This poem, ‘HERACLES’, is by Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy.
To look at him now, who would think
he’d flayed a pelt of iron, bronze, stone
from a lion,
hacked its head for a helmet…
held the Hydra’s hissing heads
by eight throats;
scarfed the Golden Hind about his own;
chained, tamed, shouldered a wild boar?
Or believe he, old man,
had harnessed rivers;
emptied the air of murderous birds,
their brazen feathers;
felt the mad, hot bull swoon in his arms;
set four crazed mares
to pulling his chariot;
wooed an Amazon simply to break her heart?
Who’d credit his arrow killed
the dragon and giant,
or bet he stole the golden apples from a god,
called to heel Hell’s dog
for the last of his labours?
But he is the Gatekeeper;
this the home of the Gods,
who plucked him, favoured,
from the wood and fire of his funeral pyre
to place him here…
and he will never let you pass.