The Body of Hector Recovered

A council of the gods⁠—Thetis sent to make Achilles willing to restore the body of Hector to his friends⁠—Iris sent to Priam, bidding him go in person to Achilles and ask for the body⁠—Visit of Priam made by night to the tent of Achilles, who is moved by his entreaties and magnificent presents to deliver up the remains of his son⁠—Departure of Priam by night with the body from the tent of Achilles⁠—Lament of Andromache, Hector, and Helen over the dead⁠—The funeral of Hector, with which the poem closes.

The assembly was dissolved, the people all
Dispersed to their swift galleys, and prepared
With food and gentle slumber to refresh
Their wearied frames. But still Achilles wept,
Remembering his dear comrade. Sleep, whose sway
Is over all, came not; he turned and tossed,
Still yearning for his strong and valiant friend
Patroclus. All that they had ever done
Together, all the hardships they had borne,
The battles fought with heroes, the wild seas
O’erpassed, came thronging on his memory.
He shed warm tears, as now upon his sides,
Now on his back, now on his face he lay.
Then, starting from his couch, he wandered forth
In sorrow by the margin of the deep.
Nor did the morn that rose o’er sea and shore
Dawn unperceived by him; for then he yoked
His fleet steeds to the chariot, and made fast
The corse of Hector, that it might be dragged
After the wheels. Three times around the tomb
Of Menoetiades he dragged the slain,
Then turned and sought his tent, again to rest,
And left him there stretched out amid the dust
With the face downward. Yet Apollo, moved
With pity for the hero, kept him free
From soil or stain, though dead, and o’er him held
The golden aegis, lest, when roughly dragged
Along the ground, the body might be torn.

So in his anger did Achilles treat
Unworthily the noble Hector’s corse.
The blessed gods themselves with pity looked
Upon the slain, and bade the vigilant one,
The Argus-queller, bear him thence by stealth.
This counsel pleased the immortals all, except
Juno and Neptune and the blue-eyed maid,
And these persisted in their wrath. To them
Ilium, the hallowed city, and its king,
Priam, and all his people, from the first
Were hateful; ’twas for Alexander’s fault,
Affronting the two goddesses what time
They sought his cottage, and preferring her
Who ministered to his calamitous love.
But now, when the twelfth morning from that day
Arose, Apollo spake among the gods:⁠—

“Cruel are ye, O gods, and prone to wrong.
For was not Hector wont before your shrines
To burn the thighs of chosen bulls and goats?
And now that he is dead ye venture not
To rescue him, and let his wife and son
And mother and King Priam look again
Upon his face. Soon would they light the pile,
And burn the dead, and pay the funeral rite.
Ye seek to favor, O ye gods, that pest
Achilles, in whose breast there dwells no love
Of justice, nor a temper to be moved
By prayers, but who delights in savage deeds.
And as a lion, conscious of vast strength
And scornful of resistance, falls upon
The shepherd’s flock, and slays for his repast,
Thus with Achilles neither mercy dwells
Nor shame, which often profits, often harms
Mankind. For when another man has met
A greater grief than he⁠—has lost, perchance,
A brother or a son⁠—he dries at length
His tears, and ceases to lament; for fate
Bestows the power to suffer patiently.
But this Achilles, after he has spoiled
The godlike Hector of his life in war,
Hath bound him to his chariot, and hath dragged
The corse around his dear companion’s tomb.
Unseemly is the deed, and small will be
The good it brings him. Brave although he be,
We may be angry with him when he thus
Insults a portion of insensible earth.”

The white-armed Juno was incensed, and spake:
“So mightst thou say, God of the silver bow,
Were equal honor to Achilles due
And Hector. Hector is a mortal man,
And suckled at a woman’s breast. Not so
Achilles; he was born of one of us,
A goddess whom I nurtured and brought up
And gave to Peleus. Ye were present all,
Ye gods, when they were wedded. Thou wert there
To share the marriage banquet, harp in hand,
Thou plotter with the vile, thou faithless one!”

Then answered cloud-compelling Jove, and said:
“Let not thy anger rise against the gods,
O Juno, for the honor of the chiefs
Shall not be equal. Yet of all the race
Of mortals dwelling in the city of Troy
Was Hector dearest to the gods; to me
He ever was; and never did he fail
To offer welcome gifts. My altar ne’er
Lacked fitting feast, libation, and the fume
Of incense⁠—hallowed rites which are our due.
Yet seek we not to steal away the corse
Of valiant Hector; that we could not do
Without his slayer’s knowledge, who by night
And day is ever near to him and keeps
Watch o’er him like a mother. Let some god
Call hither Thetis. I will counsel her
Prudently, that Achilles may receive
Ransom from Priam, and restore his son.”

He ceased, and with the swiftness of the storm
Rose Iris up, to be his messenger.
Half way ’twixt Samos and the rugged coast
Of Imbrus down she plunged to the dark sea,
Entering the deep with noise. Far down she sank
As sinks the ball of lead, that, sliding o’er
A wild bull’s horn, bears into ocean’s depths
Death to the greedy fishes. There she found
Thetis within her roomy cave, among
The goddesses of ocean, seated round
In full assembly. Thetis in the midst
Bewailed the fate of her own blameless son,
About to perish on the fertile soil
Of Troy, and far from Greece. The swift of wing,
Iris, approached her and addressed her thus:⁠—

“Arise, O Thetis. Father Jupiter,
Whose counsel stands forever, sends for thee.”

