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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 324

Or fliest thou now?—What hopes can Troy retain,
Thy matchless son, her guard and glory, slain?"
The king, alarm'd: "Say what, and whence thou art
Who search the sorrows of a parent's heart,
And know so well how godlike Hector died?"
Thus Priam spoke, and Hermes thus replied:
"You tempt me, father, and with pity touch:
On this sad subject you inquire too much.
Oft have these eyes that godlike Hector view'd
In glorious fight, with Grecian blood embrued:
I saw him when, like Jove, his flames he toss'd
On thousand ships, and wither'd half a host:
I saw, but help'd not: stern Achilles' ire
Forbade assistance, and enjoy'd the fire.
For him I serve, of Myrmidonian race;
One ship convey'd us from our native place;
[pg 441]
Polyctor is my sire, an honour'd name,
Old like thyself, and not unknown to fame;
Of seven his sons, by whom the lot was cast
To serve our prince, it fell on me, the last.
To watch this quarter, my adventure falls:
For with the morn the Greeks attack your walls;
Sleepless they sit, impatient to engage,
And scarce their rulers check their martial rage."
"If then thou art of stern Pelides' train,
(The mournful monarch thus rejoin'd again,)
Ah tell me truly, where, oh! where are laid
My son's dear relics? what befals him dead?
Have dogs dismember'd (on the naked plains),
Or yet unmangled rest, his cold remains?"
"O favour'd of the skies! (thus answered then
The power that mediates between god and men)
Nor dogs nor vultures have thy Hector rent,
But whole he lies, neglected in the tent:
This the twelfth evening since he rested there,
Untouch'd by worms, untainted by the air.
Still as Aurora's ruddy beam is spread,
Round his friend's tomb Achilles drags the dead:
Yet undisfigured, or in limb or face,
All fresh he lies, with every living grace,
Majestical in death! No stains are found
O'er all the corse, and closed is every wound,
Though many a wound they gave. Some heavenly care,
Some hand divine, preserves him ever fair:
Or all the host of heaven, to whom he led
A life so grateful, still regard him dead."
Thus spoke to Priam the celestial guide,
And joyful thus the royal sire replied:
"Blest is the man who pays the gods above
The constant tribute of respect and love!
Those who inhabit the Olympian bower
My son forgot not, in exalted power;
And heaven, that every virtue bears in mind,
Even to the ashes of the just is kind.
But thou, O generous youth! this goblet take,
A pledge of gratitude for Hector's sake;
And while the favouring gods our steps survey,
Safe to Pelides' tent conduct my way."
To whom the latent god: "O king, forbear
To tempt my youth, for apt is youth to err.
But can I, absent from my prince's sight,
Take gifts in secret, that must shun the light?
What from our master's interest thus we draw,
Is but a licensed theft that 'scapes the law.

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