So watch'd the Trojan host; but thoughts of flight,
Companions of chill fear, from heaven infused,
Possess'd the Grecians; every leader's heart
Bled, pierced with anguish insupportable.
As when two adverse winds blowing from Thrace,
the north wind and the west wind
the north and south,
Boreas and Zephyrus, the fishy Deep
Vex sudden, all around, the sable flood
High curl'd, flings forth the salt weed on the shore
Such tempest rent the mind of every Greek.
The son of Atreus in dismay
wounded to the heart with great sorrow
bade the heralds call the people to a council man by man, but not to cry the matter aloud; he made haste also himself to call them, and they sat sorry at heart in their assembly. Agamemnon shed tears as it were a running stream or cataract on the side of some sheer cliff
like a dark spring running down
some desolate rock face,
and thus, with many a heavy sigh he spoke to the Achaeans.
O friends, leaders and chieftains over the Greeks, Jove, the son of Saturn, has greatly entangled me in a grievous calamity: cruel, who once promised me, and assented, that I should return, having destroyed well-built Ilium. But now has he plotted an evil fraud, and orders me to return inglorious to Argos, after I have lost much people. Thus, doubtless, will it be agreeable to almighty Jove, who has already overthrown the heights of many cities, and will still overthrow them, for his power is greatest. But come, let us all obey as I advise: let us fly with the ships to our dear fatherland, for now we shall not take wide-wayed Troy.
Silence held them all, struck dumb by his orders.
A long while they said nothing, spirits dashed.
Finally Diomedes lord of the war cry broke forth:
Atrides, I am first must cross thy indiscreet advice,
As may become me, being a king, in this our martial court.
Be not displeas’d then, for thyself didst broadly misreport
In open field my fortitude, and call’d me faint and weak;
Yet I was silent, knowing the time, loath any rites to break
That appertain’d thy public rule; yet all the Greeks knew well
(Of every age) thou didst me wrong. As thou then didst refel
My valour first of all the host, as of a man dismay’d,
So now, with fit occasion giv’n, I first blame thee – afraid.
Inconstant Saturn’s son hath giv’n inconstant spirits to thee,
And with a scepter over all, an eminent degree.
But with a sceptre’s sovereign grace, the chief pow’r, fortitude,
To bridle thee, he thought not best thy breast should be endu’d.
Unhappy king, think’st thou the Greeks are such a silly sort,
And so excessive impotent, as thy weak words import?
If thy mind move thee to be gone, the way is open; go:
Mycenian ships enow ride near, that brought thee to this woe.
The rest of Greece will stay, nor stir till Troy be overcome,
With full eversion; or if not, but – doter’s of their home –
Will put on wings to fly with thee, myself and Sthenelus
Will fight, till (trusting favouring Jove) we bring home Troy with us.
He ceased; the Greeks loud acclamations raise,
And voice to voice resounds Tydides' praise.
Wise Nestor then his reverend figure rear'd;
He spoke: the host in still attention heard:
Son of Tydeus, formidable
above the rest in war, in council, too,
you have more weight than others of your age.
No one will cry down what you say, no true
Akhaian will, or contradict you. Still,
you did not push on to the end.
I know you are young; in years you might well be
my last-born son, and yet for all of that
you kept your head and said what needed saying
before the Argive captains. My own part,
as I am older, is to drive it home.
No one will show contempt for what I say,
surely not Agamemnon, our commander.
Alien to clan and custom and hearth fire
is he who longs for war – heartbreaking war –
with his own people.
Let us yield to darkness
and make our evening meal. But let the sentries
take their rest on watch outside the rampart
near the moat; those are my orders for them.
Afterward, you direct us, Agamemnon,
by right of royal power. Provide a feast
for older men, your counselors. That is duty
and no difficulty: your huts are full of wine
brought over daily in our ships from Thrace
across the wide sea, and all provender
for guests is yours, as you are high commander.
Your counselors being met, pay heed to him
who counsels best. The army of Akhaia
bitterly needs a well-found plan of action.
The enemy is upon us, near the ships,
burning his thousand fires. What Akhaian
could be highhearted in that glare? This night
will see the army saved or brought to ruin.
He spake, whom all with full consent approved.
Forth rush'd the guard well-arm'd; first went the son
Of Nestor, Thrasymedes, valiant Chief;
Then, sons of Mars, Ascalaphus advanced,
And brave Iaelmenus; whom follow'd next
Deipyrus, Aphareus, Meriones,
And Lycomedes, Creon's son renown'd.
