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War Music: An Account of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of Homer's Iliad

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  589 ratings  ·  53 reviews
In his brilliant rendering of eight books of Homer's Iliad, Logue here retells some of the most evocative episodes of the war classic, including the death of Patroclus and Achilles's fateful return to battle, that sealed the doom of Troy. Compulsively readable, Logue's poetry flies off the page, and his compelling descriptions of the horrors of war have a surreal, dreamlik ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 12th 2003 by University Of Chicago Press (first published 1981)
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Christopher Logue was a poet. Irreverent and utterly original, he was asked to “contribute to a new version” of Homer’s Iliad. Despite protestations that he knew no Greek, he looked over the earliest attempts to translate the work and came up with something…irreverent and utterly original.

Logue offers “an account” of Homer’s Iliad, just as a later poet, Alice Oswald in Memorial, would offer an interpretation…not a translation. Lovers of the Iliad, those who know well the story and joyfully enco
Lyn Elliott
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
As the subtitle of War Music tells us, this is not so much a translation as a modern poetic reworking of parts of the Iliad, and as such it stands as a great, if incomplete, literary masterwork in its own right.

I’ve just re-read it as part of my preparation for a group read of Emily Wilson’s The Odyssey in March, and was struck anew by its breath-taking imagery, which taps into the modern as well as the classical world, especially in the imagery of warfare and armaments. One of the most vivid of
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Kristen by: Laura Leaney
"Hard to say who is who: the fighters, the heroes,/
Their guts look alike." (194)

Sublime. Genius. Many more superlatives…If you have ever felt intimidated by the unending columns and lists of other translations of Homer's Iliad, give this one a whirl. Logue uses modern verse and contemporary imagery to tell Homer's classic story of Helen's abduction and the resulting war between Greece and Troy. The language, the structure, the breaks, the cadence..everything sweeps you along and puts you under s
Courtney Johnston
Jan 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
When I first read this book, about 18 months ago, I appear to have been slightly affronted by it.


Turns out I like my ancient lays either fully rounded and sonorous (Heaney's 'Beowulf') or completely remodelled (Zachary Mason's 'The Lost Books of the Odyssey). Logue's retelling of one of the central episodes of the Iliad - where Patroclus takes Achilles' armor and is killed by Hector - hits some middle note that just didn't work for me.

Some passages I did enjoy - the battle sc
James Murphy
Nov 11, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War Music was begun as part of a BBC commission toward a modern rendering of parts of the Iliad. Christoper Logue re-imagines it beautifully. Without using the words of Homer he nevertheless recreates his language while hammering it, like Hephaestus making new armor for Achilles, into something as radiant as a helmet and as irresistible as a spearpoint. Logue gives us Homer in a 20th century poetic idiom. Gone are the huge unbroken Homeric books with their lines standing on the page as solid as ...more
Laura Leaney
Oct 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This is the bad-assiest poem I've read in a LONG time. Forever.

"A drink! A toast! To those who must die."

If you know Homer, and you love Homer, despite the fact that the moral ethical part of you abhors war and revenge killing, then read Christopher Logue. Your literary mind can still embrace the warrior's ethos and the burst of understanding that is the swell of the heart in battle.

This is fucking great.

(And I'm not sorry for my salty language). I want to say it ten more times.
Apr 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Everyone
I've been told by a very reliable source that Logue is the best American poet right now. *Whoever told me Logue was an American is wrong, and I was wrong to believe them. Logue is British.


I don't know much about poetry. But this is pretty sweet. Logue does his take on a couple chapters from the Iliad. Here's a snippet from Achilles chastising King Agamemnon for bringing a plague onto the Greeks rather than returning a priest's daughter:

"Heroes, behold your King-
Slow as an arrow fired feat
Jan 20, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who enjoy Homer, action movies, verse novels, words, song.
Shelves: poetry, favorites
This was so fucking good. It was like cunnilingus in my brain ... actually no, that's just given me a really gross image of some kind of mind-sucking demon out of Buffy or something. Ignore that. I've only glimpsed at a couple of translations of the Iliad, and no other adaptations, but I'm happy to wager my firstborn that this is the best. Because it's fast-paced and cinematic and stately and grand, all at once, right down in the blood and grime and up in the meddlings of the gods. Everyone soun ...more
Jul 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Logue has a lot of guts. He's gotten into the ring with the likes of Fagles, Lattimore, Fitzgerald, and most courageously, Homer himself - and acquitted himself well. Mr. Logue has pulled "The Iliad," into the 21st Century with less a translation than a re-write. It appears there are numerous volumes containing sections of Mr. Logue's work, and it's a little hard to keep track, but two editions offered on's website, "War Music," and the wondrously titled, "All Day Permanen ...more
Sep 07, 2007 rated it it was amazing
holy crap this is so great.
Dec 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Absolutely magnificent.
Erica Zahn
2.5 stars.

