The Iliad of Homer | Chapter 32 of 35

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BOOK TWENTY-FOUR

 

          And the games broke up, and the people scattered to go away, each man

        to his fast-running ship, and the rest of them took thought of their dinner

        and of sweet sleep and its enjoyment; only Achilleus

        wept still as he remembered his beloved companion, nor did sleep

5     who subdues all come over him, but he tossed from one side to the other

       in longing for Patroklos, for his manhood and his great strength

       and all the actions he had seen to the end with him, and the hardships

       he had suffered; the wars of men; hard crossing of the big waters.

       Remembering all these things he let fall the swelling tears, lying

10   sometimes along his side, sometimes on his back, and now again

       prone on his face; then he would stand upright, and pace turning

       in distraction along the beach of the sea, nor did dawn rising

       escape him as she brightened across the sea and the beaches.

       Then, when he had yoked running horses under the chariot

15   he would fasten Hektor behind the chariot, so as to drag him,

       and draw him three times around the tomb of Menoitios’ fallen

       son, then rest again in his shelter, and throw down the dead man

       and leave him to lie sprawled on his face in the dust. But Apollo

       had pity on him, though he was only a dead man, and guarded

20   the body from all ugliness, and hid all of it under the golden

       aegis, so that it might not be torn when Achilleus dragged it.

          So Achilleus in his standing fury outraged great Hektor.

       The blessed gods as they looked upon him were filled with compassion

       and kept urging clear-sighted Argeïphontes to steal the body.

25   There this was pleasing to all the others, but never to Hera

       nor Poseidon, nor the girl of the gray eyes, who kept still

       their hatred for sacred Ilion as in the beginning,

       and for Priam and his people, because of the delusion of Paris

       who insulted the goddesses when they came to him in his courtyard

30   and favored her who supplied the lust that led to disaster.

       But now, as it was the twelfth dawn after the death of Hektor,

       Phoibos Apollo spoke his word out among the immortals:

       “You are hard, you gods, and destructive. Now did not Hektor

       burn thigh pieces of oxen and unblemished goats in your honor?

35   Now you cannot bring yourselves to save him, though he is only

       a corpse, for his wife to look upon, his child and his mother

       and Priam his father, and his people, who presently thereafter

       would burn his body in the fire and give him his rites of burial.

       No, you gods; your desire is to help this cursed Achilleus

40   within whose breast there are no feelings of justice, nor can

       his mind be bent, but his purposes are fierce, like a lion

       who when he has given way to his own great strength and his haughty

       spirit, goes among the flocks of men, to devour them.

       So Achilleus has destroyed pity, and there is not in him

45   any shame; which does much harm to men but profits them also.

       For a man must some day lose one who was even closer

       than this; a brother from the same womb, or a son. And yet

       he weeps for him, and sorrows for him, and then it is over,

       for the Destinies put in mortal men the heart of endurance.

50   But this man, now he has torn the heart of life from great Hektor,

       ties him to his horses and drags him around his beloved companion’s

       tomb; and nothing is gained thereby for his good, or his honor.

       Great as he is, let him take care not to make us angry;

       for see, he does dishonor to the dumb earth in his fury.”

55      Then bitterly Hera of the white arms answered him, saying:

       “What you have said could be true, lord of the silver bow, only

       if you give Hektor such pride of place as you give to Achilleus.

       But Hektor was mortal, and suckled at the breast of a woman,

       while Achilleus is the child of a goddess, one whom I myself

60   nourished and brought up and gave her as bride to her husband

       Peleus, one dear to the hearts of the immortals, for you all

       went, you gods, to the wedding; and you too feasted among them

       and held your lyre, O friend of the evil, faithless forever.”

          In turn Zeus who gathers the clouds spoke to her in answer:

65   “Hera, be not utterly angry with the gods, for there shall not

       be the same pride of place given both. Yet Hektor also

       was loved by the gods, best of all the mortals in Ilion.

       I loved him too. He never failed of gifts to my liking.

       Never yet has my altar gone without fair sacrifice,

70   the smoke and the savor of it, since that is our portion of honor.

       The stealing of him we will dismiss, for it is not possible

       to take bold Hektor secretly from Achilleus, since always

       his mother is near him night and day; but it would be better

       if one of the gods would summon The tis here to my presence

75   so that I can say a close word to her, and see that Achilleus

       is given gifts by Priam and gives back the body of Hektor.”

 

          He spoke, and Iris storm-footed sprang away with the message,

       and at a point between Samos and Imbros of the high cliffs

       plunged in the dark water, and the sea crashed moaning about her.

80   She plummeted to the sea floor like a lead weight which, mounted

       along the horn of an ox who ranges the fields, goes downward

       and takes death with it to the raw-ravening fish. She found Thetis

       inside the hollow of her cave, and gathered about her

       sat the rest of the sea goddesses, and she in their midst

85   was mourning the death of her blameless son, who so soon was destined

       to die in Troy of the rich soil, far from the land of his fathers.

       Iris the swift-foot came close beside her and spoke to her:

       “Rise, Thetis. Zeus whose purposes are infinite calls you.”

          In turn Thetis the goddess, the silver-footed, answered her:

90   “What does he, the great god, want with me? I feel shamefast

       to mingle with the immortals, and my heart is confused with sorrows.

       But I will go. No word shall be in vain, if he says it.”

          So she spoke, and shining among the divinities took up

       her black veil, and there is no darker garment. She went

95   on her way, and in front of her rapid wind-footed Iris

       guided her, and the wave of the water opened about them.

       They stepped out on the dry land and swept to the sky. There they found

       the son of Kronos of the wide brows, and gathered about him

       sat all the rest of the gods, the blessed, who live forever.

