October 16, 2007

Epic Poetry: 'Somewhat Epic' or the 'Tescoliad'

Hello people of the outside world.

After much anticipation (mostly my own), I have finished my first epic poem of great deeds done by men. It is not perfect by a long shot, but it makes me giggle, and I hope you enjoy it. I drew on my experience with Epic Tradition last year and came up with this idea over the last few days. It is excessively long, I know, but enjoy it anyways!


Somewhat Epic

  Sing, O Muse Calliope, of the journey, the trials and homecoming of the heroes of the Achaian host as they ransacked Tesco. Speak first of what became of the hoard of Argos.

  Great Agamemnon, shepherd of men, did rise one morning like shining Apollo from the sea and, feeling hungry, did inspect his fridge. But as a warrior who, conquering a foreign citadel with walls steep and after many years of arduous battle, finds the city he now possesses to be populated by old women past the flowers of their shining youth and the vaults of bounteous gold are left empty, so Agamemnon did find the fridge devoid of nourishing food. As quick Panic instilled great worry and doubt within his heart, the son of Atreus did check the freezer, yet that did not yield a golden fish finger, not even an ice cube. Heavy despair did strike Agamemnon in his heart and he dropped to the kitchen floor, rolling and rending his hair.

  He spoke winged words to no one in particular. ‘O this is the greatest tragedy to strike the house of Atreides! If I, a king of Argos, were made poor in glory lost or my fast ships taken by Poseidon, the shaker of earth, I would give it no mind. If I was left wanting gold after ransoming the whole of my host, I could quench that loss as a shepherd douses a smoldering flame. But this is beyond a king of men, and the gods do torment me! O Zeus of the aegis, grant me succour and I shall devote a ham and cheese sandwich to you at your temple.’

  But the Olympian did not hear the prayer of great Agamemnon of the shining helm. He had already eaten, and cheese gave him the awful wind and sweaty cheeks. Plus, he did have his hands full, what with every woman, man and animal he had had an affair with during his immortal life at loggerheads with one another. So Zeus of the dark brow did ignore Agamemnon, and waited for it to be Someone Else’s Problem.

  And so like an infant in need of its mother’s breast, Agamemnon did continue to wail, until Odysseus, sacker of cities, Diomedes and swift footed Achilleus were woken by the clamour, and minced into the kitchen. Odysseus of the many plans spoke winged words to Agamemnon, ‘What ails the Atreides? Do you want for glory and fame? In that, no one can contest with you. And the golden wealth of foreign lands is in your keeping. Does some god afflict you with hardship? Tell us, for even the gods, save cruel Hades, yield when men are suppliant to them.’

  In return, Agamemnon did say, ‘O calamity! There are no other pains but that the stores are empty, and that no man may eat his share or sip sweet wine.’

  At this, Achilleus was enflamed and burned with rage. ‘Is the greed of the Atreides endless, like ravenous Charybdis? I, Achilleus, have provided for Agamemnon when there has been little to profit myself. When you, Agamemnon, were in want of succour, I did provide bacon for your fry-up, yes, though my stocks did run low and I received no reward for myself.’

  Speak Muse, what thoughts did Diomedes keep within his breast? During this, Diomedes did remain silent in reflection of Achilleus’ anger, for he did know that, in the dead of night before Artemis’ countenance, Diomedes had stolen into the kitchen and eaten of Achilleus’ fat sausages and Odysseus’ flame grilled steaks. Yet he felt it best to retain this information within himself and not stir up the flames as a kiln owner does when making a large amphora.

  And Achilleus might have been overtaken by rage and harmed Agamemnon, or burst into tears and phoned his mum as was his wont, had not crafty Odysseus stayed him and reprimanded him. Odysseus said, ‘Hush! Have you not sworn brotherhood to Agamemnon? Zeus the negotiator looks harshly on those who renege on oaths made. Agamemnon of the shining helm respects promises and returns bounteous prizes to those who aid him. And Agamemnon, you are not one to turn woman, a leader in battle whose courage is undisputed. Do you not remember the words of wise Nestor, he who talks others to death? A few weeks hence, he did say, “Achaian men, when you are in want of food and drink, and your comestibles do run low, yes, even the day glow washing up liquid, these men must journey to other lands and, as the Olympian did coin himself children, so must man pay for his welfare. Whilst others may steal from the fridges of friends and abuse the rights of the suppliant, such as men are now, true Achaians do travel to Tesco, where all is available to those of status.” That was the gist of what Nestor said.’

