The Song of Achilles Quotes
I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.
In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.
We were like gods at the dawning of the world, & our joy was so bright we could see nothing else but the other.
I have done it," she says. At first I do not understand. But then I see the tomb, and the marks she has made on the stone. A C H I L L E S, it reads. And beside it, P A T R O C L U S. "Go," she says. "He waits for you." In the darkness, two shadows, reaching through the hopeless, heavy dusk. Their hands meet, and light spills in a flood like a hundred golden urns pouring out of the sun.
Chiron had said once that nations were the most foolish of mortal inventions. "No man is worth more than another, wherever he is from.
Odysseus inclines his head. "True. But fame is a strange thing. Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another." He spread his broad hands. "We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?" He smiles. "Perhaps one day even I will be famous. Perhaps more famous than you.
He is worth more to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else’s friend and brother. So which life is more important?.
And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone. Do you think?.
There was more to say, but for once we did not say it. There would be other times for speaking, tonight and tomorrow and all the days after that. He let go of my hand.
I stopped watching for ridicule, the scorpion's tail hidden in his words. He said what he meant; he was puzzled if you did not. Some people might have mistaken this for simplicity. But is it not a sort of genius to cut always to the heart?.
I conjure the boy I knew. Achilles, grinning as the figs blur in his hands. His green eyes laughing into mine. Catch, he says. Achilles, outlined against the sky, hanging from a branch over the river. The thick warmth of his sleepy breath against my ear. If you have to go, I will go with you. My fears forgotten in the golden harbor of his arms. The memories come, and come. She listens, staring into the grain of the stone. We are all there, goddess and mortal and the boy who was both.
It is right to seek peace for the dead. You and I both know there is no peace for those who live after.
Name one hero who was happy." "You can't." He was sitting up now, leaning forward. "I can't." "I know. They never let you be famous AND happy." He lifted an eyebrow. "I'll tell you a secret." "Tell me." I loved it when he was like this. "I'm going to be the first." He took my palm and held it to his. "Swear it." "Why me?" "Because you're the reason. Swear it." "I swear it.
It was almost like fear, in the way it filled me, rising in my chest. It was almost like tears, in how swiftly it came. But it was neither of those, buoyant where they were heavy, bright were they dull.
I would still be with you. But I could sleep outside, so it would not be so obvious. I do not need to attend your councils. I—' 'No. The Phthians will not care. And the others can talk all they like. I will still be Aristos Achaion.' Best of the Greeks. 'Your honor could be darkened by it." 'Then it is darkened.' His jaw shot forward, stubborn. 'They are fools if they let my glory rise or fall on this.
Achilles' eyes were bright in the firelight, his face drawn sharply by the flickering shadows. I would know it in dark or disguise, I told myself. I would know it even in madness.
What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another. We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory… We are men only, a brief flare of the torch.
I saw then how I had changed. I did not mind anymore that I lost when we raced and I lost when we swam out to the rocks and I lost when we tossed spears or skipped stones. For who can be ashamed to lose to such beauty? It was enough to watch him win, to see the soles of his feet flashing as they kicked up sand, or the rise and fall of his shoulders as he pulled through the salt. It was enough.
The sorrow was so large it threatened to tear through my skin. When he died, all things swift and beautiful and bright would be buried with him.
She wants you to be a god," I told him. "I know." His face twisted with embarrassment, and in spite of itself my heart lightened. It was such a boyish response. And so human. Parents, everywhere.
As for the goddess’s answer, I did not care. I would have no need of her. I did not plan to live after he was gone.
He looked different in sleep, beautiful but cold as moonlight. I found myself wishing he would wake so that I might watch the life return.
He is more worth to you, perhaps. But the stranger is someone else's friend and brother. So which life is more important?.
I almost did not come, because I did not want to leave it." He smiled. "Now I know how to make you follow me everywhere." The sun sank below Pelion's ridges, and we were happy.
Those seconds, half seconds, that the line of our gaze connected, were the only moment in my day that I felt anything at all.
When he speaks at last, his voice is weary, and defeated. He doesn’t know how to be angry with me, either. We are like damp wood that won’t light.
I lay back and tried not to think of the minutes passing. Just yesterday we had a wealth of them. Now each was a drop of heartsblood lost.
Later, Achilles pressed close for a final, drowsy whisper. 'If you have to go, you know I will go with you.' We slept.
The rosy gleam of his lip, the fevered gleam of his eyes. There was not a line anywhere on his face, nothing creased or graying; all crisp. He was spring, golden and bright. Envious death would drink his blood, and grow young again.
He collects my ashes himself, though this is a women's duty. He puts them in a golden urn, the finest in our camp, and turns to the watching Greeks. 'When I am dead, I charged you to mingle our ashes and bury us together.
He knew, but it was not enough. The sorrow was so large it threatened to tear through my skin. When he died, all things swift and beautiful and bright would be buried with him.
The greater the monument, the greater the man. The stone the Greeks quarry for his grave is huge and white, stretching up to the sky. A C H I L L E S, it reads. It will stand for him, and speak to all who pass: he lived and died, and lives again in memory.
Perhaps he simply assumed: a bitterness of habit, of boy after boy trained for music and medicine, and unleashed for murder.
And as we swam, or played, or talked, a feeling would come. It was almost like fear, in the way it filled me, rising in my chest. It was almost like tears, in how swiftly it came. But it was neither of those, buoyant where they were heavy, bright where they were dull.
This is how I think of us, when I remember our nights at Troy: Achilles and I beside each other, Phoinix smiling and Automedon stuttering through the punch lines of jokes, and Briseis with her secret eyes and quick, spilling laughter.
Perhaps such things pass for virtue among the gods. But how is there glory in taking life? We die so easily. Would you make him another Pyrrhus? Let the stories of him be something more.
They leaned towards him, like flowers to the sun, drinking in his luster. It was as Odysseus had said: he had light enough to make heroes of them all.
I know, now, how I would answer Chiron. I would say: there is no answer. Whichever you choose, you are wrong.
Her mouth was a gash of red, like the torn-open stomach of a sacrifice, bloody and oracular. Behind it her teeth shone sharp and white as bone.
The flames surround me, and I feel myself slipping further from life, thinning to only the faintest shiver in the air. I yearn for the darkness and silence of the underworld, where I can rest.
His fingers touched the strings and all my thoughts were displaced. The sound was pure and sweet as water, bright as lemons. It was like no music I had ever heard before. It had warmth as a fire does, a texture and weight like polished ivory. It buoyed and soothed at once.
The never-ending ache of love and sorrow. Perhaps in some other life I could have refused, could have torn my hair and screamed, and made him face his choice alone. But not in this one. He would sail to Troy and I would follow, even into death.
I began to suprise Achilles, calling out to these men as we walked through the camp. I was always gratified at how they would raise a hand in return, point to a scar that had healed over well. After they were gone, Achilles would shake his head. 'I don't know how you remember them all. I swear they look the same to me.' I would laugh and point them out again. 'That's Sthenelus, Diomedes' charioteer. And that's Podarces, whose brother was the first to die, remember?' 'There are too many of them,' he said. 'It's simpler if they just remember me.