Helen in Egypt

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New Directions Publishing, 1974 - Literary Criticism - 304 pages
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The fabulous beauty of Helen of Troy is legendary. But some say that Helen was never in Troy, that she had been conveyed by Zeus to Egypt, and that Greeks and Trojans alike fought for an illusion. A fifty-line fragment by the poet Stesichorus of Sicily (c. 640-555 B.C.), what survives of his Pallinode, tells us almost all we know of this other Helen, and from it H. D. wove her book-length poem. Yet Helen in Egypt is not a simple retelling of the Egyptian legend but a recreation of the many myths surrounding Helen, Paris, Achilles, Theseus, and other figures of Greek tradition, fused with the mysteries of Egyptian hermeticism.
 

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User Review  - Michael.Xolotl - LibraryThing

I read somewhere that one of H.D.'s purposes in writing this was to have it serve as an answer to Pound's Cantos. It doesn't really, but it is reminiscent of the Cantos in that it has a lot of ... Read full review

Contents

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Page 1 - Helen was never in Troy. She had been transposed or translated from Greece into Egypt. Helen of Troy was a phantom, substituted for the real Helen, by jealous deities.
Page 11 - How did we greet each other? here in this Amen-temple, I have all-time to remember; he comes, he goes; I do not know that memory calls him, or what Spirit-master summons him to release (as God released him) the imprisoned, the lost; few were the words we said, but the words are graven on stone, minted on gold, stamped upon lead; they are coins of a treasure or the graded weights of barter and measure; "I am a woman of pleasure...
Page 6 - King of Myrmidons, unconquerable, a mountain and a grave, Achilles; few were the words we said, nor knew each other, nor asked, are you Spirit? are you sister? are you brother? are you alive? are you dead? the harpers will sing forever of how Achilles met Helen among the shades, but we were not, we are not shadows; as we walk, heel and sole leave our sandal-prints in the sand, though the wounded heel treads lightly and more lightly follow, the purple sandals.
Page 1 - Stesichorus was said to have been struck blind because of his invective against Helen, but later was restored to sight, when he reinstated her in his Pallinode. Euripides, notably in The Trojan Women, reviles her, but he also is "restored to sight.

About the author (1974)

H.D. (1886-1961) (the pen name of Hilda Doolittle) was born in the Moravian community of Bethlehem, PA in 1886. A major twentieth century poet with “an ear more subtle than Pound’s, Moore’s, or Yeats’s” as Marie Ponsot writes, she was the author of several volumes of poetry, fiction, essays, and memoirs. She is perhaps one of the best-known and prolific women poets of the Modernist era. Bryher Ellerman was a novelist and H.D.’s wealthy companion. She financed H.D.’s therapy with Freud.

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