Iliad

Homer

Homer, creator; Murray, A. T. (Augustus Taber), 1866-1940, translator

So spake he, and storm-footed Iris hasted to bear his message.She came to the house of Priam, and found therein clamour and wailing. His sons sat about their father within the court sullying their garments with their tears, and in their midst was the old king close-wrapped in his mantle; and upon the old man's head and neck was filth in abundance,which he had gathered in his hands as he grovelled on the earth. And his daughters and his sons' wives were wailing throughout the house, bethinking them of the warriors many and valiant who were lying low, slain by the hands of the Argives. And the messenger of Zeus drew nigh to Priam, and spake to him;softly she uttered her voice, yet trembling gat hold of his himbs:

Be of good courage, O Priam, son of Dardanus, and fear thou not at all. Not to forbode any evil to thee am I come hither, but with good intent. I am a messenger to thee from Zeus, who far away though he be, hath exceeding care for thee and pity.The Olympian biddeth thee ransom goodly Hector, and bear gifts to Achilles which shall make glad his heart; alone do thou go, neither let any man beside of the Trojans go with thee. A herald may attend thee, an elder man, to guide the mules and the light-running waggon,and to carry back to the city the dead, even him that Achilles slew. Let not death be in thy thoughts, neither any fear; such a guide shall go with thee, even Argeiphontes, who shall lead thee, until in his heading he bring thee nigh to Achilles. And when he shall have led thee into the hut,neither shall Achilles himself slay thee nor suffer any other to slay; for not without wisdom is he, neither without purpose, nor yet hardened in sin; nay, with all kindliness will he spare a suppliant man.
When she had thus spoken swift-footed Iris departed; but the king bade his sonsmake ready the running mule waggon, and bind the wicker box thereon. And himself he went down to the vaulted treasure-chamber, fragrant of cedar wood and high of roof, that held jewels full many: and he called to him Hecabe his wife, and spake:
Lady, from Zeus hath an Olympian messenger come to me,that I go to the ships of the Achaeans to ransom my dear son, and that I bear gifts to Achilles which shall make glad his heart. But come, tell me this, how seemeth it to thy mind? For as touching mine own self, wondrously doth the desire of my heart bid me go thither to the ships, into the wide camp of the Achaeans.

So spake he, but his wife uttered a shrill cry, and spake in answer:

Ah, woe is me, whither now is gone the wisdom for the which of old thou wast famed among stranger folk and among them thou rulest? How art thou fain to go alone to the ships of the Achaeans to meet the eyes of the man whohath slain thy sons, many and valiant? Of iron verily is thy heart. For if so be he get thee in his power and his eyes behold thee, so savage and faithless is the man, he will neither pity thee nor anywise have reverence. Nay, let us now make our lament afar from him we mourn, abiding here in the hall. On this wise for him did mighty Fate spinwith her thread at his birth, when myself did bear him, that he should glut swift-footed dogs far from his parents, in the abode of a violent man, in whose inmost heart I were fain to fix my teeth and feed thereon; then haply might deeds of requital be wrought for my son, seeing in no wise while playing the dastard was he slain of him,but while standing forth in defence of the men and deep-bosomed women of Troy, with no thought of shelter or of flight.
Then in answer spake unto her the old man, god-like Priam:
Seek not to stay me that am fain to go, neither be thyself a bird of ill-boding in my halls; thou shalt not persuade me.For if any other of the men that are upon the face of the earth had bidden me this, whether of seers that divine from sacrifice or of priests, a false thing might we deem it, and turn away therefrom the more; but now—for myself I heard the voice of the goddess and looked upon her face—I will go forth, neither shall her word be vain. And if it be my fateto lie dead by the ships of the brazen-coated Achaeans, so would I have it; forthwith let Achilles slay me, when once I have clasped in my arms my son, and have put from me the desire for wailing.

He spake, and opened the goodly lids of chests, wherefrom he took twelve beauteous robesand twelve cloaks of single fold, and as many coverlets, and as many white mantles, and therewithal as many tunics. And of gold he weighed out and bare forth talents, ten in all, and two gleaming tripods, and four cauldrons, and a cup exceeding fair, that the men of Thrace had given himwhen he went thither on an embassage, a great treasure; not even this did the old man spare in his halls, for he was exceeding fain to ransom his dear son. Then drave he all the Trojans from out the portico, and chid them with words of reviling:

