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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
 
Translations from Homer
The Iliad
Book XXII. The Death of Hector
 
        
The Argument
  The Trojans being safe within the walls, Hector only stays to oppose Achilles. Priam is struck at his approach, and tries to persuade his son to re-enter the town. Hecuba joins her entreaties but in vain. Hector consults within himself what measures to take; but, at the advance of Achilles, his resolution fails him, and he flies: Achilles pursues him thrice round the walls of Troy. The Gods debate concerning the fate of Hector; at length Minerva descends to the aid of Achilles. She deludes Hector in the shape of Deïphobus; he stands the combat, and is slain. Achilles drags the dead body at his chariot, in the sight of Priam and Hecuba. Their lamentations, tears, and despair. Their cries reach the ears of Andromache, who, ignorant of this, was retired into the inner part of the palace; she mounts up to the walls, and beholds her dead husband. She swoons at the spectacle. Her excess of grief and lamentation.
  The thirtieth day still continues. The scene lies under the walls, and on the battlements of Troy.

  THUS to their bulwarks, smit with panic fear,
The herded Ilians rush like driven deer;
There safe, they wipe the briny drops away,
And drown in bowls the labours of the day.
Close to the walls, advancing o’er the fields,        5
Beneath one roof of well-compacted shields,
March, bending on, the Greeks’ embodied powers,
Far-stretching in the shade of Trojan towers.
Great Hector singly stay’d; chain’d down by Fate,
There fix’d he stood before the Seæan gate;        10
Still his bold arms determin’d to employ,
The guardian still of long-defended Troy.
  Apollo now to tried Achilles turns
(The Power confess’d in all his glory burns),
‘And what’ (he cries) ‘has Peleus’ son in view,        15
With mortal speed a Godhead to pursue?
For not to thee to know the Gods is giv’n,
Unskill’d to trace the latent marks of Heav’n.
What boots thee now, that Troy forsook the plain?
Vain thy past labour, and thy present vain:        20
Safe in their walls are now her troops bestow’d,
While here thy frantic rage attacks a God.’
  The Chief incens’d: ‘Too partial God of Day!
To check my conquest in the middle way:
How few in Ilion else had refuge found!        25
What gasping numbers now had bit the ground!
Thou robb’st me of a glory justly mine,
Powerful of Godhead, and of fraud divine:
Mean fame, alas! for one of heav’nly strain,
To cheat a mortal who repines in vain.’        30
  Then to the city, terrible and strong,
With high and haughty steps he tower’d along:
So the proud courser, victor of the prize,
To the near goal with double ardour flies.
Him, as he blazing shot across the field,        35
The careful eyes of Priam first beheld.
Not half so dreadful rises to the sight,
Thro’ the thick gloom of some tempestuous night,
Orion’s dog (the year when autumn weighs),
And o’er the feebler stars exerts his rays;        40
Terrific glory! for his burning breath
Taints the red air with fevers, plagues, and death.
So flamed his fiery mail. Then wept the sage:
He strikes his rev’rend head, now white with age;
He lifts his wither’d arms; obtests the skies;        45
He calls his much-lov’d son with feeble cries:
The son, resolv’d Achilles’ force to dare,
Full at the Scæan gate expects the war:
While the sad father on the rampart stands,
And thus adjures him with extended hands:        50
  ‘Ah stay not, stay not! guardless and alone;
Hector, my lov’d, my dearest, bravest son!
Methinks already I behold thee slain,
And stretch’d beneath that fury of the plain.
Implacable Achilles! might’st thou be        55
To all the Gods no dearer than to me!
Thee, vultures wild should scatter round the shore,
And bloody dogs grow fiercer from thy gore!
How many valiant sons I late enjoy’d,
Valiant in vain! by thy curs’d arm destroy’d:        60
Or, worse than slaughter’d, sold in distant isles
To shameful bondage and unworthy toils.
Two, while I speak, my eyes in vain explore,
Two from one mother sprung, my Polydore,
And loved Lycaon; now perhaps no more!        65
Oh! if in yonder hostile camp they live,
What heaps of gold, what treasures would I give!
(Their grandsire’s wealth, by right of birth their own,
Consign’d his daughter with Lelegia’s throne):
But if (which Heav’n forbid) already lost,        70
All pale they wander on the Stygian coast,
What sorrows then must their sad mother know,
What anguish I! unutterable woe!
