My name means—shining one—or light,
which should have been a gift.
But for me it has been a blight,
and the cause of many a rift.
Not present at my conception,
there were two eggs I hear.
But it was based on deception,
and the volatile Zeus, I fear.
Helen and Polydeuces from one,
Clytemnestra and Castor from the other.
With energy from the rays of the sun,
I had one sister and two brothers.
A fair and lovely child was I,
Tyndareus and Leda proud.
And I would gaze up to the sky
to one black distant cloud.
My eyes were the colour of the sea
when it is not so blue.
Snatched from my home territory—
and gone was my virtue.
At nine, Theseus had taken me
to live within his home.
His mother was very kind, and she
played the abduction down.
The Dioscuri, my two brothers,
eventually rescued me.
It was said I had become a mother,
with Iphigenia in my family.
What evil star made me so fair
and victim of men’s abuse?
It was my traumatic nightmare.
For them, it was just an excuse.
Tyndareus did one day declare—
“a suitor for my daughter !”
Those Greek princes were aware
of involvement in future slaughter.
The competition had begun
but Helen had no voice.
She was the prize to be won,
and this involved no choice.
Menelaus had gained a bride,
her own hopes not required.
Based on politics and pride,
an object to be desired.
At Achilles’ parents’ wedding feast
the Apple of Discord was thrown.
Revenge from Eris for being least,
and the seeds of war were sown.
Eris knew three goddesses would vie.
To spread dissension was her plan.
The golden apple, a prize to supply
to the best goddess in the land.
Zeus would not judge this contest.
He assigned it to a local young man.
The women their rewards confessed.
Aphrodite, Athena and Hera with élan.
How did Paris ever choose
the prize for the goddess of love,
to make power and wisdom lose,
Aphrodite’s promise approve?
And how was Helen as reward—
consulted or even chosen?
So that this Apple of Discord
could be given as a token !
What rumours tales and lies were spread
about poor Helen’s name?
How Paris had seduced her, they said—
and gave notorious fame.
Defile host and guest protocol,
surely not believed by all?
Young eager Paris and Helen fell
by Aphrodite’s erotic spell.
Was I abducted or did I flee,
seduced, or bedded willingly?
For one stunned moment in time,
I was his, and he was mine.
Sins heaped on my innocent head.
Gossips said I profaned my bed.
What kind of mother leaves her daughter
for a man and some treasure over the water?
This madness drove me from the land—
to his boat, not holding hands.
He took me firmly by the wrist.
It was on an isle that we first kissed.
But I did stay in Troy—for desire or lust?
Priam welcomed me willingly—without any fuss.
Poseidon’s priests said a definite—”no”—
but most everyone else welcomed the show.
The liaison was a big mistake,
the love as durable as a snowflake.
Paris’ love was the possessive kind.
He wanted my body, soul, and mind.
Different men have controlled my life,
and many have wanted me for a wife.
I longed for nothing but solitude,
when my reputation was so rude.
A dumb maiden with no voice,
no reason had I to rejoice.
Nor have I ever been so vain,
but I have begged to be made plain.
So-called—Greek outrage—to settle a score,
took nine years to develop the Trojan war.
They sought trade routes over the sea,
and for this they fought, and blamed me !
There was no wind for the Achaean fleet.
Agamemnon with Calchas did meet.
“Iphigenia,” he said, “is the sacrifice
to appease Artemis and suffice.”
Clytemnestra was told a lie…
to Achilles’ side the girl would fly.
But she was placed upon an altar.
Agamemnon said he would not falter.
Then the goddess Artemis
made a decision to dismiss.
The girl was substituted by a deer,
and in the land of Taurians did appear.
This war made me sob with grief.
My heart ached, there was no relief.
Before Priam, I wept and I cried,
and told him that I should have died.
He refused to give in—and return me.
He had a grudge to repay for Hesione.
The Greeks wanted their treasure restored.
Agamemnon saw trade as the reward.
Paris, opportunistic and effete,
shielded by mist from his defeat.
Aphrodite chose to use her spell.
I did not greet him very well.
There in Troy, I loomed my life,
while warriors were embroiled in strife.
The patterns on the frame I wove,
and prayed for peace within the grove.
What of Homer’s embroidered work?
Some Bronze Age tales and so much talk.
Geography and names from oral past.
“Where are these places?” You may ask.
And what of Olympus interference?
Gods who meddled with their presence.
They should have all allowed the war
to travel its natural course once more.
What motivated capricious gods
to intervene and change the odds?
The wasted deaths of fine young men—
less in year one than in year ten.
The match with Achilles was then fought;
but with Hector’s death I was distraught.
I wove that horrific weft
and was utterly bereft.
Frightened Paris under great stress,
wasn’t saved again by the goddess.
Philoctetes’ sword proved to be too mighty,
his wounds were not staunched by Aphrodite.
He became for me—an overspoilt child,
and by his false charms I was not beguiled.
At last, in my arms, he eventually died,
but my freedom and peace were still denied.
His brothers argued over me,
as if to be taken as a trophy.
Paris was dead, they showed no remorse.
Deiphobus won, and took me by force.
Escape was not mine by climbing down,
as watchful guards alerted the town.
Where was that same, most diligent guard
when the wooden horse came into the yard?
My suspicions were aroused at this ploy,
but not the people of gullible Troy !
I mimicked the voices of some Greek wives,
but the soldiers within valued their lives.
In a sacked Troy, rape and pillage began.
Menelaus found me with another man.
Anger dissolved my feelings of guilt.
I stabbed Deiphobus up to the hilt !
Pleased to see the father of Hermione, my daughter,
after ten long years of battle and slaughter.
He embraced me and took me away—
back to Sparta, on a ship in the bay.
Troy was wiped out, and women I knew—
were taken as slaves by the Greek crew.
The palace I lived in—burned to the ground,
saturated by silence, with no sound.
Mothers, and wives, and daughters, all mourn.
Even dogs sat around looking forlorn.
And the name of—Helen—they did revile.
While I loudly proclaimed—”war is futile !”
My name was insulted, cursed, and damned,
while manly warriors were not slammed.
Returning to homes where they were not known,
they shouted and threatened, they would disown.
What was all this for—this horrible war?
Treasure and territory—anything more?
Listen, look, observe, and realize—
that dead men just give rise to cries.
It is a grave strategy to sanction death,
and glorify war with one loud breath,
and manoeuvres of manipulated men—
planned by generals—with the stroke of a pen.
Morality and ethics trodden into the ground—
by the foot of the winner, with sickening sound.
Many thousand dead corpses were victory’s price.
Fractured families, no funerals, were their sacrifice.
There is no excuse—to excuse
the side that must lose.
The survivor—Helen—that they all hate,
was a question of destiny, chance, or fate.
“The face that launched a thousand ships.”
A misnomer—that fell from false lips.
If you followed my story, closely woven—
you can acknowledge—this was not proven.
I hope that by now I have cleared my name
from all that malice, criticism, and blame.
From rumour calumny and hate—
I, myself, can vindicate.
While weaving in Troy I wrote on the distaff
the words I would put on my own epitaph.
Controlled and restricted, condemned and reproved,
degraded, defamed, dishonoured, abused.
My sere soul screened by the seer,
selected to be seared by life.
A woman who was victim and survivor,
was always Helen, and nobody’s wife.