The Iliad online

. (page 30 of 31)
Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad → online text (page 30 of 31)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the smooth-wheeled waggon to carry back to the city the dead man whom
noble Achilles slew. Let not death be in thy thought, nor any fear; such
guide shall go with thee, even the slayer of Argus, who shall lead thee
until his leading bring thee to Achilles. And when he shall have led
thee into the hut, neither shall Achilles himself slay thee, nor suffer
any other herein, for not senseless is he or unforeseeing or wicked, but
with all courtesy he will spare a suppliant man."

Thus having spoken fleet Iris departed from him; and he bade his sons
make ready the smooth-wheeled mule waggon, and bind the wicker carriage
thereon. And himself he went down to his fragrant chamber, of cedar
wood, high-roofed, that held full many jewels: and to Hekabe his wife he
called and spake: "Lady, from Zeus hath an Olympian messenger come to
me, that I go to the ships of the Achaians and ransom my dear son, and
carry gifts to Achilles that may gladden his heart. Come tell me how
seemeth it to thy mind, for of myself at least my desire and heart bid
me mightily to go thither to the ships and enter the wide camp of the

Thus spake he, but his wife lamented aloud and made answer to him: "Woe
is me, whither is gone thy mind whereby aforetime thou wert famous among
stranger men and among them thou rulest? How art thou fain to go alone
to the ships of the Achaians, to meet the eyes of the man who hath slain
full many of thy brave sons? of iron verily is thy heart. For if he
light on thee and behold thee with his eyes, a savage and ill-trusted
man is this, and he will not pity thee, neither reverence thee at all.
Nay, now let us sit in the hall and make lament afar off. Even thus did
forceful Fate erst spin for Hector with her thread at his beginning when
I bare him, even I, that he should glut fleet-footed dogs, far from his
parents, in the dwelling of a violent man whose inmost vitals I were
fain to fasten and feed upon; then would his deeds against my son be
paid again to him, for not playing the coward was he slain of him, but
championing the men and deep-bosomed women of Troy, neither bethought he
him of shelter or of flight."

The to her in answer spake the old man godlike Priam: "Stay me not, for
I am fain to go, neither be thyself a bird of ill boding in my halls,
for thou wilt not change my mind. Were it some other and a child of
earth that bade me this, whether some seer or of the priests that divine
from sacrifice, then would we declare it false and have no part
therein; but now, since I have heard the voice of the goddess myself and
looked upon her face, I will go forth, and her word shall not be void.
And if it be my fate to die by the ships of the mail-clad Achaians, so
would I have it; let Achilles slay me with all speed, when once I have
taken in my arms my son, and have satisfied my desire with moan."

He spake, and opened fair lids of chests wherefrom he chose twelve very
goodly women's robes and twelve cloaks of single fold and of coverlets a
like number and of fair sheets, and of doublets thereupon. And he
weighed and brought forth talents of gold ten in all, and two shining
tripods and four caldrons, and a goblet exceeding fair that men of
Thrace had given him when he went thither on an embassy, a chattel of
great price, yet not that even did the old man grudge from his halls,
for he was exceeding fain at heart to ransom his dear son. Then he drave
out all the Trojans from the colonnade, chiding them with words of
rebuke: "Begone, ye that dishonour and do me shame! Have ye no mourning
of your own at home that ye come to vex me here? Think ye it a small
thing that Zeus Kronos' son hath given me this sorrow, to lose him that
was the best man of my sons? Nay, but ye too shall feel it, for easier
far shall ye be to the Achaians to slay now he is dead. But for me, ere
I behold with mine eyes the city sacked and wasted, let me go down into
the house of Hades."

He said, and with his staff chased forth the men, and they went forth
before the old man in his haste. Then he called unto his sons, chiding
Helenos and Paris and noble Agathon and Pammon and Antiphonos, and
Polites of the loud war-cry, and Deiphobos and Hippothoos and proud
Dios; nine were they whom the old man called and bade unto him: "Haste
ye, ill sons, my shame; would that ye all in Hector's stead had been
slain at the swift ships! Woe is me all unblest, since I begat sons the
best men in wide Troy-land, but none of them is left for me to claim,
neither godlike Mestor, nor Troilos with his chariot of war, nor Hector
who was a god among men, neither seemed he as the son of a mortal man
but of a god: - all these hath Ares slain, and here are my shames all
left to me, false-tongued, light-heeled, the heroes of dance, plunderers
of your own people's sheep and kids. Will ye not make me ready a wain
with all speed, and lay all these thereon, that we get us forward on our

