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The great writers just kept bringing them out. They didn't care if they repeated themselves.

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The Great Poems Demand We Remember Them

THE GREAT POEMS DEMAND WE REMEMBER THEM

The great poems demand we remember them
They insist we take them inside ourselves
And carry them wherever we go -

They inspire and help us
And our lives are more meaningful with them-


We touch greatness with them
And through them the beauty of our own inner poetry
Lives-

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The Cave Painters

Holding only a handful of rushlight
they pressed deeper into the dark, at a crouch
until the great rock chamber
flowered around them and they stood
in an enormous womb of
flickering light and darklight, a place
to make a start. Raised hands cast flapping shadows
over the sleeker shapes of radiance.

They've left the world of weather and panic
behind them and gone on in, drawing the dark
in their wake, pushing as one pulse
to the core of stone. The pigments mixed in big shells
are crushed ore, petals and pollens, berries
and the binding juices oozed
out of chosen barks. The beasts

begin to take shape from hands and feather-tufts
(soaked in ochre, manganese, madder, mallow white)
stroking the live rock, letting slopes and contours
mould those forms from chance, coaxing
rigid dips and folds and bulges
to lend themselves to necks, bellies, swelling haunches,
a forehead or a twist of horn, tails and manes
curling to a crazy gallop.

Intent and human, they attach
the mineral, vegetable, animal
realms to themselves, inscribing
the one unbroken line
everything depends on, from that
impenetrable centre
to the outer intangibles of light and air, even
the speed of the horse, the bison's fear, the arc
of gentleness that this big-bellied cow
arches over its spindling calf, or the lancing
dance of death that
bristles out of the buck's
struck flank. On this one line they leave
a beak-headed human figure of sticks
and one small, chalky, human hand.

We'll never know if they worked in silence
like people praying—the way our monks
illuminated their own dark ages
in cross-hatched rocky cloisters,
where they contrived a binding
labyrinth of lit affinities
to spell out in nature's lace and fable
their mindful, blinding sixth sense
of a god of shadows—or whether (like birds
tracing their great bloodlines over the globe)
they kept a constant gossip up
of praise, encouragement, complaint.

It doesn't matter: we know
they went with guttering rushlight
into the dark; came to terms
with the given world; must have had
—as their hands moved steadily
by spiderlight—one desire
we'd recognise: they would—before going on
beyond this border zone, this nowhere
that is now here—leave something
upright and bright behind them in the dark.

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The Great Pretender

Buck ram
Oh-oh, yes Im the great pretender
Pretending that Im doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
Im lonely but no one can tell
Oh-oh, yes Im the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
Ive played the game but to my real shame
Youve left me to grieve all alone
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Yes Im the great pretender
Just laughin and gay like a clown
I seem to be what Im not, you see
Im wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that youre still around
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Yes Im the great pretender
Just laughin and gay like a clown
I seem to be what Im not, you see
Im wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that youre still around

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The Great Pretender

Oh-oh, yes Im the great pretender
Pretending that Im doing well
My need is such I pretend too much
Im lonely but no one can tell
Oh-oh, yes Im the great pretender
Adrift in a world of my own
Ive played the game but to my real shame
Youve left me to dream all alone
Too real is this feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Oh yes Im the great pretender
Just laughin? and gay like a clown
I seem to be what Im not, you see
Im wearin my heart like a crown
Pretending that youre still around
Too real is the feeling of make-believe
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Oh yes Im the great pretender
Just laughin? and gay like a clown
I seem to be what Im not, you see
Im wearin this old heart like a crown
Pretending that youre still around
But I know what I am
I am the great pretender

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The Great Pretender

Words and music by buck ram
Oh yes Im the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Pretending Im doing well (ooh ooh)
My need is such I pretend too much
Im lonely but no one can tell
Oh yes Im the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Adrift in a world of my own (ooh ooh)
I play the game but to my real shame
Youve left me to dream all alone
Too real is this feeling of make believe
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Ooh ooh yes Im the great pretender (ooh ooh)
Just laughing and gay like a clown (ooh ooh)
I seem to be what Im not (you see)
Im wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that youre still around
Yeah ooh hoo
Too real when I feel what my heart cant conceal
Oh yes Im the great pretender
Just laughing and gay like a clown (ooh ooh)
I seem to be what Im not you see
Im wearing my heart like a crown
Pretending that youre
Pretending that youre still around

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Elias Canetti

The great writers of aphorisms read as if they had all known each other well.

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The Third Monarchy, being the Grecian, beginning under Alexander the Great in the 112. Olympiad.