100  She sat down beside Zeus father, and Athene made a place for her.

       Hera put into her hand a beautiful golden goblet

       and spoke to her to comfort her, and Thetis accepting drank from it.

       The father of gods and men began the discourse among them:

       “You have come to Olympos, divine Thetis, for all your sorrow,

105  with an unforgotten grief in your heart. I myself know this.

       But even so I will tell you why I summoned you hither.

       For nine days there has risen a quarrel among the immortals

       over the body of Hektor, and Achilleus, stormer of cities.

       They keep urging clear-sighted Argeïphontes to steal the body,

110  but I still put upon Achilleus the honor that he has, guarding

       your reverence and your love for me into time afterward. Go then

       in all speed to the encampment and give to your son this message:

       tell him that the gods frown upon him, that beyond all other

       immortals I myself am angered that in his heart’s madness

115  he holds Hektor beside the curved ships and did not give him

       back. Perhaps in fear of me he will give back Hektor.

       Then I will send Iris to Priam of the great heart, with an order

       to ransom his dear son, going down to the ships of the Achaians

       and bringing gifts to Achilleus which might soft en his anger.”

 

120      He spoke and the goddess silver-foot Thetis did not disobey him

       but descended in a flash of speed from the peaks of Olympos

       and made her way to the shelter of her son, and there found him

       in close lamentation, and his beloved companions about him

       were busy at their work and made ready the morning meal, and there

125  stood a great fleecy sheep being sacrificed in the shelter.

       His honored mother came close to him and sat down beside him,

       and stroked him with her hand and called him by name and spoke to him:

       “My child, how long will you go on eating your heart out in sorrow

       and lamentation, and remember neither your food nor going

130  to bed? It is a good thing even to lie with a woman

       in love. For you will not be with me long, but already

       death and powerful destiny stand closely above you.

       But listen hard to me, for I come from Zeus with a message.

       He says that the gods frown upon you, that beyond all other

135  immortals he himself is angered that in your heart’s madness

       you hold Hektor beside the curved ships and did not redeem him.

       Come, then, give him up and accept ransom for the body.”

          Then in turn Achilleus of the swift feet answered her:

       “So be it. He can bring the ransom and take off the body,

140  if the Olympian himself so urgently bids it.”

          So, where the ships were drawn together, the son and his mother

       conversed at long length in winged words. But the son of Kronos

       stirred Iris to go down to sacred Ilion, saying:

       “Go forth, Iris the swift, leaving your place on Olympos,

145  and go to Priam of the great heart within Ilion, tell him

       to ransom his dear son, going down to the ships of the Achaians

       and bringing gifts to Achilleus which might soften his anger:

       alone, let no other man of the Trojans go with him, but only

       let one elder herald attend him, one who can manage

150  the mules and the easily running wagon, so he can carry

       the dead man, whom great Achilleus slew, back to the city.

       Let death not be a thought in his heart, let him have no fear;

       such an escort shall I send to guide him, Argeïphontes

       who shall lead him until he brings him to Achilleus. And after

155  he has brought him inside the shelter of Achilleus, neither

       will the man himself kill him, but will hold back all the others,

       for he is no witless man nor unwatchful, nor is he wicked,

       but will in all kindness spare one who comes to him as a suppliant.”

          He spoke, and storm-footed Iris swept away with the message

160  and came to the house of Priam.There she found outcry and mourning.

       The sons sitting around their father inside the courtyard

       made their clothes sodden with their tears, and among them the old man

       sat veiled, beaten into his mantle. Dung lay thick

       on the head and neck of the aged man, for he had been rolling

165  in it, he had gathered and smeared it on with his hands. And his daughters

       all up and down the house and the wives of his sons were mourning

       as they remembered all those men in their numbers and valor

       who lay dead, their lives perished at the hands of the Argives.

       The messenger of Zeus stood beside Priam and spoke to him

170  in a small voice, and yet the shivers took hold of his body:

       “Take heart, Priam, son of Dardanos, do not be frightened.

       I come to you not eyeing you with evil intention

       but with the purpose of good toward you. I am a messenger

       of Zeus, who far away cares much for you and is pitiful.

175  The Olympian orders you to ransom Hektor the brilliant,

       to bring gifts to Achilleus which may soften his anger:

       alone, let no other man of the Trojans go with you, but only

       let one elder herald attend you, one who can manage

       the mules and the easily running wagon, so he can carry

180  the dead man, whom great Achilleus slew, back to the city.

       Let death not be a thought in your heart, you need have no fear,

       such an escort shall go with you to guide you, Argeïphontes

       who will lead you till he brings you to Achilleus. And after

       he has brought you inside the shelter of Achilleus, neither

185  will the man himself kill you but will hold back all the others;

       for he is no witless man nor unwatchful, nor is he wicked

       but will in all kindness spare one who comes to him as a suppliant.”

          So Iris the swift-footed spoke and went away from him.

       Thereupon he ordered his sons to make ready the easily rolling

190  mule wagon, and to fasten upon it the carrying basket.

       He himself went into the storeroom, which was fragrant

       and of cedar, and high-ceilinged, with many bright treasures inside it.

       He called out to Hekabē his wife, and said to her:

       “Dear wife, a messenger came to me from Zeus on Olympos,

195  that I must go to the ships of the Achaians and ransom my dear son,

       bringing gifts to Achilleus which may soften his anger.

       Come then, tell me. What does it seem best to your own mind

       for me to do? My heart, my strength are terribly urgent

       that I go there to the ships within the wide army of the Achaians.”

