The Illiad: The Redemption of the Body of Hector.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Redemption of the Body of Hector.

The gods deliberate about the redemption of Hector's body. Jupiter sends Thetis to Achilles to dispose him for the restoring it, and Iris to Priam, to encourage him to go in person, and treat for it. The old king, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his queen, makes ready for the journey, to which he is encouraged by an omen from Jupiter. He sets forth in his chariot, with a waggon loaded with presents, under the charge of Idaeus the herald. Mercury descends in the shape of a young man, and conducts him to the pavilion of Achilles. Their conversation on the way* Priam finds Achilles at his table, casts himself at his feet, and begs for the body of his son; Achilles, moved with compassion, grants his request, detains him one night in his tent, and the next morning sends him home with the body; the Trojans run out to meet him. The lamentation of Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen, with the solemnities of the funeral.

The time of twelve days is employed in this book, while the body of Hector lies in the tent of Achilles. And as many more are spent in the truce allowed for his interment. The scene is partly in Achilles' camp, and partly in Troy.

The games were ended, and the multitude
Amid the ships their sev'ral ways dispers'd:
Some to their supper, some to gentle sleep
Yielding, delighted; but Achilles still
Mourn'd o'er his lov'd companion; not on him
Lighted all-conqu'ring sleep, but to and fro
Restless he toss'd, and on Patroclus thought,
His vigour and his courage; all the deeds
They two together had achiev'd; the toils,
The perils they had undergone, amid
The strife of warriors, and the angry waves.
Stirr'd by such mem'ries, bitter tears he shed;
Now turning on his side, and now again
Upon his back; then prone upon his face;
Then starting to his feet, along the shore
All objectless, despairing, would he roam;
Nor did the morn, above the sea appearing,
Unmark'd of him arise; his flying steeds
He then would harness, and, behind the car
The corpse of Hector trailing in the dust,
Thrice make the circuit of Patroclus' tomb;
Then would he turn within his tent to rest,
Leaving the prostrate corpse with dust defil'd;
But from unseemly marks the valiant dead
Apollo guarded, who with pity view'd
The hero, though in death; and round him threw
His golden aegis; nor, though dragg'd along,
Allow'd his body to receive a wound.
Thus foully did Achilles in his rage
Misuse the mighty dead; the blessed Gods
With pitying grief beheld the sight, and urg'd
That Hermes should by stealth the corpse remove.
The counsel pleas'd the rest; but Juno still,
And Neptune, and the blue-ey'd Maid, retain'd
The hatred, unappeas'd, with which of old
Troy and her King and people they pursued;
Since Paris to the rival Goddesses,
Who to his sheepfold came, gave deep offence,
Preferring her who brought him in return
The fatal boon of too successful love.
But when the twelfth revolving day was come,
Apollo thus th' assembled Gods address'd:
"Shame on ye, Gods, ungrateful! have ye not,
At Hector's hand, of bulls and choicest goats
Receiv'd your off'rings meet? and fear ye now
E'en his dead corpse to save, and grant his wife,
His mother, and his child, his aged sire
And people, to behold him, and to raise
His fun'ral pile, and with due rites entomb?
But fell Achilles all your aid commands;
Of mind unrighteous, and inflexible
His stubborn heart; his thoughts are all of blood;
E'en as a lion, whom his mighty strength
And dauntless courage lead to leap the fold,
And 'mid the trembling flocks to seize his prey;
E'en so Achilles hath discarded ruth,
And conscience, arbiter of good and ill.
A man may lose his best-lov'd friend, a son,
Or his own mother's son, a brother dear:
He mourns and weeps, but time his grief allays,
For fate to man a patient mind hath giv'n:
But godlike Hector's body, after death,
Achilles, unrelenting, foully drags,
Lash'd to his car, around his comrade's tomb.
This is not to his praise; though brave he be,
Yet thus our anger he may justly rouse,
Who in his rage insults the senseless clay."
To whom, indignant, white-arm'd Juno thus:
"Some show of reason were there in thy speech,
God of the silver bow, could Hector boast
Of equal dignity with Peleus' son.
A mortal one, and nurs'd at woman's breast;
The other, of a Goddess born, whom I
Nurtur'd and rear'd, and to a mortal gave
In marriage; gave to Peleus, best belov'd
By all th' Immortals, of the race of man.
Ye, Gods, attended all the marriage rites;
Thou too, companion base, false friend, wast there,
And, playing on thy lyre, didst share the feast."
To whom the Cloud-compeller answer'd thus:
"Juno, restrain thy wrath; they shall not both
Attain like honour; yet was Hector once,
Of all the mortals that in Ilium dwell,
Dearest to all the Gods, and chief to me;
For never did he fail his gifts to bring.
And with, burnt-off 'rings and libations due
My altars crown; such worship I receiv'd.
Yet shall bold Hector's body, not without
The knowledge of Achilles, be remov'd;
For day and night his Goddess-mother keeps
Her constant watch beside him. Then, some God
Bid Thetis hither to my presence haste;
And I with prudent words will counsel her,
That so Achilles may at Priam's hand
Large ransom take, and set brave Hector free."
He said; and promptly on his errand sprang
The storm-swift Iris; in the dark-blue sea
She plung'd, midway 'twixt Imbros' rugged shore
And Samos' isle; the parting waters plash'd.
