Anger be now your song, immortal one,
Sing, O Goddess
Rage – Goddess, sing the rage
Achilles’ baneful wrath – resound, O Goddess
Akhilleus’ anger, doomed and ruinous,
that caused the Akhaians loss on bitter loss
and crowded brave souls into the undergloom,
leaving so many dead men – carrion
for dogs and birds; and the will of Zeus was done.
Begin it when the two men first contending
broke with one another –the Lord Marshal
Agamemnon, Atreus’ son, and Prince Akhilleus.
Declare, O Muse! in what ill-fated hour
Sprung the fierce strife, from what offended power
It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king
and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because
the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses
had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had
brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the
sceptre of Apollo wreathed with a suppliant’s wreath, and he besought
the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their
Ye kings and warriors! may your vows be crown’d
And Troy’s proud walls lie level with the ground.
May Jove restore you, when your toils are o’er,
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore.
But, oh! relieve a wretched parent’s pain,
And give Chryseis to these arms again;
If mercy fail, yet let my presents move,
And dread avenging Phoebus, son of Jove.
Upon this, all the other Greeks shouted assent, that the
priest should be reverenced, and the splendid ransoms accepted;
Respect the priest, accept the shining ransom!
Behave well to the priest. And take the ransom!
yet it was not pleasing in his mind to Agamemnon, son of Atreus; but he dismissed him evilly –
with rude threatenings stern –
and added a harsh mandate :
Dotard! Avoid our fleet
Where ling’ring be not found by me, nor thy returning feet
Let ever visit us again, lest nor thy godhead’s crown
Nor sceptre save thee! Her thou seek’st I still will hold mine own
Till age deflow’r her. In our court at Argos, far transferr’d
From her lov’d country, she shall ply her web, and see prepar’d
With all fit ornaments my bed. Incense me then no more;
But if thou wilt be safe, begone.
The old priest trembled and obey’d.
Forlorn he roamed the ocean’s sounding shore,
And, solitary, with much prayer his King
Bright-hair’d Latona’s son Phoebus, implored.
Hear me, god of the silver bow, who art want to protect
Chrysa and divine Cilla, and who mightily rulest over Tenedos :
O Sminthius, if ever I have roofed thy graceful temple, or if,
moreover, at any time I have burned to thee the fat thighs of
bulls or of goats, accomplish this entreaty for me. Let the Greeks
pay for my tears, by thy arrows.
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down
furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver
upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with rage
that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships
with a face as dark as night ¬–
Like the night –
and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow in the midst of them.
First he smote their mules and their hounds, but presently he aimed his
shafts at the people themselves, and all day long the pyres of the dead
were burning. For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people,
On the tenth, Akhilleus called all the ranks to assembly.
Hera, whose arms are white as ivory, moved him to it,
as she took pity on Danaans dying.
All being mustered, all in place and quiet,
Akhilleus, fast in battle as a lion –
rose and said:
Son of Atreus, now we are beaten back, I fear,
the long campaign is lost. So home we sail…
if we can escape our death – if war and plague
are joining forces now to crush the Argives.
But wait: let us question a holy man,
a prophet, even a man skilled with dreams –
dreams as well come our way from Zeus –
come, someone to tell us why Apollo rages so,
whether he blames us for a vow we failed or a sacrifice.
If only the god would share the smoky savour of lambs
and full-grown goats, Apollo might be willing, still,
somehow, to save us from this plague.
Chalcas the wise, the Grecian priest and guide,
That sacred seer, whose comprehensive view,
The past, the present, and the future knew:
Uprising slow, the venerable sage
Thus spoke the prudence and the fears of age:
Jove’s belov’d, would thy charge see disclos’d
The secret of Apollo’s wrath? Then covenant and take oath
To my discovery – that with words and powerful actions both,
Thy strength will guard the truth in me, because I well conceive
That he whose empire governs all, whom all the Grecians give
Confirm’d obedience, will be mov’d; and then you know the state
Of him that moves him, when a king hath once mark’d for his hate
A man inferior: though that day his wrath seems to digest
Th’ offence he takes, yet evermore he rakes up in his breast
Brands of quick anger, till revenge hath quench’d to his desire
The fire reserved. Tell me, then, if whatsoever ire
Suggests in hurt of me to him, thy valour will prevent?