Great Alexander was wise Philips son,
He to Amyntas, Kings of Macedon;
The cruel proud Olympias was his Mother,
She to Epirus warlike King was daughter.
This Prince (his father by Pausanias slain)
The twenty first of's age began to reign.
Great were the Gifts of nature which he had,
His education much to those did adde:
By art and nature both he was made fit,
To 'complish that which long before was writ.
The very day of his Nativity
To ground was burnt Dianaes Temple high:
An Omen to their near approaching woe,
Whose glory to the earth this king did throw.
His Rule to Greece he scorn'd should be confin'd,
The Universe scarce bound his proud vast mind.
This is the He-Goat which from Grecia came,
That ran in Choler on the Persian Ram,
That brake his horns, that threw him on the ground
To save him from his might no man was found:
Philip on this great Conquest had an eye,
But death did terminate those thoughts so high.
The Greeks had chose him Captain General,
Which honour to his Son did now befall.
(For as Worlds Monarch now we speak not on,
But as the King of little Macedon)
Restless both day and night his heart then was,
His high resolves which way to bring to pass;
Yet for a while in Greece is forc'd to stay,
Which makes each moment seem more then a day.
Thebes and stiff Athens both 'gainst him rebel,
Their mutinies by valour doth he quell.
This done against both right and natures Laws,
His kinsmen put to death, who gave no cause;
That no rebellion in in his absence be,
Nor making Title unto Sovereignty.
And all whom he suspects or fears will climbe,
Now taste of death least they deserv'd in time,
Nor wonder is t if he in blood begin,
For Cruelty was his parental sin,
Thus eased now of troubles and of fears,
Next spring his course to Asia he steers;
Leavs Sage Antipater, at home to sway,
And through the Hellispont his Ships made way.
Coming to Land, his dart on shore he throws,
Then with alacrity he after goes;
And with a bount'ous heart and courage brave,
His little wealth among his Souldiers gave.
And being ask'd what for himself was left,
Reply'd, enough, sith only hope he kept.
Thirty two thousand made up his Foot force,
To which were joyn'd five thousand goodly horse.
Then on he marcht, in's way he view'd old Troy,
And on Achilles tomb with wondrous joy
He offer'd, and for good success did pray
To him, his Mothers Ancestors, (men say)
When news of Alexander came to Court,
To scorn at him Darius had good sport;
Sends him a frothy and contemptuous Letter,
Stiles him disloyal servant, and no better;
Reproves him for his proud audacity
To lift his hand 'gainst such a Monarchy.
Then to's Lieftenant he in Asia sends
That he be ta'ne alive, for he intends
To whip him well with rods, and so to bring
That boy so mallipert before the King.
Ah! fond vain man, whose pen ere while
In lower terms was taught a higher stile.
To River Granick Alexander hyes
Which in Phrygia near Propontike lyes.
The Persians ready for encounter stand,
And strive to keep his men from off the land;
Those banks so steep the Greeks yet scramble up,
And beat the coward Persians from the top,
And twenty thousand of their lives bereave,
Who in their backs did all their wounds receive.
This victory did Alexander gain,
With loss of thirty four of his there slain;
Then Sardis he, and Ephesus did gain,
VVhere stood of late, Diana's wondrous Phane,
And by Parmenio (of renowned Fame,)
Miletus and Pamphilia overcame.
Hallicarnassus and Pisidia
He for his Master takes with Lycia.
Next Alexander marcht towards the black Sea,
And easily takes old Gordium in his way;
Of Ass ear'd Midas, once the Regal Seat,
VVhose touch turn'd all to gold, yea even his meat
VVhere the Prophetick knot he cuts in twain,
VVhich who so doth, must Lord of all remain.
Now news of Memnon's death (the Kings Viceroy)
To Alexanders heart's no little joy,
For in that Peer, more valour did abide,
Then in Darius multitude beside:
In's stead, was Arses plac'd, but durst not stay,
Yet set one in his room, and ran away;
His substitute as fearfull as his master,
Runs after two, and leaves all to Disaster.
Then Alexander all Cilicia takes,
No stroke for it he struck, their hearts so quakes.
To Greece he thirty thousand talents sends,
To raise more Force to further his intends:
Then o're he goes Darius now to meet,
Who came with thousand thousands at his feet.
Though some there be (perhaps) more likely write
He but four hundred thousand had to fight,
The rest Attendants, which made up no less,
Both Sexes there was almost numberless.
For this wise King had brought to see the sport,
With him the greatest Ladyes of the Court,
His mother, his beauteous Queen and daughters,
It seems to see the Macedonian slaughters.
Its much beyond my time and little art,
To shew how great Darius plaid his part;
The splendor and the pomp he marched in,
For since the world was no such Pageant seen.
Sure 'twas a goodly sight there to behold,
The Persians clad in silk, and glistering gold,
The stately horses trapt, the lances gilt,
As if addrest now all to run a tilt.
The holy fire was borne before the host,
(For Sun and Fire the Persians worship most)
The Priests in their strange habit follow after,
An object, not so much of fear as laughter.
The King sate in a chariot made of gold,
With crown and Robes most glorious to behold,
And o're his head his golden Gods on high,
Support a party coloured Canopy.
A number of spare horses next were led,
Lest he should need them in his Chariots stead;
But those that saw him in this state to lye,
Suppos'd he neither meant to fight nor flye.
He fifteen hundred had like women drest;
For thus to fright the Greeks he judg'd was best.
Their golden ornaments how to set forth,
Would ask more time then was their bodies worth
Great Sysigambis she brought up the Reer,
Then such a world of waggons did appear,
Like several houses moving upon wheels,
As if she'd drawn whole Shushan at her heels:
This brave Virago to the King was mother,
And as much good she did as any other.
Now lest this gold, and all this goodly stuff
Had not been spoyle and booty rich enough
A thousand mules and Camels ready wait
Loaden with gold, with jewels and with plate:
For sure Darius thought at the first sight,
The Greeks would all adore, but none would fight
But when both Armies met, he might behold
That valour was more worth then pearls or gold,
And that his wealth serv'd but for baits to 'lure
To make his overthrow more fierce and sure.
The Greeks came on and with a gallant grace
Let fly their arrows in the Persians face.
The cowards feeling this sharp stinging charge
Most basely ran, and left their king at large:
Who from his golden coach is glad to 'light,
And cast away his crown for swifter flight:
Of late like some immoveable he lay,
Now finds both legs and horse to run away.
Two hundred thousand men that day were slain,
And forty thousand prisoners also tane,
Besides the Queens and Ladies of the court,
If Curtius be true in his report.
The Regal Ornaments were lost, the treasure
Divided at the Macedonians pleasure;
Yet all this grief, this loss, this overthrow,
Was but beginning of his future woe.
The royal Captives brought to Alexander
T'ward them demean'd himself like a Commander
For though their beauties were unparaled,
Conquer'd himself now he had conquered,
Preserv'd their honour, us'd them bounteously,
Commands no man should doe them injury:
And this to Alexander is more fame
Then that the Persian King he overcame.
Two hundred eighty Greeks he lost in fight,
By too much heat, not wounds (as authors write)
No sooner had this Victor won the field,
But all Phenicia to his pleasure yield,
Of which the Goverment he doth commit
Unto Parmenio of all most fit.
Darius now less lofty then before,
To Alexander writes he would restore
Those mournfull Ladies from Captivity,
For whom he offers him a ransome high:
But down his haughty stomach could not bring,
To give this Conquerour the Stile of King.
This Letter Alexander doth disdain,
And in short terms sends this reply again,
A King he was, and that not only so,
But of Darius King, as he should know.
Next Alexander unto Tyre doth goe,
His valour and his victoryes they know:
To gain his love the Tyrians intend,
Therefore a crown and great Provision send,
Their present he receives with thankfullness,
Desires to offer unto Hercules,
Protector of their town, by whom defended,
And from whom he lineally descended.
But they accept not this in any wise,
Lest he intend more fraud then sacrifice,
Sent word that Hercules his temple stood
In the old town, (which then lay like a wood)
With this reply he was so deep enrag'd,
To win the town, his honour he ingag'd:
And now as Babels King did once before,
He leaves not till he made the sea firm shore,
But far less time and cost he did expend,
The former Ruines forwarded his end:
Moreover had a Navy at command,
The other by his men fetcht all by land.
In seven months time he took that wealthy town,
Whose glory now a second time's brought down.
Two thousand of the chief he crucifi'd,
Eight thousand by the sword then also di'd,
And thirteen thousand Gally slaves he made,
And thus the Tyrians for mistrust were paid.
The rule of this he to Philotas gave
Who was the son of that Parmenio brave.
Cilicia to Socrates doth give,
For now's the time Captains like Kings may live.
Zidon he on Ephestion bestowes;
(For that which freely comes, as freely goes)
He scorns to have one worse then had the other,
So gives his little Lordship to another.
Ephestion having chief command of th'Fleet,
At Gaza now must Alexander meet.
Darius finding troubles still increase,
By his Ambassadors now sues for peace,
And layes before great Alexanders eyes
The dangers difficultyes like to rise,
First at Euphrates what he's like to 'bide,
And then at Tygris and Araxis side,
These he may scape, and if he so desire,
A league of friendship make firm and entire.
His eldest daughter he in mariage profers,
And a most princely dowry with her offers.
All those rich Kingdomes large that do abide
Betwixt the Hellespont and Halys side.
But he with scorn his courtesie rejects,
And the distressed King no whit respects,
Tells him, these proffers great, in truth were none
For all he offers now was but his own.
But quoth Parmenio that brave Commander,
Was I as great, as is great Alexander,
Darius offers I would not reject,
But th'kingdomes and the Lady soon accept.
To which proud Alexander made reply,
And so if I Parmenio was, would I.
He now to Gaza goes, and there doth meet,
His Favorite Ephestion with his Fleet,
Where valiant Betis stoutly keeps the town,
(A loyal Subject to Darius Crown)
For more repulse the Grecians here abide
Then in the Persian Monarchy beside;
And by these walls so many men were slain,
That Greece was forc'd to yield supply again.
But yet this well defended Town was taken,
For 'twas decree'd, that Empire should be shaken;
Thus Betis ta'en had holes bor'd through his feet,
And by command was drawn through every street
To imitate Achilles in his shame,
Who did the like to Hector (of more fame)
What hast thou lost thy magnimity,
Can Alexander deal thus cruelly?
Sith valour with Heroicks is renown'd,
Though in an Enemy it should be found;
If of thy future fame thou hadst regard,
Why didst not heap up honours and reward?
From Gaza to Jerusalem he goes,
But in no hostile way, (as I suppose)
Him in his Priestly Robes high Jaddus meets,
Whom with great reverence Alexander greets;
The Priest shews him good Daniel's Prophesy,
How he should overthrow this Monarchy,
By which he was so much encouraged,
No future dangers he did ever dread.
From thence to fruitful Egypt marcht with speed,
Where happily in's wars he did succeed;
To see how fast he gain'd was no small wonder,
For in few dayes he brought that Kingdome under.
Then to the Phane of Jupiter he went,
To be install'd a God, was his intent.
The Pagan Priest through hire, or else mistake,
The Son of Jupiter did streight him make:
He Diobolical must needs remain,
That his humanity will not retain.
Thence back to Egypt goes, and in few dayes;
Fair Alexandria from the ground doth raise;
Then setling all things in less Asia;
In Syria, Egypt, and Phenicia,
Unto Euphrates marcht and overgoes,
For no man's there his Army to oppose;
Had Betis now been there but with his band,
Great Alexander had been kept from Land.
But as the King, so is the multitude,
And now of valour both are destitute.
Yet he (poor prince) another Host doth muster,
Of Persians, Scythians, Indians in a cluster;
Men but in shape and name, of valour none
Most fit, to blunt the Swords of Macedon.
Two hundred fifty thousand by account,
Of Horse and Foot his Army did amount;
For in his multitudes his trust still lay,
But on their fortitude he had small stay;
Yet had some hope that on the spacious plain,
His numbers might the victory obtain.
About this time Darius beautious Queen,
Who had sore travail and much sorrow seen,
Now bids the world adue, with pain being spent,
Whose death her Lord full sadly did lament.
Great Alexander mourns as well as he,
The more because not set at liberty;
When this sad news (at first Darius hears,
Some injury was offered he fears:
But when inform'd how royally the King,
Had used her, and hers, in every thing,
He prays the immortal Gods they would reward
Great Alexander for this good regard;
And if they down his Monarchy will throw,
Let them on him this dignity bestow.
And now for peace he sues as once before,
And offers all he did and Kingdomes more;
His eldest daughter for his princely bride,
(Nor was such match in all the world beside)
And all those Countryes which (betwixt) did lye
Phanisian Sea, and great Euphrates high:
With fertile Egypt and rich Syria,
And all those Kingdomes in less Asia.
With thirty thousand Talents to be paid,
For the Queen Mother, and the royal maid;
And till all this be well perform'd, and sure,
Ochus his Son for Hostage should endure.
To this stout Alexander gives no ear,
No though Parmenio plead, yet will not hear;
Which had he done. (perhaps) his fame he'd kept,
Nor Infamy had wak'd, when he had slept,
For his unlimited prosperity
Him boundless made in vice and Cruelty.
Thus to Darius he writes back again,
The Firmament, two Suns cannot contain.
Two Monarchyes on Earth cannot abide,
Nor yet two Monarchs in one world reside;
The afflicted King finding him set to jar,
Prepares against to morrow, for the war,
Parmenio, Alexander, wisht that night,
To force his Camp, so vanquish them by flight.
For tumult in the night doth cause most dread,
And weakness of a Foe is covered,
But he disdain'd to steal a victory:
The Sun should witness of his valour be,
And careless in his bed, next morne he lyes,
By Captains twice is call'd before hee'l rise,
The Armyes joyn'd a while, the Persians fight,
And spilt the Greeks some bloud before their flight
But long they stood not e're they're forc'd to run,
So made an end, As soon as well begun.
Forty five thousand Alexander had,
But is not known what slaughter here was made,
Some write th'other had a million, some more,
But Quintus Curtius as before.
At Arbela this victory was gain'd,
Together with the Town also obtain'd;
Darius stript of all to Media came,
Accompan'ed with sorrow, fear, and shame,
At Arbela left his Ornaments and Treasure,
Which Alexander deals as suits his pleasure.
This conqueror to Babylon then goes,
Is entertain'd with joy and pompous showes,
With showrs of flours the streets along are strown,
And incense burnt the silver Altars on.
The glory of the Castle he admires,
The strong Foundation and the lofty Spires,
In this, a world of gold and Treasure lay,
Which in few hours was carried all away.
With greedy eyes he views this City round,
Whose fame throughout the world was so renownd
And to possess he counts no little bliss
The towres and bowres of proud Semiramis,
Though worne by time, and rac'd by foes full sore,
Yet old foundations shew'd and somewhat more.
With all the pleasures that on earth are found,
This city did abundantly abound,
Where four and thirty dayes he now did stay,
And gave himself to banqueting and play:
He and his souldiers wax effeminate,
And former discipline begin to hate.
Whilst revelling at Babylon he lyes,
Antipater from Greece sends fresh supplyes.
He then to Shushan goes with his new bands,
But needs no force, tis rendred to his hands.
He likewise here a world of treasure found;
For 'twas the seat of Persian Kings renownd.
Here stood the royal Houses of delight,
Where Kings have shown their glory wealth and might
The sumptuous palace of Queen Esther here,
And of good Mordicai, her kinsman dear,
Those purple hangings, mixt with green and white
Those beds of gold, and couches of delight.
And furniture the richest in all lands,
Now fall into the Macedonians hands.
From Shushan to Persipolis he goes,
Which news doth still augment Darius woes.
In his approach the governour sends word,
For his receipt with joy they all accord,
With open gates the wealthy town did stand,
And all in it was at his high command.
Of all the Cities that on earth was found,
None like to this in riches did abound:
Though Babylon was rich and Shushan too
Yet to compare with this they might not doe:
Here lay the bulk of all those precious things
That did pertain unto the Persian Kings:
For when the souldiers rifled had their pleasure,
And taken money plate and golden treasure,
Statues some gold, and silver numberless,
Yet after all, as storyes do express
The share of Alexander did amount
To an hundred thousand talents by account.
Here of his own he sets a Garison,
(As first at Shushan and at Babylon)
On their old Governours titles he laid,
But on their faithfulness he never staid,
Their place gave to his Captains (as was just)
For such revolters false, what King can trust?
The riches and the pleasures of this town
Now makes this King his virtues all to drown,
That wallowing in all licentiousness,
In pride and cruelty to high excess.
Being inflam'd with wine upon a season,
Filled with madness, and quite void of reason,
He at a bold proud strumpets leud desire,
Commands to set this goodly town on fire.
Parmenio wise intreats him to desist
And layes before his eyes if he persist
His fames dishonour, loss unto his state,
And just procuring of the Persians hate:
But deaf to reason, bent to have his will,
Those stately streets with raging flame did fill.
Then to Darius he directs his way,
Who was retir'd as far as Media,
And there with sorrows, fears & cares surrounded
Had now his army fourth and last compounded.
Which forty thousand made, but his intent
Was these in Bactria soon to augment:
But hearing Alexander was so near,
Thought now this once to try his fortunes here,
And rather chose an honourable death,
Then still with infamy to draw his breath:
But Bessus false, who was his chief Commander
Perswades him not to fight with Alexander.
With sage advice he sets before his eyes
The little hope of profit like to rise:
If when he'd multitudes the day he lost,
Then with so few, how likely to be crost.
This counsel for his safety he pretended,
But to deliver him to's foe intended.
Next day this treason to Darius known
Transported sore with grief and passion,
Grinding his teeth, and plucking off his hair,
Sate overwhelm'd with sorrow and dispair:
Then bids his servant Artabasus true,
Look to himself, and leave him to that crew,
Who was of hopes and comforts quite bereft,
And by his guard and Servitors all left.
Straight Bessus comes, & with his trait'rous hands
Layes hold on's Lord, and binding him with bands
Throws him into a Cart, covered with hides,
Who wanting means t'resist these wrongs abides,
Then draws the cart along with chains of gold,
In more despight the thraled prince to hold,
And thus t'ward Alexander on he goes,
Great recompence for this, he did propose:
But some detesting this his wicked fact,
To Alexander flyes and tells this act,
Who doubling of his march, posts on amain,
Darius from that traitors hands to gain.
Bessus gets knowledg his disloyalty
Had Alexanders wrath incensed high,
Whose army now was almost within sight,
His hopes being dasht prepares himself for flight:
Unto Darius first he brings a horse,
And bids him save himself by speedy course:
The wofull King his courtesie refuses,
Whom thus the execrable wretch abuses,
By throwing darts gave him his mortal wound,
Then slew his Servants that were faithfull found,
Yea wounds the beasts that drew him unto death,
And leaves him thus to gasp out his last breath.
Bessus his partner in this tragedy,
Was the false Governour of Media.
This done, they with their host soon speed away,
To hide themselves remote in Bactria.
Darius bath'd in blood, sends out his groans,
Invokes the heav'ns and earth to hear his moans:
His lost felicity did grieve him sore,
But this unheard of treachery much more:
But above all, that neither Ear nor Eye
Should hear nor see his dying misery;
As thus he lay, Polistrates a Greek,
Wearied with his long march, did water seek,
So chanc'd these bloudy Horses to espy,
Whose wounds had made their skins of purple dye
To them repairs then looking in the Cart,
Finds poor Darius pierced to the heart,
Who not a little chear'd to have some eye,
The witness of this horrid Tragedy;
Prays him to Alexander to commend
The just revenge of this his woful end:
And not to pardon such disloyalty,
Of Treason, Murther, and base Cruelty.
If not, because Darius thus did pray,
Yet that succeeding Kings in safety may
Their lives enjoy, their Crowns and dignity,
And not by Traitors hands untimely dye.
He also sends his humble thankfulness,
For all the Kingly grace he did express;
To's Mother, Children dear, and wife now gone.
Which made their long restraint seem to be none:
Praying the immortal Gods, that Sea and Land
Might be subjected to his royal hand,
And that his Rule as far extended be,
As men the rising, setting Sun shall see,
This said, the Greek for water doth intreat,
To quench his thirst, and to allay his heat:
Of all good things (quoth he) once in my power,
I've nothing left, at this my dying hour;
Thy service and compassion to reward,
But Alexander will, for this regard.
This said, his fainting breath did fleet away,
And though a Monarch late, now lyes like clay;
And thus must every Son of Adam lye,
Though Gods on Earth like Sons of men they dye.
Now to the East, great Alexander goes,
To see if any dare his might oppose,
For scarce the world or any bounds thereon,
Could bound his boundless fond Ambition;
Such as submits again he doth restore
Their riches, and their honours he makes more,
On Artabaces more then all bestow'd,
For his fidelity to's Master show'd.
Thalestris Queen of th'Amazons now brought
Her Train to Alexander, (as 'tis thought.)
Though most of reading best and soundest mind,
Such Country there, nor yet such people find.
Then tell her errand, we had better spare
To th'ignorant, her title will declare:
As Alexander in his greatness grows,
So dayly of his virtues doth he lose.
He baseness counts, his former Clemency,
And not beseeming such a dignity;
His past sobriety doth also bate,
As most incompatible to his State;
His temperance is but a sordid thing,
No wayes becoming such a mighty King;
His greatness now he takes to represent
His fancy'd Gods above the Firmament.
And such as shew'd but reverence before,
Now are commanded strictly to adore;
With Persian Robes himself doth dignifie,
Charging the same on his nobility,
His manners habit, gestures, all did fashion
After that conquer'd and luxurious Nation.
His Captains that were virtuously inclin'd,
Griev'd at this change of manners and of mind.
The ruder sort did openly deride,
His feigned Diety and foolish pride;
The certainty of both comes to his Ears,
But yet no notice takes of what he hears:
With those of worth he still desires esteem,
So heaps up gifts his credit to redeem
And for the rest new wars and travails finds,
That other matters might take up their minds,
And hearing Bessus, makes himself a King,
Intends that Traitor to his end to bring.
Now that his Host from luggage might be free,
And with his burthen no man burthened be;
Commands forthwith each man his fardle bring,
Into the market place before the King;
VVhich done, sets fire upon those goodly spoyles,
The recompence of travails wars and toyles.
And thus unwisely in a mading fume,
The wealth of many Kingdomes did consume,
But marvell 'tis that without mutiny,
The Souldiers should let pass this injury;
Nor wonder less to Readers may it bring,
Here to observe the rashness of the King.
Now with his Army doth he post away
False Bessus to find out in Bactria:
But much distrest for water in their march,
The drought and heat their bodies sore did parch.
At length they came to th'river Oxus brink,
Where so immoderately these thirsty drink,
Which more mortality to them did bring,
Then all their warrs against the Persian King.
Here Alexander's almost at a stand,
To pass the River to the other land.
For boats here's none, nor near it any wood,
To make them Rafts to waft them o're the flood:
But he that was resolved in his mind,
Would without means some transportation find.
Then from the Carriages the hides he takes,
And stuffing them with straw, he bundles makes.
On these together ti'd, in six dayes space,
They all pass over to the other place.
Had Bessus had but valour to his will,
With little pain there might have kept them still:
But Coward durst not fight, nor could he fly,
Hated of all for's former treachery,
Is by his own now bound in iron chains,
A Coller of the same, his neck contains.
And in this sort they rather drag then bring
This Malefactor vile before the King,
Who to Darius brother gives the wretch,
With racks and tortures every limb to stretch.
Here was of Greeks a town in Bactria,
Whom Xerxes from their Country led away,
These not a little joy'd, this day to see,
Wherein their own had got the sov'raignty
And now reviv'd, with hopes held up their head
From bondage long to be Enfranchised.
But Alexander puts them to the sword
Without least cause from them in deed or word;
Nor Sex, nor age, nor one, nor other spar'd,
But in his cruelty alike they shar'd:
Nor reason could he give for this great wrong,
But that they had forgot their mother tongue.
While thus some time he spent in Bactria,
And in his camp strong and securely lay,
Down from the mountains twenty thousand came
And there most fiercely set upon the same:
Repelling these, two marks of honour got
Imprinted in his leg, by arrows shot.
The Bactrians against him now rebel;
But he their stubborness in time doth quell.
From hence he to Jaxartis River goes,
Where Scythians rude his army doth oppose,
And with their outcryes in an hideous sort
Beset his camp, or military court,
Of darts and arrows, made so little spare,
They flew so thick, they seem'd to dark the air:
But soon his souldiers forc'd them to a flight,
Their nakedness could not endure their might.
Upon this rivers bank in seventeen dayes
A goodly City doth compleatly raise,
Which Alexandria he doth likewise name,
And sixty furlongs could but round the same.
A third Supply Antipater now sent,
Which did his former forces much augment;
And being one hundred twenty thousand strong;
He enters then the Indian Kings among:
Those that submit, he gives them rule again,
Such as do not, both them and theirs are slain.
His warrs with sundry nations I'le omit,
And also of the Mallians what is writ.
His Fights, his dangers, and the hurts he had,
How to submit their necks at last they're glad.
To Nisa goes by Bacchus built long since,
Whose feasts are celebrated by this prince;
Nor had that drunken god one who would take
His Liquors more devoutly for his sake.
When thus ten days his brain with wine he'd soakt,
And with delicious meats his palate choakt:
To th'River Indus next his course he bends,
Boats to prepare, Ephestion first he sends,
Who coming thither long before his Lord,
Had to his mind made all things to accord,
The vessels ready were at his command,
And Omphis King of that part of the land,
Through his perswasion Alexander meets,
And as his Sov'raign Lord him humbly greets
Fifty six Elephants he brings to's hand,
And tenders him the strength of all his land;
Presents himself first with a golden crown,
Then eighty talents to his captains down:
But Alexander made him to behold
He glory sought, no silver nor no gold;
His presents all with thanks he did restore,
And of his own a thousand talents more.
Thus all the Indian Kings to him submit,
But Porus stout, who will not yeild as yet:
To him doth Alexander thus declare,
His pleasure is that forthwith he repair
Unto his Kingdomes borders, and as due,
His homage to himself as Soveraign doe:
But kingly Porus this brave answer sent,
That to attend him there was his intent,
And come as well provided as he could,
But for the rest, his sword advise him should.
Great Alexander vext at this reply,
Did more his valour then his crown envy,
Is now resolv'd to pass Hydaspes flood,
And there by force his soveraignty make good.
Stout Porus on the banks doth ready stand
To give him welcome when he comes to land.
A potent army with him like a King,
And ninety Elephants for warr did bring:
Had Alexander such resistance seen
On Tygris side, here now he had not been.
Within this spacious River deep and wide
Did here and there Isles full of trees abide.
His army Alexander doth divide
With Ptolemy sends part to th'other side;
Porus encounters them and thinks all's there,
When covertly the rest get o're else where,
And whilst the first he valiantly assail'd,
The last set on his back, and so prevail'd.
Yet work enough here Alexander found,
For to the last stout Porus kept his ground:
Nor was't dishonour at the length to yield,
When Alexander strives to win the field.
The kingly Captive 'fore the Victor's brought,
In looks or gesture not abased ought,
But him a Prince of an undaunted mind
Did Alexander by his answers find:
His fortitude his royal foe commends,
Restores him and his bounds farther extends.
Now eastward Alexander would goe still,
But so to doe his souldiers had no will,
Long with excessive travails wearied,
Could by no means be farther drawn or led,
Yet that his fame might to posterity
Be had in everlasting memory,
Doth for his Camp a greater circuit take,
And for his souldiers larger Cabbins make.
His mangers he erected up so high
As never horse his Provender could eye.
Huge bridles made, which here and there he left,
Which might be found, and for great wonders kept
Twelve altars then for monuments he rears,
Whereon his acts and travels long appears.
But doubting wearing time might these decay,
And so his memory would fade away,
He on the fair Hydaspes pleasant side,
Two Cities built, his name might there abide,
First Nicea, the next Bucephalon,
Where he entomb'd his stately Stalion.
His fourth and last supply was hither sent,
Then down Hydaspes with his Fleet he went;
Some time he after spent upon that shore,
Whether Ambassadors, ninety or more,
Came with submission from the Indian Kings,
Bringing their presents rare, and precious things,
These all he feasts in state on beds of gold,
His Furniture most sumptuous to behold;
His meat & drink, attendants, every thing,
To th'utmost shew'd the glory of a King.
With rich rewards he sent them home again,
Acknowledged their Masters sovereign;
Then sailing South, and coming to that shore,
Those obscure Nations yielded as before:
A City here he built, call'd by his Name,
Which could not sound too oft with too much fame
Then sailing by the mouth of Indus floud,
His Gallyes stuck upon the flats and mud;
Which the stout Macedonians amazed sore,
Depriv'd at once the use of Sail and Oar:
Observing well the nature of the Tide,
In those their fears they did not long abide.
Passing fair Indus mouth his course he steer'd
To th'coast which by Euphrates mouth appear'd;
Whose inlets near unto, he winter spent,
Unto his starved Souldiers small content,
By hunger and by cold so many slain,
That of them all the fourth did scarce remain.
Thus winter, Souldiers, and provisions spent,
From hence he then unto Gedrosia went.
And thence he marcht into Carmania,
And so at length drew near to Persia,
Now through these goodly Countryes as he past,
Much time in feasts and ryoting did waste;
Then visits Cyrus Sepulchre in's way,
Who now obscure at Passagardis lay:
Upon his Monument his Robe he spread,
And set his Crown on his supposed head.
From hence to Babylon, some time there spent,
He at the last to royal Shushan went;
A wedding Feast to's Nobles then he makes,
And Statyra, Darius daughter takes,
Her Sister gives to his Ephestian dear,
That by this match he might be yet more near;
He fourscore Persian Ladies also gave,
At this same time unto his Captains brave:
Six thousand guests unto this Feast invites,
Whose Sences all were glutted with delights.
It far exceeds my mean abilities
To shadow forth these short felicities,
Spectators here could scarce relate the story,
They were so rapt with this external glory:
If an Ideal Paradise a man would frame,
He might this Feast imagine by the same;
To every guess a cup of gold he sends,
So after many dayes the Banquet ends.
Now Alexanders conquests all are done,
And his long Travails past and overgone;
His virtues dead, buried, and quite forgot,
But vice remains to his Eternal blot.
'Mongst those that of his cruelty did tast,
Philotus was not least, nor yet the last,
Accus'd because he did not certifie
The King of treason and conspiracy:
Upon suspition being apprehended,
Nothing was prov'd wherein he had offended
But silence, which was of such consequence,
He was judg'd guilty of the same offence,
But for his fathers great deserts the King
His royal pardon gave for this foul thing.
Yet is Phylotas unto judgment brought,
Must suffer, not for what is prov'd, but thought.
His master is accuser, judge and King,
Who to the height doth aggravate each thing,
Inveighs against his father now absent,
And's brethren who for him their lives had spent.
But Philotas his unpardonable crime,
No merit could obliterate, or time:
He did the Oracle of Jove deride,
By which his Majesty was diefi'd.
Philotas thus o'recharg'd with wrong and grief
Sunk in despair without hope of Relief,
Fain would have spoke and made his own defence,
The King would give no ear, but went from thence
To his malicious Foes delivers him,
To wreak their spight and hate on every limb.
Philotas after him sends out this cry,
O Alexander, thy free clemency
My foes exceeds in malice, and their hate
Thy kingly word can easily terminate.
Such torments great as wit could worst invent,
Or flesh and life could bear, till both were spent
Were now inflicted on Parmenio's son
He might accuse himself, as they had done,
At last he did, so they were justifi'd,
And told the world, that for his guilt he di'd.
But how these Captains should, or yet their master
Look on Parmenio, after this disaster
They knew not, wherefore best now to be done,
Was to dispatch the father as the son.
This sound advice at heart pleas'd Alexander,
Who was so much ingag'd to this Commander,
As he would ne're confess, nor yet reward,
Nor could his Captains bear so great regard:
Wherefore at once, all these to satisfie,
It was decreed Parmenio should dye:
Polidamus, who seem'd Parmenio's friend
To do this deed they into Media send:
He walking in his garden to and fro,
Fearing no harm, because he none did doe,
Most wickedly was slain without least crime,
(The most renowned captain of his time)
This is Parmenio who so much had done
For Philip dead, and his surviving son,
Who from a petty King of Macedon
By him was set upon the Persian throne,
This that Parmenio who still overcame,
Yet gave his Master the immortal fame,
Who for his prudence, valour, care and trust
Had this reward, most cruel and unjust.
The next, who in untimely death had part,
Was one of more esteem, but less desert;
Clitus belov'd next to Ephestian,
And in his cups his chief companion;
When both were drunk, Clitus was wont to jeer,
Alexander to rage, to kill, and swear;
Nothing more pleasing to mad Clitus tongue,
Then's Masters Godhead to defie and wrong;
Nothing toucht Alexander to the quick,
Like this against his Diety to kick:
Both at a Feast when they had tippled well,
Upon this dangerous Theam fond Clitus fell;
From jest to earnest, and at last so bold,
That of Parmenio's death him plainly told.
Which Alexanders wrath incens'd so high,
Nought but his life for this could satisfie;
From one stood by he snatcht a partizan,
And in a rage him through the body ran,
Next day he tore his face for what he'd done,
And would have slain himself for Clitus gone:
This pot Companion he did more bemoan,
Then all the wrongs to brave Parmenio done.
The next of worth that suffered after these,
Was learned, virtuous, wise Calisthenes,
VVho lov'd his Master more then did the rest,
As did appear, in flattering him the least;
In his esteem a God he could not be,
Nor would adore him for a Diety:
For this alone and for no other cause,
Against his Sovereign, or against his Laws,
He on the Rack his Limbs in pieces rent,
Thus was he tortur'd till his life was spent.
Of this unkingly act doth Seneca
This censure pass, and not unwisely say,
Of Alexander this th'eternal crime,
VVhich shall not be obliterate by time.
VVhich virtues fame can ne're redeem by far,
Nor all felicity of his in war.
VVhen e're 'tis said he thousand thousands slew,
Yea, and Calisthenes to death he drew.
The mighty Persian King he overcame,
Yea, and he kill'd Calistthenes of fame.
All Countryes, Kingdomes, Provinces, he wan
From Hellispont, to th'farthest Ocean.
All this he did, who knows' not to be true?
But yet withal, Catisthenes he slew.
From Macedon, his Empire did extend
Unto the utmost bounds o' th'orient:
All this he did, yea, and much more, 'tis true,
But yet withal, Catisthenes he slew.
Now Alexander goes to Media,
Finds there the want of wise Parmenio;
Here his chief favourite Ephestian dies,
He celebrates his mournful obsequies:
Hangs his Physitian, the Reason why
He suffered, his friend Ephestian dye.
This act (me-thinks) his Godhead should a shame,
To punish where himself deserved blame;
Or of necessity he must imply,
The other was the greatest Diety.
The Mules and Horses are for sorrow shorne,
The battlements from off the walls are torne.
Of stately Ecbatane who now must shew,
A rueful face in this so general woe;
Twelve thousand Talents also did intend,
Upon a sumptuous monument to spend:
What e're he did, or thought not so content,
His messenger to Jupiter he sent,
That by his leave his friend Ephestion,
Among the Demy Gods they might inthrone.
From Media to Babylon he went,
To meet him there t'Antipater he'd sent,
That he might act also upon the Stage,
And in a Tragedy there end his age.
The Queen Olimpias bears him deadly hate,
Not suffering her to meddle with the State,
And by her Letters did her Son incite,
This great indignity he should requite;
His doing so, no whit displeas'd the King,
Though to his Mother he disprov'd the thing.
But now Antipater had liv'd so long,
He might well dye though he had done no wrong;
His service great is suddenly forgot,
Or if remembred, yet regarded not:
The King doth intimate 'twas his intent,
His honours and his riches to augment;
Of larger Provinces the rule to give,
And for his Counsel near the King to live.
So to be caught, Antipater's too wise,
Parmenio's death's too fresh before his eyes;
He was too subtil for his crafty foe.
Nor by his baits could be insnared so:
But his excuse with humble thanks he sends,
His Age and journy long he then pretends;
And pardon craves for his unwilling stay,
He shews his grief, he's forc'd to disobey.
Before his Answer came to Babylon,
The thread of Alexanders life was spun;
Poyson had put an end to's dayes ('twas thought)
By Philip and Cassander to him brought,
Sons to Antipater, and bearers of his Cup,
Lest of such like their Father chance to sup;
By others thought, and that more generally,
That through excessive drinking he did dye:
The thirty third of's Age do all agree,
This Conquerour did yield to destiny.
When this sad news came to Darius Mother,
She laid it more to heart, then any other,
Nor meat, nor drink, nor comfort would she take,
But pin'd in grief till life did her forsake;
All friends she shuns, yea, banished the light,
Till death inwrapt her in perpetual night.
This Monarchs fame must last whilst world doth stand,
And Conquests be talkt of whilest there is land;
His Princely qualities had he retain'd,
Unparalled for ever had remain'd.
But with the world his virtues overcame,
And so with black beclouded, all his fame;
Wise Aristotle Tutor to his youth.
Had so instructed him in moral Truth:
The principles of what he then had learn'd
Might to the last (when sober) be discern'd.
Learning and learned men he much regarded,
And curious Artist evermore rewarded:
The Illiads of Homer he still kept.
And under's pillow laid them when he slept.
Achilles happiness he did envy,
'Cause Homer kept his acts to memory.
Profusely bountifull without desert,
For such as pleas'd him had both wealth and heart
Cruel by nature and by custome too,
As oft his acts throughout his reign doth shew:
Ambitious so, that nought could satisfie,
Vain, thirsting after immortality,
Still fearing that his name might hap to dye,
And fame not last unto eternity.
This Conqueror did oft lament (tis said)
There were no more worlds to be conquered.
This folly great Augustus did deride,
For had he had but wisdome to his pride,
He would had found enough there to be done,
To govern that he had already won.
His thoughts are perisht, he aspires no more,
Nor can he kill or save as heretofore.
A God alive, him all must Idolize,
Now like a mortal helpless man he lyes.
Of all those Kingdomes large which he had got,
To his Posterity remain'd no jot;
For by that hand which still revengeth bloud,
None of his kindred, nor his race long stood:
But as he took delight much bloud to spill,
So the same cup to his, did others fill.
Four of his Captains now do all divide,
As Daniel before had prophysi'd.
The Leopard down, the four wings 'gan to rise,
The great horn broke, the less did tyranize.
What troubles and contentions did ensue
We may hereafter shew in season due.
Aridæus.
Great Alexander dead, his Armyes left,
Like to that Giant of his Eye bereft;
When of his monstrous bulk it was the guide,
His matchless force no creature could abide.
But by Ulisses having lost his sight,
All men began streight to contemn his might;
For aiming still amiss, his dreadful blows
Did harm himself, but never reacht his Foes.
Now Court and Camp all in confusion be,
A King they'l have, but who, none can agree;
Each Captain wisht this prize to bear away,
But none so hardy found as so durst say:
Great Alexander did leave Issue none,
Except by Artabasus daughter one;
And Roxane fair whom late he married,
Was near her time to be delivered.
By natures right these had enough to claim,
But meaness of their mothers bar'd the same,
Alledg'd by those who by their subtile Plea
Had hope themselves to bear the Crown away.
A Sister Alexander had, but she
Claim'd not, perhaps, her Sex might hindrance be.
After much tumult they at last proclaim'd
His base born brother Aridæus nam'd,
That so under his feeble wit and reign,
Their ends they might the better still attain.
This choice Perdiccas vehemently disclaim'd,
And Babe unborn of Roxane he proclaim'd;
Some wished him to take the style of King,
Because his Master gave to him his Ring,
And had to him still since Ephestion di'd
More then to th'rest his favour testifi'd.
But he refus'd, with feigned modesty,
Hoping to be elect more generally.
He hold on this occasion should have laid,
For second offer there was never made.
'Mongst these contentions, tumults, jealousies,
Seven dayes the corps of their great master lies
Untoucht, uncovered slighted and neglected,
So much these princes their own ends respected:
A Contemplation to astonish Kings,
That he who late possest all earthly things,
And yet not so content unless that he
Might be esteemed for a Diety;
Now lay a Spectacle to testifie,
The wretchedness of mans mortality.
After some time, when stirs began to calm,
His body did the Egyptians embalme;
His countenance so lively did appear,
That for a while they durst not come so near:
No sign of poyson in his intrails sound,
But all his bowels coloured, well and sound.
Perdiccas seeing Arideus must be King,
Under his name began to rule each thing.
His chief Opponent who Control'd his sway,
Was Meleager whom he would take away,
And by a wile he got him in his power,
So took his life unworthily that hour.
Using the name, and the command of th'King
To authorize his acts in every thing.
The princes seeing Perdiccas power and pride,
For their security did now provide.
Antigonus for his share Asia takes,
And Ptolemy next sure of Egypt makes:
Seleucus afterward held Babylon,
Antipater had long rul'd Macedon.
These now to govern for the king pretends,
But nothing less each one himself intends.
Perdiccas took no province like the rest,
But held command of th'Army (which was best)
And had a higher project in his head,
His Masters sister secretly to wed:
So to the Lady, covertly he sent,
(That none might know, to frustrate his intent)
But Cleopatra this Suitor did deny,
For Leonatus more lovely in her eye,
To whom she sent a message of her mind,
That if he came good welcome he should find.
In these tumultuous dayes the thralled Greeks,
Their Ancient Liberty afresh now seeks.
And gladly would the yoke shake off, laid on
Sometimes by Philip and his conquering son.
The Athenians force Antipater to fly
To Lamia where he shut up doth lye.
To brave Craterus then he sends with speed
For succours to relieve him in his need.
The like of Leonatus he requires,
(Which at this time well suited his desires)
For to Antipater he now might goe,
His Lady take in th'way, and no man know.
Antiphilus the Athenian General
With speed his Army doth together call;
And Leonatus seeks to stop, that so
He joyne not with Antipater their foe.
The Athenian Army was the greater far,
(Which did his Match with Cleopatra mar)
For fighting still, while there did hope remain
The valiant Chief amidst his foes was slain.
'Mongst all the princes of great Alexander
For personage, none like to this Commander.
Now to Antipater Craterus goes,
Blockt up in Lamia still by his foes,
Long marches through Cilicia he makes,
And the remains of Leonatus takes:
With them and his he into Grecia went,
Antipater releas'd from prisonment:
After which time the Greeks did never more
Act any thing of worth, as heretofore:
But under servitude their necks remain'd,
Nor former liberty or glory gain'd.
Now di'd about the end of th'Lamian war
Demosthenes, that sweet-tongue'd Orator,
Who fear'd Antipater would take his life
For animating the Athenian strife:
To end his dayes by poison rather chose
Then fall into the hands of mortal foes.
Craterus and Antipater now joyne,
In love and in affinity combine,
Craterus doth his daughter Phila wed
Their friendship might the more be strengthened.
Whilst they in Macedon do thus agree,
In Asia they all asunder be.
Perdiccas griev'd to see the princes bold
So many Kingdomes in their power to hold,
Yet to regain them, how he did not know,
His souldiers 'gainst those captains would not goe
To suffer them go on as they begun,
Was to give way himself might be undone.
With Antipater to joyne he sometimes thought,
That by his help, the rest might low be brought,
But this again dislikes; he would remain,
If not in stile, in deed a soveraign;
(For all the princes of great Alexander
Acknowledged for Chief that old Commander)
Desires the King to goe to Macedon,
Which once was of his Ancestors the throne,
And by his presence there to nullifie
The acts of his Vice-Roy now grown so high.
Antigonus of treason first attaints,
And summons him to answer his complaints.
This he avoids, and ships himself and son,
goes to Antipater and tells what's done.
He and Craterus, both with him do joyne,
And 'gainst Perdiccas all their strength combine.
Brave Ptolemy, to make a fourth then sent
To save himself from danger imminent.
In midst of these garboyles, with wondrous state
His masters funeral doth celebrate:
In Alexandria his tomb he plac'd,
Which eating time hath scarcely yet defac'd.
Two years and more, since natures debt he paid,
And yet till now at quiet was not laid.
Great love did Ptolemy by this act gain,
And made the souldiers on his side remain.
Perdiccas hears his foes are all combin'd,
'Gainst which to goe, is not resolv'd in mind.
But first 'gainst Ptolemy he judg'd was best,
Neer'st unto him, and farthest from the rest,
Leaves Eumenes the Asian Coast to free
From the invasions of the other three,
And with his army unto Egypt goes
Brave Ptolemy to th'utmost to oppose.
Perdiccas surly cariage, and his pride
Did alinate the souldiers from his side.
But Ptolemy by affability
His sweet demeanour and his courtesie,
Did make his own, firm to his cause remain,
And from the other side did dayly gain.
Perdiccas in his pride did ill intreat
Python of haughty mind, and courage great.
Who could not brook so great indignity,
But of his wrongs his friends doth certifie;
The souldiers 'gainst Perdiccas they incense,
Who vow to make this captain recompence,
And in a rage they rush into his tent,
Knock out his brains: to Ptolemy then went
And offer him his honours, and his place,
With stile of the Protector, him to grace.
Next day into the camp came Ptolemy,
And is receiv'd of all most joyfully.
Their proffers he refus'd with modesty,
Yields them to Python for his courtesie.
With what he held he was now more content,
Then by more trouble to grow eminent.
Now comes there news of a great victory
That Eumenes got of the other three.
Had it but in Perdiccas life ariv'd,
With greater joy it would have been receiv'd.
Thus Ptolemy rich Egypt did retain,
And Python turn'd to Asia again.
Whilst Perdiccas encamp'd in Affrica,
Antigonus did enter Asia,
And fain would Eumenes draw to their side,
But he alone most faithfull did abide:
The other all had Kingdomes in their eye,
But he was true to's masters family,
Nor could Craterus, whom he much did love.
From his fidelity once make him move:
Two Battles fought, and had of both the best,
And brave Craterus slew among the rest:
For this sad strife he poures out his complaints,
And his beloved foe full sore laments.
I should but snip a story into bits
And his great Acts and glory much eclipse,
To shew the dangers Eumenes befel,
His stratagems wherein he did excel:
His Policies, how he did extricate
Himself from out of Lab'rinths intricate:
He that at large would satisfie his mind,
In Plutarchs Lives his history may find.
For all that should be said, let this suffice,
He was both valiant, faithfull, patient, wise.
Python now chose Protector of the state,
His rule Queen Euridice begins to hate,
Sees Arrideus must not King it long,
If once young Alexander grow more strong,
But that her husband serve for supplement,
To warm his seat, was never her intent.
She knew her birth-right gave her Macedon,
Grand-child to him who once sat on that throne
Who was Perdiccas, Philips eldest brother,
She daughter to his son, who had no other.
Pythons commands, as oft she countermands;
What he appoints, she purposely withstands.
He wearied out at last would needs be gone,
Resign'd his place, and so let all alone:
In's room the souldiers chose Antipater,
Who vext the Queen more then the other far.
From Macedon to Asia he came,
That he might settle matters in the same.
He plac'd, displac'd, control'd rul'd as he list,
And this no man durst question or resist;
For all the nobles of King Alexander
Their bonnets vail'd to him as chief Commander.
When to his pleasure all things they had done,
The King and Queen he takes to Macedon,
Two sons of Alexander, and the rest,
All to be order'd there as he thought best.
The Army to Antigonus doth leave,
And Government of Asia to him gave.
And thus Antipater the ground-work layes,
On which Antigonus his height doth raise,
Who in few years, the rest so overtops,
For universal Monarchy he hopes.
With Eumenes he diverse Battels fought,
And by his slights to circumvent him sought:
But vain it was to use his policy,
'Gainst him that all deceits could scan and try.
In this Epitome too long to tell
How finely Eumenes did here excell,
And by the self same Traps the other laid,
He to his cost was righteously repaid.
But while these Chieftains doe in Asia fight,
To Greece and Macedon lets turn our sight.
When great Antipater the world must leave,
His place to Polisperchon did bequeath,
Fearing his son Cassander was unstaid,
Too rash to bear that charge, if on him laid.
Antigonus hearing of his decease
On most part of Assyria doth seize.
And Ptolemy next to incroach begins,
All Syria and Phenicia he wins,
Then Polisperchon 'gins to act in's place,
Recalls Olimpias the Court to grace.
Antipater had banish'd her from thence
Into Epire for her great turbulence;
This new Protector's of another mind,
Thinks by her Majesty much help to find.
Cassander like his Father could not see,
This Polisperchons great ability,
Slights his Commands, his actions he disclaims,
And to be chief himself now bends his aims;
Such as his Father had advanc'd to place,
Or by his favours any way had grac'd
Are now at the devotion of the Son,
Prest to accomplish what he would have done;
Besides he was the young Queens favourite,
On whom (t'was thought) she set her chief delight:
Unto these helps at home he seeks out more,
Goes to Antigonus and doth implore,
By all the Bonds 'twixt him and's Father past,
And for that great gift which he gave him last.
By these and all to grant him some supply,
To take down Polisperchon grown so high;
For this Antigonus did need no spurs,
Hoping to gain yet more by these new stirs,
Streight furnish'd him with a sufficient aid,
And so he quick returns thus well appaid,
With Ships at Sea, an Army for the Land,
His proud opponent hopes soon to withstand.
But in his absence Polisperchon takes
Such friends away as for his Interest makes
By death, by prison, or by banishment,
That no supply by these here might be lent,
Cassander with his Host to Grecia goes,
Whom Polisperchon labours to oppose;
But beaten was at Sea, and foil'd at Land,
Cassanders forces had the upper hand,
Athens with many Towns in Greece beside,
Firm (for his Fathers sake) to him abide.
Whil'st hot in wars these two in Greece remain,
Antigonus doth all in Asia gain;
Still labours Eumenes, would with him side,
But all in vain, he faithful did abide:
Nor Mother could, nor Sons of Alexander,
Put trust in any but in this Commander.
The great ones now began to shew their mind,
And act as opportunity they find.
Aridæus the scorn'd and simple King,
More then he bidden was could act no thing.
Polisperchon for office hoping long,
Thinks to inthrone the Prince when riper grown;
Euridice this injury disdains,
And to Cassandar of this wrong complains.
Hateful the name and house of Alexander,
Was to this proud vindicative Cassander;
He still kept lockt within his memory,
His Fathers danger, with his Family;
Nor thought he that indignity was small,
When Alexander knockt his head to th'wall.
These with his love unto the amorous Queen,
Did make him vow her servant to be seen.
Olimpias, Aridæus deadly hates,
As all her Husbands, Children by his mates,
She gave him poyson formerly ('tis thought)
Which damage both to mind and body brought;
She now with Polisperchon doth combine,
To make the King by force his Seat resigne:
And her young grand-child in his State inthrone,
That under him, she might rule, all alone.
For aid she goes t'Epire among her friends,
The better to accomplish these her ends;
Euridice hearing what she intends,
In haste unto her friend Cassander sends,
To leave his siege at Tegea, and with speed,
To save the King and her in this their need:
Then by intreaties, promises and Coyne,
Some forces did procure with her to joyn.
Olimpias soon enters Macedon,
The Queen to meet her bravely marches on,
But when her Souldiers saw their ancient Queen,
Calling to mind what sometime she had been;
The wife and Mother of their famous Kings,
Nor darts, nor arrows, now none shoots or flings.
The King and Queen seeing their destiny,
To save their lives t'Amphipolis do fly;
But the old Queen pursues them with her hate,
And needs will have their lives as well as State:
The King by extream torments had his end,
And to the Queen these presents she did send;
A Halter, cup of poyson, and a Sword,
Bids chuse her death, such kindness she'l afford.
The Queen with many a curse, and bitter check,
At length yields to the Halter her fair neck;
Praying that fatal day might quickly haste,
On which Olimpias of the like might taste.
This done the cruel Queen rests not content,
'Gainst all that lov'd Cassander she was bent;
His Brethren, Kinsfolk and his chiefest friends,
That fell within her reach came to their ends:
Dig'd up his brother dead, 'gainst natures right,
And threw his bones about to shew her spight:
The Courtiers wondring at her furious mind,
Wisht in Epire she had been still confin'd.
In Peloponesus then Cassander lay,
Where hearing of this news he speeds away,
With rage, and with revenge he's hurried on,
To find this cruel Queen in Macedon;
But being stopt, at streight Thermopoly,
Sea passage gets, and lands in Thessaly:
His Army he divides, sends post away,
Polisperchon to hold a while in play;
And with the rest Olimpias pursues,
For all her cruelty, to give her dues.
She with the chief o' th'Court to Pydna flyes,
Well fortifi'd, (and on the Sea it lyes)
There by Cassander she's blockt up so long,
Untill the Famine grows exceeding strong,
Her Couzen of Epire did what he might,
To raise the Siege, and put her Foes to flight.
Cassander is resolved there to remain,
So succours and endeavours proves but vain;
Fain would this wretched Queen capitulate,
Her foe would give no Ear, (such is his hate)
The Souldiers pinched with this scarcity,
By stealth unto Cassander dayly fly;
Olimpias means to hold out to the last,
Expecting nothing but of death to tast:
But his occasions calling him away,
Gives promise for her life, so wins the day.
No sooner had he got her in his hand,
But made in judgement her accusers stand;
And plead the blood of friends and kindreds spilt,
Desiring justice might be done for guilt;
And so was he acquitted of his word,
For justice sake she being

