Perhaps you may of Priam's fate inquire.
He--when he saw his regal town on fire,
His ruin'd palace, and his ent'ring foes,
On ev'ry side inevitable woes--
In arms disused invests his limbs, decay'd,
Like them, with age; a late and useless aid.
His feeble shoulders scarce the weight sustain:
Loaded, not arm'd, he creeps along with pain,
Despairing of success, ambitious to be slain!
Uncover'd but by heav'n, there stood in view
An altar: near the hearth a laurel grew,
Dodder'd with age, whose boughs encompass round
The household gods, and shade the holy ground.
Here Hecuba, with all her helpless train
Of dames, for shelter sought, but sought in vain.
Driven like a flock of doves along the sky,
Their images they hug, and to their altars fly.
The queen, when she beheld her trembling lord,
And hanging by his side a heavy sword,
'What rage,' she cried, 'has seized my husband's mind?
What arms are these, and to what use design'd?
These times want other aids. Were Hector here,
Ev'n Hector now in vain, like Priam, would appear.
With us, one common shelter thou shalt find,
Or in one common fate with us be join'd.'
She said, and with a last salute embraced
The poor old man, and by the laurel placed.
Behold! Polites, one of Priam's sons,
Pursued by Pyrrhus, there for safety runs.
Through swords and foes, amazed and hurt, he flies
Through 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 parents' 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 used 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 carcase 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 through 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 through the wound,
And sanguine streams distain'd the sacred ground.
Thus Priam fell, and shared one common fate
With Troy in ashes, and his ruin'd state--
He, who the sceptre 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.