Nov. 14, 2002: THE GREAT ARTIST RECONSIDERS THE HOMERIC SIMILE (John Tranter)

Dear Readers,

Again, someone we’ve never heard from before. In fact, I had never heard
of John Tranter before until I opened one of my poetry anthologies about
five minutes ago. And get this: he’s Australian! Our first Australian! So,
I’ll clam up, but I thought this poem was neat and well-executed. In the
interest of promoting discussion, I thought maybe one of our resident
poets or classics scholars–or anyone else?–coould enlighten us as to
what a Homeric simile is, and perhaps Pat Beidelman might say a word about
the reference to Matthew Arnold’s "Dover Beach?" I remember him being
quite an expert on it circa 1989.

-Matt

THE GREAT ARTIST RECONSIDERS THE HOMERIC SIMILE

He looks back over the last metaphor
and his eyes shift their focus, his gaze weakly
taking in the litter on the desk and then
the blurred garden, its order and composition:
bare trees, a path strewn with leaves,
a distant figure dawdling at the gate–
light dazzles the window-pane with brilliant
diamonds of dew–he sighs, and drops his pen.
As when a detective in the spring has found
a junk-struck hippy crouching in her pad
at the dead end of Desolation Alley, and
has faked the evidence and booked her, soon
her man returning giftless from his rounds
sees the flat empty and his girl-friend gone;
at that he freaks out, and checks his stride
and with short uneasy steps circles the block,
with smothered groans repeating her name; but she
lies on the cell floor, overdosed,
a heap of bright rags–never again
will those disco mirrors catch her image
floating by, nor the bathroom echo her
withdrawal screams–as that poor addict
hides in horror till the heat cools off,
nor knows his loss, so Matthew Arnold brooded
on his failing similes. His cup of tea
grew cold as he stared out at the Autumn
leaves; a change of air was what he needed,
a holiday at Dover, or Torquay…
and as he mused, the lounger at the gate–
the Future–turned his back, and walked away.

-1982

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