Helen herself seems almost ready for this sacrifice--at least, for the immolation of herself before this greatest love of Achilles, his dedication to "his own ship" and the figurehead, "an idol or eidolon . . . a mermaid, Thetis upon the prow."
Did her eyes slant in the old way?
was she Greek or Egyptian?
had some Phoenician sailor wrought her?
was she oak-wood or cedar?
had she been cut from an awkward block
of ship-wood at the ship-builders,
and afterwards riveted there,
or had the prow itself been shaped
to her mermaid body,
curved to her mermaid hair?
was there a dash of paint
in the beginning, in the garment-fold,
did the blue afterwards wear away?
did they re-touch her arms, her shoulders?
did anyone touch her ever?
Had she other zealot and lover,
or did he alone worship her?
did she wear a girdle of sea-weed
or a painted crown? how often
did her high breasts meet the spray,
how often dive down?
Copyright © 1982 by the Estate of Hilda Doolittle. From poets.org
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