The Iliad of Homer, translated by Cowper

Greek Vase showing The Battle Between Achilles and Hector

      The Death of Hector

      Achilles, plunging in that part his spear,
      Impell’d it through the yielding flesh beyond.
      The ashen beam his power of utterance left
      Still unimpair’d, but in the dust he fell,
      And the exulting conqueror exclaim’d.

      But Hector! thou hadst once far other hopes,
      And, stripping slain Patroclus, thought’st thee safe,
      Nor caredst for absent me. Fond dream and vain!
      I was not distant far; in yonder fleet
      He left one able to avenge his death,
      And he hath slain thee. Thee the dogs shall rend
      Dishonorably, and the fowls of air,
      But all Achaia’s host shall him entomb.

      To whom the Trojan Chief languid replied.
      By thy own life, by theirs who gave thee birth,
      And by thy knees, oh let not Grecian dogs
      Rend and devour me, but in gold accept
      And brass a ransom at my father’s hands,
      And at my mother’s an illustrious price;
      Send home my body, grant me burial rites
      Among the daughters and the sons of Troy.

      To whom with aspect stern Achilles thus.
      Dog! neither knees nor parents name to me.
      I would my fierceness of revenge were such,
      That I could carve and eat thee, to whose arms
      Such griefs I owe; so true it is and sure,
      That none shall save thy carcase from the dogs.
      No, trust me, would thy parents bring me weigh’d
      Ten–twenty ransoms, and engage on oath
      To add still more; would thy Dardanian Sire
      Priam, redeem thee with thy weight in gold,
      Not even at that price would I consent
      That she who bare should place thee on thy bier
      With lamentation; dogs and ravening fowls
      Shall rend thy body while a scrap remains.

      Then, dying, warlike Hector thus replied.
      Full well I knew before, how suit of mine
      Should speed preferr’d to thee. Thy heart is steel.
      But oh, while yet thou livest, think, lest the Gods
      Requite thee on that day, when pierced thyself
      By Paris and Apollo, thou shalt fall,
      Brave as thou art, before the Scan gate.

      He ceased, and death involved him dark around.
      His spirit, from his limbs dismiss’d, the house
      Of Ades sought, mourning in her descent
      Youth’s prime and vigor lost, disastrous doom!
      But him though dead, Achilles thus bespake.

      Die thou. My death shall find me at what hour
      Jove gives commandment, and the Gods above.

      He spake, and from the dead drawing away
      His brazen spear, placed it apart, then stripp’d
      His arms gore-stain’d. Meantime the other sons
      Of the Achaians, gathering fast around,
      The bulk admired, and the proportion just
      Of Hector; neither stood a Grecian there
      Who pierced him not, and thus the soldier spake.

      Ye Gods! how far more patient of the touch
      Is Hector now, than when he fired the fleet!

      The Iliad Book XXII
      Translated by William Cowper


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