Verse > Anthologies > The World’s Best Poetry > Vol. III. Sorrow and Consolation
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Bliss Carman, et al., eds.  The World’s Best Poetry.
Volume III. Sorrow and Consolation.  1904.
 
II. Parting and Absence
Parting of Hector and Andromache
Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)
 
From the Greek by Alexander Pope

From “The Iliad,” Book VI.

  “TOO daring prince! ah whither dost thou run?
Ah too forgetful of thy wife and son!
And think’st thou not how wretched we shall be,
A widow I, a helpless orphan he!
For sure such courage length of life denies,        5
And thou must fall, thy virtue’s sacrifice.
Greece in her single heroes strove in vain;
Now hosts oppose thee, and thou must be slain!
Oh grant me, gods! ere Hector meets his doom,
All I can ask of heaven, an early tomb!        10
So shall my days in one sad tenor run,
And end with sorrows as they first begun.
No parent now remains, my griefs to share,
No father’s aid, no mother’s tender care.
The fierce Achilles wrapt our walls in fire,        15
Laid Thebè waste, and slew my warlike sire!
His fate compassion in the victor bred;
Stern as he was, he yet revered the dead,
His radiant arms preserved from hostile spoil,
And laid him decent on the funeral pile;        20
Then raised a mountain where his bones were burned;
The mountain nymphs the rural tomb adorned;
Jove’s sylvan daughters bade their elms bestow
A barren shade, and in his honor grow.
*        *        *        *        *
  “Yet while my Hector still survives, I see        25
My father, mother, brethren, all, in thee.
Alas! my parents, brothers, kindred, all,
Once more will perish if my Hector fall.
Thy wife, thy infant, in thy danger share;
Oh prove a husband’s and a father’s care!        30
That quarter most the skillful Greeks annoy,
Where yon wild fig-trees join the wall of Troy:
Thou, from this tower defend th’ important post;
There Agamemnon points his dreadful host,
That pass Tydides, Ajax, strive to gain,        35
And there the vengeful Spartan fires his train.
Thrice our bold foes the fierce attack have given,
Or led by hopes, or dictated from heaven.
Let others in the field their arms employ,
But stay my Hector here, and guard his Troy.”        40
  The chief replied: “That post shall be my care,
Nor that alone, but all the works of war.
[How would the sons of Troy, in arms renowned,
And Troy’s proud dames, whose garments sweep the ground,
Attaint the lustre of my former name,        45
Should Hector basely quit the field of fame?
My early youth was bred to martial pains,
My soul impels me to th’ embattled plains:
Let me be foremost to defend the throne,
And guard my father’s glories, and my own.        50
Yet come it will, the day decreed by fates;
(How my heart trembles while my tongue relates)
The day when thou, imperial Troy! must bend,
And see thy warriors fall, thy glories end.
And yet no dire presage so wounds my mind,        55
My mother’s death, the ruin of my kind,
Not Priam’s hoary hairs denied with gore,
Not all my brothers gasping on the shore;
As thine, Andromachè! thy griefs I dread;
I see thee trembling, weeping, captive led!]        60
In Argive looms our battles to design,
And woes of which so large a part was thine!
To bear the victor’s hard commands or bring
The weight of waters from Hyperia’s spring.
There, while you groan beneath the load of life,        65
They cry, Behold the mighty Hector’s wife!
Some haughty Greek, who lives thy tears to see,
Embitters all thy woes by naming me.
The thoughts of glory past, and present shame,
A thousand griefs, shall waken at the name!        70
May I lie cold before that dreadful day,
Pressed with a load of monumental clay!
Thy Hector, wrapped in everlasting sleep,
Shall neither hear thee sigh, nor see thee weep.”
  Thus having spoke, th’ illustrious chief of Troy        75
Stretched his fond arms to clasp the lovely boy.
The babe clung crying to his nurse’s breast,
Scared at the dazzling helm, and nodding crest.
With secret pleasure each fond parent smiled,
And Hector hastèd to relieve his child;        80
The glittering terrors from his brows unbound,
And placed the beaming helmet on the ground.
Then kissed the child, and, lifting high in air,
Thus to the gods preferred a father’s prayer:
  “O thou whose glory fills th’ ethereal throne,        85
And all ye deathless powers! protect my son!
Grant him, like me, to purchase just renown,
To guard the Trojans, to defend the crown,
Against his country’s foes the war to wage,
And rise the Hector of the future age!        90
So when, triumphant from successful toils,
Of heroes slain he bears the reeking spoils,
Whole hosts may hail him with deserved acclaim,
And say, This chief transcends his father’s fame:
While pleased, amidst the general shouts of Troy,        95
His mother’s conscious heart o’erflows with joy.”
  He spoke, and fondly gazing on her charms
Restored the pleasing burden to her arms;
Soft on her fragrant breast the babe she laid,
Hushed to repose, and with a smile surveyed.        100
The troubled pleasure soon chastised by fear,
She mingled with the smile a tender tear.
The softened chief with kind compassion viewed,
And dried the falling drops, and thus pursued:
  “Andromachè! my soul’s far better part,        105
Why with untimely sorrows heaves thy heart?
No hostile hand can antedate my doom,
Till fate condemns me to the silent tomb.
Fixed is the term to all the race of earth,
And such the hard condition of our birth.        110
No force can then resist, no flight can save;
All sink alike, the fearful and the brave.
No more—but hasten to thy tasks at home,
There guide the spindle, and direct the loom:
Me glory summons to the martial scene,        115
The field of combat is the sphere for men.
Where heroes war, the foremost place I claim,
The first in danger as the first in fame.”
  Thus having said, the glorious chief resumes
His towery helmet, black with shading plumes.        120
His princess parts with a prophetic sigh,
Unwilling parts, and oft reverts her eye,
That streamed at every look: then, moving slow,
Sought her own palace, and indulged her woe.
There, while her tears deplored the godlike man,        125
Through all her train the soft infection ran;
The pious maids their mingled sorrows shed,
And mourn the living Hector as the dead.
 
 
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