And silver-footed Thetis answered him:
“Why should that potent deity require
My presence, who have many griefs, and shrink
From mingling with immortals? Yet I go,
Perforce, for never doth he speak in vain.”

So spake the goddess-queen, and, speaking, took
Her mantle⁠—darker web was never worn⁠—
And onward went. Wind-footed Iris led
The way; the waters of the sea withdrew
On either side. They climbed the steepy shore,
And took their way to heaven. They found the son
Of Saturn, him of the far-sounding voice,
With all the blessed, ever-living gods
Assembled round him. Close to Father Jove
She took her seat, for Pallas yielded it,
And Juno put a beautiful cup of gold
Into her hand, and spake consoling words.
She drank and gave it back, and thus began
The father of immortals and of men:⁠—

“Thou comest to Olympus, though in grief,
O goddess Thetis, and I know the cause
That makes thee sad and will not from thy thoughts;
Yet let me now declare why I have called
Thee hither. For nine days the immortal gods
Have been at strife concerning Hector’s corse
And Peleus’ son, the spoiler. They have asked
The vigilant Argus-queller to remove
The dead by stealth. But I must yet bestow
Fresh honor on Achilles, and thus keep
Thy love and reverence. Now descend at once
Into the camp and carry to thy son
My message: say that it offends the gods,
And me the most, that in his spite he keeps
The corse of Hector at the beaked ships,
Refusing to restore it. He perchance
Will listen, and, revering me, give back
The slain. And I will send a messenger,
Iris, to large-souled Priam, bidding him
Hasten in person to the Grecian fleet,
To ransom his beloved son, and bring
Achilles gifts that shall appease his rage.”

He spake: the goddess of the silver feet,
Thetis, obeyed, and with precipitate flight
Descended from the mountain-peaks. She came
To her son’s tent, and found him uttering moans
Continually, while his beloved friends
Were busy round him; they prepared a feast,
And had just slain within the tent a ewe
Of ample size and fleece. She took her seat
Beside her son, and smoothed his brow, and said:⁠—

“How long, my son, wilt thou lament and grieve
And pine at heart, abstaining from the feast
And from thy couch? Yet well it is to seek
A woman’s love. Thy life will not be spared
Long time to me, for death and cruel fate
Stand near thee. Listen to me; I am come
A messenger from Jove, who bids me say
The immortals are offended, and himself
The most, that thou shouldst in thy spite detain
The corse of Hector at the beaked ships,
Refusing its release. Comply thou then,
And take the ransom and restore the dead.”

And thus Achilles, swift of foot, replied:
“Let him who brings the ransom come and take
The body, if it be the will of Jove.”

Thus did the mother and the son confer
Among the galleys, and between them passed
Full many a wingèd word, while Saturn’s son
Bade Iris go with speed to sacred Troy:⁠—

“Fleet Iris, haste thee. Leave the Olympian seats,
And send magnanimous Priam to the fleet,
To ransom his dear son, and bear him back
To Ilium. Let him carry gifts to calm
The anger of Achilles. He should go
Alone, no Trojan with him, save a man
In years, a herald, who may guide the mules
And strong-wheeled chariot, harnessed to bear back
Him whom the great Achilles has o’erthrown;
And let him fear not death nor other harm,
For we will send a guide to lead him safe,
The Argus-queller, till he stand beside
Achilles; and when once he comes within
The warrior’s tent, Achilles will not raise
His hand to slay, but will restrain the rest.
Nor mad, nor rash, nor criminal is he,
And will humanely spare a suppliant man.”

He spake, and Iris, the swift messenger,
Whose feet are like the wind, went forth with speed,
And came to Priam’s palace, where she found
Sorrow and wailing. Round the father sat
His sons within the hall, and steeped with tears
Their garments. In the midst the aged man
Sat with a cloak wrapped round him, and much dust
Strewn on his head and neck, which, when he rolled
Upon the earth, he gathered with his hands.
His daughters and the consorts of his sons
Filled with their cries the mansion, sorrowing
For those, the many and brave, who now lay slain
By Grecian hands. The ambassadress of Jove
Stood beside Priam, and in soft, low tones,
While his limbs shook with fear, addressed him thus:⁠—

“Be comforted, and have no fear; for I
Am come, Dardanian Priam, not to bring
Mischief, but blessing. I am sent to thee
A messenger from Jove, who, though afar,
Pities thee and will aid thee. He who rules
Olympus bids thee ransom thy slain son,
The noble Hector, carrying gifts to calm
The anger of Achilles. Thou shouldst go
Alone, no Trojan with thee, save a man
In years, a herald, who shall guide the mules
And strong-wheeled chariot, harnessed to bring back
Him whom the great Achilles has o’erthrown.
And have no fear of death or other harm;
A guide shall go with thee to lead thee safe,
The Argus-queller, till thou stand beside
Achilles, and when once thou art within
The warrior’s tent, Achilles will not raise
His hand to slay, but will restrain the rest.
He is not mad, nor rash, nor prone to crime,
And will humanely spare a suppliant man.”

