The Iliad

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Book VI


So the clash of Achaean and Trojan troops was on its own,
the battle in all its fury veering back and forth,
careering down the plain
as they sent their bronze lances hurtling side-to-side
between the Simois' banks and Xanthus' swirling rapids.


      That Achaean bulwark giant Ajax came up first,
broke the Trojan line and brought his men some hope,
spearing the bravest man the Thracians fielded,
Acamas tall and staunch, Eussorus' son.
The first to hurl, Great Ajax hit the ridge
of the helmet's horsehair crest—the bronze point
stuck in Acamas' forehead pounding through the skull
and the dark came swirling down to shroud his eyes.


      A shattering war cry! Diomedes killed off Axylus,
Teuthras' son who had lived in rock-built Arisbe,
a man of means and a friend to all mankind,
at his roadside house he'd warm all comers in.
But who of his guests would greet his enemy now,
meet him face-to-face and ward off grisly death?
Diomedes killed the man and his aide-in-arms at once,
Axylus and Calesius who always drove his team-
both at a stroke he drove beneath the earth.


      Euryalus killed Dresus, killed Opheltius,
turned and went for Pedasus and Aesepus, twins
the nymph of the spring Abarbarea bore Bucolion . . .
Bucolion, son himself to the lofty King Laomedon,
first of the line, though his mother bore the prince
in secrecy and shadow. Tending his flocks one day
Bucolion took the nymph in a strong surge of love
and beneath his force she bore him twin sons.
But now the son of Mecisteus hacked the force
from beneath them both and loosed their gleaming limbs
and tore the armor off the dead men's shoulders.


      Polypoetes braced for battle killed Astyalus—
Winging his bronze spear Odysseus slew Pidytes
bred in Percote, and Teucer did the same
for the royal Aretaon—
                                                  Ablerus went down too,
under the flashing lance of Nestor's son Antilochus,
and Elatus under the lord of men Agamemnon's strength—
Elatus lived by the banks of rippling Satniois,
in Pedasus perched on cliffs—
                                                            The hero Leitus
ran Phylacus down to ground at a dead run
and Eurypylus killed Melanthius outright—
                                                            But Menelaus
lord of the war cry had caught Adrestus alive.
Rearing, bolting in terror down the plain
his horses snared themselves in tamarisk branches,
splintered his curved chariot just at the pole's tip
and breaking free they made a dash for the city walls
where battle-teams by the drove stampeded back in panic.
But their master hurled from the chariot, tumbling over the wheel
and pitching facedown in the dust, and above him now
rose Menelaus, his spear's long shadow looming.
Adrestus hugged his knees and begged him, pleading,
"Take me alive, Atrides, take a ransom worth my life!
Treasures are piled up in my rich father's house,
bronze and gold and plenty of well-wrought iron—
father would give you anything, gladly, priceless ransom
if only he learns I'm still alive in Argive ships!"


      His pleas were moving the heart in Menelaus,
just at the point of handing him to an aide
to take him back to the fast Achaean ships . . .
when up rushed Agamemnon, blocking his way
and shouting out, "So soft, dear brother, why?
Why such concern for enemies? I suppose you got
such tender loving care at home from the Trojans.
Ah would to god not one of them could escape
his sudden plunging death beneath our hands!
No baby boy still in his mother's belly,
not even he escape—all Ilium blotted out,
no tears for their lives, no markers for their graves!"


      And the iron warrior brought his brother round—
rough justice, fitting too.
Menelaus shoved Adrestus back with a fist,
powerful Agamemnon stabbed him in the flank
and back on his side the fighter went, faceup.
The son of Atreus dug a heel in his heaving chest
and wrenched the ash spear out.
                                                  And here came Nestor
with orders ringing down the field: "My comrades—
fighting Danaans, aides of Ares—no plunder now!
Don't lag behind, don't fling yourself at spoils
just to haul the biggest portion back to your ship.
Now's the time for killing! Later, at leisure,
strip the corpses up and down the plain!"