And Achilles answered,
Out with it now, Calchas. Reveal the will of god,
whatever you may know. And I swear by Apollo
dear to Zeus, the power you pray to, Calchas,
when you reveal god’s will to the Argives – no one,
not while I am alive and see the light on earth, no one
will lay his heavy hands on you by the hollow ships.
None among all the armies, not even if you mean
Agamemnon here who now claims to be, by far,
the best of the Achaeans.
The diviner then took heart and said:
Neither is he enraged on account of a vow [unperformed],
nor of a hecatomb [unoffered], but on account of his priest, whom Agamemnon dishonoured; neither did he liberate his daughter, nor did he receive her ransom. Wherefore has the Far-darter given woes, and still will he give them; nor will he withhold his heavy hands from the pestilence, before that [Agamemnon] restore to her dear father the bright-eyed maid, unpurchased, unransomed, and conduct a sacred hecatomb to Chrysa; then, perhaps, having appeased, we might persuade him.
With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger.
Prophet of mischief! from whose tongue no note
Of grateful sound to me was ever heard;
Ill tidings are thy joy, and tidings glad
Thou tell’st not, or thy words come not to pass.
And now among the Danai thy dreams
Divulging, thou pretend’st the Archer-God
For his priest’s sake, our enemy, because
I scorn’d his offer’d ransom of the maid
Chryseis, more desirous far to bear
Her to my home, for that she charms me more
Than Clytemnestra, my own first espoused,
With whom, in disposition, feature, form,
Accomplishments, she may be well compared.
Yet, being such, I will return her hence
If that she go be best. Perish myself –
But let the people of my charge be saved
Prepare ye, therefore, a reward for me,
And seek it instant. It were much unmeet
That I alone of all the Argive host
Should want due recompense, whose former prize
Is elsewhere destined, as ye all perceive.
To this replied the swift-foot, god-like son
Of Thetis, thus:
Lord Marshal, most insatiate of men,
how can the army make you a new gift?
Where is our store of booty? Can you see it?
Everything plundered from the towns has been
distributed; should troops turn all that in?
Just let the girl go, in the god’s name, now;
we’ll make it up to you, twice over, three
times over, on that day Zeus gives us leave
to plunder Troy behind her rings of stone.
But King Agamemnon countered,
Shall I my prize resign
With tame content, and thou possess’d of thine?
Great as thou art, and like a god in fight,
Think not to rob me of a soldier’s right.
At thy demand shall I restore the maid?
First let the just equivalent be paid ;
Such as a king might ask; and let it be
A treasure worthy her, and worthy me.
Or grant me this, or with a monarch’s claim
This hand shall seize some other captive dame.
The mighty Ajax shall his prize resign;
Ulysses’ spoils, or even thy own, be mine.
The man who suffers, loudly may complain;
And rage he may, but he shall rage in vain.
But this when time requires. – It now remains
We launch a bark to plough the watery plains,
And waft the sacrifice to Chrysa’s shores,
With chosen pilots, and with labouring oars.
Soon shall the fair the sable ship ascend,
And some deputed prince the charge attend:
This Creta’s king, or Ajax shall fulfil,
Or wise Ulysses see performed our will;
Or, if our royal pleasure shall ordain,
Achilles’ self-conduct her o’er the main;
Let fierce Achilles, dreadful in his rage,
The god propitiate, and the pest assuage.
Achilles scowled at him and answered,
Ah! clothed with impudence as with a cloak,
And full of subtlety, who, thinkest thou –
What Grecian here will serve thee, or for thee
Wage covert war, or open? Me thou know’st,
Troy never wronged; I came not to avenge
Harm done to me; no Trojan ever drove
My pastures, steeds or oxen took of mine,
Or plunder’d of their fruits the golden fields
Of Phthia the deep soil’d. She lies remote,
And obstacles are numerous interposed,
Vale-darkening mountains, and the dashing sea.
No, Shameless Wolf! For thy good pleasure’s sake
We came, and, Face of flint! to avenge the wrongs
By Menelaus and thyself sustain’d,
On the offending Trojan – service kind,
But lost on thee, regardless of it all.