Thus the swift-footed Iris spake, and then
Departed. Priam bade his sons prepare
The strong-wheeled chariot, drawn by mules, and bind
A coffer on it. He descended next
Into a fragrant chamber, cedar-lined,
High-roofed, and stored with many things of price,
And calling Hecuba, his wife, he said:⁠—

“Dear wife, a message from Olympian Jove
Commands that I betake me to the fleet,
And thence redeem my slaughtered son with gifts
That may appease Achilles. Tell me now
How this may seem to thee? for I am moved
By a strong impulse to approach the ships,
And venture into the great Grecian camp.”

He spake: his consort wept, and answered thus:
“Ah me! The prudence which was once so praised
By strangers and by those who own thy sway,
Where is it now? Why wouldst thou go alone
To the Greek fleet, to meet the eye of him
Who slew so many of thy gallant sons?
An iron heart is thine. If that false man,
Remorseless as he is, should see thee there
And seize thee, neither pity nor respect
Hast thou to hope from him. Let us lament
Our Hector in these halls. A cruel fate
Spun, when I brought him forth, his thread of life⁠—
That far from us his corse should feed the hounds
Near that fierce man, whose liver I could tear
From out his bosom. Then the indignities
Done to my son would be repaid, for he
Was slain, not shunning combat, coward-like,
But fighting to defend the men of Troy
And the deep-bosomed Trojan dames. He fell
Without a thought of flight or of retreat.”

And thus the aged, godlike king rejoined:
“Keep me not back from going, nor be thou
A bird of evil omen in these halls,
For thou shalt not persuade me. This I say:
If any of the dwellers of the earth,
Soothsayer, seer, or priest, had said to me
What I have heard, I well might deem the words
A lie, and heed them not. But since I heard
Myself the mandate from a deity,
And saw her face to face, I certainly
Will go, nor shall the message be in vain.
And should it be my fate to perish there
Beside the galleys of the mail-clad Greeks,
So be it; for Achilles will forthwith
Put me to death embracing my poor son,
And satisfying my desire to weep.”

He spake, and, raising the fair coffer-lids,
Took out twelve robes of state most beautiful,
Twelve single cloaks, as many tapestried mats,
And tunics next and mantles twelve of each,
And ten whole talents of pure gold, which first
He weighed. Two burnished tripods from his store
He added, and four goblets and a cup
Of eminent beauty, which the men of Thrace
Gave him when, as an envoy to their coast,
He came from Troy⁠—a sumptuous gift, and yet
The aged king reserved not even this
To deck his palace, such was his desire
To ransom his dear son. And then he drave
Away the Trojans hovering round his porch,
Rebuking them with sharp and bitter words:⁠—

“Hence with you, worthless wretches! Have ye not
Sorrow enough at home, that ye are come
To vex me thus? Or doth it seem to you
Of little moment, that Saturnian Jove
Hath sent such grief upon me in the loss
Of my most valiant son? Ye yet will know
How great that loss has been; for it will be
A lighter task for the beleaguering Greeks
To work our ruin, now that he is dead.
But I shall sink to Hades ere mine eyes
Behold the city sacked and made a spoil.”

He spake, and with his staff he chased away
The loiterers; forth before the aged man
They went. With like harsh words he chid his sons.
Helenus, Paris, noble Agathon,
Pammon, Antiphonus, Deïphobus,
Polites, great in war, Hippothoüs,
And gallant Dios, nine in all he called,
And thus bespake them with reproachful words:⁠—

“Make haste, ye idle fellows, my disgrace!
Would ye had all been slain beside the fleet
Instead of Hector! Woe is me! The most
Unhappy of mankind am I, who had
The bravest sons in all the town of Troy,
And none of them, I think, are left to me.
Mestor, divine in presence, Troilus,
The gallant knight, and Hector, he who looked
A god among his countrymen⁠—no son
Of man he seemed, but of immortal birth⁠—
Those Mars has slain, but these who are my shame
Remain⁠—these liars, dancers, excellent
In choirs, whose trade is public robbery
Of lambs and kids. Why haste ye not to get
My chariot ready, and bestow these things
Within it, that my journey may begin?”

He spake, and they, in fear of his rebuke,
Lifted from out its place the strong-wheeled car,
Framed to be drawn by mules, and beautiful,
And newly built, and on it they made fast
The coffer. From its pin they next took down
The boxwood mule-yoke, fitted well with rings,
And carved with a smooth boss. With this they brought
A yoke-band nine ells long, which carefully
Adjusting to the polished pole’s far end,
They cast the ring upon the bolt, and thrice
Wound the long band on each side of the bolt
Around the yoke, and made it fast, and turned
The loose ends under. Then they carried forth
The treasures that should ransom Hector’s corse;
And having piled them in the polished car,
They yoked the hardy, strong-hoofed mules which once
The Mysians gave to Priam, princely gifts.
To bear the yoke of Priam they led forth
The horses which the aged man himself
Fed at the polished manger. These the king
Yoked, aided by the herald, while in mind,
Within the palace court, they both revolved
Their prudent counsels. Hecuba, the queen,
Came to them in deep sorrow. In her hand
She bore a golden cup of delicate wine,
That they might make libations and depart.
She stood before the steeds, and thus she spake:⁠—

“Take this, and pour to Father Jove, and pray
That thou mayst safely leave the enemy’s camp
For home, since ’tis thy will, though I dissuade,
To go among the ships. Implore thou then
The god of Ida and the gatherer
Of the black tempest, Saturn’s son, who looks
Down on all Troy, to send his messenger,
His swift and favorite bird, of matchless strength,
On thy right hand, that, with thine eye on him,
Thou mayst with courage journey to the ships
Of the Greek horsemen. But if Jupiter
All-seeing should withhold his messenger,
I cannot bid thee, eager as thou art,
Adventure near the galleys of the Greeks.”

