
The olive tree, and crafts were hers;
Unmoved, unswayed by sickly love,
Her justice right rewards renders.
Her favour for Odysseus,
Most cunning of all men, and wise,
Ceased not, and therefore shows to us,
To whom we may lift up our eyes,
As model for a worthy life;
He slew the suitors at their feast,
Turned table joys to bitter strife,
Till to a man they were deceased.
She judged Orestes innocent,
To free him from the Furies’ wrath;
So, on his way the king’s son went,
To tread a lighter, joyful, path.
She loves the hero, he who fights,
Who struggles on for what is right,
Whose raging sword the unjust bites,
Reducing them to shades by might.


How Hermes the herald hearkens with haste;
How before Zeus he is humble and chaste,
He is his messenger, at his command,
To serve and to sit at heaven’s king’s hand.
But who are his foes, take heed and beware!
From rapine, from theft, of such he won’t spare.
For even Apollo, he tricked and deceived;
Apollo was wroth, and his soul was grieved:
His oxen were missing, and some were dead,
And Hermes the thief had speedily fled;
He found him and railed, threatening to destroy
The newborn Hermes, who was Maia’s boy:
But Hermes with words, both skillful and smooth,
And with a gift, the same Phoebus did soothe;
The lute he had fashioned, he gave to the sun,
After his tale, like a spider, he’d spun.
He fathered a son named Autolycus;
From him was descended Odysseus:
From Hermes he got his cunning and wit,
And so many bold tricks did he commit;
He never spoke truth to his enemies,
And only himself did he seek to please.
Also, like Hermes, he was changeable
(In this he was truly commendable);
When Ajax had slain the flocks and the herds,
Bewailing his state with lamentable words,
Odysseus marked him as his enemy:
But after Ajax had set himself free
From all of life’s toils by a sword in his breast,
Then Odysseus put hatred to rest;
Persuaded he Agamemnon to let
The body be buried – without regret,
He turned and was merciful, that some day
When he was dead, he’d be interred the same way.
And this polarity, Hermes possesses;
For change, to the god, never distresses;
He travels with ease, with fleetness of foot,
From heaven’s height to the underworld’s root;
For Hermes conducts the dead to the same
(All mortals go thence, no matter their fame);
He came from the deep; he was born in a cave:
No wonder that he conducts man to the grave.
One finds him in commerce, the province of thieves,
Which often, unchecked, devours and bereaves.
Who can understand all of Hermes’ ways?
The same shall, in wisdom, prolong his days.

The Death of Dolon

Dumb Dolon, he who was of doubtful mind
To Hector’s charge in foolishness resigned;
For Hector promised him Achilles’ steeds
For but one night of brave and daring deeds.
He snuck (he thought) across the Trojan plain
To breach the Argive camp upon the main,
And spy out all their counsels to report
What plans they laid, to what they would resort:
But the keen ears of Odysseus caught
The sound of footsteps as his way he sought;
Diomed was with him when he heard the sound
Of Dolon sneaking quick over the ground;
“Let him go ahead,” Odysseus advised,
That then from behind the spy could be surprised:
“If we cannot catch him, pin him by the shore;
Our spears shall see that he sees Troy no more.”
Dolon passed and they followed in his wake:
Toward the Achaean camp did Dolon make;
When he perceived the sound of their approach,
He thought them Trojans and ceased not to encroach.
But when at last his folly he perceived,
He was seized with fear and his soul was grieved:
He flew across the plain, seeking to evade
The men whose camp he’d laboured to invade.
To check him Diomed lifted his hand
And hurled his javelin and struck the sand;
He purposed thus to miss to halt the spy,
And lifted his voice to the foe to cry:
He urged the man to halt, lest he be slain
And Dolon did and fear gripped him as pain;
He shook with terror and could hardly stand,
And all at once by tears he was unmanned.
Forsaking all his honour, he proffered gold
From his father’s house if his life be sold.
And Odysseus, always being wise,
Proffered in return one of his cunning lies;
To give him hope, he urged him not to fear,
And asked him why he had at night come near
Their camp, and though the coward trembled still,
He found the will to speak, and his words did spill
Out all at once; he told the men his charge,
Which when they heard they marveled at folly large.
Odysseus could hardly keep straight face
That such a one as this, a coward base,
Had thought to be the master of the steeds
Of Achilles: how luxury folly breeds!
Odysseus then questioned Dolon to
Discover what of Troy’s defense he knew.
Dolon replied and told him all he could,
Where every camp was set, and where guards stood;
That Hector held a counsel made he known,
That the Thracians were encamped alone.
This told Dolon submitted to be a slave,
But Diomed observed him with visage grave.
“From captivity, we shall not set you free,
Nor risk that as slave you’d a traitor be.”
The spy began to speak a word in turn,
But Diomed his plea ‘fore he spoke did spurn;
Like a thunderbolt fell his fearsome sword,
His head fell from his neck and his blood poured
Forth in purple spurts and stained all the ground;
In the dirt his head, severed, rolled around.
This done they stripped his body for reward;
A bow and spear and a wolf’s hide they scored:
And Odysseus dedicated these
To Athena who he always sought to please.