Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Hector Pursued by Achilles around Troy

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Hector Pursued by Achilles around Troy

By Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)

From the Iliad, xxii. 136–185: Translation of John Conington

HECTOR beheld and trembled: naught he dared

To wait, but left the gates, and shuddering flew.

Achilleus with swift feet behind him fared.

As mountain hawk, most fleet of feathered crew,

A trembling dove doth easily pursue;

Swerving she flutters; he, intent to seize,

With savage scream close hounds her through the blue;—

So keenly he swept onward; Hector flees

Beneath his own Troy wall, and plies his limber knees.

All past the watch-tower and the fig-tree tall

Along the chariot road at speed they fare,

Still swerving outward from the city’s wall;

Then reach the two fair-flowing streamlets, where

Scamander’s twofold source breaks forth to air.

One flows in a warm tide, and steam doth go

Up from it, as a blazing fire were there;

But the other runs in summer’s midmost glow

Cold as the frozen hail, or ice, or chilly snow.

Thereby great troughs and meet for washing stand,

Beautiful, stony, where their robes of pride

Troy’s wives and daughters washed, ere to the land

The foeman came, in happy peaceful tide.

Flying and following, these they ran beside,

He good that flies, he better that pursues;

For no fat victim ’twas, nor bullock’s hide,

Such meed as men for conquering runners choose,

But Hector’s life the prize they ran to win or lose.

Look how prize-bearing horses, hard of hoof,

Circle about the goal with eager bound,

And a great guerdon stands, not far aloof,

Tripod or woman, at the funeral mound

Of some dead chief; so thrice they circled round

King Priam’s town, their swift feet winged for flight:

While all the gods Olympus’s summit crowned,

Looking from high to see the wondrous sight;

And thus the almighty Sire their counsel did invite:—

“Alas! I see a loved one with mine eyes

Chased round the city: and my heart doth bleed

For Hector, for that many an ox’s thighs

He burnt, where Ida overlooks the mead,

Or in the topmost tower; now with fell speed

Achilleus hunts him round King Priam’s town.

But come, ye gods, take counsel and arede,

Or shall we save him now, or strike him down

Under Achilleus’s spear, despite his fair renown.”

To him stern-eyed Athene answered so:—

“Dread Thunderer in dark cloud, what words are these?

What, a mere mortal, fated long ago,

Wouldst thou set free from death’s severe decrees?

Do it; but us gods thy doing shall not please.”

And cloud-compelling Zeus in turn rejoined:—

“Take heart, dear child, and set thy soul at ease;

I meant it not, but would to thee be kind:

Now do it, nor delay, whate’er is in thy mind.”