I liked these two woody similes for war and death, the first to convey the din and crash of battle, the second to describe the mortal felling of a great warrior. Homer’s stretch-similes are an exercise in holding an unfolding image in your mind until he lands its object.

See also the bestellar reviews, complete with rich quote-mosaics, of Adam Nicolson’s magnificent Why Homer Matters, and Christopher Logue’s War Musica muscular rendition of several books of the Iliad. 


‘As east wind and south wind fight it out with each other

in the valleys of the mountains to shake the deep forest timber,

oak tree and ash and the cornel with the delicate bark; these

whip their wide-reaching branches against one another

in inhuman noise, and the crash goes up from the splintering timber;

so Trojans and Achaians springing against one another

cut men down …’


‘He fell, thunderously, and his armour clattered upon him,

and his hair, lovely as the Graces, was splattered with blood, those

braided locks caught waspwise in gold and silver.  As some

slip of an olive tree strong-growing that a man raises

in a lonely place, and drenched it with generous water, so that

it blossoms into beauty, and the blasts of winds from all quarters

tremble it, and it burst into pale blossoming. But then

a wind suddenly in a great tempest descending upon it

wrenches it out of its stand and lays it at length on the ground; such

was Euphorbos of the strong ash spear, the son of Panthoös,

whom Menelaos Atreides killed, and was stripping his armour.’


Source: Homer, The Iliad of Homer, trans. Richmond Lattimore (Chicago: Chicago UP, 1961 (1951)), book XVI, p. 350 and book XVII, p. 355


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