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 21

Minerva now put it in Penelope's mind to make the suitors try
their skill with the bow and with the iron axes, in contest among
themselves, as a means of bringing about their destruction. She went
upstairs and got the store room key, which was made of bronze and
had a handle of ivory; she then went with her maidens into the store
room at the end of the house, where her husband's treasures of gold,
bronze, and wrought iron were kept, and where was also his bow, and
the quiver full of deadly arrows that had been given him by a friend
whom he had met in Lacedaemon- Iphitus the son of Eurytus. The two
fell in with one another in Messene at the house of Ortilochus,
where Ulysses was staying in order to recover a debt that was owing
from the whole people; for the Messenians had carried off three
hundred sheep from Ithaca, and had sailed away with them and with
their shepherds. In quest of these Ulysses took a long journey while
still quite young, for his father and the other chieftains sent him on
a mission to recover them. Iphitus had gone there also to try and
get back twelve brood mares that he had lost, and the mule foals
that were running with them. These mares were the death of him in
the end, for when he went to the house of Jove's son, mighty Hercules,
who performed such prodigies of valour, Hercules to his shame killed
him, though he was his guest, for he feared not heaven's vengeance,
nor yet respected his own table which he had set before Iphitus, but
killed him in spite of everything, and kept the mares himself. It
was when claiming these that Iphitus met Ulysses, and gave him the bow
which mighty Eurytus had been used to carry, and which on his death
had been left by him to his son. Ulysses gave him in return a sword
and a spear, and this was the beginning of a fast friendship, although
they never visited at one another's houses, for Jove's son Hercules
killed Iphitus ere they could do so. This bow, then, given him by
Iphitus, had not been taken with him by Ulysses when he sailed for
Troy; he had used it so long as he had been at home, but had left it
behind as having been a keepsake from a valued friend.
Penelope presently reached the oak threshold of the store room;
the carpenter had planed this duly, and had drawn a line on it so as
to get it quite straight; he had then set the door posts into it and
hung the doors. She loosed the strap from the handle of the door,
put in the key, and drove it straight home to shoot back the bolts
that held the doors; these flew open with a noise like a bull
bellowing in a meadow, and Penelope stepped upon the raised
platform, where the chests stood in which the fair linen and clothes
were laid by along with fragrant herbs: reaching thence, she took down
the bow with its bow case from the peg on which it hung. She sat
down with it on her knees, weeping bitterly as she took the bow out of
its case, and when her tears had relieved her, she went to the
cloister where the suitors were, carrying the bow and the quiver, with
the many deadly arrows that were inside it. Along with her came her
maidens, bearing a chest that contained much iron and bronze which her
husband had won as prizes. When she reached the suitors, she stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof of the cloister,
holding a veil before her face, and with a maid on either side of her.
Then she said:
"Listen to me you suitors, who persist in abusing the hospitality of
this house because its owner has been long absent, and without other
pretext than that you want to marry me; this, then, being the prize
that you are contending for, I will bring out the mighty bow of
Ulysses, and whomsoever of you shall string it most easily and send
his arrow through each one of twelve axes, him will I follow and
quit this house of my lawful husband, so goodly, and so abounding in
wealth. But even so I doubt not that I shall remember it in my
dreams."
As she spoke, she told Eumaeus to set the bow and the pieces of iron
before the suitors, and Eumaeus wept as he took them to do as she
had bidden him. Hard by, the stockman wept also when he saw his
master's bow, but Antinous scolded them. "You country louts," said he,
"silly simpletons; why should you add to the sorrows of your
mistress by crying in this way? She has enough to grieve her in the
loss of her husband; sit still, therefore, and eat your dinners in
silence, or go outside if you want to cry, and leave the bow behind
you. We suitors shall have to contend for it with might and main,
for we shall find it no light matter to string such a bow as this
is. There is not a man of us all who is such another as Ulysses; for I
have seen him and remember him, though I was then only a child."
This was what he said, but all the time he was expecting to be
able to string the bow and shoot through the iron, whereas in fact
he was to be the first that should taste of the arrows from the
hands of Ulysses, whom he was dishonouring in his own house- egging
the others on to do so also.
Then Telemachus spoke. "Great heavens!" he exclaimed, "Jove must
have robbed me of my senses. Here is my dear and excellent mother
saying she will quit this house and marry again, yet I am laughing and
enjoying myself as though there were nothing happening. But,
suitors, as the contest has been agreed upon, let it go forward. It is
for a woman whose peer is not to be found in Pylos, Argos, or
Mycene, nor yet in Ithaca nor on the mainland. You know this as well
as I do; what need have I to speak in praise of my mother? Come on,
then, make no excuses for delay, but let us see whether you can string
the bow or no. I too will make trial of it, for if I can string it and
shoot through the iron, I shall not suffer my mother to quit this
house with a stranger, not if I can win the prizes which my father won
before me."
As he spoke he sprang from his seat, threw his crimson cloak from
him, and took his sword from his shoulder. First he set the axes in
a row, in a long groove which he had dug for them, and had Wade
straight by line. Then he stamped the earth tight round them, and
everyone was surprised when they saw him set up so orderly, though
he had never seen anything of the kind before. This done, he went on
to the pavement to make trial of the bow; thrice did he tug at it,
trying with all his might to draw the string, and thrice he had to
leave off, though he had hoped to string the bow and shoot through the
iron. He was trying for the fourth time, and would have strung it
had not Ulysses made a sign to check him in spite of all his
eagerness. So he said:
"Alas! I shall either be always feeble and of no prowess, or I am
too young, and have not yet reached my full strength so as to be
able to hold my own if any one attacks me. You others, therefore,
who are stronger than I, make trial of the bow and get this contest
settled."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door
[that led into the house] with the arrow standing against the top of
the bow. Then he sat down on the seat from which he had risen, and
Antinous said:
"Come on each of you in his turn, going towards the right from the
place at which the. cupbearer begins when he is handing round the
wine."
The rest agreed, and Leiodes son of OEnops was the first to rise. He
was sacrificial priest to the suitors, and sat in the corner near
the mixing-bowl. He was the only man who hated their evil deeds and
was indignant with the others. He was now the first to take the bow
and arrow, so he went on to the pavement to make his trial, but he
could not string the bow, for his hands were weak and unused to hard
work, they therefore soon grew tired, and he said to the suitors,
"My friends, I cannot string it; let another have it; this bow shall
take the life and soul out of many a chief among us, for it is
better to die than to live after having missed the prize that we
have so long striven for, and which has brought us so long together.
Some one of us is even now hoping and praying that he may marry
Penelope, but when he has seen this bow and tried it, let him woo
and make bridal offerings to some other woman, and let Penelope
marry whoever makes her the best offer and whose lot it is to win
her."
On this he put the bow down, letting it lean against the door,
with the arrow standing against the tip of the bow. Then he took his
seat again on the seat from which he had risen; and Antinous rebuked
him saying:
"Leiodes, what are you talking about? Your words are monstrous and
intolerable; it makes me angry to listen to you. Shall, then, this bow
take the life of many a chief among us, merely because you cannot bend
it yourself? True, you were not born to be an archer, but there are
others who will soon string it."
Then he said to Melanthius the goatherd, "Look sharp, light a fire
in the court, and set a seat hard by with a sheep skin on it; bring us
also a large ball of lard, from what they have in the house. Let us
warm the bow and grease it we will then make trial of it again, and
bring the contest to an end."
Melanthius lit the fire, and set a seat covered with sheep skins
beside it. He also brought a great ball of lard from what they had
in the house, and the suitors warmed the bow and again made trial of
it, but they were none of them nearly strong enough to string it.
Nevertheless there still remained Antinous and Eurymachus, who were
the ringleaders among the suitors and much the foremost among them
all.
Then the swineherd and the stockman left the cloisters together, and
Ulysses followed them. When they had got outside the gates and the
outer yard, Ulysses said to them quietly:
"Stockman, and you swineherd, I have something in my mind which I am
in doubt whether to say or no; but I think I will say it. What
manner of men would you be to stand by Ulysses, if some god should
bring him back here all of a sudden? Say which you are disposed to do-
to side with the suitors, or with Ulysses?"
"Father Jove," answered the stockman, "would indeed that you might
so ordain it. If some god were but to bring Ulysses back, you should
see with what might and main I would fight for him."
In like words Eumaeus prayed to all the gods that Ulysses might
return; when, therefore, he saw for certain what mind they were of,
Ulysses said, "It is I, Ulysses, who am here. I have suffered much,
but at last, in the twentieth year, I am come back to my own
country. I find that you two alone of all my servants are glad that
I should do so, for I have not heard any of the others praying for
my return. To you two, therefore, will I unfold the truth as it
shall be. If heaven shall deliver the suitors into my hands, I will
find wives for both of you, will give you house and holding close to
my own, and you shall be to me as though you were brothers and friends
of Telemachus. I will now give you convincing proofs that you may know
me and be assured. See, here is the scar from the boar's tooth that
ripped me when I was out hunting on Mount Parnassus with the sons of
Autolycus."
As he spoke he drew his rags aside from the great scar, and when
they had examined it thoroughly, they both of them wept about Ulysses,
threw their arms round him and kissed his head and shoulders, while
Ulysses kissed their hands and faces in return. The sun would have
gone down upon their mourning if Ulysses had not checked them and
said:
"Cease your weeping, lest some one should come outside and see us,
and tell those who a are within. When you go in, do so separately, not
both together; I will go first, and do you follow afterwards; Let this
moreover be the token between us; the suitors will all of them try
to prevent me from getting hold of the bow and quiver; do you,
therefore, Eumaeus, place it in my hands when you are carrying it
about, and tell the women to close the doors of their apartment. If
they hear any groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house,
they must not come out; they must keep quiet, and stay where they
are at their work. And I charge you, Philoetius, to make fast the
doors of the outer court, and to bind them securely at once."
When he had thus spoken, he went back to the house and took the seat
that he had left. Presently, his two servants followed him inside.
At this moment the bow was in the hands of Eurymachus, who was
warming it by the fire, but even so he could not string it, and he was
greatly grieved. He heaved a deep sigh and said, "I grieve for
myself and for us all; I grieve that I shall have to forgo the
marriage, but I do not care nearly so much about this, for there are
plenty of other women in Ithaca and elsewhere; what I feel most is the
fact of our being so inferior to Ulysses in strength that we cannot
string his bow. This will disgrace us in the eyes of those who are yet
unborn."
"It shall not be so, Eurymachus," said Antinous, "and you know it
yourself. To-day is the feast of Apollo throughout all the land; who
can string a bow on such a day as this? Put it on one side- as for the
axes they can stay where they are, for no one is likely to come to the
house and take them away: let the cupbearer go round with his cups,
that we may make our drink-offerings and drop this matter of the
bow; we will tell Melanthius to bring us in some goats to-morrow-
the best he has; we can then offer thigh bones to Apollo the mighty
archer, and again make trial of the bow, so as to bring the contest to
an end."
The rest approved his words, and thereon men servants poured water
over the hands of the guests, while pages filled the mixing-bowls with
wine and water and handed it round after giving every man his
drink-offering. Then, when they had made their offerings and had drunk
each as much as he desired, Ulysses craftily said:
"Suitors of the illustrious queen, listen that I may speak even as I
am minded. I appeal more especially to Eurymachus, and to Antinous who
has just spoken with so much reason. Cease shooting for the present
and leave the matter to the gods, but in the morning let heaven give
victory to whom it will. For the moment, however, give me the bow that
I may prove the power of my hands among you all, and see whether I
still have as much strength as I used to have, or whether travel and
neglect have made an end of it."
This made them all very angry, for they feared he might string the
bow; Antinous therefore rebuked him fiercely saying, "Wretched
creature, you have not so much as a grain of sense in your whole body;
you ought to think yourself lucky in being allowed to dine unharmed
among your betters, without having any smaller portion served you than
we others have had, and in being allowed to hear our conversation.
No other beggar or stranger has been allowed to hear what we say among
ourselves; the wine must have been doing you a mischief, as it does
with all those drink immoderately. It was wine that inflamed the
Centaur Eurytion when he was staying with Peirithous among the
Lapithae. When the wine had got into his head he went mad and did
ill deeds about the house of Peirithous; this angered the heroes who
were there assembled, so they rushed at him and cut off his ears and
nostrils; then they dragged him through the doorway out of the
house, so he went away crazed, and bore the burden of his crime,
bereft of understanding. Henceforth, therefore, there was war
between mankind and the centaurs, but he brought it upon himself
through his own drunkenness. In like manner I can tell you that it
will go hardly with you if you string the bow: you will find no
mercy from any one here, for we shall at once ship you off to king
Echetus, who kills every one that comes near him: you will never get
away alive, so drink and keep quiet without getting into a quarrel
with men younger than yourself."
Penelope then spoke to him. "Antinous," said she, "it is not right
that you should ill-treat any guest of Telemachus who comes to this
house. If the stranger should prove strong enough to string the mighty
bow of Ulysses, can you suppose that he would take me home with him
and make me his wife? Even the man himself can have no such idea in
his mind: none of you need let that disturb his feasting; it would
be out of all reason."
"Queen Penelope," answered Eurymachus, "we do not suppose that
this man will take you away with him; it is impossible; but we are
afraid lest some of the baser sort, men or women among the Achaeans,
should go gossiping about and say, 'These suitors are a feeble folk;
they are paying court to the wife of a brave man whose bow not one
of them was able to string, and yet a beggarly tramp who came to the
house strung it at once and sent an arrow through the iron.' This is
what will be said, and it will be a scandal against us."
"Eurymachus," Penelope answered, "people who persist in eating up
the estate of a great chieftain and dishonouring his house must not
expect others to think well of them. Why then should you mind if men
talk as you think they will? This stranger is strong and well-built,
he says moreover that he is of noble birth. Give him the bow, and
let us see whether he can string it or no. I say- and it shall
surely be- that if Apollo vouchsafes him the glory of stringing it,
I will give him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a javelin to keep
off dogs and robbers, and a sharp sword. I will also give him sandals,
and will see him sent safely whereever he wants to go."
Then Telemachus said, "Mother, I am the only man either in Ithaca or
in the islands that are over against Elis who has the right to let any
one have the bow or to refuse it. No one shall force me one way or the
other, not even though I choose to make the stranger a present of
the bow outright, and let him take it away with him. Go, then,
within the house and busy yourself with your daily duties, your
loom, your distaff, and the ordering of your servants. This bow is a
man's matter, and mine above all others, for it is I who am master
here."
She went wondering back into the house, and laid her son's saying in
her heart. Then going upstairs with her handmaids into her room, she
mourned her dear husband till Minerva sent sweet sleep over her
eyelids.
The swineherd now took up the bow and was for taking it to
Ulysses, but the suitors clamoured at him from all parts of the
cloisters, and one of them said, "You idiot, where are you taking
the bow to? Are you out of your wits? If Apollo and the other gods
will grant our prayer, your own boarhounds shall get you into some
quiet little place, and worry you to death."
Eumaeus was frightened at the outcry they all raised, so he put
the bow down then and there, but Telemachus shouted out at him from
the other side of the cloisters, and threatened him saying, "Father
Eumaeus, bring the bow on in spite of them, or young as I am I will
pelt you with stones back to the country, for I am the better man of
the two. I wish I was as much stronger than all the other suitors in
the house as I am than you, I would soon send some of them off sick
and sorry, for they mean mischief."
Thus did he speak, and they all of them laughed heartily, which
put them in a better humour with Telemachus; so Eumaeus brought the
bow on and placed it in the hands of Ulysses. When he had done this,
he called Euryclea apart and said to her, "Euryclea, Telemachus says
you are to close the doors of the women's apartments. If they hear any
groaning or uproar as of men fighting about the house, they are not to
come out, but are to keep quiet and stay where they are at their
work."
Euryclea did as she was told and closed the doors of the women's
apartments.
Meanwhile Philoetius slipped quietly out and made fast the gates
of the outer court. There was a ship's cable of byblus fibre lying
in the gatehouse, so he made the gates fast with it and then came in
again, resuming the seat that he had left, and keeping an eye on
Ulysses, who had now got the bow in his hands, and was turning it
every way about, and proving it all over to see whether the worms
had been eating into its two horns during his absence. Then would
one turn towards his neighbour saying, "This is some tricky old
bow-fancier; either he has got one like it at home, or he wants to
make one, in such workmanlike style does the old vagabond handle it."
Another said, "I hope he may be no more successful in other things
than he is likely to be in stringing this bow."
But Ulysses, when he had taken it up and examined it all over,
strung it as easily as a skilled bard strings a new peg of his lyre
and makes the twisted gut fast at both ends. Then he took it in his
right hand to prove the string, and it sang sweetly under his touch
like the twittering of a swallow. The suitors were dismayed, and
turned colour as they heard it; at that moment, moreover, Jove
thundered loudly as a sign, and the heart of Ulysses rejoiced as he
heard the omen that the son of scheming Saturn had sent him.
He took an arrow that was lying upon the table- for those which
the Achaeans were so shortly about to taste were all inside the
quiver- he laid it on the centre-piece of the bow, and drew the
notch of the arrow and the string toward him, still seated on his
seat. When he had taken aim he let fly, and his arrow pierced every
one of the handle-holes of the axes from the first onwards till it had
gone right through them, and into the outer courtyard. Then he said to
Telemachus:
"Your guest has not disgraced you, Telemachus. I did not miss what I
aimed at, and I was not long in stringing my bow. I am still strong,
and not as the suitors twit me with being. Now, however, it is time
for the Achaeans to prepare supper while there is still daylight,
and then otherwise to disport themselves with song and dance which are
the crowning ornaments of a banquet."
As he spoke he made a sign with his eyebrows, and Telemachus
girded on his sword, grasped his spear, and stood armed beside his
father's seat.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 5