And now – what now? Thy threatening is to seize
Thyself, the just requital of my toils,
My prize hard-earn’d, by common suffrage mine.
I never gain, what Trojan town soe’er
We ransack, half thy booty. The swift march
And furious onset – these I largely reap,
But, distribution made, thy lot exceeds
Mine far; while I, with any pittance pleased,
Bear to my ships the little that I win
After long battle, and account it much.
But I am gone, I and my sable barks
(My wiser course) to Phthia, and I judge,
Scorn’d as I am, that thou shalt hardly glean
Without me, more than thou shalt soon consume.
To this the high commander made reply:
Fly, by all means, if thy mind urges thee; nor will I entreat thee
to remain on my account: there are others with me who will honour me, but chiefly the all-wise Jove. For to me thou art the most odious of the Jove-nourished princes, for ever is contention agreeable to thee, and wars and battles. If thou be very bold, why doubtless a deity has given this to thee. Going home with thy ships and thy companions, rule over the Myrmidons; for I do not regard thee, nor care for thee in thy wrath ; but thus I will threaten thee: Since Phoebus Apollo is depriving me of the daughter of Chryses, her indeed I will send, with my own ship, and with my own friends; but I myself, going to thy tent, will lead away the fair-cheeked daughter Brises, thy prize; that thou mayst know how much more powerful I am than thou, and that another may dread to pronounce himself equal to me, and to liken himself openly [to me].
He ended, and the big, disdainful heart
Throbbed of Achilles; racking doubt ensued
And sore perplex’d him, whether forcing wide
A passage through them, and with his blade unsheathed
To lay Atrides breathless at his foot,
Or to command his stormy spirit down.
So doubted he, and undecided yet
Stood drawing forth his falchion huge; when lo!
Down sent by Juno, to whom both alike
Were dear, and who alike watched over both,
Pallas descended. At his back she stood
To none apparent, save himself alone,
And seized his golden locks. Startled, he turned,
And instant knew Minerva. Flashed her eyes
Terrific; whom with accents on the wing
of haste, incontinent he questioned thus.
Why, why now?
Child of Zeus with the shield of thunder, why come now?
To witness the outrage Agamemnon just committed?
I tell you this, and so help me it’s the truth –
he’ll soon pay for his arrogance with his life!
Him in turn the azure-eyed goddess Minerva addressed:
I come from heaven to see
Thine anger settled, if thy soul will use her sovereignty
In fit reflection. I am sent from Juno, whose affects
Stand heartily inclin’d to both: come, give us both respects;
And cease contention: draw no sword; use words, and such as may
Be bitter to his pride, but just; for trust in what I say,
A time shall come, when thrice the worth of that he forceth now,
He shall propose for recompense of these wrongs: therefore throw
Reins on thy passions, and serve us.
I must –
when the two of you hand down commands, Goddess,
a man submits though his heart breaks with fury.
Better for him by far. If a man obeys the gods
they’re quick to hear his prayers.
He said, observant of the blue-eyed maid;
Then in the sheath return’d the shining blade.
The goddess swift to high Olympus flies,
And joins the sacred senate of the skies.
Nor yet the rage his boiling breast forsook,
Which thus redoubling on Atrides broke:
Wine-bibber, he cried, with a face of a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this as you do death itself.
You had rather go round and rob his prizes from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great oath – nay, by this, my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains – for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of heaven – so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the Achaeans.
Thus spoke the son of Peleus; and he cast upon the earth his sceptre studded with golden nails, and sat down. But on the other hand, the son of Atreus was enraged; therefore to them arose the sweet-voiced Nestor, the harmonious orator of the Pylians, from whose tongue flowed language sweeter than honey. During his life two generations of articulately-speaking men had become extinct, who, formerly, were reared and lived with him in divine Pylus, but he was now ruling over the third; who, wisely counselling, addressed them, and said:
O gods! Our Greek earth will be drown’d in just tears; rapeful Troy,
Her king, and all his sons, will make as just a mock, and joy
Of these disjunctions, if of you, that all our host excel
In counsel and in skill of fight, they hear this: come, repel
These young men’s passions; y’are not both, put both your years in one,
So old as I: I liv’d long since, and was companion
With men superior to you both, who yet would ever hear
My counsels with respect. Mine eyes yet never witness were,
Nor ever will be, of such men as then delighted them –
Perithous, Exadius, and god-like Polyphem,
Ceneus, and Dryas prince of men, Aegean Theseus,
A man like heaven’s immortals form’d; all, all most vigorous,
Of all men that even those days bred; most vigorous men and fought
With beasts most vigorous – mountain beasts! – (for men in
strength were nought
Match’d with their forces) – fought with them, and bravely fought them down.