Seven were the leaders of the guard, and each
A hundred spearmen headed, young and bold.
Between the wall and trench their seat they chose,
There kindled fires, and each his food prepared.
The king of men, on public counsels bent,
Convened the princes in his ample tent,
Each seized a portion of the kingly feast,
But stay'd his hand when thirst and hunger ceased.
Then Nestor spoke, for wisdom long approved,
And slowly rising, thus the council moved.
Most glorious Atrides, king of men, Agamemnon, with thee shall I end, and with thee shall I commence. Since thou art a king of many nations, and Jove hath placed in thine hands both a scepter and laws, that thou mayest consult for their advantage. Therefore is it necessary that thou in particular shouldst deliver and hear an opinion, and also accomplish that of another, when his mind urges any one to speak for the [public] good; but on thee will depend whatever takes the lead. Yet will I speak as appears to me to be best. For no other person will propound a better opinion than that which I meditate, both of old and also now, from that period when thou, O nobly born, didst depart, carrying off the maid Briseis from the tent of the enraged Achilles; by no means according to my judgment; for I very strenuously dissuaded thee from it: but having yielded to thy haughty temper, thou didst dishonor the bravest hero, whom even the immortals have honored; for, taking away his reward, thou still retainest it. Yet even now let us deliberate how we may succeed in persuading him, appeasing him with agreeable gifts and soothing words.
To whom the king,
That's no lie, old man – a full account you give
of all my acts of madness. Mad, blind I was!
Not even I would deny it.
Why look, that man is worth an entire army,
the fighter Zeus holds dear with all his heart –
how he exalts him now and mauls Achaea's forces!
But since I was blinded, lost in my own inhuman rage,
now, at last, I am bent on setting things to rights:
I'll give a priceless ransom paid for friendship. Here,
before you all, I'll name in full the splendid gifts I offer.
Seven tripods never touched by fire, ten bars of gold,
twenty burnished cauldrons, a dozen massive stallions,
racers who earned me trophies with their speed.
He is no poor man who owns what they have won,
not strapped for goods with all that lovely gold –
what trophies those high-strung horses carried off for me!
Seven women I'll give him, flawless, skilled in crafts,
women of Lesbos – the ones I chose, my privilege,
that day he captured the Lesbos citadel himself:
they outclassed the tribes of women in their beauty.
These I will give. And along with them will go
the one I took away at first, Briseus' daughter.
and I will swear a solemn, binding oath in the bargain:
I never mounted her bed, never once made love with her –
the natural thing for mankind, men and women joined.
Now all these gifts will be handed him at once.
But if, later, the gods allow us to plunder
the great city of Priam, let him enter in
when we share the spoils, load the holds of his ship
with gold and bronze – as much as his heart desires –
and choose for his pleasure twenty Trojan women
second only to Argive Helen in their glory.
And then, if we can journey home to Achaean Argos,
pride of the breasting earth, he'll be my son-by-marriage!
I will even honor him on a par with my Orestes,
full-grown by now, reared in the lap of luxury.
Three daughters are mine in my well-built halls –
Chrysothemis and Laodice and Iphianassa –
and he may lead away whichever one he likes,
with no bride-price asked, home to Peleus' house.
And I will add a dowry, yes, a magnificent treasure
the likes of which no man has ever offered with his daughter!
Seven citadels I will give him, filled with people,
Cardamyle, Enope, and the grassy slopes of Hire,
Pherae the sacrosanct, Anthea deep in meadows,
rolling Aepea and Pedasus green with vineyards.
All face the sea at the far edge of sandy Pylos
and the men who live within them, rich in sheep-flocks,
rich in shambling cattle, will honor him like a god
with hoards of gifts and beneath his scepter's sway
live out his laws in sleek and shining peace. All this –
I would extend to him if he will end his anger.
Let him submit to me! Only the god of death
is so relentless, Death submits to no one –
so mortals hate him most of all the gods.
Let him bow down to me!
let him yield to me
I am the greater king,
I am the elder-born, I claim – the greater man.
Then Nestor answered,
Great Agamemnon! glorious king of men!
Such are thy offers as a prince may take,
And such as fits a generous king to make.
Let chosen delegates this hour be sent
(Myself will name them) to Pelides' tent.
Let Phoenix lead, revered for hoary age,
Great Ajax next, and Ithacus the sage.
Yet more to sanctify the word you send,
Let Hodius and Eurybates attend.
Now pray to Jove to grant what Greece demands;
Pray in deep silence, and with purest hands.