And now, as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus- harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals- the gods met in council and with
them, Jove the lord of thunder, who is their king. Thereon Minerva
began to tell them of the many sufferings of Ulysses, for she pitied
him away there in the house of the nymph Calypso.
"Father Jove," said she, "and all you other gods that live in
everlasting bliss, I hope there may never be such a thing as a kind
and well-disposed ruler any more, nor one who will govern equitably. I
hope they will be all henceforth cruel and unjust, for there is not
one of his subjects but has forgotten Ulysses, who ruled them as
though he were their father. There he is, lying in great pain in an
island where dwells the nymph Calypso, who will not let him go; and he
cannot get back to his own country, for he can find neither ships
nor sailors to take him over the sea. Furthermore, wicked people are
now trying to murder his only son Telemachus, who is coming home
from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to see if he can get news
of his father."
"What, my dear, are you talking about?" replied her father, "did you
not send him there yourself, because you thought it would help Ulysses
to get home and punish the suitors? Besides, you are perfectly able to
protect Telemachus, and to see him safely home again, while the
suitors have to come hurry-skurrying back without having killed him."
When he had thus spoken, he said to his son Mercury, "Mercury, you
are our messenger, go therefore and tell Calypso we have decreed
that poor Ulysses is to return home. He is to be convoyed neither by
gods nor men, but after a perilous voyage of twenty days upon a raft
he is to reach fertile Scheria, the land of the Phaeacians, who are
near of kin to the gods, and will honour him as though he were one
of ourselves. They will send him in a ship to his own country, and
will give him more bronze and gold and raiment than he would have
brought back from Troy, if he had had had all his prize money and
had got home without disaster. This is how we have settled that he
shall return to his country and his friends."
Thus he spoke, and Mercury, guide and guardian, slayer of Argus, did
as he was told. Forthwith he bound on his glittering golden sandals
with which he could fly like the wind over land and sea. He took the
wand with which he seals men's eyes in sleep or wakes them just as
he pleases, and flew holding it in his hand over Pieria; then he
swooped down through the firmament till he reached the level of the
sea, whose waves he skimmed like a cormorant that flies fishing
every hole and corner of the ocean, and drenching its thick plumage in
the spray. He flew and flew over many a weary wave, but when at last
he got to the island which was his journey's end, he left the sea
and went on by land till he came to the cave where the nymph Calypso
lived.
He found her at home. There was a large fire burning on the
hearth, and one could smell from far the fragrant reek of burning
cedar and sandal wood. As for herself, she was busy at her loom,
shooting her golden shuttle through the warp and singing
beautifully. Round her cave there was a thick wood of alder, poplar,
and sweet smelling cypress trees, wherein all kinds of great birds had
built their nests- owls, hawks, and chattering sea-crows that occupy
their business in the waters. A vine loaded with grapes was trained
and grew luxuriantly about the mouth of the cave; there were also four
running rills of water in channels cut pretty close together, and
turned hither and thither so as to irrigate the beds of violets and
luscious herbage over which they flowed. Even a god could not help
being charmed with such a lovely spot, so Mercury stood still and
looked at it; but when he had admired it sufficiently he went inside
the cave.
Calypso knew him at once- for the gods all know each other, no
matter how far they live from one another- but Ulysses was not within;
he was on the sea-shore as usual, looking out upon the barren ocean
with tears in his eyes, groaning and breaking his heart for sorrow.
Calypso gave Mercury a seat and said: "Why have you come to see me,
Mercury- honoured, and ever welcome- for you do not visit me often?
Say what you want; I will do it for be you at once if I can, and if it
can be done at all; but come inside, and let me set refreshment before
you.
As she spoke she drew a table loaded with ambrosia beside him and
mixed him some red nectar, so Mercury ate and drank till he had had
enough, and then said:
"We are speaking god and goddess to one another, one another, and
you ask me why I have come here, and I will tell you truly as you
would have me do. Jove sent me; it was no doing of mine; who could
possibly want to come all this way over the sea where there are no
cities full of people to offer me sacrifices or choice hecatombs?
Nevertheless I had to come, for none of us other gods can cross
Jove, nor transgress his orders. He says that you have here the most
ill-starred of alf those who fought nine years before the city of King
Priam and sailed home in the tenth year after having sacked it. On
their way home they sinned against Minerva, who raised both wind and
waves against them, so that all his brave companions perished, and
he alone was carried hither by wind and tide. Jove says that you are
to let this by man go at once, for it is decreed that he shall not
perish here, far from his own people, but shall return to his house
and country and see his friends again."
Calypso trembled with rage when she heard this, "You gods," she
exclaimed, to be ashamed of yourselves. You are always jealous and
hate seeing a goddess take a fancy to a mortal man, and live with
him in open matrimony. So when rosy-fingered Dawn made love to
Orion, you precious gods were all of you furious till Diana went and
killed him in Ortygia. So again when Ceres fell in love with Iasion,
and yielded to him in a thrice ploughed fallow field, Jove came to
hear of it before so long and killed Iasion with his thunder-bolts.
And now you are angry with me too because I have a man here. I found
the poor creature sitting all alone astride of a keel, for Jove had
struck his ship with lightning and sunk it in mid ocean, so that all
his crew were drowned, while he himself was driven by wind and waves
on to my island. I got fond of him and cherished him, and had set my
heart on making him immortal, so that he should never grow old all his
days; still I cannot cross Jove, nor bring his counsels to nothing;
therefore, if he insists upon it, let the man go beyond the seas
again; but I cannot send him anywhere myself for I have neither
ships nor men who can take him. Nevertheless I will readily give him
such advice, in all good faith, as will be likely to bring him
safely to his own country."
"Then send him away," said Mercury, "or Jove will be angry with
you and punish you"'
On this he took his leave, and Calypso went out to look for Ulysses,
for she had heard Jove's message. She found him sitting upon the beach
with his eyes ever filled with tears, and dying of sheer
home-sickness; for he had got tired of Calypso, and though he was
forced to sleep with her in the cave by night, it was she, not he,
that would have it so. As for the day time, he spent it on the rocks
and on the sea-shore, weeping, crying aloud for his despair, and
always looking out upon the sea. Calypso then went close up to him
said:
"My poor fellow, you shall not stay here grieving and fretting
your life out any longer. I am going to send you away of my own free
will; so go, cut some beams of wood, and make yourself a large raft
with an upper deck that it may carry you safely over the sea. I will
put bread, wine, and water on board to save you from starving. I
will also give you clothes, and will send you a fair wind to take
you home, if the gods in heaven so will it- for they know more about
these things, and can settle them better than I can."
Ulysses shuddered as he heard her. "Now goddess," he answered,
"there is something behind all this; you cannot be really meaning to
help me home when you bid me do such a dreadful thing as put to sea on
a raft. Not even a well-found ship with a fair wind could venture on
such a distant voyage: nothing that you can say or do shall mage me go
on board a raft unless you first solemnly swear that you mean me no
mischief."
Calypso smiled at this and caressed him with her hand: "You know a
great deal," said she, "but you are quite wrong here. May heaven above
and earth below be my witnesses, with the waters of the river Styx-
and this is the most solemn oath which a blessed god can take- that
I mean you no sort of harm, and am only advising you to do exactly
what I should do myself in your place. I am dealing with you quite
straightforwardly; my heart is not made of iron, and I am very sorry
for you."
When she had thus spoken she led the way rapidly before him, and
Ulysses followed in her steps; so the pair, goddess and man, went on
and on till they came to Calypso's cave, where Ulysses took the seat
that Mercury had just left. Calypso set meat and drink before him of
the food that mortals eat; but her maids brought ambrosia and nectar
for herself, and they laid their hands on the good things that were
before them. When they had satisfied themselves with meat and drink,
Calypso spoke, saying:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, so you would start home to your
own land at once? Good luck go with you, but if you could only know
how much suffering is in store for you before you get back to your own
country, you would stay where you are, keep house along with me, and
let me make you immortal, no matter how anxious you may be to see this
wife of yours, of whom you are thinking all the time day after day;
yet I flatter myself that at am no whit less tall or well-looking than
she is, for it is not to be expected that a mortal woman should
compare in beauty with an immortal."
"Goddess," replied Ulysses, "do not be angry with me about this. I
am quite aware that my wife Penelope is nothing like so tall or so
beautiful as yourself. She is only a woman, whereas you are an
immortal. Nevertheless, I want to get home, and can think of nothing
else. If some god wrecks me when I am on the sea, I will bear it and
make the best of it. I have had infinite trouble both by land and
sea already, so let this go with the rest."
Presently the sun set and it became dark, whereon the pair retired
into the inner part of the cave and went to bed.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Ulysses put
on his shirt and cloak, while the goddess wore a dress of a light
gossamer fabric, very fine and graceful, with a beautiful golden
girdle about her waist and a veil to cover her head. She at once set
herself to think how she could speed Ulysses on his way. So she gave
him a great bronze axe that suited his hands; it was sharpened on both
sides, and had a beautiful olive-wood handle fitted firmly on to it.
She also gave him a sharp adze, and then led the way to the far end of
the island where the largest trees grew- alder, poplar and pine,
that reached the sky- very dry and well seasoned, so as to sail
light for him in the water. Then, when she had shown him where the
best trees grew, Calypso went home, leaving him to cut them, which
he soon finished doing. He cut down twenty trees in all and adzed them
smooth, squaring them by rule in good workmanlike fashion. Meanwhile
Calypso came back with some augers, so he bored holes with them and
fitted the timbers together with bolts and rivets. He made the raft as
broad as a skilled shipwright makes the beam of a large vessel, and he
filed a deck on top of the ribs, and ran a gunwale all round it. He
also made a mast with a yard arm, and a rudder to steer with. He
fenced the raft all round with wicker hurdles as a protection
against the waves, and then he threw on a quantity of wood. By and
by Calypso brought him some linen to make the sails, and he made these
too, excellently, making them fast with braces and sheets. Last of
all, with the help of levers, he drew the raft down into the water.
In four days he had completed the whole work, and on the fifth
Calypso sent him from the island after washing him and giving him some
clean clothes. She gave him a goat skin full of black wine, and
another larger one of water; she also gave him a wallet full of
provisions, and found him in much good meat. Moreover, she made the
wind fair and warm for him, and gladly did Ulysses spread his sail
before it, while he sat and guided the raft skilfully by means of
the rudder. He never closed his eyes, but kept them fixed on the
Pleiads, on late-setting Bootes, and on the Bear- which men also
call the wain, and which turns round and round where it is, facing
Orion, and alone never dipping into the stream of Oceanus- for Calypso
had told him to keep this to his left. Days seven and ten did he
sail over the sea, and on the eighteenth the dim outlines of the
mountains on the nearest part of the Phaeacian coast appeared,
rising like a shield on the horizon.
But King Neptune, who was returning from the Ethiopians, caught
sight of Ulysses a long way off, from the mountains of the Solymi.
He could see him sailing upon the sea, and it made him very angry,
so he wagged his head and muttered to himself, saying, heavens, so the
gods have been changing their minds about Ulysses while I was away
in Ethiopia, and now he is close to the land of the Phaeacians,
where it is decreed that he shall escape from the calamities that have
befallen him. Still, he shall have plenty of hardship yet before he
has done with it."
Thereon he gathered his clouds together, grasped his trident,
stirred it round in the sea, and roused the rage of every wind that
blows till earth, sea, and sky were hidden in cloud, and night
sprang forth out of the heavens. Winds from East, South, North, and
West fell upon him all at the same time, and a tremendous sea got
up, so that Ulysses' heart began to fail him. "Alas," he said to
himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of me? I am afraid
Calypso was right when she said I should have trouble by sea before
I got back home. It is all coming true. How black is Jove making
heaven with his clouds, and what a sea the winds are raising from
every quarter at once. I am now safe to perish. Blest and thrice blest
were those Danaans who fell before Troy in the cause of the sons of
Atreus. Would that had been killed on the day when the Trojans were
pressing me so sorely about the dead body of Achilles, for then I
should have had due burial and the Achaeans would have honoured my
name; but now it seems that I shall come to a most pitiable end."
As he spoke a sea broke over him with such terrific fury that the
raft reeled again, and he was carried overboard a long way off. He let
go the helm, and the force of the hurricane was so great that it broke
the mast half way up, and both sail and yard went over into the sea.
For a long time Ulysses was under water, and it was all he could do to
rise to the surface again, for the clothes Calypso had given him
weighed him down; but at last he got his head above water and spat out
the bitter brine that was running down his face in streams. In spite
of all this, however, he did not lose sight of his raft, but swam as
fast as he could towards it, got hold of it, and climbed on board
again so as to escape drowning. The sea took the raft and tossed it
about as Autumn winds whirl thistledown round and round upon a road.
It was as though the South, North, East, and West winds were all
playing battledore and shuttlecock with it at once.
When he was in this plight, Ino daughter of Cadmus, also called
Leucothea, saw him. She had formerly been a mere mortal, but had
been since raised to the rank of a marine goddess. Seeing in what
great distress Ulysses now was, she had compassion upon him, and,
rising like a sea-gull from the waves, took her seat upon the raft.
"My poor good man," said she, "why is Neptune so furiously angry
with you? He is giving you a great deal of trouble, but for all his
bluster he will not kill you. You seem to be a sensible person, do
then as I bid you; strip, leave your raft to drive before the wind,
and swim to the Phaecian coast where better luck awaits you. And here,
take my veil and put it round your chest; it is enchanted, and you can
come to no harm so long as you wear it. As soon as you touch land take
it off, throw it back as far as you can into the sea, and then go away
again." With these words she took off her veil and gave it him. Then
she dived down again like a sea-gull and vanished beneath the dark
blue waters.
But Ulysses did not know what to think. "Alas," he said to himself
in his dismay, "this is only some one or other of the gods who is
luring me to ruin by advising me to will quit my raft. At any rate I
will not do so at present, for the land where she said I should be
quit of all troubles seemed to be still a good way off. I know what
I will do- I am sure it will be best- no matter what happens I will
stick to the raft as long as her timbers hold together, but when the
sea breaks her up I will swim for it; I do not see how I can do any
better than this."
While he was thus in two minds, Neptune sent a terrible great wave
that seemed to rear itself above his head till it broke right over the
raft, which then went to pieces as though it were a heap of dry
chaff tossed about by a whirlwind. Ulysses got astride of one plank
and rode upon it as if he were on horseback; he then took off the
clothes Calypso had given him, bound Ino's veil under his arms, and
plunged into the sea- meaning to swim on shore. King Neptune watched
him as he did so, and wagged his head, muttering to himself and
saying, "'There now, swim up and down as you best can till you fall in
with well-to-do people. I do not think you will be able to say that
I have let you off too lightly." On this he lashed his horses and
drove to Aegae where his palace is.
But Minerva resolved to help Ulysses, so she bound the ways of all
the winds except one, and made them lie quite still; but she roused
a good stiff breeze from the North that should lay the waters till
Ulysses reached the land of the Phaeacians where he would be safe.
Thereon he floated about for two nights and two days in the water,
with a heavy swell on the sea and death staring him in the face; but
when the third day broke, the wind fell and there was a dead calm
without so much as a breath of air stirring. As he rose on the swell
he looked eagerly ahead, and could see land quite near. Then, as
children rejoice when their dear father begins to get better after
having for a long time borne sore affliction sent him by some angry
spirit, but the gods deliver him from evil, so was Ulysses thankful
when he again saw land and trees, and swam on with all his strength
that he might once more set foot upon dry ground. When, however, he
got within earshot, he began to hear the surf thundering up against
the rocks, for the swell still broke against them with a terrific
roar. Everything was enveloped in spray; there were no harbours
where a ship might ride, nor shelter of any kind, but only
headlands, low-lying rocks, and mountain tops.
Ulysses' heart now began to fail him, and he said despairingly to
himself, "Alas, Jove has let me see land after swimming so far that
I had given up all hope, but I can find no landing place, for the
coast is rocky and surf-beaten, the rocks are smooth and rise sheer
from the sea, with deep water close under them so that I cannot
climb out for want of foothold. I am afraid some great wave will
lift me off my legs and dash me against the rocks as I leave the
water- which would give me a sorry landing. If, on the other hand, I
swim further in search of some shelving beach or harbour, a
hurricane may carry me out to sea again sorely against my will, or
heaven may send some great monster of the deep to attack me; for
Amphitrite breeds many such, and I know that Neptune is very angry
with me."
While he was thus in two minds a wave caught him and took him with
such force against the rocks that he would have been smashed and
torn to pieces if Minerva had not shown him what to do. He caught hold
of the rock with both hands and clung to it groaning with pain till
the wave retired, so he was saved that time; but presently the wave
came on again and carried him back with it far into the sea-tearing
his hands as the suckers of a polypus are torn when some one plucks it
from its bed, and the stones come up along with it even so did the
rocks tear the skin from his strong hands, and then the wave drew
him deep down under the water.
Here poor Ulysses would have certainly perished even in spite of his
own destiny, if Minerva had not helped him to keep his wits about him.
He swam seaward again, beyond reach of the surf that was beating
against the land, and at the same time he kept looking towards the
shore to see if he could find some haven, or a spit that should take
the waves aslant. By and by, as he swam on, he came to the mouth of
a river, and here he thought would be the best place, for there were
no rocks, and it afforded shelter from the wind. He felt that there
was a current, so he prayed inwardly and said:
"Hear me, O King, whoever you may be, and save me from the anger
of the sea-god Neptune, for I approach you prayerfully. Any one who
has lost his way has at all times a claim even upon the gods,
wherefore in my distress I draw near to your stream, and cling to
the knees of your riverhood. Have mercy upon me, O king, for I declare
myself your suppliant."
Then the god stayed his stream and stilled the waves, making all
calm before him, and bringing him safely into the mouth of the
river. Here at last Ulysses' knees and strong hands failed him, for
the sea had completely broken him. His body was all swollen, and his
mouth and nostrils ran down like a river with sea-water, so that he
could neither breathe nor speak, and lay swooning from sheer
exhaustion; presently, when he had got his breath and came to
himself again, he took off the scarf that Ino had given him and
threw it back into the salt stream of the river, whereon Ino
received it into her hands from the wave that bore it towards her.
Then he left the river, laid himself down among the rushes, and kissed
the bounteous earth.
"Alas," he cried to himself in his dismay, "what ever will become of
me, and how is it all to end? If I stay here upon the river bed
through the long watches of the night, I am so exhausted that the
bitter cold and damp may make an end of me- for towards sunrise
there will be a keen wind blowing from off the river. If, on the other
hand, I climb the hill side, find shelter in the woods, and sleep in
some thicket, I may escape the cold and have a good night's rest,
but some savage beast may take advantage of me and devour me."
In the end he deemed it best to take to the woods, and he found
one upon some high ground not far from the water. There he crept
beneath two shoots of olive that grew from a single stock- the one
an ungrafted sucker, while the other had been grafted. No wind,
however squally, could break through the cover they afforded, nor
could the sun's rays pierce them, nor the rain get through them, so
closely did they grow into one another. Ulysses crept under these
and began to make himself a bed to lie on, for there was a great
litter of dead leaves lying about- enough to make a covering for two
or three men even in hard winter weather. He was glad enough to see
this, so he laid himself down and heaped the leaves all round him.
Then, as one who lives alone in the country, far from any neighbor,
hides a brand as fire-seed in the ashes to save himself from having to
get a light elsewhere, even so did Ulysses cover himself up with
leaves; and Minerva shed a sweet sleep upon his eyes, closed his
eyelids, and made him lose all memories of his sorrows.

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Amy Lowell

The Great Adventure Of Max Breuck

1

A yellow band of light upon the street
Pours from an open door, and makes a wide
Pathway of bright gold across a sheet
Of calm and liquid moonshine. From inside
Come shouts and streams of laughter, and a snatch
Of song, soon drowned and lost again in mirth,
The clip of tankards on a table top,
And stir of booted heels. Against the patch
Of candle-light a shadow falls, its girth
Proclaims the host himself, and master of his shop.


2

This is the tavern of one Hilverdink,
Jan Hilverdink, whose wines are much esteemed.
Within his cellar men can have to drink
The rarest cordials old monks ever schemed
To coax from pulpy grapes, and with nice art
Improve and spice their virgin juiciness.
Here froths the amber beer of many a brew,
Crowning each pewter tankard with as smart
A cap as ever in his wantonness
Winter set glittering on top of an old yew.


3

Tall candles stand upon the table, where
Are twisted glasses, ruby-sparked with wine,
Clarets and ports. Those topaz bumpers were
Drained from slim, long-necked bottles of the Rhine.
The centre of the board is piled with pipes,
Slender and clean, the still unbaptized clay
Awaits its burning fate. Behind, the vault
Stretches from dim to dark, a groping way
Bordered by casks and puncheons, whose brass stripes
And bands gleam dully still, beyond the gay tumult.


4

'For good old Master Hilverdink, a toast!'
Clamoured a youth with tassels on his boots.
'Bring out your oldest brandy for a boast,
From that small barrel in the very roots
Of your deep cellar, man. Why here is Max!
Ho! Welcome, Max, you're scarcely here in time.
We want to drink to old Jan's luck, and smoke
His best tobacco for a grand climax.
Here, Jan, a paper, fragrant as crushed thyme,
We'll have the best to wish you luck, or may we choke!'


5

Max Breuck unclasped his broadcloth cloak, and sat.
'Well thought of, Franz; here's luck to Mynheer Jan.'
The host set down a jar; then to a vat
Lost in the distance of his cellar, ran.
Max took a pipe as graceful as the stem
Of some long tulip, crammed it full, and drew
The pungent smoke deep to his grateful lung.
It curled all blue throughout the cave and flew
Into the silver night. At once there flung
Into the crowded shop a boy, who cried to them:


6

'Oh, sirs, is there some learned lawyer here,
Some advocate, or all-wise counsellor?
My master sent me to inquire where
Such men do mostly be, but every door
Was shut and barred, for late has grown the hour.
I pray you tell me where I may now find
One versed in law, the matter will not wait.'
'I am a lawyer, boy,' said Max, 'my mind
Is not locked to my business, though 'tis late.
I shall be glad to serve what way is in my power.


7

Then once more, cloaked and ready, he set out,
Tripping the footsteps of the eager boy
Along the dappled cobbles, while the rout
Within the tavern jeered at his employ.
Through new-burst elm leaves filtered the white moon,
Who peered and splashed between the twinkling boughs,
Flooded the open spaces, and took flight
Before tall, serried houses in platoon,
Guarded by shadows. Past the Custom House
They took their hurried way in the Spring-scented night.


8

Before a door which fronted a canal
The boy halted. A dim tree-shaded spot.
The water lapped the stones in musical
And rhythmic tappings, and a galliot
Slumbered at anchor with no light aboard.
The boy knocked twice, and steps approached. A flame
Winked through the keyhole, then a key was turned,
And through the open door Max went toward
Another door, whence sound of voices came.
He entered a large room where candelabra burned.


9

An aged man in quilted dressing gown
Rose up to greet him. 'Sir,' said Max, 'you sent
Your messenger to seek throughout the town
A lawyer. I have small accomplishment,
But I am at your service, and my name
Is Max Breuck, Counsellor, at your command.'
'Mynheer,' replied the aged man, 'obliged
Am I, and count myself much privileged.
I am Cornelius Kurler, and my fame
Is better known on distant oceans than on land.


10

My ship has tasted water in strange seas,
And bartered goods at still uncharted isles.
She's oft coquetted with a tropic breeze,
And sheered off hurricanes with jaunty smiles.'
'Tush, Kurler,' here broke in the other man,
'Enough of poetry, draw the deed and sign.'
The old man seemed to wizen at the voice,
'My good friend, Grootver, --' he at once began.
'No introductions, let us have some wine,
And business, now that you at last have made your choice.'


11

A harsh and disagreeable man he proved to be,
This Grootver, with no single kindly thought.
Kurler explained, his old hands nervously
Twisting his beard. His vessel he had bought
From Grootver. He had thought to soon repay
The ducats borrowed, but an adverse wind
Had so delayed him that his cargo brought
But half its proper price, the very day
He came to port he stepped ashore to find
The market glutted and his counted profits naught.


12

Little by little Max made out the way
That Grootver pressed that poor harassed old man.
His money he must have, too long delay
Had turned the usurer to a ruffian.
'But let me take my ship, with many bales
Of cotton stuffs dyed crimson, green, and blue,
Cunningly patterned, made to suit the taste
Of mandarin's ladies; when my battered sails
Open for home, such stores will I bring you
That all your former ventures will be counted waste.


13

Such light and foamy silks, like crinkled cream,
And indigo more blue than sun-whipped seas,
Spices and fragrant trees, a massive beam
Of sandalwood, and pungent China teas,
Tobacco, coffee!' Grootver only laughed.
Max heard it all, and worse than all he heard
The deed to which the sailor gave his word.
He shivered, 'twas as if the villain gaffed
The old man with a boat-hook; bleeding, spent,
He begged for life nor knew at all the road he went.


14

For Kurler had a daughter, young and gay,
Carefully reared and shielded, rarely seen.
But on one black and most unfriendly day
Grootver had caught her as she passed between
The kitchen and the garden. She had run
In fear of him, his evil leering eye,
And when he came she, bolted in her room,
Refused to show, though gave no reason why.
The spinning of her future had begun,
On quiet nights she heard the whirring of her doom.


15

Max mended an old goosequill by the fire,
Loathing his work, but seeing no thing to do.
He felt his hands were building up the pyre
To burn two souls, and seized with vertigo
He staggered to his chair. Before him lay
White paper still unspotted by a crime.
'Now, young man, write,' said Grootver in his ear.
'`If in two years my vessel should yet stay
From Amsterdam, I give Grootver, sometime
A friend, my daughter for his lawful wife.' Now swear.'


16

And Kurler swore, a palsied, tottering sound,
And traced his name, a shaking, wandering line.
Then dazed he sat there, speechless from his wound.
Grootver got up: 'Fair voyage, the brigantine!'
He shuffled from the room, and left the house.
His footsteps wore to silence down the street.
At last the aged man began to rouse.
With help he once more gained his trembling feet.
'My daughter, Mynheer Breuck, is friendless now.
Will you watch over her? I ask a solemn vow.'


17

Max laid his hand upon the old man's arm,
'Before God, sir, I vow, when you are gone,
So to protect your daughter from all harm
As one man may.' Thus sorrowful, forlorn,
The situation to Max Breuck appeared,
He gave his promise almost without thought,
Nor looked to see a difficulty. 'Bred
Gently to watch a mother left alone;
Bound by a dying father's wish, who feared
The world's accustomed harshness when he should be dead;


18

Such was my case from youth, Mynheer Kurler.
Last Winter she died also, and my days
Are passed in work, lest I should grieve for her,
And undo habits used to earn her praise.
My leisure I will gladly give to see
Your household and your daughter prosperous.'
The sailor said his thanks, but turned away.
He could not brook that his humility,
So little wonted, and so tremulous,
Should first before a stranger make such great display.


19

'Come here to-morrow as the bells ring noon,
I sail at the full sea, my daughter then
I will make known to you. 'Twill be a boon
If after I have bid good-by, and when
Her eyeballs scorch with watching me depart,
You bring her home again. She lives with one
Old serving-woman, who has brought her up.
But that is no friend for so free a heart.
No head to match her questions. It is done.
And I must sail away to come and brim her cup.


20

My ship's the fastest that owns Amsterdam
As home, so not a letter can you send.
I shall be back, before to where I am
Another ship could reach. Now your stipend --'
Quickly Breuck interposed. 'When you once more
Tread on the stones which pave our streets. -- Good night!
To-morrow I will be, at stroke of noon,
At the great wharf.' Then hurrying, in spite
Of cake and wine the old man pressed upon
Him ere he went, he took his leave and shut the door.


21

'Twas noon in Amsterdam, the day was clear,
And sunshine tipped the pointed roofs with gold.
The brown canals ran liquid bronze, for here
The sun sank deep into the waters cold.
And every clock and belfry in the town
Hammered, and struck, and rang. Such peals of bells,
To shake the sunny morning into life,
And to proclaim the middle, and the crown,
Of this most sparkling daytime! The crowd swells,
Laughing and pushing toward the quays in friendly strife.


22

The 'Horn of Fortune' sails away to-day.
At highest tide she lets her anchor go,
And starts for China. Saucy popinjay!
Giddy in freshest paint she curtseys low,
And beckons to her boats to let her start.
Blue is the ocean, with a flashing breeze.
The shining waves are quick to take her part.
They push and spatter her. Her sails are loose,
Her tackles hanging, waiting men to seize
And haul them taut, with chanty-singing, as they choose.


23

At the great wharf's edge Mynheer Kurler stands,
And by his side, his daughter, young Christine.
Max Breuck is there, his hat held in his hands,
Bowing before them both. The brigantine
Bounces impatient at the long delay,
Curvets and jumps, a cable's length from shore.
A heavy galliot unloads on the walls
Round, yellow cheeses, like gold cannon balls
Stacked on the stones in pyramids. Once more
Kurler has kissed Christine, and now he is away.


24

Christine stood rigid like a frozen stone,
Her hands wrung pale in effort at control.
Max moved aside and let her be alone,
For grief exacts each penny of its toll.
The dancing boat tossed on the glinting sea.
A sun-path swallowed it in flaming light,
Then, shrunk a cockleshell, it came again
Upon the other side. Now on the lee
It took the 'Horn of Fortune'. Straining sight
Could see it hauled aboard, men pulling on the crane.


25

Then up above the eager brigantine,
Along her slender masts, the sails took flight,
Were sheeted home, and ropes were coiled. The shine
Of the wet anchor, when its heavy weight
Rose splashing to the deck. These things they saw,
Christine and Max, upon the crowded quay.
They saw the sails grow white, then blue in shade,
The ship had turned, caught in a windy flaw
She glided imperceptibly away,
Drew farther off and in the bright sky seemed to fade.


26

Home, through the emptying streets, Max took Christine,
Who would have hid her sorrow from his gaze.
Before the iron gateway, clasped between
Each garden wall, he stopped. She, in amaze,
Asked, 'Do you enter not then, Mynheer Breuck?
My father told me of your courtesy.
Since I am now your charge, 'tis meet for me
To show such hospitality as maiden may,
Without disdaining rules must not be broke.
Katrina will have coffee, and she bakes today.'


27

She straight unhasped the tall, beflowered gate.
Curled into tendrils, twisted into cones
Of leaves and roses, iron infoliate,
It guards the pleasance, and its stiffened bones
Are budded with much peering at the rows,
And beds, and arbours, which it keeps inside.
Max started at the beauty, at the glare
Of tints. At either end was set a wide
Path strewn with fine, red gravel, and such shows
Of tulips in their splendour flaunted everywhere!


28

From side to side, midway each path, there ran
A longer one which cut the space in two.
And, like a tunnel some magician
Has wrought in twinkling green, an alley grew,
Pleached thick and walled with apple trees; their flowers
Incensed the garden, and when Autumn came
The plump and heavy apples crowding stood
And tapped against the arbour. Then the dame
Katrina shook them down, in pelting showers
They plunged to earth, and died transformed to sugared food.


29

Against the high, encircling walls were grapes,
Nailed close to feel the baking of the sun
From glowing bricks. Their microscopic shapes
Half hidden by serrated leaves. And one
Old cherry tossed its branches near the door.
Bordered along the wall, in beds between,
Flickering, streaming, nodding in the air,
The pride of all the garden, there were more
Tulips than Max had ever dreamed or seen.
They jostled, mobbed, and danced. Max stood at helpless stare.


30

'Within the arbour, Mynheer Breuck, I'll bring
Coffee and cakes, a pipe, and Father's best
Tobacco, brought from countries harbouring
Dawn's earliest footstep. Wait.' With girlish zest
To please her guest she flew. A moment more
She came again, with her old nurse behind.
Then, sitting on the bench and knitting fast,
She talked as someone with a noble store
Of hidden fancies, blown upon the wind,
Eager to flutter forth and leave their silent past.


31

The little apple leaves above their heads
Let fall a quivering sunshine. Quiet, cool,
In blossomed boughs they sat. Beyond, the beds
Of tulips blazed, a proper vestibule
And antechamber to the rainbow. Dyes
Of prismed richness: Carmine. Madder. Blues
Tinging dark browns to purple. Silvers flushed
To amethyst and tinct with gold. Round eyes
Of scarlet, spotting tender saffron hues.
Violets sunk to blacks, and reds in orange crushed.


32

Of every pattern and in every shade.
Nacreous, iridescent, mottled, checked.
Some purest sulphur-yellow, others made
An ivory-white with disks of copper flecked.
Sprinkled and striped, tasselled, or keenest edged.
Striated, powdered, freckled, long or short.
They bloomed, and seemed strange wonder-moths new-fledged,
Born of the spectrum wedded to a flame.
The shade within the arbour made a port
To o'ertaxed eyes, its still, green twilight rest became.