Thus spake he, and they fearing their father's voice brought forth the
smooth-running mule chariot, fair and new, and bound the body thereof on
the frame; and from its peg they took down the mule yoke, a boxwood yoke
with knob well fitted with guiding-rings; and they brought forth the
yoke-band of nine cubits with the yoke. The yoke they set firmly on the
polished pole on the rest at the end thereof, and slipped the ring over
the upright pin, which with three turns of the band they lashed to the
knob, and then belayed it close round the pole and turned the tongue
thereunder. Then they brought from the chamber and heaped on the
polished wain the countless ransom of Hector's head, and yoked
strong-hooved harness mules, which on a time the Mysians gave to Priam,
a splendid gift. But to Priam's car they yoked the horses that the old
man kept for his use and reared at the polished crib.

Thus in the high palace were Priam and the herald letting yoke their
cars, with wise thoughts at their hearts, when nigh came Hekabe sore at
heart, with honey-sweet wine in her right hand in a golden cup that they
might make libation ere they went. And she stood before the horses and
spake a word to Priam by name: "Lo now make libation to father Zeus and
pray that thou mayest come back home from among the enemy, since thy
heart speedeth thee forth to the ships, though fain were I thou wentest
not. And next pray to Kronion of the Storm-cloud, the gods of Ida, that
beholdeth all Troy-land beneath, and ask of him a bird of omen, even the
swift messenger that is dearest of all birds to him and of mightiest
strength, to appear upon thy right, that seeing the sign with thine own
eyes thou mayest go in trust thereto unto the ships of the fleet-horsed
Danaans. But if far-seeing Zeus shall not grant unto thee his messenger,
I at least shall not bid thee on to go among the ships of the Achaians
how fain soever thou mayest be."

Then answered and spake unto her godlike Priam: "Lady, I will not
disregard this hest of thine, for good it is to lift up hands to Zeus,
if haply he will have pity."

Thus spake the old man, and bade a house-dame that served him pour pure
water on his hands; and she came near to serve him with water in a ewer
to wash withal. And when he had washed his hands he took a goblet from
his wife: then he stood in the midst of the court and prayed and poured
forth wine as he looked up to heaven, and spake a word aloud: "Father
Zeus that bearest sway from Ida, most glorious and most great, grant
that I find welcome and pity under Achilles' roof, and send a bird of
omen, even the swift messenger that is dearest of all birds to thee and
of mightiest strength, to appear upon the right, that seeing this sign
with mine eyes I may go trusting therein unto the ships of the
fleet-horsed Danaans."

Thus spake he praying, and Zeus of wise counsels hearkened unto him, and
straightway sent forth an eagle, surest omen of winged birds, the dusky
hunter called of men the Black Eagle. Wide as the door, well locking,
fitted close, of some rich man's high-roofed hall, so wide were his
wings either way; and he appeared to them speeding on the right hand
above the city. And when they saw the eagle they rejoiced and all their
hearts were glad within their breasts.

Then the old man made haste to go up into his car, and drave forth from
the doorway and the echoing portico. In front the mules drew the
four-wheeled wain, and wise Idaios drave them; behind came the horses
which the old man urged with the lash at speed along the city: and his
friends all followed lamenting loud as though he were faring to his
death. And when they were come down from the city and were now on the
plain, then went back again to Ilios his sons and marriage kin. But the
two coming forth upon the plain were not unbeheld of far-seeing Zeus.
But he looked upon the old man and had compassion on him, and
straightway spake unto Hermes his dear son: "Hermes, since unto thee
especially is it dear to companion men, and thou hearest whomsoever thou
wilt, go forth and so guide Priam to the hollow ships of the Achaians
that no man behold or be aware of him, among all the Danaans' host,
until he come to the son of Peleus."

Thus spake he, and the Messenger, the slayer of Argus, was not
disobedient unto his word. Straightway beneath his feet he bound on his
fair sandals, golden, divine, that bare him over wet sea and over the
boundless land with the breathings of the wind. And he took up his wand
wherewith he entranceth the eyes of such men as he will, and others he
likewise waketh out of sleep: this did the strong slayer of Argus take
in his hand, and flew. And quickly came he to Troy-land and the
Hellespont, and went on his way in semblance as a young man that is
a prince, with the new down on his chin, as when the youth of men is
the comeliest.