200      So he spoke, and his wife cried out aloud, and answered him:

       “Ah me, where has that wisdom gone for which you were famous

       in time before, among outlanders and those you rule over?

       How can you wish to go alone to the ships of the Achaians

       before the eyes of a man who has slaughtered in such numbers

205  such brave sons of yours? The heart in you is iron. For if

       he has you within his grasp and lays eyes upon you, that man

       who is savage and not to be trusted will not take pity upon you

       nor have respect for your rights. Let us sit apart in our palace

       now, and weep for Hektor, and the way at the first strong Destiny

210  spun with his life line when he was born, when I gave birth to him,

       that the dogs with their shifting feet should feed on him, far from his parents,

       gone down before a stronger man; I wish I could set teeth

       in the middle of his liver and eat it. That would be vengeance

       for what he did to my son; for he slew him when he was no coward

215  but standing before the men of Troy and the deep-girdled women

       of Troy, with no thought in his mind of flight or withdrawal.”

          In turn the aged Priam, the godlike, answered her saying:

       “Do not hold me back when I would begoing, neither yourself be

       a bird of bad omen in my palace. You will not persuade me.

220  If it had been some other who ordered me, one of the mortals,

       one of those who are soothsayers, or priests, or diviners,

       I might have called it a lie and we might rather have rejected it.

       But now, for I myself heard the god and looked straight upon her,

       I am going, and this word shall not be in vain. If it is my destiny

225  to die there by the ships of the bronze-armored Achaians,

       then I wish that. Achilleus can slay me at once, with my own son

       caught in my arms, once I have my fill of mourning above him.”

          He spoke, and lifted back the fair covering of his clothes-chest

       and from inside took out twelve robes surpassingly lovely

230  and twelve mantles to be worn single, as many blankets,

       as many great white cloaks, also the same number of tunics.

       He weighed and carried out ten full talents of gold, and brought forth

       two shining tripods, and four cauldrons, and brought out a goblet

       of surpassing loveliness that the men of Thrace had given him

235  when he went to them with a message, but now the old man spared not

       even this in his halls, so much was it his heart’s desire

       to ransom back his beloved son. But he drove off the Trojans

       all from his cloister walks, scolding them with words of revilement:

       “Get out, you failures, you disgraces. Have you not also

240  mourning of your own at home that you come to me with your sorrows?

       Is it not enough that Zeus, son of Kronos, has given me sorrow

       in losing the best of my sons? You also shall be

       aware of this since you will be all the easier for the Achaians to slaughter

       now he is dead. But, for myself, before my eyes look

245  upon this city as it is destroyed and its people are slaughtered,

       my wish is to go sooner down to the house of the death god.”

          He spoke, and went after the men with a stick, and they fled outside

       before the fury of the old man. He was scolding his children

       and cursing Helenos, and Paris, Agathon the brilliant,

250  Pammon and Antiphonos, Polites of the great war cry,

       Deïphobos and Hippothoös and proud Dios. There were nine

       sons to whom now the old man gave orders and spoke to them roughly:

       “Make haste, wicked children, my disgraces. I wish all of you

       had been killed beside the running ships in the place of Hektor.

255  Ah me, for my evil destiny. I have had the noblest

       of sons in Troy, but I say not one of them is left to me,

       Mestor like a god and Troilos whose delight was in horses,

       and Hektor, who was a god among men, for he did not seem like

       one who was child of a mortal man, but of a god. All these

260  Ares has killed, and all that are left me are the disgraces,

       the liars and the dancers, champions of the chorus, the plunderers

       of their own people in their land of lambs and kids. Well then,

       will you not get my wagon ready and be quick about it,

       and put all these things on it, so we can get on with our journey?”

265      So he spoke, and they in terror at the old man’s scolding

       hauled out the easily running wagon for mules, a fine thing

       new-fabricated, and fastened the carrying basket upon it.

       They took away from its peg the mule yoke made of boxwood

       with its massive knob, well fitted with guiding rings, and brought forth

270  the yoke lashing (together with the yoke itself) of nine cubits

       and snugged it well into place upon the smooth-polished wagon-pole

       at the foot of the beam, then slipped the ring over the peg, and lashed it

       with three turns on either side to the knob, and afterward

       fastened it all in order and secured it under a hooked guard.

275  Then they carried out and piled into the smooth-polished mule wagon

       all the unnumbered spoils to be given for the head of Hektor,

       then yoked the powerful-footed mules who pulled in the harness

       and whom the Mysians gave once as glorious presents to Priam;

       but for Priam they led under the yoke those horses the old man

280  himself had kept, and cared for them at his polished manger.

          Now in the high house the yoking was done for the herald

       and Priam, men both with close counsels in their minds. And now came

       Hekabē with sorrowful heart and stood close beside them

       carrying in her right hand the kind, sweet wine in a golden

285  goblet, so that before they went they might pour a drink-offering.

       She stood in front of the horses, called Priam by name and spoke to him:

       “Here, pour a libation to Zeus father, and pray you may come back

       home again from those who hate you, since it seems the spirit

       within you drives you upon the ships, though I would not have it.

290  Make your prayer then to the dark-misted, the son of Kronos

       on Ida, who looks out on all the Troad, and ask him

       for a bird of omen, a rapid messenger, which to his own mind

       is dearest of all birds and his strength is the biggest, one seen

       on the right, so that once your eyes have rested upon him

295  you can trust in him and go to the ships of the fast-mounted Danaäns.

       But if Zeus of the wide brows will not grant you his own messenger,

       then I, for one, would never urge you on nor advise you

       to go to the Argive ships, for all your passion to do it.”

          Then in answer to her again spoke Priam the godlike:

300  “My lady, I will not disregard this wherein you urge me.

