↠´ The Cure at Troy Í Download by Ü Seamus Heaney O, how many goodly creatures are there here How beauteous mankind is O brave new world,That has such people in t The TempestI am a big fan of Seamus Heaney, have been for most of my life, and this was a book I have known about for some time but have never seen it for sale, and for some reason buying it on simply never came to mind However, every time I go into a Waterstones at the moment I see this book It has been given another push and reprint, with Faber and Faber putting a new edition out just last January It is a good time for a reprint of this book, in ways than one, and not the least because it means that this play is now wrapped in the modern and frankly attractive thick paper editions I ve always been to very interested in Classics, and Greek drama and Roman poetry are two things I have a huge passion for, but Sophocles play is one of the plays I do not know That is not to say I do not know Sophocles I think it was Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy who wrote that Sophocles was the one to add greater psychological depth to his characters in comparison to Aeschylus This much is obvious to see here in Seamus Heaney s translation of the play the characters so often feel like they have their own individual minds, and it often feels at times like actual speech that has been recorded rather than a play written to be performed by actors This is the sign of a great playwright, the authenticity of feeling and observation that is unmistakable and necessary for making the action and plot feel immediate and important, and so captivating for an audience This is why depth of character is important in every story telling medium The characters in this play are fully realised, and are themselves dangerously intelligent The play is a conflict between two men, Odysseus and Philoctetes, and the two men cannot because of their personal histories share the stage together without killing each other Neoptolemus is Odysseus friend and son of Achilleas, and he acts as the middle man between Odysseus and Philoctetes and his loyalty between the two men moves and wains throughout the play It is not hard to sympathise with Philoctetes and how he was treated by Odysseus during the initial voyage to Troy, and Philoctetes does sympathize However, this forms a symbolic contrast that is at the heart of the play Philoctetes is the symbol for the individual s needs, whole Odysseus always stressing the importance of the army and the war is a symbol for the larger group, and so of course larger society With this established and in mind, the play not just becomes an interesting conflict between two very strong and intelligent personalities, it becomes a conflict between two ideological positions Considering everything going on in the current political situation, the reprint of this play is extremely timely Perhaps this means that it has always been timely, because it is one of the eternal questions posed by human civilization This is underlined even further with this plot apparently being resolved prematurely Philoctetes and Neoptolemus are agreeing to abandoned Odysseus and Troy and return to Greece as traitors to the cause They may be damned by society and Odysseus, but at least they are free and making their own decisions, and the play could end there but it doesn t It ends with the Chorus being possessed by the spirit of Heracles, who then commands Philoctetes to join the Trojan war while being promised he would be considered a hero and his wound that caused him to be left on Lemnos healed Philoctetes agrees to this without reserve, and then the play ends This is an interesting ending, and the sudden shift raises even further questions Is this really justice Philoctetes really suffered for ten years on Lemnos alone, and simply healing his wound is not going to cure him of his mistrust of society There might also be something sinister in the way the gods can command human beings like Philoctetes, but at the same time Greek Tragedy such as Oedipus Tyrannus was always struggling with the distinction between fate and free will, as humans have been ever since We are being invited to question what, if any, balance can be found here, and it too is surely one of the great questions of life So far I have stressed the quality of the play itself, the structure and the philosophical questions this play poses for us But this is, of course, a translation, and a translation by Seamus Heaney Compared to Heaney s other translations I have read and am familiar with, Beowulf and Burial at Thebes his translation of Antigoni, also by Sophocles this is by far my favourite Beowulf is beautiful as a poem, and I love it, but it is far from the most accurate translation possible, while Burial at Thebes, whenever I ve read it I have for some reason found it lacking compared to the Robert Fagles translation This play, however, uses Heaney s talents to perfectly compliment the story It has some outstanding individual lines and quotations from it that feel like they belong in the play, and are not just there to be quoted The effect of many, and I do not know if this is in the original play, is to suggest that poetry is a way of exposing truth This is very Seamus Heaney, who of course was rather invested in poetry, but in a sense this is true of the play with the religious ending and the gods changing the actions of men This play could also feed into, and be answered by, the staggeringly genius ending of The Oresteia by Aeschylus, where the union of god and men is formed in a court of law creating a way for man to in a sense become gods The effect, then, is of synthesis rather than victory, which is perhaps the most mature way to settle such disputes like the one found here in this play With this, the last lines of The Cure at Troy seem so beautifully perfect Now it s high watermark and floodtide in the heartand time to go.
The sea nymphs in the spraywill be the chorus now.
What s left to say Suspect too much sweet talkbut never close your mind.
It was a fortunate windthat blew me here I leavehalf ready to believe that a crippled trust might walkand the half true rhyme is love.