Now the others, when they had driven beyond the great barrow of Ilios,
halted the mules and horses at the river to drink; for darkness was come
down over the earth. Then the herald beheld Hermes from hard by, and
marked him, and spake and said to Priam: "Consider, son of Dardanos;
this is matter of prudent thought. I see a man, methinks we shall full
soon be rent in pieces. Come, let us flee in our chariot, or else at
least touch his knees and entreat him that he have mercy on us."

Thus spake he, and the old man was confounded, and he was dismayed
exceedingly, and the hair on his pliant limbs stood up, and he stood
still amazed. But the Helper came nigh of himself and took the old man's
hand, and spake and questioned him: "Whither, father, dost thou thus
guide these horses and mules through the divine night, when other
mortals are asleep? Hadst thou no fear of the fierce-breathing Achaians,
thy bitter foes that are hard anigh thee? If one of them should espy
thee carrying such treasures through the swift black night, what then
would be thy thought? Neither art thou young thyself, and thy companion
here is old, that ye should make defence against a man that should
assail thee first. But I will no wise harm thee, yea I will keep any
other from thy hurt: for the similitude of my dear father I see in

And to him in answer spake the old man, godlike Priam: "Even so, kind
son, are all these things as thou sayest. Nevertheless hath some god
stretched forth his hand even over me in that he hath sent a wayfarer
such as thou to meet me, a bearer of good luck, by the nobleness of thy
form and semblance; and thou art wise of heart and of blessed parents
art thou sprung."

And to him again spake the Messenger, the slayer of Argus: "All this,
old sire, hast thou verily spoken aright. But come say this and tell me
truly whether thou art taking forth a great and goodly treasure unto
alien men, where it may abide for thee in safety, or whether by this ye
are all forsaking holy Ilios in fear; so far the best man among you hath
perished, even thy son; for of battle with the Achaians abated he never
a jot."

And to him in answer spake the old man, godlike Priam, "Who art thou,
noble sir, and of whom art born? For meetly hast thou spoken of the fate
of my hapless son."

And to him again spake the Messenger, the slayer of Argus: "Thou art
proving me, old sire, in asking me of noble Hector. Him have I full oft
seen with mine eyes in glorious battle, and when at the ships he was
slaying the Argives he drave thither, piercing them with the keen
bronze, and we stood still and marvelled thereat, for Achilles suffered
us not to fight, being wroth against Atreus' son. His squire am I, and
came in the same well-wrought ship. From the Myrmidons I come, and my
father is Polyktor. Wealthy is he, and an old man even as thou, and six
other sons hath he, and I am his seventh. With the others I cast lots,
and it fell to me to fare hither with the host. And now am I come from
the ships to the plain, for at day-break the glancing-eyed Achaians will
set the battle in array around the town. For it chafeth them to be
sitting here, nor can the Achaian lords hold in their fury for the

And the old man, godlike Priam, answered him, saying: "If verily thou
art a squire of Achilles Peleus' son, come tell me all the truth,
whether still my son is by the ships, or whether ere now Achilles hath
riven him limb from limb and cast him to the dogs."

Then to him again spake the Messenger the slayer of Argus: "Old sire,
not yet have dogs or birds devoured him, but there lieth he still by
Achilles' ship, even as he fell, among the huts, and the twelfth morn
now hath risen upon him, nor doth his flesh corrupt at all, neither
worms consume it, such as devour men slain in war. Truly Achilles
draggeth him recklessly around the barrow of his dear comrade so oft as
divine day dawneth, yet marreth he him not; thou wouldst marvel if thou
couldst go see thyself how dewy fresh he lieth, and is washed clean of
blood, nor anywhere defiled; and all his wounds wherewith he was
stricken are closed; howbeit many of thy son, though he be but a dead
corpse, for they held him dear at heart."

Thus spake he, and the old man rejoiced, and answered him, saying: "My
son, it is verily a good thing to give due offerings withal to the
Immortals, for never did my child - if that child indeed I had - forget
in our halls the gods who inhabit Olympus. Therefore have they
remembered this for him, albeit his portion is death. But come now take
from me this goodly goblet, and guard me myself and guide me, under
Heaven, that I may come unto the hut of Peleus' son."