As down to ocean's lowest depths she dropp'd,
Like to a plummet, which the fisherman
Lets fall, encas'd in wild bull's horn, to bear
Destruction to the sea's voracious tribes.
There found she Thetis in a hollow cave,
Around her rang'd the Ocean Goddesses:
She, in the midst, was weeping o'er the fate
Her matchless son awaiting, doom'd to die
Far from his home, on fertile plains of Troy.
Swift-footed Iris at her side appear'd,
And thus address'd her: "Hasten, Thetis; Jove,
Lord of immortal counsel, summons thee."
To whom the silver-footed Goddess thus:
"What would with me the mighty King of Heav'n?
Press'd as I am with grief, I am asham'd
To mingle with the Gods; yet will I go:
Nor shall he speak in vain, whate'er his words."
Thus as she spoke, her veil the Goddess took,
All black, than which none deeper could be found;
She rose to go; the storm-swift Iris led
The way before her; ocean's parted waves
Around their path receded; to the beach
Ascending, upwards straight to Heav'n they sprang.
Th' all-seeing son of Saturn there they found,
And rang'd around him all th' immortal Gods.
Pallas made way; and by the throne of Jove
Sat Thetis, Juno proff'ring to her hand
A goblet fair of gold, and adding words
Of welcome; she the cup receiv'd, and drank.
Then thus began the sire of Gods and men:
"Thou, Thetis, sorrowing to Olympus com'st,
Borne down by ceaseless grief; I know it well;
Yet hear the cause for which I summon'd thee.
About Achilles, thy victorious son,
And valiant Hector's body, for nine days
Hath contest been in Heav'n; and some have urg'd
That Hermes should by stealth the corpse remove.
This to Achilles' praise I mean to turn,
And thus thy rev'rence and thy love retain.
Then haste thee to the camp, and to thy son
My message bear; tell him that all the Gods
Are fill'd with wrath; and I above the rest
Am angry, that beside the beaked ships,
He, mad with rage, the corpse of Hector keeps:
So may he fear me, and restore the dead.
Iris meantime to Priam I will send,
And bid him seek the Grecian ships, and there
Obtain his son's release: and with him bring
Such presents as may melt Achilles' heart."
He said; the silver-footed Queen obey'd;
Down from Olympus' heights in haste she sped,
And sought her son; him found she in his tent,
Groaning with anguish, while his comrades round,
Plying their tasks, prepar'd the morning meal.
For them a goodly sheep, full-fleec'd, was slain.
Close by his side his Goddess-mother stood,
And gently touch'd him with her hand, and said,
"How long, my son, wilt thou thy soul consume
With grief and mourning, mindful nor of food
Nor sleep? nor dost thou wisely, to abstain
From woman's love; for short thy time on earth:
Death and imperious fate are close at hand.
Hear then my words; a messenger from Jove
To thee I come, to tell thee that the Gods
Are fill'd with wrath, and he above the rest
Is angry, that beside the beaked ships
Thou, mad with rage, the corpse of Hector keep'st.
Then ransom take, and liberate the dead."
To whom Achilles, swift of foot, replied:
"So be it; ransom let him bring, and bear
His dead away, if such the will of Jove."
Thus, in the concourse of the ships, they two,
Mother and son, their lengthen'd converse held.
Then Saturn's son to Iris gave command:
"Haste thee, swift Iris, from Olympus' height,
To Troy, to royal Priam bear my words;
And bid him seek the Grecian ships, and there
Obtain his son's release; and with him take
Such presents as may melt Achilles' heart.
Alone, no Trojan with him, must he go;
Yet may a herald on his steps attend,
Some aged man, his smoothly-rolling car
And mules to drive; and to the city back
To bring his dead, whom great Achilles slew.
Nor let the fear of death disturb his mind:
Hermes shall with him, as his escort, go,
And to Achilles' presence safely bring.
Arriv'd within the tent, nor he himself
Will slay him, but from others will protect.
Not ignorant is he, nor void of sense,
Nor disobedient to the Gods' behest
But will with pitying eyes his suppliant view."
He said; and on his errand sped in haste
The storm-swift Iris; when to Priam's house
She came, the sounds of wailing met her ear.
Within the court, around their father, sat
His sons, their raiment all bedew'd with tears;
And in the midst, close cover'd with his robe,
Their sire, his head and neck with dirt defil'd,
Which, wallowing on the earth, himself had heap'd,
With his own hands, upon his hoary head.
Throughout the house his daughters loudly wail'd
In mem'ry of the many and the brave
Who lay in death, by Grecian warriors slain.
Beside him stood the messenger of Jove,
And whisper'd, while his limbs with terror shook:
"Fear nothing, Priam, son of Dardanus,
Nor let thy mind be troubled; not for ill,
But here on kindly errand am I sent:
To thee I come, a messenger from Jove,
Who from on high looks down on thee with eyes
Of pitying love; he bids thee ransom home
The godlike Hector's corpse; and with thee take
Such presents as may melt Achilles' heart.
Alone, no Trojan with thee, must thou go;
Yet may a herald on thy steps attend,
Some aged man, thy smoothly-rolling car
And mules to drive, and to the city back
To bring thy dead, whom great Achilles slew.