33

Her knitting-needles clicked and Christine talked,
This child matured to woman unaware,
The first time left alone. Now dreams once balked
Found utterance. Max thought her very fair.
Beneath her cap her ornaments shone gold,
And purest gold they were. Kurler was rich
And heedful. Her old maiden aunt had died
Whose darling care she was. Now, growing bold,
She asked, had Max a sister? Dropped a stitch
At her own candour. Then she paused and softly sighed.


34

Two years was long! She loved her father well,
But fears she had not. He had always been
Just sailed or sailing. And she must not dwell
On sad thoughts, he had told her so, and seen
Her smile at parting. But she sighed once more.
Two years was long; 'twas not one hour yet!
Mynheer Grootver she would not see at all.
Yes, yes, she knew, but ere the date so set,
The 'Horn of Fortune' would be at the wall.
When Max had bid farewell, she watched him from the door.


35

The next day, and the next, Max went to ask
The health of Jufvrouw Kurler, and the news:
Another tulip blown, or the great task
Of gathering petals which the high wind strews;
The polishing of floors, the pictured tiles
Well scrubbed, and oaken chairs most deftly oiled.
Such things were Christine's world, and his was she
Winter drew near, his sun was in her smiles.
Another Spring, and at his law he toiled,
Unspoken hope counselled a wise efficiency.


36

Max Breuck was honour's soul, he knew himself
The guardian of this girl; no more, no less.
As one in charge of guineas on a shelf
Loose in a china teapot, may confess
His need, but may not borrow till his friend
Comes back to give. So Max, in honour, said
No word of love or marriage; but the days
He clipped off on his almanac. The end
Must come! The second year, with feet of lead,
Lagged slowly by till Spring had plumped the willow sprays.


37

Two years had made Christine a woman grown,
With dignity and gently certain pride.
But all her childhood fancies had not flown,
Her thoughts in lovely dreamings seemed to glide.
Max was her trusted friend, did she confess
A closer happiness? Max could not tell.
Two years were over and his life he found
Sphered and complete. In restless eagerness
He waited for the 'Horn of Fortune'. Well
Had he his promise kept, abating not one pound.


38

Spring slipped away to Summer. Still no glass
Sighted the brigantine. Then Grootver came
Demanding Jufvrouw Kurler. His trespass
Was justified, for he had won the game.
Christine begged time, more time! Midsummer went,
And Grootver waxed impatient. Still the ship
Tarried. Christine, betrayed and weary, sank
To dreadful terrors. One day, crazed, she sent
For Max. 'Come quickly,' said her note, 'I skip
The worst distress until we meet. The world is blank.'


39

Through the long sunshine of late afternoon
Max went to her. In the pleached alley, lost
In bitter reverie, he found her soon.
And sitting down beside her, at the cost
Of all his secret, 'Dear,' said he, 'what thing
So suddenly has happened?' Then, in tears,
She told that Grootver, on the following morn,
Would come to marry her, and shuddering:
'I will die rather, death has lesser fears.'
Max felt the shackles drop from the oath which he had sworn.


40

'My Dearest One, the hid joy of my heart!
I love you, oh! you must indeed have known.
In strictest honour I have played my part;
But all this misery has overthrown
My scruples. If you love me, marry me
Before the sun has dipped behind those trees.
You cannot be wed twice, and Grootver, foiled,
Can eat his anger. My care it shall be
To pay your father's debt, by such degrees
As I can compass, and for years I've greatly toiled.


41

This is not haste, Christine, for long I've known
My love, and silence forced upon my lips.
I worship you with all the strength I've shown
In keeping faith.' With pleading finger tips
He touched her arm. 'Christine! Beloved! Think.
Let us not tempt the future. Dearest, speak,
I love you. Do my words fall too swift now?
They've been in leash so long upon the brink.'
She sat quite still, her body loose and weak.
Then into him she melted, all her soul at flow.


42

And they were married ere the westering sun
Had disappeared behind the garden trees.
The evening poured on them its benison,
And flower-scents, that only night-time frees,
Rose up around them from the beamy ground,
Silvered and shadowed by a tranquil moon.
Within the arbour, long they lay embraced,
In such enraptured sweetness as they found
Close-partnered each to each, and thinking soon
To be enwoven, long ere night to morning faced.


43

At last Max spoke, 'Dear Heart, this night is ours,
To watch it pale, together, into dawn,
Pressing our souls apart like opening flowers
Until our lives, through quivering bodies drawn,
Are mingled and confounded. Then, far spent,
Our eyes will close to undisturbed rest.
For that desired thing I leave you now.
To pinnacle this day's accomplishment,
By telling Grootver that a bootless quest
Is his, and that his schemes have met a knock-down blow.'


44

But Christine clung to him with sobbing cries,
Pleading for love's sake that he leave her not.
And wound her arms about his knees and thighs
As he stood over her. With dread, begot
Of Grootver's name, and silence, and the night,
She shook and trembled. Words in moaning plaint
Wooed him to stay. She feared, she knew not why,
Yet greatly feared. She seemed some anguished saint
Martyred by visions. Max Breuck soothed her fright
With wisdom, then stepped out under the cooling sky.


45

But at the gate once more she held him close
And quenched her heart again upon his lips.
'My Sweetheart, why this terror? I propose
But to be gone one hour! Evening slips
Away, this errand must be done.' 'Max! Max!
First goes my father, if I lose you now!'
She grasped him as in panic lest she drown.
Softly he laughed, 'One hour through the town
By moonlight! That's no place for foul attacks.
Dearest, be comforted, and clear that troubled brow.


46

One hour, Dear, and then, no more alone.
We front another day as man and wife.
I shall be back almost before I'm gone,
And midnight shall anoint and crown our life.'
Then through the gate he passed. Along the street
She watched his buttons gleaming in the moon.
He stopped to wave and turned the garden wall.
Straight she sank down upon a mossy seat.
Her senses, mist-encircled by a swoon,
Swayed to unconsciousness beneath its wreathing pall.


47

Briskly Max walked beside the still canal.
His step was firm with purpose. Not a jot
He feared this meeting, nor the rancorous gall
Grootver would spit on him who marred his plot.
He dreaded no man, since he could protect
Christine. His wife! He stopped and laughed aloud.
His starved life had not fitted him for joy.
It strained him to the utmost to reject
Even this hour with her. His heart beat loud.
'Damn Grootver, who can force my time to this employ!'


48

He laughed again. What boyish uncontrol
To be so racked. Then felt his ticking watch.
In half an hour Grootver would know the whole.
And he would be returned, lifting the latch
Of his own gate, eager to take Christine
And crush her to his lips. How bear delay?
He broke into a run. In front, a line
Of candle-light banded the cobbled street.
Hilverdink's tavern! Not for many a day
Had he been there to take his old, accustomed seat.


49

'Why, Max! Stop, Max!' And out they came pell-mell,
His old companions. 'Max, where have you been?
Not drink with us? Indeed you serve us well!
How many months is it since we have seen
You here? Jan, Jan, you slow, old doddering goat!
Here's Mynheer Breuck come back again at last,
Stir your old bones to welcome him. Fie, Max.
Business! And after hours! Fill your throat;
Here's beer or brandy. Now, boys, hold him fast.
Put down your cane, dear man. What really vicious whacks!'


50

They forced him to a seat, and held him there,
Despite his anger, while the hideous joke
Was tossed from hand to hand. Franz poured with care
A brimming glass of whiskey. 'Here, we've broke
Into a virgin barrel for you, drink!
Tut! Tut! Just hear him! Married! Who, and when?
Married, and out on business. Clever Spark!
Which lie's the likeliest? Come, Max, do think.'
Swollen with fury, struggling with these men,
Max cursed hilarity which must needs have a mark.


51

Forcing himself to steadiness, he tried
To quell the uproar, told them what he dared
Of his own life and circumstance. Implied
Most urgent matters, time could ill be spared.
In jesting mood his comrades heard his tale,
And scoffed at it. He felt his anger more
Goaded and bursting; -- 'Cowards! Is no one loth
To mock at duty --' Here they called for ale,
And forced a pipe upon him. With an oath
He shivered it to fragments on the earthen floor.


52

Sobered a little by his violence,
And by the host who begged them to be still,
Nor injure his good name, 'Max, no offence,'
They blurted, 'you may leave now if you will.'
'One moment, Max,' said Franz. 'We've gone too far.
I ask your pardon for our foolish joke.
It started in a wager ere you came.
The talk somehow had fall'n on drugs, a jar
I brought from China, herbs the natives smoke,
Was with me, and I thought merely to play a game.


53

Its properties are to induce a sleep
Fraught with adventure, and the flight of time
Is inconceivable in swiftness. Deep
Sunken in slumber, imageries sublime
Flatter the senses, or some fearful dream
Holds them enmeshed. Years pass which on the clock
Are but so many seconds. We agreed
That the next man who came should prove the scheme;
And you were he. Jan handed you the crock.
Two whiffs! And then the pipe was broke, and you were freed.'


54

'It is a lie, a damned, infernal lie!'
Max Breuck was maddened now. 'Another jest
Of your befuddled wits. I know not why
I am to be your butt. At my request
You'll choose among you one who'll answer for
Your most unseasonable mirth. Good-night
And good-by, -- gentlemen. You'll hear from me.'
But Franz had caught him at the very door,
'It is no lie, Max Breuck, and for your plight
I am to blame. Come back, and we'll talk quietly.


55

You have no business, that is why we laughed,
Since you had none a few minutes ago.
As to your wedding, naturally we chaffed,
Knowing the length of time it takes to do
A simple thing like that in this slow world.
Indeed, Max, 'twas a dream. Forgive me then.
I'll burn the drug if you prefer.' But Breuck
Muttered and stared, -- 'A lie.' And then he hurled,
Distraught, this word at Franz: 'Prove it. And when
It's proven, I'll believe. That thing shall be your work.


56

I'll give you just one week to make your case.
On August thirty-first, eighteen-fourteen,
I shall require your proof.' With wondering face
Franz cried, 'A week to August, and fourteen
The year! You're mad, 'tis April now.
April, and eighteen-twelve.' Max staggered, caught
A chair, -- 'April two years ago! Indeed,
Or you, or I, are mad. I know not how
Either could blunder so.' Hilverdink brought
'The Amsterdam Gazette', and Max was forced to read.


57

'Eighteen hundred and twelve,' in largest print;
And next to it, 'April the twenty-first.'
The letters smeared and jumbled, but by dint
Of straining every nerve to meet the worst,
He read it, and into his pounding brain
Tumbled a horror. Like a roaring sea
Foreboding shipwreck, came the message plain:
'This is two years ago! What of Christine?'
He fled the cellar, in his agony
Running to outstrip Fate, and save his holy shrine.


58

The darkened buildings echoed to his feet
Clap-clapping on the pavement as he ran.
Across moon-misted squares clamoured his fleet
And terror-winged steps. His heart began
To labour at the speed. And still no sign,
No flutter of a leaf against the sky.
And this should be the garden wall, and round
The corner, the old gate. No even line
Was this! No wall! And then a fearful cry
Shattered the stillness. Two stiff houses filled the ground.


59

Shoulder to shoulder, like dragoons in line,
They stood, and Max knew them to be the ones
To right and left of Kurler's garden. Spine
Rigid next frozen spine. No mellow tones
Of ancient gilded iron, undulate,
Expanding in wide circles and broad curves,
The twisted iron of the garden gate,
Was there. The houses touched and left no space
Between. With glassy eyes and shaking nerves
Max gazed. Then mad with fear, fled still, and left that place.


60

Stumbling and panting, on he ran, and on.
His slobbering lips could only cry, 'Christine!
My Dearest Love! My Wife! Where are you gone?
What future is our past? What saturnine,
Sardonic devil's jest has bid us live
Two years together in a puff of smoke?
It was no dream, I swear it! In some star,
Or still imprisoned in Time's egg, you give
Me love. I feel it. Dearest Dear, this stroke
Shall never part us, I will reach to where you are.'


61

His burning eyeballs stared into the dark.
The moon had long been set. And still he cried:
'Christine! My Love! Christine!' A sudden spark
Pricked through the gloom, and shortly Max espied
With his uncertain vision, so within
Distracted he could scarcely trust its truth,
A latticed window where a crimson gleam
Spangled the blackness, and hung from a pin,
An iron crane, were three gilt balls. His youth
Had taught their meaning, now they closed upon his dream.


62

Softly he knocked against the casement, wide
It flew, and a cracked voice his business there
Demanded. The door opened, and inside
Max stepped. He saw a candle held in air
Above the head of a gray-bearded Jew.
'Simeon Isaacs, Mynheer, can I serve
You?' 'Yes, I think you can. Do you keep arms?
I want a pistol.' Quick the old man grew
Livid. 'Mynheer, a pistol! Let me swerve
You from your purpose. Life brings often false alarms --'


63

'Peace, good old Isaacs, why should you suppose
My purpose deadly. In good truth I've been
Blest above others. You have many rows
Of pistols it would seem. Here, this shagreen
Case holds one that I fancy. Silvered mounts
Are to my taste. These letters `C. D. L.'
Its former owner? Dead, you say. Poor Ghost!
'Twill serve my turn though --' Hastily he counts
The florins down upon the table. 'Well,
Good-night, and wish me luck for your to-morrow's toast.'


64

Into the night again he hurried, now
Pale and in haste; and far beyond the town
He set his goal. And then he wondered how
Poor C. D. L. had come to die. 'It's grown
Handy in killing, maybe, this I've bought,
And will work punctually.' His sorrow fell
Upon his senses, shutting out all else.
Again he wept, and called, and blindly fought
The heavy miles away. 'Christine. I'm well.
I'm coming. My Own Wife!' He lurched with failing pulse.


65

Along the dyke the keen air blew in gusts,
And grasses bent and wailed before the wind.
The Zuider Zee, which croons all night and thrusts
Long stealthy fingers up some way to find
And crumble down the stones, moaned baffled. Here
The wide-armed windmills looked like gallows-trees.
No lights were burning in the distant thorps.
Max laid aside his coat. His mind, half-clear,
Babbled 'Christine!' A shot split through the breeze.
The cold stars winked and glittered at his chilling corpse.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 8

Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Alcinous and Ulysses both rose, and Alcinous led the way to the
Phaecian place of assembly, which was near the ships. When they got
there they sat down side by side on a seat of polished stone, while
Minerva took the form of one of Alcinous' servants, and went round the
town in order to help Ulysses to get home. She went up to the
citizens, man by man, and said, "Aldermen and town councillors of
the Phaeacians, come to the assembly all of you and listen to the
stranger who has just come off a long voyage to the house of King
Alcinous; he looks like an immortal god."
With these words she made them all want to come, and they flocked to
the assembly till seats and standing room were alike crowded. Every
one was struck with the appearance of Ulysses, for Minerva had
beautified him about the head and shoulders, making him look taller
and stouter than he really was, that he might impress the Phaecians
favourably as being a very remarkable man, and might come off well
in the many trials of skill to which they would challenge him. Then,
when they were got together, Alcinous spoke:
"Hear me," said he, "aldermen and town councillors of the
Phaeacians, that I may speak even as I am minded. This stranger,
whoever he may be, has found his way to my house from somewhere or
other either East or West. He wants an escort and wishes to have the
matter settled. Let us then get one ready for him, as we have done for
others before him; indeed, no one who ever yet came to my house has
been able to complain of me for not speeding on his way soon enough.
Let us draw a ship into the sea- one that has never yet made a voyage-
and man her with two and fifty of our smartest young sailors. Then
when you have made fast your oars each by his own seat, leave the ship
and come to my house to prepare a feast. I will find you in
everything. I am giving will these instructions to the young men who
will form the crew, for as regards you aldermen and town
councillors, you will join me in entertaining our guest in the
cloisters. I can take no excuses, and we will have Demodocus to sing
to us; for there is no bard like him whatever he may choose to sing
about."
Alcinous then led the way, and the others followed after, while a
servant went to fetch Demodocus. The fifty-two picked oarsmen went
to the sea shore as they had been told, and when they got there they
drew the ship into the water, got her mast and sails inside her, bound
the oars to the thole-pins with twisted thongs of leather, all in
due course, and spread the white sails aloft. They moored the vessel a
little way out from land, and then came on shore and went to the house
of King Alcinous. The outhouses, yards, and all the precincts were
filled with crowds of men in great multitudes both old and young;
and Alcinous killed them a dozen sheep, eight full grown pigs, and two
oxen. These they skinned and dressed so as to provide a magnificent
banquet.
A servant presently led in the famous bard Demodocus, whom the
muse had dearly loved, but to whom she had given both good and evil,
for though she had endowed him with a divine gift of song, she had
robbed him of his eyesight. Pontonous set a seat for him among the
guests, leaning it up against a bearing-post. He hung the lyre for him
on a peg over his head, and showed him where he was to feel for it
with his hands. He also set a fair table with a basket of victuals
by his side, and a cup of wine from which he might drink whenever he
was so disposed.
The company then laid their hands upon the good things that were
before them, but as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink,
the muse inspired Demodocus to sing the feats of heroes, and more
especially a matter that was then in the mouths of all men, to wit,
the quarrel between Ulysses and Achilles, and the fierce words that
they heaped on one another as they gat together at a banquet. But
Agamemnon was glad when he heard his chieftains quarrelling with one
another, for Apollo had foretold him this at Pytho when he crossed the
stone floor to consult the oracle. Here was the beginning of the
evil that by the will of Jove fell both Danaans and Trojans.
Thus sang the bard, but Ulysses drew his purple mantle over his head
and covered his face, for he was ashamed to let the Phaeacians see
that he was weeping. When the bard left off singing he wiped the tears
from his eyes, uncovered his face, and, taking his cup, made a
drink-offering to the gods; but when the Phaeacians pressed
Demodocus to sing further, for they delighted in his lays, then
Ulysses again drew his mantle over his head and wept bitterly. No
one noticed his distress except Alcinous, who was sitting near him,
and heard the heavy sighs that he was heaving. So he at once said,
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, we have had enough
now, both of the feast, and of the minstrelsy that is its due
accompaniment; let us proceed therefore to the athletic sports, so
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as boxers, wrestlers, jumpers,
and runners."
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after. A
servant hung Demodocus's lyre on its peg for him, led him out of the
cloister, and set him on the same way as that along which all the
chief men of the Phaeacians were going to see the sports; a crowd of
several thousands of people followed them, and there were many
excellent competitors for all the prizes. Acroneos, Ocyalus, Elatreus,
Nauteus, Prymneus, Anchialus, Eretmeus, Ponteus, Proreus, Thoon,
Anabesineus, and Amphialus son of Polyneus son of Tecton. There was
also Euryalus son of Naubolus, who was like Mars himself, and was
the best looking man among the Phaecians except Laodamas. Three sons
of Alcinous, Laodamas, Halios, and Clytoneus, competed also.
The foot races came first. The course was set out for them from
the starting post, and they raised a dust upon the plain as they all
flew forward at the same moment. Clytoneus came in first by a long
way; he left every one else behind him by the length of the furrow
that a couple of mules can plough in a fallow field. They then
turned to the painful art of wrestling, and here Euryalus proved to be
the best man. Amphialus excelled all the others in jumping, while at
throwing the disc there was no one who could approach Elatreus.
Alcinous's son Laodamas was the best boxer, and he it was who
presently said, when they had all been diverted with the games, "Let
us ask the stranger whether he excels in any of these sports; he seems
very powerfully built; his thighs, claves, hands, and neck are of
prodigious strength, nor is he at all old, but he has suffered much
lately, and there is nothing like the sea for making havoc with a man,
no matter how strong he is."
"You are quite right, Laodamas," replied Euryalus, "go up to your
guest and speak to him about it yourself."
When Laodamas heard this he made his way into the middle of the
crowd and said to Ulysses, "I hope, Sir, that you will enter
yourself for some one or other of our competitions if you are
skilled in any of them- and you must have gone in for many a one
before now. There is nothing that does any one so much credit all
his life long as the showing himself a proper man with his hands and
feet. Have a try therefore at something, and banish all sorrow from
your mind. Your return home will not be long delayed, for the ship
is already drawn into the water, and the crew is found."
Ulysses answered, "Laodamas, why do you taunt me in this way? my
mind is set rather on cares than contests; I have been through
infinite trouble, and am come among you now as a suppliant, praying
your king and people to further me on my return home."
Then Euryalus reviled him outright and said, "I gather, then, that
you are unskilled in any of the many sports that men generally delight
in. I suppose you are one of those grasping traders that go about in
ships as captains or merchants, and who think of nothing but of
their outward freights and homeward cargoes. There does not seem to be
much of the athlete about you."
"For shame, Sir," answered Ulysses, fiercely, "you are an insolent
fellow- so true is it that the gods do not grace all men alike in
speech, person, and understanding. One man may be of weak presence,
but heaven has adorned this with such a good conversation that he
charms every one who sees him; his honeyed moderation carries his
hearers with him so that he is leader in all assemblies of his
fellows, and wherever he goes he is looked up to. Another may be as
handsome as a god, but his good looks are not crowned with discretion.
This is your case. No god could make a finer looking fellow than you
are, but you are a fool. Your ill-judged remarks have made me
exceedingly angry, and you are quite mistaken, for I excel in a
great many athletic exercises; indeed, so long as I had youth and
strength, I was among the first athletes of the age. Now, however, I
am worn out by labour and sorrow, for I have gone through much both on
the field of battle and by the waves of the weary sea; still, in spite
of all this I will compete, for your taunts have stung me to the
quick."
So he hurried up without even taking his cloak off, and seized a
disc, larger, more massive and much heavier than those used by the
Phaeacians when disc-throwing among themselves. Then, swinging it
back, he threw it from his brawny hand, and it made a humming sound in
the air as he did so. The Phaeacians quailed beneath the rushing of
its flight as it sped gracefully from his hand, and flew beyond any
mark that had been made yet. Minerva, in the form of a man, came and
marked the place where it had fallen. "A blind man, Sir," said she,
"could easily tell your mark by groping for it- it is so far ahead
of any other. You may make your mind easy about this contest, for no
Phaeacian can come near to such a throw as yours."
Ulysses was glad when he found he had a friend among the lookers-on,
so he began to speak more pleasantly. "Young men," said he, "come up
to that throw if you can, and I will throw another disc as heavy or
even heavier. If anyone wants to have a bout with me let him come
on, for I am exceedingly angry; I will box, wrestle, or run, I do
not care what it is, with any man of you all except Laodamas, but
not with him because I am his guest, and one cannot compete with one's
own personal friend. At least I do not think it a prudent or a
sensible thing for a guest to challenge his host's family at any game,
especially when he is in a foreign country. He will cut the ground
from under his own feet if he does; but I make no exception as regards
any one else, for I want to have the matter out and know which is
the best man. I am a good hand at every kind of athletic sport known
among mankind. I am an excellent archer. In battle I am always the
first to bring a man down with my arrow, no matter how many more are
taking aim at him alongside of me. Philoctetes was the only man who
could shoot better than I could when we Achaeans were before Troy
and in practice. I far excel every one else in the whole world, of
those who still eat bread upon the face of the earth, but I should not
like to shoot against the mighty dead, such as Hercules, or Eurytus
the Cechalian-men who could shoot against the gods themselves. This in
fact was how Eurytus came prematurely by his end, for Apollo was angry
with him and killed him because he challenged him as an archer. I
can throw a dart farther than any one else can shoot an arrow. Running
is the only point in respect of which I am afraid some of the
Phaecians might beat me, for I have been brought down very low at sea;
my provisions ran short, and therefore I am still weak."
They all held their peace except King Alcinous, who began, "Sir,
we have had much pleasure in hearing all that you have told us, from
which I understand that you are willing to show your prowess, as
having been displeased with some insolent remarks that have been
made to you by one of our athletes, and which could never have been
uttered by any one who knows how to talk with propriety. I hope you
will apprehend my meaning, and will explain to any be one of your
chief men who may be dining with yourself and your family when you get
home, that we have an hereditary aptitude for accomplishments of all
kinds. We are not particularly remarkable for our boxing, nor yet as
wrestlers, but we are singularly fleet of foot and are excellent
sailors. We are extremely fond of good dinners, music, and dancing; we
also like frequent changes of linen, warm baths, and good beds, so
now, please, some of you who are the best dancers set about dancing,
that our guest on his return home may be able to tell his friends
how much we surpass all other nations as sailors, runners, dancers,
minstrels. Demodocus has left his lyre at my house, so run some one or
other of you and fetch it for him."
On this a servant hurried off to bring the lyre from the king's
house, and the nine men who had been chosen as stewards stood forward.
It was their business to manage everything connected with the
sports, so they made the ground smooth and marked a wide space for the
dancers. Presently the servant came back with Demodocus's lyre, and he
took his place in the midst of them, whereon the best young dancers in
the town began to foot and trip it so nimbly that Ulysses was
delighted with the merry twinkling of their feet.
Meanwhile the bard began to sing the loves of Mars and Venus, and
how they first began their intrigue in the house of Vulcan. Mars
made Venus many presents, and defiled King Vulcan's marriage bed, so
the sun, who saw what they were about, told Vulcan. Vulcan was very
angry when he heard such dreadful news, so he went to his smithy
brooding mischief, got his great anvil into its place, and began to
forge some chains which none could either unloose or break, so that
they might stay there in that place. When he had finished his snare he
went into his bedroom and festooned the bed-posts all over with chains
like cobwebs; he also let many hang down from the great beam of the
ceiling. Not even a god could see them, so fine and subtle were
they. As soon as he had spread the chains all over the bed, he made as
though he were setting out for the fair state of Lemnos, which of
all places in the world was the one he was most fond of. But Mars kept
no blind look out, and as soon as he saw him start, hurried off to his
house, burning with love for Venus.
Now Venus was just come in from a visit to her father Jove, and
was about sitting down when Mars came inside the house, an said as
he took her hand in his own, "Let us go to the couch of Vulcan: he
is not at home, but is gone off to Lemnos among the Sintians, whose
speech is barbarous."
She was nothing loth, so they went to the couch to take their
rest, whereon they were caught in the toils which cunning Vulcan had
spread for them, and could neither get up nor stir hand or foot, but
found too late that they were in a trap. Then Vulcan came up to
them, for he had turned back before reaching Lemnos, when his scout
the sun told him what was going on. He was in a furious passion, and
stood in the vestibule making a dreadful noise as he shouted to all
the gods.
"Father Jove," he cried, "and all you other blessed gods who live
for ever, come here and see the ridiculous and disgraceful sight
that I will show you. Jove's daughter Venus is always dishonouring
me because I am lame. She is in love with Mars, who is handsome and
clean built, whereas I am a cripple- but my parents are to blame for
that, not I; they ought never to have begotten me. Come and see the
pair together asleep on my bed. It makes me furious to look at them.
They are very fond of one another, but I do not think they will lie
there longer than they can help, nor do I think that they will sleep
much; there, however, they shall stay till her father has repaid me
the sum I gave him for his baggage of a daughter, who is fair but
not honest."
On this the gods gathered to the house of Vulcan. Earth-encircling
Neptune came, and Mercury the bringer of luck, and King Apollo, but
the goddesses stayed at home all of them for shame. Then the givers of
all good things stood in the doorway, and the blessed gods roared with
inextinguishable laughter, as they saw how cunning Vulcan had been,
whereon one would turn towards his neighbour saying:
"Ill deeds do not prosper, and the weak confound the strong. See how
limping Vulcan, lame as he is, has caught Mars who is the fleetest god
in heaven; and now Mars will be cast in heavy damages."
Thus did they converse, but King Apollo said to Mercury,
"Messenger Mercury, giver of good things, you would not care how
strong the chains were, would you, if you could sleep with Venus?"
"King Apollo," answered Mercury, "I only wish I might get the
chance, though there were three times as many chains- and you might
look on, all of you, gods and goddesses, but would sleep with her if I
could."
The immortal gods burst out laughing as they heard him, but
Neptune took it all seriously, and kept on imploring Vulcan to set
Mars free again. "Let him go," he cried, "and I will undertake, as you
require, that he shall pay you all the damages that are held
reasonable among the immortal gods."
"Do not," replied Vulcan, "ask me to do this; a bad man's bond is
bad security; what remedy could I enforce against you if Mars should
go away and leave his debts behind him along with his chains?"
"Vulcan," said Neptune, "if Mars goes away without paying his
damages, I will pay you myself." So Vulcan answered, "In this case I
cannot and must not refuse you."
Thereon he loosed the bonds that bound them, and as soon as they
were free they scampered off, Mars to Thrace and laughter-loving Venus
to Cyprus and to Paphos, where is her grove and her altar fragrant
with burnt offerings. Here the Graces hathed her, and anointed her
with oil of ambrosia such as the immortal gods make use of, and they
clothed her in raiment of the most enchanting beauty.
Thus sang the bard, and both Ulysses and the seafaring Phaeacians
were charmed as they heard him.
Then Alcinous told Laodamas and Halius to dance alone, for there was
no one to compete with them. So they took a red ball which Polybus had
made for them, and one of them bent himself backwards and threw it
up towards the clouds, while the other jumped from off the ground
and caught it with ease before it came down again. When they had
done throwing the ball straight up into the air they began to dance,
and at the same time kept on throwing it backwards and forwards to one
another, while all the young men in the ring applauded and made a
great stamping with their feet. Then Ulysses said:
"King Alcinous, you said your people were the nimblest dancers in
the world, and indeed they have proved themselves to be so. I was
astonished as I saw them."
The king was delighted at this, and exclaimed to the Phaecians
"Aldermen and town councillors, our guest seems to be a person of
singular judgement; let us give him such proof of our hospitality as
he may reasonably expect. There are twelve chief men among you, and
counting myself there are thirteen; contribute, each of you, a clean
cloak, a shirt, and a talent of fine gold; let us give him all this in
a lump down at once, so that when he gets his supper he may do so with
a light heart. As for Euryalus he will have to make a formal apology
and a present too, for he has been rude."
Thus did he speak. The others all of them applauded his saying,
and sent their servants to fetch the presents. Then Euryalus said,
"King Alcinous, I will give the stranger all the satisfaction you
require. He shall have sword, which is of bronze, all but the hilt,
which is of silver. I will also give him the scabbard of newly sawn
ivory into which it fits. It will be worth a great deal to him."
As he spoke he placed the sword in the hands of Ulysses and said,
"Good luck to you, father stranger; if anything has been said amiss
may the winds blow it away with them, and may heaven grant you a
safe return, for I understand you have been long away from home, and
have gone through much hardship."
To which Ulysses answered, "Good luck to you too my friend, and
may the gods grant you every happiness. I hope you will not miss the
sword you have given me along with your apology."
With these words he girded the sword about his shoulders and towards
sundown the presents began to make their appearance, as the servants
of the donors kept bringing them to the house of King Alcinous; here
his sons received them, and placed them under their mother's charge.
Then Alcinous led the way to the house and bade his guests take
their seats.
"Wife," said he, turning to Queen Arete, "Go, fetch the best chest
we have, and put a clean cloak and shirt in it. Also, set a copper
on the fire and heat some water; our guest will take a warm bath;
see also to the careful packing of the presents that the noble
Phaeacians have made him; he will thus better enjoy both his supper
and the singing that will follow. I shall myself give him this
golden goblet- which is of exquisite workmanship- that he may be
reminded of me for the rest of his life whenever he makes a
drink-offering to Jove, or to any of the gods."
Then Arete told her maids to set a large tripod upon the fire as
fast as they could, whereon they set a tripod full of bath water on to
a clear fire; they threw on sticks to make it blaze, and the water
became hot as the flame played about the belly of the tripod.
Meanwhile Arete brought a magnificent chest her own room, and inside
it she packed all the beautiful presents of gold and raiment which the
Phaeacians had brought. Lastly she added a cloak and a good shirt from
Alcinous, and said to Ulysses:
"See to the lid yourself, and have the whole bound round at once,
for fear any one should rob you by the way when you are asleep in your
ship."
When Ulysses heard this he put the lid on the chest and made it fast
with a bond that Circe had taught him. He had done so before an
upper servant told him to come to the bath and wash himself. He was
very glad of a warm bath, for he had had no one to wait upon him
ever since he left the house of Calypso, who as long as he remained
with her had taken as good care of him as though he had been a god.
When the servants had done washing and anointing him with oil, and had
given him a clean cloak and shirt, he left the bath room and joined
the guests who were sitting over their wine. Lovely Nausicaa stood
by one of the bearing-posts supporting the roof if the cloister, and
admired him as she saw him pass. "Farewell stranger," said she, "do
not forget me when you are safe at home again, for it is to me first
that you owe a ransom for having saved your life."
And Ulysses said, "Nausicaa, daughter of great Alcinous, may Jove
the mighty husband of Juno, grant that I may reach my home; so shall I
bless you as my guardian angel all my days, for it was you who saved
me."
When he had said this, he seated himself beside Alcinous. Supper was
then served, and the wine was mixed for drinking. A servant led in the
favourite bard Demodocus, and set him in the midst of the company,
near one of the bearing-posts supporting the cloister, that he might
lean against it. Then Ulysses cut off a piece of roast pork with
plenty of fat (for there was abundance left on the joint) and said
to a servant, "Take this piece of pork over to Demodocus and tell
him to eat it; for all the pain his lays may cause me I will salute
him none the less; bards are honoured and respected throughout the
world, for the muse teaches them their songs and loves them."
The servant carried the pork in his fingers over to Demodocus, who
took it and was very much pleased. They then laid their hands on the
good things that were before them, and as soon as they had had to
eat and drink, Ulysses said to Demodocus, "Demodocus, there is no
one in the world whom I admire more than I do you. You must have
studied under the Muse, Jove's daughter, and under Apollo, so
accurately do you sing the return of the Achaeans with all their
sufferings and adventures. If you were not there yourself, you must
have heard it all from some one who was. Now, however, change your
song and tell us of the wooden horse which Epeus made with the
assistance of Minerva, and which Ulysses got by stratagem into the
fort of Troy after freighting it with the men who afterwards sacked
the city. If you will sing this tale aright I will tell all the
world how magnificently heaven has endowed you."
The bard inspired of heaven took up the story at the point where
some of the Argives set fire to their tents and sailed away while
others, hidden within the horse, were waiting with Ulysses in the
Trojan place of assembly. For the Trojans themselves had drawn the
horse into their fortress, and it stood there while they sat in
council round it, and were in three minds as to what they should do.
Some were for breaking it up then and there; others would have it
dragged to the top of the rock on which the fortress stood, and then
thrown down the precipice; while yet others were for letting it remain
as an offering and propitiation for the gods. And this was how they
settled it in the end, for the city was doomed when it took in that
horse, within which were all the bravest of the Argives waiting to
bring death and destruction on the Trojans. Anon he sang how the
sons of the Achaeans issued from the horse, and sacked the town,
breaking out from their ambuscade. He sang how they over ran the
city hither and thither and ravaged it, and how Ulysses went raging
like Mars along with Menelaus to the house of Deiphobus. It was
there that the fight raged most furiously, nevertheless by Minerva's
help he was victorious.
All this he told, but Ulysses was overcome as he heard him, and
his cheeks were wet with tears. He wept as a woman weeps when she
throws herself on the body of her husband who has fallen before his
own city and people, fighting bravely in defence of his home and
children. She screams aloud and flings her arms about him as he lies
gasping for breath and dying, but her enemies beat her from behind
about the back and shoulders, and carry her off into slavery, to a
life of labour and sorrow, and the beauty fades from her cheeks-
even so piteously did Ulysses weep, but none of those present
perceived his tears except Alcinous, who was sitting near him, and
could hear the sobs and sighs that he was heaving. The king,
therefore, at once rose and said:
"Aldermen and town councillors of the Phaeacians, let Demodocus
cease his song, for there are those present who do not seem to like
it. From the moment that we had done supper and Demodocus began to
sing, our guest has been all the time groaning and lamenting. He is
evidently in great trouble, so let the bard leave off, that we may all
enjoy ourselves, hosts and guest alike. This will be much more as it
should be, for all these festivities, with the escort and the presents
that we are making with so much good will, are wholly in his honour,
and any one with even a moderate amount of right feeling knows that he
ought to treat a guest and a suppliant as though he were his own
brother.
"Therefore, Sir, do you on your part affect no more concealment
nor reserve in the matter about which I shall ask you; it will be more
polite in you to give me a plain answer; tell me the name by which
your father and mother over yonder used to call you, and by which
you were known among your neighbours and fellow-citizens. There is
no one, neither rich nor poor, who is absolutely without any name
whatever, for people's fathers and mothers give them names as soon
as they are born. Tell me also your country, nation, and city, that
our ships may shape their purpose accordingly and take you there.
For the Phaeacians have no pilots; their vessels have no rudders as
those of other nations have, but the ships themselves understand
what it is that we are thinking about and want; they know all the
cities and countries in the whole world, and can traverse the sea just
as well even when it is covered with mist and cloud, so that there
is no danger of being wrecked or coming to any harm. Still I do
remember hearing my father say that Neptune was angry with us for
being too easy-going in the matter of giving people escorts. He said
that one of these days he should wreck a ship of ours as it was
returning from having escorted some one, and bury our city under a
high mountain. This is what my used to say, but whether the god will
carry out his threat or no is a matter which he will decide for
himself.
"And now, tell me and tell me true. Where have you been wandering,
and in what countries have you travelled? Tell us of the peoples
themselves, and of their cities- who were hostile, savage and
uncivilized, and who, on the other hand, hospitable and humane. Tell
us also why you are made unhappy on hearing about the return of the
Argive Danaans from Troy. The gods arranged all this, and sent them
their misfortunes in order that future generations might have
something to sing about. Did you lose some brave kinsman of your
wife's when you were before Troy? a son-in-law or father-in-law- which
are the nearest relations a man has outside his own flesh and blood?
or was it some brave and kindly-natured comrade- for a good friend
is as dear to a man as his own brother?"

