Pay the Danaans back – your arrow for my tears!
Pay the Danaans back – your arrow for my tears!
But Achilles wept, and slipping away from his companions,
far apart, sat down on the beach of the heaving gray sea
and scanned the endless ocean.
And Thetis answered, bursting into tears,
"O my son, my sorrow, why did I ever bear you?
All I bore was doom…
Would to god you could linger by your ships
without a grief in the world, without a torment!
Doomed to a short life, you have so little time.
And not only short, now, but filled with heartbreak too,
more than all other men alive – doomed twice over.
Ah to a cruel fate I bore you in our halls!
Maddening one, my Goddess, oh what now?
Lusting to lure me to my ruin yet again?
Where will you drive me next?
Off and away to other grand, luxurious cities,
out to Phrygia, out to Maeonia’s tempting country?
Have you a favorite mortal man there too?
…Well, go to him yourself – you hover beside him!
Abandon the gods’ high road and be a mortal!
Never set foot again on Mount Olympus, never! –
suffer for Paris, protect Paris, for eternity…
until he makes you his wedded wife – that or his slave.
Zeus, all you immortals! Grant this boy, my son,
may be like me, first in glory among the Trojans,
strong and brave like me, and rule all Troy in power
and one day let them say, "He is a better man than his father!" –
when he comes home from battle bearing the bloody gear
of the mortal enemy he has killed in war –
a joy to his mother’s heart.
So Hector prayed
and placed his son in the arms of his loving wife.
Andromache pressed the child to her scented breast,
smiling through her tears. Her husband noticed,
and filled with pity now, Hector stroked her gently,
trying to reassure her, repeating her name: "Andromache.
dear one, why so desperate? Why so much grief for me?"
Twelve cities of men I’ve stormed and sacked from shipboard,
eleven I claim by land, on the fertile earth of Troy.
And from all I dragged off piles of splendid plunder,
hauled it away and always gave the lot to Agamemnon,
that son of Atreus – always skulking behind the lines,
safe in his fast ships – and he would take it all,
he’d parcel out some scraps but keep the lion’s share.
Some he’d hand to the lords and kings – prizes of honor –
and they, they hold them still. From me alone, Achilles
of all Achaeans, he seizes, he keeps the bride I love.
Why must we battle Trojans,
men of Argas? Why did he muster an army, lead us here,
that son of Atreus? Why, why in the world if not
for Helen with her loose and lustrous hair?
Are they the only men alive who love their wives,
those sons of Atreus? Never! Any decent man,
a man with sense, loves his own, cares for his own
as deeply as I, I loved that woman with all my heart,
though I won her like a trophy with my spear…
But now that he’s torn my honor from my hands,
robbed me, lied to me – don’t let him try me now.
I know him too well – he’ll never win me over!
Is that an order? Pick my own comrade?
Then how could I pass up royal Odysseus here?
His heart’s so game, his fighting edge so keen,
the best of us all in every combat mission –
Athena loves the man. With him at my side
we’d go through fire and make it back alive –
no one excels the mastermind of battle.
Fight for your country – that is the best, the only omen!
One can achieve his fill of all good things,
even of sleep, even of making love…
rapturous song and the beat and sway of dancing.
A man will yearn for his fill of all these joys
before his fill of war.
Give me Love, give me Longing now, the powers
you use to overwhelm all gods and mortal men!
With that she loosed from her breasts the breastband,
pierced and alluring, with every kind of enchantment
woven through it…There is the heat of Love,
the pulsing rush of Longing, the lover’s whisper.
irresistible – magic to make the sanest man go mad.
"Why hurry, Hera?" –
Zeus who gathers the breasting clouds replied,
"that is a journey you can make tomorrow. Now –
come, let’s go to bed, let’s lose ourselves in love!
Never has such a lust for goddess or mortal woman
flooded my pounding heart and overwhelmed me so."
With that the son of Cronus caught his wife in his arms
and under them now the holy earth burst with fresh green grass,
crocus and hyacinth, clover soaked with dew, so thick and soft
…And so, deep in peace,
the Father slept on Gargaron peak, conquered by Sleep
and strong assaults of Love, his wife locked in his arms.
My cruel fate…
my Sarpedon, the man I love the most, my own son –
doomed to die at the hands of Menoetius’ son Patroclus.
My heart is torn in two as I try to weigh all this.
Shall I pluck him up, now, while he’s still alive
and set him down in the rich green land of Lycia,
far from the war at Troy and all its tears?
Or beat him down at Patrodus’ hands at last?
Do as you please, Zeus…
but none of the deathless gods will ever praise you.
And I tell you this – take it to heart, I urge you –
if you send Sarpedon home, living still, beware!
Then surely some other god will want to sweep
his own son clear of the heavy fighting too.
But standing clear of the fray Achilles’ horses wept
from the time they first had sensed their driver’s death,
brought down in the dust by man-killing Hector.
…But both balked at returning now to the ships
moored at the Hellespont’s far-reaching shore
or galloping back to fight beside the Argives.