I feel I should start out by saying that this book is not for me (in the most literal sense): this isn’t ‘for’ classicists, but is rather a foray into Homer for the uninitiated (though, having said that, I’m not sure whether Christopher Logue intended it for people who have actually read the Iliad or not). As a result, some of my criticisms are probably informed by my classicism, but I can only be myself and review according to my own judgement of the book.

Some issues I had are in comp
This book is a retelling (not quite a translation) of Books 1-4 and 16-19 of the Iliad. This is my second time reading it. Reading more about Christopher Logue, I found out that he returned to this project to write more of it, which is published in War Music: An Account of Homer's Iliad.

I re-read this to prepare for reading the Emily Wilson translation of the Odyssey.

From the introduction by Gary Wills:

Since Logue does not call his work a translation of Homer but an account of him, some think
Oct 03, 2007 rated it it was amazing
It's like reading a movie. On the back it is compared to a Kurosawa film, and I can see that. Bloody battle scenes portrayed beautifully. A quirky, contrarian, renaissance man wrote this book. Instead of translating Homer's Illiad word-for-word from the Greek, he worked from English translations and tried to re-imagine it into an English form that would most resemble what Homer was trying to do.

Cut to the Fleet:
Then to the strip between the rampart and the ditch.

The air near Ajax was s
Nick Klagge
Jan 31, 2016 rated it liked it
I'm glad I read this, and I really appreciate what Logue was trying to do, but I also thought it was pretty uneven. (For those who are unfamiliar, this is a sort of "reboot" of parts of the Iliad--an extremely loose translation, written based on other translations rather than by someone who could read the original Greek.)

I have previously only read the Iliad in the very staid Lattimore translation. Reading Logue is very much more like reading poetry, in both the good and the bad ways. There are
Aug 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is a brilliant adaptation of Homer's Iliad that takes epic away from a set of conventions and brings it back to narrative storytelling. Its reference pool is expansive, making use of anything that has happened before Homer and even after Homer, which in a paradoxical way gives us a truer English Homer than Fagles, Fitzgerald, or any of the other strict translators. Logue's poem is not a translation, but who would want a translation? I want to sense the poesy of Homer, not the narrative. One ...more
Mary Jean Phillips
Nov 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It turns out that there is, perhaps, such a thing as translation. Logue's control of English verse and deep understanding of Homeric structures, that is, how theme is expressed through form (repeating epithets, but not using the Greek epithets themselves; repeated scenes but not stock hexameters; theophanies that bring the Olympians to life; gore) produces a compelling "account", as he calls it, of parts of Homer's epic. He is ruthless like the blind bard, his iambs are almost silky, he lights u ...more
Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch
Nov 11, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: verse

Christopher Logue evidently died in December of 2011; perhaps there is more of this work yet to be published. I would be happy to see more, but would be happier to see it, and his already published Iliad work, in an extensively annotated form, binding it back to the existing texts, translations, and other Logue sources.

The work is remarkable as it stands, but it can hardly be argued that it stands entirely alone. I believe annotation would honor and envalue both Logue’s appropriation and his o
Steve Stivaktis
Apr 29, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A very interesting retelling of parts of the Iliad that made me tear up at certain moments. I particularly enjoyed how the gods and the surroundings are transferred into a reality half in the ancient times half in the modern world, and how the characters were true to their original spirit.
Also I was very glad that Achilles and Patroclus' relationship was not portrayed as the usual "close friendship" *coughs loudly at Troy* but as the actual very homoerotic love. Because let's face it. Come on.
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
Brilliant, just brilliant! I love Christopher Logue's approach to his interpretation of Homer's The Iliad. These little volumes of poetry are well worth reading on an annual basis, and I'm saddened to to realize that Logue's poetic voice has been silenced upon his death in late-2011. I will always treasure my collection of his 'Iliad' poetry, including War Music, Cold Calls, and All Day Permanent Red.
May 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Blue heaven above, Mount Ida's snow behind, Troy in between
And what pleasure it was to be there! To be one of that host!
Greek, and as naked as God! naked as bride and groom!
Exulting for battle!