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The Great Hunger

I
Clay is the word and clay is the flesh
Where the potato-gatherers like mechanised scarecrows move
Along the side-fall of the hill - Maguire and his men.
If we watch them an hour is there anything we can prove
Of life as it is broken-backed over the Book
Of Death? Here crows gabble over worms and frogs
And the gulls like old newspapers are blown clear of the hedges, luckily.
Is there some light of imagination in these wet clods?
Or why do we stand here shivering?
Which of these men
Loved the light and the queen
Too long virgin? Yesterday was summer. Who was it promised marriage to himself
Before apples were hung from the ceilings for Hallowe'en?
We will wait and watch the tragedy to the last curtain,
Till the last soul passively like a bag of wet clay
Rolls down the side of the hill, diverted by the angles
Where the plough missed or a spade stands, straitening the way.
A dog lying on a torn jacket under a heeled-up cart,
A horse nosing along the posied headland, trailing
A rusty plough. Three heads hanging between wide-apart legs.
October playing a symphony on a slack wire paling.
Maguire watches the drills flattened out
And the flints that lit a candle for him on a June altar
Flameless. The drills slipped by and the days slipped by
And he trembled his head away and ran free from the world's halter,
And thought himself wiser than any man in the townland
When he laughed over pints of porter
Of how he came free from every net spread
In the gaps of experience. He shook a knowing head
And pretended to his soul
That children are tedious in hurrying fields of April
Where men are spanning across wide furrows.
Lost in the passion that never needs a wife
The pricks that pricked were the pointed pins of harrows.
Children scream so loud that the crows could bring
The seed of an acre away with crow-rude jeers.
Patrick Maguire, he called his dog and he flung a stone in the air
And hallooed the birds away that were the birds of the years.
Turn over the weedy clods and tease out the tangled skeins.
What is he looking for there?
He thinks it is a potato, but we know better
Than his mud-gloved fingers probe in this insensitive hair.
'Move forward the basket and balance it steady
In this hollow. Pull down the shafts of that cart, Joe,
And straddle the horse,' Maguire calls.
'The wind's over Brannagan's, now that means rain.
Graip up some withered stalks and see that no potato falls
Over the tail-board going down the ruckety pass -
And that's a job we'll have to do in December,
Gravel it and build a kerb on the bog-side. Is that Cassidy's ass
Out in my clover? Curse o' God
Where is that dog?.
Never where he's wanted' Maguire grunts and spits
Through a clay-wattled moustache and stares about him from the height.
His dream changes like the cloud-swung wind
And he is not so sure now if his mother was right
When she praised the man who made a field his bride.
Watch him, watch him, that man on a hill whose spirit
Is a wet sack flapping about the knees of time.
He lives that his little fields may stay fertile when his own body
Is spread in the bottom of a ditch under two coulters crossed in Christ's Name.
He was suspicious in his youth as a rat near strange bread,
When girls laughed; when they screamed he knew that meant
The cry of fillies in season. He could not walk
The easy road to destiny. He dreamt
The innocence of young brambles to hooked treachery.
O the grip, O the grip of irregular fields! No man escapes.
It could not be that back of the hills love was free
And ditches straight.
No monster hand lifted up children and put down apes
As here.
'O God if I had been wiser!'
That was his sigh like the brown breeze in the thistles.
He looks, towards his house and haggard. 'O God if I had been wiser!'
But now a crumpled leaf from the whitethorn bushes
Darts like a frightened robin, and the fence
Shows the green of after-grass through a little window,
And he knows that his own heart is calling his mother a liar
God's truth is life - even the grotesque shapes of his foulest fire.
The horse lifts its head and cranes
Through the whins and stones
To lip late passion in the crawling clover.
In the gap there's a bush weighted with boulders like morality,
The fools of life bleed if they climb over.
The wind leans from Brady's, and the coltsfoot leaves are holed with rust,
Rain fills the cart-tracks and the sole-plate grooves;
A yellow sun reflects in Donaghmoyne
The poignant light in puddles shaped by hooves.
Come with me, Imagination, into this iron house
And we will watch from the doorway the years run back,
And we will know what a peasant's left hand wrote on the page.
Be easy, October. No cackle hen, horse neigh, tree sough, duck quack.

II
Maguiire was faithful to death:
He stayed with his mother till she died
At the age of ninety-one.
She stayed too long,
Wife and mother in one.
When she died
The knuckle-bones were cutting the skin of her son's backside
And he was sixty-five.
O he loved his mother
Above all others.
O he loved his ploughs
And he loved his cows
And his happiest dream
Was to clean his arse
With perennial grass
On the bank of some summer stream;
To smoke his pipe
In a sheltered gripe
In the middle of July.
His face in a mist
And two stones in his fist
And an impotent worm on his thigh.
But his passion became a plague
For he grew feeble bringing the vague
Women of his mind to lust nearness,
Once a week at least flesh must make an appearance.
So Maguire got tired
Of the no-target gun fired
And returned to his headland of carrots and cabbage
To the fields once again
Where eunuchs can be men
And life is more lousy than savage.

III .
Poor Paddy Maguire, a fourteen-hour day
He worked for years. It was he that lit the fire
And boiled the kettle and gave the cows their hay.
His mother tall hard as a Protestant spire
Came down the stairs barefoot at the kettle-call
And talked to her son sharply: 'Did you let
The hens out, you?' She had a venomous drawl
And a wizened face like moth-eaten leatherette.
Two black cats peeped between the banisters
And gloated over the bacon-fizzling pan.
Outside the window showed tin canisters.
The snipe of Dawn fell like a whirring stone
And Patrick on a headland stood alone.
The pull is on the traces, it is March
And a cold black wind is blowing from Dundalk.
The twisting sod rolls over on her back
The virgin screams before the irresistible sock.
No worry on Maguire's mind this day
Except that he forgot to bring his matches.
'Hop back there Polly, hoy back, woa, wae,
From every second hill a neighbour watches
With all the sharpened interest of rivalry.
Yet sometimes when the sun comes through a gap
These men know God the Father in a tree:
The Holy Spirit is the rising sap,
And Christ will be the green leaves that will come
At Easter from the sealed and guarded tomb.
Primroses and the unearthly start of ferns
Among the blackthorn shadows in the ditch,
A dead sparrow and an old waistcoat. Maguire learns
As the horses turn slowly round the which is which
Of love and fear and things half born to mind
He stands between the plough-handles and he sees
At the end of a long furrow his name signed
Among the poets, prostitutes. With all miseries
He is one. Here with the unfortunate
Who for half-moments of paradise
Pay out good days and wait and wait
For sunlight-woven cloaks. O to be wise
As Respectability that knows the price of all things
And marks God's truth in pounds and pence and farthings.

IV
April, and no one able to calculate
How far it is to harvest. They put down
The seeds blindly with sensuous groping fingers
And sensual dreams sleep dreams subtly underground.
Tomorrow is Wednesday - who cares?
'Remember Eileen Farrelly? I was thinking
A man might do a damned sight worse …' That voice is blown
Through a hole in a garden wall -
And who was Eileen now cannot be known.
The cattle are out on grass
The corn is coming up evenly.
The farm folk are hurrying to catch Mass:
Christ will meet them at the end of the world, the slow and the speedier.
But the fields say: only Time can bless.
Maguire knelt beside a pillar where he could spit
Without being seen. He turned an old prayer round:
'Jesus, Mary, Joseph pray for us
Now and at the Hour.' Heaven dazzled death.
'Wonder should I cross-plough that turnip-ground.'
The tension broke. The congregation lifted it head
As one man and coughed in unison.
Five hundred hearts were hungry for life-
Who lives in Christ shall never die the death.
And the candle-lit Altar and the flowers
And the pregnant Tabernacle lifted a moment to Prophecy
Out of the clayey hours
Maguire sprinkled his face with holy water
As the congregation stood up for the Last Gospel.
He rubbed the dust off his knees with his palm, and then
Coughed the prayer phlegm up from his throat and sighed: Amen.
Once one day in June when he was walking
Among his cattle in the Yellow Meadow
He met a girl carrying a basket
And he was then a young and heated fellow.
Too earnest, too earnest! He rushed beyond the thing
To the unreal. And he saw Sin
Written in letters larger than John Bunyan dreamt of.
For the strangled impulse there is no redemption.
And that girl was gone and he was counting
The dangers in the fields where love ranted
He was helpless. He saw his cattle
And stroked their flanks in lieu of wife to handle.
He would have changed the circle if he could,
The circle that was the grass track where he ran.
Twenty times a day he ran round the field
And still there was no winning-post where the runner is cheered home.
Desperately he broke the tune,
But however he tried always the same melody lept up from the background,
The dragging step of a ploughman going home through the guttery
Headlands under an April-watery moon.
Religion, the fields and the fear of the Lord
And Ignorance giving him the coward's blow,
He dared not rise to pluck the fantasies
From the fruited Tree of Life. He bowed his head
And saw a wet weed twined about his toe.

V
Evening at the cross-roads -
Heavy heads nodding out words as wise
As the ruminations of cows after milking.
From the ragged road surface a boy picks up
A piece of gravel and stares at it-and then
Tosses it across the elm tree on to the railway.
He means nothing.
Not a damn thing
Somebody is coming over the metal railway bridge
And his hobnailed boots on the arches sound like a gong
Calling men awake. But the bridge is too narrow -
The men lift their heads a moment. That was only John,
So they dream on.
Night in the elms, night in the grass.
O we are too tired to go home yet. Two cyclists pass
Talking loudly of Kitty and Molly?
Horses or women? wisdom or folly?
A door closes on an evicted dog
Where prayers begin in Barney Meegan's kitchen :
Rosie curses the cat between her devotions;
The daughter prays that she may have three wishes -
Health and wealth and love -
From the fairy who is faith or hope or compounds of.
At the cross-roads the crowd had thinned out:
Last words were uttered. There is no to-morrow;
No future but only time stretched for the mowing of the hay
Or putting an axle in the turf-barrow.
Patrick Maguire went home and made cocoa
And broke a chunk off the loaf of wheaten bread;
His mother called down to him to look again
And make sure that the hen-house was locked. His sister grunted in bed
The sound of a sow taking up a new position.
Pat opened his trousers wide over the ashes
And dreamt himself to lewd sleepiness.
The clock ticked on. Time passes.

VI
Health and wealth and love he too dreamed of in May
As he sat on the railway slope and watched the children of the place
Picking up a primrose here and a daisy there -
They were picking up life's truth singly.
But he dreamt of the Absolute envased bouquet -
AIl or nothing. And it was nothing. For God is not all
In one place, complete
Till Hope comes in and takes it on his shoulder -
O Christ, that is what you have done for us:
In a crumb of bread the whole mystery is.
He read the symbol too sharply and turned
From the five simple doors of sense
To the door whose combination lock has puzzled
Philosopher and priest and common dunce.
Men build their heavens as they build their circles
Of friends. God is in the bits and pieces of Everyday -
A kiss here and a laugh again, and sometimes tears,
A pearl necklace round the neck of poverty.
He sat on the railway slope and watched the evening,
Too beautifully perfect to use,
And his three wishes were three stones too sharp to sit on,
Too hard to carve. Three frozen idols of a speechless muse.

VII
'Now go to Mass and pray and confess your sins
And you'll have all the luck,' his mother said.
He listened to the lie that is a woman's screen
Around a conscience when soft thighs are spread.
And all the while she was setting up the lie
She trusted in Nature that never deceives.
But her son took it as literal truth.
Religion's walls expand to the push of nature. Morality yields
To sense - but not in little tillage fields.
Life went on like that. One summer morning
Again through a hay-field on her way to the shop -
The grass was wet and over-leaned the path -
And Agnes held her skirts sensationally up,
And not because the grass was wet either.
A man was watching her, Patrick Maguire.
She was in love with passion and its weakness
And the wet grass could never cool the fire
That radiated from her unwanted womb in that metaphysical land
Where flesh was thought more spiritual than music
Among the stars - out of reach of the peasant's hand.
Ah, but the priest was one of the people too -
A farmers son - and surely he knew
The needs of a brother and sister.
Religion could not be a counter-irritant like a blister,
But the certain standard, measured and known
By which man might re-make his soul though all walls were down
And all earth's pedestalled gods thrown.

VIII
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He didn't care a damn.
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head,
Said whatever came into his head
And inconsequently sang.
While his world withered away,
He had a cigarette to smoke and a pound to spend
On drink the next Saturday.
His cattle were fat
And his horses all that
Midsummer grass could make them.
The young women ran wild
And dreamed of a child
Joy dreams though the fathers might forsake them
But no one would take them;
No man could ever see
That their skirts had loosed buttons,
O the men were as blind as could be.
And Patrick Maguire
From his. purgatory fire
Called the gods of the Christian to prove
That this twisted skein
Was the necessary pain
And not the rope that was strangling true love.
But sitting on a wooden gate
Sometime in July
When he was thirty-four or five
He gloried in the lie:
He made it read the way it should,
He made life read the evil good
While he cursed the ascetic brotherhood
Without knowing why.
Sitting on a wooden gate
All, all alone
He sang and laughed
Like a man quite daft,
Or like a man on a channel raft
He fantasied forth his groan.
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate,
Sitting on a wooden gate
He rode in day-dream cars.
He locked his body with his knees
When the gate swung too much in the breeze.
But while he caught high ecstasies
Life slipped between the bars.

IX
He gave himself another year,
Something was bound to happen before then -
The circle would break down
And he would carve the new one to his own will.
A new rhythm is a new life
And in it marriage is hung and money.
He would be a new man walking through unbroken meadows
Of dawn in the year of One.
The poor peasant talking to himself in a stable door
An ignorant peasant deep in dung.
What can the passers-by think otherwise?
Where is his silver bowl of knowledge hung?
Why should men be asked to believe in a soul
That is only the mark of a hoof in guttery gaps?
A man is what is written on the label.
And the passing world stares but no one stops
To look closer. So back to the growing crops
And the ridges he never loved.
Nobody will ever know how much tortured poetry the pulled weeds on the ridge wrote
Before they withered in the July sun,
Nobody will ever read the wild, sprawling, scrawling mad woman's signature,
The hysteria and the boredom of the enclosed nun of his thought.
Like the afterbirth of a cow stretched on a branch in the wind
Life dried in the veins of these women and men:
'The grey and grief and unloved,
The bones in the backs of their hands,
And the chapel pressing its low ceiling over them.
Sometimes they did laugh and see the sunlight,
A narrow slice of divine instruction.
Going along the river at the bend of Sunday
The trout played in the pools encouragement
To jump in love though death bait the hook.
And there would be girls sitting on the grass banks of lanes.
Stretch-legged and lingering staring -
A man might take one of them if he had the courage.
But 'No' was in every sentence of their story
Except when the public-house came in and shouted its piece.
The yellow buttercups and the bluebells among the whin bushes
On rocks in the middle of ploughing
Was a bright spoke in the wheel
Of the peasant's mill.
The goldfinches on the railway paling were worth looking at -
A man might imagine then
Himself in Brazil and these birds the birds of paradise
And the Amazon and the romance traced on the school map lived again.
Talk in evening corners and under trees
Was like an old book found in a king's tomb.
The children gathered round like students and listened
And some of the saga defied the draught in the open tomb
And was not blown.

X
Their intellectual life consisted in reading
Reynolds News or the Sunday Dispatch,
With sometimes an old almanac brought down from the ceiling
Or a school reader brown with the droppings of thatch.
The sporting results or the headlines of war
Was a humbug profound as the highbrow's Arcana.
Pat tried to be wise to the abstraction of all that
But its secret dribbled down his waistcoat like a drink from a strainer.
He wagered a bob each way on the Derby,
He got a straight tip from a man in a shop -
A double from the Guineas it was and thought himself
A master mathematician when one of them came up
And he could explain how much he'd have drawn
On the double if the second leg had followed the first.
He was betting on form and breeding, he claimed,
And the man that did that could never be burst.
After that they went on to the war, and the generals
On both sides were shown to be stupid as hell.
If he'd taken that road, they remarked of a Marshal,
He'd have … O they know their geography well
This was their university. Maguire was an undergraduate
Who dreamed from his lowly position of rising
To a professorship like Larry McKenna or Duffy
Or the pig-gelder Nallon whose knowledge was amazing.
'A treble, full multiple odds … That's flat porter …
Another one … No, you're wrong about that thing I was telling you. .
Did you part with your filly, Jack? I heard that you sold her.…'
The students were all savants by the time of pub-close.

