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THE DEATH OF HECTOR

Achilles has joined the battle again, enraged because Hector has killed his friend Patroclus, to whom he had lent his own armor. He has pursued Hector twice about the walls of Troy, but now Hector makes a stand.

The crested hero, Hector, thus began:
“No longer I avoid thee as of late,
O Son of Peleus! Thrice around the walls
Of Priam's mighty city have I fled,
5 Nor dared to wait thy coming. Now my heart
Bids me encounter thee; my time is come
To slay or to be slain. Now let us call
The gods to witness, who attest and guard

The covenants of men. Should Jove bestow
10 On me the victory, and I take thy life,
Thou shalt meet no dishonor at my hands;
But, stripping off the armor, I will send
The Greeks thy body. Do the like by me.”

The swift Achilles answered with a frown: 15"Accursèd Hector, never talk to me

Of covenants. Men and lions plight no faith,
Nor wolves agree with lambs, but each must plan
Evil against the other. So between

Thyself and me no compact can exist, 20 Or understood intent. First, one of us

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Must fall and yield his life-blood to the god
Of battles. Summon all thy valor now.
A skillful spearman thou hast need to be,
And a bold warrior. There is no escape,
For now doth Pallas doom thee to be slain
By my good spear. Thou shalt repay to me
The evil thou hast done my countrymen,
My friends whom thou hast slaughtered in thy rage.”

He spake, and, brandishing his massive spear,
Hurled it at Hector, who beheld its aim
From where he stood. He stooped, and over him
The brazen weapon passed, and plunged to earth.
Unseen by royal Hector, Pallas went
And plucked it from the ground, and brought it back
And gave it to the hands of Peleus' son,
While Hector said to his illustrious foe :

“Godlike Achilles, thou hast missed thy mark,
Nor hast thou learned my doom from Jupiter,
As thou pretendest. Thou art glib of tongue,
And cunningly thou orderest thy speech,
In hope that I who hear thee may forget
My might and valor. Think not I shall flee,
That thou mayst pierce my back; for thou shalt send
Thy spear, if God permit thee, through my breast
As I rush on thee. Now avoid in turn
My brazen weapon. Would that it might pass
Clean through thee, all its length! The tasks of war

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For us of Troy were lighter for thy death,
Thou pest and deadly foe of all our race!”

He spake, and brandishing his massive spear,
Hurled it, nor missed, but in the center smote
5 The buckler of Pelides. Far away
It bounded from the brass, and he was vexed
To see that the swift weapon from his hand
Had flown in vain. He stood perplexed and sad;

No second spear had he. He called aloud 10 On the white-bucklered chief, Deiphobus,

To bring another; but that chief was far,
And Hector saw that it was so, and said :

"Ah me! the gods have summoned me to die.
I thought my warrior-friend, Deiphobus,
15 Was by my side; but he is still in Troy,
And Pallas has deceived me. Now

my death Can not be far, - is near; there is no hope Of my escape, for so it pleases Jove And Jove's great archer-son, who have till now 20 Delivered me. My hour at last is come; Yet not ingloriously or passively I die, but first will do some valiant deed, Of which mankind shall hear in after time." He spake, and drew the keen-edged sword that

hung, 25 Massive and finely tempered, at his side, And sprang

- as when an eagle high in heaven,

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Through the thick cloud, darts downward to the plain
To clutch some tender lamb or timid hare,
So Hector, brandishing that keen-edged sword,
Sprang forward, while Achilles opposite
Leaped toward him, all on fire with savage hate,
And holding his bright buckler, nobly wrought,
Before him. On his shining helmet waved
The fourfold crest; there tossed the golden tufts
With which the hand of Vulcan lavishly
Had decked it. As in the still hours of night
Hesper goes forth among the host of stars,
The fairest light of heaven, so brightly shone,
Brandished in the right hand of Peleus' son,
The spear's keen blade, as, confident to slay
The noble Hector, o'er his glorious form
His quick eye ran, exploring where to plant
The surest wound. The glittering mail of brass
Won from the slain Patroclus guarded well
Each part, save only where the collar-bones
Divide the shoulder from the neck, and there
Appeared the throat, the spot where life is most
In peril. Through that part the noble son
Of Peleus drave his spear; it went quite through
The tender neck, and yet the brazen blade
Cleft not the windpipe, and the

windpipe, and the power to speak Remained. The Trojan fell amid the dust, And thus Achilles boasted o'er his fall :

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“Hector, when from the slain Patroclus thou
Didst strip his armor, little didst thou think
Of danger. Thou hadst then no fear of me,
Who was not near thee to avenge his death.
5 Fool! there was left within the roomy ships
A mightier one than he, who should come forth,
The avenger of his blood, to take thy life.
Foul dogs and birds of prey shall tear thy flesh;
The Greeks shall honor him with funeral rite."

And then the crested Hector, dying, said:
“I know thee, and too clearly I foresaw
I should not move thee, for thou hast a heart
Of iron. Yet reflect that for my sake

The anger of the gods may fall on thee,
15 When Paris and Apollo strike thee down,
Strong as thou art, before the Scæan gates.'

Thus Hector spake, and straightway o'er him closed The night of death; the soul forsook his limbs,

And flew to Hades, grieving for its fate, 20 So soon divorced from youth and youthful might.

WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT: Translation of the Iliad.

HELPS TO STUDY

This passage is from the translation of the Iliad by William Cullen Bryant, the well-known American poet. You will remember his Planting the Apple Tree, Song of Marion's Men (FIFTH READER, p. 190). See also to a Waterfowl, p. 328 of this book.

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