Nor let the fear of death disturb thy mind:
Hermes shall with thee, as thine escort, go,
And to Achilles' presence safely bring.
Arriv'd within the tent, nor he himself
Will slay thee, but from others will protect;
Not ignorant is he, nor void of sense,
Nor disobedient to the Gods' behest,
But will with pitying eyes his suppliant view."
Swift-footed Iris said, and vanish'd straight:
He to his sons commandment gave, the mules
To yoke beneath the smoothly-rolling car,
And on the axle fix the wicker seat.
Himself the lofty cedar chamber sought,
Fragrant, high-roof'd, with countless treasures stor'd;
And call'd to Hecuba his wife, and said,
"Good wife, a messenger from Jove hath come,
Who bids me seek the Grecian ships, and there
Obtain my son's release; and with me take
Such presents as may melt Achilles' heart.
Say then, what think'st thou? for my mind inclines
To seek the ships within the Grecian camp."
So he; but Hecuba lamenting cried,
"Alas, alas! where are thy senses gone?
And where the wisdom, once of high repute
'Mid strangers, and 'mid those o'er whom thou reign'st?
How canst thou think alone to seek the ships,
Ent'ring his presence, who thy sons hath slain,
Many and brave? an iron heart is thine!
Of that bloodthirsty and perfidious man,
If thou within the sight and reach shalt come,
No pity will he feel, no rev'rence show:
Rather remain we here apart and mourn;
For him, when at his birth his thread of life
Was spun by fate, 'twas destin'd that afar
From home and parents, he should glut the maw
Of rav'ning dogs, by that stern warrior's tent,
Whose inmost heart I would I could devour:
Such for my son were adequate revenge,
Whom not in ignominious flight he slew;
But standing, thoughtless of escape or flight,
For Trojan men and Troy's deep-bosom'd dames."
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire:
"Seek not to hinder me; nor be thyself
A bird of evil omen in my house;
For thou shalt not persuade me. If indeed
This message had been brought by mortal man,
Prophet, or seer, or sacrificing priest,
I should have deem'd it false, and laugh'd to scorn
The idle tale; but now (for I myself
Both saw and heard the Goddess) I must go;
Nor unfulfill'd shall be the words I speak:
And if indeed it be my fate to die
Beside the vessels of the brass-clad Greeks,
I am content! by fierce Achilles' hand
Let me be slain, so once more in my arms
I hold my boy, and give my sorrow vent."
Then raising up the coffer's polish'd lid,
He chose twelve gorgeous shawls, twelve single cloaks.
As many rugs, as many splendid robes,
As many tunics; then of gold he took
Ten talents full; two tripods, burnish'd bright,
Four caldrons; then a cup of beauty rare,
A rich possession, which the men of Thrace
Had giv'n, when there he went ambassador;
E'en this he spar'd not, such his keen desire
His son to ransom. From the corridor
With angry words he drove the Trojans all:
"Out with ye, worthless rascals, vagabonds!
Have ye no griefs at home, that here ye come
To pester me? or is it not enough
That Jove with deep affliction visits me,
Slaying my bravest son? ye to your cost
Shall know his loss: since now that he is gone,
The Greeks shall find you easier far to slay.
But may my eyes be clos'd in death, ere see
The city sack'd, and utterly destroy'd."
He said, and with his staff drove out the crowd;
Before the old man's anger fled they all;
Then to his sons in threat'ning tone he cried;
To Paris, Helenus, and Agathon,
Pammon, Antiphonus, Polites brave,
Deiphobus, and bold Hippothous,
And godlike Dius; all these nine with threats
And angry taunts the aged sire assail'd:
"Haste, worthless sons, my scandal and my shame!
Would that ye all beside the Grecian ships
In Hector's stead had died! Oh woe is me,
Who have begotten sons, in all the land
The best and bravest; now remains not one;
Mestor, and Troilus, dauntless charioteer,
And Hector, who a God 'mid men appear'd,
Nor like a mortal's offspring, but a God's:
All these hath Mars cut off; and left me none,
None but the vile and refuse; liars all,
Vain skipping coxcombs, in the dance alone,
And in nought else renown'd; base plunderers,
From their own countrymen, of lambs and kids.
When, laggards, will ye harness me the car
Equipp'd with all things needed for the way?"
He said; they quail'd beneath their father's wrath,
And brought the smoothly-running mule-wain out,
Well-fram'd, new-built; and fix'd the wicker seat;
Then from the peg the mule-yoke down they took,
Of boxwood wrought, with boss and rings complete;
And with the yoke, the yoke-band brought they forth,
Nine cubits long; and to the polish'd pole
At the far end attach'd; the breast-rings then
Fix'd to the pole-piece: and on either side
Thrice round the knob the leathern thong they wound.
And bound it fast, and inward turn'd the tongue.
Then the rich ransom, from the chambers brought,
Of Hector's head, upon the wain they pil'd;
And yok'd the strong-hoof'd mules, to harness train'd,
The Mysians' splendid present to the King:
To Priam's car they harness'd then the steeds,
Which he himself at polish'd manger fed.