Then spake unto him again the Messenger the slayer of Argus: "Thou art
proving me, old sire, who am younger than thou, but thou wilt not
prevail upon me, in that thou biddest me take gifts from thee without
Achilles' privity. I were afraid and shamed at heart to defraud him,
lest some evil come to pass on me hereafter. But as thy guide I would go
even unto famous Argos, accompanying thee courteously in swift ship or
on foot. Not from scorn of thy guide would any assail thee then."

Thus spake the Helper, and leaping on the chariot behind the horses he
swiftly took lash and reins into his hand, and breathed brave spirit
into horses and mules. But when they were come to the towers and trench
of the ships, there were the sentinels just busying them about their
supper. Then the Messenger, the slayer of Argus, shed sleep upon them
all, and straightway opened the gates and thrust back the bars, and
brought within Priam and the splendid gifts upon his wain. And they came
to the lofty hut of the son of Peleus, which the Myrmidons made for
their king and hewed therefor timber of the pine, and thatched it with
downy thatching-rush that they mowed in the meadows, and around it made
for him their lord a great court with close-set palisades; and the door
was barred by a single bolt of pine that three Achaians wont to drive
home, and three drew back that mighty bar - three of the rest, but
Achilles by himself would drive it home. Then opened the Helper Hermes
the door for the old man, and brought in the splendid gifts for Peleus'
fleet-footed son, and descended from the chariot to the earth and spake
aloud: "Old sire, I that have come to thee am an immortal god, even
Hermes, for my father sent me to companion thee on thy way. But now
will I depart from thee nor come within Achilles' sight; it were cause
of wrath that an immortal god should thus show favour openly unto
mortals. But thou go in and clasp the knees of Peleus' son and entreat
him for his father's sake and his mother's of the lovely hair and for
his child's sake that thou mayest move his soul."

Thus Hermes spake, and departed unto high Olympus. But Priam leapt from
the car to the earth, and left Idaios in his place; he stayed to mind
the horses and mules; but the old man made straight for the house where
Achilles dear to Zeus was wont to sit. And therein he found the man
himself, and his comrades sate apart: two only, the hero Automedon and
Alkimos, of the stock of Ares, were busy in attendance; and he was
lately ceased from meat, even from eating and drinking: and still the
table stood beside him. But they were unaware of great Priam as he came
in, and so stood he anigh and clasped in his hands the knees of
Achilles, and kissed his hands, terrible, man-slaying, that slew many of
Priam's sons. And as when a grievous curse cometh upon a man who in his
own country hath slain another and escapeth to a land of strangers, to
the house of some rich man, and wonder possesseth them that look on
him - so Achilles wondered when he saw godlike Priam, and the rest
wondered likewise, and looked upon one another. Then Priam spake and
entreated him, saying: "Bethink thee, O Achilles like to gods, of thy
father that is of like years with me, on the grievous pathway of old
age. Him haply are the dwellers round about entreating evilly, nor is
there any to ward from him ruin and bane. Nevertheless while he heareth
of thee as yet alive he rejoiceth in his heart, and hopeth withal day
after day that he shall see his dear son returning from Troy-land. But
I, I am utterly unblest, since I begat sons the best men in wide
Troy-land, but declare unto thee that none of them is left. Fifty I had,
when the sons of the Achaians came; nineteen were born to me of one
mother, and concubines bare the rest within my halls. Now of the more
part had impetuous Ares unstrung the knees, and he who was yet left and
guarded city and men, him slewest thou but now as he fought for his
country, even Hector. For his sake come I unto the ships of the Achaians
that I may win him back from thee, and I bring with me untold ransom.
Yea, fear thou the gods, Achilles, and have compassion on me, even me,
bethinking thee of thy father. Lo, I am yet more piteous than he, and
have braved what none other man on earth hath braved before, to stretch
forth my hand toward the face of the slayer of my sons."