All lik’d his speech, and on their hands the herald’s water shed:
The youths crown’d cups of sacred wine to all distributed.
But having sacrific’d and drunk to every man’s content
(With many notes by Nestor given), the legates forward went.
With courtship in fit gestures us’d he did prepare them well,
But most Ulysses, for his grace did not so much excel.
Such rites beseem ambassadors; and Nestor urged these,
That their most honours might reflect enrag’d Aeacides.
They went along the shore,
the tumbling clamorous whispering sea,
and pray’d the god that earth doth bind
In brackish chains,
the girdler of the islands
they might not fail, but bow his mighty mind.
Amid the ships and huts of the Myrmidons
they found him, taking joy in a sweet harp
of rich and delicate make – the crossbar set
to hold the strings being silver. He had won it
when he destroyed the city of Eetion,
and plucking it he took his joy: he sang
old tales of heroes, while across the room
alone and silent sat Patraklos, waiting
until Akhilleus should be done with song.
Phoinix had come in unremarked, but when
the two new visitors, Odysseus leading,
entered and stood before him, then Akhilleus
rose in wonderment, and left his chair,
his harp still in his hand. So did Patraklos
rise at sight of the two men. Akhilleus
made both welcome with a gesture, saying:
Welcome! Look, dear friends have come our way –
I must be sorely needed now – my dearest friends
in all the Achaean armies, even in my anger.
So saying, he introduced them, and on seats
Placed them with purple arras overspread,
Then thus bespake Patroclus standing nigh.
Son of Menoetius, set a larger bowl upon the table, mix less water with the wine, and give every man his cup, for these are very dear friends, who are now under my roof.
Thus he spoke; and Patroclus obeyed his dear companion. But he [Achilles] placed in the flame of the fire a large dressing-block, and upon it he laid the chine of a sheep and of a fat goat, with the back of a fatted sow, abounding in fat. Automedon then held them for him, and noble Achilles cut them up; and divided them skillfully into small pieces, and transfixed them with spits; while the son of Menœtius, a godlike hero, kindled a large fire. But when the fire had burned away, and the flame grew languid, strewing the embers, he extended the spits over them, and sprinkled them with sacred salt, raising them up from the racks. But when he had dressed them, and had thrown them upon kitchen tables, Patroclus, taking bread, served it out upon the board in beautiful baskets: but Achilles distributed the flesh. But he himself sat opposite to noble Ulysses, against the other wall, and ordered Patroclus, his companion, to sacrifice to the gods; and he accordingly cast the first morsels into the fire. And they stretched forth their hands to the prepared viands which lay before them. But when they had dismissed the desire of eating and drinking, Ajax nodded to Phœnix, but noble Ulysses observed it, and having filled his goblet with wine, he pledged Achilles:
Health to Achilles! happy are thy guests!
Not those more honour'd whom Atrides feasts:
Though generous plenty crown thy loaded boards,
That, Agamemnon's regal tent affords;
But greater cares sit heavy on our souls,
Nor eased by banquets or by flowing bowls.
What scenes of slaughter in yon fields appear!
The dead we mourn, and for the living fear;
Greece on the brink of fate all doubtful stands,
And owns no help but from thy saving hands:
Troy and her aids for ready vengeance call;
Their threatening tents already shade our wall:
Hear how with shouts their conquest they proclaim,
And point at every ship their vengeful flame!
For them the father of the gods declares,
Theirs are his omens, and his thunder theirs.
See, full of Jove, avenging Hector rise!
See! heaven and earth the raging chief defies;
What fury in his breast, what lightning in his eyes!
He waits but for the morn, to sink in flame
The ships, the Greeks, and all the Grecian name.
Heavens! how my country's woes distract my mind,
Lest Fate accomplish all his rage design'd!
And must we, gods! our heads inglorious lay
In Trojan dust, and this the fatal day?
Return, Achilles: oh return, though late,
To save thy Greeks, and stop the course of Fate;
If in that heart or grief or courage lies,
Rise to redeem; ah, yet to conquer, rise!
The day may come, when, all our warriors slain,
That heart shall melt, that courage rise in vain:
Regard in time, O prince divinely brave!
Those wholesome counsels which thy father gave.
When Peleus in his aged arms embraced
His parting son, these accents were his last:
Now as to fighting power, child, he said,
if Hera and Athena wish, they'll give it.
Control your passion, though, and your proud heart,
for gentle courtesy is a better thing.
Break off insidious quarrels, and young and old,
the Argives will respect you for it more.
