Words Crush Wednesday – The Homeric Version

Published June 17, 2015 by Iphis of Scyros

So this week’s Words Crush Wednesday quote is a bit more homoerotic than last week’s, but it’s still mostly just “implying a romantic/sexual side to the relationship.”  From Book XXIII of the Iliad, back to the W.H.D. Rouse translation again.

In sleep came to him the soul of unhappy Patroclos, his very image in stature and wearing clothes like his, with his voice and those lovely eyes.  The vision stood by his head and spoke:

“You sleep, Achilles, and you have forgotten me!  When I lived you were not careless of me, but now that I am dead!  Bury me without delay, that I may pass the gates of Hades.  Those phantoms hold me off, the souls of those whose work is done; they will not suffer me to join them beyond the river, but I wander aimlessly about the broad gates of the house of Hades.  And give me that hand, I pray; for never again shall I come back from Hades when once you have given me my portion of fire.  Never again in life shall we go apart from our companions and take counsel together; but I am swallowed up already by that cruel fate with cot me on the day I was born; and you also have your portion, my magnificent Achilles, to perish before the walls of this great city.  One thing more I say, and I will put it upon you as a charge if you will comply; do not lay my bones apart from yours, Achilles, but with the, as I was brought up with you in your home, when Menoitios brought me quite a little one from Opoeis to your house, for manslaughter, the day when I killed Amphidamas’ son–I did not mean it, we had a silly quarrel over the knuckle-bones.  Then Peleus received me, and brought me up kindly in his house, and named me as your attendant.  Then let one urn cover my bones with yours, that golden two-handled urn which your gracious mother gave you.”

Achilles said in answer:

“Why have you come here, beloved one, with all these charges of this and that?  Of course I will do as you tell me every bit.  But come nearer; for one short moment let us lay our arms about each other and console ourselves with lamentation!”

He stretched out his arms as he spoke, but he could not touch, for the soul was gone like smoke into the earth, twittering.

Okay, that turned out to be a very long quote.  Next week’s will be shorter.

But this passage was one of the ones that made me sit up and start paying really close attention to the differences between how certain phrases get translated.  That “beloved one” in particular:  I’ve seen it as “O my brother” and “dear friend” and a considerable variety of things like that.

In typing in the quote, though, I have to note the awkwardness of placing Patroclos’ childhood memory at this juncture.  The phrasing is somewhat fractured in pretty much every translation, so it must be thus in the Greek as well (considering it’s coming from a dead man, that’s hardly surprising), so it presumably was a tale that the audience hearing the Iliad originally would have already known.  That begs the question of why the poet stuck it here, of all places, but…yeah, I’ll leave that discussion for a later post.

One last thought, though:  I find the idea that they’re so in love they have to have their bones buried in the same urn somehow very romantic.  (If extremely macabre.)



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