And thus the godlike Priam made reply:
“Dear wife, indeed, I will not disobey
Thy counsel; meet it is to raise our hands
To Jove, and ask him to be merciful.”

He spake, and bade the attendant handmaid pour
Pure water on his hands, for near him stood
A maid who came and held a basin forth
And ewer. When his hands were washed, he took
The goblet from the queen, and then, in prayer,
Stood in the middle of the court, and poured
The wine, and, looking heavenward, spake aloud:⁠—

“O Father Jove, most glorious and most great,
Who rulest all from Ida, let me find
Favor and pity with Achilles. Send
A messenger, thy own swift, favorite bird,
Of matchless strength, on my right hand, that I,
Beholding him, may confidently pass
To where the fleet of the Greek horsemen lies!”

Thus in his prayer he spake, and Jupiter,
The All-disposer, hearkened, and sent forth
An eagle, bird of surest augury,
Named the Black Chaser, and by others called
Percnos, with wings as broad as is the door
Skilfully fashioned for the lofty hall
Of some rich man, and fastened with a bolt.
Such ample wings he spread on either side
As townward on the right they saw him fly.
They saw and they rejoiced; their hearts grew light
Within their bosoms. Then the aged king
Hastened to mount the polished car, and drave
Through vestibule and echoing porch. The mules,
Harnessed to draw the four-wheeled car, went first,
Driven by the sage Idaeus; after them,
The horses, urged by Priam with the lash
Rapidly through the city. All his friends
Followed lamenting, as for one who went
To meet his death. And now when they had reached
The plain descending from the town, the sons
And sons-in-law of Priam all returned
To Ilium, and the twain proceeded on,
Yet not unmarked by all-beholding Jove,
Who, moved with pity for the aged man,
Turned to his well-beloved son and said:⁠—

“Hermes, who more than any other god
Delightest to consort with human kind,
And willingly dost listen to their prayers,
Haste, guide King Priam to the Grecian fleet,
Yet so that none may see him, and no Greek
Know of his coming, till he stand before
Pelides.” Thus he spake: the messenger
Who slew the Argus hearkened and obeyed;
And hastily beneath his feet he bound
The fair, ambrosial, golden sandals worn
To bear him over ocean like the wind,
And o’er the boundless land. His wand he took
Wherewith he seals in sleep the eyes of men,
And opens them at will. With this in hand,
The mighty Argus-queller flew, and soon
Was at the Troad and the Hellespont.
Like to some royal stripling seemed the god,
In youth’s first prime, when youth has most of grace.
And there the Trojans twain, when they had passed
The tomb of Ilus, halted with their mules
And horses, that the beasts might drink the stream;
For twilight now was creeping o’er the earth.
The herald looked, and saw that Mercury
Was near, and thus, addressing Priam, said:⁠—

“Be on thy guard, O son of Dardanus,
For here is cause for wariness. I see
A warrior, and I think he seeks our lives.
Now let us urge our steeds and fly, or else
Descend and clasp his knees, and sue for grace.”

He spake, and greatly was the aged king
Bewildered by his words; with hair erect
He stood, and motionless, while Mercury
Drew near, and took the old man’s hand, and asked:⁠—

“Whither, O father, guidest thou thy mules
And steeds in the dim night, while others sleep?
Fearest thou nothing from the warlike Greeks,
Thy foes, who hate thee, and are near at hand?
Should one of them behold thee bearing off
These treasures in the swiftly darkening night,
What wouldst thou do? Thou art not young, and he
Who comes with thee is old; ye could not make
Defence against the foe. Fear nought from me,
And I will save thee, since thou art so like
To my own father, from all other harm.”

Priam, the godlike ancient, answered thus:
“Thou sayest true, dear son; but sure some god
Holds over me his kind, protecting hand,
Who sends a guide like thee to join me here,
So noble art thou both in form and air,
And gracious are thy thoughts, and blessed they
Who gave thee birth.” With that the messenger,
The Argus-queller, spake again, and said:
“Most wisely hast thou spoken, aged man.
But tell, and truly, why thou bearest hence
This store of treasures among stranger men?
Is it that they may be preserved for thee?
Or are ye all deserting in alarm
Your hallowed Troy? for such a man of might
Was thy brave son who died, that I may say
The Greeks in battle had no braver man.”

And Priam, godlike ancient, spake in turn:
“Who then art thou, and of what parents born,
Excellent youth, who dost in such kind words
Speak of the death of my unhappy son?”

The herald, Argus-queller, answered him:
“I see that thou wouldst prove me, aged man,
By questions touching Hector, whom I oft
Have seen with mine own eyes in glorious fight,
Putting the Greeks to rout and slaying them
By their swift ships with that sharp spear of his.
We stood and marvelled, for Achilles, wroth
With Agamemnon, would not suffer us
To join the combat. I attend on him;
The same good galley brought us to this shore,
And I am one among his Myrmidons.
Polyctor is my father, who is rich,
And now as old as thou. Six are his sons
Beside me, I the seventh. In casting lots
With them, it fell to me that I should come
To Ilium with Achilles. I am here
In coming from the fleet, for with the dawn
The dark-eyed Greeks are planning to renew
The war around the city. They have grown
Impatient of long idleness; their chiefs
Seek vainly to restrain their warlike rage.”