  The heart of Agamemnon was swayed. ‘I apologise, noble men: I was taken by Ate. Now I’ve regained my cool, let us raid Tesco for the delights of men! And I shall throw such a party, that men to come in later days shall say, “That was one hell of a party, and Agamemnon and his comrades threw it.”’

And so they would have left then, had not Penelope caught Odysseus, halted him and addressed him. ‘Darling, such a man of cunning as could conquer cities and defeat a boar alone would not be taxed in fetching some simple commodities for a busy lover. For though I am but a woman, I yet have needs like men. I ask for you to pick up with your strong arms some shampoo, lasagna, this week’s Heat and some yoghurt, which will be chocolate for I have gone off cherry.’

As a man who, defying the Fates, discovers that his designs are fruitless and resigns himself to the will of the gods, so did Odysseus relinquish to Penelope and spoke to her in crushed words.

He said, ‘Alright.’

And so it came to pass that the men of Achaia did journey to Tesco.

Calliope, O Muse, tell us of the journey of the Achaian warriors to Tesco.

They did walk four abreast, like the great phallanx of an army, and did not take the bus, for to pay for the privilege to travel very slowly around the corner with many sweaty people was deemed unthinkable by crafty Odysseus, when a strong man can get there quicker on foot and spare his shining gold. And so the men did briskly walk to Tesco, with Agamemnon on the lookout for chavs.

Speak now of the joke of Diomedes.

Halfway through the journey, as Agamemnon and Achilleus did discuss the football and Odysseus noted the political debates of the week, Diomedes felt that he should contribute to the discussion. As club-footed Hephaestos was robbed of his iron will by Dionysos’ strong wine, so Diomedes was robbed of rational thought, and proceeded to tell a joke.

  What was the gist of the joke?

  There was no real punch line to be told, and it was no satyr play to entertain with mischance and bold humour, nor a divine comedy that Dionysos himself would commend when played in a grand theatre. It was a glorified penis joke, describing the actions of Dick and Fanny, Dick’s concubine.

  Is it repeatable, O Muse?

  I dare say not. It would waste time, for it was much more funny in the mind of Diomedes, addled by the spirit of Ate, for he did commit a crime against comedy. He tried to laugh it off, yet it was to no avail. Everyone was silent until they reached Tesco.

And what happened when they reached Tesco?

  All of them were overcome with awe within their breasts, and the shining halls of Tesco were so great in size that Achilleus did shed a tear in happiness.

  Agamemnon spoke in winged words, ‘O, this is the most happy day for all Achaian men, for the great automatic doors, O great design of Athena and man, have opened for us, and do continue to open and close for us. Now is the time for action! All men shall venerate the protection of Zeus the negotiator and Hermes, protector of all travellers.’ And to conclude his prayer, Agamemnon of the shining helm did pour libations and burn them in veneration of the gods.

  ‘Sandra, clean up at the magazine counter, please,’ spoke dull Tracy of the Customer Service desk, and all the men did hurry to their different errands.

  Odysseus, sacker of cities, did approach the magazines which do speak glorious tales with pictures and, with arms made strong by the gods and collected wits, did pick up a Heat magazine and drop it into his basket. He had remembered well the askings of Penelope and, using his manly knowledge, did think that he should be well rewarded in Penelope’s chamber that night. He would have left then, had he not spotted Agamemnon of the shining helm, swift footed Achilleus and strong Diomedes inspecting the magazines themselves, and so he did investigate and was deeply shocked.

  It was a copy of Nuts they did inspect, a magazine made glossy by manufacture and base by the focus group. It gave promise of many lewd enticements that snare men, such as ‘Big Boobs Edition’, ‘New Lesbian Photos’ and ‘Lucy Pinder Bares All’. On the cover were displayed many images of women, whose breasts were too large to be real, such as women are today, all naked with stars placed over their nipples enscribed with vulgar phrases like, ‘Censored!’ and ‘See More Inside!’

  Crafty Odysseus reprimanded them in winged words. ‘O brothers, why are you thus ensnared in the charms of Aphrodite, a cruel ruler of men who can’t control themselves? These women of lust are painted with insincerity. And as men know not when they are visited by gods, so these women will pay no heed to you.’

