The Euphronios Krater - Poem by Jared Carter
'A red-figure vase, circa 515 BCE, signed by the potter and the painter who created it. The obverse depicts the death of Sarpedon, king of Lycia. Having no quarrel with the Achaeans, he fought bravely alongside his Trojan allies, and was slain by Patroclus, who was clad in the armor of Achilles.'
Unseen but felt, the ceaseless wind that blows
Aslant the weeping of your wounds, yet shows
the wings of Sleep and Death
Immaculate. Adrift within this dream,
You would remain, but Hermes' woven wand
Calls forth, from fathoms deep within the stream
Of myth, Sarpedon, that which draws you on,
yet grants this stay of breath,
This scene suspended, far above the noise of battle.
Whose were the feet that kicked against the wheel,
Whose knuckle forced the clay? Who brushed this seal
of silence on your limbs?
Their names inscribed, they were themselves in turn
Caught by the sweep of time that carries all
Before its cresting wave. Though watch-fires burn,
And sentinels grasp their spears, no voices call;
your princely presence dims,
Your body seeks its place upon the waiting pyre.
Therefore we dream, that nightly we might mend,
And rise on wings we cannot comprehend;
uplifted by that wind,
You drift between two worlds. When but a child,
I heard the clash of bronze, and knew that verse
Could reassemble, art could reconcile
Victor and vanquished. These shards rehearse
yet cancel out the din -
Patroclus venturing forth, the blows that brought you down.
How should we seek, and how far might we fall,
If not for myth, that by its siren call
propels us to these heights,
Then brings us back to earth again? To earth,
Eternal mother, she who in Lycia waits
With unguents, and the incense of our birth,
She who would clasp us, honoring those Fates
who govern days and nights,
And every soul that fades, that vanishes in fire.
Strong Euxitheos shaped this bowl, that wine
And water might be joined, and by these lines
the deft Euphronios
Imagined you borne up by Death and Sleep.
Wing-sandaled Hermes comes to lead you now
To that far place, where none shall mourn or weep,
But welcome you with song and sacred vow.
Hark to that chorus,
Laodamia's child, son of all-powerful Zeus.
First published in Think Journal.
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