Laocoön

To prophesy is not a gift to those
So gifted, who can see in subtle signs
What is to pass; they bear the double woes
Of speaking truth to unbelieving minds
And knowing none can thwart the gods’ designs.
__With such impotent power upon his heart,
__The prophet must endure a life apart.

Thus always has it been for those who see
And dwell with human blindness and deceit.
And should they, shunned for eccentricity
And solitude, dare be so indiscreet
And warn their neighbors of the fate they meet,
__The neighbors balk and persecute the seer,
__Then rue the fate they never thought loomed near.

And so it happened once at mighty Troy.
Fatigued by nine long years of bloody war,
Her generals sent sentries to deploy
Against the hated foes camped on the shore.
That day, though, the Achaeans seemed no more,
__And in their place before Troy’s bronze gates stood
__A towering stallion wholly built of wood.

“A horse!” all Troy acclaimed, “The very sign
Of Lord Poseidon, Master of the Seas.
A novel work of exquisite design,
A trophy war-worn Greece leaves to appease
Its honored foes before it skulks and flees.
__Now let us show good will and welcome peace
__And give thanks that at last the war-years cease.”

They decked the horse with garlands, wreaths, and flowers;
They shouted, sang, and sounded lyre and horn;
They danced and clapped their hands. From all Troy’s towers
The clamor rose, on soft winds swiftly borne
To Ida’s peak, where Zeus looked down with scorn.
__Troy opened her impenetrable gate
__And bade the horse pass through, received in state.

But one man stood apart from the wild feast,
Crowned with oak-leaves and draped in robes of white,
The vestments of a consecrated priest.
He frowned upon the crowds, the only blight
Upon their utter, unrestrained delight.
__His name was Laocoön, Acoetes’ son,
__Poseidon’s priest, who sensed deception done.

He barged into the crowd, beneath the horse,
And shouted down the furor to a lull.
With all Troy glaring back he yelled with force
And passion that could even stir the dull:
“Trust not the Greeks,” he urged them, “not at all,
__Even bearing gifts. This horse you deck and groom
__And welcome as a god portends your doom.

“Destroy the horse! Set it at once ablaze!
Let flames reduce this evil thing to ash!
Long have you trusted in my prophet’s gaze;
Hear me now! Your gratitude is rash;
This artifice is only fit to smash!”
__Thus finishing, he flung a javelin
__Straight at the horse’s flank, where it stuck in.

The hushed Achaean warriors crouched inside
The horse’s belly heard the javelin’s thud.
They gulped and wrenched and sweated, terrified:
Their ruse was shown and Troy would have the blood
Now pulsing through them hotly in a flood.
__Outside, the Trojans stirred at the harangue.
__Most balked, while fewer felt a doubting pang.

The javelin’s whirr flew through the blue-green sea,
Where Earthshaking Poseidon makes his throne.
The sea-lord heard and raged tremendously:
His favored Greeks’ device was almost blown;
No upstart mortal’s will would thwart his own.
__He loosed two scaled sea serpents from his store.
__They darted through the waves and slid on shore.

The crowd screamed at the eely monsters, roiled,
And scattered willy-nilly, crazed with fear.
One serpent snatched the fleeing priest and coiled
Around his limbs as his two sons ran near—
Both beauteous, muscled youths—to free the seer.
__The second beast encircled both with ease,
__Twined fast around them, and began to squeeze.

The naked victims writhed and strained to fight,
Dripping with black venom, their vain cries
Muffled among the crushing coils locked tight
Until their chests cracked, darkness dimmed their eyes,
And they were gobbled whole, gulped down lengthwise.
__Their master’s task accomplished, the twin snakes
__Slinked back and vanished but for frothing wakes.

“A sign!” the Trojans cried, “We clearly see!
This horse is blessed: the vengeful god unleashed
On his own priest the price of blasphemy.”
Not once they cared for harsh words from a priest
Or thought a god could fear a truth released.
__They wheeled the horse into their citadel
__And cursed Laocoön as their city fell.

 

 

Tropic Night

The full moon throws her silver beams
Through the rustling palm-fronds’ dance
Of crisscrossing shade. Below,
The leafy verdure softly gleams;
The murmuring waves advance,
Tinged with a silvery glow.

A welcome breeze tosses our hair,
Wafting a thousand blooms’ scents,
Cooling what noon’s sun would sear.
In the distance thunderbolts glare,
Silent, but rife and intense—
A storm that dares not draw near.

In fronds and flowers, you and I,
Serenaded by the coos
And warbles of night-birds’ songs,
Eye fixed on moon-reflecting eye,
Hand caressing cheek whose hues
And warmth tells how the heart longs.

Our passion like these torrid climes
Burns, but like this placid night
Softens into smiles and sighs.
Mysterious and sacred times!
Subtle loves that most delight,
Wondrous as these star-strewn skies!

 

 

Adam Sedia (b. 1984) lives in his native Northwest Indiana, with his wife, Ivana, and their children, and practices law as a civil and appellate litigator. In addition to the Society’s publications, his poems and prose works have appeared in The Chained Muse Review, Indiana Voice Journal, and other literary journals. He is also a composer, and his musical works may be heard on his YouTube channel.


NOTE: The Society considers this page, where your poetry resides, to be your residence as well, where you may invite family, friends, and others to visit. Feel free to treat this page as your home and remove anyone here who disrespects you. Simply send an email to mbryant@classicalpoets.org. Put “Remove Comment” in the subject line and list which comments you would like removed. The Society does not endorse any views expressed in individual poems or comments and reserves the right to remove any comments to maintain the decorum of this website and the integrity of the Society. Please see our Comments Policy here.

6 Responses

  1. David O'Neil

    Outstanding work! The retelling of Laocoon’s story in Modern English verse is a triumph.

    Reply
  2. Martin Rizley

    Both poems are beautifully written. The way you have undertaken to retell the story of the fall of Troy seems to me expertly done; I like the way that you begin with the poem, not by diving into the narrative, but by first giving a two stanza description of the seer´s “burden.” This sets an appropriately solemn tone that anticipates the tragic narrative to follow. The unfolding events are then vividly described in a vivid way that is almost “cinematic.”
    “Tropic Night” is likewise a very evocative poem that conveys effectively the mood of exotic tranquility, romance and mystery you clearly wished to convey. I could see and sense everything in my mind´s eye.

    Reply
  3. Margaret Coats

    “Laocoon” shows the power and flexibility of rhyme royal, also known as the Chaucer stanza, since Chaucer used it before King James I of Scotland, most notably in his major Troy poem, “Troilus and Criseyde.” A good choice here for several reasons, and well used especially in those two introductory stanzas.

    Reply
  4. C.B. Anderson

    What could have, Adam, become a travesty of the original classic was saved and, indeed, redeemed by some very apposite and non-nonsensical rhymes throughout. Your sense of decorum and pace made this poem a masterpiece of measured grace throughout its many stanzas. I think the idea here is the mastery and union of form and content, without which a poem will tend to fall apart at some point. You held it together, and for that I give you an A+.

    I am not your teacher, and I garner no credit for your success. Everything I’ve written is just an opinion.

    Reply
    • Adam Sedia

      Thank you for the kind words. I truly appreciate them, particularly given their source. I accept the grade with pride.

      Reply

Leave a Reply to Margaret Coats Cancel Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.