      So he ordered, spurring each man's nerve—
and the next moment crowds of Trojans once again
would have clambered back inside their city walls,
terror-struck by the Argives primed for battle.
But Helenus son of Priam, best of the seers
who scan the flight of birds, came striding up
to Aeneas and Hector, calling out, "My captains!
You bear the brunt of Troy's and Lycia's fighting—
you are our bravest men, whatever the enterprise,
pitched battle itself or planning our campaigns,
so stand your ground right here!
Go through the ranks and rally all the troops.
Hold back our retreating mobs outside the gates
before they throw themselves in their women's arms in fear,
a great joy to our enemies closing for the kill.
And once you've roused our lines to the last man,
we'll hold out here and fight the Argives down,
hard-hit as we are—necessity drives us on.
                                                            But you,
Hector, you go back to the city, tell our mother
to gather all the older noble women together
in gray-eyed Athena's shrine on the city's crest,
unlock the doors of the goddess' sacred chamber—
and take a robe, the largest, loveliest robe
that she can find throughout the royal halls,
a gift that far and away she prizes most herself,
and spread it out across the sleek-haired goddess' knees.
Then promise to sacrifice twelve heifers in her shrine,
yearlings never broken, if only she'll pity Troy,
the Trojan wives and all our helpless children,
if only she'll hold Diomedes back from the holy city—
that wild spearman, that invincible headlong terror!
He is the strongest Argive now, I tell you.
Never once did we fear Achilles so,
captain of armies, born of a goddess too,
or so they say. But here's a maniac run amok—
no one can match his fury man-to-man!"
                                                            So he urged
and Hector obeyed his brother start to finish.
Down he leapt from his chariot fully armed, hit the ground
and brandishing two sharp spears went striding down his lines,
ranging flank to flank, driving his fighters into battle,
rousing grisly war-and round the Trojans whirled,
bracing to meet the Argives face-to-face.
And the Argives gave way, they quit the slaughter-
they thought some god swept down from the starry skies
to back the Trojans now, they wheeled and rallied so.
Hector shouted out to his men in a piercing voice,
"Gallant-hearted Trojans and far-famed allies!
Now be men, my friends, call up your battle-fury!
Till I can return to Troy and tell them all,
the old counselors, all our wives, to pray to the gods
and vow to offer them many splendid victims."


      As Hector turned for home his helmet flashed
and the long dark hide of his bossed shield, the rim
running the metal edge, drummed his neck and ankles.
                                                            And now
Glaucus son of Hippolochus and Tydeus' son Diomedes
met in the no man's land between both armies:
burning for battle, closing, squaring off
and the lord of the war cry Diomedes opened up,
"Who are you, my fine friend?-another born to die?
I've never noticed you on the lines where we win glory,
not till now. But here you come, charging out
in front of all the rest with such bravado-
daring to face the flying shadow of my spear.
Pity the ones whose sons stand up to me in war!
But if you are an immortal come from the blue,
I'm not the man to fight the gods of heaven.
Not even Dryas' indestructible son Lycurgus,
not even he lived long . . .
that fellow who tried to fight the deathless gods.
He rushed at the maenads once, nurses of wild Dionysus,
scattered them breakneck down the holy mountain Nysa.
A rout of them strewed their sacred staves on the ground,
raked with a cattle prod by Lycurgus, murderous fool!
And Dionysus was terrified, he dove beneath the surf
where the sea-nymph Thetis pressed him to her breast—
Dionysus numb with fear: shivers racked his body,
thanks to the raucous onslaught of that man.
But the gods who live at ease lashed out against him—
worse, the son of Cronus struck Lycurgus blind.
Nor did the man live long, not' with the hate.
of all the gods against him.
                                                            No, my friend,
I have no desire to fight the blithe immortals.
But if you're a man who eats the crops of the earth,
a mortal born for death-here, come closer,
the sooner you will meet your day to die!"