Then spake the godlike ancient, Priam, thus:
“If thou indeed dost serve Pelides, tell,
And truly tell me, whether yet my son
Is at the fleet, or has Achilles cast,
Torn limb from limb, his body to the hounds?”

The herald, Argus-queller, thus replied:
“O aged monarch, neither have the hounds
Devoured thy son, nor yet the birds of prey;
But near the galleys of Achilles still
He lies neglected and among the tents.
Twelve mornings have beheld him lying there,
Nor hath corruption touched him, nor the worms
That make the slain their feast begun to feed.
’Tis true that, when the holy morning dawns
Achilles drags him fiercely round the tomb
Of his dear friend; yet that disfigures not
The dead. Shouldst thou approach him, thou wouldst see
With marvelling eyes how fresh and dewy still
The body lies, the blood all cleansed away,
Unsoiled in every part, and all the wounds
Closed up wherever made; for many a spear
Was thrust into his sides. Thus tenderly
The blessed gods regard thy son, though dead,
For dearly was he loved by them in life.”

He spake; the aged man was comforted,
And said: “ ’Tis meet, O son, that we should pay
Oblations to the immortals; for my son
While yet alive neglected not within
His palace the due worship of the gods
Who dwell upon Olympus; therefore they
Are mindful of him, even after death.
Take this magnificent goblet; be my guard,
And guide me, by the favor of the gods,
Until I reach Pelides in his tent.”

Again the herald, Argus-queller, spake:
“Thou seekest yet to try me, aged man,
Who younger am than thou. Yet think thou not
That I, without the knowledge of my chief,
Will take thy gifts; for in my heart I fear
Achilles, nor would wrong him in the least,
Lest evil come upon me. Yet I go
Willingly with thee, as thy faithful guide.
Were it as far as Argos the renowned,
In a swift galley, or on foot by land,
Yet none would dare to harm thee while with me.”

So Hermes spake, and leaped into the car,
And took into his hands the lash and reins,
And breathed into the horses and the mules
Fresh vigor. Coming to the wall and trench
About the ships, they found the guard engaged
With their night-meal. The herald Argicide
Poured sleep upon them all, and quickly flung
The gates apart, and pushed aside the bars,
And led in Priam, with the costly gifts
Heaped on the car. They went until they reached
The lofty tent in which Achilles sat,
Reared by the Myrmidons to lodge their king,
With timbers of hewn fir, and over-roofed
With thatch, for which the meadows had been mown,
And fenced for safety round with rows of stakes.
One fir-tree bar made fast its gate, which three
Strong Greeks were wont to raise aloft, and three
Were needed to take down the massive beam.
Achilles wielded the vast weight alone;
Beneficent Hermes opened it before
The aged man, and brought the treasures in,
Designed for swift Achilles. Then he left
The car and stood upon the ground, and said:⁠—

“O aged monarch, I am Mercury,
An ever-living god; my father, Jove,
Bade me attend thy journey. I shall now
Return, nor must Achilles look on me;
It is not meet that an immortal god
Should openly befriend a mortal man.
Enter, approach Pelides, clasp his knees;
Entreat him by his father, and his son,
And fair-haired mother; so shall he be moved.”

Thus having spoken, Hermes took his way
Back to the Olympian summit. Priam then
Sprang from the chariot to the ground. He left
Idaeus there to guard the steeds and mules,
And, hastening to the tent where, dear to Jove,
Achilles lodged, he found the chief within,
While his companions sat apart, save two⁠—
Automedon the brave, and Alcimus,
Who claimed descent from Mars. These stood near by,
And ministered to Peleus’ son, who then
Was closing a repast, and had just left
The food and wine, and still the table stood.
Unmarked the royal Priam entered in,
And, coming to Achilles, clasped his knees,
And kissed those fearful slaughter-dealing hands,
By which so many of his sons had died.
And as, when some blood-guilty man, whose hand
In his own land has slain a fellow-man,
Flees to another country, and the abode
Of some great chieftain, all men look on him
Astonished⁠—so, when godlike Priam first
Was seen, Achilles was amazed, and all
Looked on each other, wondering at the sight.
And thus King Priam supplicating spake:⁠—