       It is well to lift hands to Zeus and ask if he will have mercy.”

          The old man spoke, and told the housekeeper who attended them

       to pour unstained water over his hands. She standing beside them

       and serving them held the washing-bowl in her hands, and a pitcher.

305  He washed his hands and took the cup from his wife. He stood up

       in the middle of the enclosure, and prayed, and poured the wine out

       looking up into the sky, and gave utterance and spoke, saying:

       “Father Zeus, watching over us from Ida, most high, most honored:

       grant that I come to Achilleus for love and pity; but send me

310  a bird of omen, a rapid messenger which to your own mind

       is dearest of all birds and his strength is biggest, one seen

       on the right, so that once my eyes have rested upon him

       I may trust in him and go to the ships of the fast-mounted Danaäns.”

          So he spoke in prayer, and Zeus of the counsels heard him.

315  Straightway he sent down the most lordly of birds, an eagle,

       the dark one, the marauder, called as well the black eagle.

       And as big as is the build of the door to a towering chamber

       in the house of a rich man, strongly fitted with bars, of such size

       was the spread of his wings on either side. He swept through the city

320  appearing on the right hand,and the people looking upon him

       were uplifted and the hearts made glad in the breasts of all of them.

          Now in urgent haste the old man mounted into his chariot

       and drove out through the forecourt and the thundering close. Before him

       the mules hauled the wagon on its four wheels, Idaios

325  the sober-minded driving them, and behind him the horses

       came on as the old man laid the lash upon them and urged them

       rapidly through the town, and all his kinsmen were following

       much lamenting, as if he went to his death. When the two men

       had gone down through the city, and out, and come to the flat land,

330  the rest of them turned back to go to Ilion, the sons

       and the sons-in-law. And Zeus of the wide brows failed not to notice

       the two as they showed in the plain. He saw the old man and took pity

       upon him, and spoke directly to his beloved son, Hermes:

       “Hermes, for to you beyond all other gods it is dearest

335  to be man’s companion, and you listen to whom you will, go now

       on your way, and so guide Priam inside the hollow ships

       of the Achaians, that no man shall see him, none be aware of him,

       of the other Danaäns, till he has come to the son of Peleus.”

          He spoke, nor disobeyed him the courier, Argeïphontes.

340  Immediately he bound upon his feet the fair sandals

       golden and immortal, that carried him over the water

       as over the dry land of the main abreast of the wind’s blast.

       He caught up the staff, with which he mazes the eyes of those mortals

       whose eyes he would maze, or wakes again the sleepers. Holding

345  this in his hands, strong Argeïphontes winged his way onward

       until he came suddenly to Troy and the Hellespont, and there

       walked on, and there took the likeness of a young man, a noble,

       with beard new grown, which is the most graceful time of young manhood.

          Now when the two had driven past the great tomb of Ilos

350  they stayed their mules and horses to water them in the river,

       for by this time darkness had descended on the land; and the herald

       made out Hermes, who was coming toward them at a short distance.

       He lifted his voice and spoke aloud to Priam: “Take thought,

       son of Dardanos. Here is work for a mind that is careful.

355  I see a man; I think he will presently tear us to pieces.

       Come then, let us run away with our horses, or if not, then

       clasp his knees and entreat him to have mercy upon us.”

          So he spoke, and the old man’s mind was confused, he was badly

       frightened, and the hairs stood up all over his gnarled body

360  and he stood staring, but the kindly god himself coming closer

       took the old man’s hand, and spoke to him and asked him a question:

       “Where, my father, are you thus guiding your mules and horses

       through the immortal night while other mortals are sleeping?

       Have you no fear of the Achaians whose wind is fury,

365  who hate you, who are your enemies, and are near? For if one

       of these were to see you, how you are conveying so many

       treasures through the swift black night, what then could you think of?

       You are not young yourself, and he who attends you is aged

       for beating off any man who might pick a quarrel with you.

370  But I will do you no harm myself, I will even keep off

       another who would. You seem to me like a beloved father.”

          In answer to him again spoke aged Priam the godlike:

       “Yes, in truth, dear child, all this is much as you tell me;

       yet still there is some god who has held his hand above me,

375  who sent such a wayfarer as you to meet me, an omen

       of good, for such you are by your form, your admired beauty

       and the wisdom in your mind. Your parents are fortunate in you.”

          Then in turn answered him the courier Argeïphontes:

       “Yes, old sir, all this that you said is fair and orderly.

380  But come, tell me this thing and recite it to me accurately.

       Can it be you convey these treasures in all their numbers and beauty

       to outland men, so that they can be still kept safe for you?

       Or are all of you by now abandoning sacred Ilion

       in fear, such a one was he who died, the best man among you,

385  your son; who was never wanting when you fought against the Achaians.”

          In answer to him again spoke aged Priam the godlike:

       “But who are you, O best of men, and who are your parents?

       Since you spoke of my ill-starred son’s death, and with honor.”

          Then in turn answered him the courier Argeïphontes:

390  “You try me out, aged sir. You ask me of glorious Hektor

       whom many a time my eyes have seen in the fighting where men win

       glory, as also on that time when he drove back the Argives

       on their ships and kept killing them with the stroke of the sharp bronze,

       and we stood by and wondered at him; for then Achilleus

395  would not let us fight by reason of his anger at Agamemnon.

       For I am Achilleus’ henchman, and the same strong-wrought vessel

       brought us here; and I am a Myrmidon, and my father

       is Polyktor; a man of substance, but aged, as you are.

       He has six sons beside, and I am the seventh, and I shook

400  lots with the others, and it was my lot to come on this venture.

