The Anathemata

Middle-sea and Lear-sea


Twelve hundred yearsa

close on

since of the Seven grouped Shiners

one doused her light.1

Since Troy fired

since they dragged him


without the wall.

When they regarded him:

his beauties made squalid, his combed gilt

a matted mop

his bruised feet thonged

under his own wall.

Why did they regard him

the decorous leader, neque decor . . . 3

volneraque illa gerens4. . . many of them

under his dear walls?5

David Jones notes

1 At the fall of Troy one of the Pleiades is said to have been extinguished.

2 It is to be supposed that Achilles, in chasing, or in the other tradition, dragging, Hector around the defences of Troy, did so anti-sunwise; as it was to unbind the protection of the city and not to secure it. (See on this matter, Jackson Knight Virgil’s Troy, p. 23, and Cumaean Gates, p. 90.)

3 See Isaiah LIII, 2, ‘non est species et neque decor’, (Vulgate) ‘there is no beauty in him nor comeliness’. (A.V.)

4 See ‘Squalentem barbam et concretos sanguine crines

      Volneraque illa gerens quae circum plurima muros

      Accepit patrios.’ Aeneid II 277-9.

5 See what is said above of Hector, ‘His beard made squalid, his hair concreted with blood, bearing the many wounds he had received around the wall of his patria’, and also ‘O light of the whole Trojan world’ and ‘Heu mihi! what was his aspect now, and how changed’ and ‘By what intolerable cause are your bright features made horrible to us’ and other such phrases referring to the defilement of the beauty of the hero in Aeneid II. All this inevitably recalls ‘he had no beauty that we should desire him . . . yet did we esteem stricken’, etc., and other passages in the Prophets and also in the narrative of the Passion itself and in subsequent devotional writings, concerning the indignities suffered by the Redeemer, both within and without the walls of his patria.

additional notes

DJ note 3: for ‘et’ read ‘ei’.

Middle-sea: Mediterranean; Lear-sea: English Channel (mainly its western approaches).

a According to many scholars, the fall of Troy is estimated to have been around 1190 BCE, give or take a few years. So the poem is here relating the defeat of Hector (the guardian of Troy) to the Passion of Christ. Hector’s death can be seen as the price paid for the foundation of Rome just as Christ’s death is the price paid for the redemption of the world.

DJ note 1: the Pleiades or Seven Sisters is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. The celestial entity has several meanings in different cultures and traditions. Seven (or six) stars are clearly visible to the naked eye, though many more can be seen through a telescope.

In the Greek tradition, the name was mythologised as the name of seven divine sisters, whose name was imagined to derive from that of their mother Pleione, effectively meaning ‘daughters of Pleione’. The seven most visible stars are:

Maia, eldest of the seven Pleiades, was mother of Hermes by Zeus.

Electra was mother of Dardanus and Iasion, by Zeus. Dardanus was the founder of Troy, so Electra faded or was dimmed at the fall of Troy.

Taygete was mother of Lacedaemon, also by Zeus.

Alcyone was mother of Hyrieus, Hyperenor and Aethusa by Poseidon.

Celaeno was mother of Lycus and Eurypylus by Poseidon.

Sterope (also Asterope) was mother of Oenomaus by Ares.

Merope, youngest of the seven Pleiades, was wooed by Orion. In other mythic contexts she married Sisyphus and, becoming mortal, faded away. She bore to Sisyphus several sons.

c widdershins: anti-clockwise. This is invention on Jackson Knight’s part: neither Homer nor Virgil has anything to say about the direction of travel. Also Homer has Achilles dragging Hector aroung the funeral mound of Patroclus (a comrade-in-arms of Achilles who was killed by Hector), not chasing him round the walls of Troy, as Virgil has it.

The whole passage in Virgil Aeneid II reads:

Tempus erat quo prima quies mortalibus aegris incipit et dono divum gratissima serpit. in somnis, ecce, ante oculos maestissimus Hector  visus adesse mihi largosque effundere fletus, raptatus bigis ut quondam, aterque cruento pulvere perque pedes traiectus lora tumentis. ei mihi, qualis erat, quantum mutatus ab illo Hectore qui redit exuvias indutus Achilli vel Danaum Phrygios iaculatus puppibus ignis! squalentem barbam et concretos sanguine crinis vulneraque illa gerens, quae circum plurima muros accepit patrios.


It was the hour when first sleep begins for weary mortals, and steals over them as the sweetest gift of the gods. See, in dream, before my eyes, Hector seemed to stand there, saddest of all and pouring out great tears, torn by the chariot, as once he was, black with bloody dust, and his swollen feet pierced by the thongs. Ah, how he looked! How changed he was from that Hector who returned wearing Achilles’s armour, or who set Trojan flames to the Greek ships! His beard was ragged, his hair matted with blood, bearing those many wounds he received dragged around the walls of his city.


semantic structures