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Achilles. Penthesilea

Zbigniew Herbert, translated from the Polish by Joseph Brodsky

When Achilles with his short sword pierced the breast of Penthesilea
and as usual twisted the blade thrice in the wound, he noticed
that the queen of the Amazons was lovely.
He laid her carefully on the sand, took off her heavy helmet, unclasped her hair,
and gently arranged her hands on her bosom. He lacked, however, the courage
to shut her eyes.
He gave her one more, last, farewell look, and, as though suddenly overpowered
by an outer force, cried—the way neither he nor other
heroes of that great war ever cried—in a quiet, mesmeric, dawdling,
aimless voice, ebbing with grief and with
rue, whose cadence was new to the offspring of Thetis. The cry’s lengthy vowels, like
leaves, were falling upon the neck, breasts, knees of Penthesilea,
wrapping the length of her grown-cold body.
She herself was preparing for Eternal Hunts in the fathomless forests.
Her still open eyes stared from afar at the victor
with azure, steady hatred.

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