  Then did Diomedes speak. ‘Do not misunderstand us, Odysseus. We merely read it for the interesting true stories and amusing pictures, I say to you. It is the truth I tell.’ Yet Diomedes spoke in falsehood, for his face was red.

  Odysseus returned, ‘Diomedes, it is little else but glorified porn, and very bad porn at that reckoning. But if you must, have it, yet let it be known that I, Odysseus, shall not waste my gold on this and shall be paid back for it.’ At this, Diomedes put the magazine of lust into his basket.

  And what were the thoughts of Odysseus?

  In his head, Odysseus did think vile things of the baseness of his friends, and thought on how they could not be expected to solve a crossword meant for children. No, not even if they were to work together. And so Odysseus of the many designs did smirk but did not let it be shown outwardly.

Tell us now, O Muse, of the trials these warriors faced.

  The first was the trial of mince, for swift footed Achilleus did contest the manhood of Diomedes and spoke in winged words, ‘Why does Diomedes prefer lamb to beef? Is he bewildered by some god or spirit invisible to the eyes of men? Or has he turned woman, softening his wild tastes? Soon you shall be knitting like an old maid.’

  In response, Diomedes said, ‘It is not so! I do change my appetites for want of variety. You are one for talking of manhood: I ask of you why you spend so much of your time with Patroklos, and would you know of his manhood?’

  With great ire, Achilleus said, ‘It is not so! There is nothing but brotherly compassion between me and Patroklos!’ But as iron glows in a forge and becomes red, so did Achilleus face become red, and passing chavs did call him ‘gaylord’.

  And Achilleus would have smashed their faces in, had not Agamemnon of the shining helm said, ‘Achilleus, pay these churls no mind: the gods or police shall pick them up and punish them. And great Diomedes, do not descend into needless slanders for Rumour travels swiftly.’

  Next, the trial of Odysseus. He had found the mighty Heat magazine, as was foretold, and the frozen lasagna of which he found three, for great is the man with foresight who buys one for now and more for later. Yet he was beset with confusion as to the finding of shampoo. For as a shepherd who, having lost his flock in the wild and finds them mixed among those of his neighbours, so Odysseus, crafty though he was, could not discern which shampoo to choose. Like a hydra that grows new heads for each one rended, the shelves were stocked with many brands. Yet Odysseus was much loved by Pallas Athena, who descended and appeared before him in the countenance of Debbie, an assistant at Tesco, and asked of him, ‘Do you need help, sir?’

  Crafty Odysseus did recognise her and replied, ‘Yes, I am seeking aid. I look for shampoo for beautiful Penelope, a task at which I have no skill. If only Tritogenia, daughter of Zeus, was here, for she is kind and gracious to me.’

  At this, Athena revealed herself and grew larger. ‘I am she, and I repay those who do me service. Here, Odysseus, take this one.’ And with her dread power, she infused one bottle with menthol and eucalyptus, and strengthened the power of cleansing and volumising to that of a salon brand.

  ‘Thank you,’ spoke Odysseus, but realised that Athena was in waiting for tribute or payment. Odysseus was wise to the games of women, and knew that something was different about the goddess but not the nature of the change. He enquired, ‘Is that a new helmet, Athena?’

‘This is an old helmet,’ replied grey eyed Athena, ‘which I have worn since I was born, fully armed, from Zeus my father. So, no. Try again.’

  Then, as lightning strikes the tallest tree, Odysseus did realise the change in Athena, and said, ‘Ah, you have lost some weight and do look radiant.’

And though Athena was annoyed at Odysseus’ intial ignorance, the goddess did yield and not strike him down. Or so it would have been, had Odysseus not gone too far and did speak thoughtless words to Athena. ‘I do not mean you have turned anorexic,’ said Odysseus the not so crafty at this point, ‘No, you are not that thin. That is not to say that you are fat, for you are not as as fat as some goddesses. This isn’t because of the ride in Menelaos chariot, is it Athena? Because the cart is very old and creaks naturally-‘ But then Odysseus of the many designs did say no more, for like a blind man who stumbles in a cow field, he had trodden in a spot where few men wish to venture, and the dread goddess unleashed her fury.

  Then came the trial of beers. Agamemnon did find the crate of Carlsberg and did fetch a second, when Achilleus checked him, speaking winged words. ‘Stop greedy Agamemenon. Know your limits and do not strive towards excess!’ Agamemnon of the shining helm replied, ‘I do no such thing, and do maintain that a man who buys in bulk is wiser than he who would fear for his wallet. Besides, it is on special offer, and savings made can be used in other purchases.’ So spake Agamemnon and the second crate was added to the wire baskets.

