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Achilles, great as you are,
Don’t be vengeful. They are dying out there,
All of our best— or who used to be our best—
They’ve all been hit and are lying
Wounded in camp. Diomedes is out,
And Odysseus, a good man with a spear,
Even Agamemnon has taken a hit.
Eurypylus, too, an arrow in his thigh.
The medics are working on the right now,
Stitching up their wounds. But you are incurable,
Achilles. God forbid I ever feel the spite
You nurse in your heart. You and your damned
Honor! What good will it do future generations
If you let us go down to this defeat
In cold blood? Peleus was never your father
Or Thetis your mother. No, the grey sea spat you out
Onto crags in the surf, with an icy scab for a soul.

What is it? If some secret your mother
Has learned from Zeus is holding you back,
At least send me out, let me lead a troop
Of Myrmidons and light the way for our army.
And let me wear your armor. If the Trojans think
I am you, they’ll back off and give the Greeks
Some breathing space, what little there is in war.
Our rested men will turn them with a shout.
And push them back from our ships to Troy.

That was how Patroclus, like a child
Begging for a toy, begged for death.
— from Book 16 of The Iliad, translated by Stanley Lombardo

Photo, “Clearwater Memorial Day, 2010″ by Amber Tides; courtesy of the artist.

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