Phemios & Medon


Still looking for a scoot-hole, Phemios the poet
In swithers, fiddling with his harp, jukes to the hatch,
Lays the bruckle yoke between porringer and armchair,
Makes a ram-stam for Odysseus, grammels his knees,
Then bannies and bams wi this highfalutin blether:
'I ask for pity and respect. How could you condemn
A poet who writes for his people and Parnassus,
Autodidact, his repertoire god-given? I beg you
Not to be precipitate and cut off my head. Spare me
And I'll immortalize you in an ode. Telemachos
Your own dear son will vouch that I was no party-hack
At the suitors' dinner-parties. Overwhelmed and out-
Numbered, I gave poetry readings against my will.'
I gulder to me da: 'Dinnae gut him wi yer gully,
He's only a harmless crayter. And how's about Medon
The toast-master whose ashy-pet I was? Did ye ding him
When the oxherd and the swineherd stormed the steading?'
Thon oul gabble-blooter's a canny huer and hears me
From his fox's-slumber in cow-hides under a chair–
Out he spalters, flaffing his hands, blirting to my knees:
'Here I am, dear boy! Put in a word for me before
Your hot-blooded pater slaughters me as one of them–
The suitors I mean, bread-snappers, belly-bachelors.'
Long-headed Odysseus smiles at him and says: 'Wheesht!
You may thank Telemachos for this chance to wise up
And pass on the message of oul dacency. Go out
And sit in the haggard away from this massacre,
You and the well-spoken poet, while I redd the house.'
They hook it and hunker fornenst the altar of Zeus,
Afeard and skelly-eyed, keeking everywhere for death.


                                                 –from Homeric Poems


Michael Longley, Collected Poems, Wake Forest University Press, 2007.