Yet even with these men I convers’d, being call’d to the renown
Of their societies, by their suites, from Pylos far, to fight
In th’ Asian kingdom; and I fought to a degree of might
That help’d even their mights, against such, as no man now would dare
To meet in conflict: yet even these my counsels still would hear,
And with obedience crown my words. Give you such palm to them;
‘Tis better than to wreath your wrath. Atrides, give not stream
To all thy power, nor force his prize; but yield her still his own,
As all men else do. Nor do thou, encounter with thy crown,
Great son of Peleus, since no king that ever Jove allow’d
Grace of sceptre, equals him. Suppose thy nerves endow’d
With strength superior, and thy birth a very goddess gave,
Yet he of force is mightier, since what his own nerves have,
Is amplified with just command of many other. King of men,
Command thou then thyself; and I with my prayers will obtain
Grace of Achilles to subdue his fury: whose parts are
Worth our entreaty, being chief check to all our ill in war.
Lord Agamemnon answered:
Thou has spoken well,
Old Chief, and wisely. But this wrangler here –
Nought will suffice him but the highest place:
He must control us all, reign over all,
Dictate to all; but he shall find at least
One here, disposed to question his commands.
If the eternal Gods have made him brave,
Derives he hence a privilege to rail?
Here on the monarch’s speech, Achilles broke,
Yea, forsooth, I may be called a coward and a man of no worth, if now I yield to thee in everything, whatever thou mayst say. Enjoin these things to other men; for dictate not to me, for I think that I shall no longer obey thee. But another thing will I tell thee, and do thou store it in thy mind: I will not contend with my hands, neither with thee, nor with others, on account of this maid, since ye, the donors, take her away. But of the other effects, which I have at my swift black ship, of those thou shalt not remove one, taking them away, I being unwilling. But if [thou wilt], come, make trial, that these also may know: quickly shall thy black blood flow around my lance.
At this they ceased: the stern debate expired:
The chiefs in sullen majesty retired.
Achilles with Patroclus took his way
Where near his tents his hollow vessels lay.
Meantime Atrides launch’d with numerous oars
A well-rigg’d ship for Chrysa’s sacred shores:
High on the deck was fair Chryseis placed,
And sage Ulysses with the conduct graced:
Safe in her sides the hecatomb they stow’d,
Then swiftly sailing, cut the liquid road.
The host to expiate next the king prepares,
With pure lustrations, and with solemn prayers.
Wash’d by the briny wave, the pious train
Are cleansed; and cast the ablutions in the main.
Along the shore whole hecatombs were laid,
And bulls and goats to Phoebus’ alters paid;
The sable fumes in curling spires arise,
And waft their grateful odours to the skies.
The army thus in sacred rites engaged,
Atrides still with deep resentment raged.
To wait his will two sacred heralds stood,
Talthybius and Eurybates the good.
Haste to Achilles tent; where take Briseis’ hand and bring
Her beauties to us: if he fail to yield her, say your king
Will come himself, with multitudes that shall the horribler
Make both his presence, and your charge, that so he dares defer.
He sent them off
with the strict order ringing in their ears.
Against their will the two men made their way
along the breaking surf of the barren salt sea
and reached the Myrmidon shelters and their ships.
They found him beside his lodge and black hull,
seated grimly – and Achilles took no joy
when he saw the two approaching.
They were afraid, they held the king in awe
and stood there, silent. Not a word to Achilles,
not a question. But he sensed it all in his heart,
their fear, their charge, and broke the silence for them:
Hail, and draw near! I bid you welcome both.
I blame not you; the fault is his alone
Who sends you to conduct the damsel hence
Briseis. Go, Patroclus, generous friend!
Lead forth, and to their guidance give the maid.