NEOPTOLEMUS Philoctetes Let me educate youIn one short sentence War has an appetiteFor human goodness but it won t touch the bad So, it took me a while to get over Odysseus playing a part in this tale seriously, if there s one thing you can count on from me it is a good rant about Odious Odysseus That said, when it came down to it, the play revolves primarily around Neoptolemus Achilles son and Philoctetes Philoctetes is the great warrior who wields Hercules bow that was gifted to him Philoctetes and Neoptolemus are two of the honorable characters that appear I actually liked them, understood their decisions, and felt sadness for the events that swept them us in this ridiculousness, the Trojan War Particularly poignant is Neoptolemus s answers about the fates of those Philoctetes knew Plus, they both think Odysseus is despicable.
NEOPTOLEMUS Candour before canniness Doing the right thing.
And not just saying it.
This is small side story, but interesting for its perspective It falls around 3.
5 stars, but I rounding up.
The Cure at Troy Is Seamus Heaney S Version Of Sophocles Philoctetes Written In The Fifth Century BC, This Play Concerns The Predicament Of The Outcast Hero, Philoctetes, Whom The Greeks Marooned On The Island Of Lemnos And Forgot About Until The Closing Stages Of The Siege Of Troy Abandoned Because Of A Wounded Foot, Philoctetes Nevertheless Possesses An Invincible Bow Without Which The Greeks Cannot Win The Trojan War They Are Forced To Return To Lemnos And Seek Out Philoctetes Support In A Drama That Explores The Conflict Between Personal Integrity And Political ExpediencyHeaney S Version Of Philoctetes Is A Fast Paced, Brilliant Work Ideally Suited To The Stage Heaney Holds On To The Majesty Of The Greek original, But Manages To Give His Verse The Flavor Of Irish Speech And Context To End the Endless WarSeamus Heaney calls his 1990 play The Cure at Troy a version of Sophocles Philoctetes.
It is one of a number of translations he has done from ancient literature I have already written on hisBeowulfand Aeneid Book VI.
But this was than a straight translation, and the author confessed a specific political purpose it was written as a tribute to Nelson Mandela, who was released from prison in that year, and as a reflection of the Troubles in his own Northern Ireland But the Sophocles was a play I did not know, so I read it first in a straight translation, to better understand what Heaney was doing with his version It turned out that I had a version by Kathleen Freeman 1948 in an anthology I already owned I also consulted the 1986 translation by Gregory McNamee and the Greek original, both available online Philoctetes on Lemnos, by James Barry, 1770 First, some necessary back story Philoctetes, a celebrated archer, in possession of the bow and arrows presented to him by Herakles, sets off for the Trojan War But this has angered Hera who causes him to be bitten on the ankle by a snake The wound festers, and the smell and the archer s cries of agony are so disturbing that Odysseus abandons him on the island of Lemnos, and goes to war without him Now nine years have passed and the Greeks have still not captured Troy They hear a prophecy that Troy will not fall until Philoctetes rejoins the Greek army with his invincible bow So Odysseus sets out to recruit him But because Philoctetes hates him for his former betrayal, he cannot intervene directly In the first scene, therefore, he orders the young Neoptolemus, Achilles son, to befriend the wounded man by telling him lies So the trick you re going to have to turn is this Sweet talk him and relieve him Of a bow and arrows that are actually miraculous.
But, of course, son, I know what you are like I know all this goes against the grain And you hate it You re a very honest lad But, all the same, even you have to enjoy Coming out ahead Do it my way, this once All right, you ll be ashamed but that won t last And once you re over it, you ll have the whole rest of your life To be good and true and incorruptible.
This is Odysseus in the Heaney version, which sounds almost colloquial I suspect that Heaney put in the mid line breaks to increase the off hand quality of Odysseus scheming there is no equivalent in the Greek Certainly, it is far from the heroic speech of most Greek Tragedies but then Odysseus the wily deceiver is no tragic hero either Heaney takes it farther, but both Freeman and McNamee do something similar The tone is important as a moral baseline, for this is essentially a play about morality and honor Neoptolemus reluctantly accepts the order, meets Philoctetes, and gains the sick man s trust The play quickly adds further layers of deception, but in the end Neoptolemus revolts, determined to do what he knows to be right, regardless of his orders and the fate of Troy It is a play with little action, even offstage, but huge moral and emotional shifts in the intimate space between the characters Though classified as a tragedy because it deals with epic events and personal suffering, it ends with a deus ex machina appearance by Herakles himself, giving it a positive, uplifting ending A scene from the play by Fran ois Xavier Fabre, 1800 So what of Heaney s version As we have seen, he translates most of the action with the no nonsense everyday diction that has become the hallmark of his translations my first reaction to his Beowulf, for example, was amazement at how well the poet conceals his poetry So here is Philoctetes, thinking that Neoptolemus is leaving Troy for good, begging him to take him homeYou could do it all in a day.
