Now marshall’d all beneath their several chiefs,
With deafening shouts, and with clang of arms,
The host of Troy advanced. Such clang is heard
Along the skies, when from incessant showers
Escaping, and from winter’s cold, the cranes
Take wing, and over Ocean speed away;
Wo to the land of the dwarfs! prepared they fly
For slaughter of the small Pygmaean race.
blood and death to the Pygmy warriors, launching at daybreak
savage battle down upon their heads.
To pygmy nations wounds and death
and they wrangle in the air as they fly; but the Achaeans march silently,
in high heart, and minded to stand by one another.
As when the south wind sheds a mist over the top of a mountain, by no means friendly to the shepherds, but more serviceable even than night to the robber, and one can see (only) so far as he hurls a stone.
Such darkness from the Greeks’ swift feet (made all of dust) did rise.
So wrapt in gathering dust, the Grecian train
A moving cloud, swept on, and hid the plain.
Now front to front the hostile armies stand,
Eager to fight, and only wait command;
When, to the van, before the sons of fame
Whom Troy sent forth, the beauteous Paris came:
Alexandros, wearing a cowl of leopard skin, a bow
hung on his back, a longsword at his hip,
with two spears capped in pointed bronze. He shook them
and called out to the best men of the Argives
to meet him in the melee face to face.
Of all the Greeks, so gloriously saw stalk before the host,
As when a lion is rejoic’d, with hunger forlorn,
as a hungering lion exults
That finds some sweet prey (as a hart, whose grace lies in his horn,
Or sylvan goat) which he devours, though never so pursu’d
With dogs and men: so Sparta’s king exulted when he view’d
The fair-faced Paris so expos’d to his so thirsted wreak –
Whereof his good cause made him sure – the Grecian front did break,
And forth he rush’d at all parts arm’d; leapt from his chariot,
And royally prepar’d for charge.
Alexandrus quailed as he saw Menalaus come forward, and shrank in fear of his life under cover of his men. As one who starts back affrighted, trembling and pale, when he comes suddenly upon a serpent in some mountain glade,
he was smitten in his heart
even so did Alexandrus plunge into the throng of Trojan warriors, terror-stricken at the sight of the son of Atreus.
At one glance
Hector raked his brother with insults, stinging taunts:
Curst Paris! Fair deceiver! Woman-mad!
I would to all in heaven that thou hadst died
Unborn, at least unmated! Happier far
Than here to have incurr’d this public shame!
Well may the Grecians taunt, and laughing loud,
Applaud the champion, slow indeed to fight
And pusillanimous, wondrous fair.
Wast thou as timid, tell me, when those
Thy loved companions in that famed exploit,
Thou didst consort with strangers,
trafficked with outlanders
mingled with foreigners
From distant lands a warrior’s beauteous bride
To be thy father’s and his people’s curse,
Joy to our foes, but to thyself reproach?
Behold her husband! Darest thou not face
The warlike prince? Now learn how brave a Chief
Thou hast defrauded of his blooming spouse.
Thy lyre, Thy locks, thy person, specious gifts
Of partial Venus, will avail thee nought,
Once mixt by Menelaus with the dust.
But we are base ourselves, or long ago,
For all thy numerous mischiefs, thou hadst slept
Secure beneath coverlet of stone.
And Paris, magnificent as a god, replied,
‘Tis just, my brother, what your anger speaks:
But who like thee can boast a soul sedate,
So firmly proof to all the shocks of fate?
Thy force, like steel, a tempered hardness shows,
Still edged to wound, and still untired with blows,
Like steel, uplifted by some strenuous swain,
With falling woods to strew the wasted plain.
You are hard as the axe which a shipwright wields at his work, and cleaves the timber to his liking.
Thy gifts I praise; nor thou despise the charms
With which a lover golden Venus arms;
Soft moving speech, and pleasing outward show,
No wish can gain them, but the gods bestow.
how could we ever choose them for ourselves?
