Andromache: Iliad 22.437-476

Hapax Legomenon

Andromache: Iliad 22.437-476

by Katie Van Winkle '07

So she spoke lamenting. But the wife knew nothing yet
of Hector; for no messenger had come bearing the truth
of how her husband held his ground outside the gates.
She was weaving at her loom, in the deep recess of the proud palace,
there weaving flowers into a double mantle of shimmering purples.
And she called throughout the halls for her fair-haired handmaidens
to set a great basin over the fires, so that a hot bath might rise up
for Hector, her husband come home from battle.
Poor innocent, she knew nothing yet, knew not that far from healing baths
gleaming-eyed Athena had struck him down by the hand of shining Achilles.
Then she heard shrieks of grief and mourning from the tower,
and her body shook, and her shuttle fell to the floor.
She spoke again to her fair-haired handmaidens:
"Come, two of you, and follow me. Let me see what has happened.
That voice--I heard the voice of my honored mother-in-law, and from my own
breast a full heart leaps up into my mouth, and below me my knees
clutch frozen: surely some evil for the sons of Priam is close at hand.
May the word be far from my ear! I am so afraid
that shining Achilles has cut off my bold Hector
alone, cut him off from the city, and has driven him toward the plain,
and has even stayed him from the cursed valor
that possessed him: for never would he linger in the shielding throng,
but always would rush far to the front, yielding that mad spirit of his to none."
So speaking she hurried through the halls, maddened,
heart shuddering: and together with her ran two handmaidens.
When she reached the tower and its press of people
she halted and peered over the wall: and she saw him
dragged before the city, she saw the swift horses
dragging him heedlessly toward the hollow ships of the Achaeans.
Down over her eyes fell gloomy night, swathing her,
and she pitched backward, gasping forth her spirit.
She tore her gleaming head-gear from her brow:
diadem and cloth and woven band,
and the veil that golden Aphrodite had given her
on that day when sunlit Hector, flashing-helmed, led her
from the house of Eetion, after he had brought gifts beyond measure.
And the sisters of her husband and the wives of her brothers
swarmed about her, and bore her up, she who was dazed unto death.
And when she revived and gathered her spirit back to her breast,
sobbing in strangled bursts, she spoke to the women of Troy.