You gave me life, short as that life will be.
You gave me life, short as that life will be.
Royal son of Laertes, Odysseus,
great tactician – what, is this the way?
All you Argives flying home to your fatherland,
tumbling into your oar-swept ships? Leaving Priam
and all the men of Troy a trophy to glory over,
Helen of Argos, Helen for whom so many Argives
lost their lives in Troy, far from native land!
No, don’t give up now. Range the Achaean ranks,
with your winning words hold back each man you find –
don’t let them haul their rolling ships to sea!
Sing to me now, you Muses who hold the halls of Olympus!
You are goddesses, you are everywhere, you know all things –
all we hear is the distant ring of glory, we know nothing –
who were the captains of Achaea? Who were the kings?
The mass of troops I could never tally, never name,
not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
a tireless voice and the heart inside me bronze,
never unless you Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus
whose shield is rolling thunder, sing, sing in memory
all who gathered under Troy. Now I can only tell
the lords of the ships, the ships in all their numbers!
They came in a hundred ships and Agamemnon led them on,
Atreus’ royal son, and marching in his companies
came the most and bravest fighting men by far.
And there in the midst, armed in gleaming bronze,
in all his glory, he towered high over all his fighters –
he was the greatest warlord, he led by far the largest army.
What’s this? –
you, the son of Tydeus, that skilled breaker of horses?
Why cringing here? Gazing out on the passageways of battle!
That was never Tydeus’ way, shy behind the lines –
he’d grapple enemies, bolting ahead of comrades.
…Now there was a man, that Tydeus, that Aetolian.
But he bore a son who’s not the half of him in battle.
Then Pallas Athena granted Tydeus’ son Diomedes
strength and daring – so the fighter would shine forth
and tower over the Argives and win himself great glory.
She set the man ablaze, his shield and helmet flaming
with tireless fire like the star that flames at harvest.
bathed in the Ocean, rising up to outshine all other stars.
Now be men, my friends! Courage, come, take heart!
Dread what comrades say of you here in bloody combat!
When men dread that, more men come through alive –
when soldiers break and run, good-bye glory,
good-bye all defenses!
Always be the best, my boy, the bravest,
and hold your head up high above the others.
Never disgrace the generation of your fathers.
They were the bravest champions born in Corinth,
In Lycia far and wide.
All this weighs on my mind too, dear woman.
But I would die of shame to face the men of Troy
and the Trojan women trailing their long robes
if I would shrink from battle now, a coward.
Nor does the spirit urge me on that way.
I’ve learned it all too well. To stand up bravely,
always to fight in the front ranks of Trojan soldiers.
winning my father great glory, glory for myself.
As a stallion full-fed at the manger, stalled too long,
breaking free of his tether gallops down the plain,
out for his favorite plunge in a river’s cool currents,
thundering in his pride – his head flung back, his mane
streaming over his shoulders, sure and sleek in his glory.
knees racing him on to the fields and stallion-haunts he loves –
so down from Pergamus heights came Paris, son of Priam,
glittering in his armor like the sun astride the skies,
exultant, laughing aloud, his fast feet sped him on.
And someday one will say, one of the men to come
steering his oar-swept ship across the wine-dark sea
‘there’s the mound of a man who died in the old days,
one of the brave whom glorious Hector killed.’
So they will say, someday, and my fame will never die.
One and the same lot for the man who hangs back
and the man who battles hard. The same honor waits
for the coward and the brave. They both go down to Death,
the fighter who shirks, the one who works to exhaustion.
Mother tells me,
the immortal goddess Thetis with her glistening feet,
that two fates bear me on to the day of death.
If I hold out here and I lay siege to Troy,
my journey home is gone, but my glory never dies.
If I voyage back to the fatherland I love,
my pride, my glory dies…
true, but the life that’s left me will be long,
the stroke of death will not come on me quickly.
Cowards, I know, would quit the fighting now
but the man who wants to make his mark in war
must stand his ground and brace for all he’s worth –
suffer his wounds or wound his man to death.
Ah my friend, if you and I could escape this fray
and live forever, never a trace of age, immortal,
I would never fight on the front lines again
or command you to the field where men win fame.
But now, as it is, the fates of death await us,
thousands poised to strike, and not a man alive
can flee them or escape – so in we go for attack!
Give our enemy glory or win it for ourselves!
They held tight as a working widow holds the scales,
painstakingly grips the beam and lifts the weight
and the wool together, balancing both sides even,
struggling to win a grim subsistence for her children.
So powerful armies drew their battle line dead even
till, at last, Zeus gave Hector the son of Priam
the greater glory – the first to storm the wall.
The rest of them fought on like a mass of whirling fire.
But Hector dear to Zeus had no idea, Hector
heard nothing of how his men, left of the ships,
were torn and mauled in the Argives’ rough response.
The glory might even have gone to them at any moment,
so intent was the god who grips and shakes the earth
as he surged his Argives on and the god surged too,
adding his own immortal force in their defense.
You fill me with contempt –
what are you saying? With the forces poised to clash
you tell us to haul our oar-swept vessels out to sea?
Just so one more glory can crown these Trojans –
god help us, they have beaten us already –
and the scales of headlong death can drag us down.