Yet, wouldst thou have proffer’d combat stand,
The Greeks and Trojans seat on either hand;
Then let a mid-way space our hosts divide,
And on that stage of war, the cause be tried:
By Paris there the Spartan king be fought,
For beauteous Helen and the wealth she brought;
And who his rival can in arms subdue,
His be the fair and his be the treasure too.
Thus with a lasting league your toils may cease,
And Troy possess her fertile fields in peace;
Thus may the Greeks review their native shore,
Much famed for generous steeds, for beauty more.
Thus he spoke, But Hector on the other hand rejoiced
greatly, having heard his speech; and having advanced into
the centre, holding his spear by the middle, he restrained the
phalanxes of the Trojans, and they all sat down. Against
him the waving-haired Achaeans were directing their bows,
and taking aim, were going to hurl with shafts and with stones.
But Agamemnon, he, the king of men, exclaimed aloud:
Hold on, Argives! Men, don’t shoot! This means
he has in mind some proclamation,
Hektor, there in the flashing helmet!
He said, at once the Grecians ceased to shoot,
And all sat silent. Hector then began.
Trojans, and hardy Greeks,
Hear now what he that stirr’d these wars for their cessation seeks;
He bids us all, and you, disarm, that he alone may fight
With Menelaus, for us all; for Helen and her right,
With all the dow’r she brought to Troy; and he that wins the day,
Or is in all the art of arms superior any way,
The queen, and all her sorts of wealth, let him at will enjoy;
The rest strike truce, and let love seal firm league twixt Greece and Troy.
He ceased, and all deep silence held, amazed;
When valiant Menelaus thus began.
And now, he said, hear me too, for it is I who am the most aggrieved. I deem that the parting of the Achaeans and Trojans is at hand, as well it may be, seeing how much have suffered for my quarrel with Alexandrus and the wrong he did me. Let him who shall die, die, and let the others fight no more. Bring, then, two lambs, a white ram and a black ewe, for Earth and Sun, and we will bring a third for Jove. Moreover, you shall bid Priam come, that he may swear to the covenant himself; for his sons are high-handed and ill to trust, and the oaths of Jove must not be transgressed or taken in vain. Young men’s minds are light as air, but when an old man comes he looks before and after, deeming that which shall be fairest upon both sides.
Thus he spoke. But both Greeks and Trojans rejoiced,
hoping to have respite from grievous war. And they accordingly
reined back their horses to the ranks, but dismounted themselves, and put off their arms, and laid them down on the ground near each other; and around each pile of arms there was a little space. But Hector despatched two heralds to the city with speed, to bring the lambs, and to call Priam. While on the other hand, king Agamemnon sent Talthybius to go to the hollow ships, and ordered him to bring a lamb. And he did not disobey noble Agamemnon.
Now Iris made her way to inform the Lady Helen,
appearing as her sister-in-law, Laodike,
loveliest of Priam’s daughters and the wife
of Helikaon, a son of Lord Antenor.
She found her weaving in the women’s hall
a double violet stuff, whereon inwoven
were many passages of arms by Trojan
horsemen and Akhaians mailed in bronze –
trials braved for her sake and the wargod’s hands.
Approaching her, swift Iris said:
Approach and view the wondrous scene below!
Each hardy Greek, and valiant Trojan knight,
So dreadful late, and furious for the fight,
Now rest their spears, or lean upon their shields;
Ceased is the war and silent all the fields.
Paris alone and Sparta’s king advance,
In single fight to toss the beamy lance;
Each met in arms, the fate of combat tries,
Thy love the motive, and thy charm the prize.
And with those words
the goddess filled her heart with yearning warm and deep
for her husband long ago, her city and her parents.
Quickly cloaking herself in shimmering linen,
out of her rooms she rushed, live tears welling,
and not alone – two of her women followed close behind,
Aethra, Pittheus’ Daughter, and Clymene, eyes wide,
and they soon reached the looming Sceaen Gates.