       But now I have come to the plain away from the ships, for at daybreak

       the glancing-eyed Achaians will do battle around the city.

       They chafe from sitting here too long, nor have the Achaians’

       kings the strength to hold them back as they break for the fighting.”

405      In answer to him again spoke aged Priam the godlike:

       “If then you are henchman to Peleïd Achilleus,

       come, tell me the entire truth, and whether my son lies

       still beside the ships, or whether by now he has been hewn

       limb from limb and thrown before the dogs by Achilleus.”

410      Then in turn answered him the courier Argeïphontes:

       “Aged sir, neither have any dogs eaten him, nor have

       the birds, but he lies yet beside the ship of Achilleus

       at the shelters, and as he was; now here is the twelfth dawn

       he has lain there, nor does his flesh decay, nor do worms feed

415  on him, they who devour men who have fallen in battle.

       It is true, Achilleus drags him at random around his beloved

       companion’s tomb, as dawn on dawn appears, yet he cannot

       mutilate him; you yourself can see when you go there

       how fresh with dew he lies, and the blood is all washed from him,

420  nor is there any corruption, and all the wounds have been closed up

       where he was struck, since many drove the bronze in his body.

       So it is that the blessed immortals care for your son, though

       he is nothing but a dead man; because in their hearts they loved him.”

          He spoke, and the old man was made joyful and answered him, saying:

425  “My child, surely it is good to give the immortals

       their due gifts; because my own son, if ever I had one,

       never forgot in his halls the gods who live on Olympos.

       Therefore they remembered him even in death’s stage. Come, then,

       accept at my hands this beautiful drinking-cup, and give me

430  protection for my body, and with the gods’ grace be my escort

       until I make my way to the shelter of the son of Peleus.”

          In turn answered him the courier Argeïphontes:

       “You try me out, aged sir, for I am young, but you will not

       persuade me, telling me to accept your gifts when Achilleus

435  does not know. I fear him at heart and have too much reverence

       to rob him. Such a thing might be to my sorrow hereafter.

       But I would be your escort and take good care of you, even

       till I came to glorious Argos in a fast ship or following

       on foot, and none would fight you because he despised your escort.”

 

440      The kind god spoke, and sprang up behind the horses and into

       the chariot, and rapidly caught in his hands the lash and the guide reins,

       and breathed great strength into the mules and horses. Now after

       they had got to the fortifications about the ships, and the ditch, there

       were sentries, who had just begun to make ready their dinner,

445  but about these the courier Argeïphontes drifted

       sleep, on all, and quickly opened the gate, and shoved back

       the door-bars, and brought in Priam and the glorious gifts on the wagon.

       But when they had got to the shelter of Peleus’ son: a towering

       shelter the Myrmidons had built for their king, hewing

450  the timbers of pine, and they made a roof of thatch above it

       shaggy with grass that they had gathered out of the meadows;

       and around it made a great courtyard for their king, with hedgepoles

       set close together; the gate was secured by a single door-piece

       of pine, and three Achaians could ram it home in its socket

455  and three could pull back and open the huge door-bar; three other

       Achaians, that is, but Achilleus all by himself could close it.

       At this time Hermes, the kind god, opened the gate for the old man

       and brought in the glorious gifts for Peleus’ son, the swift-footed,

       and dismounted to the ground from behind the horses, and spoke forth:

460  “Aged sir, I who came to you am a god immortal,

       Hermes. My father sent me down to guide and go with you.

       But now I am going back again, and I will not go in

       before the eyes of Achilleus, for it would make others angry

       for an immortal god so to face mortal men with favor.

465  But go you in yourself and clasp the knees of Peleion

        and entreat him in the name of his father, the name of his mother

       of the lovely hair, and his child, and so move the spirit within him.”

          So Hermes spoke, and went away to the height of Olympos,

       but Priam vaulted down to the ground from behind the horses

470  and left Idaios where he was, for he stayed behind, holding

       in hand the horses and mules. The old man made straight for the dwelling

       where Achilleus the beloved of Zeus was sitting. He found him

       inside, and his companions were sitting apart, as two only,

       Automedon the hero and Alkimos, scion of Ares,

475  were busy beside him. He had just now got through with his dinner,

       with eating and drinking, and the table still stood by. Tall Priam

       came in unseen by the other men and stood close beside him

       and caught the knees of Achilleus in his arms, and kissed the hands

       that were dangerous and manslaughtering and had killed so many

480  of his sons. As when dense disaster closes on one who has murdered

       a man in his own land, and he comes to the country of others,

       to a man of substance, and wonder seizes on those who behold him,

       so Achilleus wondered as he looked on Priam, a godlike

       man, and the rest of them wondered also, and looked at each other.

485  But now Priam spoke to him in the words of a suppliant:

       “Achilleus like the gods, remember your father, one who

       is of years like mine, and on the door-sill of sorrowful old age.

       And they who dwell nearby encompass him and afflict him,

       nor is there any to defend him against the wrath, the destruction.

490  Yet surely he, when he hears of you and that you are still living,

       is gladdened within his heart and all his days he is hopeful

       that he will see his beloved son come home from the Troad.

       But for me, my destiny was evil. I have had the noblest

       of sons in Troy, but I say not one of them is left to me.

495  Fifty were my sons, when the sons of the Achaians came here.

       Nineteen were born to me from the womb of a single mother,

       and other women bore the rest in my palace; and of these

       violent Ares broke the strength in the knees of most of them,

       but one was left me who guarded my city and people, that one

500  you killed a few days since as he fought in defense of his country,

       Hektor; for whose sake I come now to the ships of the Achaians

       to win him back from you, and I bring you gifts beyond number.