But be themselves my witness before
The blessed Gods, before mankind, before
The ruthless king, should want of me be felt
To save the host from havoc – Oh, his thoughts
Are madness all; intelligence or skill,
Forecast or retrospect, how best the camp
May be secured from inroad, none hath he.
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them to the ships of the Achaeans – and the woman was loth to go. Then Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in prayer to his immortal mother,
As my life came from you, though it is brief,
honor at least from Zeus who storms in heaven
I call my due. He gives me precious little.
See how the lord of the great plains, Agamemnon,
humiliated me! He has my prize,
by his own whim, for himself.
Far from the deep recesses of the main,
Where aged Ocean holds his watery reign,
The goddess-mother heard. The waves divide;
And like a mist she rose above the tide;
Beheld him mourning on the naked shores,
And thus the sorrows of his soul explores.
Son, why weepest thou – on account of what has grief come upon thy mind? Declare it, nor hide it in thy soul, that we both may know it.
He, sighing like a storm –
Sighing deep –
You know, you know,
why labor through it all? You know it all so well…
We raided Thebe once, Eetion’s sacred citadel,
we ravaged the place, hauled all the plunder here
and the armies passed it round, share and share alike,
and they chose the beauty Chryseis for Agamemnon.
But soon her father, the holy priest of Apollo
the distant deadly Archer, Chryses approached
the fast trim ships of the Argives armed in bronze
to win his daughter back, bringing a priceless ransom
and bearing high in hand, wound on a golden staff,
the wreaths of the god who strikes from worlds away.
He begged the whole Achaean army but most of all
the two supreme commanders, Atreus’ two sons,
and all ranks of Achaeans cried out their ascent,
‘Respect the priest, accept the shining ransom!’
But it brought no joy to the heart of Agamemnon,
our high and mighty king dismissed the priest
with a brutal order ringing in his ears.
And shattered with anger, the old man withdrew
but Apollo heard his prayer – he loved him, deeply –
he loosed his shaft at the Argives, withering plague,
and now the troops began to drop and die in droves,
the arrows of god went showering left and right,
whipping through the Achaeans’ vast encampment.
But the old seer who knew the cause full well
revealed the will of the archer god Apollo.
And I was the first, mother, I urged them all,
‘Appease the god at once!’ That’s when the fury
gripped the son of Atreus. Agamemnon leapt to his feet
and hurled his threat – his threat’s been driven home.
One girl, Chryseis, the fiery-eyed Achaeans
ferry out in a fast trim ship to Chryse Island,
laden with presents for the god. The other girl,
just now the heralds came and led her away from camp,
Briseus’ daughter, the prize the armies gave me.
But you mother, if you have any power at all,
protect your son! Go to Olympus, plead with Zeus,
if you ever warmed his heart with a word or any action…
Time and again I heard your claims in father’s halls,
boasting how you and you alone of all the immortals
rescued Zeus, the lord of the dark storm cloud,
from ignominious, stark defeat…
That day the Olympians tried to chain him down,
Hera, Poseidon lord of the sea, and Pallas Athena –
you rushed to Zeus, dear Goddess, broke those chains,
quickly ordered the hundred-hander to steep Olympus,
that monster whom all the immortals call Briareus
but every mortal calls the Sea-god’s son, Aegaeon,
though he’s stronger than his father. Down he sat,
flanking Cronus’ son, gargantuan in the glory of it all,
and the blessed gods were struck with terror then,
they stopped shackling Zeus.
Remind him of that,
now, go and sit beside him, grasp his knees…
persuade him, somehow, to help the Trojan cause,
to pin the Achaeans back against their ships,
trap them round the bay and mow them down.
So all can reap the benefits of their king –
so even mighty Atrides can see how mad he was
to disgrace Achilles, the best of the Achaeans!
Her answer she poured out in tears:
Born as thou wast to sorrow, ah, my son!
Why have I rear’d thee! Would that without tears,
Or cause for tears (transient as is thy life,
A little span) thy days might pass at Troy!
But short and sorrowful the fates ordain
Thy life, peculiar trouble must be thine,
Whom, therefore, oh that I had never borne!
