Verse > John Dryden > Poems
John Dryden (1631–1700).  The Poems of John Dryden.  1913.
The Last Parting of Hector and Andromache.
From the Sixth Book of Homer’s Iliads
  Hector, 1 returning from the Field of Battel, to visit Helen his Sister-in-Law, and his Brother Paris, who had fought unsuccessfully hand to hand with Menelaus, from thence goes to his own Palace to see his wife Andromache, and his Infant Son Astyanax. The description of that Interview is the subject of this translation.

THUS having said, brave Hector went to see
His Virtuous Wife, the fair Andromache.
He found her not at home; for she was gone
(Attended by her Maid and Infant Son,)
To climb the steepy Tow’r of Ilion:        5
From whence with heavy Heart she might survey
The bloody business of the Dreadful day.
Her mournful Eyes she cast around the Plain,
And sought the Lord of her Desires in vain.
  But he, who thought his peopled Palace bare,        10
When she, his only Comfort, was not there,
Stood in the Gate, and ask’d of ev’ry one,
Which way she took, and whither she was gone:
If to the Court, or, with his Mother’s Train,
In long Procession to Minerva’s Fane?        15
The Servants answer’d, neither to the Court
Where Priam’s Sons and Daughters did resort,
Nor to the Temple was she gone, to move;
With Prayers the blew-ey’d Progeny of Jove
But, more solicitous for him alone,        20
Than all their safety, to the Tow’r was gone,
There to survey the Labours of the Field,
Where the Greeks conquer, and the Trojans yield.
Swiftly she pass’d, with Fear and Fury wild;
The Nurse went lagging after with the Child.        25
  This heard, the Noble Hector made no stay;
Th’ admiring Throng divide, to give him way:
He pass’d through every Street, by which he came,
And at the Gate he met the mournful Dame.
  His Wife beheld him, and with eager pace,        30
Flew to his Arms, to meet a dear Embrace:
His Wife, who brought in Dow’r Cilicia’s Crown,
And in her self a greater Dow’r alone:
Aëtion’s 2 Heyr, who on the Woody Plain
Of Hippoplacus 3 did in Thebe reign.        35
Breathless she flew, with Joy and Passion wild;
The Nurse came lagging after with her 4 Child.
  The Royal Babe upon her Breast was laid;
Who, like the Morning Star, his beams display’d.
Scamandrius was his Name which Hector gave,        40
From that fair Flood which Ilion’s Wall did lave:
But him Astyanax the Trojans call,
From his great Father who defends the Wall.
  Hector beheld him with a silent Smile:
His tender Wife stood weeping by, the while:        45
Prest in her own, his Warlike hand she took,
Then sigh’d, and thus Prophetically spoke.
  Thy dauntless Heart (which I foresee too late,)
Too daring Man, will urge thee to thy Fate:
Nor dost thou pity, with a Parent’s mind,        50
This helpless Orphan whom thou leav’st behind;
Nor me, th’ unhappy Partner of thy Bed;
Who must in Triumph by the Greeks be led:
They seek thy Life; and, in unequal Fight,
With many will oppress thy single Might:        55
Better it were for miserable me
To die, before the Fate which I foresee.
For ah what comfort can the World bequeath
To Hector’s Widow, after Hector’s death?
  Eternal Sorrow and perpetual Tears        60
Began my Youth, and will conclude my Years:
I have no Parents, Friends, nor Brothers left;
By stern Achilles all of Life bereft.
Then when the Walls of Thebes he o’rethrew, 5
His fatal Hand my Royal Father slew;        65
He slew Aëtion, but despoil’d him not;
Nor in his hate the Funeral Rites forgot;
Arm’d as he was he sent him whole below,
And reverenc’d thus the Manes of his Foe:
A Tomb he rais’d; the Mountain Nymphs around        70
Enclos’d with planted Elms the Holy Ground.
  My sev’n brave Brothers in one fatal Day
To Death’s dark Mansions took the mournful way;
Slain by the same Achilles, while they keep
The bellowing Oxen and the bleating Sheep.        75
My Mother, who the Royal Scepter sway’d,
Was Captive to the cruel Victor made,
And hither led; but hence redeem’d with Gold,
Her Native Country did again behold,
And but beheld: for soon Diana’s Dart        80
In an unhappy Chace transfix’d her Heart.
  But thou, my Hector, art thy self alone
My Parents, Brothers, and my Lord in one
O kill not all my Kindred o’re again,
Nor tempt the Dangers of the dusty Plain;        85
But in this Tow’r, for our Defence, remain.
Thy Wife and Son are in thy Ruin lost:
This is a Husband’s and a Father’s Post.
The Scæan Gate commands the Plains below;
Here marshal all thy Souldiers as they go;        90
And hence, with other Hands, repel the Foe.
By yon wild Fig-tree lies their chief ascent,
And thither all their Pow’rs are daily bent;
The two Ajaces have I often seen,
And the wrong’d Husband of the Spartan Queen:        95
With him his greater Brother; and with these
Fierce Diomede and bold Meriones:
Uncertain if by Augury, or chance,
But by this easie rise they all advance;
Guard well that Pass, secure of all beside.        100
To whom the Noble Hector thus reply’d.