      The noble son of Hippolochus answered staunchly,
"High-hearted son of Tydeus, why ask about my birth?
Like the generations of leaves, the lives of mortal men.
Now the wind scatters the old leaves across the earth,
now the living timber bursts with the new buds
and spring comes round again. And so with men:
as one generation comes to life, another dies away.
But about my birth, if you'd like to learn it well,
first to last—though many people know it—
here's my story . . .
                                                  There is a city, Corinth,
deep in a bend of Argos, good stallion-country
where Sisyphus used to live, the wiliest man alive.
Sisyphus, Aeolus' son, who had a son called Glaucus,
and in his day Glaucus sired brave Bellerophon,
a man without a fault. The gods gave him beauty
and the fine, gallant traits that go with men.
But Proetus plotted against him. Far stronger,
the king in his anger drove him out of Argos,
the kingdom Zeus had brought beneath his scepter.
Proetus' wife, you see, was mad for Bellerophon,
the lovely Antea lusted to couple with him,
all in secret. Futile—she could never seduce
the man's strong will, his seasoned, firm resolve.
So straight to the king she went, blurting out her lies:
‘I wish you'd die, Proetus, if you don't kill Bellerophon!
Bellerophon's bent on dragging me down with him in lust
though I fight him all the way!'
                                                            All of it false
but the king seethed when he heard a tale like that.
He balked at killing the man-he'd some respect at least
but he quickly sent him off to Lycia, gave him tokens,
murderous signs, scratched in a folded tablet,
and many of them too, enough to kill a man.
He told him to show them to Antea's father:
that would mean his death.
                                                  So off he went to Lycia,
safe in the escort of the gods, and once he reached
the broad highlands cut by the rushing Xanthus,
the king of Lycia gave him a royal welcome.
Nine days he feasted him, nine oxen slaughtered.
When the tenth Dawn shone with her rose-red fingers,
he began to question him, asked to see his credentials,
whatever he brought him from his in-law, Proetus.
But then, once he received that fatal message
sent from his own daughter's husband, first
he ordered Bellerophon to kill the Chimaera-
grim monster sprung of the gods, nothing human,
all lion in front, all snake behind, all goat between,
terrible, blasting lethal fire at every breath!
But he laid her low, obeying signs from the gods.
Next he fought the Solymi, tribesmen bent on glory,
roughest battle of men he ever entered, so he claimed.
Then for a third test he brought the Amazons down,
a match for men in war. But as he turned back,
his host spun out the tightest trap of all:
picking the best men from Lycia far and wide
he set an ambush—that never came hone again!
Fearless Bellerophon killed them all.


Then, yes,
when the king could see the man's power at last,
a true son of the gods, he pressed him hard to stay,
he ofi'ered his own daughter's hand in marriage,
he gave him half his royal honors as the king.
And the Lycians carved him out a grand estate,
the choicest land in the realm, rich in vineyards
and good tilled fields for him to lord it over.
And his wife bore good Bellerophon three children:
Isander, Hippolochus and Laodamia. Laodamia
lay in the arms of Zeus who rules the world
and she bore the god a son, our great commander,
Sarpedon helmed in bronze.
                                                  But the day soon came
when even Bellerophon was hated by all the gods.
Across the Alean plain he wandered, all alone,
eating his heart out, a fugitive on the run
from the beaten tracks of men. His son Isander?
Killed by the War-god, never sated—a boy fighting
the Solymi always out for glory. Laodamia? Artemis,
flashing her golden reins, cut her down in anger.
But Hippolochus fathered me, I'm proud to say.
He sent me off to Troy . . .
and I hear his urgings ringing in my ears:
'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.'
                                        There you have my lineage.
That is the blood I claim, my royal birth."