       Honor then the gods, Achilleus, and take pity upon me

       remembering your father, yet I am still more pitiful;

505  I have gone through what no other mortal on earth has gone through;

       I put my lips to the hands of the man who has killed my children.”

          So he spoke, and stirred in the other a passion of grieving

       for his own father. He took the old man’s hand and pushed him

       gently away, and the two remembered, as Priam sat huddled

510  at the feet of Achilleus and wept close for manslaughtering Hektor

       and Achilleus wept now for his own father, now again

       for Patroklos. The sound of their mourning moved in the house. Then

       when great Achilleus had taken full satisfaction in sorrow

       and the passion for it had gone from his mind and body, thereafter

515  he rose from his chair, and took the old man by the hand, and set him

       on his feet again, in pity for the gray head and the gray beard,

       and spoke to him and addressed him in winged words: “Ah, unlucky,

       surely you have had much evil to endure in your spirit.

       How could you dare to come alone to the ships of the Achaians

520  and before my eyes, when I am one who have killed in such numbers

       such brave sons of yours? The heart in you is iron. Come, then,

       and sit down upon this chair, and you and I will even let

       our sorrows lie still in the heart for all our grieving. There is not

       any advantage to be won from grim lamentation.

525  Such is the way the gods spun life for unfortunate mortals,

       that we live in unhappiness, but the gods themselves have no sorrows.

       There are two urns that stand on the door-sill of Zeus. They are unlike

       for the gifts they bestow: an urn of evils, an urn of blessings.

       If Zeus who delights in thunder mingles these and bestows them

530  on man, he shifts, and moves now in evil, again in good fortune.

       But when Zeus bestows from the urn of sorrows, he makes a failure

       of man, and the evil hunger drives him over the shining

       earth, and he wanders respected neither of gods nor mortals.

       Such were the shining gifts given by the gods to Peleus

535  from his birth, who outshone all men beside for his riches

       and pride of possession, and was lord over the Myrmidons. Thereto

       the gods bestowed an immortal wife on him, who was mortal.

       But even on him the god piled evil also. There was not

       any generation of strong sons born to him in his great house

540  but a single all-untimely child he had, and I give him

       no care as he grows old, since far from the land of my fathers

       I sit here in Troy, and bring nothing but sorrow to you and your children.

       And you, old sir, we are told you prospered once; for as much

       as Lesbos, Makar’s hold, confines to the north above it

545  and Phrygia from the north confines, and enormous Hellespont,

       of these, old sir, you were lord once in your wealth and your children.

       But now the Uranian gods brought us, an affliction upon you,

       forever there is fighting about your city, and men killed.

       But bear up, nor mourn endlessly in your heart, for there is not

550  anything to be gained from grief for your son; you will never

       bring him back; sooner you must go through yet another sorrow.”

          In answer to him again spoke aged Priam the godlike:

       “Do not, beloved of Zeus, make me sit on a chair while Hektor

       lies yet forlorn among the shelters; rather with all speed

555  give him back, so my eyes may behold him, and accept the ransom

       we bring you, which is great. You may have joy of it, and go back

       to the land of your own fathers, since once you have permitted me

       to go on living myself and continue to look on the sunlight.”

          Then looking darkly at him spoke swift-footed Achilleus:

560  “No longer stir me up, old sir. I myself am minded

       to give Hektor back to you. A messenger came to me from Zeus,

       my mother, she who bore me, the daughter of the sea’s ancient.

       I know you, Priam, in my heart, and it does not escape me

       that some god led you to the running ships of the Achaians.

565  For no mortal would dare come to our encampment, not even

       one strong in youth. He could not get by the pickets, he could not

       lightly unbar the bolt that secures our gateway. Therefore

       you must not further make my spirit move in my sorrows,

       for fear, old sir, I might not let you alone in my shelter,

570  suppliant as you are; and be guilty before the god’s orders.”

          He spoke, and the old man was frightened and did as he told him.

       The son of Peleus bounded to the door of the house like a lion,

       nor went alone, but the two henchmen followed attending,

       the hero Automedon and Alkimos, those whom Achilleus

575  honored beyond all companions after Patroklos dead. These two

       now set free from under the yoke the mules and the horses,

       and led inside the herald, the old king’s crier, and gave him

       a chair to sit in, then from the smooth-polished mule wagon

       lifted out the innumerable spoils for the head of Hektor,

580  but left inside it two great cloaks and a finespun tunic

       to shroud the corpse in when they carried him home. Then Achilleus

       called out to his serving-maids to wash the body and anoint it

       all over; but take it first aside, since otherwise Priam

       might see his son and in the heart’s sorrow not hold in his anger

585  at the sight, and the deep heart in Achilleus be shaken to anger;

       that he might not kill Priam and be guilty before the god’s orders.

       Then when the serving-maids had washed the corpse and anointed it

       with olive oil, they threw a fair great cloak and a tunic

       about him, and Achilleus himself lifted him and laid him

590  on a litter, and his friends helped him lift it to the smooth-polished

       mule wagon. He groaned then, and called by name on his beloved companion:

       “Be not angry with me, Patroklos, if you discover,

       though you be in the house of Hades, that I gave back great Hektor

       to his loved father, for the ransom he gave me was not unworthy.

595  I will give you your share of the spoils, as much as is fitting.”

          So spoke great Achilleus and went back into the shelter

       and sat down on the elaborate couch from which he had risen,

       against the inward wall, and now spoke his word to Priam:

       “Your son is given back to you, aged sir, as you asked it.

600  He lies on a bier. When dawn shows you yourself shall see him

       as you take him away. Now you and I must remember our supper.