Staunch as a pillar planted tall above a barrow,
standing sentry over some lord or lady’s grave-site,
so they stood, holding the blazoned chariot stock-still,
their heads trailing along the ground, warm tears flowing
down from their eyes to wet the earth…the horses mourned,
longing now for their driver, their luxurious manes soiled,
streaming down from the yoke-pads, down along the yoke.
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!
dearest joy of my heart, my harrowed, broken heart!
I left you alive that day I left these shelters,
now I come back to find you fallen, captain of armies!
So grief gives way to grief, my life one endless sorrow!
The husband to whom my father and noble mother gave me,
I saw him torn by the sharp bronze before our city,
and my three brothers – a single mother bore us:
my brothers, how I loved you! –
you all went down to death on the same day…
But you, Patroclus, you would not let me weep,
not when the swift Achilles cut my husband down,
not when he plundered the lordly Mynes’ city –
not even weep! No, again and again you vowed
you’d make me godlike Achilles’ lawful, wedded wife,
you would sail me west in your warships, home to Phthia
and there with the Myrmidons hold my marriage feast.
So now I mourn your death – I will never stop –
you were always kind.
Ah god, time and again, my doomed, my dearest friend,
you would set before us a seasoned meal yourself,
here in our tents, in your quick and expert way,
when Argive forces rushed to fight the Trojans,
stampeding those breakers of horses into rout.
But now you lie before me, hacked to pieces here
while the heart within me fasts from food and drink
though stores inside are full –
I’m sick with longing for you!
There is no more shattering blow that I could suffer.
Not even if I should learn of my own father’s death,
…or the death of my dear son, reared for me in Seyros,
if Prince Neoptolernus is still among the living.
Pity me too! –
still in my senses, true, but a harrowed, broken man
marked out by doom – past the threshold of old age…
and Father Zeus will waste me with a hideous fate,
and after I’ve lived to look on so much horror!
My sons laid low, my daughters dragged away
and the treasure-chambers looted, helpless babies
hurled to the earth in the red barbarity of war…
my sons’ wives hauled off by the Argives’ bloody hands!
And I, I last of all – the dogs before my doors
will eat me raw, once some enemy brings me down
with his sharp bronze sword or spits me with a spear,
wrenching the life out of my body, yes, the very dogs
I bred in my own halls to share my table, guard my gates –
mad, rabid at heart they’ll lap their master’s blood
and loll before my doors.
So the old man groaned
and seizing his gray hair tore it out by the roots
but he could not shake the fixed resolve of Hector.
And his mother wailed now, standing beside Priam.
weeping freely, loosing her robes with one hand
and holding out her bare breast with the other,
her words pouring forth in a flight of grief and tears:
"Hector, my child! Look – have some respect for this!
Pity your mother too, if I ever gave you the breast
to soothe your troubles, remember it now, dear boy –
beat back that savage man from safe inside the walls!
Don’t go forth, a champion pitted against him –
merciless, brutal man. If he kills you now,
how can I ever mourn you on your deathbed."
Hector, what help are you to him, now you are dead? –
what help is he to you? Think, even if he escapes
the wrenching horrors of war against the Argives,
pain and labor will plague him all his days to come.
Strangers will mark his lands off, stealing his estates.
The day that orphans a youngster cuts him off from friends.
And he hangs his head low, humiliated in every way…
his cheeks stained with tears, and pressed by hunger
the boy goes up to his father’s old companions,
tugging at one man’s cloak. another’s tunic.
But one thing more. A last request – grant it, please.
Never bury my bones apart from yours, Achilles,
let them lie together…
just as we grew up together in your house.
As a father weeps when he burns his son’s bones,
dead on his wedding day,
and his death has plunged his parents in despair…
so Achilles wept as he burned his dear friend’s bones,
dragging himself around the pyre, choked with sobs.
The games were over now. The gathered armies scattered,
each man to his fast ship, and fighters turned their minds
to thoughts of food and the sweet warm grip of sleep.
But Achilles kept on grieving for his friend,
the memory burning on…
and all-subduing sleep could not take him,
not now, he turned and twisted, side to side,
he longed for Patroclus’ manhood, his gallant heart –
What rough campaigns they’d fought to an end together.
what hardships they had suffered, cleaving their way
through wars of men and pounding waves at sea.
Now, Hera, don’t fly into such a rage at fellow gods.
These two can never attain the same degree of honor.
Still, the immortals loved Prince Hector dearly,
best of all the mortals born in Troy…
so I loved him, at least:
he never stinted with gifts to please my heart.
Never once did my altar lack its share of victims,
winecups tipped and the deep smoky savor. These,
these are the gifts we claim – they are our rights.
how long will you eat your heart out here in tears and torment?
All wiped from your mind, all thought of food and bed?
It’s a welcome thing to make love to a woman…
You don’t have long to live now, well I know:
already I see them looming up beside you – death
and the strong force of fate.