Layne Evans's Version:
She whisked him away, as a god can do, so very easily,
And hid him in piles of air, till down he dropped,
Fresh and sweet in his fragrant suite. You just lie back,
The goddess cooed, and he was glad to.
Now this is more like it.
And she was off at once to fetch Helen
For a homecoming party.
She found her high on a rampart, surrounded
By all the ladies of Troy, and she reached out
Her goddess fingers and shook Helen’s sleeve,
Stirring out a little sigh of a scent like honeysuckle.
Ever the soul of discretion, the goddess
Had taken the form of a woman bent with years, a particular woman,
One of Helen’s dearest favorites from the old days,
The beloved artist who with her own hands made for Helen
All those famous fabulous wool creations back home in Sparta,
The only robes she packed that night.
In this cherished guise the goddess pretended to cackle:
“Come here, dear, Alexander wants you.
He’s back in the room, and the bed is turned down, and
He’s dazzling, darling, he is shining like a star dressed in stars.
Not a trace of blood, not a smudge!
You would never dream he’d been fighting anyone,
You would say he is ready to go dancing,
Or just this minute sat down from dancing, so beautiful and rosy he looks.”
As the goddess chuckled and leered and hammed, she was raising a stallion fury
In Helen’s chest, because Helen saw straight through to the goddess,
That beautiful throat, those ravishing breasts, the shimmering eyes from another world.
Helen, flashing up like lightning in a black thunderstorm, said a word: “You.”
Then she cried out, “Lunatic, why?
Why is it always your deepest desire to torture me?
To find some way, any way, to fool me and trap me, especially in whatever
I care about most? What is it this time, or should I say who?
Where are you carting me off to? Don’t tell me, a palace, a yacht,
A beauty contest? Some fine capital we can ruin? I don’t think we’ve done
Phrygia yet. They say Maeonia is lovely this time of year.
Where will we find this next lucky smooth-talking pretty boy you want to get at?
Just now Menelaus has stomped all over your dreamy Alexander.
Nothing will stop him from dragging despicable me back home.
And that’s no fun for you, is it? So before I can blink,
Just now here you are, mistress of the universe, devising some brilliant scheme
To keep your party going. Well, how about this:
How about you go to Alexander yourself, go crawl into that perfumed bed
Beside your golden boy? You don’t need to be a goddess for that. But
I’ve never thought being a goddess was the real you, anyway.
Why stub your shiny little toes tripping back and forth to Olympus,
We both know where you truly want to be,
Always beside him, watching him and mooning over him and sniveling over him
Until you don’t care if he makes you his wife or his slave.
You have my blessing. But leave me out of it.
I will not go there.
The very idea is revolting. Will you spirit me back there in a cloud,
Land me on his … bed, so every Trojan woman from now until eternity
Will have one last thing to blacken my name about? Forget it.
There’s nothing for you here any more,
Nothing left of me but endless sorrow right down to the soul.”
And now the goddess Aphrodite was the one
To ignite like a dry roof put to a torch.
This time her voice seemed to rumble up from deep in the earth.
“Oh, tough girl, do not tempt me.
How would it be, do you think, if I really did snap?
How much of your beauty and glory and wealth
Do you think would be left
If I just left you here?
You wouldn’t have three pennies for a mule ride.
Or what if suddenly I began to hate you
Just as desperately as I have loved you?
People do change, you know. I know you know.
And goddesses more than most.
What if I got really creative?
The boys are so easy to stir up.
I could concoct all new hatreds in them so demented even they
Would be horrified when they came to.
Maybe toss you in between them.
Not the kings this time, sweet pea.
The true Trojans. The real Greeks. The infantry.
We’ll see how long you last.
Would that be a bad fate for you, I wonder?
Or would you enjoy it?
You would perish at some point, I assume.”
Thus she spoke. And Helen, whose own father was Zeus,
Knew well what a god can do, so very easily.
I know someone who would enjoy it, she thought,
But she didn’t say any more. She feared, and she went,
Pulling her splendid, shining, handcrafted wool robe over her head
And holding it close around her. She kept her eyes down,
And the Trojan women kept their eyes down, too,
And the goddess went first.