My son, Minerva and Juno will bestow valor, if they choose; but restrain thy great-hearted soul within thy breast, because humanity is better; and abstain from injurious contention, that both the youth and elders of the Greeks may honor thee the more.
My son, he said, the victory let Jove and Pallas use
At their high pleasures, but do thou no honour’d means refuse
That may advance her; in fit bounds contain thy mighty mind,
Nor let knowledge of thy strength be factiously inclin’d,
Contriving mischiefs; be to fame and general good profess’d:
The more will sorts honour thee; benignity is best.
This now-despised advice thy father gave;
Ah! check thy anger; and be truly brave.
If thou wilt yield to great Atrides' prayers,
Gifts worthy thee his royal hand prepares;
If not—but hear me, while I number o'er
The proffer'd presents, an exhaustless store.
Ten weighty talents of the purest gold,
And twice ten vases of refulgent mould;
Seven sacred tripods, whose unsullied frame
Yet knows no office, nor has felt the flame;
Twelve steeds unmatched in fleetness and in force,
And still victorious in the dusty course;
(Rich were the man, whose ample stores exceed
The prizes purchased by their winged speed;)
Seven lovely captives of the Lesbian line,
Skill'd in each art, unmatch'd in form divine,
The same he chose for more than vulgar charms,
When Lesbos sank beneath thy conquering arms.
All these, to buy thy friendship shall be paid,
And, join'd with these, the long-contested maid;
With all her charms, Briseis he'll resign,
And solemn swear those charms were only thine;
Untouch'd she stay'd, uninjured she removes,
Pure from his arms, and guiltless of his loves.
These instant shall be thine; and if the powers
Give to our arms proud Ilion's hostile towers,
Then shalt thou store (when Greece the spoil divides)
With gold and brass thy loaded navy's sides.
Besides, full twenty nymphs of Trojan race
With copious love shall crown thy warm embrace;
Such as thyself shall chose; who yield to none,
Or yield to Helen's heavenly charms alone.
Yet hear me further: when our wars are o'er,
If safe we land on Argos' fruitful shore,
There shalt thou live his son, his honour share,
And with Orestes' self divide his care.
Yet more – three daughters in his court are bred,
And each well worthy of a royal bed:
Laodice and Iphigenia fair,
And bright Chrysothemis with golden hair:
Her shalt thou wed whom most thy eyes approve;
He asks no presents, no reward for love:
Himself will give the dower; so vast a store
As never father gave a child before.
Seven ample cities shall confess thy sway,
The Enope and Pherae thee obey,
Cardamyle with ample turrets crown'd,
And sacred Pedasus, for vines renown'd:
Æpea fair, the pastures Hira yields,
And rich Antheia with her flowery fields;
The whole extent to Pylos' sandy plain,
Along the verdant margin of the main.
There heifers graze, and labouring oxen toil;
Bold are the men, and generous is the soil.
There shalt thou reign, with power and justice crown'd,
And rule the tributary realms around.
Such are the proffers which this day we bring,
Such the repentance of a suppliant king.
But if all this, relentless, thou disdain,
If honour and if interest plead in vain,
Yet some redress to suppliant Greece afford,
And be, amongst her guardian gods, adored.
If no regard thy suffering country claim,
Hear thy own glory, and the voice of fame:
For now that chief, whose unresisted ire
Made nations tremble, and whole hosts retire,
Proud Hector, now, the unequal fight demands,
And only triumphs to deserve thy hands.
The famous runner Achilles rose to his challenge:
Laertes' noble son, for wiles renown'd!
I must with plainness speak my fixt resolve
Unalterable; lest I hear from each
The same long murmur'd melancholy tale.
Him do I hate even as the gates of hell who says one thing while he hides another in his heart; therefore I will say what I mean. I will be appeased neither by Agamemnon son of Atreus nor by any other of the Danaans, for I see that I have no thanks for all my fighting. He that fights fares no better than he that does not; coward and hero are held in equal honour, and death deals like measure to him who works and him who is idle.
What least thing have I
to show for it, for harsh days undergone
and my life gambled, all these years of war?
A bird will give her fledglings every scrap
she comes by, and go hungry, foraging.
That is the case with me.
Many a sleepless night I've spent afield
and many a day in bloodshed, hand to hand
in battle for the wives of other men.
In sea raids I plundered a dozen towns,
eleven in expeditions overland
through Trojan country, and the treasure taken
out of them all, great heaps of handsome things,
I carried back each time to Agamemnon.
