The Horses of Achilles The Canon
When they perceived Patroclus had been killed,
who was so brave, and strong withal and young,
the horses of Achilles stood, and hung
their heads and wept: indignant sorrow filled
the imperishable nature that was theirs,
at the perception of this deed of death.
They tossed the abundant mane, they stamped the ground
with hoof impatient, and bewailed the fate
that changed Patroclus, knowing he would be found
disfigured in the dust — inanimate —
mere flesh now without spirit, valueless —
incapable of resistance — without breath —
lost to them for all time: gone unawares,
from life gone back to the great Nothingness.
Zeus saw the tears of the immortal steeds
and saddened. “At the nuptials,” reasoned he,
“of Peleus, inconsiderate must we needs
have been to part with you, o horses mine
unfortunate! What business there below
with miserable humanity that is
ever the plaything of the Destinies,
had you! You, who are spared the infirmity
of old age, — you, whom death does not await,
at transient calamities repine.
In the perplexing tangle of their woe,
men have involved you.” — But disconsolate
the two beasts noble-born let their tears fall
for death the wretchedness perpetual.

Translated by John Cavafy

(Poems by C. P. Cavafy. Translated, from the Greek, by J. C. Cavafy. Ikaros, 2003)

- Original Greek Poem

- Translation by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard