The Iliad of Homer

Page: 300

For should he 'scape the sword, the common doom,
What wrongs attend him, and what griefs to come!
Even from his own paternal roof expell'd,
Some stranger ploughs his patrimonial field.
The day, that to the shades the father sends,
Robs the sad orphan of his father's friends:
He, wretched outcast of mankind! appears
For ever sad, for ever bathed in tears;
Amongst the happy, unregarded, he
Hangs on the robe, or trembles at the knee,
While those his father's former bounty fed
Nor reach the goblet, nor divide the bread:
The kindest but his present wants allay,
To leave him wretched the succeeding day.
Frugal compassion! Heedless, they who boast
Both parents still, nor feel what he has lost,
Shall cry, 'Begone! thy father feasts not here:'
The wretch obeys, retiring with a tear.
Thus wretched, thus retiring all in tears,
To my sad soul Astyanax appears!
Forced by repeated insults to return,
And to his widow'd mother vainly mourn:
He, who, with tender delicacy bred,
With princes sported, and on dainties fed,
And when still evening gave him up to rest,
Sunk soft in down upon the nurse's breast,
Must—ah what must he not? Whom Ilion calls
Astyanax, from her well-guarded walls,279
Is now that name no more, unhappy boy!
Since now no more thy father guards his Troy.
But thou, my Hector, liest exposed in air,
Far from thy parents' and thy consort's care;
Whose hand in vain, directed by her love,
The martial scarf and robe of triumph wove.
Now to devouring flames be these a prey,
Useless to thee, from this accursed day!
Yet let the sacrifice at least be paid,
An honour to the living, not the dead!"
So spake the mournful dame: her matrons hear,
Sigh back her sighs, and answer tear with tear.

[pg 405]




Achilles and the Myrmidons do honours to the body of Patroclus. After the funeral feast he retires to the sea-shore, where, falling asleep, the ghost of his friend appears to him, and demands the rites of burial; the next morning the soldiers are sent with mules and waggons to fetch wood for the pyre. The funeral procession, and the offering their hair to the dead. Achilles sacrifices several animals, and lastly twelve Trojan captives, at the pile; then sets fire to it. He pays libations to the Winds, which (at the instance of Iris) rise, and raise the flames. When the pile has burned all night, they gather the bones, place them in an urn of gold, and raise the tomb. Achilles institutes the funeral games: the chariot-race, the fight of the caestus, the wrestling, the foot-race, the single combat, the discus, the shooting with arrows, the darting the javelin: the various descriptions of which, and the various success of the several antagonists, make the greatest part of the book.

In this book ends the thirtieth day. The night following, the ghost of Patroclus appears to Achilles: the one-and-thirtieth day is employed in felling the timber for the pile: the two-and-thirtieth in burning it; and the three-and-thirtieth in the games. The scene is generally on the sea-shore.

Thus humbled in the dust, the pensive train
Through the sad city mourn'd her hero slain.
The body soil'd with dust, and black with gore,
Lies on broad Hellespont's resounding shore.
The Grecians seek their ships, and clear the strand,
All, but the martial Myrmidonian band:
These yet assembled great Achilles holds,
And the stern purpose of his mind unfolds:
"Not yet, my brave companions of the war,
Release your smoking coursers from the car;
But, with his chariot each in order led,
Perform due honours to Patroclus dead.
Ere yet from rest or food we seek relief,
Some rites remain, to glut our rage of grief."
[pg 406]
The troops obey'd; and thrice in order led281
(Achilles first) their coursers round the dead;
And thrice their sorrows and laments renew;
Tears bathe their arms, and tears the sands bedew.
For such a warrior Thetis aids their woe,
Melts their strong hearts, and bids their eyes to flow.
But chief, Pelides: thick-succeeding sighs
Burst from his heart, and torrents from his eyes:
His slaughtering hands, yet red with blood, he laid
On his dead friend's cold breast, and thus he said:
"All hail, Patroclus! let thy honour'd ghost
Hear, and rejoice on Pluto's dreary coast;
Behold! Achilles' promise is complete;
The bloody Hector stretch'd before thy feet.
Lo! to the dogs his carcase I resign;
And twelve sad victims, of the Trojan line,
Sacred to vengeance, instant shall expire;
Their lives effused around thy funeral pyre."
Gloomy he said, and (horrible to view)
Before the bier the bleeding Hector threw,
Prone on the dust. The Myrmidons around
Unbraced their armour, and the steeds unbound.
All to Achilles' sable ship repair,
Frequent and full, the genial feast to share.
Now from the well-fed swine black smokes aspire,
The bristly victims hissing o'er the fire:
The huge ox bellowing falls; with feebler cries
Expires the goat; the sheep in silence dies.
Around the hero's prostrate body flow'd,
In one promiscuous stream, the reeking blood.
And now a band of Argive monarchs brings
The glorious victor to the king of kings.
From his dead friend the pensive warrior went,
With steps unwilling, to the regal tent.
The attending heralds, as by office bound,
With kindled flames the tripod-vase surround:
To cleanse his conquering hands from hostile gore,
They urged in vain; the chief refused, and swore:282
"No drop shall touch me, by almighty Jove!
The first and greatest of the gods above!
Till on the pyre I place thee; till I rear
The grassy mound, and clip thy sacred hair.
Some ease at least those pious rites may give,
And soothe my sorrows, while I bear to live.
Howe'er, reluctant as I am, I stay
And share your feast; but with the dawn of day,
[pg 407]
(O king of men!) it claims thy royal care,
That Greece the warrior's funeral pile prepare,
And bid the forests fall: (such rites are paid
To heroes slumbering in eternal shade:)
Then, when his earthly part shall mount in fire,