          When he heard that, Diomedes' spirits lifted.
Raising his spear, the lord of the war cry drove it home,
planting it deep down in the earth that feeds us all
and with winning words he called out to Glaucus,
the young captain, "Splendid-you are my friend,
my guest from the days of our grandfathers long ago!
Noble Oeneus hosted your brave Bellerophon once,
he held him there in his halls, twenty whole days,
and they gave each other handsome gifts of friendship.
My kinsman offered a gleaming sword-belt, rich red,
Bellerophon gave a cup, two-handled, solid gold—
I left it at home when I set out for Troy.
My father, Tydeus, I really don't remember.
I was just a baby when father left me then,
that time an Achaean army went to die at Thebes.
So now I am your host and friend in the heart of Argos,
you are mine in Lycia when I visit in your country.
Come, let us keep clear of each other's spears,
even there in the thick of battle. Look,
plenty of Trojans there for me to kill,
your famous allies too, any soldier the god
will bring in range or I can run to ground.
And plenty of Argives too—kill them if you can.
But let's trade armor. The men must know our claim:
we are sworn friends from our fathers' days till now!"


      Both agreed. Both fighters sprang from their chariots,
clasped each other's hands and traded pacts of friendship.
But the son of Cronus, Zeus, stole Glaucus' wits away.
He traded his gold armor for bronze with Diomedes,
the worth of a hundred oxen just for nine.
                                                            And now,
when Hector reached the Scaean Gates and the great oak,
the wives and daughters of Troy came rushing up around him,
asking about their sons, brothers, friends and husbands.
But Hector told them only, "Pray to the gods"—
all the Trojan women, one after another . . .
Hard sorrows were hanging over many.
                                                            And soon
he came to Priam's palace, that magnificent structure
built wide with porches and colonnades of polished stone.
And deep within its walls were fifty sleeping chambers
masoned in smooth, lustrous ashlar, linked in a line
where the sons of Priam slept beside their wedded wives,
and facing these, opening out across the inner courtyard,
lay the twelve sleeping chambers of Priam's daughters,
masoned and roofed in lustrous ashlar, linked in a line
where the sons-in-law of Priam slept beside their wives.
And there at the palace Hector's mother met her son,
that warm, goodhearted woman, going in with Laodice,
the loveliest daughter Hecuba ever bred. His mother
clutched his hand and urged him, called his name:
"My child-why have you left the bitter fighting,
why have you come home? Look how they wear you out,
the sons of Achaea—curse them—battling round our walls!
And that's why your spirit brought you back to Troy,
to climb the heights and stretch your arms to Zeus.
But wait, I'll bring you some honeyed, mellow wine.
First pour out cups to Father Zeus and the other gods,
then refresh yourself, if you'd like to quench your thirst.
When a Man's exhausted, wine will build his strength—
battle-weary as you are, fighting for your people."


      But Hector shook his head, his helmet flashing:
"Don't offer me mellow wine, mother, not now-
you'd sap my limbs, I'd lose my nerve for war.
And I'd be ashamed to pour a glistening cup to Zeus
with unwashed hands. I'm splattered with blood and filth-
how could I pray to the lord of storm and lightning?
No, mother, you are the one to pray.
Go to Athena's shrine, the queen of plunder,
go with offerings, gather the older noble women
and take a robe, the largest, loveliest robe
that you can find throughout the royal halls,
a gift that far and away you prize most yourself,
and spread it out across the sleek-haired goddess' knees.
Then promise to sacrifice twelve heifers in her shrine,
yearlings never broken, if only she'll pity Troy,
the Trojan wives and all our helpless children,
if only she'll hold Diomedes back from the holy city-
that wild spearman, that invincible headlong terror!
Now, mother, go to the queen of plunder's shrine
and I'll go hunt for Paris, summon him to fight
if the man will hear what I have to say . . .
Let the earth gape and swallow him on the spot!
A great curse Olympian Zeus let live and grow in him,
for Troy and high-hearted Priam and all his sons.
That man—if I could see him bound for the House of Death,
I could say my heart had forgot its wrenching grief!"