The two sages, Ucalegon and Antenor, elders of the people, were
seated by the Scaean gates, with Priam, Panthous, Thymoetes, Lampus, Clytius, and Hitketaon of the race of Mars. These were too old to fight, but they were fluent orators, and sat on the tower like cicadas ¬
cicadae, which, in the woods, sitting on a tree,
send forth a delicate voice; such leaders of the Trojans
at that time, were sitting on the tower. But when they saw
Helen coming to the tower, in low tone they addressed
to each other winged words:
What man can blame The Greeks and Trojans to endure for so admir’d a dame,
So many miseries, and so long? In her sweet countenance shine
Looks like goddesses: and yet (though never so divine)
Before we boast, unjustly still, of her enforced prize,
And justly suffer for her sake, with all our progenies,
Labour and ruin, let her go: the profit of our land
Must pass the beauty.
These were the old men’s voices. But to Helen
Priam called out:
My daughter dear! Come sit beside me.
Thou shalt hence discern
Thy former Lord, thy kindred and thy friends.
I charge no blame to thee. The gods have caused,
Not thou, this lamentable war to Troy.
Name to me yon Achaian Chief for bulk
Conspicuous, and for port. Taller indeed
I may perceive than he; but with these eyes
Saw never yet such dignity, and grace.
Declare his name. Some royal Chief he seems.
But him Helen, one of the divine women, answered in (these)
Before thy presence, father, I appear
With conscious shame and reverential fear.
Ah! had I died, ere to these walls I fled,
False to my country, and my nuptial bed;
My brothers, friends, and daughter left behind,
False to them all, to Paris only kind!
For this I mourn, till grief or dire disease
Shall waste the form whose crime it was to please!
The king of kings, Atrides, you survey,
Great in the war, and great in the arts of sway:
My brother once, before my days of shame!
And oh! that still he bore a brother’s name!
Thus she spoke. But him the old man admired, and said:
Oh blest Atrides, happy was thy birth,
And thy lot glorious, whom this gallant host
So numerous, of the sons of Greece obey!
To vine-famed Phrygia, in my days of youth,
I journey’d; many Phrygians there I saw,
Brave horsemen, and expert; they were the powers
Of Otreus and of Mygdon, godlike Chief,
And on the banks of Sangar’s stream encamp’d.
I march’d among them, chosen in that war
Ally of Phrygia, and it was her day
Of conflict with the man-defying race,
The Amazons; yet multitudes like these
Thy bright-eyed Greeks, I saw not even there.
But next perceiving Ulysses, the old man asked her:
My child, declare Him also. Shorter by the head he seems
Than Agamemnon, Atreus mighty son,
But shoulder’d broader, and of ampler chest;
He hath disposed his armour on the plain,
But like a ram, himself the warrior ranks
Ranges majestic; like a ram full-fleeced
By numerous sheep encompass’d snowy-white.
But him Helen, sprung from Jove, answered:
Whom your discerning eyes
Have singled out, is Ithacus the wise;
A barren island boasts his glorious birth;
His fame for wisdom fills the spacious earth.
Her then the sage Antenor addressed in reply:
Straight to the point, my lady, very true.
Once in the past he came our way, King Odysseus
Heading the embassy they sent for your release,
Together with Menelaus dear to Ares.
I hosted them treated them warmly in my halls
and learned the ways of both, their strategies, their traits.
Now, when they mingled with our Trojans in assembly,
standing side-by-side, Menelaus’ shoulders
mounted over his friend’s in height and spread,
when both were seated Odysseus looked more lordly.
But when they spun their appeals before us all,
Menelaus spoke out quickly – his words racing,
few but clear as a bell, nothing long-winded
or off the mark, though in fact the man was younger.
But when Odysseus sprang up, the famed tactician
would just stand there, staring down, hard,
his eyes fixed on the ground,
never shifting his sceptre back and forth,
clutching it stiff and still like a mindless man.
You’d think him a sullen fellow or just a plain fool.