XI
A year passed and another hurried after it
And Patrick Maguire was still six months behind life -
His mother six months ahead of it;
His sister straddle-legged across it: -
One leg in hell and the other in heaven
And between the purgatory of middle-aged virginity -
She prayed for release to heaven or hell.
His mother's voice grew thinner like a rust-worn knife
But it cut venomously as it thinned,
It cut him up the middle till he became more woman than man,
And it cut through to his mind before the end.
Another field whitened in the April air
And the harrows rattled over the seed.
He gathered the loose stones off the ridges carefully
And grumbled to his men to hurry. He looked like a man who could give advice
To foolish young fellows. He was forty-seven,
And there was depth in his jaw and his voice was the voice of a great cattle-dealer,
A man with whom the fair-green gods break even.
'I think I ploughed that lea the proper depth,
She ought to give a crop if any land gives …
Drive slower with the foal-mare, Joe.'
Joe, a young man of imagined wives,
Smiles to himself and answered like a slave:
'You needn't fear or fret.
I'm taking her as easy, as easy as …
Easy there Fanny, easy, pet.'
They loaded the day-scoured implements on the cart
As the shadows of poplars crookened the furrows.
It was the evening, evening. Patrick was forgetting to be lonely
As he used to be in Aprils long ago.
It was the menopause, the misery-pause.
The schoolgirls passed his house laughing every morning
And sometimes they spoke to him familiarly -
He had an idea. Schoolgirls of thirteen
Would see no political intrigue in an old man's friendship.
Love
The heifer waiting to be nosed by the old bull.
That notion passed too - there was the danger of talk
And jails are narrower than the five-sod ridge
And colder than the black hills facing Armagh in February.
He sinned over the warm ashes again and his crime
The law's long arm could not serve with time.
His face set like an old judge's pose:
Respectability and righteousness,
Stand for no nonsense.
The priest from the altar called Patrick Maguire's name
To hold the collecting-box in the chapel door
During all the Sundays of May.
His neighbours envied him his holy rise,
But he walked down from the church with affected indifference
And took the measure of heaven angle-wise.
He still could laugh and sing,
But not the wild laugh or the abandoned harmony now
That called the world to new silliness from the top of a wooden gate
When thirty-five could take the sparrow's bow.
Let us be kind, let us be kind and sympathetic:
Maybe life is not for joking or for finding happiness in -
This tiny light in Oriental Darkness
Looking out chance windows of poetry or prayer.
And the grief and defeat of men like these peasants
Is God's way - maybe - and we must not want too much
To see.
The twisted thread is stronger than the wind-swept fleece.
And in the end who shall rest in truth's high peace?
Or whose is the world now, even now?
O let us kneel where the blind ploughman kneels
And learn to live without despairing
In a mud-walled space -
Illiterate unknown and unknowing.
Let us kneel where he kneels
And feel what he feels.
One day he saw a daisy and he thought it
Reminded him of his childhood -
He stopped his cart to look at it.
Was there a fairy hiding behind it?
He helped a poor woman whose cow
Had died on her;
He dragged home a drunken man on a winter's night
And one rare moment he heard the young people playing on the railway stile
And he wished them happiness and whatever they most desired from life.
He saw the sunlight and begrudged no man
His share of what the miserly soil and soul
Gives in a season to a ploughman.
And he cried for his own loss one late night on the pillow
And yet thanked the God who had arranged these things.
Was he then a saint?
A Matt Talbot of Monaghan?
His sister Mary Anne spat poison at the children
Who sometimes came to the door selling raffle tickets
For holy funds.
'Get out, you little tramps!' she would scream
As she shook to the hens an armful of crumbs,
But Patrick often put his hand deep down
In his trouser-pocket and fingered out a penny
Or maybe a tobacco-stained caramel.
'You're soft,' said the sister; 'with other people's money
It's not a bit funny.'
The cards are shuffled and the deck
Laid flat for cutting - Tom Malone
Cut for trump. I think we'll make
This game, the last, a tanner one.
Hearts. Right. I see you're breaking
Your two-year-old. Play quick, Maguire,
The clock there says it's half-past ten -
Kate, throw another sod on that fire.
One of the card-players laughs and spits
Into the flame across a shoulder.
Outside, a noise like a rat
Among the hen-roosts.
The cock crows over
The frosted townland of the night.
Eleven o'clock and still the game
Goes on and the players seem to be
Drunk in an Orient opium den.
Midnight, one o'clock, two.
Somebody's leg has fallen asleep.
What about home? Maguire, are you
Using your double-tree this week?
Why? do you want it? Play the ace.
There's it, and that's the last card for me.
A wonderful night, we had. Duffy's place
Is very convenient. Is that a ghost or a tree?
And so they go home with dragging feet
And their voices rumble like laden carts.
And they are happy as the dead or sleeping …
I should have led that ace of hearts.

XII
The fields were bleached white,
The wooden tubs full of water
Were white in the winds
That blew through Brannagan's Gap on their way from Siberia;
The cows on the grassless heights .
Followed the hay that had wings -
The February fodder that hung itself on the black branches
Of the hill-top hedge.
A man stood beside a potato-pit
And clapped his arms
And pranced on the crisp roots
And shouted to warm himself.
Then he buck-leaped about the potatoes
And scooped them into a basket.
He looked like a bucking suck-calf
Whose spine was being tickled.
Sometimes he stared across the bogs
And sometimes he straightened his back and vaguely whistled
A tune that weakened his spirit
And saddened his terrier dog's.
A neighbour passed with a spade on his shoulder
And Patrick Maguire bent like a bridge
Whistled-good morning under his oxter
And the man the other side of the hedge
Champed his spade on the road at his toes
And talked an old sentimentality
While the wind blew under his clothes.
The mother sickened and stayed in bed all day,
Her head hardly dented the pillow, so light and thin it had worn,
But she still enquired after the household affairs.
She held the strings of her children's Punch and Judy, and when a mouth opened
It was her truth that the dolls would have spoken
If they hadn't been made of wood and tin -
'Did you open the barn door, Pat, to let the young calves in?'
The priest called to see her every Saturday
And she told him her troubles and fears:
'If Mary Anne was settled I'd die in peace -
I'm getting on in years.'
'You were a good woman,' said the priest,
'And your children will miss you when you're gone.
The likes of you this parish never knew,
I'm sure they'll not forget the work you've done.'
She reached five bony crooks under the tick -
'Five pounds for Masses - won't you say them quick.'
She died one morning in the beginning of May
And a shower of sparrow-notes was the litany for her dying.
The holy water was sprinkled on the bed-clothes
And her children stood around the bed and cried because it was too late for crying.
A mother dead! The tired sentiment:
'Mother, Mother' was a shallow pool
Where sorrow hardly could wash its feet …
Mary Anne came away from the deathbed and boiled the calves their gruel.
'O what was I doing when the procession passed?
Where was I looking? Young women and men
And I might have joined them.
Who bent the coin of my destiny
That it stuck in the slot?
I remember a night we walked
Through the moon of Donaghmoyne,
Four of us seeking adventure,
It was midsummer forty years ago.
Now I know
The moment that gave the turn to my life.
O Christ! I am locked in a stable with pigs and cows for ever.

XIII
The world looks on
And talks of the peasant:
The peasant has no worries;
In his little lyrical fields He ploughs and sows;
He eats fresh food,
He loves fresh women, He is his own master
As it was in the Beginning
The simpleness of peasant life.
The birds that sing for him are eternal choirs ,
Everywhere he walks there are flowers.
His heart is pure, His mind is clear,
He can talk to God as Moses and Isaiah talked
The peasant who is only one remove from the beasts he drives. '
'The travellers stop their cars to gape over the green bank into his fields: -
There is the source from which all cultures rise,
And all religions,
There is the pool in which the poet dips
And the musician.
Without the peasant base civilisation must die,
Unless the clay is in the mouth the singer's singing is useless.
The travellers touch the roots of the grass and feel renewed
When they grasp the steering wheels again.
The peasant is the unspoiled child of Prophecy,
The peasant is all virtues - let us salute him without irony
The peasant ploughman who is half a vegetable -
Who can react to sun and rain and sometimes even
Regret that the Maker of Light had not touched him more intensely.
Brought him up from the sub-soil to an existence
Of conscious joy. He was not born blind.
He is not always blind: sometimes the cataract yields
To sudden stone-falling or the desire to breed.
The girls pass along the roads
And he can remember what man is,
But there is nothing he can do.
Is there nothing he can do?
Is there no escape?
No escape, no escape.
The cows and horses breed,
And the potato-seed
Gives a bud and a root and rots
In the good mother's way with her sons;
The fledged bird is thrown
From the nest - on its own.
But the peasant in his little acres is tied
To a mother's womb by the wind-toughened navel-cord
Like a goat tethered to the stump of a tree -
He circles around and around wondering why it should be.
No crash, No drama.
That was how his life happened.
No mad hooves galloping in the sky,
But the weak, washy way of true tragedy -
A sick horse nosing around the meadow for a clean place to die.

XIV
We may come out in the October reality, Imagination,
The sleety wind no longer slants to the black hill where Maguire
And his men are now collecting the scattered harness and baskets.
The dog sitting on a wisp of dry stalks
Watches them through the shadows.
'Back in, back in.' One talks to the horse as to a brother.
Maguire himself is patting a potato-pit against the weather -
An old man fondling a new-piled grave:
'Joe, I hope you didn't forget to hide the spade .
For there's rogues in the townland.
Hide it flat in a furrow.
I think we ought to be finished by to-morrow.
Their voices through the darkness sound like voices from a cave,
A dull thudding far away, futile, feeble, far away,
First cousins to the ghosts of the townland.
A light stands in a window. Mary Anne
Has the table set and the tea-pot waiting in the ashes.
She goes to the door and listens and then she calls
From the top of the haggard-wall :
'What's keeping you
And the cows to be milked and all the other work there's to do?'
'All right, all right
We'll not stay here all night '
Applause, applause,
The curtain falls.
Applause, applause
From the homing carts and the trees
And the bawling cows at the gates.
From the screeching water-hens
And the mill-race heavy with the Lammas floods curving over the weir
A train at the station blowing off steam
And the hysterical laughter of the defeated everywhere.
Night, and the futile cards are shuffled again.
Maguire spreads his legs over the impotent cinders that wake no manhood now
And he hardly looks to see which card is trump.
His sister tightens her legs and her lips and frizzles up
Like the wick of an oil-less lamp.
The curtain falls -
Applause, applause.
Maguire is not afraid of death, the Church will light him a candle
To see his way through the vaults and he'll understand the
Quality of the clay that dribbles over his coffin.
He'll know the names of the roots that climb down to tickle his feet.
And he will feel no different than when he walked through Donaghmoyne.
If he stretches out a hand - a wet clod,
If he opens his nostrils - a dungy smell;
If he opens his eyes once in a million years -
Through a crack in the crust of the earth he may see a face nodding in
Or a woman's legs.
Shut them again for that sight is sin.
He will hardly remember that life happened to him -
Something was brighter a moment. Somebody sang in the distance
A procession passed down a mesmerized street.
He remembers names like Easter and Christmas
By colour his fields were.
Maybe he will be born again, a bird of an angel's conceit
To sing the gospel of life
To a music as flighty tangent
As a tune on an oboe.
And the serious look of his fields will have changed to the leer of a hobo.
Swaggering celestially home to his three wishes granted.
Will that be? will that be?
Or is the earth right that laughs haw-haw
And does not believe
In an unearthly law.
The earth that says:
Patrick Maguire, the old peasant, can neither be damned nor glorified:
The graveyard in which he will lie will be just a deep-drilled potato-field
Where the seed gets no chance to come through
To the fun of the sun.
The tongue in his mouth is the root of a yew.
Silence, silence. The story is done.
He stands in the doorway of his house
A ragged sculpture of the wind,
October creaks the rotted mattress,
The bedposts fall. No hope. No lust.
The hungry fiend
Screams the apocalypse of clay
In every corner of this land.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 4

They reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they
drove straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own
house, feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his
son, and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that
valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to
him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the
marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses to
the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles' son was reigning. For
his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.
This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven
vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who
was fair as golden Venus herself.
So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making
merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his
lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them
when the man struck up with his tune.]
Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went
close up to him and said, "Menelaus, there are some strangers come
here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we
take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as
they best can?"
Menelaus was very angry and said, "Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you
never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their
horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have
supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people's houses
before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in
peace henceforward."
So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They
took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they
leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led
the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished
when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;
then, when they had admired everything to their heart's content,
they went into the bath room and washed themselves.
When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats
by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread, and offered them many good things of
what there was in the house, while the carver fetched them plates of
all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their side.
Menelaus then greeted them saying, "Fall to, and welcome; when you
have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such
men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
are."
On this he handed them a piece of fat roast loin, which had been set
near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to
eat and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head
so close that no one might hear, "Look, Pisistratus, man after my
own heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold- of amber, ivory, and
silver. Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of
Olympian Jove. I am lost in admiration."
Menelaus overheard him and said, "No one, my sons, can hold his
own with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but
among mortal men- well, there may be another who has as much wealth as
I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much
and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before
I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the
Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the
Erembians, and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are
born, and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that
country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good
milk, for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was
travelling and getting great riches among these people, my brother was
secretly and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked
wife, so that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth.
Whoever your parents may be they must have told you about all this,
and of my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and
magnificently furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now
have so that I had stayed at home, and all those were living who
perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit
here in my house, for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for
sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort
and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for
one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him without
loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one
of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He
took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for
he has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged
in grief on his account."
Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he
bethought him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard
him thus mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with
both hands. When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him
choose his own time for speaking, or to ask him at once and find
what it was all about.
While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted
and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought
her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the
silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her.
Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the
whole world; he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two
tripods, and ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave
Helen some beautiful presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a
silver work-box that ran on wheels, with a gold band round the top
of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full of fine spun yarn,
and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was laid upon the
top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband.
"Do we know, Menelaus," said she, "the names of these strangers
who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I
cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or
woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know
what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left
as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in
your hearts, on account of my most shameless self."
"My dear wife," replied Menelaus, "I see the likeness just as you
do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses'; so is his hair, with
the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I
was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my
account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle."
Then Pisistratus said, "Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one
whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My
father, Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know
whether you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always
trouble at home when his father has gone away leaving him without
supporters; and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father
is absent, and there is no one among his own people to stand by him."
"Bless my heart," replied Menelaus, "then I am receiving a visit
from the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for
my sake. I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked
distinction when heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the
seas. I should have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a
house. I should have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son,
and all his people, and should have sacked for them some one of the
neighbouring cities that are subject to me. We should thus have seen
one another continually, and nothing but death could have
interrupted so close and happy an intercourse. I suppose, however,
that heaven grudged us such great good fortune, for it has prevented
the poor fellow from ever getting home at all."
Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
"Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told
me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it
be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I
am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the
forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.
This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads
for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died
at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to
have known him- his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him
myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight
valiant."
"Your discretion, my friend," answered Menelaus, "is beyond your
years. It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a
man is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring- and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his
days, giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him
who are both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore
to all this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be
poured over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another
fully in the morning."
On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their
hands and they laid their hands on the good things that were before
them.
Then Jove's daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She
drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and
ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear
all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of
them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces
before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue,
had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt,
where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the
mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole
country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon.
When Helen had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to
serve the wine round, she said:
"Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of
honourable men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of
good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will,
and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name
every single one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did
when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of
difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed
himself all in rags, and entered the enemy's city looking like a
menial or a beggar. and quite different from what he did when he was
among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy,
and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to
question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had
washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had
sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got
safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that
the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things
the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for
my heart was beginning to oam after my home, and I was unhappy about
wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from my
country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding."
Then Menelaus said, "All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,
but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some
god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and
you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our
hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name,
and mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats
inside heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our
minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from
inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all
except Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped
his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was
this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took
you away again."
"How sad," exclaimed Telemachus, "that all this was of no avail to
save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to
send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of
sleep."
On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that
was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests
to wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,
to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus,
then, did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt,
while the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by
his side.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he
said:
"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about
it."
"I have come, sir replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who
keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of
paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your
knees if haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly
what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service
either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the
Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he
exclaimed, "these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind
might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then
go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when
he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of
them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva,
and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled
with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the
Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near
these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
As regards your questions, however, I will not prevaricate nor deceive
you, but will tell you without concealment all that the old man of the
sea told me.
"I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt,
for my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods
are very strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far
as a ship can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there
is an island called Pharos- it has a good harbour from which vessels
can get out into open sea when they have taken in water- and the
gods becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair
wind to help me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions
and my men would have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me
and saved me in the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old
man of the sea, for she had taken a great fancy to me.
"She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for
the men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in the
hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of
hunger. 'Stranger,' said she, 'it seems to me that you like starving
in this way- at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you
stick here day after day, without even trying to get away though
your men are dying by inches.'
"'Let me tell you,' said I, 'whichever of the goddesses you may
happen to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must
have offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for
the gods know everything. which of the immortals it is that is
hindering me in this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so
as to reach my home.'
"'Stranger,' replied she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you.
There is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and
whose name is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my
father; he is Neptune's head man and knows every inch of ground all
over the bottom of the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight,
he will tell you about your voyage, what courses you are to take,
and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home. He will also
tell you, if you so will, all that has been going on at your house
both good and bad, while you have been away on your long and dangerous
journey.'
"'Can you show me,' said I, 'some stratagem by means of which I
may catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out?
For a god is not easily caught- not by a mortal man.'
"'Stranger,' said she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you. About
the time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of
the sea comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind
that furs the water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies
down, and goes to sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals-
Halosydne's chickens as they call them- come up also from the grey
sea, and go to sleep in shoals all round him; and a very strong and
fish-like smell do they bring with them. Early to-morrow morning I
will take you to this place and will lay you in ambush. Pick out,
therefore, the three best men you have in your fleet, and I will
tell you all the tricks that the old man will play you.
"'First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then,
when he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go
to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see
that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold
him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will
turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and
will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and
grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and
comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may
slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the
gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach
your home over the seas.'
"Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back
to the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart
was clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got
supper ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I took the
three men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went
along by the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the
goddess fetched me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea,
all of them just skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her
father. Then she dug four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to
wait till we should come up. When we were close to her, she made us
lie down in the pits one after the other, and threw a seal skin over
each of us. Our ambuscade would have been intolerable, for the
stench of the fishy seals was most distressing- who would go to bed
with a sea monster if he could help it?-but here, too, the goddess
helped us, and thought of something that gave us great relief, for she
put some ambrosia under each man's nostrils, which was so fragrant
that it killed the smell of the seals.
"We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the
seals come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon the
old man of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat seals he
went over them and counted them. We were among the first he counted,
and he never suspected any guile, but laid himself down to sleep as
soon as he had done counting. Then we rushed upon him with a shout and
seized him; on which he began at once with his old tricks, and changed
himself first into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he
became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was
running water, and then again directly he was a tree, but we stuck
to him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning old creature
became distressed, and said, Which of the gods was it, Son of
Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and seizing
me against my will? What do you want?'
"'You know that yourself, old man,' I answered, 'you will gain
nothing by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so
long in this island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I
am losing all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything,
which of the immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also
how I may sail the sea so as to reach my home?'
"Then,' he said, 'if you would finish your voyage and get home
quickly, you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods
before embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to
your friends, and to your own house, till you have returned to the
heaven fed stream of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal
gods that reign in heaven. When you have done this they will let you
finish your voyage.'
"I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long
and terrible voyage to Egypt; nevertheless, I answered, 'I will do
all, old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell me
true, whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us when
we set sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one of them
came to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his friends
when the days of his fighting were done.'
"'Son of Atreus,' he answered, 'why ask me? You had better not
know what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have
heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone,
but many still remain, and only two of the chief men among the
Achaeans perished during their return home. As for what happened on
the field of battle- you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader
is still at sea, alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked,
for Neptune drove him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he
let him get safe out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva's
hatred he would have escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by
boasting. He said the gods could not drown him even though they had
tried to do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized
his trident in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in
two pieces. The base remained where it was, but the part on which Ajax
was sitting fell headlong into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he
drank salt water and was drowned.
"'Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but
when he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was
caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely
against his will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to
dwell, but where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it
seemed as though he was to return safely after all, for the gods
backed the wind into its old quarter and they reached home; whereon
Agamemnon kissed his native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding
himself in his own country.
"'Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the
watch, and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had
been looking out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did
not give him the slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw
Agamemnon go by, he went and told Aegisthus who at once began to lay a
plot for him. He picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them
in ambuscade on one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he
prepared a banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to
Agamemnon, and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He
got him there, all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and
killed him when the banquet was over as though he were butchering an
ox in the shambles; not one of Agamemnon's followers was left alive,
nor yet one of Aegisthus', but they were all killed there in the
cloisters.'
"Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I
sat down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer
bear to live nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had
had my fill of weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of
the sea said, 'Son of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying
so bitterly; it can do no manner of good; find your way home as fast
as ever you can, for Aegisthus be still alive, and even though Orestes
has beforehand with you in kilting him, you may yet come in for his
funeral.'
"On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, 'I
know, then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man
of whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get
home? or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.'
"'The third man,' he answered, 'is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I
can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the
nymph Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his
home for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As
for your own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods
will take you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world.
There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life
than any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain,
nor hail, nor snow, but Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that
sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This
will happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Jove's
son-in-law.'
"As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as
I went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night
was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the
water, and put our masts and sails within them; then we went on
board ourselves, took our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea
with our oars. I again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream
of Egypt, and offered hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When
I had thus appeased heaven's anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of
Agamemnon that his name might live for ever, after which I had a quick
passage home, for the gods sent me a fair wind.
"And now for yourself- stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and
I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present
of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful
chalice that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make
a drink-offering to the immortal gods."
"Son of Atreus," replied Telemachus, "do not press me to stay
longer; I should be contented to remain with you for another twelve
months; I find your conversation so delightful that I should never
once wish myself at home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left
at Pylos are already impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As
for any present you may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it
should he a piece of plate. I will take no horses back with me to
Ithaca, but will leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have
much flat ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also
meadowsweet and wheat and barley, and oats with their white and
spreading ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor
racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than horses, and
I like it the better for that. None of our islands have much level
ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of all."
Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus's hand within his own. "What you
say," said he, "shows that you come of good family. I both can, and
will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most
precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing-bowl by
Vulcan's own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid
with gold. Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the
course of a visit which I paid him when I returned thither on my
homeward journey. I will make you a present of it."
Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's
house. They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread
for them to take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in
the courts].
Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at a
mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses' house, and were
behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who
were their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were
sitting together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to
Antinous,
"Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from
Pylos? He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis:
I have twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side
not yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break
him."
They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure
that Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he
was only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or
with the swineherd; so Antinous said, "When did he go? Tell me
truly, and what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or
his own bondsmen- for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did
you let him have the ship of your own free will because he asked
you, or did he take it without yourleave?"
"I lent it him," answered Noemon, "what else could I do when a man
of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige
him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him
they were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board
as captain- or some god who was exactly like him. I cannot
understand it, for I saw Mentor here myself yesterday morning, and yet
he was then setting out for Pylos."
Noemon then went back to his father's house, but Antinous and
Eurymachus were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing,
and to come and sit down along with themselves. When they came,
Antinous son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with
rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he said:
"Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter;
we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow
has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be
giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full
grown. Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I
will lie in wait for him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he
will then rue the day that he set out to try and get news of his
father."
Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then
all of them went inside the buildings.
It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the
outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell
his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said:
"Medon, what have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the
maids to leave their master's business and cook dinner for them? I
wish they may neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor
anywhere else, but let this be the very last time, for the waste you
all make of my son's estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you
were children how good Ulysses had been to them- never doing
anything high-handed, nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say
things sometimes, and they may take a fancy to one man and dislike
another, but Ulysses never did an unjust thing by anybody- which shows
what bad hearts you have, and that there is no such thing as gratitude
left in this world."
Then Medon said, "I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are
plotting something much more dreadful now- may heaven frustrate
their design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is
coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news
of his father."
Then Penelope's heart sank within her, and for a long time she was
speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no
utterance. At last, however, she said, "Why did my son leave me?
What business had he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages
over the ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving
any one behind him to keep up his name?"
"I do not know," answered Medon, "whether some god set him on to it,
or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out if
his father was dead, or alive and on his way home."
Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of
grief. There were plenty of seats in the house, but she. had no
heart for sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself
on the floor of her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the
house, both old and young, gathered round her and began to cry too,
till at last in a transport of sorrow she exclaimed,
"My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction
than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave
and lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven, and
whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now my
darling son is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my
having heard one word about his leaving home. You hussies, there was
not one of you would so much as think of giving me a call out of my
bed, though you all of you very well knew when he was starting. If I
had known he meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give it
up, no matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse
behind him- one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old
Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is my
gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes, who may
be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public sympathy on our side,
as against those who are trying to exterminate his own race and that
of Ulysses."
Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, "You may kill me, Madam, or
let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell
you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he
wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn
oath that I would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days,
unless you asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did
not want you to spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash your
face, change your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer
prayers to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save
him even though he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he
has trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods hate
die race of the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there will
be a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house and the
fair fields that lie far all round it."
With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried
the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her
dress, and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised
barley into a basket and began praying to Minerva.
"Hear me," she cried, "Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable. If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh
bones of sheep or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and
save my darling son from the villainy of the suitors."
She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered
cloister, and one of them said:
"The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us.
Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die."
This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to
happen. Then Antinous said, "Comrades, let there be no loud talking,
lest some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in
silence, about which we are all of a mind."
He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their. ship and to
the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast and
sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted
thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails
aloft, while their fine servants brought them their armour. Then
they made the ship fast a little way out, came on shore again, got
their suppers, and waited till night should fall.
But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink,
and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered by
the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen
hemming her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank
into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in
the likeness of Penelope's sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who had
married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go to
the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so it
came into her room by the hole through which the thong went for
pulling the door to, and hovered over her head, saying,
"You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer
you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he will
yet come back to you."
Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland,
answered, "Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often,
but I suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I,
then, to leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that
torture me? I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who
had every good quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all
Hellas and middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on
board of a ship- a foolish fellow who has never been used to
roughing it, nor to going about among gatherings of men. I am even
more anxious about him than about my husband; I am all in a tremble
when I think of him, lest something should happen to him, either
from the people among whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many
enemies who are plotting against him, and are bent on killing him
before he can return home."
Then the vision said, "Take heart, and be not so much dismayed.
There is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to
have stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion
upon you, and who has sent me to bear you this message."
"Then," said Penelope, "if you are a god or have been sent here by
divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one- is he
still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?"
And the vision said, "I shall not tell you for certain whether he is
alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation."
Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was
dissipated into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed
and comforted, so vivid had been her dream.
Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the
sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called
Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos,
and there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie. Here
then the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 11