Deep thoughts revolving, in the lofty halls
Were met the herald and the aged King,
When Hecuba with troubled mind drew near;
In her right hand a golden cup she bore
Of luscious wine, that ere they took their way
They to the Gods might due libations pour;
Before the car she stood, and thus she spoke:
"Take, and to father Jove thine off'ring pour,
And pray that he may bring thee safely home
From all thy foes; since sore against my will
Thou needs wilt venture to the ships of Greece.
Then to Idaean Jove, the cloud-girt son
Of Saturn, who th' expanse of Troy surveys,
Prefer thy pray'r, beseeching him to send,
On thy right hand, a winged messenger,
The bird he loves the best, of strongest flight;
That thou thyself mayst see and know the sign,
And, firm in faith, approach the ships of Greece.
But should all-seeing Jove the sign withhold,
Then not with my consent shouldst thou attempt,
Whate'er thy wish, to reach the Grecian ships."
To whom, in answer, godlike Priam thus:
"O woman, I refuse not to obey
Thy counsel; good it is to raise the hands
In pray'r to Heav'n, and Jove's protection seek."
The old man said; and bade th' attendant pour
Pure water on his hands; with ewer she,
And basin, stood beside him: from his wife,
The due ablutions made, he took the cup;
Then in the centre of the court he stood,
And as he pour'd the wine, look'd up to Heav'n,
And thus with voice uplifted pray'd aloud:
"O father Jove, who rul'st on Ida's height,
Most great, most glorious! grant that I may find
Some pity in Achilles' heart; and send,
On my right hand, a winged messenger,
The bird thou lov'st the best, of strongest flight,
That I myself may see and know the sign,
And, firm in faith, approach the ships of Greece."
Thus as he pray'd, the Lord of counsel heard;
And sent forthwith an eagle, feather'd king,
Dark bird of chase, and Dusky thence surnam'd:
Wide as the portals, well secur'd with bolts,
That guard some wealthy monarch's lofty hall,
On either side his ample pinions spread.
On the right hand appear'd he, far above
The city soaring; they the fav'ring sign
With joy beheld, and ev'ry heart was cheer'd.
Mounting his car in haste, the aged King
Drove thro' the court, and thro' the echoing porch;
The mules in front, by sage Idaeus driv'n,
That drew the four-wheel'd wain; behind them came
The horses, down the city's steep descent
Urg'd by th' old man to speed; the crowd of friends
That follow'd mourn'd for him, as doom'd to death.
Descended from the city to the plain,
His sons and sons-in-law to Ilium took
Their homeward way; advancing o'er the plain
They two escap'd not Jove's all-seeing eye;
Pitying he saw the aged sire; and thus
At once to Hermes spoke, his much-lov'd son:
"Hermes, for thou in social converse lov'st
To mix with men, and hear'st whome'er thou wilt;
Haste thee, and Priam to the Grecian ships
So lead, that none of all the Greeks may see
Ere at Achilles' presence he attain."
He said; nor disobey'd the heav'nly Guide;
His golden sandals on his feet he bound,
Ambrosial work; which bore him o'er the waves,
Swift as the wind, and o'er the wide-spread earth;
Then took his rod, wherewith he seals at will
The eyes of men, and wakes again from sleep.
This in his hand he bore, and sprang for flight.
Soon the wide Hellespont he reach'd, and Troy,
And pass'd in likeness of a princely youth,
In op'ning manhood, fairest term of life.
The twain had pass'd by Ilus' lofty tomb,
And halted there the horses and the mules
Beside the margin of the stream to drink;
For darkness now was creeping o'er the earth:
When through the gloom the herald Hermes saw
Approaching near, to Priam thus he cried:
"O son of Dardanus, bethink thee well;
Of prudent counsel great is now our need.
A man I see, and fear he means us ill.
Say, with the horses shall we fly at once,
Or clasp his knees, and for his mercy sue?"
The old man heard, his mind confus'd with dread;
So grievously he fear'd, that ev'ry hair
Upon his bended limbs did stand on end;
He stood astounded; but the Guardian-God
Approach'd, and took him by the hand, and said:
"Where, father, goest thou thus with horse and mule
In the still night, when men are sunk in sleep?
And fear'st thou not the slaughter-breathing Greeks,
Thine unrelenting foes, and they so near?
If any one of them should see thee now,
So richly laden in the gloom of night,
How wouldst thou feel? thou art not young thyself,
And this old man, thy comrade, would avail
But little to protect thee from assault.
I will not harm thee, nay will shield from harm,
For like my father's is, methinks, thy face."
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire:
"'Tis as thou say'st, fair son; yet hath some God
Extended o'er me his protecting hand,
Who sends me such a guide, so opportune.
Bless'd are thy parents in a son so grac'd
In face and presence, and of mind so wise."
To whom in answer thus the Guardian-God:
"O father, well and wisely dost thou speak;
But tell me this, and truly: dost thou bear
These wealthy treasures to some foreign land,
That they for thee in safety may be stor'd?
Or have ye all resolv'd to fly from Troy
In fear, your bravest slain, thy gallant son,
Who never from the Greeks' encounter flinch'd?"
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire:
"Who art thou, noble Sir, and what thy race,
That speak'st thus fairly of my hapless son?"
