فصل 32

کتاب: افسانه آکیلیس ( آشیل) / فصل 32

فصل 32

توضیح مختصر

  • زمان مطالعه 11 دقیقه
  • سطح خیلی سخت

دانلود اپلیکیشن «زیبوک»

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متن انگلیسی فصل

Chapter Thirty-Two

IN THE DEEPEST REACHES OF NIGHT, WHEN EVEN THE WILD dogs drowse and the owls are quiet, an old man comes to our tent. He is filthy, his clothing torn, his hair smeared with ashes and dirt. His robes are wet from swimming the river. Yet his eyes, when he speaks, are clear. “I have come for my son,” he says.

The king of Troy moves across the room to kneel at Achilles’ feet. He bows his white head. “Will you hear a father’s prayer, mighty Prince of Phthia, Best of the Greeks?” Achilles stares down at the man’s shoulders as if in a trance. They are trembling with age, stooped with the burdens of grief. This man bore fifty sons and has lost all but a handful.

“I will hear you,” he says.

“The blessings of the gods upon your kindness,” Priam says. His hands are cool on Achilles’ burning skin. “I have come far this night in hope.” A shudder, involuntary, passes through him; the night’s chill and the wet clothes. “I am sorry to appear so meanly before you.” The words seem to wake Achilles a little. “Do not kneel,” he says. “Let me bring you food and drink.” He offers his hand, and helps the old king to his feet. He gives him a dry cloak and the soft cushions that Phoinix likes best, and pours wine. Beside Priam’s furrowed skin and slow steps he seems suddenly very young.

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Priam says. His accent is strong, and he speaks slowly, but his Greek is good. “I have heard you are a noble man, and it is on your nobility that I throw myself. We are enemies, yet you have never been known as cruel. I beg you to return my son’s body for burial, so his soul does not wander lost.” As he speaks, he is careful not to let himself look at the shadow facedown in the corner.

Achilles is staring into the cupped darkness of his hands. “You show courage to come here alone,” he says. “How did you get into the camp?”

“I was guided by the grace of the gods.”

Achilles looks up at him. “How did you know I would not kill you?”

“I did not know,” says Priam.

There is silence. The food and wine sit before them, but neither eats, nor drinks. I can see Achilles’ ribs through his tunic.

Priam’s eyes find the other body, mine, lying on the bed. He hesitates a moment. “That is—your friend?”

“Philtatos,” Achilles says, sharply. Most beloved.“Best of men, and slaughtered by your son.”

“I am sorry for your loss,” Priam says. “And sorry that it was my son who took him from you. Yet I beg you to have mercy. In grief, men must help each other, though they are enemies.” “What if I will not?” His words have gone stiff.

“Then you will not.”

There is silence a moment. “I could kill you still,” Achilles says.


“I know.” The king’s voice is quiet, unafraid. “But it is worth my life, if there is a chance my son’s soul may be at rest.”

Achilles’ eyes fill; he looks away so the old man will not see.

Priam’s voice is gentle. “It is right to seek peace for the dead. You and I both know there is no peace for those who live after.”

“No,” Achilles whispers.

Nothing moves in the tent; time does not seem to pass. Then Achilles stands. “It is close to dawn, and I do not want you to be in danger as you travel home. I will have my servants prepare your son’s body.” WHEN THEY ARE GONE, he slumps next to me, his face against my belly. My skin grows slippery under the steady fall of his tears.

The next day he carries me to the pyre. Briseis and the Myrmidons watch as he places me on the wood and strikes the flint. The flames surround me, and I feel myself slipping further from life, thinning to only the faintest shiver in the air. I yearn for the darkness and silence of the underworld, where I can rest.

He collects my ashes himself, though this is a woman’s duty. He puts them in a golden urn, the finest in our camp, and turns to the watching Greeks.

“When I am dead, I charge you to mingle our ashes and bury us together.”