  That and the rest are in my daily care;
But, shou’d I shun the Dangers of the War,
With scorn the Trojans wou’d reward my Pains,
And their proud Ladies with their sweeping Trains.        105
The Grecian Swords and Lances I can bear
But loss of Honour is my only Fear.
Shall Hector, born to War, his Birth-right yield,
Belie his Courage, and forsake the Field?
Early in rugged Arms I took delight;        110
And still have been the foremost in the Fight:
With dangers dearly have I bought Renown,
And am the Champion of my Father’s Crown.
And yet my mind forebodes, with sure presage,
That Troy shall perish by the Grecian Rage.        115
The fatal Day draws on, when I must fall;
And Universal Ruine cover all.
Not Troy it self, tho’ built by Hands Divine,
Nor Priam, nor his People, nor his Line,
My Mother, nor my Brothers of Renown,        120
Whose Valour yet defends th’ unhappy Town,
Not these, nor all their Fates which I foresee,
Are half of that concern I have for thee.
I see, I see thee, in that fatal Hour,
Subjected to the Victor’s cruel Pow’r;        125
Led hence a Slave to some insulting Sword,
Forlorn and trembling at a Foreign Lord;
A spectacle in Argos, at the Loom,
Gracing with Trojan Fights a Grecian Room;
Or from deep Wells, the living Stream to take,        130
And on thy weary Shoulders bring it back.
While, groaning under this laborious Life,
They insolently call thee Hector’s Wife;
Upbraid thy Bondage with thy Husband’s name;
And from my Glory propagate thy Shame.        135
This when they say, thy Sorrows will encrease
With anxious thoughts of former Happiness;
That he is dead who cou’d thy wrongs redress.
But I, opprest with Iron Sleep before,
Shall hear thy unavailing Cries no more. He said,        140
Then, holding forth his Arms, he took his Boy,
(The Pledge of Love, and other hope of Troy;
The fearful Infant turn’d his Head away,
And on his Nurse’s Neck reclining lay,
His unknown Father shunning with affright,        145
And looking back on so uncouth a sight;
Daunted to see a Face with Steel o’re-spread,
And his high Plume, that nodded o’re his Head.
His Sire and Mother smil’d with silent Joy;
And Hector hasten’d to relieve his Boy;        150
Dismiss’d his burnish’d Helm, that shone afar,
(The Pride of Warriours, and the Pomp of War:)
Th’ Illustrious Babe, thus reconcil’d, he took:
Hugg’d in his Arms, and kiss’d, and thus he spoke.
  Parent of Gods and Men, propitious Jove,        155
And you bright Synod of the Pow’rs above;
On this my Son your Gracious Gifts bestow;
Grant him to live, and great in Arms to grow,
To reign in Troy, to Govern with Renown,
To shield the People, and assert the Crown:        160
That, when hereafter he from War 6 shall come,
And bring his Trojans Peace and Triumph home,
Some aged Man, who lives this act to see,
And who in former times remember’d me,
May say the Son in Fortitude and Fame        165
Out-goes the Mark; and drowns his Father’s Name:
That at these words his Mother may rejoyce,
And add her Suffrage to the publick Voice.
Thus having said,
He first with suppliant Hands the Gods ador’d:        170
Then to the Mother’s Arms the Child restor’d:
With Tears and Smiles she took her son and press’d
Th’ Illustrious Infant to her fragrant Breast.
He, wiping her fair Eyes, indulg’d her Grief,
And eas’d her Sorrows with this last Relief.        175
  My Wife and Mistress, drive thy fears away,
Nor give so bad an Omen to the Day:
Think not it lies in any Grecian’s Pow’r,
To take my Life before the fatal Hour.
When that arrives, nor good nor bad can fly        180
Th’ irrevocable Doom of Destiny.
Return, and, to divert thy thoughts at home,
There task thy Maids, and exercise the Loom,
Employ’d in Works that Womankind become.
The Toils of War, and Feats of Chivalry        185
Belong to Men, and most of all to me.
At this, for new Replies he did not stay,
But lac’d his Crested Helm, and strode away.
  His lovely Consort to her House return’d,
And looking often back in silence mourn’d:        190
Home when she came, her secret Woe she vents,
And fills the Palace with her loud Laments;
These loud Laments her ecchoing Maids restore,
And Hector, yet alive, as dead deplore.
Note 1. Text from the original of 1693. I do not follow the use of italics in this piece, but, as it seems to be Dryden’s, it is here retained. [back]
Note 2. Aëtion] Saintsbury prints Ætion and by mistake attributes the error to Dryden. [back]
Note 3. Hippoplacus] The form is bad, but even that which is given by the editors, Hypoplacus, is not correct in this place. [back]
Note 4. her] Some editors wrongly give the. [back]
Note 5. o’rethrew] The editors, not noticing that Thebes is here made disyllabic to distinguish it from the Bœotian town, wrongly give overthrew. [back]
Note 6. War] Some editors wrongly give Wars. [back]

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