To whom in answer thus the Guardian-God:
"Try me, old man; of godlike Hector ask;
For often in the glory-giving fight
These eyes have seen him; chief, when to the ships
The Greeks he drove, and with the sword destroy'd.
We gaz'd in wonder; from the fight restrain'd
By Peleus' son, with Agamemnon wroth.
His follower I; one ship convey'd us both;
One of the Myrmidons I am; my sire
Polyctor, rich, but aged, e'en as thou.
Six sons he hath, besides myself, the sev'nth;
And I by lot was drafted for the war.
I from the ships am to the plain come forth;
For with the dawn of day the keen-ey'd Greeks
Will round the city marshal their array.
They chafe in idleness; the chiefs in vain
Strive to restrain their ardour for the fight."
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire:
"If of Achilles, Peleus' son, thou art
Indeed a follower, tell me all the truth;
Lies yet my son beside the Grecian ships,
Or hath Achilles torn him limb from limb,
And to his dogs the mangled carcase giv'n?"
To whom in answer thus the Guardian-God:
"On him, old man, nor dogs nor birds have fed,
But by the ship of Peleus' son he lies
Within the tent; twelve days he there hath lain,
Nor hath corruption touch'd his flesh, nor worms,
That wont to prey on men in battle slain.
The corpse, indeed, with each returning morn,
Around his comrade's tomb Achilles drags,
Yet leaves it still uninjur'd; thou thyself
Mightst see how fresh, as dew-besprent, he lies,
From blood-stains cleans'd, and clos'd his many wounds,
For many a lance was buried in his corpse.
So, e'en in death, the blessed Gods above,
Who lov'd him well, protect thy noble son."
He said; th' old man rejoicing heard his words,
And answer'd, "See, my son, how good it is
To give th' immortal Gods their tribute due;
For never did my son, while yet he liv'd,
Neglect the Gods who on Olympus dwell;
And thence have they remember'd him in death.
Accept, I pray, this goblet rich-emboss'd;
Be thou my guard, and, under Heav'n, my guide,
Until I reach the tent of Peleus' son."
To whom in answer thus the Guardian-God:
"Old father, me thy younger wouldst thou tempt,
In vain; who bidd'st me at thy hands accept
Thy proffer'd presents, to Achilles' wrong.
I dread his anger; and should hold it shame
To plunder him, through fear of future ill.
But, as thy guide, I could conduct thee safe,
As far as Argos, journeying by thy side,
On ship-board or on foot; nor by the fault
Of thy conductor shouldst thou meet with harm."
Thus spoke the Guardian-God, and on the car
Mounting in haste, he took the whip and reins,
And with fresh vigour mules and horses fill'd.
When to the ship-tow'rs and the trench they came,
The guard had late been busied with their meal;
And with deep sleep the heav'nly Guide o'erspread
The eyes of all; then open'd wide the gates,
And push'd aside the bolts, and led within
Both Priam, and the treasure-laden wain.
But when they reach'd Achilles' lofty tent,
(Which for their King the Myrmidons had built
Of fir-trees fell'd, and overlaid the roof
With rushes mown from off the neighb'ring mead;
And all around a spacious court enclos'd
With cross-set palisades; a single bar
Of fir the gateway guarded, which to shut
Three men, of all the others, scarce suffic'd,
And three to open; but Achilles' hand
Unaided shut with ease the massive bar)
Then for the old man Hermes op'd the gate,
And brought within the court the gifts design'd
For Peleus' godlike son; then from the car
Sprang to the ground, and thus to Priam spoke:
"Old man, a God hath hither been thy guide;
Hermes I am, and sent to thee from Jove,
Father of all, to bring thee safely here.
I now return, nor to Achilles' eyes
Will I appear; beseems it not a God
To greet a mortal in the sight of all.
But go thou in, and clasp Achilles' knees,
And supplicate him for his father's sake,
His fair-hair'd mother's, and his child's, that so
Thy words may stir an answer in his heart."
Thus saying, Hermes to Olympus' heights
Return'd; and Priam from his chariot sprang,
And left Idaeus there, in charge to keep
The horses and the mules, while he himself
Enter'd the dwelling straight, where wont to sit
Achilles, lov'd of Heav'n. The chief he found
Within, his followers seated all apart;
Two only in his presence minister'd,
The brave Automedon, and Alcimus,
A warrior bold; scarce ended the repast
Of food and wine; the table still was set.
Great Priam enter'd, unperceiv'd of all;
And standing by Achilles, with his arms
Embrac'd his knees, and kiss'd those fearful hands,
Blood-stain'd, which many of his sons had slain.
As when a man, by cruel fate pursued,
In his own land hath shed another's blood,
And flying, seeks beneath some wealthy house
A foreign refuge; wond'ring, all behold:
On godlike Priam so with wonder gaz'd
Achilles; wonder seiz'd th' attendants all,
And one to other looked; then Priam thus
To Peleus' son his suppliant speech address'd:
"Think, great Achilles, rival of the Gods,
Upon thy father, e'en as I myself
Upon the threshold of unjoyous age:
And haply he, from them that dwell around
May suffer wrong, with no protector near
To give him aid; yet he, rejoicing, knows
That thou still liv'st; and day by day may hope
To see his son returning safe from Troy;
While I, all hapless, that have many sons,
The best and bravest through the breadth of Troy,
Begotten, deem that none are left me now.
