The death of Priam

Behold! Polites, one of Priam’s sons,
Pursued by Pyrrhus, there for safety runs.
Thro’ swords and foes, amaz’d and hurt, he flies
Thro’ empty courts and open galleries.
Him Pyrrhus, urging with his lance, pursues,
And often reaches, and his thrusts renews.
The youth, transfix’d, with lamentable cries,
Expires before his wretched parent’s eyes:
Whom gasping at his feet when Priam saw,
The fear of death gave place to nature’s law;
And, shaking more with anger than with age,
‘The gods,’ said he, ‘requite thy brutal rage!
As sure they will, barbarian, sure they must,
If there be gods in heav’n, and gods be just,
Who tak’st in wrongs an insolent delight;
With a son’s death T’ infect a father’s sight.
Not he, whom thou and lying fame conspire
To call thee his—not he, thy vaunted sire,
Thus us’d my wretched age: the gods he fear’d,
The laws of nature and of nations heard.
He cheer’d my sorrows, and, for sums of gold,
The bloodless carcass of my Hector sold;
Pitied the woes a parent underwent,
And sent me back in safety from his tent.’

This said, his feeble hand a javelin threw,
Which, flutt’ring, seem’d to loiter as it flew:
Just, and but barely, to the mark it held,
And faintly tinkled on the brazen shield.

Then Pyrrhus thus: ‘Go thou from me to fate,
And to my father my foul deeds relate.
Now die!’ With that he dragg’d the trembling sire,
Slidd’ring thro’ clotter’d blood and holy mire,
(The mingled paste his murder’d son had made,)
Haul’d from beneath the violated shade,
And on the sacred pile the royal victim laid.
His right hand held his bloody falchion bare,
His left he twisted in his hoary hair;
Then, with a speeding thrust, his heart he found:
The lukewarm blood came rushing thro’ the wound,
And sanguine streams distain’d the sacred ground.
Thus Priam fell, and shar’d one common fate
With Troy in ashes, and his ruin’d state:
He, who the scepter of all Asia sway’d,
Whom monarchs like domestic slaves obey’d.
On the bleak shore now lies th’ abandon’d king,
A headless carcass, and a nameless thing.

—P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneid (II, 526-558), translated by John Dryden

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