He sat tight on the beachhead, and shared out
a little treasure; most of it he kept.
He gave prizes of war to his officers;
the rest have theirs, not I; from me alone
of all Akhaians, he pre-empted her.
He holds my bride, dear to my heart. Aye, let him
sleep with her and enjoy her!
It is enough; for what cause else do Greeks and Trojans fight?
Why brought he hither such an host? Was it not for a dame?
For fair-hair’d Helen? And doth love alone the hearts inflame
Of the Atrides to their wives, of all the men that move?
Every discreet and honest mind cares for his private love,
As much as they, as I myself love’d Brisis as my life,
Although my captive, and had will to take her for my wife.
Whom since he forc’d, preventing me, in vain he shall prolong
Hopes to appease me, that know well the deepness of my wrong.
let him rack his brains with you and the other captains
how to fight the raging fire off the ships. Look –
what a mighty piece of work he's done without me!
Why, he's erected a rampart, driven a trench around it,
broad, enormous, and planted stakes to guard it. No use!
He still can't block the power of man-killing Hector!
No, though as long as I fought on Achaea's lines
Hector had little lust to charge beyond his walls,
never ventured beyond the Scaean Gates and oak tree.
There he stood up to me alone one day –
and barely escaped my onslaught.
But, since I feel myself not now inclined
To fight with noble Hector, yielding first
To Jove due worship, and to all the Gods,
To-morrow will I launch, and give my ships
Their lading. Look thou forth at early dawn,
And, if such spectacle delight thee aught,
Thou shalt behold me cleaving with my prows
The waves of Hellespont, and all my crews
Of lusty rowers active in their task.
So shall I reach (if Ocean's mighty God
Prosper my passage) Phthia the deep-soil'd
On the third day. I have possessions there,
Which hither roaming in an evil hour
I left abundant. I shall also hence
Convey much treasure, gold and burnish'd brass,
And glittering steel, and women passing fair
My portion of the spoils.
But the reward which he gave, king Agamemnon, the son of Atreus, hath himself insultingly taken from me: to whom do thou tell all things as I charge thee, openly, that the other Greeks also may be indignant, if he, ever clad in impudence, still hope to deceive any of the Greeks; nor let him dare, dog-like as he is, to look in my face. I will neither join in counsels nor in any action with him; for he hath already deceived and offended me, nor shall he again overreach me with words. It is enough for him [to do so once]: but in quiet let him perish, for provident Jove hath deprived him of reason. Hateful to me are his gifts, and himself I value not a hair. Not if he were to give me ten and twenty times as many gifts as he now has, and if others were to be added from any other quarter; nor as many as arrive at Orchomenos, or Egyptian Thebes, where numerous possessions are laid up in the mansions, and where are one hundred gates, from each of which rush out two hundred men with horses and chariots. Nor if he were to give me as many as are the sands and dust, not even thus shall Agamemnon now persuade my mind, until he indemnify me for all his mind-grieving insult.
I will not marry his daughter; she may be fair as Venus, and skillful as Minerva, but I will have none of her: let another take her, who may be a good match for her and who rules a larger kingdom. If the gods spare me to return home, Peleus will find me a wife; there are Achaean women in Hellas and Phthia, daughters of kings that have cities under them; of these I can take whom I will and marry her. Many a time was I minded when at home in Phthia to woo and wed a woman who would make me a suitable wife, and to enjoy the riches of my old father Peleus. My life is more to me than all the wealth of Ilius while it was yet at peace before the Achaeans went there, or than all the treasure that lies on the stone floor of Apollo’s temple beneath the cliffs of Pytho.
Cattle and sheep are to be had for harrying, and a man buy both tripods and horses if he wants them, but when his life has once left him it can neither be bought nor harried back again.
My mother, Thetis of the silvery feet,
tells me of two possible destinies
carrying me toward death: two ways:
if on the one hand I remain to fight
around Troy town, I lose all hope of home
but gain unfading glory; on the other,
if I sail back to my own land my glory
fails – but a long life lies ahead for me.
To all the rest of you I say: 'Sail home:
you will not now see Ilion's last hour,'
for Zeus who views the wide world held his sheltering
hand over that city, and her troops
have taken heart.
This tell the king in every part, for so grave legates should,
That they may better counsels use, to save their fleet and friends
By their own valours, since this course drown’d in my anger, ends.
Phoenix may in my tent repose, and in the morn steer course
For Phthia, if he thinks it good; if not, I’ll use no force.