Thus spake he, and stirred within Achilles desire to make lament for his
father. And he touched the old man's hand and gently moved him back. And
as they both bethought them of their dead, so Priam for man-slaying
Hector wept sore as he was fallen before Achilles' feet, and Achilles
wept for his own father, and now again for Patroklos, and their moan
went up throughout the house. But when noble Achilles had satisfied him
with lament, and the desire thereof departed from his heart and limbs,
straightway he sprang from his seat and raised the old man by his hand,
pitying his hoary head and hoary beard, and spake unto him winged words
and said: "Ah hapless! many ill things verily thou hast endured in thy
heart. How durst thou come alone to the ships of the Achaians and to
meet the eyes of the man who hath slain full many of the brave sons? of
iron verily is thy heart. But come then set thee on a seat, and we will
let our sorrows lie quiet in our hearts for all our pain, for no avail
cometh of chill lament. This is the lot the gods have spun for miserable
men, that they should live in pain; yet themselves are sorrowless. For
two urns stand upon the floor of Zeus filled with his evil gifts, and
one with blessings. To whomsoever Zeus whose joy is in the lightning
dealeth a mingled lot, that man chanceth now upon ill and now again on
good, but to whom he giveth but of the bad kind him he bringeth to
scorn, and evil famine chaseth him over the goodly earth, and he is a
wanderer honoured of neither gods nor men. Even thus to Peleus gave the
gods splendid gifts from his birth, for he excelled all men in good
fortune and wealth, and was king of the Myrmidons, and mortal though he
was the gods gave him a goddess to be his bride. Yet even on him God
brought evil, seeing that there arose to him no offspring of princely
sons in his halls, save that he begat one son to an untimely death.
Neither may I tend him as he groweth old, since very far from my country
I am dwelling in Troy-land, to vex thee and thy children. And of thee,
old sire, we have heard how of old time thou wert happy, even how of all
that Lesbos, seat of Makar, boundeth to the north thereof and Phrygia
farther up and the vast Hellespont - of all these folk, men say, thou
wert the richest in wealth and in sons, but after that the Powers of
Heaven brought this bane on thee, ever are battles and man-slayings
around thy city. Keep courage, and lament not unabatingly in thy heart.
For nothing wilt thou avail by grieving for thy son, neither shalt thou
bring him back to life or ever some new evil come upon thee."

Then made answer unto him the old man, godlike Priam: "Bid me not to a
seat, O fosterling of Zeus, so long as Hector lieth uncared for at the
huts, but straightway give him back that I may behold him with mine
eyes; and accept thou the great ransom that we bring. So mayest thou
have pleasure thereof, and come unto thy native land, since thou hast
spared me from the first."

Then fleet-footed Achilles looked sternly upon him and said: "No longer
chafe me, old sire; of myself am I minded to give Hector back to thee,
for there came to me a messenger from Zeus, even my mother who bare me,
daughter of the Ancient One of the Sea. And I know, O Priam, in my mind,
nor am unaware that some god it is that hath guided thee to the swift
ships of the Achaians. For no mortal man, even though in prime of youth,
would dare to come among the host, for neither could he escape the
watch, nor easily thrust back the bolt of our doors. Therefore now stir
my heart no more amid my troubles, lest I leave not even thee in peace,
old sire, within my hut, albeit thou art my suppliant, and lest I
transgress the commandment of Zeus."

Thus spake he, and the old man feared, and obeyed his word. And the son
of Peleus leapt like a lion through the door of the house, not alone,
for with him went two squires, the hero Automedon and Alkimos, they whom
above all his comrades Achilles honoured, save only Patroklos that was
dead. They then loosed from under the yoke the horses and mules, and led
in the old man's crier-herald and set him on a chair, and from the wain
of goodly felloes they took the countless ransom set on Hector's head.
But they left two robes and a well-spun doublet, that Achilles might
wrap the dead therein when he gave him to be carried home. And he called
forth handmaids and bade them wash and anoint him when they had borne
him apart, so that Priam should not look upon his son, lest he should
not refrain the wrath at his sorrowing heart when he should look upon
his son, and lest Achilles' heart be vexed thereat and he slay him and
transgress the commandment of Zeus. So when the handmaids had washed the
body and anointed it with oil, and had thrown over it a fair robe and a
doublet, then Achilles himself lifted it and laid it on a bier, and his
comrades with him lifted it on to the polished waggon. Then he groaned
aloud and called on his dear comrade by his name: "Patroklos, be not
vexed with me if thou hear even in the house of Hades that I have given
back noble Hector unto his dear father, for not unworthy is the ransom
he hath given me, whereof I will deal to thee again thy rightful share."

Thus spake noble Achilles, and went back into the hut, and sate him down
on the cunningly-wrought couch whence he had arisen by the opposite
wall, and spake a word to Priam: "Thy son, old sire, is given back as
thou wouldest and lieth on a bier, and with the break of day thou shalt
see him thyself as thou carriest him. But now bethink we us of supper.
For even fair-haired Niobe bethought her of meat, she whose twelve
children perished in her halls, six daughters and six lusty sons. The
sons Apollo, in his anger against Niobe, slew with arrows from his

Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad → online text (page 30 of 31)