Achaean troops will never hold the line, I tell you,
not while the long ships are being hauled to sea.
They’ll look left and right – where can they run? –
and fling their lust for battle to the winds. Then,
commander of armies, your plan will kill us all!
Even so, Patroclus, fight disaster off the ships,
fling yourself at the Trojans full force –
before they gut our hulls with leaping fire
and tear away the beloved day of our return.
But take this command to heart – obey it to the end.
So you can win great honor, great glory for me
in the eyes of all the Argive ranks, and they,
they’ll send her back, my lithe and lovely girl,
and top it off with troves of glittering gifts.
Once you have whipped the enemy from the fleet
you must come back, Patroclus. Even if Zeus
the thundering lord of Hera lets you seize your glory,
you must not burn for war against these Trojans,
madmen lusting for battle – not without me –
you will only make my glory that much less.
So you sprang at Cebriones, full fury, Patroclus,
as Hector sprang down from his chariot just across
and the two went tussling over the corpse as lions
up on the mountain ridges over a fresh-killed stag –
both ravenous, proud and savage – fight it out to the death.
So over the driver here and both claw-mad for battle,
Patroclus son of Menoetius, Hector ablaze for glory
strained to slash each other with ruthless bronze.
Hector! Now is your time to glory to the skies…
Now the victory is yours.
A gift of the Son of Cronus, Zeus – Apollo too –
they brought me down with all their deathless ease,
they are the ones who tore the armor off my back.
Even if twenty Hectors had charges against me
they’d all have died here, laid low by my spear.
No, deadly fate in league with Apollo killed me,
From the ranks of men, Euphorbus. You came third,
and all you could do was finish off my life.
Right through the front he plowed like a wild boar
ramping in power up on the high mountain ridges,
scattering dogs and reckless hunters at one charge
when he wheels at bay and drives them down the glades.
So now the son of noble Telamon, dauntless Ajax
scattered the massing Trojan packs at a charge,
all who bestrode Patroclus now, high with hopes
of dragging him back to Troy to win the glory.
Yes, my son, you’re right. No coward’s work,
to save your exhausted friends from headlong death.
But your own handsome war-gear lies in Trojan hands,
bronze and burnished – and Hector in that flashing helmet,
Hector glorifies in your armor, strapped across his back.
Not that he will glory in it long, I tell you:
his own destruction hovers near him now. Wait –
don’t fling yourself in the grind of battle yet,
not till you see me coming back with your own eyes.
Tomorrow I will return to you with the rising sun,
bearing splendid arms from Hephaestus, god of fire!
If it really was Achilles who reared beside the ships,
all the worse for him – if he wants his fill of war.
I for one, I’ll never run from his grim assault,
I’ll stand up to the man – see if he bears off glory
or I bear it off myself!
mighty Achilles! But the day of death
already hovers near, and we are not to blame
but a great god is and the strong force of fate.
Not through our want of speed or any lack of care
did the Trojans strip the armor off Patroclus’ back.
It was all that matchless god, sleek-haired Leto’s son –
he killed him among the champions and handed Hector glory.
Our team could race with the rush of the West Wind,
the strongest, swiftest blast on earth, men say –
still you are doomed to die by force, Achilles,
cut down by a deathless god and mortal man.
on like oxen broad in the brow some field hand yokes
to crush white barley heaped on a well-laid threshing floor
and the grain is husked out fast by the bellowing oxen’s hoofs –
so as the great Achilles rampaged on, his sharp-hoofed stallions
trampled shields and corpses, axle under his chariot splashed
with blood, blood on the handrails sweeping round the car,
sprays of blood shooting up from the stallions’ hoofs
and churning, whirling rims – and the son of Peleus
charioteering on to seize his glory, bloody filty
splattering both strong arms, Achilles’ invincible arms.
Courage, Achilles! Why such fear, such terror?
Not with a pair like us to urge you on – gods-in-arms
sent down with Zeus’s blessings, I and Pallas Athena.
It’s not your fate to be swallowed by a river:
he’ll subside, and soon – you’ll see for yourself.
But we do have sound advice, if only you will yield.
Never rest your hands from the great leveler war,
not till you pack and cram the Trojan armies tight
in the famous walls of Troy – whoever flees your onset.
But once you’ve ripped away Prince Hector’s life,
back to the ships you go! We give you glory –
seize it in your hands!
Ah for a young man
all looks fine and noble if he goes down in war,
hacked to pieces under a slashing bronze blade –
he lies there dead…but whatever death lays bare,
all wounds are marks of glory. When an old man’s killed
and the dogs go at the gray head and the gray beard
and mutilate the genitals – that is the cruelest sight
in all our wretched lives!
So now I meet my doom. Well let me die –
but not without struggle, not without glory, no,
in some great clash of arms that even men to come
will hear of down the years!
Friends – lords of the Argives. O my captains!
Now that the gods have let me kill this man
who caused us agonies, loss on crushing loss –
more than the rest of all their men combined –
…raise a song of triumph!
Down to the ships we march and bear this corpse on high –
we have won ourselves great glory. We have brought
magnificent Hector down, that man the Trojans
glorified in their city like a god!