The son of Peleus ceased: the chiefs around
In silence wrapt, in consternation drown'd,
Attend the stern reply. Then Phoenix rose;
(Down his white beard a stream of sorrow flows;)
And while the fate of suffering Greece he mourn'd,
With accent weak these tender words return'd.
Noble Achilles, if you are now minded to return, and in the fierceness of your anger will do nothing to save the ships from burning, how, my son, can I remain here without you? Your father Peleus bade me go with you when he sent you as a mere lad from Phthia to Agamemnon. You knew nothing neither of war nor of the arts whereby men make their mark in council, and he sent me with you to train you in all excellence of speech and action. Therefore, my son, I will not stay here without you – no, not though heaven itself vouchsafe to strip my years from off me, and make me young as I was when I first left Hellas the land of fair women. I was then flying the anger of father Amyntor, son of Ormenus, who was furious with me in the matter of his concubine, of whom he was enamoured to the wronging of his wife my mother. My mother, therefore, prayed me without ceasing to lie with the woman myself, that so she hate my father, and in the course of time I yielded. But my father soon came to know, and cursed me bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness. He prayed that no son of mine might ever sit upon knees – and the gods, Jove of the world below and awful Proserpine, fulfilled his curse. I took counsel to kill him, but some god stayed my rashness and bade me think on men’s evil tongues and how I should be branded as the murderer of my father: nevertheless I could not bear to stay in my father’s house with him so bitter against me. My cousins and clansmen came about me, and pressed me sorely to remain; many a sheep and many an ox did they slaughter, and many a fat hog did they set down to roast before the fire; many a jar, too, did they broach of my father’s wine. Nine whole nights did they set a guard over me taking it in turns to watch, and they kept a fire always burning, both in the cloister of the outer court and in the inner court at the doors of the room wherein I lay; but when the darkness of the tenth night came, I broke through the closed doors of my room, and climbed the wall of the outer court after passing quickly and unperceived through the men on guard and the women servants. I then fled through Hellas till I came to fertile Phthia, mother of sheep, and to King Peleus, who made me welcome and treated me as a father treats an only son who will be heir to all his wealth. He made me rich and set me over much people, establishing me on the borders of Phthia where I was chief ruler over the Dolopians.
It was I, Achilles, who had the making of you; I loved you with all my heart: for you would eat neither at home nor when you had gone out elsewhere, till I had first set you upon my knees, cut up the dainty morsel that you were to eat, and held the wine-cup to your lips.
Many a time have you slobbered your wine in baby helplessness over my shirt; I had infinite trouble with you, but I knew that heaven had vouchsafed me no offspring of my own, and I made a son of you, Achilles, that in my hour of need you might protect me.
Now, therefore, I say battle with your pride and beat it; cherish not your anger for ever; the might and majesty of heaven are more than ours, but even heaven may be appeased; and if a man has sinned he prays the gods, and reconciles them to himself by his piteous cries and by frankincense, with drink-offerings and the savour of burnt sacrifice. For prayers are as daughters to great Jove; halt, wrinkled, with eyes askance, they follow in the footsteps of sin, who, being fierce and fleet of foot, leaves them far behind him, and ever baneful to mankind outstrips them even to the ends of the world; but nevertheless the prayers come hobbling and healing after. If a man has pity upon these daughters of Jove when they draw near him, they will bless him and hear him too when he is praying; but if he deny them and will not listen to them, they go to Jove the son of Saturn and pray that he may presently fall into sin – to his ruing bitterly hereafter. Therefore, Achilles, give these daughters of Jove due reverence, and bow before them as all good men will bow. Were not the son of Atreus offering you gifts and promising others later – if he were still furious and implacable – I am not he that would bid you throw off your anger and help the Achaeans, no matter how great their need; but he is giving much now, and more hereafter; he has sent his captains to urge his suit, and has chosen those who of all the Argives are most acceptable to you; make not then their words and their coming to be of none effect. Your anger has been righteous so far. We have heard in song how heroes of old time quarreled when they were roused to fury, but still they could be won by gifts, and fair words could soothe them.
I have an old story in my mind – a very old one – but you are all friends and I will tell it.
The brave AEtolians and Curetes met
Beneath the walls of Calydon, and fought
With mutual slaughter; the AEtolian powers
In the defence of Calydon the fair,
And the Curetes bent to lay it waste:
That strife Diana of the golden throne
Kindled between them, with resentment fired
That Oeneus had not in some fertile spot
The first fruits of his harvest set apart
To her; with hecatombs he entertained
All the Divinities of heaven beside,
And her alone, daughter of Jove supreme,
Or through forgetfulness, or some neglect,
Served not; omission careless and profane!