There is beauty and ferocity and music in it. Every age can be written in myth and write myth. This is all the poetry that was missing from the bombast of 300.
Andre Harden
Apr 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Christopher Logue seizes the ancient story of The Illiad and retells it for the modern reader. This is not a translation. This is a vital and stirring work willing to use modern imagery to vividly bring a three thousand year old battle ringing into the present moment.

This early version tells only books 1-4 and 16-19. The Illiad has long been one of my favorite books because of the way it presents camaraderie in the face of danger. As much I enjoyed the other translation I have read, this new te
"Picture the east Aegean sea by night,
And on a beach aslant its shimmering
Upwards of 50,000 men
Asleep like spoons beside their lethal Fleet."

Logue's poem, an account of several books from Homer's Iliad, is incredible in its own right, never mind all the good it does on behalf of the epic. It is flash-framed cinematic, disciplined, and all but orchestral, and its scope and flow is interrupted throughout only to make way for observations, asides, and aphorisms of great depth and beauty. Highly rec
Naomi Ruth
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This was a fascinating re-telling/interpretation of Homer. Some of the name renditions confused me because I didn't recognize them and they were odd spellings, but I really loved the concept and it was a well executed and emotive experience.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Ditto review of the new edition; but good to see the earlier form.
Beautiful. This was a requirement for a freshman seminar at my university, and I just reread it now after 19 years, after rereading Fitzgerald's translation of the Iliad, also assigned at the time. It made me wonder why a faithful-ish movie adaptation had never been properly made, because with all the super hero flashiness from comic book adaptations as of late, an updated clash of Akhaians and Trojans, with those tricksy and conniving Olympians butting in, would make for a spectacular movie, or ...more
Dec 24, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Lishesque
Okay, so a call to arms is necessary because I know at least one of you out there is as much a fan of action-adventure myth telling/reconfiguring as I am and has the campy six-season set of DVDs to prove it, and that person especially should pick up this modernisation of The Iliad and glory in this new sprawling verse-epic. I don't think I've reacted with as much glee to something textual in a while. It's like being reinvigorated by seeing old friends after a lengthy and lonely existence of look ...more
Apr 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry-drama
A re-read of Logue’s Homer, prompted by reading Pat Barker’s excellent interpretation of The Iliad reminds me of just how superb his rendering is. The language is mostly spare with each word so well chosen. The interplay of the gods with human concerns is wonderfully played out (as, of course, it is with Homer), with human frailties and godly foibles combining to prolong the war to it’s calamitous end. Only four books were translated by Logue but the fact that only a fraction of the Iliad is rev ...more
Oct 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
This ain't your grandparents' Iliad, that's for sure. No slavish fidelity to formal meter, a la Lattimore. Though spare where Chapman is baroque and more adaptation than translation, Logue makes a fasincating bookend to the Chapman translation of Keats fame, that wild and wooly ur version that reads like Falstaff gone madly serious in his cups, both works blindingly cinematic in ways Pope, Fitzgerald, Fagles, et al, could only aspire to in their far too sober dreams. From what I gather round the ...more
Oct 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Logue sets out not just to translate, but to rewrite Homer. The man has guts.

While he sometimes veers into pretentious nutball silliness, when he's good, he's amazing. Logue's is the best rendering of the final conversation between Achilles and Patroclus that I've seen anywhere. Spot-on.

And what's not to like about passages like this?

The air near Ajax was so thick with arrows, that,
As they came, their shanks tickered against each other;
And under them the Trojans swarmed so thick
Ajax outspre
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Christopher Logue, CBE (born 23 November 1926 in Portsmouth, Hampshire) was an English poet associated with the British Poetry Revival. He also wrote for the theatre and cinema as well as acting in a number of films. His two screenplays are Savage Messiah and The End of Arthur's Marriage. He was also a long-term contributor to Private Eye magazine, as well as writing for the Merlin literary journa ...more
“Look north.
Achilles on the rampart by the ditch:
He lifts his face to 90; draws his breath;
And from the bottom of his heart emits
So long and loud and terrible a scream,
The icy scabs at either end of earth
Winced in their sleep; and in the heads that fought
It seemed as if, and through his voice alone,
The whole world's woe could be abandoned to the sky.

An in that instant all the fighting glassed.”
“Moments like these absolve the needs dividing men.
Whatever caught and brought and kept them here
Under Troy's Wall for ten burnt years
Is lost: and for a while they join a terrible equality,
Are virtuous, self-sacrificing, free;
And so insidious is this liberty
That those surviving it will bear
An even greater servitude to its root:
Believing they were whole, while they were brave;
That they were rich, because their loot was great,
That war was meaningful, because they lost their friends.”
More quotes…