Hector bids farewell to Andromache and Astyanax. These lines contain all the contradictory emotions called forth by the heartbreak of war, the conflict of love and duty, courage and acceptance in the face of death, but also the possibility of laughter and joy for a precious moment.
Andromache has begged Hektor not to return to the fighting but to protect her and their child first, since she has no other family left…
τὴν δ᾽ αὖτε προσέειπε μέγας κορυθαίολος Ἕκτωρ: 440
‘ἦ καὶ ἐμοὶ τάδε πάντα μέλει γύναι: ἀλλὰ μάλ᾽ αἰνῶς
αἰδέομαι Τρῶας καὶ Τρῳάδας ἑλκεσιπέπλους,
αἴ κε κακὸς ὣς νόσφιν ἀλυσκάζω πολέμοιο:
οὐδέ με θυμὸς ἄνωγεν, ἐπεὶ μάθον ἔμμεναι ἐσθλὸς
αἰεὶ καὶ πρώτοισι μετὰ Τρώεσσι μάχεσθαι 445
ἀρνύμενος πατρός τε μέγα κλέος ἠδ᾽ ἐμὸν αὐτοῦ.
εὖ γὰρ ἐγὼ τόδε οἶδα κατὰ φρένα καὶ κατὰ θυμόν:
ἔσσεται ἦμαρ ὅτ᾽ ἄν ποτ᾽ ὀλώλῃ Ἴλιος ἱρὴ
καὶ Πρίαμος καὶ λαὸς ἐϋμμελίω Πριάμοιο.
ἀλλ᾽ οὔ μοι Τρώων τόσσον μέλει ἄλγος ὀπίσσω,…. 450
ὅσσον σεῦ, ὅτε κέν τις Ἀχαιῶν χαλκοχιτώνων 454
δακρυόεσσαν ἄγηται ἐλεύθερον ἦμαρ ἀπούρας:…….
ἀλλά με τεθνηῶτα χυτὴ κατὰ γαῖα καλύπτοι 464
πρίν γέ τι σῆς τε βοῆς σοῦ θ᾽ ἑλκηθμοῖο πυθέσθαι.
Then tall Hektor of the shining helm answered her: ‘All these
things are in my mind also, lady; yet I would feel deep shame
before the Trojans, and the Trojan women with trailing garments,
if like a coward I were to shrink aside from the fighting;
and the spirit will not let me, since I have learned to be valiant
and to fight always among the foremost ranks of the Trojans,
winning for my own self great glory, and for my father.
For I know this thing well in my heart, and my mind knows it:
there will come a day when sacred Ilion shall perish,
and Priam, and the people of Priam of the strong ash spear.
But it is not so much the pain to come of the Trojans that troubles me…..
as troubles me the thought of you, when some bronze-armoured
Achaian leads you off, taking away your day of liberty,…..
But may I be dead and the piled earth hide me under before I
hear you crying and know by this that they drag you captive.
ὣς εἰπὼν οὗ παιδὸς ὀρέξατο φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ:
ἂψ δ᾽ ὃ πάϊς πρὸς κόλπον ἐϋζώνοιο τιθήνης
ἐκλίνθη ἰάχων πατρὸς φίλου ὄψιν ἀτυχθεὶς
ταρβήσας χαλκόν τε ἰδὲ λόφον ἱππιοχαίτην,
δεινὸν ἀπ᾽ ἀκροτάτης κόρυθος νεύοντα νοήσας. 470
ἐκ δ᾽ ἐγέλασσε πατήρ τε φίλος καὶ πότνια μήτηρ:
αὐτίκ᾽ ἀπὸ κρατὸς κόρυθ᾽ εἵλετο φαίδιμος Ἕκτωρ,
καὶ τὴν μὲν κατέθηκεν ἐπὶ χθονὶ παμφανόωσαν:
αὐτὰρ ὅ γ᾽ ὃν φίλον υἱὸν ἐπεὶ κύσε πῆλέ τε χερσὶν
εἶπε δ᾽ ἐπευξάμενος Διί τ᾽ ἄλλοισίν τε θεοῖσι: 475
Ζεῦ ἄλλοι τε θεοὶ δότε δὴ καὶ τόνδε γενέσθαι
παῖδ᾽ ἐμὸν ὡς καὶ ἐγώ περ ἀριπρεπέα Τρώεσσιν,……
ὣς εἰπὼν ἀλόχοιο φίλης ἐν χερσὶν ἔθηκε 482
παῖδ᾽ ἑόν: ἣ δ᾽ ἄρα μιν κηώδεϊ δέξατο κόλπῳ
δακρυόεν γελάσασα: πόσις δ᾽ ἐλέησε νοήσας,
χειρί τέ μιν κατέρεξεν ἔπος τ᾽ ἔφατ᾽ ἔκ τ᾽ ὀνόμαζε: 485
δαιμονίη μή μοί τι λίην ἀκαχίζεο θυμῷ:
οὐ γάρ τίς μ᾽ ὑπὲρ αἶσαν ἀνὴρ Ἄϊδι προϊάψει:
μοῖραν δ᾽ οὔ τινά φημι πεφυγμένον ἔμμεναι ἀνδρῶν,
οὐ κακὸν οὐδὲ μὲν ἐσθλόν, ἐπὴν τὰ πρῶτα γένηται.
So speaking glorious Hektor held out his arms to his baby,
who shrank back to his fair-girdled nurse’s bosom
screaming, and frightened at the aspect of his own father,
terrified as he saw the bronze and the crest with its horse-hair,
nodding, dreadfully, as he thought, from the peak of the helmet.
Then his beloved father laughed out, and his honoured mother,
and at once glorious Hektor lifted from this head the helmet
and laid it in all its shining upon the ground. Then taking
up his dear son he tossed him about in his arms, and kissed him,
and lifted his voice in prayer to Zeus and the other immortals:
‘Zeus, and you other immortals, grant that this boy, who is my son,
may be as I am, pre-eminent among the Trojans, ……..
So speaking he set his child again in the arms of his beloved
wife, who took him back again to her fragrant bosom
smiling in her tears; and he husband saw, and took pity upon her,
and stroked her with his hand, and called her by name and spoke to her:
‘Poor Andromache! Why does your heart sorrow so much for me?
No man is going to hurl me to Hades, unless it is fated,
but as for fate, I think that no man yet has escaped it
once it has taken its first form, neither brave man nor coward.
Chosen by Jane Mason. Jane’s recommended translation is by Richmond Lattimore.