But seeking the Olympian hill snow-crown’d,
I will myself plead for thee in the ear
Of Jove, the Thunderer. Meantime at thy fleet
Abiding, let thy wrath against the Greeks
Still burn, and altogether cease from war.
For to the banks of the Oceanus,
Where AEthiopia holds a feast to Jove,
He journey’d yesterday, with whom the Gods
Went also, and the twelfth day brings them home.
Then will I to his brazen-floor’d abode,
That I may clasp his knees, and much misdeem
Of my endeavor, or my prayer shall speed.
On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been taken from him.
Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb. When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid
them in the ship’s hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the mast into place, and rowed the ship to the place where they would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and made fast their hawsers. Then they got out upon the sea-shore and landed the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses led her to the alter to deliver her into the hands of her father.
Hail, reverend priest! to Phoebus’ awful dome
A suppliant I from great Atrides come:
Unransom’d, here receive the spotless fair;
Accept the hecatomb the Greeks prepare;
And may thy god who scatters darts around,
Atoned by sacrifice, desist to wound.
So he delivered her, and the priest received her,
the child so dear to him, in joy. Then hastening
to give the god his hecatomb, they led
bullocks to crowd around the compact alter,
rinsed their hands and delved in barley baskets,
as open-armed to heaven Khryses prayed:
Hear me, O thou of the silver bow, who art wont to protect Chrysa and divine Cilla, and who mightily rulest over Tenedos! already indeed at a former time didst thou hear my praying, and didst honour me, and didst very much afflict the people of the Greeks, now also accomplish for me this further request: even now avert from the Greeks this unseemly pestilence.
He pray’d; and to his pray’rs again the god propitious stood.
All, after pray’r, cast on salt cakes; drew back, kill’d, flay’d the beeves;
Cut out and dubb’d with fat their thighs, fair dress’d with double leaves;
And on them all the sweetbreads prick’d. The priest, with small sere wood
Did sacrifice, pour’d on red wine; by whom the young men stood,
And turn’d, in five ranks, spits; on which (the legs enough) they eat
The inwards; then in giggots cut the other fit for meat,
And put to fire; which roasted well they drew: the labour done,
They serv’d the feast in that fed all to satisfaction.
boys crown’d the beakers high
With wine delicious, and from right to left
Distributing the cups, served every guest.
Thenceforth the youths of the Achaian race
To song propitiatory gave the day,
Paeans to Phoebus, Archer of the skies,
Chaunting melodious. Pleased, Apollo heard.
But, when, the sun descending, darkness fell,
They on the beach beside their hawsers slept;
And, when the day-spring’s daughter rosy-palm’d
Aurora look’d abroad, then back they steer’d
To the vast camp. Fair wind, and blowing fresh,
Apollo sent them; quick they rear’d the mast,
Then spread the unsullied canvas to the gale,
And the wind filled it. Roared the sable flood
Around the bark, that ever as she went
Dash’d wide the brine, and scudded swift away.
Thus reaching soon the spacious camp of Greece,
Their galley they updrew sheer o’er the sands
From the rude surge remote, then propp’d her sides
With scantlings long, and sought their several tents.
But he raged on, grimly camped by his fast fleet,
the royal son of Peleus, the swift runner Achilles.
Now he no longer haunted the meeting grounds
where men win glory, now he no longer went to war
but day after day ground his heart out, waiting there,
yearning, always yearning for battle cries and combat.
Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge here son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and besought him saying –
O father Jove, if ever I have aided thee among the immortals, either in word or deed, accomplish for me this desire: honour my son, who is the most short-lived of others; for now indeed Agamemnon, the king of men, has disgraced him; for he possesses his prize, he himself having borne it away. Do thou at least, Olympian Jove all counselling, honour him: and so long grant victory to the Trojans, until the Greeks shall reverence my son, and shall advance him in honour.
Thus Thetis spoke; but Jove in silence held
The sacred counsels of his breast conceal’d.
Not so repulsed, the goddess closer press’d,
Still grasp’d his knees, and urged the dear request.
Give your infallible word, and bow your head,
or else reject me. Can you be afraid
to let me see how low in your esteem
I am of all the gods?