       For even Niobē, she of the lovely tresses, remembered

       to eat, whose twelve children were destroyed in her palace,

       six daughters, and six sons in the pride of their youth, whom Apollo

605  killed with arrows from his silver bow, being angered

       with Niobē, and shaft-showering Artemis killed the daughters;

       because Niobē likened herself to Leto of the fair coloring

       and said Leto had borne only two, she herself had borne many;

       but the two, though they were only two, destroyed all those others.

610  Nine days long they lay in their blood, nor was there anyone

       to bury them, for the son of Kronos made stones out of

       the people; but on the tenth day the Uranian gods buried them.

       But she remembered to eat when she was worn out with weeping.

       And now somewhere among the rocks, in the lonely mountains,

615  in Sipylos, where they say is the resting place of the goddesses

       who are nymphs, and dance beside the waters of Acheloios,

       there, stone still, she broods on the sorrows that the gods gave her.

       Come then, we also, aged magnificent sir, must remember

       to eat, and afterward you may take your beloved son back

620  to Ilion, and mourn for him; and he will be much lamented.”

          So spoke fleet Achilleus and sprang to his feet and slaughtered

       a gleaming sheep, and his friends skinned it and butchered it fairly,

       and cut up the meat expertly into small pieces, and spitted them,

       and roasted all carefully and took off the pieces.

625  Automedon took the bread and set it out on the table

       in fair baskets, while Achilleus served the meats. And thereon

       they put their hands to the good things that lay ready before them.

       But when they had put aside their desire for eating and drinking,

       Priam, son of Dardanos, gazed upon Achilleus, wondering

630  at his size and beauty, for he seemed like an outright vision

       of gods. Achilleus in turn gazed on Dardanian Priam

       and wondered, as he saw his brave looks and listened to him talking.

       But when they had taken their fill of gazing one on the other,

       first of the two to speak was the aged man, Priam the godlike:

635  “Give me, beloved of Zeus, a place to sleep presently, so that

       we may even go to bed and take the pleasure of sweet sleep.

       For my eyes have not closed underneath my lids since that time

       when my son lost his life beneath your hands, but always

       I have been grieving and brooding over my numberless sorrows

640  and wallowed in the muck about my courtyard’s enclosure.

       Now I have tasted food again and have let the gleaming

       wine go down my throat. Before, I had tasted nothing.”

          He spoke, and Achilleus ordered his serving-maids and companions

       to make a bed in the porch’s shelter and to lay upon it

645  fine underbedding of purple, and spread blankets above it

       and fleecy robes to be an over-all covering. The maid-servants

       went forth from the main house, and in their hands held torches,

       and set to work, and presently had two beds made. Achilleus

       of the swift feet now looked at Priam and said, sarcastic:

650  “Sleep outside, aged sir and good friend, for fear some Achaian

       might come in here on a matter of counsel, since they keep coming

       and sitting by me and making plans; as they are supposed to.

       But if one of these come through the fleeting black night should notice you,

       he would go straight and tell Agamemnon, shepherd of the people,

655  and there would be delay in the ransoming of the body.

       But come, tell me this and count off for me exactly

       how many days you intend for the burial of great Hektor.

       Tell me, so I myself shall stay still and hold back the people.”

          In answer to him again spoke aged Priam the godlike:

660  “If you are willing that we accomplish a complete funeral

       for great Hektor, this, Achilleus, is what you could do and give

       me pleasure. For you know surely how we are penned in our city,

       and wood is far to bring in from the hills, and the Trojans are frightened

       badly. Nine days we would keep him in our palace and mourn him,

665  and bury him on the tenth day, and the people feast by him,

       and on the eleventh day we would make the grave-barrow for him,

       and on the twelfth day fight again; if so we must do.”

          Then in turn swift-footed brilliant Achilleus answered him:

       “Then all this, aged Priam, shall be done as you ask it.

670  I will hold off our attack for as much time as you bid me.”

          So he spoke, and took the aged king by the right hand

       at the wrist, so that his heart might have no fear. Then these two,

       Priam and the herald who were both men of close counsel,

       slept in the place outside the house, in the porch’s shelter;

675  but Achilleus slept in the inward corner of the strong-built shelter,

       and at his side lay Briseis of the fair coloring.

          Now the rest of the gods and men who were lords of chariots

       slept nightlong, with the easy bondage of slumber upon them,

       only sleep had not caught Hermes the kind god, who pondered

680  now in his heart the problem of how to escort King Priam

       from the ships and not be seen by the devoted gate-wardens.

       He stood above his head and spoke a word to him, saying:

       “Aged sir, you can have no thought of evil from the way

       you sleep still among your enemies now Achilleus has left you

685  unharmed. You have ransomed now your dear son and given much for him.

       But the sons you left behind would give three times as much ransom

       for you, who are alive, were Atreus’ son Agamemnon

       to recognize you, and all the other Achaians learn of you.”

          He spoke, and the old man was afraid, and wakened his herald,

690  and lightly Hermes harnessed for them the mules and the horses

       and himself drove them through the encampment. And no man knew of them.

          But when they came to the crossing-place of the fair-running river,

       of whirling Xanthos, a stream whose father was Zeus the immortal,

       there Hermes left them and went away to the height of Olympos,

695  and dawn, she of the yellow robe, scattered over all earth,

       and they drove their horses on to the city with lamentation

       and clamor, while the mules drew the body. Nor was any other

       aware of them at the first, no man, no fair-girdled woman,

       only Kassandra, a girl like Aphrodite the golden,

700  who had gone up to the height of the Pergamos. She saw

       her dear father standing in the chariot, his herald and crier

       with him. She saw Hektor drawn by the mules on a litter.

       She cried out then in sorrow and spoke to the entire city:

       “Come, men of Troy and Trojan women; look upon Hektor

705  if ever before you were joyful when you saw him come back living

       from battle; for he was a great joy to his city, and all his people.”

          She spoke, and there was no man left there in all the city

       nor woman, but all were held in sorrow passing endurance.

       They met Priam beside the gates as he brought the dead in.

710  First among them were Hektor’s wife and his honored mother

       who tore their hair, and ran up beside the smooth-rolling wagon,

       and touched his head. And the multitude, wailing, stood there about them.

       And now and there in front of the gates they would have lamented

       all day till the sun went down and let fall their tears for Hektor,

715  except that the old man spoke from the chariot to his people:

       “Give me way to get through with my mules; then afterward

       you may sate yourselves with mourning, when I have him inside the palace.”

          So he spoke, and they stood apart and made way for the wagon.

       And when they had brought him inside the renowned house, they laid him

720  then on a carved bed, and seated beside him the singers

       who were to lead the melody in the dirge, and the singers

       chanted the song of sorrow, and the women were mourning beside them.

       Andromachē of the white arms led the lamentation

       of the women, and held in her arms the head of manslaughtering Hektor:

725  “My husband, you were lost young from life, and have left me

       a widow in your house, and the boy is only a baby

       who was born to you and me, the unhappy. I think he will never

       come of age, for before then head to heel this city

       will be sacked, for you, its defender, are gone, you who guarded

730  the city, and the grave wives, and the innocent children,

       wives who before long must go away in the hollow ships,

       and among them I shall also go, and you, my child, follow

       where I go, and there do much hard work that is unworthy

       of you, drudgery for a hard master; or else some Achaian

735  will take you by hand and hurl you from the tower into horrible

       death, in anger because Hektor once killed his brother,

       or his father, or his son; there were so many Achaians

       whose teeth bit the vast earth, beaten down by the hands of Hektor.

       Your father was no merciful man in the horror of battle.

740  Therefore your people are grieving for you all through their city,

       Hektor, and you left for your parents mourning and sorrow

       beyond words, but for me passing all others is left the bitterness

       and the pain, for you did not die in bed, and stretch your arms to me,

       nor tell me some last intimate word that I could remember

745  always, all the nights and days of my weeping for you.”

          So she spoke in tears, and the women were mourning about her.

       Now Hekabē led out the thronging chant of their sorrow:

          “Hektor, of all my sons the dearest by far to my spirit;

       while you still lived for me you were dear to the gods, and even

750  in the stage of death they cared about you still. There were others

       of my sons whom at times swift-footed Achilleus captured,

       and he would sell them as slaves far across the unresting salt water

       into Samos, and Imbros, and Lemnos in the gloom of the mists. You,

       when he had taken your life with the thin edge of the bronze sword,

755  he dragged again and again around his beloved companion’s

       tomb, Patroklos’, whom you killed, but even so did not

       bring him back to life. Now you lie in the palace, handsome

       and fresh with dew, in the likeness of one whom he of the silver

       bow, Apollo, has attacked and killed with his gentle arrows.”

 

760      So she spoke, in tears, and wakened the endless mourning.

       Third and last Helen led the song of sorrow among them:

       “Hektor, of all my lord’s brothers dearest by far to my spirit:

       my husband is Alexandros, like an immortal, who brought me

       here to Troy; and I should have died before I came with him;

765  and here now is the twentieth year upon me since I came

       from the place where I was, forsaking the land of my fathers. In this time

       I have never heard a harsh saying from you, nor an insult.

       No, but when another, one of my lord’s brothers or sisters, a fair-robed

       wife of some brother, would say a harsh word to me in the palace,

770  or my lord’s mother—but his father was gentle always, a father

       indeed—then you would speak and put them off and restrain them

       by your own gentleness of heart and your gentle words. Therefore

       I mourn for you in sorrow of heart and mourn myself also

       and my ill luck. There was no other in all the wide Troad

775  who was kind to me, and my friend; all others shrank when they saw me.”

          So she spoke in tears, and the vast populace grieved with her.

       Now Priam the aged king spoke forth his word to his people:

       “Now, men of Troy, bring timber into the city, and let not

       your hearts fear a close ambush of the Argives. Achilleus

780  promised me, as he sent me on my way from the black ships,

       that none should do us injury until the twelfth dawn comes.”

          He spoke, and they harnessed to the wagons their mules and their oxen

       and presently were gathered in front of the city. Nine days

       they spent bringing in an endless supply of timber. But when

785  the tenth dawn had shone forth with her light upon mortals,

       they carried out bold Hektor, weeping, and set the body

       aloft a towering pyre for burning. And set fire to it.

          But when the young dawn showed again with her rosy fingers,

       the people gathered around the pyre of illustrious Hektor.

790  But when all were gathered to one place and assembled together,

       first with gleaming wine they put out the pyre that was burning,

       all where the fury of the fire still was in force, and thereafter

       the brothers and companions of Hektor gathered the white bones

       up, mourning, as the tears swelled and ran down their cheeks. Then

795  they laid what they had gathered up in a golden casket

       and wrapped this about with soft robes of purple, and presently

       put it away in the hollow of the grave, and over it

       piled huge stones laid close together. Lightly and quickly

       they piled up the grave-barrow, and on all sides were set watchmen

800  for fear the strong-greaved Achaians might too soon set upon them.

       They piled up the grave-barrow and went away, and thereafter

       assembled in a fair gathering and held a glorious

       feast within the house of Priam, king under God’s hand.

          Such was their burial of Hektor, breaker of horses.

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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