Thu, Mar 18, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Britain’s poet laureate pens ode to injured star

AFP AND AP , LONDON AND TURKU, FINLAND

Surgeon Sakari Orava poses for photographers in the Mehilainen hospital on Tuesday in Turku, Finland. Orava operated on English soccer star David Beckham’s achilles tendon on Monday.

PHOTO: EPA

Britain’s poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem about injured England footballer David Beckham, she revealed on Tuesday.

Duffy’s poem is entitled Achilles and compares Beckham to the classical hero from Greek mythology who gave his name to the Achilles tendon which he has ruptured, ruling him out of the World Cup in South Africa in June and July.

“He [Beckham] is almost a mythical figure himself, in popular culture,” she told BBC radio, while admitting: “I’m a lot more likely to watch football than he is to read poetry.”

Achilles, immortalized in Homer’s Iliad, was a great warrior whose mother dipped him in the River Styx in a bid to make him immortal.

However, she held him by his ankle, which was not dipped in the river, leaving his heel vulnerable to wounding. Achilles was eventually killed by an arrow that hit him in the ankle.

Duffy’s poem is littered with references to Beckham’s life — it calls him a “slippery golden boy,” tells of him being concealed “in girls’ sarongs” and refers to “days of sweetmeats, spices, silver songs.”

It closes with the lines: “And it was sport, not war, his charmed foot on the ball/But then his heel, his heel, his heel.”

Explaining her decision to write the poem, she said that the lives of celebrities like Beckham “are stories the rest of us follow.”

“It’s fascinating that the injury takes its name from Achilles,” she said. “The whole point of Greek myths is the combination of triumph and tragedy that we follow in them.”

The poet laureate is appointed by Queen Elizabeth II on the advice of the government. Duffy’s predecessors include John Dryden, William Wordsworth and Ted Hughes.

Beckham and his wife Victoria flew out of Finland yesterday on a private jet.

The couple made no comments, and it wasn’t immediately clear where they were heading. Sakari Orava, Beckham’s doctor, who had earlier said they would likely travel to London and later to the US, said yesterday he “had no idea where they are flying to.”

Earlier, police pushed back dozens of shouting fans as the couple got into a silver Volkswagen van parked outside the clinic just before 2 pm. Escorted by two police cars, they were taken to the local airport.

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