Yet less that anguish, less to her, to me,
Less to all Troy, if not deprived of thee.        75
Yet shun Achilles! enter yet the wall;
And spare thyself, thy father, spare us all!
Save thy dear life: or if a soul so brave
Neglect that thought, thy dearer glory save.
Pity, while yet I live, these silver hairs;        80
While yet thy father feels the woes he bears,
Yet curs’d with sense! a wretch, whom in his rage
(All trembling on the verge of helpless age)
Great Jove has placed, sad spectacle of pain!
The bitter dregs of fortune’s cup to drain:        85
To fill with scenes of death his closing eyes,
And number all his days by miseries!
My heroes slain, my bridal bed o’erturn’d,
My daughters ravish’d, and my city burn’d,
My bleeding infants dash’d against the floor;        90
These I have yet to see, perhaps yet more!
Perhaps ev’n I, reserv’d by angry Fate
The last sad relic of my ruin’d state
(Dire pomp of sovereign wretchedness!), must fall
And stain the pavement of my regal hall;        95
Where famish’d dogs, late guardians of my door,
Shall lick their mangled master’s spatter’d gore.
Yet for my sons I thank ye, Gods! ’t was well:
Well have they perish’d, for in fight they fell.
Who dies in youth and vigour, dies the best,        100
Struck thro’ with wounds, all honest on the breast.
But when the Fates, in fulness of their rage,
Spurn the hoar head of unresisting age,
In dust the rev’rend lineaments deform,
And pour to dogs the life-blood scarcely warm;        105
This, this is misery! the last, the worst,
That man can feel: man, fated to be curs’d!’
  He said, and acting what no words could say,
Rent from his head the silver locks away.
With him the mournful mother bears a part:        110
Yet all their sorrows turn not Hector’s heart:
The zone unbraced, her bosom she display’d;
And thus, fast-falling the salt tears, she said:
  ‘Have mercy on me, O my son! revere
The words of age; attend a parent’s prayer!        115
If ever thee in these fond arms I press’d,
Or still’d thy infant clamours at this breast;
Ah! do not thus our helpless years forego,
But, by our walls secured, repel the foe.
Against his rage if singly thou proceed,        120
Should’st thou (but Heav’n avert it!) should’st thou bleed,
Nor must thy corse lie honour’d on the bier,
Nor spouse, nor mother, grace thee with a tear;
Far from our pious rites, those dear remains
Must feast the vultures on the naked plains.’        125
  So they, while down their cheeks the torrents roll:
But fix’d remains the purpose of his soul;
Resolv’d he stands, and with a fiery glance
Expects the hero’s terrible advance.
So, roll’d up in his den, the swelling snake        130
Beholds the traveller approach the brake;
When, fed with noxious herbs, his turgid veins
Have gather’d half the poisons of the plains;
He burns, he stiffens with collected ire,
And his red eyeballs glare with living fire.        135
Beneath a turret, on his shield reclin’d,
He stood, and question’d thus his mighty mind:
  ‘Where lies my way? To enter in the wall?
Honour and shame th’ ungen’rous thought recall:
Shall proud Polydamas before the gate        140
Proclaim, his counsels are obey’d too late,
Which timely follow’d but the former night,
What numbers had been saved by Hector’s flight?
That wise advice rejected with disdain,
I feel my folly in my people slain.        145
Methinks my suff’ring country’s voice I hear,
But most, her worthless sons insult my ear,
On my rash courage charge the chance of war,
And blame those virtues which they cannot share.
No—If I e’er return, return I must        150
Glorious, my country’s terror laid in dust:
Or if I perish, let her see my fall
In field at least, and fighting for her wall.
And yet suppose these measures I forego,
Approach unarm’d, and parley with the foe,        155
The warrior-shield, the helm, and lance lay down,
And treat on terms of peace to save the town:
The wife withheld, the treasure ill-detain’d
(Cause of the war, and grievance of the land),
With honourable justice to restore;        160
And add half Ilion’s yet remaining store,
Which Troy shall, sworn, produce; that injur’d Greece
May share our wealth, and leave our walls in peace.
