Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": 'EVEN IN THE HOUSE OF HADES THERE IS LEFT SOMETHING'


(Homer, 'Iliad,' XXIII, 61-81, 99-108)

The ghost of Patroklos appears to Achilleus.

And at that time sleep caught him and was drifted sweetly about him,

washing

the sorrows out of his mind, for his shining limbs were grown weary

indeed, from running in chase of Hektor toward windy Ilion;

and there appeared to him the ghost of unhappy Patroklos

all in his likeness for stature, and the lovely eyes, and voice,

and wore such clothing as Patroklos had worn on his body.

The ghost came and stood over his head and spoke a word to him:

'You sleep, Achilleus; you have forgotten me; but you were not

careless of me when I lived, but only in death. Bury me

as quickly as may be, let me pass through the gates of Hades.

The souls, the images of dead men, hold me at a distance,

and will not let me cross the river and mingle among them,

but I wander as I am by Hades' house of the -wide gates.

And I call upon you in sorrow, give me your hand; no longer

shall I come back from death, once you give me my rite of burning.

No longer shall you and I, alive, sit apart from our other

beloved companions to make our plans, since the bitter destiny

that was given me when I was born has opened its jaws to take me.

And you, Achilleus like the gods, have your own destiny;

to be killed under the wall of the prospering Trojans. . . .

So he spoke, and with his own arms reached for him, but could not

take him, but the spirit went underground, like vapour,

with a thin cry, and Achilleus started awake, staring,

and drove his hands together, and spoke, and his words were sorrowful:

'Oh, wonder! Even in the house of Hades there is left something,

a soul and an image, but there is no real heart of life in it.

For all night long the phantom of unhappy Patroklos

stood over me in lamentation and mourning, and the likeness

to him was wonderful, and it told me each thing I should do.'


Translation by Richmond Lattimore. Homer's Iliad (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951) PP- 136.7

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