Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

And bade him sit. Then from the polished car
They took the costly ransom of the corse
Of Hector, save two cloaks, which back they laid
With a fair tunic, that their chief might give
The body shrouded to be borne to Troy.
And then he called the maidens, bidding them
Wash and anoint the dead, yet far apart
From Priam, lest, with looking on his son,
The grief within his heart might rise uncurbed
To anger, and Achilles in his rage
Might slay him and transgress the laws of Jove.'
And when the handmaids finished, having washed
The body and anointed it with oil,
And wrapped a sumptuous cloak and tunic round
The limbs, Achilles lifted it himself
And placed it on a bier. His comrades gave
Their aid, and raised it to the polished car.
When all was done, Achilles groaned, and called
By name the friend he dearly loved, and said:-

“O my Patroclus, be not wroth with me
Shouldst thou in Hades hear that I restore
Hector to his dear father, since I take
A ransom not unworthy; but of this
I yield to thee the portion justly thine.”

So spake the godlike warrior, and withdrew
Into his tent, and took the princely seat
From which he had arisen, opposite
To that of Priam, whom he thus bespake:--

“Behold thy son is ransomed, aged man,
As thou hast asked, and lies upon his bier.
Thou shalt behold him with the early dawn,
And bear him hence. Now let us break our fast,
For even Niobe, the golden-haired,
Refrained not from her food, though children twelve
Perished within her palace,----six young sons
And six fair daughters. Phæbus slew the sons
With arrows from his silver bow, incensed
At Niobe, while Dian, archer-queen,
Struck down the daughters; for the mother dared
To make herself the peer of rosy-cheeked
Latona, who, she boastfully proclaimed,
Had borne two children only, while herself
Had brought forth many. Yet, though only two,
The children of Latona took the lives
Of all her own. Nine days the corses lay
In blood, and there was none to bury them,
For Jove had changed the dwellers of the place
To stone; but on the tenth the gods of heaven
Gave burial to the dead. Yet Niobe,
Though spent with weeping long, did not refrain
From food. And now forever mid the rocks
And desert hills of Sipylus, where lie,
Fame says, the couches of the goddess-nymphs,
Who lead the dance where Acheloüs flows,
Although she be transformed to stone, she broods
Over the woes inflicted by the gods.
But now, O noble Ancient, let us sit
At our repast, and thou mayst afterward
Mourn thy beloved son, while bearing him
Homeward, to be bewailed with many tears."

Achilles, the swift-footed, spake, and left
His seat, and, slaying a white sheep, he bade
His comrades flay and dress it. Then they carved
The flesh in portions which they fixed on spits,
And roasted carefully, and drew them back.
And then Automedon distributed
The bread in shapely canisters around
The table, while Achilles served the flesh,

X

And all put forth their hands and shared the feast.
But when their thirst and hunger were appeased,
Dardanian Priam fixed a wondering look
Upon Achilles, who in nobleness
Of form was like the gods. Achilles fixed
A look of equal wonder on his guest,
Dardanian Priam, for he much admired
His gracious aspect and his pleasant speech.
And when at length they both withdrew their gaze,
Priam, the godlike Ancient, spake, and said:

“Nursling of Jove, dismiss me speedily
To rest, that we may lie, and be refreshed
With gentle slumbers. Never have these eyes
Been closed beneath their lids, since by thy hand
My Hector lost his life; and evermore
I mourn and cherish all my griefs, and writhe
Upon the ground within my palace courts;
But I have taken food at last, and drunk
Draughts of red wine, untasted till this hour.”

Achilles bade the attending men and maids
Place couches in the porch, and over them
Draw sumptuous purple mats on which to lay
Embroidered tapestries, and on each of these
Spread a broad, fleecy mantle, covering all.
Forth went the train with torches in their hands,
And quickly spread two couches. Then the swift
Achilles pleasantly to Priam said:

“Sleep, excellent old man, without the tent,
Lest some one of our counselors arrive,
Such as oft come within my tent to sit
And talk of warlike matters. Seeing thee
In the dark hours of night, he might relate
The tale to Agamemnon, king of men,
And hinder thus the ransom of thy son.

[ocr errors]

But say, and truly say, how many days
Requirest thou to pay the funeral rites
To noble Hector, so that I may rest
As many, and restrain the troops from war.”

Then answered godlike Priam, aged king:
“Since, then, thou wilt, Achilles, that we pay
The rites of burial to my noble son,
I own the favor. Well thou knowest how
We Trojans are constrained to keep within
The city walls, for it is far to bring
Wood from the mountains, and we fear to dare
The journey. Nine days would we mourn the dead
Within our dwellings, and upon the tenth
Would bury him, and make a solemn feast,
And the next day would rear his monument,
And on the twelfth, if needful, fight again.”

And swift Achilles, godlike chief, rejoined:
“Be it, О reverend Priam, as thou wilt,
And for that space will I delay the war.”

He spake, and that the aged king might feel
No fear, he grasped his right hand at the wrist;
And then King Priam and the herald went
To sleep within the porch, but wary still. .
Achilles slumbered in his stately tent,
And all the other gods and men who fought
In chariots gave themselves to slumber, save
Beneficent Hermes; sleep came not to him,
For still he meditated how to bring
King Priam back from the Achaian fleet
Unnoticed by the watchers at the gate.
So at the monarch's head he stood, and spake:

“O aged king, thou givest little heed
To danger, sleeping thus amid thy foes,
Because Achilles spares thee. Thou hast paid

[ocr errors]

Large ransom for thy well-beloved son,
And yet the sons whom thou hast left in Troy
Would

pay

three times that ransom for thy life,
Should Agamemnon, sport of Atreus, learn-
Or any of the Greeks—that thou art here."

He spake: the aged king in fear awaked
The herald. Hermes yoked the steeds and mules,
And drave them quickly through the camp unmarked
By any there. But when they reached the ford
Where Xanthus, progeny of Jupiter,
Rolls the smooth eddies of his stream, the god
Departed for the Olympian height, and Marn
In saffron robes o’erspread the Earth with light.
Townward they urged the steeds, anđ as they went
Sorrowed and wailed: the mules conveyed the dead,
And they were seen by none of all the men
And graceful dames of Troy save one alone.
Cassandra, beautiful as Venus, stood
On Pergamus, and from its height discerned
Her father, standing on the chariot-seat,
And knew the herald, him whose voice so oft
Summoned the citizens, and knew the dead
Stretched on a litter drawn by mules. She raised
Her voice, and called to all the city thus:-

“O Trojan men and women, hasten forth
To look on Hector, if ye c'er rejoiced
To see him coming from the field alive,
The pride of Troy, and all who dwell in her.”

She spake, and suddenly was neither man
Nor woman left within the city bounds.
Deep grief was on them all; they went to meet,
Near to the gates, the monarch bringing home
The dead. And first the wife whom Hector loved
Rushed with his reverend mother to the car

THE UNIVERSITY OF MIUNILAR LIDNIE

« ÎnapoiContinuă »