But when he let loose that great voice from his chest
and the words came piling on like a driving winter blizzard –
then no man alive could rival Odysseus! Odysseus…
we no longer gazed in wonder at his looks.
Then in the third place, having beheld Ajax, the old man asked:
Yon Achaian tall, Whose head and shoulders tower above the rest,
And of such bulk prodigious – who is he?
Ajax the Great (the beauteous queen replied)
Himself a host: the Grecian strength and pride
See! bold Idomeneus superior towers
Amid yon circle of his Cretan powers,
Great as a god! I saw him before
With Menelaus on Spartan shore.
The rest I know, and could in order name;
all valiant chiefs, and men of might fame.
Yet two are wanting of the numerous train,
Whom long my eyes have sought, but sought in vain:
Castor and Pollux, first in martial force,
One bold on foot, and one renown’d for horse.
My brother’s these; the same our native shore,
One house contain’d us, as one mother bore.
Perhaps the chiefs, from warlike toils at ease,
For distant Troy refused to sail the seas;
Perhaps their swords some nobler quarrel draws,
Ashamed to combat in their sister’s cause.
Thus she spoke; but them the life-bestowing earth already
possessed: there in Lacedaemon, in their dear native land.
Meanwhile by lane and wall the criers came
with sacrificial sheep and bearing wine
that warms the heart, gift of the vineyard ground –
a goatskin ponderous with wine.
And one, Idaios, carrying golden goblets and a winebowl
shining, reached the side of the aged king
and called upon him:
Son of Laomedon, the princes of the Trojans and the Achaeans bid you
come down on to the plain and swear to a solemn covenant.
Alexandrus and Menelaus are to fight for Helen in single combat, that she and all her wealth may go with him who is victor. We are to swear to a solemn covenant of peace whereby we others shall dwell here in Troy, while the Achaeans return to Argos and the land of the Achaeans.
He said, and Priam’s aged joint with chilled fear did shake;
Yet instantly he had his men his chariot ready make.
Which soon they did, and he ascends: he takes the reins, and guide
Antenor calls, who instantly mounts to his royal side,
And through the Scaean ports to field, the swift horse they drive.
And when at them of Troy and Greece and the aged lords arrive,
From horse, on Troy’s well-feeding soil, ‘twixt both the hosts they go.
When straight up rose the king of men, up rose Ulysses too;
The heralds in their richest coats repeat (as was the guise)
The true vows of the gods (term’d theirs, since made before their eyes);
Then in a cup of gold they mix the wine that each side brings,
And next pour water on the hands of both the kings of kings.
Which done, Atrides drew his knife, that evermore he put
Within the large sheath of his sword, with which away he cut
The wool from both fronts of the lambs, which (as a rite in use
Of execration to their heads, that brake the plighted truce)
The heralds of both hosts did give the peers of both. And then
With hands and voice advanc’d to heav’n, thus pray’d the king of men:
O Father Zeus!
Power of Ida! Greatest, most glorious!
O Helios, by whom all things are seen,
all overheard! O rivers! O dark earth!
O Powers underground, chastisers of dead men
for breaking solemn oaths! Be witness, all:
preserve this pact we swear to! If in fact
Alexandros should kill Lord Menelaos,
let him keep Helen and keep all the gold,
while we sail home in the long ships.
But if Alexandros be killed, the Trojans
are to surrender Helen and the treasure –
moreover they must pay a tribute, due
the Argives now, renewed to their descendants.
In the event that Priam and his sons
refuse this – though Alexandros be killed –
then I shall stay and fight for my indemnity
until I come upon an end to war.
As he spoke he drew his knife across the throats of the victims,
and laid them down gasping and dying upon the ground, for the
knife had reft them of their strength. Then they poured wine
from the mixing-bowl into the cups, and prayed to the everlasting gods saying,
Zeus – god of greatness, god of glory, all you immortals!
Whichever contenders trample on this treaty first,
spill their brains on the ground as this wine spills –
theirs, their children’s too – their enemies rape their wives!