But why this thought? unarm’d if I should go,
What hope of mercy from this vengeful foe,        165
But woman-like to fall, and fall without a blow?
We greet not here, as man conversing man,
Met at an oak, or journeying o’er a plain;
No season now for calm, familiar talk,
Like youths and maidens in an ev’ning walk:        170
War is our business, but to whom is giv’n
To die or triumph, that determine Heav’n!’
  Thus pond’ring, like a God the Greek drew nigh:
His dreadful plumage nodded from on high;
The Pelian jav’lin, in his better hand,        175
Shot trembling rays that glitter’d o’er the land;
And on his breast the beamy splendours shone
Like Jove’s own lightning, or the rising sun.
As Hector sees, unusual terrors rise,
Struck by some God, he fears, recedes, and flies:        180
He leaves the gates, he leaves the walls behind;
Achilles follows like the winged wind.
Thus at the panting dove the falcon flies
(The swiftest racer of the liquid skies);
Just when he holds, or thinks he holds, his prey,        185
Obliquely wheeling thro’ th’ aærial way,
With open beak and shrilling cries he springs,
And aims his claws, and shoots upon his wings:
No less fore-right the rapid chase they held,
One urged by fury, one by fear impell’d;        190
Now circling round the walls their course maintain,
Where the high watch-tower overlooks the plain;
Now where the fig-trees spread their umbrage broad
(A wider compass), smoke along the road.
Next by Scamander’s double source they bound,        195
Where two famed fountains burst the parted ground:
This hot thro’ scorching clefts is seen to rise,
With exhalations steaming to the skies;
That the green banks in summer’s heat o’erflows,
Like crystal clear, and cold as winter snows.        200
Each gushing fount a marble cistern fills,
Whose polish’d bed receives the falling rills;
Where Trojan dames (ere yet alarm’d by Greece)
Wash’d their fair garments in the days of peace.
By these they pass’d, one chasing, one in flight        205
(The mighty fled, pursued by stronger might);
Swift was the course; no vulgar prize they play,
No vulgar victim must reward the day
(Such as in races crown the speedy strife);
The prize contended was great Hector’s life.        210
  As when some hero’s funerals are decreed,
In grateful honour of the mighty dead;
Where high rewards the vig’rous youth inflame
(Some golden tripod, or some lovely dame),
The panting coursers swiftly turn the goal,        215
And with them turns the rais’d spectator’s soul:
Thus three times round the Trojan wall they fly;
The gazing Gods lean forward from the sky:
To whom, while eager on the chase they look,
The Sire of mortals and immortals spoke:        220
  ‘Unworthy sight! the man, belov’d of Heav’n,
Behold, inglorious round yon city driv’n!
My heart partakes the gen’rous Hector’s pain;
Hector, whose zeal whole hecatombs has slain,
Whose grateful fumes the Gods receiv’d with joy,        225
From Ida’s summits, and the towers of Troy:
Now see him flying! to his fears resign’d,
And Fate, and fierce Achilles, close behind.
Consult, ye Powers (’t is worthy your debate)
Whether to snatch him from impending Fate,        230
Or let him bear, by stern Pelides slain
(Good as he is), the lot imposed on man?’
  Then Pallas thus: ‘Shall he whose vengeance forms
The forky bolt, and blackens Heav’n with storms,
Shall he prolong one Trojan’s forfeit breath,        235
A man a mortal, pre-ordain’d to death?
And will no murmurs fill the courts above?
No Gods indignant blame their partial Jove?’
  ‘Go then’ (return’d the Sire), ‘without delay;
Exert thy will: I give the Fates their way.’        240
Swift at the mandate pleas’d Tritonia flies,
And stoops impetuous from the cleaving skies.
  As thro’ the forest, o’er the vale and lawn,
The well-breathed beagle drives the flying fawn;
In vain he tries the covert of the brakes,        245
Or deep beneath the trembling thicket shakes:
Sure of the vapour in the tainted dews,
The certain hound his various maze pursues:
Thus step by step, where’er the Trojan wheel’d,
There swift Achilles compass’d round the field.        250
Oft as to reach the Dardan gates he bends,
And hopes th’ assistance of his pitying friends
(Whose show’ring arrows, as he cours’d below,
From the high turrets might oppress the foe),
So oft Achilles turns him to the plain:        255
He eyes the city, but he eyes in vain.
