I have reached the end of my journey with Mitchell’s translation of Homer. After the sweeping drama of the last few chapters the final two books end in a rather anticlimactic way for me but my guess is that this is what Homer intended.
Some final thoughts:
The reader can feel despair still heavy with the Achaeans, yet read of the slight uplift as they celebrate after the funeral of Patroclus. Achilles completes his duty in awarding prizes to the victors of the funeral games but Homer instills a sense of defeat and dejection that will only be relieved for Achilles by his own death.
His realization that the gods will not allow him the final desecration of the body of Hector makes his final scenes all the more disheartening. Behind that though is the fact that the gods have delivered these mortals into the hands of fate long ago and while they all display typical human emotion there is a sense of resolve behind every action. They know what’s coming and have no control. Rather than fear death they embrace it as an end to the turmoil they face on earth. For so many in this epic, death was a welcome visitor and a release. I like that. I like that after living a good and noble life they could accept what came next.
I also like that for the sake of the mortals who mourned Hector his body was returned in a whole and complete state to the community of Troy. Achilles softens slightly by calling a truce for the city to mourn his death and accomplish the funerary rites. Was Homer trying to tell us that this truce, this cooling off, was also a time for Achilles to prepare, to move beyond his grief and make peace with whatever he needed as he reconciled his own life and ultimate death?
It is hard to leave the text as Homer ends this story. One wants it to go on, to come to fruition here and now, although we know that this is but a mere glimpse into a small window showcasing the lives of heroic men and women.
Mitchell noted in his introduction this specific aspect of the poem as it is written. Time stands still, Troy continues to stand, there is no more death, even though we know differently.
*My thanks to trophos, our leader in this journey. I look forward to her final comments also.