  It was then that Odysseus returned, a shadow of his former self. As a pale ghost wanders the earth in search of succour and vengeance, so did Odysseus appear before his friends. Poor Odysseus was caked in foodstuffs flung by grey eyed Athena’s arm. Egg shells stuck to his hair and chocolate puddings and meringues adorned his body. The warriors asked him what had happened, but he did say, ‘It would be better not to say.’

  Then they did go to the checkout to consult Rose of the beeping desk. And what did she scan, O Muse?

  She did scan items too many for the telling, a feast of beef and lamb, of pizza and garlic bread with cheese, spaghetti, the dark barbecue sauce which men say goes with anything, curries, Odysseus’ lasagna, shampoo and the two magazines, and finally the crates of beer.

  Odysseus did speak to Rose the terminally bored, ‘I am Odysseus that was, who has lived for many years and bears many scars, most of them being mental scars. I have walked for what seems to be years, and suffered much by the gods I hold dear. I bring food for you scan for which I shall pay, for I have brought my shiny Tesco Clubcard.’

  And Rose did say, ‘Alright.’

  But while Rose did scan the mighty feast, strong Diomedes was disquieted, for he had seen the price of the beans he had picked. In his heart, he knew that he should have gone for the Tesco value beans, for they were bloody cheap at 9p a tin, yet he did go for the Heinz beans, which although they were as heavenly as the Olympiad ambrosia, they were much more expensive. He was shamed at his greed, yet now they had been scanned he had no courage within himself to recant and go for the cheaper beans. And so, like the silent dead he kept his peace.

  Soon the bounteous food was put into bags in sorting of rank and size. Diomedes was picked by lot to carry the eight bags of heavy shopping, which he did, lifting four bags in each hand, the sort of deed that requires four men today, such as men are. The journey was swift, for these men of Achaia knew that beneath the rays of Phoebus Apollo (he who strikes from afar) the frozen foods and meat would cook and be spoiled before they could prepare the feast. The gods made their limbs strong and made them walk fast, yet not too fast, for it is said that no man looks cool running unless they are in a movie and being chased by FBI men with guns made awesome.

  But Muse, please tell us quickly, what is the end of this tale?

  Agamemnon and his men did soon return to the kitchen in swift time and did offer the cold gifts to the fridge and freezer, where they did cool and did not go rank. Agamemnon did pay his libations to Boreas, whose northern winds do blow within the freezer, and all payed respects to Zeus the negotiator and Hermes, protector of all travellers, for the successful journey. All seemed well, and Achilleus did begin to prepare the feast so that all men may eat and none go without an equal share, but crafty Odysseus did collapse in despair. Odysseus of the many designs did realise at that point that he had forgotten the yoghurt of Penelope, and many important items of dire need. Furthermore, he would not know the delights of Penelope’s chamber, even though that was not part of beautiful Penelope’s bargain, and he most likely would not have gotten any at all. The fates had decreed that Odysseus would return to Tesco the next day, for no man is infallable unless he makes a shopping list.


That's it. Over. One more in the bank. Stick with me, please, for more is to come!

Signing out.


- 3 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. yay it is complete! :D It made me laugh at some points. I like it. Definitely feels like a Greek Epic style with lists and libations and the muse. I like the end where it says you better make a shopping list. And Athena throwing food on Odysseus. The porn magazine part wasn’t necessary though, since the magazine rack isn’t really by the food, though I guess they could get distracted, and they are men :P I totally agree with the shampoo part too, too many brands. you touched on most of the trials of shopping without over-doing it. Fun to read. gj

    25 Oct 2007, 13:07

  2. Oh, this was hilarious. You’ve amazed me.

    I especially loved the part about the magazines, and Odysseus’ argument with Athene. You’ve done well with the epic style (and this is from a Classics student!), especially with respects to the epithets.

    31 Oct 2007, 01:31

  3. Amanda Hopkins

    Lovely stuff! It made me laugh a lot and is clearly “influenced by epic” and pays special attention to the “standard” epic elements. Perhaps I should get students to concoct their own mini-epics as part of the module… May I link this from my Epic page, please?

    03 Nov 2007, 10:37


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