The Iliad of Homer
Page: 296The common rites of sepulture bestow,
To soothe a father's and a mother's woe:
Let their large gifts procure an urn at least,
And Hector's ashes in his country rest."
"No, wretch accursed! relentless he replies;
(Flames, as he spoke, shot flashing from his eyes;)
Not those who gave me breath should bid me spare,
Nor all the sacred prevalence of prayer.
Could I myself the bloody banquet join!
No—to the dogs that carcase I resign.
Should Troy, to bribe me, bring forth all her store,
And giving thousands, offer thousands more;
Should Dardan Priam, and his weeping dame,
Drain their whole realm to buy one funeral flame:
Their Hector on the pile they should not see,
Nor rob the vultures of one limb of thee."
Then thus the chief his dying accents drew:
"Thy rage, implacable! too well I knew:
The Furies that relentless breast have steel'd,
And cursed thee with a heart that cannot yield.
Yet think, a day will come, when fate's decree
And angry gods shall wreak this wrong on thee;
Phoebus and Paris shall avenge my fate,
And stretch thee here before the Scaean gate."278
He ceased. The Fates suppress'd his labouring breath,
And his eyes stiffen'd at the hand of death;
To the dark realm the spirit wings its way,
(The manly body left a load of clay,)
And plaintive glides along the dreary coast,
A naked, wandering, melancholy ghost!
Achilles, musing as he roll'd his eyes
O'er the dead hero, thus unheard, replies:
"Die thou the first! When Jove and heaven ordain,
I follow thee"—He said, and stripp'd the slain.
Then forcing backward from the gaping wound
The reeking javelin, cast it on the ground.
The thronging Greeks behold with wondering eyes
His manly beauty and superior size;
While some, ignobler, the great dead deface
With wounds ungenerous, or with taunts disgrace:
"How changed that Hector, who like Jove of late
Sent lightning on our fleets, and scatter'd fate!"
High o'er the slain the great Achilles stands,
Begirt with heroes and surrounding bands;
And thus aloud, while all the host attends:
"Princes and leaders! countrymen and friends!
Since now at length the powerful will of heaven
The dire destroyer to our arm has given,
Is not Troy fallen already? Haste, ye powers!
See, if already their deserted towers
Are left unmann'd; or if they yet retain
But what is Troy, or glory what to me?
Or why reflects my mind on aught but thee,
Divine Patroclus! Death hath seal'd his eyes;
Unwept, unhonour'd, uninterr'd he lies!
Can his dear image from my soul depart,
Long as the vital spirit moves my heart?
If in the melancholy shades below,
The flames of friends and lovers cease to glow,
Yet mine shall sacred last; mine, undecay'd,
Burn on through death, and animate my shade.
Meanwhile, ye sons of Greece, in triumph bring
The corpse of Hector, and your paeans sing.
Be this the song, slow-moving toward the shore,