translation by Jonathan Shoulta

Will you, my Hector, forever go away
to where with unmatched hands Achilles makes
Patroclus bloody off’rings?
____________________Who will teach
your little one with strength to throw the spear,
or how to honor the gods, if what I fear
occurs and Orcus devours you?

Dear wife, enough of tears, for go I must,
for love of you I burn with battle-lust
my arms sustain Pergamus.
____________________If now I fall,
I’ll fall in the Trojan gods’ and your defense
as a pious hero, then make my descent
to grim, to Stygian Dis.

I’ll never hear the clash of your weapons again,
unused, your iron will rust in the halls of men,
and Priam’s line will die.
__________________You’ll go to where
no sun, no day e’er shines his golden face,
to where the Cocytus slithers through the waste,
your love will die in the Lethe.

Though all my hopes and all my thoughts will sink,
from the gentle flow of the Lethe, my love won’t drink,
no, my love won’t drink.
__________________Listen! The Greeks
are blustering at Ilium’s walls. Now gird my sword,
hold back your tears, and listen to my word;
My love won’t die in the Lethe.


Original German

Hektor und Andromache

Will sich Hektor ewig von mir wenden,
Wo Achill mit den unnahbarn Händen
Dem Patroklus schrecklich Opfer bringt?
Wer wird künftig deinen Kleinen lehren
Speere werfen und die Götter ehren,
Wenn der finstre Orkus dich verschlingt?

Teures Weib, gebiete deinen Tränen,
Nach der Feldschlacht ist mein feurig Sehnen,
Diese Arme schützen Pergamus.
Kämpfend für den heilgen Herd der Götter
Fall ich, und des Vaterlandes Retter
Steig ich nieder zu dem stygschen Fluß.

Nimmer lausch ich deiner Waffen Schalle,
Müßig liegt dein Eisen in der Halle,
Priams großer Heldenstamm verdirbt.
Du wirst hingehn, wo kein Tag mehr scheinet,
Der Cocytus durch die Wüsten weinet,
Deine Liebe in dem Lethe stirbt.

All mein Sehnen will ich, all mein Denken
In des Lethe stillen Strom versenken,
Aber meine Liebe nicht.
Horch! der Wilde tobt schon an den Mauern,
Gürte mir das Schwert um, laß das Trauern,
Hektors Liebe stirbt im Lethe nicht.



Jonathan Shoulta teaches Latin and literature at a classical school in the Tidewater area of Virginia. He has been published in the Civilized Reader column of Crisis Magazine and by the Society of Classical Poets.


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4 Responses

  1. Joseph S. Salemi

    A very apt rendering of Schiller’s dialogue. One question: in line 3, is “bloody” a good translation of “schrecklich”? The German word is very strong, and might better be rendered as “dreadful” or “horrid.” They both would fit the meter.

    • J. Shoulta

      You’re right that “bloody” is a loose translation to say the least. In English, though, “dreadful” is (or was) used so often for things that really don’t inspire dread; the word has lost the force it ought to have (and so with “awful”). Because of that common usage (or mis-usage), I thought “bloody” better preserved the “dread” in the poem than “dreadful”. Nowadays “horrid” is a bit stilted, so I didn’t want to use that, either.

  2. C.B. Anderson

    Love of country and love of family have been put to the test, today as it was back then. I know little of Schiller other than the poem I was asked to translate and memorize back in high school, which begins:

    Er stand auf seines Daches Zinnen

    German genitives were a bitch, but I am happy now to see and be able to understand something more of the writer who stood next to Goethe in the annals of German romanticism. Herr Steene did his best to try to educate us small-town American louts.


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