As men in slumbers seem with speedy pace
One to pursue, and one to lead the chase,
Their sinking limbs the fancied course forsake,
Nor this can fly, nor that can overtake:        260
No less the lab’ring heroes pant and strain;
While that but flies, and this pursues, in vain.
  What God, O Muse! assisted Hector’s force,
With Fate itself so long to hold the course?
Phæbus it was: who, in his latest hour,        265
Endued his knees with strength, his nerves with power;
And great Achilles, lest some Greek’s advance
Should snatch the glory from his lifted lance,
Sign’d to the troops, to yield his foe the way,
And leave untouch’d the honours of the day.        270
  Jove lifts the golden balances, that show
The fates of mortal men, and things below:
Here each contending hero’s lot he tries,
And weighs, with equal hand, their destinies.
Low sinks the scale surcharg’d with Hector’s fate;        275
Heavy with death it sinks, and Hell receives the weight.
  Then Phæbus left him. Fierce Minerva flies
To stern Pelides, and, triumphing, cries:
‘Oh lov’d of Jove! this day our labours cease,
And conquest blazes with full beams on Greece.        280
Great Hector falls; that Hector famed so far,
Drunk with renown, insatiable of war,
Falls by thy hand, and mine! nor force nor flight
Shall more avail him, nor his God of Light.
See, where in vain he supplicates above,        285
Roll’d at the feet of unrelenting Jove!
Rest here: myself will lead the Trojan on,
And urge to meet the fate he cannot shun.’
  Her voice divine the Chief with joyful mind
Obey’d, and rested, on his lance reclin’d.        290
While like Deïphobus the Martial Dame
(Her face, her gesture, and her arms, the same),
In show an aid, by hapless Hector’s side
Approach’d, and greets him thus with voice belied:
  ‘Too long, O Hector! have I borne the sight        295
Of this distress, and sorrow’d in thy flight:
It fits us now a noble stand to make,
And here, as brothers, equal fates partake.’
  Then he: ‘O Prince! allied in blood and fame,
Dearer than all that own a brother’s name;        300
Of all that Hecuba to Priam bore,
Long tried, long lov’d; much lov’d, but honour’d more!
Since you of all our numerous race alone
Defend my life, regardless of your own.’
  Again the Goddess: ‘Much my father’s prayer,        305
And much my mother’s, press’d me to forbear:
My friends embraced my knees, adjured my stay,
But stronger love impell’d, and I obey.
Come then, the glorious conflict let us try,
Let the steel sparkle and the jav’lin fly;        310
Or let us stretch Achilles on the field,
Or to his arm our bloody trophies yield.’
  Fraudful she said; then swiftly march’d before;
The Dardan hero shuns his foe no more.
Sternly they met. The silence Hector broke;        315
His dreadful plumage nodded as he spoke:
  ‘Enough, O son of Peleus! Troy has view’d
Her walls thrice circled, and her Chief pursued.
But now some God within me bids me try
Thine, or my fate: I kill thee, or I die.        320
Yet on the verge of battle let us stay,
And for a moment’s space suspend the day:
Let Heav’n’s high Powers be call’d to arbitrate
The just conditions of this stern debate
(Eternal witnesses of all below,        325
And faithful guardians of the treasured vow)!
To them I swear: if, victor in the strife,
Jove by these hands shall shed thy noble life,
No vile dishonour shall thy corse pursue;
Stripp’d of its arms alone (the conqueror’s due),        330
The rest to Greece uninjur’d I ’ll restore:
Now plight thy mutual oath, I ask no more.’
  ‘Talk not of oaths’ (the dreadful Chief replies,
While anger flash’d from his disdainful eyes),
‘Detested as thou art, and ought to be,        335
Nor oath nor pact Achilles plights with thee;
Such pacts, as lambs and rabid wolves combine,
Such leagues, as men and furious lions join,
To such I call the Gods! one constant state
Of lasting rancour and eternal hate:        340
No thought but rage, and never-ceasing strife,
Till death extinguish rage, and thought, and life.
Rouse then thy forces this important hour,
Collect thy soul, and call forth all thy power.
