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Troy taken at the same time—is so portrayed that no one, capable of an emotion, can be insensible to it. Andromache and Hecuba seek in turn to dissuade the hero from encountering the Destroyer. The mournful appeal of each, frantic with despair, fills the heart with anguish.
But the most affecting speech of all is that of the grayhaired, venerable King.
" Then wept the sage,
"Ah, stay not, stay not! guardless and alone;
That man can feel ; man fated to be curst!'"
rible is the antagonist so eager to encounter him, he resolves to meet him, let the result be what it may. As soon as Andromache is assured that he will, nay, must, fight, she shuts herself up in her palace, that the thick walls may
deaden the horror breathed from the field. She fully understands his feelings, as she so gracefully shows at the parting, before the Scæan gate; when she smiles sadly through her tears, as their Astyanax shrinks back alarmed from the waving crest of his father. At all events, Homer understood human nature too well to give her prominence at such a time; he held the sorrow of a wife like Andromache to be far too sacred a thing to be trifled with, or exhibited to vulgar gaze; and accordingly he would not allow her to see so afflicting a sight. He knows that he needs not even mention herthat all will think of her in the solitude of her chamber; and who has not thought of her—nay, wept for her ? But let the poet speak-in this instance we choose Cowper's version :
66 Unmoved he stood,
A buttress, with his noble heart conforr'd." We now come to the difficult point in the character of Hector-at least, the point that has caused most discussion between critics-we mean that at which, notwithstanding his former resolution, he runs away from Achilles. Some censure Homer for this ; but they are by no means the best who do
Had the antagonists been equal in all but their strength, then, indeed, we might regard the flight of Hector as a blemish. But this was not the case. The son of Priam and Hecuba was not goddess-born, like the son of Thetis. From no mere mortal would the defender of his country have fled. He would not have receded an inch from Agamemnon, from Ajax, or from Diomed. While the son of Peleus stayed in wrath at “ the hollow ships” refusing to fight for Agamemnon, no other warrior was able to withstand the onset of Hector. But in the presence of the spear of Achilles, no hero might abide ; even the river-gods quailed as he strode along, “and hid themselves," as the poet tells us, “ among
their reedy banks.” Far from its being an error, then, on the part of Homer, he acts in strict conformity with nature when he strikes Hector with a sudden, uncontrollable panic, so that he runs three times round the walls of Troy, while the aged king and
shriek from the battlements. He need not have been permitted to go round the second time, or even once ; since the whole army of the Greeks was present nearly under the walls, commanded by its bravest generals ; but
“ The son of Peleus, as he ran, his brows
Should pierce him, and usurp the foremost praise." Once more Hector resolves to meet the Destroyer—though he had little, if any, hope of a favorable result. He announces his intention to Achilles; and seeks to make a covenant by which the victor would be bound to respect the remains of his fallen antagonist. But the enraged Peleus' son would have no covenant-no restraint on his sovereign will; but calls on him to summon his “every-kind of valor” (παντoίης αρετής μιμνησκεο).
