Now mighty Zeus was raised in Crete, and not one
of the blessed gods knew about him. In every limb he grew strong,
while doves looked after him in a holy cave
bringing ambrosia from Ocean’s streams,
a mighty eagle, ever drawing nectar from a rock,
in its beak carried a drink for wise Zeus.
After defeating his father Cronus, wide-seeing Zeus
made the eagle immortal and settled it in heaven.
Just so did he bestow honour on the trembling doves
who are the messengers of summer and winter.
Nothing is sweeter than love; all other bliss comes second.
And compared to it, even honey is too bitter to hold in my mouth.
This I say: Whom Kypris has not kissed
Does not know her flowers, what kinds of things roses are.
Unseen by these, the king his entry made:
And, prostrate now before Achilles laid,
Sudden (a venerable sight!) appears;
Embraced his knees, and bathed his hands in tears;
Those direful hands his kisses press’d, embrued
Even with the best, the dearest of his blood!
As when a wretch (who, conscious of his crime,
Pursued for murder, flies his native clime)
Just gains some frontier, breathless, pale, amazed,
All gaze, all wonder: thus Achilles gazed:
Thus stood the attendants stupid with surprise:
All mute, yet seem’d to question with their eyes:
Each look’d on other, none the silence broke,
Till thus at last the kingly suppliant spoke:
“Ah think, thou favour’d of the powers divine!
Think of thy father’s age, and pity mine!
In me that father’s reverend image trace,
Those silver hairs, that venerable face;
His trembling limbs, his helpless person, see!
In all my equal, but in misery!
Yet now, perhaps, some turn of human fate
Expels him helpless from his peaceful state;
Think, from some powerful foe thou seest him fly,
And beg protection with a feeble cry.
Yet still one comfort in his soul may rise;
He hears his son still lives to glad his eyes,
And, hearing, still may hope a better day
May send him thee, to chase that foe away.
No comfort to my griefs, no hopes remain,
The best, the bravest, of my sons are slain!
Yet what a race! ere Greece to Ilion came,
The pledge of many a loved and loving dame:
Nineteen one mother bore—Dead, all are dead!
How oft, alas! has wretched Priam bled!
Still one was left their loss to recompense;
His father’s hope, his country’s last defence.
Him too thy rage has slain! beneath thy steel,
Unhappy in his country’s cause he fell!
“For him through hostile camps I bent my way,
For him thus prostrate at thy feet I lay;
Large gifts proportion’d to thy wrath I bear;
O hear the wretched, and the gods revere!
“Think of thy father, and this face behold!
See him in me, as helpless and as old!
Though not so wretched: there he yields to me,
The first of men in sovereign misery!
Thus forced to kneel, thus grovelling to embrace
The scourge and ruin of my realm and race;
Suppliant my children’s murderer to implore,
And kiss those hands yet reeking with their gore!”
These words soft pity in the chief inspire,
Touch’d with the dear remembrance of his sire.
Then with his hand (as prostrate still he lay)
The old man’s cheek he gently turn’d away.
Now each by turns indulged the gush of woe;
And now the mingled tides together flow:
This low on earth, that gently bending o’er;
A father one, and one a son deplore:
But great Achilles different passions rend,
And now his sire he mourns, and now his friend.
The infectious softness through the heroes ran;
One universal solemn shower began;
They bore as heroes, but they felt as man.
While little of the poet’s work survives, and very little context is known, we have made an effort to piece these fragments together in a manner that may be interpreted as cohesive if the reader chooses.
You may forget but
Let me tell you
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us
Before they were mothers
Leto and Niobe
had been the most
devoted of friends
If you are squeamish
Don’t prod the
Experience shows us
by Virtue is never
an innocuous neighbor
We know this much
Death is an evil;
we have the gods’
word for it; they too
would die if death
were a good thing