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The Story of Greece by  Mary Macgregor


 

 

HECTOR AND ANDROMACHE

[41] THE gods were angry with Aphrodite because she had hidden Paris from the king, and they determined that, in spite of their oath, the two armies should again begin to fight.

So Athene was sent to the Trojan hosts, disguised as one of themselves. In and out among the soldiers she paced, until at length she spoke to one of them, bidding him draw his bow and wound Menelaus.

The soldier obeyed, and the arrow, guided by Athene, reached the king, yet was the wound but slight.

When the Greeks saw that the Trojans had disregarded their oath, they were full of wrath, and seizing their arms they followed their chiefs to battle. "You had thought them dumb, so silent were they," as they followed. But as the Trojans looked upon the enemy there arose among them a confused murmur as when "sheep bleat without ceasing to hear their lambs cry."

Fierce and yet more fierce raged the battle. Valiant deeds were done on both sides, but when Hector saw that the Greeks were being helped by the gods, he left the battlefield and hastened to the city.

At the gates, wives and mothers pressed around him, eager to hear what had befallen their husbands, their sons. But Hector tarried only to bid them go pray to the gods.

On to the palace he hastened to find Hecuba, his mother. She, seeing him come, ran to greet him and beg of him to wait until she brought honey-sweet wine, that he might pour out an offering to Zeus, and himself drink and be refreshed.

[42] But Hector said, "Bring me no honey-sweet wine, my lady-mother, lest thou cripple me of my courage and I be forgetful of my might. But go thou to the temple with all thy women, to offer gifts to Athene and to beseech her aid."

Then leaving his mother, Hector went to the house of Paris, and bitterly did he rebuke him, because he was not in the forefront of the battle.

"Stay but till I arm and I will go with thee," answered Paris. But Hector heeded him not, for he was in haste to find his dear wife Andromache and their beautiful boy, Skamandriss. By the people the child was called Astyanax, the City King, for it was his father who guarded Troy.

Andromache was not in their house, but on the wall of the city, watching the battle, fearing lest harm should befall her lord. With her was her little son, in the arms of his nurse.

Hector dared not linger to search for his wife, but as he hastened back to the gates she saw him and ran to bid him farewell ere he returned to battle.

Close to his side she pressed, and her tears fell as she cried:

"Too brave! thy valour yet will cause thy death.

Thou hast no pity on thy tender child,

Nor me, unhappy one, who soon must be

Thy widow. All the Greeks will rush on thee

To take thy life. A happier lot were mine

If I must lose thee to go down to earth,

For I shall have no hope when thou art gone—

Nothing but sorrow. Father have I none,

And no dear mother. . . .

Hector, thou

Art father and dear mother now to me,

And brother and my youthful spouse besides,

In pity keep within the fortress here,

Nor make thy child an orphan nor thy wife

A widow."

But Hector, though he dearly loved his wife, could not shrink from battle. As Andromache ceased to plead [43] with him, he held out his arms to his little son, but the child drew back in fear of the great plumes that waved on his father's shining helmet.

Then Hector took off his helmet and laid it upon the ground, while he caught his child in his arms and kissed him, praying Zeus and all the gods to defend him.

Andromache gazed pitifully at her husband as, at length, he gave the child to its nurse, and he seeing her great grief, took her hand and said:

"Sorrow not thus, beloved one, for me.

No living man can send me to the shades

Before my time; no man of woman born,

Coward or brave, can shun his destiny.

But go thou home and tend thy labours there,

The web, the distaff, and command thy maids

To speed the work. The cares of war pertain

To all men born in Troy, and most to me."

Then springing into his chariot, Hector drove swiftly back to the field of battle.


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