Thus they prayed, but not as yet would Jove grant them their prayer.
Then Priam, descendant of Dardanus, spoke, saying,
Lords of both hosts, I can no longer stay
To see my lov’d son try his life; and so must take my way
To wind exposed Ilion: Jove yet and heav’n’s high states
Know only, which of these must now pay tribute to the Fates.
So spake the godlike monarch, and disposed
Within the royal chariot all the lambs;
Then, mounting, check’d the reins; Antenor next
Ascended, and to Ilium both return’d.
Prince Hektor and Odysseus together
paced off the duelling ground. Next they took up
two tokens in a bronze helm, shaking it
to see which man would cast his weapon first.
Meanwhile, the soldiers held their hands to heaven,
Trojans and Akhaians, in this prayer:
Ruling over us all from Ida, god of greatness, glory!
Whoever brought this war on both our countries,
let him rot and sink to the House of Death –
but let our pacts of friendship all hold fast!
Then Hector shook the helm that held the equal dooms of chance,
Look’d back, and drew; and Paris first had lot to hurl his lance.
They then sat down in their ranks, where the fleet steeds of each stood, and their varied arms lay.
The beauteous warrior now arrays for fight,
In gilded arms magnificently bright:
The purple cuishes clasp his thighs around,
With flowers adorn’d, with silver buckles bound:
Lycaon’s corslet his fair body dress’d,
Braced in, and fitted, to his softer breast;
A radiant baldric, o’er his shoulder tied,
Sustain’d the sword that glitter’d at his side:
His youthful face a polish’d helm o’erspread;
The waving horse-hair nodded on his head;
His figured shield, a shining orb, he takes,
And in his hand a pointed javelin shakes.
Meanwhile the great soldier,
Menelaus, put on his own equipment.
When they had thus armed, each amid his own people, they strode
fierce of aspect into the open space, and both Trojans and Achaeans
were struck with awe as they beheld them. They stood near one
another on the measured ground, brandishing their spears, and each furious against the other.
Suddenly Paris hurled – his spear’s long shadow flew
and the shaft hit Menelaus’ round shield, full center –
not pounding through, the brazen point bent back
in the tough armor.
Then did the second combatant apply him to his spear;
Where ere he threw, he thus besought almighty Jupiter:
King over all! now grant me to avenge
My wrongs on Alexander; now subdue
The aggressor under me; that men unborn
May shudder at the thought of faith abused,
And hospitality with rape repaid.
He said, and poised in air the javelin sent,
Through Paris’ shield the forceful weapon went,
His corslet pierces, and his garment rends,
and glancing downward, near his flank descends.
The wary Trojan, bending from the blow,
Eludes the death, and disappoints his foe:
But fierce Atrides waived his sword, and strook
Full on his casque; the crested helmet shook;
The brittle steel, unfaithful to his hand,
Broke short; fragments glitter’d on the sand.
The raging warrior to spacious skies
Raised his upbraiding voice, and angry eyes:
O Father Zeus, of all the gods,
none is more cruel to hopeful men than you are!
I thought to make Alexandros
pay for his crime, and what luck have I had?
My spear slipped from my grip in vain: I missed him.
And now my sword is shattered in my hand!
He spoke; and rushing on, he seized him by the horse-hair
tufted helmet, and turning, began to drag him to the
well-greaved Greeks: but the richly embroidered band under
his tender throat was choking him,
but that in time, the Cyprian seed of Jove
Did break the string
so that the empty helmet came away in his hand. This he flung to his comrades among the Achaeans, and was again springing upon Alexandrus to run him through with a spear, but Venus snatched him up in a moment (as a god can do), hid him under a cloud of darkness, and conveyed him to his own bedchamber.
she gently set him down,
And went for Helen, whom she found in Sceaa’s utmost height,
To which whole swarms of city dames had climb’d to see the sight.