She, progeny of Jove, Goddess shaft-arm'd,
A savage boar bright-tusk'd in anger sent,
Which haunting Oeneus' fields much havoc made.
Trees numerous on the earth in heaps he cast
Uprooting them, with all their blossoms on.
But Meleager, Oeneus' son, at length
Slew him, the hunters gathering and the hounds
Of numerous cities; for a boar so vast
Might not be vanquish'd by the power of few,
And many to their funeral piles he sent.
Then raised Diana clamorous dispute,
And contest hot between them, all alike,
Curetes and AEtolians fierce in arms
The boar's head claiming, and his bristly hide.
So long as warlike Meleager fought,
AEtolia prosper'd, nor with all their powers
Could the Curetes stand before the walls.
But when resentment once had fired the heart
Of Meleager, which hath tumult oft
Excited in the breasts of wisest men,
(For his own mother had his wrath provoked
Althaea) thenceforth with his wedded wife
He dwelt, fair Cleopatra, close retired.
She was Marpessa's daughter, whom she bore
To Idas, bravest warrior in his day
Of all on earth. He fear'd not 'gainst the King
Himself Apollo, for the lovely nymph
Marpessa's sake, his spouse, to bend his bow.
Her, therefore, Idas and Marpessa named
Thenceforth Alcyone, because the fate
Of sad Alcyone Marpessa shared,
And wept like her, by Phoebus forced away.
Thus Meleager, tortured with the pangs
Of wrath indulged, with Cleopatra dwelt,
Vex'd that his mother cursed him; for, with grief
Frantic, his mother importuned the Gods
To avenge her slaughter'd brothers on his head.
Oft would she smite the earth, while on her knees
Seated, she fill'd her bosom with her tears,
And call'd on Pluto and dread Proserpine
To slay her son; nor vain was that request,
But by implacable Erynnis heard
Roaming the shades of Erebus. Ere long
The tumult and the deafening din of war
Roar'd at the gates, and all the batter'd towers
Resounded. Then the elders of the town
Dispatch'd the high-priests of the Gods to plead
With Meleager for his instant aid,
With strong assurances of rich reward.
Where Calydon afforded fattest soil
They bade him choose to his own use a farm
Of fifty measured acres, vineyard half,
And half of land commodious for the plow.
Him Oeneus also, warrior grey with age,
Ascending to his chamber, and his doors
Smiting importunate, with earnest prayers
Assay'd to soften, kneeling to his son.
Nor less his sisters woo'd him to relent,
Nor less his mother; but in vain; he grew
Still more obdurate. His companions last,
The most esteem'd and dearest of his friends,
The same suit urged, yet he persisted still
Relentless, nor could even they prevail.
But when the battle shook his chamber-doors
And the Curetes climbing the high towers
Had fired the spacious city, then with tears
The beauteous Cleopatra, and with prayers
Assail'd him; in his view she set the woes
Numberless of a city storm'd--the men
Slaughter'd, the city burnt to dust, the chaste
Matrons with all their children dragg'd away.
That dread recital roused him, and at length
Issuing, he put his radiant armor on.
Thus Meleager, gratifying first
His own resentment from a fatal day
Saved the AEtolians, who the promised gift
Refused him, and his toils found no reward.
Be not then, my son, thus minded; let not heaven lure you into any such course. When the ships are burning it will be a harder matter to save them. Take the gifts, and go, for the Achaeans will then honour
you as a god; whereas if you fight without taking them, you may beat the battle back, but you will not be held in like honour.
But the swift runner Achilles answered firmly,
Old uncle Phoinix, bless you,
that is an honor I can live without.
Honored I think I am by Zeus's justice,
justice that will sustain me by the ships
as long as breath is in me and I can stand.
Here is another point: ponder it well:
best not confuse my heart with lamentation
for Agamemnon, whom you must not honor;
you would be hateful to me, dear as you are.
Loyalty should array you at my side
in giving pain to him who gives me pain.
Rule with me equally, share half my honor,
but do not ask my help for Agamemnon.
My answer will be reported by these two.
Lodge here in a soft bed, and at first light
we can decide whether to sail or stay.
He ceased; then order'd for the sage's bed
A warmer couch with numerous carpets spread.