“Much now it behooves thee To be a combatant and a doughty warrior." As might have been expected, the combat, does not last long; and Hector, slain, weltering in his gore, implores that his remains shall not be dishonored. The dialogue that ensues is awfully tragical. No versified translation does justice to it; the following prose version, in which it is rendered line for line, without any ornament, will perhaps give the English reader a more correct idea of the original than any other rendering within our reach : In the dust, therefore, he fell, and over him gloried the illustrious Achilles “Once wert thou wont to think, Hector, when despoiling the slain Pa
troclusm That thou should'st be safe, and nought stood’st in awe of me when absent. Fool! I, his avenger, mightier far than thou, apart At the hollow ships, was left behind-And have unnerved thy limbs; thee, indeed, the dogs and birds of prey Shall tear, unseemly; him shall the Greeks bury, with due funeral rites.” Him the waving plume-helm'd Hector, exhausted, addressed: “By thy life, by thy knees, and by thy parents, thee I supplicate; Let not the dogs of the Greeks at the hollow ships tear and devour me. Brass in abundance, and gold, do thou receive As gifts which my father and my venerable mother will give thee; But send home my body-that of funeral pyre, me, When dead, the Trojans and Trojan matrons may make a partaker." Him eyeing sternly, the swift-footed Achilles addressed :-
“Dog! mé supplicate not, embracing my knees, by my knees, nor by my
parents. Would that my rage and fury would, by any means, permit me To chop and devour thy raw flesh, for what thou hast done to me. No! not even if ten or twenty-fold usually great ransoms Were they to bring hither and place in the balance, and promise others
besides. No! were he even to counterpoise thy body with gold, Priam, the son of Dardanus, not even thus should thy venerable mother, Having placed thee on thy bier, lament him whom she bore; But dogs and birds of prey shall thoroughly devour thee." Him, the waving plume-helm'd Hector, dying, addressed :“Knowing thee well, I foresaw, indeed, that never should I Persuade thee; assuredly, within thee is a spirit of steel ! Beware! now, lest towards thee I become the subject of anger to the gods On that day when Paris and Phæbus Apollo thee-Brave though thou be-shall destroy in the Scæan gate.” Him, while thus speaking, the completion of death veil'd, And his spirit, flying from his limbs, to Ades descendedIts fate bewailing, in having left the robustness and vigor of youth. Ilim, also, when dead, the illustrious Achilles addressed : “Die! fate will I then receive, whenever Jove may wish to bring it about, and the other immortal gods." He said, and from the corpse he drew the brazen spear, And placed it apart; and from his (Hector's) shoulders forced away his
armor. Blood-stained, around him hastened the other sons of the Greeks, Who gazed with wonder on the size and the grand form Of Hector; nor did any approach, without inflicting a wound (on the
corpse), And each, as he looked to his neighbor, thus spoke: “Ha! ha! assuredly, much more gentle in being handled Is Hector, than when he fired the fleet with glowing flames.” Thus, indeed, spoke each, and, standing near, inflicted wounds.
Il. XXII., 330. Few passages, even in Homer, have drawn more tears than this. No one can withhold his sympathy from the fallen hero, the devoted, uncompromising patriot; the dutiful and affectionate son; the tender husband, and the fond and indulgent father—when the common soldiers attack his corpse in turn, each inflicting a wound. How different is the spirit in which these. indignities are committed on his body, from that in which he predicts, with his last breath, that Achilles, too, goddess-born though he is, will one day meet a similar fate, at the hands of Paris and Apollo. Homer well knew that it was cowardly and barbarous—a disgrace to his countrymenthus to stab and insult the lifeless body of noble Hector; but he allowed it, in order to render the conduct of his favorite hero less revolting, by suggesting that, since the thoughtless soldiers, who had experienced no personal injury from the fallen
hero, took a pride in mangling his corpse, it was no wonder that the passionate Achilles, furious to revenge the death of his beloved Patroclus, should even so far forget the dictates of humanity and decorum as to drag his slayer's corpse at his chariot wheels. But, in the midst of all this
Achilles had respect for the patriot-hero, who refused to pay any attention to omens, or auguries, as long as his country was in danger, and he was able to combat for it—the chieftain who, in a word, has left us the noble maxim :
Εις οιωνός αριστος αμυνεσθαι περι πατρης.
The one best omen is our country's cause.
The only question with him now was, Would the Trojans yield at once ? or, Would they attempt a brief and fruitless struggle, without Hector, against the obvious will of the gods ?
Whom Ilion hailed and wont as god adore.
But all of a sudden he is seized with a revulsion of feeling. Being shown the mangled corpse of Patroclus, already in a forward state of decomposition, his rage returns in all its violence, and he asks, Will it indeed fare better with the body of Hector ?