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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 320

And bear what stern Achilles may receive:
Alone, for so we will; no Trojan near
Except, to place the dead with decent care,
Some aged herald, who with gentle hand
May the slow mules and funeral car command.
Nor let him death, nor let him danger dread,
Safe through the foe by our protection led:
Him Hermes to Achilles shall convey,
Guard of his life, and partner of his way.
Fierce as he is, Achilles' self shall spare
His age, nor touch one venerable hair:
Some thought there must be in a soul so brave,
Some sense of duty, some desire to save."

Illustration: <strong><a href=IRIS ADVISES PRIAM TO OBTAIN THE BODY OF HECTOR." title="IRIS ADVISES PRIAM TO OBTAIN THE BODY OF HECTOR." />

IRIS ADVISES PRIAM TO OBTAIN THE BODY OF HECTOR.
Then down her bow the winged Iris drives,
And swift at Priam's mournful court arrives:
Where the sad sons beside their father's throne
Sat bathed in tears, and answer'd groan with groan.
And all amidst them lay the hoary sire,
(Sad scene of woe!) his face his wrapp'd attire
Conceal'd from sight; with frantic hands he spread
A shower of ashes o'er his neck and head.
From room to room his pensive daughters roam;
Whose shrieks and clamours fill the vaulted dome;
Mindful of those, who late their pride and joy,
Lie pale and breathless round the fields of Troy!
Before the king Jove's messenger appears,
And thus in whispers greets his trembling ears:
"Fear not, O father! no ill news I bear;
From Jove I come, Jove makes thee still his care;
[pg 435]
For Hector's sake these walls he bids thee leave,
And bear what stern Achilles may receive;
Alone, for so he wills; no Trojan near,
Except, to place the dead with decent care,
Some aged herald, who with gentle hand
May the slow mules and funeral car command.
Nor shalt thou death, nor shall thou danger dread:
Safe through the foe by his protection led:
Thee Hermes to Pelides shall convey,
Guard of thy life, and partner of thy way.
Fierce as he is, Achilles' self shall spare
Thy age, nor touch one venerable hair;
Some thought there must be in a soul so brave,
Some sense of duty, some desire to save."
She spoke, and vanish'd. Priam bids prepare
His gentle mules and harness to the car;
There, for the gifts, a polish'd casket lay:
His pious sons the king's command obey.
Then pass'd the monarch to his bridal-room,
Where cedar-beams the lofty roofs perfume,
And where the treasures of his empire lay;
Then call'd his queen, and thus began to say:
"Unhappy consort of a king distress'd!
Partake the troubles of thy husband's breast:
I saw descend the messenger of Jove,
Who bids me try Achilles' mind to move;
Forsake these ramparts, and with gifts obtain
The corse of Hector, at yon navy slain.
Tell me thy thought: my heart impels to go
Through hostile camps, and bears me to the foe."
The hoary monarch thus. Her piercing cries
Sad Hecuba renews, and then replies:
"Ah! whither wanders thy distemper'd mind?
And where the prudence now that awed mankind?
Through Phrygia once and foreign regions known;
Now all confused, distracted, overthrown!
Singly to pass through hosts of foes! to face
(O heart of steel!) the murderer of thy race!
To view that deathful eye, and wander o'er
Those hands yet red with Hector's noble gore!
Alas! my lord! he knows not how to spare.
And what his mercy, thy slain sons declare;
So brave! so many fallen! To claim his rage
Vain were thy dignity, and vain thy age.
No—pent in this sad palace, let us give
To grief the wretched days we have to live.
Still, still for Hector let our sorrows flow,
Born to his own, and to his parents' woe!
Doom'd from the hour his luckless life begun,
To dogs, to vultures, and to Peleus' son!
[pg 436]
Oh! in his dearest blood might I allay
My rage, and these barbarities repay!
For ah! could Hector merit thus, whose breath
Expired not meanly, in unactive death?
He poured his latest blood in manly fight,
And fell a hero in his country's right."
"Seek not to stay me, nor my soul affright
With words of omen, like a bird of night,
(Replied unmoved the venerable man;)
'Tis heaven commands me, and you urge in vain.
Had any mortal voice the injunction laid,
Nor augur, priest, nor seer, had been obey'd.
A present goddess brought the high command,
I saw, I heard her, and the word shall stand.
I go, ye gods! obedient to your call:
If in yon camp your powers have doom'd my fall,

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