Fifty there were, when came the sons of Greece;
Nineteen the offspring of a single womb;
The rest, the women of my household bore.
Of these have many by relentless Mars
Been laid in dust; but he, my only one,
The city's and his brethren's sole defence,
He, bravely fighting in his country's cause,
Hector, but lately by thy hand hath fall'n:
On his behalf I venture to approach
The Grecian ships; for his release to thee
To make my pray'r, and priceless ransom pay.
Then thou, Achilles, reverence the Gods;
And, for thy father's sake, look pitying down
On me, more needing pity; since I bear
Such grief as never man on earth hath borne.
Who stoop to kiss the hand that slew my son."
Thus as he spoke, within Achilles' breast
Fond mem'ry of his father rose; he touch'd
The old man's hand, and gently put him by;
Then wept they both, by various mem'ries stirr'd:
One, prostrate at Achilles' feet, bewail'd
His warrior son; Achilles for his sire,
And for Patroclus wept, his comrade dear;
And through the house their weeping loud was heard.
But when Achilles had indulg'd his grief,
And eas'd the yearning of his heart and limbs,
Uprising, with his hand the aged sire,
Pitying his hoary head and hoary beard,
He rais'd, and thus with gentle words address'd:
"Alas, what sorrows, poor old man, are thine!
How couldst thou venture to the Grecian ships
Alone, and to the presence of the man
Whose hand hath slain so many of thy sons,
Many and brave? an iron heart is thine!
But sit thou on this seat; and in our hearts,
Though filled with grief, let us that grief suppress;
For woful lamentation nought avails.
Such, is the thread the Gods for mortals spin,
To live in woe, while they from cares are free.
Two coffers lie beside the door of Jove,
With gifts for man: one good, the other ill;
To whom from each the Lord of lightning gives,
Him sometimes evil, sometimes good befalls;
To whom the ill alone, him foul disgrace
And grinding mis'ry o'er the earth pursue:
By God and man alike despis'd he roams.
Thus from his birth the Gods to Peleus gave
Excellent gifts; with wealth and substance bless'd
Above his fellows; o'er the Myrmidons
He rul'd with sov'reign sway; and Heav'n bestow'd
On him, a mortal, an immortal bride.
Yet this of ill was mingled in his lot,
That in his house no rising race he saw
Of future Kings; one only son he had,
One doom'd to early death; nor is it mine
To tend my father's age; but far from home
Thee and thy sons in Troy I vex with war.
Much have we heard too of thy former wealth;
Above what Lesbos northward, Macar's seat,
Contains, and Upper Phrygia, and the shores
Of boundless Hellespont, 'tis said that thou
In wealth and number of thy sons wast bless'd.
But since on thee this curse the Gods have brought,
Still round thy city war and murder rage.
Bear up, nor thus with grief incessant mourn;
Vain is thy sorrow for thy gallant son;
Thou canst not raise him, and mayst suffer more."
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire;
"Tell me not yet, illustrious chief, to sit,
While Hector lies, uncar'd for, in the tent;
But let me quickly go, that with mine eyes
I may behold my son; and thou accept
The ample treasures which we tender thee:
Mayst thou enjoy them, and in safety reach
Thy native land, since thou hast spar'd my life,
And bidd'st me still behold the light of Heav'n."
To whom Achilles thus with stern regard:
"Old man, incense me not; I mean myself
To give thee back thy son; for here of late
Despatch'd by Jove, my Goddess-mother came,
The daughter of the aged Ocean-God:
And thee too, Priam, well I know, some God
(I cannot err) hath guided to our ships.
No mortal, though in vent'rous youth, would dare
Our camp to enter; nor could hope to pass
Unnotic'd by the watch, nor easily
Remove the pond'rous bar that guards our doors.
But stir not up my anger in my grief;
Lest, suppliant though thou be, within my tent
I brook thee not, and Jove's command transgress."
He said; the old man trembled, and obey'd;
Then to the door-way, with a lion's spring,
Achilles rush'd; not unaccompanied;
With him Automedon and Aleimus,
His two attendants, of his followers all,
Next to the lost Patroclus, best-esteem'd;
They from the yoke the mules and horses loos'd;
Then led the herald of the old man in,
And bade him sit; and from the polish'd wain
The costly ransom took of Hector's head.
Two robes they left, and one well-woven vest,
To clothe the corpse, and send with honour home.
Then to the female slaves he gave command
To wash the body, and anoint with oil,
Apart, that Priam might not see his son;
Lest his griev'd heart its passion unrestrain'd
Should utter, and Achilles, rous'd to wrath,
His suppliant slay, and Jove's command transgress.
When they had wash'd the body, and with oil
Anointed, and around it wrapp'd the robe
And vest, Achilles lifted up the dead
With his own hands, and laid him on the couch;
Which to the polish'd wain his followers rais'd.
Then groaning, on his friend by name he call'd:
"Forgive, Patroclus! be not wroth with me,
If in the realm of darkness thou shouldst hear
That godlike Hector to his father's arms,
For no mean ransom, I restore; whereof
A fitting share for thee I set aside."