      But his mother simply turned away to the palace.
She gave her servants orders and out they strode
to gather the older noble women through the city.
Hecuba went down to a storeroom filled with scent
and there they were, brocaded, beautiful robes . . .
the work of Sidonian women. Magnificent Paris
brought those women back himself from Sidon,
sailing the open seas on the same long voyage
he swept Helen off, her famous Father's child.
Lifting one from the lot, Hecuba brought it out
for great Athena's gift, the largest, loveliest,
richly worked, and like a star it glistened,
deep beneath the others. Then she made her way
with a file of noble women rushing in her train.


      Once they reached Athena's shrine on the city crest
the beauty Theano opened the doors to let them in,
Cisseus' daughter, the horseman Antenor's wife
and Athena's priestess chosen by the Trojans. Then-
with a shrill wail they all stretched their arms to Athena
as Theano, her face radiant, lifting the robe on high,
spread it out across the sleek-haired goddess' knees
and prayed to the daughter of mighty Father Zeus:
"Queen Athena—shield of our city-glory of goddesses!
Now shatter the spear of Diomedes! That wild man-
hurl him headlong down before the Scaean Gates!
At once we'll sacrifice twelve heifers in your shrine,
yearlings never broken, if only you'll pity Troy,
the Trojan wives and all our helpless children!"


      But Athena refused to hear Theano's prayers.
And while they prayed to the daughter of mighty Zeus
Hector approached the halls of Paris, sumptuous halls
he built himself with the finest masons of the day,
master builders famed in the fertile land of Troy.
They'd raised his sleeping chamber, house and court
adjoining Priam's and Hector's aloft the city heights.
Now Hector, dear to Zeus, strode through the gates,
clutching a thrusting-lance eleven forearms long;
the bronze tip of the weapon shone before him,
ringed with a golden hoop to grip the shaft.
And there in the bedroom Hector came on Paris
polishing, fondling his splendid battle-gear,
his shield and breastplate, turning over and over
his long curved bow. And there was Helen of Argos,
sitting with all the women of the house, directing
the rich embroidered work they had in hand.
                                                            Seeing Paris,
Hector raked his brother with insults, stinging taunts:
"What on earth are you doing? Oh how wrong it is,
this anger you keep smoldering in your heart! Look,
your people dying around the city, the steep walls,
dying in arms-and all for you, the battle cries
and the fighting flaring up around the citadel.
You'd be the first to lash out at another—anywhere—
you saw hanging back from this, this hateful war.
                                                            Up with you—
before all Troy is torched to a cinder here and now!"


      And Paris, magnificent as a god, replied,
"Ah Hector, you criticize me fairly, yes,
nothing unfair, beyond what I deserve. And so
I will try to tell you something. Please bear with me,
hear me out. It's not so much from anger or outrage
at our people that I keep to my rooms so long.
I only wanted to plunge myself in grief.
But just now my wife was bringing me round,
her winning words urging me back to battle.
And it strikes me, even me, as the better way.
Victory shifts, you know, now one man, now another.
So come, wait while I get this war-gear on,
or you go on ahead and I will follow—
I think I can overtake you."
                                                  Hector, helmet flashing,
answered nothing. And Helen spoke to him now,
her soft voice welling up: "My dear brother,
dear to me, bitch that I am, vicious, scheming-
horror to freeze the heart! Oh how I wish
that first day my mother brought me into the light
some black whirlwind had rushed me out to the mountains
or into the surf where the roaring breakers crash and drag
and the waves had swept me off before all this had happened!
But since the gods ordained it all, these desperate years,
I wish I had been the wife of a better man, someone
alive to outrage, the withering scorn of men.
This one has no steadiness in his spirit,
not now, he never will . . .
and he's going to reap the fruits of it, I swear.
But come in, rest on this seat with me, dear brother.
You are the one hit hardest by the fighting, Hector,
you more than all—and all for me, whore that I am,
and this blind mad Paris. Oh the two of us!
Zeus planted a killing doom within us both,
so even for generations still unborn
we will live in song."
                                                  Turning to go,
his helmet flashing, tall Hector answered,
"Don't ask 'me to sit beside you here, Helen.
Love me as you do, you can't persuade me now.
No time for rest. My heart races to help our Trojans—
they long for me, sorely, whenever I am gone.
But rouse this fellow, won't you?
And let him hurry himself along as well,
so he can overtake me before I leave the city.
For I must go home to see my people first,
to visit my own dear wife and my baby son.
Who knows if I will ever come back to them again?—
or the deathless gods will strike me down at last
at the hands of Argive fighters."
                                                  A flash of his helmet
and off he strode and quickly reached his sturdy,
well-built house. But white-armed Andromache-
Hector could not find her in the halls.
She and the boy and a servant finely gowned
were standing watch on the tower, sobbing, grieving.
When Hector saw no sign of his loyal wife inside
he went to the doorway, stopped and asked the servants,
"Come, please, tell me the truth now, women.
Where's Andromache gone? To my sisters' house?
To my brothers' wives with their long flowing robes?
Or Athena's shrine where the noble Trojan women
gather to win the great grim goddess over?"


