The Chilliad

(The task at hand: retell the story of my winter break, in the style of Robert Fagles’ Iliad.)

Rage — Goddess, sing the rage of Atreus’ son Menaleus,
unmatched in court of law or basketball
with well-greaved legal staff at his command,
but undone by his pride and fearsome rage.

Begin, Muse with the meeting of his sons,
Raised in East Missouri, rich with corn.
The elder was thick-gloved Diomedes
Tutored in the island land of Rhodes
And match for wise Apollo, clear of thought,
At solving variational equations.
The younger was swift Ajax, great of boot,
Who sailed from icy Massachusetts bay,
His destiny, to take his rightful place
Among white-collared yuppies of Manhattan.

They sailed for the Mountains, Castle Rock
And Lincoln, where the peaks are sharp and white,
And in their hearts, they longed for the glory
Won by courage, upon the whitened slopes.

At the mountain’s foot, where warriors made their camp
Diomedes arrived, and greeted his mother there,
Fair Andromache, the wife of Menaleus.
Then from his tent strode forth young Ajax
And embraced his brother in his joy.
Diomedes spoke first:
“Long have I driven
And braved the icy passes through the mountains
To join you in our hour of greatest triumph —
See there!  The two towering peaks,
each like Olympus itself in majesty
And cloaked in snow like an ancient crone
with silver tresses flowing over her shoulders
and down below her knees.  They stand like gods,
Unmoveable and proud, like father Zeus himself,
and no man dares to ski their whitened slopes.
Let us see if they still stand so tall
when the sharpened edges of our boards
cut wicked gashes down their icy sides!”

The next to speak was Ajax, great of boot:
“Our arms are open wide to welcome you,
and a warming fire blazes in the hearth.
Come, join me and your father, Menelaus,
And your fair mother, Andromache, his wife.
We shall make savory offerings to the gods
that they might ski behind us on the slopes
and grant us glorious ollies and success!”

They found king Menelaus by the hearth,
and his heart was gladdened by his son’s return.
Andromache prepared a sumptuous feast,
laying out leftover cuts of the finest salmon
turned twenty times around the microwave
and half a bagel sandwich, thick with cheese.
The choicest pages of the New York Times
they threw into the fire, to please the gods,
and then they ate, and each man had his fill.

When they had put aside desire for food and drink
Proud Menaleus rose to give his speech:
“Praises to great Zeus, the god of thunder
who sends forth mighty storms that bring the snow
and also makes the thunderous snow machines
that bring the snow when mighty storms are scarce.
Next, praises to swift Hermes, traveling god
who escorts heroes in their brave endeavors
and guards against the breakdown of their cars
in winter months, when engines tend to freeze.

The gods have sent you here with eagle’s speed
For every one supports you in your quest:
Zeus and Hera, briefly reconciled
to see these mighty Titans brought to heel,
have granted to us their two sky-chariots
which seat four men abreast, and all their gear,
to bear us up to their Olympian heights
(and one small chariot for the bunny slope).

(to be continued)

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