It’s hard to say if I was kid or calf –
The children ran away and cattle turned
Their backs. I had no friends, I never learned
To play. The physics said I had but half
A soul, though, some maintained, no soul at all.
I felt I had no worth. Then, come the spurt
Of Teenage growth, ye Gods, how hunger hurt –
The dreadful choice I had to make appalled
Me most of all: to starve or eat what meat
There came – man or beast, I viewed the same.
How quick they were to heap on me the blame,
The ones whose sons I ate. A field of wheat,
A clover ground – none thought to ask what I
Might just prefer. I don’t absolve the beasts
Who when they saw me munch on man-size feasts,
Exclaimed ‘too bad, two legs, your turn to die!’
They walled me in a labyrinth. Confined
In dark and damp, my life – an empty waste,
I soon became as twisted as the place.
It should be them, not me, who are defined
As monsters. They are the ones who killed the youths
(a ‘sacrifice’, they said!) They fed me once
A year. But me? I ate the little ones
Just to live and, perchance, escape. The truth’s
Not what you think. I never relished flesh.
My bovine half was happy just with cud;
the human half was the half that wanted blood.
And blood they had – my own! Bright red and fresh,
dripping off the point of Theseus’s blade.
But an even bleaker fate awaited me:
My wretched half-a-soul can never be
At Rest: in Hades there is no Hybrids’ Glade.
The Lansdown Poets know very well how I love Greece and all things Greek! So many aspects of it interest and delight me.
Writing about the minotaur poses the obvious problem that many people have done so before. I have looked to present him as misunderstood, allowing that he might have been a vegetarian at heart and maintaining ‘the human half was the half that wanted blood’.
The poem maintains a simple rhyme structure. I would say Mark Sayers and David Punter have been the Lansdown Poets’ most disciplined rhymers over the years. One thing that I have learned about rhyming this year is that it can make for a more interesting rhyme if one looks to rhyme words that are different parts of speech (partially achieved here).