      A busy, willing servant answered quickly,
"Hector, seeing you want to know the truth,
she hasn't gone to your sisters, brothers' wives
or Athena's shrine where the noble Trojan women
gather to win the great grim goddess over.
Up to the huge gate-tower of Troy she's gone
because she heard our men are so hard-pressed,
the Achaean fighters coming on in so much force.
She sped to the wall in panic, like a madwoman—
the nurse went with her, carrying your child."


      At that, Hector spun and rushed from his house,
back by the same way down the wide, well-paved streets
throughout the city until he reached the Scaean Gates,
the last point he would pass to gain the field of battle.
There his warm, generous wife came running up to meet him,
Andromache the daughter of gallant-hearted Eetion
who had lived below Mount Placos rich with timber,
in Thebe below the peaks, and ruled Cilicia's people.
His daughter had married Hector helmed in bronze.
She joined him now, and following in her steps
a servant holding the boy against her breast,
in the first flush of life, only a baby,
Hector's son, the darling of his eyes
and radiant as a star . . .
Hector would always call the boy Scamandrius,
townsmen called him Astyanax, Lord of the City,
since Hector was the lone defense of Troy.
The great man of war breaking into a broad smile,
his gaze fixed on his son, in silence. Andromache,
pressing close beside him and weeping freely now,
clung to his hand, urged him, called him: "Reckless one,
my Hector-your own fiery courage will destroy you!
Have you no pity for him, our helpless son? Or me,
and the destiny that weighs me down, your widow,
now so soon? Yes, soon they will kill you off,
all the Achaean forces massed for assault, and then,
bereft of you, better for me to sink beneath the earth.
What other warmth, what comfort's left for me,
once you have met your doom? Nothing but torment!
I have lost my father. Mother's gone as well.
Father . . . the brilliant Achilles laid him low
when he stormed Cilicia's city filled with people,
Thebe with her towering gates. He killed Eetion,
not that he stripped his gear-he'd some respect at least—
for he burned his corpse in all his blazoned bronze,
then heaped a grave-mound high above the ashes
and nymphs of the mountain planted elms around it,
daughters of Zeus whose shield is storm and thunder.
And the seven brothers I had within our halls . . .
all in the same day went down to the House of Death,
the great godlike runner Achilles butchered them all,
tending their shambling oxen, shining flocks.
                                                            And mother,
who ruled under the timberline of woody Placos once—
he no sooner haled her here with his other plunder
than he took a priceless ransom, set her free
and home she went to her father's royal halls
where Artemis, showering arrows, shot her down.