No farther subterfuge, no farther chance;        345
’T is Pallas, Pallas gives thee to my lance.
Each Grecian ghost by thee deprived of breath,
Now hovers round, and calls thee to thy death.’
  He spoke, and launch’d his jav’lin at the foe;
But Hector shunn’d the meditated blow:        350
He stoop’d, while o’er his head the flying spear
Sung innocent, and spent its force in air.
Minerva watch’d it falling on the land,
Then drew, and gave to great Achilles’ hand,
Unseen of Hector, who, elate with joy,        355
Now shakes his lance, and braves the dread of Troy:
‘The life you boasted to that jav’lin giv’n,
Prince! you have miss’d. My fate depends on Heav’n.
To thee (presumptuous as thou art) unknown
Or what must prove my fortune, or thy own.        360
Boasting is but an art, our fears to blind,
And with false terrors sink another’s mind.
But know, whatever fate I am to try,
By no dishonest wound shall Hector die;
I shall not fall a fugitive at least,        365
My soul shall bravely issue from my breast.
But first, try thou my arm; and may this dart
End all my country’s woes, deep buried in thy heart!’
  The weapon flew, its course unerring held;
Unerring, but the heav’nly shield repell’d        370
The mortal dart; resulting with a bound
From off the ringing orb, it struck the ground.
Hector beheld his jav’lin fall in vain,
Nor other lance nor other hope remain;
He calls Deïphobus, demands a spear,        375
In vain, for no Deïphobus was there.
All comfortless he stands: then, with a sigh,
‘’T is so—Heav’n wills it, and my hour is nigh!
I deem’d Deïphobus had heard my call,
But he secure lies guarded in the wall.        380
A God deceiv’d me; Pallas, ’t was thy deed:
Death and black Fate approach! ’t is I must bleed:
No refuge now, no succour from above,
Great Jove deserts me, and the son of Jove,
Propitious once, and kind! Then welcome Fate!        385
’T is true I perish, yet I perish great:
Yet in a mighty deed I shall expire,
Let future ages hear it, and admire!’
  Fierce, at the word, his weighty sword he drew,
And, all collected, on Achilles flew.        390
So Jove’s bold bird, high balanc’d in the air,
Stoops from the clouds to truss the quiv’ring hare.
Nor less Achilles his fierce soul prepares;
Before his breast the flaming shield he bears,
Refulgent orb! above his fourfold cone        395
The gilded horse-hair sparkled in the sun,
Nodding at ev’ry step (Vulcanian frame)!
And as he mov’d, his figure seem’d on flame.
As radiant Hesper shines with keener light,
Far-beaming o’er the silver host of night,        400
When all the starry train emblaze the sphere:
So shone the point of great Achilles’ spear.
In his right hand he waves the weapon round,
Eyes the whole man, and meditates the wound:
But the rich mail Patroclus lately wore,        405
Securely cased the warrior’s body o’er.
One place at length he spies, to let in Fate,
Where ’twixt the neck and throat the jointed plate
Gave entrance: thro’ that penetrable part
Furious he drove the well-directed dart:        410
Nor pierc’d the windpipe yet, nor took the power
Of speech, unhappy! from thy dying hour.
Prone on the field the bleeding warrior lies,
While thus, triumphing, stern Achilles cries:
  ‘At last is Hector stretch’d upon the plain,        415
Who fear’d no vengeance for Patroclus slain:
Then, Prince! you should have fear’d, what now you feel;
Achilles absent was Achilles still.
Yet a short space the great avenger stay’d,
Then low in dust thy strength and glory laid.        420
Peaceful he sleeps, with all our rites adorn’d,
For ever honour’d, and for ever mourn’d:
While, cast to all the rage of hostile power,
Thee birds shall mangle, and thee dogs devour.’
  Then Hector, fainting at th’ approach of death:        425
‘By thy own soul! by those who gave thee breath!
By all the sacred prevalence of prayer;
Ah, leave me not for Grecian dogs to tear!
The common rites of sepulture bestow,
To soothe a father’s and a mother’s woe;        430
Let their large gifts procure an urn at least,
And Hector’s ashes in his country rest.’
  ‘No, wretch accurs’d!’ relentless he replies
(Flames, as he spoke, shot flashing from his eyes),
‘Not those who gave me breath should bid me spare,        435
Nor all the sacred prevalence of prayer.