One single day You can stow me anywhere.
The hold The stern Up under the prow.
Wherever I m the least bother to the men.
Come on now, son It s in you to do this.
You re not going to leave a wounded man behind.
I m on my knees to you, look, and me not fitTo move hardly I m lamed for life I m done.
I quote this passage also to call attention to an Irish lilt that comes through the text at times, most notably here at and me not fit to move hardly Heaney has written before of hearing familiar Irish voices as he writes I imagine that this sense was intensified with the obvious reflection of Troy in the long festering Troubles in Northern Ireland But this is not a theme that Heaney hammers at all hard This is not a pi ce clef in which one character represents one side of the Irish struggle and someone else the other, although Odysseus has the forked tongue of all too many politicians The parallels with Mandela are stronger, in that Philoctetes too comes out of his island prison to work for the country that had rejected him But Heaney does not have to belabor that it is already there in the text Philoctetes Hercules Odysseus.
Heroes Victims Gods and human beings.
All throwing shapes, every one of themConvinced he s in the right, all of them gladTo repeat themselves and their every last mistake,No matter what People so deep into Their own self pity, self pity buoys them up.
People so staunch and true, they re fixated,Shining with self regard like polished stones.
And their whole life spent admiring themselvesFor their own long suffering Licking their woundsAnd flashing them around like decorations.
I hate it, I always hated it, and I am A part of it myself.
These first lines of Heaney s play, and the two dozen that follow, are not in the Sophocles at all For where the poet has felt most free to reshape the original and build on it has been in the Choruses, ordinary people, yearning for normality but tainted with extremism This new opening works perfectly for the play, which might equally well have begun with such a chorus But anyone who grew up with first hand knowledge of Ulster Orangemen and Irish Republicans, as I did, will recognize the truth of that self regard that flashes ancient wounds around like decorations A plague on both extremist houses A production of Heaney s play in Seattle All through the play, the most poetic writing is reserved for the Chorus Heaney does not add any separate scenes, so far as I can see, but he can radically transform the original material The most striking example of this is in the deus ex machina arrival of Herakles Here he is in the Kathleen Freeman translation Not yet, my Philoctetes.
First listen to me.
You hear the voice,You see the face, of Heracles.
My care for you has broght me down from HeavenTo reveal the will of God to youAnd stay you from your present journey.
With a certain amount of theatrical magic, it could be effective enough Heaney also calls for special effects An air of danger, settling into a kind of threatened, pre thunder stillness Darker stage, a kind of purpled twilight.
But now it is not some god, but the poet himself, speaking through ordinary people like himself and most of his countrymen It is a text that leaps forward into the twentieth century, whether to South Africa or Northern Ireland It is a text that has become famous, quoted for example by President Bill Clinton on his 1995 visit to Derry, where the bloodshed all began And it is a text where the poet has moved from blank verse into rhyme Here are the first three stanzasHuman beings suffer, They torture one another, They get hurt and get hard No poem or play or song Can fully right a wrong Inflicted and endured The innocent in gaols Beat on their bars together A hunger striker s father Stands in the graveyard dumb The police widow in veils Faints at the funeral home History says, Don t hope On this side of the graveBut then, once in a lifetime The longed for tidal wave Of justice can rise up, And hope and history rhyme.
The final, and perhaps the most important, thing that Heaney has done in his adaptation of Sophocles is give the play a new title It is no longer some suffering figure marooned on his volcanic island no longer just a neutral name, but the hint of a something positive, a hoped for outcome at a place we never see, The Cure at Troy.
But Heaney is no sappy optimist he knows that reconciliation requires work He expands the final chorus from three lines into twelve Half hopeful, yes, but laced with cautionWhat s left to say Suspect too much sweet talk But never close your mind It was a fortunate wind That blew me here I leave Half ready to believe That a crippled trust might walk And the half true rhyme is love.
When reading Seamus Heaney one is struck by the magic of his language, its sensual embrace of one s spirit and it is no different here in his poem about pain and trauma, redemption and salvation cure Heaney speaks of the role of the chorus in the play and likens it to the role of poetry in our lives I hate it, I always hated it, and I amA part of it myself And a part of you,For my part is the chorus, and the chorusIs or less a borderline between The you and the me and the it of it Between The god s and human beings sense ofthings.