HECTOR AND SARPEDON are dead, but other heroes come to take their place. Anatolia is rich with allies and those making common cause against invaders. First is Memnon, the son of rosy-fingered dawn, king of Aethiopia. A large man, dark and crowned, striding forward with an army of soldiers as dark as he, a burnished black. He stands, grinning expectantly. He has come for one man, and one man alone.

That man comes to meet him armed with only a spear. His breastplate is carelessly buckled, his once-bright hair hangs lank and unwashed. Memnon laughs. This will be easy. When he crumples, folded around a long ashen shaft, the smile is shaken from his face. Wearily, Achilles retrieves his spear.

Next come the horsewomen, breasts exposed, their skin glistening like oiled wood. Their hair is bound back, their arms are full of spears and bristling arrows. Curved shields hang from their saddles, crescent-shaped, as if coined from the moon. At their front is a single figure on a chestnut horse, hair loose, Anatolian eyes dark and curving and fierce—chips of stone that move restlessly over the army before her. Penthesilea.

She wears a cape, and it is this that undoes her—that allows her to be pulled, limbs light and poised as a cat, from her horse. She tumbles with easy grace, and one of her hands flashes for the spear tied to her saddle. She crouches in the dirt, bracing it. A face looms over her, grim, darkened, dulled. It wears no armor at all anymore, exposing all its skin to points and punctures. It is turned now, in hope, in wistfulness, towards her.

She stabs, and Achilles’ body dodges the deadly point, impossibly lithe, endlessly agile. Always, its muscles betray it, seeking life instead of the peace that spears bring. She thrusts again, and he leaps over the point, drawn up like a frog, body light and loose. He makes a sound of grief. He had hoped, because she has killed so many. Because from her horse she seemed so like him, so quick and graceful, so relentless. But she is not. A single thrust crushes her to the ground, leaves her chest torn up like a field beneath the plow. Her women scream in anger, in grief, at his retreating, bowed, shoulders.

Last of all is a young boy, Troilus. They have kept him behind the wall as their security—the youngest son of Priam, the one they want to survive. It is his brother’s death that has pulled him from the walls. He is brave and foolish and will not listen. I see him wrenching from the restraining hands of his older brothers, and leaping into his chariot. He flies headlong, like a loosed greyhound, seeking vengeance.

The spear-butt catches against his chest, just starting to widen with manhood. He falls, still holding the reins, and the frightened horses bolt, dragging him behind. His trailing spear-tip clicks against the stones, writing in the dust with its bronze fingernail.

At last he frees himself and stands, his legs, his back, scraped and crusted. He faces the older man who looms in front of him, the shadow that haunts the battlefield, the grisly face that wearily kills man after man. I see that he does not stand a chance, his bright eyes, his bravely lifted chin. The point catches the soft bulb of his throat, and liquid spills like ink, its color bled away by the dusk around me. The boy falls.

WITHIN THE WALLS OF TROY, a bow is strung quickly by rushing hands. An arrow is selected, and princely feet hurry up stairs to a tower that tilts over a battlefield of dead and dying. Where a god is waiting.

It is easy for Paris to find his target. The man moves slowly, like a lion grown wounded and sick, but his gold hair is unmistakable. Paris nocks his arrow.

“Where do I aim? I heard he was invulnerable. Except for—”

“He is a man,” Apollo says. “Not a god. Shoot him and he will die.”

Paris aims. The god touches his finger to the arrow’s fletching. Then he breathes, a puff of air—as if to send dandelions flying, to push toy boats over water. And the arrow flies, straight and silent, in a curving, downward arc towards Achilles’ back.

Achilles hears the faint hum of its passage a second before it strikes. He turns his head a little, as if to watch it come. He closes his eyes and feels its point push through his skin, parting thick muscle, worming its way past the interlacing fingers of his ribs. There, at last, is his heart. Blood spills between shoulder blades, dark and slick as oil. Achilles smiles as his face strikes the earth.

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