Get ye hence, wretches, ye that work me shame!Have ye not also lamentation at home, that ye come hither to vex me? Count ye it not enough that Zeus, son of Cronos, hath brought this sorrow upon me, that I should lose my son the best of all? Nay, but yourselves too shall know it, for easier shall ye be, now he is dead, for the Achaeans to slay.But for me, or ever mine eyes behold the city sacked and laid waste, may I go down into the house of Hades.
He spake, and plying his staff went among the men, and they went forth from before the old man in his haste. Then called he aloud to his sons, chiding Helenus and Paris and goodly Agathonand Pammon and Antiphonus and Polites, good at the war-cry, and Deiphobus and Hippothous and lordly Dius. To these nine the old man called aloud, and gave command:
Haste ye, base children that are my shame; would that ye all together in Hector's stead had been slain at the swift ships!Woe is me, that am all unblest, seeing that I begat sons the best in the broad land of Troy, yet of them I avow that not one is left, not godlike Nestor, not Troilus the warrior charioteer, not Hector that was a god among men, neither seemed he as the son of a mortal man, but of a god:all them hath Ares slain, yet these things of shame are all left me, false of tongue, nimble of foot, peerless at beating the floor in the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your own folk. Will ye not make me ready a waggon, and that with speed, and lay all these things therein, that we may get forward on our way?

So spake he, and they, seized with fear of the rebuke of their father, brought forth the light-running waggon drawn of mules, fair and newly-wrought, and bound upon it the wicker box; and down from its peg they took the mule-yoke, a box-wood yoke with a knob thereon, well-fitted with guiding-rings;and they brought forth the yoke-band of nine cubits, and therewithal the yoke. The yoke they set with care upon the polished pole at the upturned end thereof, and cast the ring upon the thole; and they bound it fast to the knob with three turns to left and right, and thereafter made it fast to the post, and bent the hook thereunder.Then they brought forth from the treasure-chamber and heaped upon the polished waggon the countless ransom for Hector's head, and yoked the strong-hooved mules that toil in harness, which on a time the Mysians had given to Priam, a splendid gift. And for Priam they led beneath the yoke horses that the old kingkept for his own and reared at the polished stall. Thus were the twain letting yoke their cars, in the high palace, even the herald and Priam, with thoughts of wisdom in their hearts, when nigh to them came Hecabe, her heart sore stricken, bearing in her right hand honey-hearted wine in a cup of gold, that they might make libation ere they went.And she stood before the horses, and spake, saying:

Take now, pour libation to father Zeus, and pray that thou mayest come back home from the midst of the foemen, seeing thy heart sendeth thee forth to the ships, albeit I am fain thou shouldst not go,Thereafter make thou prayer unto the son of Cronos, lord of the dark chouds, the god of Ida, that looketh down upon all the land of Troy, and ask of him a bird of omen, even the swift messenger that to himself is dearest of birds and is mightiest in strength; let him appear upon thy right hand, to the end that marking the sign with thine own eyes,thou mayest have trust therein, and go thy way to the ships of the Danaans of fleet steeds. But if so be Zeus whose voice is borne afar grant thee not his own messenger, then I of a surety should not urge thee on and bid thee go to the ships of the Argives, how eager soever thou be.

Then in answer spake unto her godlike Priam:

Wife, I will not disregard this hest of thine; for good is it to lift up hands to Zeus, if so be he will have pity.
Thus spake the old man, and bade the housewife that attended pour over his hands water undefiled; and the handmaid drew nigh bearing in her hands alike basin and ewer.Then, when he had washed his hands, he took the cup from his wife and then made prayer, standing in the midst of thie court, and poured forth the wine, with a look toward heaven, and spake ahoud, saying:
Father Zeus, that rulest from Ida, most glorious, most great, grant that I may come unto Achilles' hut as one to be welcomed and to be pitied;and send a bird of omen, even the swift messenger that to thyself is dearest of birds and is mightiest in strength; let him appear upon my right hand, to the end that, marking the sign with mine own eyes, I may have trust therein, and go my way to the ships of the Danaans of fleet steeds.
So spake he in prayer, and Zeus the Counsellor heard him.Forthwith he sent an eagle, surest of omen among winged birds, the dusky eagle, even the hunter, that men call also the black eagle. Wide as is the door of some rich man's high-roofed treasure-chamber, a door well fitted with bolts, even so wide spread his wings to this side and to that; and he appeared to them on the right,darting across the city. And at sight of him they waxed glad, and the hearts in the breasts of all were cheered. Then the old man made haste and stepped upon his car, and drave forth from the gateway and the echoing portico. In front the mules drew the four-wheeled waggon,driven of wise-hearted Idaeus, and behind came the horses that the old man ever plying the lash drave swiftly through the city; and his kinsfolk all followed wailing aloud as for one faring to his death. But when they had gone down from the city and were come to the plain,back then to Ilios turned his sons and his daughters' husbands; howbeit the twain were not unseen of Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, as they came forth upon the plain, but as he saw the old man he had pity, and forthwith spake to Hermes, his dear son:
Hermes, seeing thou lovest above all others to companion a man,and thou givest ear to whomsoever thou art minded up, go and guide Priam unto the hollow ships of the Achaeans in such wise that no man may see him or be ware of him among all the Damans, until he be come to the son of Peleus.