To give her errand good success, she took on her the shape
Of beldame Graea, who was brought by Helen in her rape,
From Lacedaemon, and had trust in all her secrets still,
Being old; and had (of all her maids) the main bent of her will;
And spun for her finest wool: like her, loves empress came,
Pull’d Helen by the heavenly veil, and softly said:
Haste happy nymph! for thee thy Paris calls,
Safe from the fight, in yonder lofty walls,
Fair as a god! with odours round him spread
He lies, and waits on thee on the well-known bed;
Not like a warrior parted from the foe,
But some gay dancer in the public show.
So saying, she tumult raised in Helen’s mind.
Yet soon as by her symmetry of neck,
By her love-kindling breasts and luminous eyes
She knew the Goddess, her she thus bespake.
O immortal madness,
why do you have this craving to seduce me?
Am I to be transported even farther
eastward, into some Phrygian walled town
or into Meionie, if you have there
another mortal friend? Is it because
Menelaus has beaten Alexandros
and, hateful though I am, would take me home,
is that why you are here in all your cunning?
Go take your place beside Alexandros!
Leave the bright paths the gods take over heaven
and walk no more about Olympos! Be
unhappy for him, shield him, till at last
he marries you – or, as he will, enslaves you.
I shall not join him there! It would be base
if I should make his bed luxurious now.
There will be such whispering
among the women later –
as though I had not pain enough to bear.
To whom, the foam-sprung Goddess, thus incensed.
Obey the power from whom thy glories rise:
Should Venus leave thee, every charm must fly,
Fade from thy cheek, and languish in thy eye.
Cease to provoke me, lest I make thee more
The world’s aversion, than their love before;
Now the bright prize for which mankind engage,
Then, the sad victim of the public rage.
So she threatened
and Helen the daughter of mighty Zeus was terrified.
Shrouding herself in her glinting silver robes
she went along, in silence. None of her women
saw her go…The goddess led the way.
But when they reached the very beautiful palace of
Alexander, then the maids, on their part, turned themselves
speedily to their tasks; but she, divine of women, ascended
into her lofty-roofed chamber: and then laughter-loving
Venus, carrying, placed a seat for her opposite Alexander:
there, Helen, daughter of aegis-bearing Jove, sat,
averting her eyes, and reproached her husband with these words:
So you are come from the fight, said she, would that you had fallen rather by the hand of that brave man who was my husband. You used to brag that you were a better man with hands and spear than Menelaus. Go then, and challenge him again – but I should advise you not to do so, for if you are foolish enough to meet him in single combat, you will soon fall by his spear.
But Paris replied at once to Helen’s challenge:
Pray thee, woman, cease to chide and grieve me thus:
Disgraces will not ever last; look on their end; on us
Will other gods, at times let fall the victor’s wreath,
As on him Pallas put it now. Shall our love sink beneath
The hate of fortune? In love’s fire let all hates vanish. Come,
Love never so inflam’d my heart; no, not when bringing home
Thy beauty’s so delicious prize, on Cranae’s blest shore
I long’d for, and enjoyed thee first.
He led the way to bed. His wife went with him.
And now, while the two made love in the large carved bed,
Menelaus roamed the ranks like a wild beast –
like a lion
– up and down the lines –
Where could he catch a glimpse of magnificent Paris?
But not a Trojan there,
not one of all the allies, could produce him
for the wargod’s friend, Menelaos – and none
for love would ever hide him if he saw him,
the man being abhorred like death itself.
Amidst them all then spake the
King of men.
Hear me, ye men of troy,
Ye Dardans and the rest, whose pow’rs you in their aids employ,
The conquest on my brother’s part, ye all discern is clear:
Do you then Argive Helena, with all her treasure here,
Restore to us, and pay the mulct that by your vows is due;
Yield us an honour’d recompense, and all that should accrue
To our posterities, confirm; that when you render it,
Our acts may here be memorised.
So spake Atrides, and Achaia’s host
With loud applause confirm’d the monarch’s claim.