I love teaching Greek mythology to my eighth graders. Every year we read a retelling of the Iliad together, and every year I am reminded of what a great story it is. We just finished this year's reading, and I shared some poems with the kids based on the stories we'd read, including part of "The Judgment of Paris," by W.S. Merwin. As we read it, the students identified each of the three finalists in the beauty contest that poor hapless Paris is required by the gods to judge. Each offers Paris a bribe to choose her, but wisdom and power are a bit too abstract for him. Not so the third offer: the most beautiful woman in the world. I love how the poem ends, showing how Paris' decision has set in motion a whole series of events which nothing will be able to change.
it was only when he reached out to the voice
as though he could take the speaker
that his hand filled with
something to give
but to give to only one of the three
an apple as it is told
discord itself in a single fruit its skin
To the fairest
then a mason working above the gates of Troy
in the sunlight thought he felt the stone
in the quiver on Paris’s back the head
of the arrow for Achilles’ heel
smiled in its sleep
and Helen stepped from the palace to gather
as she would do every day in that season
from the grove the yellow ray flowers tall
whose roots are said to dispel pain
Here's the whole poem.
What choices that we'll make today will affect the course of our lives? Or maybe even the lives of future generations? We don't know, of course. Chances are, they won't be as obviously unusual as a trio of goddesses to choose among.
Irene at Live Your Poem has the roundup today.
4 hours ago