This said, Achilles to the tent return'd;
On the carv'd couch, from whence he rose, he sat
Beside the wall; and thus to Priam spoke:
"Old man, thy son, according to thy pray'r,
Is giv'n thee back; upon the couch he lies;
Thyself shalt see him at the dawn of day.
Meanwhile the ev'ning meal demands our care.
Not fair-hair'd Niobe abstain'd from food
When in the house her children lay in death,
Six beauteous daughters and six stalwart sons.
The youths, Apollo with his silver bow,
The maids, the Archer-Queen, Diana, slew,
With anger fill'd that Niobe presum'd
Herself with fair Latona to compare,
Her many children with her rival's two;
So by the two were all the many slain.
Nine days in death they lay; and none was there
To pay their fun'ral rites; for Saturn's son
Had given to all the people hearts of stone.
At length th' immortal Gods entomb'd the dead.
Nor yet did Niobe, when now her grief
Had worn itself in tears, from food refrain.
And now in Sipylus, amid the rocks,
And lonely mountains, where the Goddess nymphs
That love to dance by Achelous' stream,
'Tis said, were cradled, she, though turn'd to stone,
Broods o'er the wrongs inflicted by the Gods.
So we too, godlike sire, the meal may share;
And later, thou thy noble son mayst mourn,
To Troy restor'd?well worthy he thy tears."
This said, he slaughter'd straight a white-fleec'd sheep;
His comrades then the carcase flay'd and dress'd:
The meat prepar'd, and fasten'd to the spits;
Roasted with care, and from the fire withdrew.
The bread Automedon from baskets fair
Apportion'd out; the meat Achilles shar'd.
They on the viands set before them fell.
The rage of thirst and hunger satisfied,
In wonder Priam on Achilles gaz'd,
His form and stature; as a God he seem'd;
And he too look'd on Priam, and admir'd
His venerable face, and gracious speech.
With mutual pleasure each on other gaz'd,
Till godlike Priam first address'd his host:
"Dismiss me now, illustrious chief, to rest;
And lie we down, in gentle slumbers wrapp'd;
For never have mine eyes been clos'd in sleep,
Since by thy hand my gallant son was slain:
But groaning still, I brood upon my woes,
And in my court with dust my head defile.
Now have I tasted bread, now ruddy wine
Hath o'er my palate pass'd; but not till now."
Thus he; his comrades and th' attendant maids
Achilles order'd in the corridor
Two mattresses to place, with blankets fair
Of purple wool o'erlaid; and on the top
Rugs and soft sheets for upper cov'ring spread.
They from the chamber, torch in hand, withdrew,
And with obedient haste two beds prepar'd.
Then thus Achilles spoke in jesting tone:
"Thou needs must sleep without, my good old friend;
Lest any leader of the Greeks should come,
As is their custom, to confer with me;
Of them whoe'er should find thee here by night
Forthwith to Agamemnon would report,
And Hector might not be so soon, restor'd.
But tell me truly this; how many days
For godlike Hector's fun'ral rites ye need;
That for so long a time I may myself
Refrain from combat, and the people stay."
To whom in answer Priam, godlike sire:
"If by thy leave we may indeed perform
His fun'ral rites, to thee, Achilles, great
Will be our gratitude, if this thou grant.
Thou know'st how close the town is hemm'd around;
And from the mountain, distant as it is,
The Trojans well may fear to draw the wood.
Nine days to public mourning would we give;
The tenth, to fun'ral rites and fun'ral feast;
Then on th' eleventh would we raise his mound;
The twelfth, renew the war, if needs we must."
To whom Achilles swift of foot replied:
"So shall it be, old Priam; I engage
To stay the battle for the time requir'd."
Thus speaking, with his hand the old man's wrist
He grasp'd, in token that he need not fear.
Then in the corridor lay down to rest
Old Priam and the herald, Elders sage;
While in his tent's recess Achilles slept,
The fair Briseis resting by his side.
In night-long slumbers lay the other Gods,
And helmed chiefs, by gentle sleep subdued;
But on the eyes of Hermes, Guardian-God,
No slumber fell, deep pond'ring in his mind
How from the ships in safety to conduct
The royal Priam, and the guard elude.
Above the sleeper's head he stood, and cried:
"Old man, small heed thou tak'st of coining ill,
Who, when Achilles gives thee leave to go,
Sleep'st undisturb'd, surrounded by thy foes.
Thy son hath been restor'd, and thou hast paid
A gen'rous price; but to redeem thy life,
If Agamemnon and the other Greeks
Should know that thou art here, full thrice so much
Thy sons, who yet are left, would have to pay."
He said; the old man trembled, and arous'd
The herald; while the horses and the mules
Were yok'd by Hermes, who with silent speed
Drove through th' encampment, unobserv'd of all.
But when they came to eddying Xanthus' ford,
Fair-flowing stream, born of immortal Jove,
To high Olympus Hermes took his flight,
As morn, in saffron robe, o'er all the earth
Was light diffusing; they with fun'ral wail
Drove cityward the horses; following came
The mules that drew the litter of the dead.
The plain they travers'd o'er, observ'd of none,
Or man or woman, till Cassandra, fair
As golden Venus, from the topmost height
Of Pergamus, her father in his car
Upstanding saw, the herald at his side.