You, Hector-you are my father now, my noble mother,
a brother too, and you are my husband, young and warm and strong!
Pity me, please! Take your stand on the rampart here,
before you orphan your son and make your wife a widow.
Draw your armies up where the wild fig tree stands,
there, where the city lies most open to assault,
the walls lower, easily overrun. Three times
they have tried that point, hoping to storm Troy,
their best fighters led by the Great and Little Ajax,
famous Idomeneus, Atreus' sons, valiant Diomedes.
Perhaps, a skilled prophet revealed the spot—
or their own fury whips them on to attack."


      And tall Hector nodded, his helmet flashing:
"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.
For in my heart and soul I also know this well:
the day will come when sacred Troy must die,
Priam must die and all his people with him,
Priam who hurls the strong ash spear . . .
                                                            Even so,
it is less the pain of the Trojans still to come
that weighs me down, not even of Hecuba herself
or King Priam, or the thought that my own brothers
in all their numbers, all their gallant courage,
may tumble in the dust, crushed by enemies-
That is nothing, nothing beside your agony
when some brazen Argive hales you off in tears,
wrenching away your day of light and freedom!
Then far off in the land of Argos you must live,
laboring at a loom, at another woman's beck and call,
fetching water at some spring, Messeis or Hyperia,
resisting it all the way—
the rough yoke of necessity at your neck.
And a man may say, who sees you streaming tears,
'There is the wife of Hector, the bravest fighter
they could field, those stallion-breaking Trojans,
long ago when the men fought .for Troy.' So he will say
and the fresh grief will swell your heart once more,
widowed, robbed of the one man strong enough
to fight off your day of slavery.
                                                            No, no,
let the earth come piling over my dead body
before I hear your cries, I hear you dragged away!"


      In the same breath, shining Hector reached down
for his son—but the boy recoiled,
cringing against his nurse's full breast,
screaming out at the sight of his own father,
terrified by the flashing bronze, the horsehair crest,
the great ridge of the helmet nodding, bristling terror-
so it struck his eyes. And his loving father laughed,
his mother laughed as well, and glorious Hector,
quickly lifting the helmet from his head,
set it down on the ground, fiery in the sunlight,
and raising his son he kissed him, tossed him in his arms,
lifting a prayer to Zeus and the other deathless gods:
"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?
No man will hurl me down to Death, against my fate.
And fate? No one alive has ever escaped it,
neither brave man nor coward, I tell you—
it's born with us the day that we are born.
So please go home and tend to your own tasks,
the distaff and the loom, and keep the women
working hard as well. As for the fighting,
men will see to that, all who were born in Troy
but I most of all."
                                                  Hector aflash in arms
took up his horsehair-crested helmet once again.
And his loving wife went home, turning, glancing
back again and again and weeping live warm tears.
She quickly reached the sturdy house of Hector,
man-killing Hector,
and found her women gathered there inside
and stirred them all to a high pitch of mourning.
So in his house they raised the dirges for the dead,
for Hector still alive, his people were so convinced
that never again would he come home from battle,
never escape the Argives' rage and bloody hands.


      Nor did Paris linger long in his vaulted halls.
Soon as he buckled on his elegant gleaming bronze
he rushed through Troy, sure in his racing stride.
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.
Quickly he overtook his brother, noble Hector
still lingering, slow to turn from the spot
where he had just confided in his wife . . .
Magnificent Paris spoke first: "Dear brother,
look at me, holding you back in all your speed—
dragging my feet; coming to you so late,
and you told me to be quick!"


      A flash of his helmet as Hector shot back,
"Impossible man! How could anyone fair and just
underrate your work in battle? You're a good soldier.
But you hang back of your own accord, refuse to fight.
And that, that's why the heart inside me aches
when I hear our Trojans heap contempt on you,
the men who bear such struggles all for you.
now for attack! We'll set all this to rights,
someday, if Zeus will ever let us raise
the winebowl of freedom high in our halls,
high to the gods of cloud and sky who live forever—
once we drive these Argives geared for battle out of Troy!"


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