“Think of thy father, an old man like me,
Godlike Achilles! On the dreary verge
Of closing life he stands, and even now
Haply is fiercely pressed by those who dwell
Around him, and has none to shield his age
From war and its disasters. Yet his heart
Rejoices when he hears thou yet dost live,
And every day he hopes that his dear son
Will come again from Troy. My lot is hard,
For I was father of the bravest sons
In all wide Troy, and none are left me now.
Fifty were with me when the men of Greece
Arrived upon our coast; nineteen of these
Owned the same mother, and the rest were born
Within my palaces. Remorseless Mars
Already had laid lifeless most of these,
And Hector, whom I cherished most, whose arm
Defended both our city and ourselves,
Him didst thou lately slay while combating
For his dear country. For his sake I come
To the Greek fleet, and to redeem his corse
I bring uncounted ransom. O, revere
The gods, Achilles, and be merciful,
Calling to mind thy father! Happier he
Than I; for I have borne what no man else
That dwells on earth could bear⁠—have laid my lips
Upon the hand of him who slew my son.”
He spake: Achilles sorrowfully thought
Of his own father. By the hand he took
The suppliant, and with gentle force removed
The old man from him. Both in memory
Of those they loved were weeping. The old king,
With many tears, and rolling in the dust
Before Achilles, mourned his gallant son.
Achilles sorrowed for his father’s sake,
And then bewailed Patroclus, and the sound
Of lamentation filled the tent. At last
Achilles, when he felt his heart relieved
By tears, and that strong grief had spent its force,
Sprang from his seat; then lifting by the hand
The aged man, and pitying his white head
And his white chin, he spake these wingèd words:⁠—

“Great have thy sufferings been, unhappy king!
How couldst thou venture to approach alone
The Grecian fleet, and show thyself to him
Who slew so many of thy valiant sons?
An iron heart is thine. But seat thyself,
And let us, though afflicted grievously,
Allow our woes to sleep awhile, for grief
Indulged can bring no good. The gods ordain
The lot of man to suffer, while themselves
Are free from care. Beside Jove’s threshold stand
Two casks of gifts for man. One cask contains
The evil, one the good, and he to whom
The Thunderer gives them mingled sometimes falls
Into misfortune, and is sometimes crowned
With blessings. But the man to whom he gives
The evil only stands a mark exposed
To wrong, and, chased by grim calamity,
Wanders the teeming earth, alike unloved
By gods and men. So did the gods bestow
Munificent gifts on Peleus from his birth,
For eminent was he among mankind
For wealth and plenty; o’er the Myrmidons
He ruled, and, though a mortal, he was given
A goddess for a wife. Yet did the gods
Add evil to the good, for not to him
Was born a family of kingly sons
Within his house, successors to his reign.
One short-lived son is his, nor am I there
To cherish him in his old age; but here
Do I remain, far from my native land,
In Troy, and causing grief to thee and thine.
Of thee too, aged king, they speak, as one
Whose wealth was large in former days, when all
That Lesbos, seat of Macar, owns was thine,
And all in Phrygia and the shores that bound
The Hellespont; men said thou didst excel
All others in thy riches and thy sons.
But since the gods have brought this strife on thee
War and perpetual slaughter of brave men
Are round thy city. Yet be firm of heart,
Nor grieve forever. Sorrow for thy son
Will profit nought; it cannot bring the dead
To life again, and while thou dost afflict
Thyself for him fresh woes may fall on thee.”

And thus the godlike Priam, aged king,
Made answer: “Bid me not be seated here,
Nursling of Jove, while Hector lies among
Thy tents unburied. Let me ransom him
At once, that I may look on him once more
With my own eyes. Receive the many gifts
We bring thee, and mayst thou possess them long,
And reach thy native shore, since by thy grace
I live and yet behold the light of day.”

Achilles heard, and, frowning, thus rejoined:
“Anger me not, old man; ’twas in my thought
To let thee ransom Hector. To my tent
The mother came who bore me, sent from Jove,
The daughter of the Ancient of the Sea,
And I perceive, nor can it be concealed,
O Priam, that some god hath guided thee
To our swift galleys; for no mortal man,
Though in his prime of youthful strength, would dare
To come into the camp; he could not pass
The guard, nor move the beams that bar our gates.
So then remind me of my griefs no more,
Lest, suppliant as thou art, I leave thee not
Unharmed, and thus transgress the laws of Jove.”

He spake: the aged man in fear obeyed.
And then Pelides like a lion leaped
Forth from the door, yet not alone he went;
For of his comrades two⁠—Automedon,
The hero, and his comrade Alcimus,
He whom Achilles held in most esteem
After the slain Patroclus⁠—followed him.
The mules and horses they unyoked, and led
The aged monarch’s clear-voiced herald in,
And bade him sit. Then from the polished car
They took the costly ransom of the corse
Of Hector, save two cloaks, which back they laid
With a fair tunic, that their chief might give
The body shrouded to be borne to Troy.
And then he called the maidens, bidding them
Wash and anoint the dead, yet far apart
From Priam, lest, with looking on his son,
The grief within his heart might rise uncurbed
To anger, and Achilles in his rage
Might stay him and transgress the laws of Jove.
And when the handmaids finished, having washed
The body and anointed it with oil,
And wrapped a sumptuous cloak and tunic round
The limbs, Achilles lifted it himself
And placed it on a bier. His comrades gave
Their aid, and raised it to the polished car.
When all was done, Achilles groaned, and called
By name the friend he dearly loved, and said:⁠—

“O my Patroclus, be not wroth with me
Shouldst thou in Hades hear that I restore
Hector to his dear father, since I take
A ransom not unworthy; but of this
I yield to thee the portion justly thine.”

