The Parting of Hector and Andromache: From the Sixth Book of the Iliad

SO spake the matron. Hector left in haste
The mansion, and retraced his way between
The rows of stately dwellings, traversing
The mighty city. When, at length, he reached
The Scæan gates, that issue on the field,
His spouse, the nobly dowered Andromache,
Came forth to meet him, daughter of the Prince
Eëtion, who among the woody slopes
Of Placos, in the Hypoplacian town
Of Thebé, ruled Cilicia’s sons, and gave
His child to Hector of the beamy helm.
She came, attended by a maid who bore
A tender child, a babe too young to speak,
Beautiful as a star, whom Hector called
Scamandrius,—but all else Astyanax,
The City’s Lord, since Hector stood the sole
Defence of Troy. The father on his child
Looked with a silent smile. Andromache
Pressed to his side, meanwhile, and all in tears
Clung to his hand, and, thus beginning, said : —
“Too brave! thy valor yet will cause thy death.
Thou hast no pity on thy tender child,
Nor me, unhappy one, who soon must be
Thy widow : all the Greeks will rush on thee,
To take thy life. A happier lot were mine,
If I must lose thee, to go down to earth;
For I shall have no hope, when thou art gone,—
Nothing but sorrow. Father have I none,
And no dear mother. Great Achilles slew
My father, when he sacked the populous town
Of the Cilicians, Thebé with high gates.
'T was there he smote Eëtion, yet forbore
To make his arms a spoil : he dared not that,
But burned the dead with his bright armor on,
And raised a mound above him. Mountain nymphs,
Daughters of ægis-bearing Jupiter,
Came to the spot and planted it with elms.
Seven brothers had I in my father’s house,
And all went down to Hades in one day :
Achilles the swift-footed slew them all,
Among their slow-paced beeves and snow-white flocks.
My mother, princess on the woody slopes
Of Placos, with his spoils he bore away,
And only for large ransom gave her back.
But her Diana, archer-queen, struck down
Within her father’s palace. Hector, thou
Art father and dear mother now to me,
And brother, and my youthful spouse besides.
In pity keep within the fortress here,
Nor make thy child an orphan, nor thy wife
A widow. Post thine army near the place
Of the wild fig-tree, where the city-walls
Are low, and may be scaled. Thrice, in the war,
The boldest of the foe have tried the spot:
The brothers Ajax, famed Idomeneus,
The two chiefs born to Atreus, and the brave
Tydides : whether counselled to the attempt
By some wise seer, or prompted from within.”
Then answered Hector great in war:—“All this,
Dear wife, I bear in mind ; but I should stand
Ashamed before the men and long-robed dames
Of Troy, were I to keep aloof, and shun
The battle, coward-like. Not thus my heart
Prompts me ; for greatly have I learned to dare
And strike among the foremost sons of Troy,
Upholding my great father's fame and mine.
But well in my undoubting mind I know
The day shall come in which our sacred Troy,
And Priam, and the people over whom
Spear-bearing Priam rules, shall perish all.
But not the sorrows of the Trojan race,
Nor those of Hecuba herself, nor those
Of royal Priam, nor the woes that wait
My brothers many and brave, who yet, at last,
Slain by the leaguering foe, shall lie in dust,
Grieve me so much as thine, when some mailed Greek
Shall lead thee weeping hence, and take from thee
Thy day of freedom. Thou, in Argos, then,
Shalt, at another’s bidding, ply the loom,
Or from the fountain of Messeïs draw
Water, or from the Hypereian spring,
Constrained, unwilling, by thy cruel lot.
And then shall some one say, who sees thee weep,
‘This was the wife of Hector, most renowned
Of the horse-taming Trojans, when they fought
Around their city.' So shall some one say ;
And thou shalt grieve the more, lamenting him
Who haply might have kept afar the day
Of thy captivity. Oh, let the earth
Be heaped above my head in death, before
I hear thy cries, as thou art borne away ! ”
So saying, mighty Hector stretched his arms
To take the boy. The boy shrank crying back
To his fair nurse's bosom, scared to see
His father helmeted in glittering brass,
And eying with affright the horse-hair plume
That grimly nodded from the crest on high.
The tender father and fond mother smiled ;
And hastily the mighty Hector took
The helmet from his brow, and laid it down
Gleaming upon the ground, and, having kissed
His darling son, and tossed him up in play,
Prayed thus to Jove and all the gods of heaven : —
“ O Jupiter, and all ye deities !
Vouchsafe that this my son may yet become
Among the Trojans eminent like me,
And, with a might and courage like my own,
Rule nobly over Ilium. May they say,
'This man is greater than his father was,’
When they behold him from the battle-field
Bring back the bloody spoils of the slain foe,
That so his mother may be glad at heart.”
So speaking, to the arms of his dear spouse
He gave the boy. She on her fragrant breast
Received him, weeping as she smiled. The chief
Beheld, and, moved with tender pity, smoothed
Her forehead gently with his hand, and said : —
“ Sorrow not thus, beloved one, for me.
No living man can send me to the shades
Before my time ; no man of woman born,
Coward or brave, can shun his destiny.
But go thou home, and tend thy labors there,
The web, the distaff, and command thy maids
To speed the work ; the cares of war pertain
To all men born in Troy, and most to me.”
Thus spake the mighty Hector, and took up
His helmet shadowed with the horse-hair plume,
While homeward his belovèd consort went,
Oft looking back and shedding many tears.
Soon was she in the spacious palace-halls
Of the man-queller Hector. There she found
A troop of damsels ; with them all she shared
Her grief, and all in his own house bewailed
The living Hector, whom they thought no more
To see returning from the battle-field,
Escaped the rage and weapons of the Greeks.