With that, stern Ajax his long silence broke,
And thus, impatient, to Ulysses spoke:
High-issued Laertiades, let us insist no more
On his persuasion; I perceive the world would end before
Our speeches end in this affair: we must with utmost haste
Return his answer, though but bad: the peers are elsewhere plac’d,
And will not rise till we return. Great Thetis’ son hath stor’d
Proud wrath within him, as his wealth, and will not be implor’d,
Rude that he is; nor his friends’ love respects, do what they can –
Wherein past all we honour’d him. O unremorseful man!
Another for his brother slain, another for his son,
Accepts satisfaction; and he the deed hath done
Lives in belov’d society long after his amends,
To which his foe’s high heart, for gifts, with patience condescends:
But thee a wild and cruel spirit the gods for plague have giv’n –
And for one girl, of whose fair sex we come to offer sev’n,
The most exempt for excellence, and many a better prize.
Then put a sweet mind in thy breast, respect thy own allies,
Though others make thee not remiss: a multitude we are,
Sprung of thy royal family, and our supremest care
Is to be most familiar, and hold most love with thee
Of all the Greeks, how great an host soever here there be.
And the swift runner Achilles answered warmly,
Most noble Ajax, son of Telamon, chief of the people, thou appearest to me to have said all this from thy soul, yet does my heart swell with indignation as often as I recollect those things, how the son of Atreus hath rendered me dishonored among the Greeks, as if I were some contemptible stranger.
he taunted me
like the vilest slave!
bearing me down
like some vagabond,
like some outcast stripped of all my rights!
But go ye, and carry back my message, for I shall not think of bloody war, before the son of warlike Priam, noble Hector, slaughtering the Greeks, shall reach the ships of the Myrmidons, and burn the ships with fire. But about my tent and black ship, however, I think that Hector, although eager, will desist from combat.
This said, each prince a double goblet crown'd,
And cast a large libation on the ground;
Then to their vessels, through the gloomy shades,
The chiefs return; divine Ulysses leads.
Meantime Achilles' slaves prepared a bed,
With fleeces, carpets, and soft linen spread:
There, till the sacred morn restored the day,
In slumber sweet the reverend Phoenix lay.
But in his inner tent, an ampler space,
Achilles slept; and in his warm embrace
Fair Diomede of the Lesbian race.
Last, for Patroclus was the couch prepared,
Whose nightly joys the beauteous Iphis shared;
Achilles to his friend consign'd her charms
When Scyros fell before his conquering arms.
But when those Chiefs at Agamemnon's tent
Arrived, the Greeks on every side arose
With golden cups welcoming their return.
All question'd them, but Agamemnon first.
Come, tell me, sir,
Odysseus, glory of Akhaia – will Akhilleus
fight off ravenous fire from the ships
or does he still refuse, does anger still
hold sway in his great heart?
Great marshal Atrides, lord of men Agamemnon,
that man has no intention of quenching his rage.
He's still bursting with anger, more than ever –
he spurns you, spurns all your gifts. Work out
your own defense, he says, you and your captains
save the Argive armies and the ships. Himself?
Achilles threatens, tomorrow at first light,
to haul his well-benched warships out to sea.
And what's more, he advises all the rest,
‘Sail home now. You will never set your eyes
on the day of doom that topples looming Troy.
Thundering Zeus has spread his hands above her . . .
her armies have taken heart.’
That's his answer.
And here are men to confirm it, fellow envoys.
Ajax and two heralds, both clear-headed men.
But old Phoenix passes the night in camp
as Achilles bids him, so he can voyage home,
home in the ships with him to the fatherland they love.
Tomorrow at dawn. But only if Phoenix wishes.
He will never force the Oman to go.
Ulysses ceased: the great Achaian host,
With sorrow seized, in consternation lost,
Attend the stern reply. Tydides broke
The general silence, and undaunted spoke.
Most glorious son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon, would that thou hadst not supplicated the illustrious son of Peleus, offering countless gifts, for he is haughty even otherwise: now again hast thou excited him much more to insolence. Let us, however, leave him alone, whether he go or remain, for he will fight again at that time when his mind within his breast urges, and the Deity incites him. But come, let us all obey as I shall advise: go now to rest, having satisfied your hearts with food and wine, for this is force and vigor.
But when fair rosy-fingered morn has shone forth, draw up the infantry and cavalry with all haste before the ships, cheering them: and do thou thyself likewise fight in the foremost ranks.
The kings admir’d the fortitude that so divinely mov’d
The skilful horseman Diomed, and his advice approv’d.
Then with their nightly sacrifice each took his several tent,
Where all receiv’d the sov’reign gifts soft Somnus did present.