So spake the godlike warrior, and withdrew
Into his tent, and took the princely seat
From which he had arisen, opposite
To that of Priam, whom he thus bespake:⁠—

“Behold thy son is ransomed, aged man,
As thou hast asked, and lies upon his bier.
Thou shalt behold him with the early dawn,
And bear him hence. Now let us break our fast,
For even Niobe, the golden-haired,
Refrained not from her food, though children twelve
Perished within her palace⁠—six young sons
And six fair daughters. Phoebus slew the sons
With arrows from his silver bow, incensed
At Niobe, while Dian, archer queen,
Struck down the daughters; for the mother dared
To make herself the peer of rosy-cheeked
Latona, who, she boastfully proclaimed,
Had borne two children only, while herself
Had brought forth many. Yet, though only two,
The children of Latona took the lives
Of all her own. Nine days the corses lay
In blood, and there was none to bury them,
For Jove had changed the dwellers of the place
To stone; but on the tenth the gods of heaven
Gave burial to the dead. Yet Niobe,
Though spent with weeping long, did not refrain
From food. And now forever mid the rocks
And desert hills of Sipylus, where lie,
Fame says, the couches of the goddess-nymphs,
Who lead the dance where Acheloüs flows,
Although she be transformed to stone, she broods
Over the woes inflicted by the gods.
But now, O noble Ancient, let us sit
At our repast, and thou mayst afterward
Mourn thy beloved son, while bearing him
Homeward, to be bewailed with many tears.”

Achilles, the swift-footed, spake, and left
His seat, and, slaying a white sheep, he bade
His comrades flay and dress it. Then they carved
The flesh in portions which they fixed on spits,
And roasted carefully, and drew them back.
And then Automedon distributed
The bread in shapely canisters around
The table, while Achilles served the flesh,
And all put forth their hands and shared the feast.
But when their thirst and hunger were appeased,
Dardanian Priam fixed a wondering look
Upon Achilles, who in nobleness
Of form was like the gods. Achilles fixed
A look of equal wonder on his guest,
Dardanian Priam, for he much admired
His gracious aspect and his pleasant speech.
And when at length they both withdrew their gaze,
Priam, the godlike Ancient, spake, and said:⁠—

“Nursling of Jove, dismiss me speedily
To rest, that we may lie, and be refreshed
With gentle slumbers. Never have these eyes
Been closed beneath their lids, since by thy hand
My Hector lost his life; and evermore
I mourn and cherish all my griefs, and writhe
Upon the ground within my palace courts;
But I have taken food at last, and drunk
Draughts of red wine, untasted till this hour.”

Achilles bade the attending men and maids
Place couches in the porch, and over them
Draw sumptuous purple mats on which to lay
Embroidered tapestries, and on each of these
Spread a broad, fleecy mantle, covering all.
Forth went the train with torches in their hands,
And quickly spread two couches. Then the swift
Achilles pleasantly to Priam said:⁠—

“Sleep, excellent old man, without the tent,
Lest some one of our counsellors arrive,
Such as oft come within my tent to sit
And talk of warlike matters. Seeing thee
In the dark hours of night, he might relate
The tale to Agamemnon, king of men,
And hinder thus the ransom of thy son.
But say, and truly say, how many days
Requirest thou to pay the funeral rites
To noble Hector, so that I may rest
As many, and restrain the troops from war.”

Then answered godlike Priam, aged king:
“Since, then, thou wilt, Achilles, that we pay
The rites of burial to my noble son,
I own the favor. Well thou knowest how
We Trojans are constrained to keep within
The city walls, for it is far to bring
Wood from the mountains, and we fear to dare
The journey. Nine days would we mourn the dead
Within our dwellings, and upon the tenth
Would bury him, and make a solemn feast,
And the next day would rear his monument,
And on the twelfth, if needful, fight again.”

And swift Achilles, godlike chief, rejoined:
“Be it, O reverend Priam, as thou wilt,
And for that space will I delay the war.”

He spake, and that the aged king might feel
No fear, he grasped his right hand at the wrist;
And then King Priam and the herald went
To sleep within the porch, but wary still.
Achilles slumbered in his stately tent,
The rosy-cheeked Briseis at his side,
And all the other gods and men who fought
In chariots gave themselves to slumber, save
Beneficent Hermes; sleep came not to him,
For still he meditated how to bring
King Priam back from the Achaian fleet
Unnoticed by the watchers at the gate.
So at the monarch’s head he stood, and spake:⁠—

“O aged king, thou givest little heed
To danger, sleeping thus amid thy foes,
Because Achilles spares thee. Thou hast paid
Large ransom for thy well-beloved son,
And yet the sons whom thou hast left in Troy
Would pay three times that ransom for thy life,
Should Agamemnon, son of Atreus, learn⁠—
Or any of the Greeks⁠—that thou art here.”

He spake: the aged king in fear awaked
The herald. Hermes yoked the steeds and mules,
And drave them quickly through the camp unmarked
By any there. But when they reached the ford
Where Xanthus, progeny of Jupiter,
Rolls the smooth eddies of his stream, the god
Deputed for the Olympian height, and Morn
In saffron robes o’erspread the Earth with light.
Townward they urged the steeds, and as they went
Sorrowed and wailed: the mules conveyed the dead,
And they were seen by none of all the men
And graceful dames of Troy save one alone.
Cassandra, beautiful as Venus, stood
On Pergamus, and from its height discerned
Her wither, standing on the chariot-seat,
And knew the herald, him whose voice so oft
Summoned the citizens, and knew the dead
Stretched on a litter drawn by mules. She raised
Her voice, and called to all the city thus:⁠—

“O Trojan men and women, hasten forth
To look on Hector, if ye e’er rejoiced
To see him coming from the field alive,
The pride of Troy, and all who dwell in her.”