Could I myself the bloody banquet join!
No—to the dogs that carcass I resign.
Should Troy to bribe me bring forth all her store,
And, giving thousands, offer thousands more;        440
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:        445
‘Thy rage, implacable! too well I knew:
The Furies that relentless breast have steel’d,
And curs’d 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;        450
Phœbus and Paris shall avenge my fate,
And stretch thee here, before this Scæan gate.’
  He ceas’d: the Fates suppress’d his lab’ring breath,
And his eyes stiffen’d at the hand of death;
To the dark realm the spirit wings its way        455
(The manly body left a load of clay),
And plaintive glides along the dreary coast,
A naked, wand’ring, melancholy ghost!
  Achilles, musing as he roll’d his eyes
O’er the dead hero, thus (unheard) replies:        460
‘Die thou the first! when Jove and Heav’n ordain,
I follow thee.’ He said, and stripp’d the slain.
Then, forcing backward from the gaping wound
The reeking jav’lin, cast it on the ground.
The thronging Greeks behold with wond’ring eyes        465
His manly beauty and superior size:
While some, ignobler, the great dead deface
With wounds ungen’rous, or with taunts disgrace.
‘How changed that Hector! who, like Jove, of late
Sent lightning on our fleets and scatter’d Fate!’        470
  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 Heav’n        475
The dire destroyer to our arm has giv’n,
Is not Troy fall’n already? Haste, ye Powers!
See if already their deserted towers
Are left unmann’d; or if they yet retain
The souls of heroes, their great Hector slain?        480
But what is Troy, or glory what to me?
Or why reflects my mind on aught but thee,
Divine Patroclus! Death has seal’d his eyes;
Unwept, unhonour’d, uninterr’d he lies!
Can his dear image from my soul depart,        485
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 thro’ death, and animate my shade.        490
Meanwhile, ye sons of Greece, in triumph bring
The corse of Hector, and your Pæans sing.
Be this the song, slow moving tow’rd the shore,
“Hector is dead, and Ilion is no more.” ’
  Then his fell soul a thought of vengeance bred        495
(Unworthy of himself, and of the dead);
The nervous ancles bored, his feet he bound
With thongs inserted thro’ the double wound;
These fix’d up high behind the rolling wain,
His graceful head was trail’d along the plain.        500
Proud on his car th’ insulting victor stood,
And bore aloft his arms, distilling blood.
He smites the steeds; the rapid chariot flies;
The sudden clouds of circling dust arise.
Now lost is all that formidable air;        505
The face divine, and long-descending hair,
Purple the ground, and streak the sable sand;
Deform’d, dishonour’d, in his native land!
Giv’n to the rage of an insulting throng!
And, in his parents’ sight, now dragg’d along.        510
  The mother first beheld with sad survey;
She rent her tresses, venerably grey,
And cast far off the regal veils away.
With piercing shrieks his bitter fate she moans,
While the sad father answers groans with groans;        515
Tears after tears his mournful cheeks o’erflow,
And the whole city wears one face of woe:
No less than if the rage of hostile fires,
From her foundations curling to her spires,
O’er the proud citadel at length should rise,        520
And the last blaze send Ilion to the skies.
The wretched Monarch of the falling state,
Distracted, presses to the Dardan gate:
Scarce the whole people stop his desp’rate course,
While strong affliction gives the feeble force:        525
Grief tears his heart, and drives him to and fro,
In all the raging impotence of woe.
At length he roll’d in dust, and thus begun,
Imploring all, and naming one by one:
‘Ah! let me, let me go where sorrow calls;        530
I, only I, will issue from your walls
(Guide or companion, friends! I ask ye none),
And bow before the murd’rer, of my son:
My grief perhaps his pity may engage;
Perhaps at least he may respect my age.        535
He has a father too; a man like me;
One not exempt from age and misery
(Vig’rous no more, as when his young embrace
Begot this pest of me, and all my race).
How many valiant sons, in early bloom,        540
Has that curs’d hand sent headlong to the tomb!
Thee, Hector! last; thy loss (divinely brave)!
Sinks my sad soul with sorrow to the grave.