And that s the borderline that poetryOperates on too, always in betweenWhat you would like to happen and what will Whether you like it or not Poetry Allowed the gods to speak It was thevoiceOf reality and justice.
More, this is a poem about letting go of our wounds, of looking forward, of not only seeking the cure to the anger and hate that eats at us like an open sore but in believing that such a cure exists It is a story about honor and loyalty, about bending one s will for individual fulfillment to that of the group s Heaney, in the end, in the non rhyme, tells us all we need to know The message then, the answer, be foundation upon which justice having risen History says, Don t hopeOn this side of the grave.
But then, once in a lifetimeThe longed for tidal wave Of justice can rise up,And hope and history rhyme.
isWhat s left to say Suspect too much sweet talk But never close your mind It was a fortunate wind That blew me here I leave Half ready to believe That a crippled trust might walk And the half true rhyme is love.
Most of the time, when presented with classic Greek and Roman literature, I find myself finding it interesting but not enjoyable I mainly blame this on the fact that a lot of people doing the translating have lost some of the character of the original piece In fact it often comes off as being so dry that it s hard to imagine a fun and sport loving group of people to have ever tolerated it in performance Then the work gets relegated to the world of scholarly or those of us who wish to appear erudite and will condescend if you do not take their stern and sober view of the Arts It seems that if something might be considered as entertainment it is automatically struck off the list of presumingly good literature This where Seamus Heaney comes in He offers up a version of Philoctetes that breathes life into characters that have been inanimate for at least 1500 years While this play isn t long in length it s depth is so profound that all of the characters are there with you while you read it If you aren t familiar with the story of Philoctetes or you need a reminder stop There are spoilers ahead Just trust me and go on and read the book For those of you familiar with the storywe have a marooned Philoctetes, a war between Troy and Greece, a bow of Hercules, a prophecy, the son of Achilles, Neoptolemus, as well as Odysseus and a chorus, of course In order for the tides to change for the Greek in the Trojan war they need Philoctetes and Hercules bow, which is in his possession Odysseus comes to the island along with Neoptolemus in a ploy to trick the bitter Philoctetes into bringing the bow to Troy and changing the course of the battle This is the barest of bones of the story Seamus Heaney gives us a tragic, bitter Philoctetes that has been abandoned, in part by Odysseus, with a festering foot ulcer with nothing than Hercules bow Enter Odysseus and Neoptolemus who are there to bring Philoctetes to Troy They are sent to encourage Philoctetes to come to Troy to be cured and to help lead Greece to victory over the Trojans The feelings are so genuine the grief, the betrayal, the compassion, the suffering, the hardness, the desperation, the victory, the need for expedition The characters are all accessible and so very human Seamus Heaney creates in us a sympathy for every character, even Odysseus This story isn t just about compassion and integrity, it is about the wounds of relationships and finding cures It is about pride and humanity You will not walk away from this story feeling like you had to grasp at these themes or take a scholarly approach to find them You will walk away feeling this way and will know them for truth because it is in your heart Heaney s ability to mold language in a way that touches us deeply shows why he is an excellent storyteller and writer as opposed to someone who just writes well.
Leaving aside questions of faithfulness to Sophocles, Heaney here has a great little scene that has enormous consequences He begins with a sort of apology for enabling a fetishizing of damage People so staunch and true, they re fixated,Shining with self regard like polished stones.
And their whole life spent admiring themselves For their own long suffering.
Licking their woundsAnd flashing them around like decorations I hate it, I always hated it, and I amA part of it myself Philoctetes is damaged to be sure, damaged in the line of duty and marooned by others acting dutifully and now retrieved by still dutiful men Duty asks much of even our top tier captains, to say nothing of the cannon fodder What follows is a little test of pragmatism and decency can a deception against a wronged man which will lead to a long lingering death for him be better than trying to undo the wrong done to a very lethal man Can you ask a man to forgive his betrayers and achieve their goals for them There is a long passage at the end which is justly famous and frequently quoted Heaney knew a thing or two about long simmering conflicts and it infuses a lot of really great lines here The characters have all lost a great deal, and the only way to make all the death and suffering meaningful is to put an end to it at last and put it behind them.
The agon between pride and duty is sharper, and Philoctetes intransigence seems to resound at a much higher pitch Missing, I feel, is the attempt, clearly present in some of the other translations by classicists, to hint at the possibility of meta theatric sleight of hand in the final deus ex machina scene The number of actors limited to three being a convention of Sophoclean theater, with the actors playing Philoctetes and Neoptolemus present on stage, it must have occurred to the original audience that the actor playing Heracles is the same one who played Odysseus earlier in the play It could have also occurred to the original audience a thrilling possibility that what appears to be god Heracles, is in fact Odysseus polutropos the master strategist, the man of many twists and turns disguised as Heracles, descending from a mekhane of his own invention a warm up project for the great wooden horse trick Enfin, this is a brilliant interpretation of the Sophoclean classic A beautiful, contemporized version and should be read and judged as such, rather than a translation.