Him too she saw, who on the litter lay;
Then lifted up her voice, and cried aloud
To all the city, "Hither, Trojans, come,
Both men and women, Hector see restor'd;
If, while he liv'd, returning from the fight,
Ye met him e'er rejoicing, who indeed
Was all the city's chiefest joy and pride."
She said; nor man nor woman then was left
Within the city; o'er the minds of all
Grief pass'd, resistless; to the gates in throngs
They press'd, to crowd round him who brought the dead.
The first to clasp the body were his wife
And honour'd mother; eagerly they sprang
On the smooth-rolling wain, to touch the head
Of Hector; round them, weeping, stood the crowd
Weeping, till sunset, all the live-long day
Had they before the gates for Hector mourn'd;
Had not old Priam from the car address'd
The crowd: "Make way, that so the mules may pass;
When to my house I shall have brought my dead,
Ye there may vent your sorrow as ye will."
Thus as he spoke, obedient to his word
They stood aside, and for the car made way:
But when to Priam's lordly house they came,
They laid him on a rich-wrought couch, and call'd
The minstrels in, who by the hero's bed
Should lead the melancholy chorus; they
Pour'd forth the music of the mournful dirge,
While women's voices join'd in loud lament.
White-arm'd Andromache the wail began,
The head of Hector clasping in her hands:
"My husband, thou art gone in pride of youth,
And in thine house hast left me desolate;
Thy child an infant still, thy child and mine,
Unhappy parents both! nor dare I hope
That he may reach the ripeness of his youth;
For ere that day shall Troy in ruin fall,
Since thou art gone, her guardian! thou whose arm
Defended her, her wives, and helpless babes!
They now shall shortly o'er the sea be borne,
And with them I shall go; thou too, my child,
Must follow me, to servile labour doom'd,
The suff'ring victim of a tyrant Lord;
Unless perchance some angry Greek may seize
And dash thee from the tow'r?a woful death!
Whose brother, or whose father, or whose son
By Hector hath been slain; for many a Greek
By Hector's hand hath bit the bloody dust;
Not light in battle was thy father's hand!
Therefore for him the gen'ral city mourns;
Thou to thy parents bitter grief hast caus'd,
Hector! but bitt'rest grief of all hast left
To me! for not to me was giv'n to clasp
The hand extended from thy dying bed,
Nor words of wisdom catch, which night and day,
With tears, I might have treasur'd in my heart."
Weeping she spoke?the women join'd the wail.
Then Hecuba took up the loud lament:
"Hector, of all my children dearest thou!
Dear to th' Immortals too in life wast thou,
And they in death have borne thee still in mind;
For other of my sons, his captives made,
Across the wat'ry waste, to Samos' isle
Or Imbros, or th' inhospitable shore
Of Lemnos, hath Achilles, swift of foot,
To slav'ry sold; thee, when his sharp-edg'd spear
Had robb'd thee of thy life, he dragg'd indeed
Around Patroclus' tomb, his comrade dear,
Whom thou hadst slain; yet so he rais'd not up
Ilis dead to life again; now liest thou here,
All fresh and fair, as dew-besprent; like one
Whom bright Apollo, with his arrows keen,
God of the silver bow, hath newly slain."
Weeping, she spoke; and rous'd the gen'ral grief.
Then Helen, third, the mournful strain renew'd:
"Hector, of all my brethren dearest thou!
True, godlike Paris claims me as his wife,
Who bore me hither?would I then had died!
But twenty years have pass'd since here I came,
And left my native land; yet ne'er from thee
I heard one scornful, one degrading word;
And when from others I have borne reproach,
Thy brothers, sisters, or thy brothers' wives,
Or mother, (for thy sire was ever kind
E'en as a father) thou hast check'd them still
With tender feeling, and with gentle words.
For thee I weep, and for myself no less:
For, through the breadth of Troy, none love me now,
None kindly look on me, but all abhor."
Weeping she spoke, and with her wept the crowd.
At length the aged Priam gave command:
"Haste now, ye Trojans, to the city bring
Good store of fuel; fear no treach'rous wile;
For when he sent me from the dark-ribb'd ships,
Achilles promis'd that from hostile arms
Till the twelfth morn we should no harm sustain."
He said; and they the oxen and the mules
Yok'd to the wains, and from the city throng'd:
Nine days they labour'd, and brought back to Troy
Good store of wood; but when the tenth day's light
Upon the earth appear'd, weeping, they bore
Brave Hector out; and on the fun'ral pile
Laying the glorious dead, applied the torch.
While yet the rosy-finger'd morn was young
Round noble Hector's pyre the people press'd:
When all were gather'd round, and closely throng'd
First on the burning mass, as far as spread
The range of fire, they pour'd the ruddy wine,
And quench'd the flames: his brethren then and friends
Weeping, the hot tears flowing down their cheeks,
Collected from the pile the whiten'd bones;
These in a golden casket they enclos'd,
And o'er it spread soft shawls of purple dye;
Then in a grave they laid it, and in haste
With stone in pond'rous masses cover'd o'er;
And rais'd a mound, and watch'd on ev'ry side,
From sudden inroad of the Greeks to guard.
The mound erected, back they turn'd; and all
Assembled duly, shar'd the solemn feast
In Priam's palace, Heav'n-descended King.
Such were the rites to glorious Hector paid.
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