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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 17

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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Thus having spoken, the god on his part again departed into the labour of the men; but heavy grief oppressed Hector as to his dark soul. Then, indeed, he looked around through the ranks, and immediately observed the one bearing away the famous armour, and the other lying upon the ground; and the blood flowed through the inflicted wound. But he advanced through the foremost warriors, armed in shining brass, shrilly shouting, like unto the inextinguishable flame of Vulcan. Nor did he escape the notice of the son of Atreus, loudly exclaiming; but he, deeply sighing, thus communed with his own great-hearted soul:

"Ah me! if I leave the beautiful armour and Patroclus, who lies here for the sake of my honour, [I dread] lest some one of the Greeks, whoever perceives it, will be indignant; but if, being alone, I fight with Hector and the Trojans, from shame, [I fear] lest many surround me, [being] alone. But crest-tossing Hector is leading all the Trojans hither. But wherefore has my soul been thus debating? Whenever a man desires, in opposition to a deity, to fight with a hero whom a god honours, soon is a great destruction hurled upon him; wherefore no one of the Greeks will blame me, who may perceive me retiring from Hector, since he wars under the impulse of a god. But if I could hear Ajax, brave in the din of war, both of us, again returning, would be mindful of battle even against a god, if by any means we could draw off the body for the sake of Achilles, the son of Peleus: of evils, certainly it would be the better." [550]

[Footnote 550: "The evil here spoken of, and of which a choice is presented to Menelaus, are loss of both the body and the armour of Patroclus, or of either separately. The first alternative he is resolved on guarding against by summoning Ajax to his aid; of the last two, he prefers the abandonment of the arms, i.e. [Greek: syle], spoliation of the corpse, to [Greek: aeikeia], its disfigurement."—Kennedy.]

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