Seamus Heaney s take on Sophocles Philoctetes is shockingly accurate and modern at the same time, retelling the myth of the marooned Greek hero with all the detail of the ancient myth, but in a distinctly individual and contemporary voice As in Human Chain and other poetry collections, Heaney excels at producing maximum effect with a few words, evoking a whole life story in a few laments.
The heroes symbolise different ideas regarding honour, honesty, duties and rights within a community Is it ever acceptable to use lies in order to achieve a greater good Neoptolemos, Achilles son, opposes the opportunistic and experienced Odysseus The goal is to win the Trojan war, and they need Philoctetes dangerous weapon, and therefore all means are allowed according to the older politician Odysseus But experience has taught me the very peopleThat go mad at the slightest show of forceWill be eating out of your hand if you take them rightAnd tell the story so as to suit just them.
Neoptolemos Which boils down to a policy of lies What is right The myth does not deliver any definite answer, rather a juxtaposition of different personalities most common reactions to a situation that requires both sides to forget old stories and conflicts in order for a brighter future to have a chance The chorus, in its guiding function, starts the play with the ironical statement that all men involved in the major political meltdown of the Trojan War are driven by the same vanities, thus making it an eternal vicious circle of frustrated hopes and lost glory Philoctetes.
Heroes Victims God and human beings.
All throwing shapes, every one of themConvinced he s in the right, all of them gladTo repeat themselves and their every last mistake,No matter what.
People so deep intoTheir own self pity, self pity buoys them up.
People so staunch and true, they re fixated,Shining with self regard like polished stones.
And their whole lives spent admiring themselves For their own long suffering.
Licking their woundsAnd flashing them around like decorations Am I the only one who sees our real world of today in those words, rather than fictional heroes from Antiquity The power and beauty of poetry lies in visualising those different characters perception of the world how do we tell the story so it rings true to all those self indulgent heroes They are strong, and proud, and in possession of dangerous weapons we can t afford to make mistakes when approaching them.
Heaney chooses to introduce the action with a quote by Auden, summing up what he sees as the only way out of a violent dilemma of who wronged whom most over the course of shared history You shall love your crooked neighbourWith your crooked heart Not ignoring the evidence of other people s crookedness, but loving them anyway, remembering our own share in it, is Heaney s suggestion, and it opens up for a future In the end, Philoctetes breaks his isolation and sets off to a life full of new experiences, knowing full well that the island life has become part of who he is, but that he might add another layer to that by breaking the spell of hate, pride and injured feelings Suspect too much sweet talkBut never close your mind.
It was a fortunate windThat blew me here I leaveHalf ready to believeThat a crippled trust might walkAnd the half true rhyme is love I will be closing my review with Philoctetes final words, as I find solace and hope in his brave decision to face the world again Needless to say, I am a huge fan of Heaney And Sophocles
I love Greek drama, less because it s timeless than because it renders a particular time, place and culture with extraordinary vividness and depth, throwing into relief how people related to the great problems of their lives.
Heaney uses the chorus to create intimacy between text and audience For my part is the chorus, and the chorus Is or less a borderline between The you and the me and the it of it using hints of modernity, even anachronism The police widow in veils Faints at the funeral home The chorus also matter have materiality in the narrative, making their mediation effective.
Neoptolemus is young and principled, and we see him learn by trial and error guided by his moral courage and conscience, gaining wisdom and confidence over the course of the brief play Odysseus comes off as a particularly rule bound pragmatist, for whom morality consists in doing the gods bidding by any means necessary His patronising manner to perceptive, thougtful Neoptolemus is at times quite comical.
Philoctetes himself, wounded and still in agony, is a profound study in trauma Though he also enacts a personal moral code, his personality is fractured and distorted by injury and pain, and he resists the obviously favourable course of action, one that would lead to the healing of his body, out of bitterness towards those who abandoned him, but also out of fear of the change from a trauma bound way of being where he has been trapped a common reactionHis journey through the drama, aided by Neoptolemus physical help, spiritual help, psychological help mirror each other who gradually comes to understand the person he is caring for, is the story s essential thread, making for a capricious, unpredictable ride When Hercules speaks to Philoctetes through the chorus, I felt it was only because his interaction with Neoptolemus had healed his mind enough for him to accept the message, putting human intervention before the divine