She spake, and suddenly was neither man
Nor woman left within the city bounds.
Deep grief was on them all; they went to meet,
Near to the gates, the monarch bringing home
The dead. And first the wife whom Hector loved
Rushed with his reverend mother to the car
As it rolled on, and, plucking out their hair,
Touched with their hands the forehead of the dead,
While round it pressed the multitude, and wept,
And would have wept before the gates all day,
Even to the set of sun, in bitter grief
For Hector’s loss, had not the aged man
Addressed the people from his chariot-seat:
“Give place to me, and let the mules pass on,
And ye may weep your fill when once the dead
Is laid within the palace.” As he spake,
The throng gave way and let the chariot pass;
And having brought it to the royal halls,
On a fair couch they laid the corse, and placed
Singers beside it, leaders of the dirge,
Who sang a sorrowful, lamenting strain,
And all the women answered it with sobs.
White-armed Andromache in both her hands
Took warlike Hector’s head, and over it
Began the lamentation midst them all:⁠—

“Thou hast died young, my husband, leaving me
In this thy home a widow, and one son,
An infant yet. To an unhappy pair
He owes his birth, and never will, I fear,
Bloom into youth; for ere that day will Troy
Be overthrown, since thou, its chief defence,
Art dead, the guardian of its walls and all
Its noble matrons and its speechless babes,
Yet to be carried captive far away,
And I among them, in the hollow barques;
And thou, my son, wilt either go with me,
Where thou shalt toil at menial tasks for some
Pitiless master; or perhaps some Greek
Will seize thy little arm, and in his rage
Will hurl thee from a tower and dash thee dead,
Remembering how thy father, Hector, slew
His brother, son, or father; for the hand
Of Hector forced full many a Greek to bite
The dust of earth. Not slow to smite was he
In the fierce conflict; therefore all who dwell
Within the city sorrow for his fall.
Thou bringest an unutterable grief,
O Hector, on thy parents, and on me
The sharpest sorrows. Thou didst not stretch forth
Thy hands to me, in dying, from thy couch,
Nor speak a word to comfort me, which I
Might ever think of night and day with tears.”

So spake the weeping wife: the women all
Mingled their wail with hers, and Hecuba
Took up the passionate lamentation next:⁠—

“O Hector, thou who wert most fondly loved
Of all my sons! While yet thou wert alive,
Dear wert thou to the gods, who even now,
When death has overtaken thee, bestow
Such care upon thee. All my other sons
Whom swift Achilles took in war he sold
At Samos, Imbrus, by the barren sea,
And Lemnos harborless. But as for thee,
When he had taken with his cruel spear
Thy life, he dragged thee round and round the tomb
Of his young friend, Patroclus, whom thy hand
Had slain, yet raised he not by this the dead;
And now thou liest in the palace here,
Fresh and besprinkled as with early dew,
Like one just slain with silent arrows aimed
By Phoebus, bearer of the silver bow.”

Weeping she spake, and woke in all who heard
Grief without measure. Helen, last of all,
Took up the lamentation, and began:⁠—

“O Hector, who wert dearest to my heart
Of all my husband’s brothers⁠—for the wife
Am I of godlike Paris, him whose fleet
Brought me to Troy⁠—would I had sooner died!
And now the twentieth year is past since first
I came a stranger from my native shore,
Yet have I never heard from thee a word
Of anger or reproach. And when the sons
Of Priam, and his daughters, and the wives
Of Priam’s sons, in all their fair array,
Taunted me grievously, or Hecuba
Herself⁠—for Priam ever was to me
A gracious father⁠—thou didst take my part
With kindly admonitions, and restrain
Their tongues with soft address and gentle words.
Therefore my heart is grieved, and I bewail
Thee and myself at once⁠—unhappy me!
For now I have no friend in all wide Troy⁠—
None to be kind to me: they hate me all.”

Weeping she spake: the mighty throng again
Answered with wailing. Priam then addressed
The people: “Now bring wood, ye men of Troy,
Into the city. Let there be no fear
Of ambush from the Greeks, for when of late
I left Achilles at the dark-hulled barques,
He gave his promise to molest no more
The men of Troy till the twelfth morn shall rise.”

He spake, and speedily they yoked the mules
And oxen to the wains, and came in throngs
Before the city walls. Nine days they toiled
To bring the trunks of trees, and when the tenth
Arose to light the abodes of men, they brought
The corse of valiant Hector from the town
With many tears, and laid it on the wood
High up, and flung the fire to light the pile.

Now when the early rosy-fingered Dawn
Looked forth, the people gathered round the pile
Of glorious Hector. When they all had come
Together, first they quenched the funeral fires,
Wherever they had spread, with dark-red wine,
And then his brothers and companions searched
For the white bones. In sorrow and in tears,
That streaming stained their cheeks, they gathered them,
And placed them in a golden um. O’er this
They drew a covering of soft purple robes,
And laid it in a hollow grave, and piled
Fragments of rock above it, many and huge.
In haste they reared the tomb, with sentries set
On every side, lest all too soon the Greeks
Should come in armor to renew the war.
When now the tomb was built, the multitude
Returned, and in the halls where Priam dwelt,
Nursling of Jove, were feasted royally.
Such was the mighty Hector’s burial rite.