The Iliad of Homer
Page: 328They leave: to cover and enwrap the dead.
Then call the handmaids, with assistant toil
To wash the body and anoint with oil,
Apart from Priam: lest the unhappy sire,
Provoked to passion, once more rouse to ire
The stern Pelides; and nor sacred age,
Nor Jove's command, should check the rising rage.
This done, the garments o'er the corse they spread;
Achilles lifts it to the funeral bed:
Then, while the body on the car they laid,
He groans, and calls on loved Patroclus' shade:
"If, in that gloom which never light must know,
The deeds of mortals touch the ghosts below,
O friend! forgive me, that I thus fulfil
(Restoring Hector) heaven's unquestion'd will.
The gifts the father gave, be ever thine,
He said, and, entering, took his seat of state;
Where full before him reverend Priam sate;
To whom, composed, the godlike chief begun:
"Lo! to thy prayer restored, thy breathless son;
Extended on the funeral couch he lies;
And soon as morning paints the eastern skies,
The sight is granted to thy longing eyes:
But now the peaceful hours of sacred night
Demand reflection, and to rest invite:
Nor thou, O father! thus consumed with woe,
The common cares that nourish life forego.
Not thus did Niobe, of form divine,
A parent once, whose sorrows equall'd thine:
Six youthful sons, as many blooming maids,
In one sad day beheld the Stygian shades;
Those by Apollo's silver bow were slain,[pg 447]
These, Cynthia's arrows stretch'd upon the plain:
So was her pride chastised by wrath divine,
Who match'd her own with bright Latona's line;
But two the goddess, twelve the queen enjoy'd;
Those boasted twelve, the avenging two destroy'd.
Steep'd in their blood, and in the dust outspread,
Nine days, neglected, lay exposed the dead;
None by to weep them, to inhume them none;
(For Jove had turn'd the nation all to stone.)
The gods themselves, at length relenting gave
The unhappy race the honours of a grave.
Herself a rock (for such was heaven's high will)
Through deserts wild now pours a weeping rill;
Where round the bed whence Achelous springs,
The watery fairies dance in mazy rings;
There high on Sipylus's shaggy brow,
She stands, her own sad monument of woe;
The rock for ever lasts, the tears for ever flow.
"Such griefs, O king! have other parents known;
Remember theirs, and mitigate thy own.
The care of heaven thy Hector has appear'd,
Nor shall he lie unwept, and uninterr'd;
Soon may thy aged cheeks in tears be drown'd,
And all the eyes of Ilion stream around."
He said, and, rising, chose the victim ewe
With silver fleece, which his attendants slew.
The limbs they sever from the reeking hide,
With skill prepare them, and in parts divide:
Each on the coals the separate morsels lays,
And, hasty, snatches from the rising blaze.
With bread the glittering canisters they load,
Which round the board Automedon bestow'd.
The chief himself to each his portion placed,