Oh had thy gentle spirit pass’d in peace,
The son expiring in the sire’s embrace,        545
While both thy parents wept thy fatal hour,
And, bending o’er thee, mix’d the tender shower!
Some comfort that had been, some sad relief,
To melt in full satiety of grief!’
  Thus wail’d the father, grov’ling on the ground,        550
And all the eyes of Ilion stream’d around.
  Amidst her matrons Hecuba appears
(A mourning Princess, and a train in tears):
‘Ah! why has Heav’n prolong’d this hated breath,
Patient of horrors, to behold thy death?        555
O Hector! late thy parents’ pride and joy,
The boast of nations! the defence of Troy!
To whom her safety and her fame she owed,
Her Chief, her hero, and almost her God!
O fatal change! become in one sad day        560
A senseless corse! inanimated clay!’
  But not as yet the fatal news had spread
To fair Andromache, of Hector dead;
As yet no messenger had told his Fate,
Nor ev’n his stay without the Scæan gate.        565
Far in the close recesses of the dome
Pensive she plied the melancholy loom;
A growing work employ’d her secret hours,
Confusedly gay with intermingled flowers.
Her fair-hair’d handmaids heat the brazen urn,        570
The bath preparing for her lord’s return:
In vain: alas! her lord returns no more!
Unbathed he lies, and bleeds along the shore!
Now from the walls the clamours reach her ear
And all her members shake with sudden fear;        575
Forth from her iv’ry hand the shuttle falls,
As thus, astonish’d, to her maids she calls:
  ‘Ah, follow me’ (she cried)! ‘what plaintive noise
Invades my ear? ’T is sure my mother’s voice.
My falt’ring knees their trembling frame desert,        580
A pulse unusual flutters at my heart.
Some strange disaster, some reverse of fate
(Ye Gods avert it!) threats the Trojan state.
Far be the omen which my thoughts suggest!
But much I fear my Hector’s dauntless breast        585
Confronts Achilles; chased along the plain,
Shut from our walls! I fear, I fear him slain!
Safe in the crowd he ever scorn’d to wait,
And sought for glory in the jaws of Fate:
Perhaps that noble heat has cost his breath,        590
Now quench’d for ever in the arms of death.’
  She spoke; and, furious, with distracted pace,
Fears in her heart, and anguish in her face,
Flies thro’ the dome (the maids her step pursue),
And mounts the walls, and sends around her view.        595
Too soon her eyes the killing object found,
The godlike Hector dragg’d along the ground.
A sudden darkness shades her swimming eyes:
She faints, she falls; her breath, her colour, flies.
Her hair’s fair ornaments, the braids that bound,        600
The net that held them, and the wreath that crown’d,
The veil and diadem, flew far away
(The gift of Venus on her bridal day).
Around, a train of weeping sisters stands,
To raise her sinking with assistant hands.        605
Scarce from the verge of death recall’d, again
She faints, or but recovers to complain:
  ‘O wretched husband of a wretched wife!
Born with one fate, to one unhappy life!
For sure one star its baneful beam display’d        610
On Priam’s roof, and Hippoplacia’s shade.
From diff’rent parents, diff’rent climes, we came,
At diff’rent periods, yet our fate the same!
Why was my birth to great Eëtion owed,
And why was all that tender care bestow’d?        615
Would I had never been!—Oh thou, the ghost
Of my dead husband! miserably lost!
Thou to the dismal realms for ever gone!
And I abandon’d, desolate, alone!
An only child, once comfort of my pains,        620
Sad product now of hapless love, remains!
No more to smile upon his sire! no friend
To help him now! no father to defend!
For should he ’scape the sword, the common doom,
What wrongs attend him, and what griefs to come!        625
Ev’n 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        630
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:        635
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:        640
The wretch obeys, retiring with a tear.
Thus wretched, thus retiring all in tears,
To my sad soul Astyanax appears!
Forc’d by repeated insults to return,
And to his widow’d mother vainly mourn.        645
He who, with tender delicacy bred,
With Princes sported, and on dainties fed,
And, when still ev’ning gave him up to rest,
Sunk soft in down upon the nurse’s breast,
Must—ah what must he not? Whom Ilion calls        650
Astyanax, from her well-guarded walls,
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,        655
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,        660
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.
 
 
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