Sunday, July 20, 2008

By Popular Request

The Grief of Achilles:
So the men fought on like a mass of whirling fire
as swift Antilochus raced the message toward Achilles.
Sheltered under his curving, beaked ships he found him,
foreboding, deep down, all that had come to pass.
Agonizing now he probed his own great heart:
"Why, why? Our long-haired Achaeans routed again,
driven in terror off the plain to crowd the ships, but why?
Dear gods, don't bring to pass the grief that haunts my heart---
the prophecy that mother revealed to me one time...
she said the best of the Myrmidons---while I lived---
would fall at Trojan hands and leave the light of day.
And now he's dead, I know it. Menoetius' gallant son,
my headstrong friend! And I told Patroclus clearly,
'Once you have beaten off the lethal fire, quick,
come back to the ships---you must not battle Hector!' "

As such fears went churning through his mind
the warlord Nestor's son drew near him now,
streaming warm tears, to give the dreaded message:
"Ah son of royal Peleus, what you must hear from me!
What painful news---would to god it had never happened!
Patroclus has fallen. They're fighting over his corpse.
He's stripped, naked---Hector with that flashing helmet,
Hector has your arms!"
So the captain reported.
A black cloud of grief came shrouding over Achilles
Both hands clawing the ground for soot and filth,
he poured it over his head, fouled his handsome face
and black ashes settled onto his fresh clean war-shirt.
Overpowered in all his power, sprawled in the dust,
Achilles lay there, fallen...
tearing his hair, defiling it with his own hands.

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