At this Jove was much troubled and answered,
Hard task and full of strife
Thou hast enjoined me; Juno will not spare
For gibe of taunt injurious, whose complaint
Sounds daily in the ears of all the Gods,
That I assist the Trojans; but depart,
Lest she observe thee; my concern shall be
How best I may perform thy full desire.
And to assure thee more, I give the sign
Indubitable, which all fear expels
At once from heavenly minds. Nought, so confirmed,
May, after, be reversed or render’d vain.
He spoke, and awful bends his sable brows,
Shakes his ambrosial curls, and gives the nod,
The stamp of fate, and sanction of the god:
High heaven with trembling the dread signal took,
And all Olympus to the centre shook.
Swift to the seas profound the goddess flies,
Jove to his starry mansion in the skies.
The shining synod of the immortals wait
The coming god, and from their thrones of state
Arising silent, wrapt in holy fear,
Before the majesty of heaven appear.
Trembling they stand, while Jove assumes the throne,
All but the god’s imperious queen alone:
Late had she view’d the silver-footed dame,
And all her passions kindled into flame.
Who is it this time, schemer? Who has your ear?
How fond you are of secret plans, of taking
decisions privately! You could not bring yourself,
could you, to favour me with any word
of your new plot?
To her speech thus replied
The father both of men and gods:
Hera – stop hoping to fathom all my thoughts.
You will find them a trial, though you are my wife.
Whatever is right for you to hear, no one, trust me,
will know if it before you, neither god nor man.
Whatever I choose to plan apart from all the gods –
no more of your everlasting questions, probe and pry no more.
She with the cow’s fair eyes,
Respected Juno, this return’d:
Most dread son of Saturn, what a word hast thou spoken?
Heretofore have I ever questioned thee much, nor pryed [into thy secrets]; but thou mayst very quietly deliberate on those things which thou desirest. But at present I greatly fear in my soul, lest silver-footed Thetis, the daughter of the marine old man, may have influenced thee: to her I suspect thou didst plainly promise that thou wouldst honour Achilles, and destroy many at the ships of the Greeks.
Wife, said Jove, I can do nothing but you suspect me and find it out.
You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid you for if once I begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven were on your side it would profit you nothing.
The thunderer spoke, nor durst the queen reply;
A reverent horror silenced all the sky.
The feast disturb’d, with sorrow Vulcan saw
His mother menaced, and the gods in awe;
Peace at his heart, and pleasure his design,
Thus interposed the architect divine.
Ah, what a miserable day, if you two
raise your voices over mortal creatures!
More than enough already! Must you bring
your noisy bickering among the gods?
What pleasure can we take in a fine dinner
when baser matters gain the upper hand?
To Mother my advice is – what she knows –
better make up to Father, or he’ll start
his thundering and shake our feast to bits.
You know how he can shock us if he cares to ¬¬–
out of our seats with lightening bolts!
Supreme power is his. Oh, soothe him, please,
take a soft tone, get back in his good graces.
Then he’ll be benign to us again.
Pleading, springing up with a two-handled cup,
he reached it toward his loving mother’s hands
with his own winning words:
My mother, be advised, and, though aggrieved,
Yet patient; lest I see thee whom I love
So dear, with stripes chastised before my face,
Willing, but impotent to give thee aid.
Who can resist the Thunderer? Me, when once
I flew to save thee, by the foot he seized
And hurl’d me through the portal of the skies.
From morn to eve I fell, a summer’s day,
And dropped, at last, in Lemnos. There half-dead
The Sintians found me, and with succor prompt
and hospitable, entertained me fallen.
This did to laughter cheer
White-wristed Juno, who now took the cup of him, and smil’d.
The sweet peace-making draught went round, and lame Ephaistus fil’d
Nectar to all the gods. A laughter never left,
Shook all the blessed deities, to see the lame so deft
At that cup service. All that day even till the sun went down,
They banqueted; and had such cheer as did their wishes crown.
Nor had they music less divine: Apollo there did touch
His most sweet harp; to which with voice, the Muses pleas’d as much.
But when the splendid light of the sun was sunk, they retired to repose, each one to his home, where renowned Vulcan, lame of both legs, with cunning skill had built a house for each. But the Olympian thunderer Jove went to his couch, where he lay before, when sweet sleep came upon him. There, having ascended, he lay down to rest, and beside him golden-throned Juno.