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This review is taken from PN Review 145, Volume 28 Number 5, May - June 2002.

TODAY, THIS INSTANT, NOW CHRISTOPHER LOGUE, War Music: An Account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of Homer's Iliad (Faber and Faber) £12,99
MICHAEL ALEXANDER , Beowulf: A Verse Translation (Penguin) £5.99

War Music, a compilation of Christopher Logue's three books of translation to date Kings (1991), The Husbands (1994) and War Music (1981) is subtitled 'Logue's Homer', placing it alongside Chapman. Michael Longley's sonnet 'Ceasefire' used the meeting of Priam and Achilles over Priam's dead son as a suggestion of a way forward in The Troubles. Derek Walcott's Omeros made The Odyssey a history of his Caribbean people. Logue's concern is to bring the past to life rather than to use it as if interpreting the present.

Logue's is modern poetry of the highest order. It is as if he has cut out the middleman; he skilfully handles direct speech, vivid extended similes drawing on modern and ancient example, jump-cuts, close-ups and shifting time. Clearly, we are in the hands of a master storyteller.

As the Greeks personified rivers and mountains, Logue dares to personify the Now. We inhabit a constant present tense of action spanning Napoleon's Murat, Gallipolli, Lawrence of Arabia, Iwo Jima, cubism and the Bikini atoll. Like the Gods we can make sense of all these references happily.

They smile. They are the gods.
They have all the time in the world.
What science knows, they know.

The main theme of The Iliad is that life as a mortal is subject to a change of tense. 'Let is be was' says Agamemnon as he claims Achilles' woman as his own. Logue echoes this dynamic: 'reverse ...


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