The Funeral of Sarpedon The Canon
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Heavy affliction has befallen Zeus:
Sarpedon has expired, slain by Patroclus;
and now the Achaeans with Patroclus rush
to seize the body and to disfigure it.
 
But Zeus will nowise suffer this to pass.
The child well-loved of him, he has allowed
to be destroyed, — (the Law had ruled it so), —
but he will honour after death at least.
And lo, he charges Phoebus to descend,
instructed in the ways to save the body.
 
The hero’s corpse — with reverence and sorrow
Phoebus takes up and carries to the river.
He washes out the stains of dust and blood;
stanches the lamentable wounds, nor leaves
least trace thereof; then purifies the body
with fragrances ambrosial and attires it
in robes magnificent, Olympian.
He smooths the face, and with a comb of pearl
combs the luxuriance of sable hair.
The beauteous limbs he settles and lays at peace.
 
The lifeless warrior has the aspect now
of a king-charioteer in lusty youth —
aged five and twenty, say, or twenty-six —
taking his rest when he has won the prize,
with golden chariot and with fleetest horses,
on some occasion of illustrious games. —
 
Whereupon, having in such wise fulfilled
his mission, Phoebus summoned the two brothers
Sleep and Death, bidding them remove the body
to Lycia, the land of affluence.
 
And thither, to the land of affluence,
to Lycia these journeyed — the two brothers
Sleep and Death; and when they were come, at last,
to the high gate of the king’s dwelling-house,
they handed over the perfected body,
and to their other cares and works returned.
 
And as it was received there, at the house,
the doleful obsequies — with long processions,
with full libations out of sacred vessels,
with threnodies and all things meet — began.
And, afterward, skilled workmen from the city,
and artisans renowed for work in stone,
fashioned the funeral mound and built the stela.

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