by C. A. Trypanis
Now whom did Hector and Ares kill first,
Whom last? Teuthros, Orestes, Techos,
Oenomanos, Helenos, Oresbios . . . names,
Are we supposed to remember them all?
Names, many names, quantity, that is what matters;
It advertises the splendour of the cause.
As for the common soldier all that counts
Is if he managed to die in a manner
His generation approved. If he stumbled
Against their decorum, he will never be forgiven
By no matter how broadminded a posterity.
The side on which he fought? After a war
Who cares? It all builds up to the pride of the winner.
Wars cry out for memorials, and memorials for names:
Teuthros, Helenos, Oresbios, Techos, Orestes. . . .
If you ever died at Troy, then you were lucky.
Can anyone think of a greater memorial
—Even for a passing name—that the Iliad?
And so many better men will never figure there.
[from Grooves in the Wind]
* * *
Constantine Athanasius Trypanis, poet and classical scholar, was born at Chios on 22 January 1909, Bywater and Sotheby Professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature Oxford University 1947- 68, Fellow Exeter College Oxford 1947-68 (Emeritus), Professor of Classics Chicago University 1968- 74 (Emeritus), Minister of Culture and Science Greece 1974-77, Secretary General Academy of Athens 1981-85, President 1986, died Athens 18 January 1993.
Serendipity introduced me to Trypanis at a used book sale, and while he wasn’t by any means a great poet, his dry wit and love of Ancient Greek literature resulted in quite a few charming, intelligent poems. Peter Levi wrote a generous obituary when Trypanis died, ending with this observation: “He was a man whose life was in some ways difficult, and who was sometimes misunderstood, but from beginning to end there runs through it a strain of decency and even of nobility.” Read the entire obit here.