Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet.
For more than forty years, the English poet, wit, and troublemaker Christopher Logue (1926-2011) was at work on what came to be regarded as his masterpiece: an idiosyncratic contemporary version of Homer's Iliad. Beginning with the publication of his first volume in 1981 and celebrated as "the best translation of Homer since Pope's" (The New York Review of Books), Logue's project was distinct from conventional translation, for it set out to be a radical reimagining of Homer's take of warfare, human folly, and the power of the gods, in a language and style of verse that were emphatically of Logue's era.
While illness prevented him from bringing his version of the Iliad to completion, enough survives in notebooks and letters to allow his friend the poet Christopher Reid to compile a version of the unpublished final installment, Big Men Falling a Long Way. This has been added to the previous parts of the poem, published as War Music (1981), Kings (1991), The Husbands (1995), All Day Permanent Red (2003), and Cold Calls (2005), to make one magisterial volume. This edition comes as near as possible to representing the poet's complete vision, an always surprising, witty, moving, and uncanny performance on the page that is "possessed of a very terrible beauty" (Slate). Here Logue confirms what his admirers have long known: War Music "is likely to endure as one of the great long poems of the twentieth century" (The Times Literary Supplement).
"This is not Homer: it’s Logue’s Homer. Like all translations, it departs fundamentally from the language of the original. Unlike many translations, it arrives at a version that, because of its radical departures, gets us closer to the original than many more defensibly 'faithful' translations have ever managed . . . He died before he could conclude much more than half of a full account of those ancient sounds. But, oh, what he managed to leave us: a vision of Homer as intimate and alive as a breath."—Wyatt Mason, The New York Times Magazine
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Two limestone plates support the Aegean world.
The greater Anatolian still lies flat,
But half an aeon since, through silent eyes:
God watched the counterplate subside, until