And now as Dawn rose from her couch beside Tithonus, harbinger of
light alike to mortals and immortals, Jove sent fierce Discord with
the ensign of war in her hands to the ships of the Achaeans. She
took her stand by the huge black hull of Ulysses' ship which was
middlemost of all, so that her voice might carry farthest on either
side, on the one hand towards the tents of Ajax son of Telamon, and on
the other towards those of Achilles- for these two heroes,
well-assured of their own strength, had valorously drawn up their
ships at the two ends of the line. There she took her stand, and
raised a cry both loud and shrill that filled the Achaeans with
courage, giving them heart to fight resolutely and with all their
might, so that they had rather stay there and do battle than go home
in their ships.
The son of Atreus shouted aloud and bade the Argives gird themselves
for battle while he put on his armour. First he girded his goodly
greaves about his legs, making them fast with ankle clasps of
silver; and about his chest he set the breastplate which Cinyras had
once given him as a guest-gift. It had been noised abroad as far as
Cyprus that the Achaeans were about to sail for Troy, and therefore he
gave it to the king. It had ten courses of dark cyanus, twelve of
gold, and ten of tin. There were serpents of cyanus that reared
themselves up towards the neck, three upon either side, like the
rainbows which the son of Saturn has set in heaven as a sign to mortal
men. About his shoulders he threw his sword, studded with bosses of
gold; and the scabbard was of silver with a chain of gold wherewith to
hang it. He took moreover the richly-dight shield that covered his
body when he was in battle- fair to see, with ten circles of bronze
running all round see, wit it. On the body of the shield there were
twenty bosses of white tin, with another of dark cyanus in the middle:
this last was made to show a Gorgon's head, fierce and grim, with Rout
and Panic on either side. The band for the arm to go through was of
silver, on which there was a writhing snake of cyanus with three heads
that sprang from a single neck, and went in and out among one another.
On his head Agamemnon set a helmet, with a peak before and behind, and
four plumes of horse-hair that nodded menacingly above it; then he
grasped two redoubtable bronze-shod spears, and the gleam of his
armour shot from him as a flame into the firmament, while Juno and
Minerva thundered in honour of the king of rich Mycene.
Every man now left his horses in charge of his charioteer to hold
them in readiness by the trench, while he went into battle on foot
clad in full armour, and a mighty uproar rose on high into the
dawning. The chiefs were armed and at the trench before the horses got
there, but these came up presently. The son of Saturn sent a portent
of evil sound about their host, and the dew fell red with blood, for
he was about to send many a brave man hurrying down to Hades.
The Trojans, on the other side upon the rising slope of the plain,
were gathered round great Hector, noble Polydamas, Aeneas who was
honoured by the Trojans like an immortal, and the three sons of
Antenor, Polybus, Agenor, and young Acamas beauteous as a god.
Hector's round shield showed in the front rank, and as some baneful
star that shines for a moment through a rent in the clouds and is
again hidden beneath them; even so was Hector now seen in the front
ranks and now again in the hindermost, and his bronze armour gleamed
like the lightning of aegis-bearing Jove.
And now as a band of reapers mow swathes of wheat or barley upon a
rich man's land, and the sheaves fall thick before them, even so did
the Trojans and Achaeans fall upon one another; they were in no mood
for yielding but fought like wolves, and neither side got the better
of the other. Discord was glad as she beheld them, for she was the
only god that went among them; the others were not there, but stayed
quietly each in his own home among the dells and valleys of Olympus.
All of them blamed the son of Saturn for wanting to Live victory to
the Trojans, but father Jove heeded them not: he held aloof from
all, and sat apart in his all-glorious majesty, looking down upon
the city of the Trojans, the ships of the Achaeans, the gleam of
bronze, and alike upon the slayers and on the slain.
Now so long as the day waxed and it was still morning, their darts
rained thick on one another and the people perished, but as the hour
drew nigh when a woodman working in some mountain forest will get
his midday meal- for he has felled till his hands are weary; he is
tired out, and must now have food- then the Danaans with a cry that
rang through all their ranks, broke the battalions of the enemy.
Agamemnon led them on, and slew first Bienor, a leader of his
people, and afterwards his comrade and charioteer Oileus, who sprang
from his chariot and was coming full towards him; but Agamemnon struck
him on the forehead with his spear; his bronze visor was of no avail
against the weapon, which pierced both bronze and bone, so that his
brains were battered in and he was killed in full fight.
Agamemnon stripped their shirts from off them and left them with
their breasts all bare to lie where they had fallen. He then went on
to kill Isus and Antiphus two sons of Priam, the one a bastard, the
other born in wedlock; they were in the same chariot- the bastard
driving, while noble Antiphus fought beside him. Achilles had once
taken both of them prisoners in the glades of Ida, and had bound
them with fresh withes as they were shepherding, but he had taken a
ransom for them; now, however, Agamemnon son of Atreus smote Isus in
the chest above the nipple with his spear, while he struck Antiphus
hard by the ear and threw him from his chariot. Forthwith he
stripped their goodly armour from off them and recognized them, for he
had already seen them at ships when Achilles brought them in from Ida.
As a lion fastens on the fawns of a hind and crushes them in his great
jaws, robbing them of their tender life while he on his way back to
his lair- the hind can do nothing for them even though she be close
by, for she is in an agony of fear, and flies through the thick
forest, sweating, and at her utmost speed before the mighty monster-
so, no man of the Trojans could help Isus and Antiphus, for they
were themselves flying panic before the Argives.
Then King Agamemnon took the two sons of Antimachus, Pisander and
brave Hippolochus. It was Antimachus who had been foremost in
preventing Helen's being restored to Menelaus, for he was largely
bribed by Alexandrus; and now Agamemnon took his two sons, both in the
same chariot, trying to bring their horses to a stand- for they had
lost hold of the reins and the horses were mad with fear. The son of
Atreus sprang upon them like a lion, and the pair besought him from
their chariot. "Take us alive," they cried, "son of Atreus, and you
shall receive a great ransom for us. Our father Antimachus has great
store of gold, bronze, and wrought iron, and from this he will satisfy
you with a very large ransom should he hear of our being alive at
the ships of the Achaeans."
With such piteous words and tears did they beseech the king, but
they heard no pitiful answer in return. "If," said Agamemnon, "you are
sons of Antimachus, who once at a council of Trojans proposed that
Menelaus and Ulysses, who had come to you as envoys, should be
killed and not suffered to return, you shall now pay for the foul
iniquity of your father."
As he spoke he felled Pisander from his chariot to the earth,
smiting him on the chest with his spear, so that he lay face uppermost
upon the ground. Hippolochus fled, but him too did Agamemnon smite; he
cut off his hands and his head- which he sent rolling in among the
crowd as though it were a ball. There he let them both lie, and
wherever the ranks were thickest thither he flew, while the other
Achaeans followed. Foot soldiers drove the foot soldiers of the foe in
rout before them, and slew them; horsemen did the like by horsemen,
and the thundering tramp of the horses raised a cloud of dust frim off
the plain. King Agamemnon followed after, ever slaying them and
cheering on the Achaeans. As when some mighty forest is all ablaze-
the eddying gusts whirl fire in all directions till the thickets
shrivel and are consumed before the blast of the flame- even so fell
the heads of the flying Trojans before Agamemnon son of Atreus, and
many a noble pair of steeds drew an empty chariot along the highways
of war, for lack of drivers who were lying on the plain, more useful
now to vultures than to their wives.
Jove drew Hector away from the darts and dust, with the carnage
and din of battle; but the son of Atreus sped onwards, calling out
lustily to the Danaans. They flew on by the tomb of old Ilus, son of
Dardanus, in the middle of the plain, and past the place of the wild
fig-tree making always for the city- the son of Atreus still shouting,
and with hands all bedrabbled in gore; but when they had reached the
Scaean gates and the oak tree, there they halted and waited for the
others to come up. Meanwhile the Trojans kept on flying over the
middle of the plain like a herd cows maddened with fright when a
lion has attacked them in the dead of night- he springs on one of
them, seizes her neck in the grip of his strong teeth and then laps up
her blood and gorges himself upon her entrails- even so did King
Agamemnon son of Atreus pursue the foe, ever slaughtering the hindmost
as they fled pell-mell before him. Many a man was flung headlong
from his chariot by the hand of the son of Atreus, for he wielded
his spear with fury.
But when he was just about to reach the high wall and the city,
the father of gods and men came down from heaven and took his seat,
thunderbolt in hand, upon the crest of many-fountained Ida. He then
told Iris of the golden wings to carry a message for him. "Go," said
he, "fleet Iris, and speak thus to Hector- say that so long as he
sees Agamemnon heading his men and making havoc of the Trojan ranks,
he is to keep aloof and bid the others bear the brunt of the battle,
but when Agamemnon is wounded either by spear or arrow, and takes to
his chariot, then will I vouchsafe him strength to slay till he
reach the ships and night falls at the going down of the sun."
Iris hearkened and obeyed. Down she went to strong Ilius from the
crests of Ida, and found Hector son of Priam standing by his chariot
and horses. Then she said, "Hector son of Priam, peer of gods in
counsel, father Jove has sent me to bear you this message- so long
as you see Agamemnon heading his men and making havoc of the Trojan
ranks, you are to keep aloof and bid the others bear the brunt of
the battle, but when Agamemnon is wounded either by spear or arrow,
and takes to his chariot, then will Jove vouchsafe you strength to
slay till you reach the ships, and till night falls at the going
down of the sun."
When she had thus spoken Iris left him, and Hector sprang full armed
from his chariot to the ground, brandishing his spear as he went about
everywhere among the host, cheering his men on to fight, and
stirring the dread strife of battle. The Trojans then wheeled round,
and again met the Achaeans, while the Argives on their part
strengthened their battalions. The battle was now in array and they
stood face to face with one another, Agamemnon ever pressing forward
in his eagerness to be ahead of all others.
Tell me now ye Muses that dwell in the mansions of Olympus, who,
whether of the Trojans or of their allies, was first to face
Agamemnon? It was Iphidamas son of Antenor, a man both brave and of
great stature, who was brought up in fertile Thrace the mother of
sheep. Cisses, his mother's father, brought him up in his own house
when he was a child- Cisses, father to fair Theano. When he reached
manhood, Cisses would have kept him there, and was for giving him
his daughter in marriage, but as soon as he had married he set out
to fight the Achaeans with twelve ships that followed him: these he
had left at Percote and had come on by land to Ilius. He it was that
naw met Agamemnon son of Atreus. When they were close up with one
another, the son of Atreus missed his aim, and Iphidamas hit him on
the girdle below the cuirass and then flung himself upon him, trusting
to his strength of arm; the girdle, however, was not pierced, nor
nearly so, for the point of the spear struck against the silver and
was turned aside as though it had been lead: King Agamemnon caught
it from his hand, and drew it towards him with the fury of a lion;
he then drew his sword, and killed Iphidamas by striking him on the
neck. So there the poor fellow lay, sleeping a sleep as it were of
bronze, killed in the defence of his fellow-citizens, far from his
wedded wife, of whom he had had no joy though he had given much for
her: he had given a hundred-head of cattle down, and had promised
later on to give a thousand sheep and goats mixed, from the
countless flocks of which he was possessed. Agamemnon son of Atreus
then despoiled him, and carried off his armour into the host of the
Achaeans.
When noble Coon, Antenor's eldest son, saw this, sore indeed were
his eyes at the sight of his fallen brother. Unseen by Agamemnon he
got beside him, spear in hand, and wounded him in the middle of his
arm below the elbow, the point of the spear going right through the
arm. Agamemnon was convulsed with pain, but still not even for this
did he leave off struggling and fighting, but grasped his spear that
flew as fleet as the wind, and sprang upon Coon who was trying to drag
off the body of his brother- his father's son- by the foot, and was
crying for help to all the bravest of his comrades; but Agamemnon
struck him with a bronze-shod spear and killed him as he was
dragging the dead body through the press of men under cover of his
shield: he then cut off his head, standing over the body of Iphidamas.
Thus did the sons of Antenor meet their fate at the hands of the son
of Atreus, and go down into the house of Hades.
As long as the blood still welled warm from his wound Agamemnon went
about attacking the ranks of the enemy with spear and sword and with
great handfuls of stone, but when the blood had ceased to flow and the
wound grew dry, the pain became great. As the sharp pangs which the
Eilithuiae, goddesses of childbirth, daughters of Juno and
dispensers of cruel pain, send upon a woman when she is in labour-
even so sharp were the pangs of the son of Atreus. He sprang on to his
chariot, and bade his charioteer drive to the ships, for he was in
great agony. With a loud clear voice he shouted to the Danaans, "My
friends, princes and counsellors of the Argives, defend the ships
yourselves, for Jove has not suffered me to fight the whole day
through against the Trojans."
With this the charioteer turned his horses towards the ships, and
they flew forward nothing loth. Their chests were white with foam
and their bellies with dust, as they drew the wounded king out of
the battle.
When Hector saw Agamemnon quit the field, he shouted to the
Trojans and Lycians saying, "Trojans, Lycians, and Dardanian warriors,
be men, my friends, and acquit yourselves in battle bravely; their
best man has left them, and Jove has vouchsafed me a great triumph;
charge the foe with your chariots that. you may win still greater
glory."
With these words he put heart and soul into them all, and as a
huntsman hounds his dogs on against a lion or wild boar, even so did
Hector, peer of Mars, hound the proud Trojans on against the Achaeans.
Full of hope he plunged in among the foremost, and fell on the fight
like some fierce tempest that swoops down upon the sea, and lashes its
deep blue waters into fury.
What, then is the full tale of those whom Hector son of Priam killed
in the hour of triumph which Jove then vouchsafed him? First Asaeus,
Autonous, and Opites; Dolops son of Clytius, Opheltius and Agelaus;
Aesymnus, Orus and Hipponous steadfast in battle; these chieftains
of the Achaeans did Hector slay, and then he fell upon the rank and
file. As when the west wind hustles the clouds of the white south
and beats them down with the fierceness of its fury- the waves of
the sea roll high, and the spray is flung aloft in the rage of the
wandering wind- even so thick were the heads of them that fell by
the hand of Hector.
All had then been lost and no help for it, and the Achaeans would
have fled pell-mell to their ships, had not Ulysses cried out to
Diomed, "Son of Tydeus, what has happened to us that we thus forget
our prowess? Come, my good fellow, stand by my side and help me, we
shall be shamed for ever if Hector takes the ships."
And Diomed answered, "Come what may, I will stand firm; but we shall
have scant joy of it, for Jove is minded to give victory to the
Trojans rather than to us."
With these words he struck Thymbraeus from his chariot to the
ground, smiting him in the left breast with his spear, while Ulysses
killed Molion who was his squire. These they let lie, now that they
had stopped their fighting; the two heroes then went on playing
havoc with the foe, like two wild boars that turn in fury and rend the
hounds that hunt them. Thus did they turn upon the Trojans and slay
them, and the Achaeans were thankful to have breathing time in their
flight from Hector.
They then took two princes with their chariot, the two sons of
Merops of Percote, who excelled all others in the arts of
divination. He had forbidden his sons to go to the war, but they would
not obey him, for fate lured them to their fall. Diomed son of
Tydeus slew them both and stripped them of their armour, while Ulysses
killed Hippodamus and Hypeirochus.
And now the son of Saturn as he looked down from Ida ordained that
neither side should have the advantage, and they kept on killing one
another. The son of Tydeus speared Agastrophus son of Paeon in the
hip-joint with his spear. His chariot was not at hand for him to fly
with, so blindly confident had he been. His squire was in charge of it
at some distance and he was fighting on foot among the foremost
until he lost his life. Hector soon marked the havoc Diomed and
Ulysses were making, and bore down upon them with a loud cry, followed
by the Trojan ranks; brave Diomed was dismayed when he saw them, and
said to Ulysses who was beside him, "Great Hector is bearing down upon
us and we shall be undone; let us stand firm and wait his onset."
He poised his spear as he spoke and hurled it, nor did he miss his
mark. He had aimed at Hector's head near the top of his helmet, but
bronze was turned by bronze, and Hector was untouched, for the spear
was stayed by the visored helm made with three plates of metal,
which Phoebus Apollo had given him. Hector sprang back with a great
bound under cover of the ranks; he fell on his knees and propped
himself with his brawny hand leaning on the ground, for darkness had
fallen on his eyes. The son of Tydeus having thrown his spear dashed
in among the foremost fighters, to the place where he had seen it
strike the ground; meanwhile Hector recovered himself and springing
back into his chariot mingled with the crowd, by which means he
saved his life. But Diomed made at him with his spear and said,
"Dog, you have again got away though death was close on your heels.
Phoebus Apollo, to whom I ween you pray ere you go into battle, has
again saved you, nevertheless I will meet you and make and end of
you hereafter, if there is any god who will stand by me too and be
my helper. For the present I must pursue those I can lay hands on."
As he spoke he began stripping the spoils from the son of Paeon, but
Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen aimed an arrow at him, leaning
against a pillar of the monument which men had raised to Ilus son of
Dardanus, a ruler in days of old. Diomed had taken the cuirass from
off the breast of Agastrophus, his heavy helmet also, and the shield
from off his shoulders, when Paris drew his bow and let fly an arrow
that sped not from his hand in vain, but pierced the flat of
Diomed's right foot, going right through it and fixing itself in the
ground. Thereon Paris with a hearty laugh sprang forward from his
hiding-place, and taunted him saying, "You are wounded- my arrow has
not been shot in vain; would that it had hit you in the belly and
killed you, for thus the Trojans, who fear you as goats fear a lion,
would have had a truce from evil."
Diomed all undaunted answered, "Archer, you who without your bow are
nothing, slanderer and seducer, if you were to be tried in single
combat fighting in full armour, your bow and your arrows would serve
you in little stead. Vain is your boast in that you have scratched the
sole of my foot. I care no more than if a girl or some silly boy had
hit me. A worthless coward can inflict but a light wound; when I wound
a man though I but graze his skin it is another matter, for my
weapon will lay him low. His wife will tear her cheeks for grief and
his children will be fatherless: there will he rot, reddening the
earth with his blood, and vultures, not women, will gather round him."
Thus he spoke, but Ulysses came up and stood over him. Under this
cover he sat down to draw the arrow from his foot, and sharp was the
pain he suffered as he did so. Then he sprang on to his chariot and
bade the charioteer drive him to the ships, for he was sick at heart.
Ulysses was now alone; not one of the Argives stood by him, for they
were all panic-stricken. "Alas," said he to himself in his dismay,
"what will become of me? It is ill if I turn and fly before these
odds, but it will be worse if I am left alone and taken prisoner,
for the son of Saturn has struck the rest of the Danaans with panic.
But why talk to myself in this way? Well do I know that though cowards
quit the field, a hero, whether he wound or be wounded, must stand
firm and hold his own."
While he was thus in two minds, the ranks of the Trojans advanced
and hemmed him in, and bitterly did they come to me it. As hounds
and lusty youths set upon a wild boar that sallies from his lair
whetting his white tusks- they attack him from every side and can hear
the gnashing of his jaws, but for all his fierceness they still hold
their ground- even so furiously did the Trojans attack Ulysses.
First he sprang spear in hand upon Deiopites and wounded him on the
shoulder with a downward blow; then he killed Thoon and Ennomus. After
these he struck Chersidamas in the loins under his shield as he had
just sprung down from his chariot; so he fell in the dust and clutched
the earth in the hollow of his hand. These he let lie, and went on
to wound Charops son of Hippasus own brother to noble Socus. Socus,
hero that he was, made all speed to help him, and when he was close to
Ulysses he said, "Far-famed Ulysses, insatiable of craft and toil,
this day you shall either boast of having killed both the sons of
Hippasus and stripped them of their armour, or you shall fall before
my spear."
With these words he struck the shield of Ulysses. The spear went
through the shield and passed on through his richly wrought cuirass,
tearing the flesh from his side, but Pallas Minerva did not suffer
it to pierce the entrails of the hero. Ulysses knew that his hour
was not yet come, but he gave ground and said to Socus, "Wretch, you
shall now surely die. You have stayed me from fighting further with
the Trojans, but you shall now fall by my spear, yielding glory to
myself, and your soul to Hades of the noble steeds."
Socus had turned in flight, but as he did so, the spear struck him
in the back midway between the shoulders, and went right through his
chest. He fell heavily to the ground and Ulysses vaunted over him
saying, "O Socus, son of Hippasus tamer of horses, death has been
too quick for you and you have not escaped him: poor wretch, not
even in death shall your father and mother close your eyes, but the
ravening vultures shall enshroud you with the flapping of their dark
wings and devour you. Whereas even though I fall the Achaeans will
give me my due rites of burial."
So saying he drew Socus's heavy spear out of his flesh and from
his shield, and the blood welled forth when the spear was withdrawn so
that he was much dismayed. When the Trojans saw that Ulysses was
bleeding they raised a great shout and came on in a body towards
him; he therefore gave ground, and called his comrades to come and
help him. Thrice did he cry as loudly as man can cry, and thrice did
brave Menelaus hear him; he turned, therefore, to Ajax who was close
beside him and said, "Ajax, noble son of Telamon, captain of your
people, the cry of Ulysses rings in my ears, as though the Trojans had
cut him off and were worsting him while he is single-handed. Let us
make our way through the throng; it will be well that we defend him; I
fear he may come to harm for all his valour if he be left without
support, and the Danaans would miss him sorely."
He led the way and mighty Ajax went with him. The Trojans had
gathered round Ulysses like ravenous mountain jackals round the
carcase of some homed stag that has been hit with an arrow- the stag
has fled at full speed so long as his blood was warm and his
strength has lasted, but when the arrow has overcome him, the savage
jackals devour him in the shady glades of the forest. Then heaven
sends a fierce lion thither, whereon the jackals fly in terror and the
lion robs them of their prey- even so did Trojans many and brave
gather round crafty Ulysses, but the hero stood at bay and kept them
off with his spear. Ajax then came up with his shield before him
like a wall, and stood hard by, whereon the Trojans fled in all
directions. Menelaus took Ulysses by the hand, and led him out of
the press while his squire brought up his chariot, but Ajax rushed
furiously on the Trojans and killed Doryclus, a bastard son of
Priam; then he wounded Pandocus, Lysandrus, Pyrasus, and Pylartes;
as some swollen torrent comes rushing in full flood from the mountains
on to the plain, big with the rain of heaven- many a dry oak and
many a pine does it engulf, and much mud does it bring down and cast
into the sea- even so did brave Ajax chase the foe furiously over
the plain, slaying both men and horses.
Hector did not yet know what Ajax was doing, for he was fighting
on the extreme left of the battle by the banks of the river Scamander,
where the carnage was thickest and the war-cry loudest round Nestor
and brave Idomeneus. Among these Hector was making great slaughter
with his spear and furious driving, and was destroying the ranks
that were opposed to him; still the Achaeans would have given no
ground, had not Alexandrus husband of lovely Helen stayed the
prowess of Machaon shepherd of his people, by wounding him in the
right shoulder with a triple-barbed arrow. The Achaeans were in
great fear that as the fight had turned against them the Trojans might
take him prisoner, and Idomeneus said to Nestor, "Nestor son of
Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, mount your chariot at once; take
Machaon with you and drive your horses to the ships as fast as you
can. A physician is worth more than several other men put together,
for he can cut out arrows and spread healing herbs."
Nestor knight of Gerene did as Idomeneus had counselled; he at
once mounted his chariot, and Machaon son of the famed physician
Aesculapius went with him. He lashed his horses and they flew onward
nothing loth towards the ships, as though of their own free will.
Then Cebriones seeing the Trojans in confusion said to Hector from
his place beside him, "Hector, here are we two fighting on the extreme
wing of the battle, while the other Trojans are in pell-mell rout,
they and their horses. Ajax son of Telamon is driving them before him;
I know him by the breadth of his shield: let us turn our chariot and
horses thither, where horse and foot are fighting most desperately,
and where the cry of battle is loudest."
With this he lashed his goodly steeds, and when they felt the whip
they drew the chariot full speed among the Achaeans and Trojans,
over the bodies and shields of those that had fallen: the axle was
bespattered with blood, and the rail round the car was covered with
splashes both from the horses' hoofs and from the tyres of the wheels.
Hector tore his way through and flung himself into the thick of the
fight, and his presence threw the Danaans into confusion, for his
spear was not long idle; nevertheless though he went among the ranks
with sword and spear, and throwing great stones, he avoided Ajax son
of Telamon, for Jove would have been angry with him if he had fought a
better man than himself.
Then father Jove from his high throne struck fear into the heart
of Ajax, so that he stood there dazed and threw his shield behind him-
looking fearfully at the throng of his foes as though he were some
wild beast, and turning hither and thither but crouching slowly
backwards. As peasants with their hounds chase a lion from their
stockyard, and watch by night to prevent his carrying off the pick
of their herd- he makes his greedy spring, but in vain, for the
darts from many a strong hand fall thick around him, with burning
brands that scare him for all his fury, and when morning comes he
slinks foiled and angry away- even so did Ajax, sorely against his
will, retreat angrily before the Trojans, fearing for the ships of the
Achaeans. Or as some lazy ass that has had many a cudgel broken
about his back, when he into a field begins eating the corn- boys beat
him but he is too many for them, and though they lay about with
their sticks they cannot hurt him; still when he has had his fill they
at last drive him from the field- even so did the Trojans and their
allies pursue great Ajax, ever smiting the middle of his shield with
their darts. Now and again he would turn and show fight, keeping
back the battalions of the Trojans, and then he would again retreat;
but he prevented any of them from making his way to the ships.
Single-handed he stood midway between the Trojans and Achaeans: the
spears that sped from their hands stuck some of them in his mighty
shield, while many, though thirsting for his blood, fell to the ground
ere they could reach him to the wounding of his fair flesh.
Now when Eurypylus the brave son of Euaemon saw that Ajax was
being overpowered by the rain of arrows, he went up to him and
hurled his spear. He struck Apisaon son of Phausius in the liver below
the midriff, and laid him low. Eurypylus sprang upon him, and stripped
the armour from his shoulders; but when Alexandrus saw him, he aimed
an arrow at him which struck him in the right thigh; the arrow
broke, but the point that was left in the wound dragged on the
thigh; he drew back, therefore, under cover of his comrades to save
his life, shouting as he did so to the Danaans, "My friends, princes
and counsellors of the Argives, rally to the defence of Ajax who is
being overpowered, and I doubt whether he will come out of the fight
alive. Hither, then, to the rescue of great Ajax son of Telamon."
Even so did he cry when he was wounded; thereon the others came
near, and gathered round him, holding their shields upwards from their
shoulders so as to give him cover. Ajax then made towards them, and
turned round to stand at bay as soon as he had reached his men.
Thus then did they fight as it were a flaming fire. Meanwhile the
mares of Neleus, all in a lather with sweat, were bearing Nestor out
of the fight, and with him Machaon shepherd of his people. Achilles
saw and took note, for he was standing on the stern of his ship
watching the hard stress and struggle of the fight. He called from the
ship to his comrade Patroclus, who heard him in the tent and came
out looking like Mars himself- here indeed was the beginning of the
ill that presently befell him. "Why," said he, "Achilles do you call
me? what do you what do you want with me?" And Achilles answered,
"Noble son of Menoetius, man after my own heart, I take it that I
shall now have the Achaeans praying at my knees, for they are in great
straits; go, Patroclus, and ask Nestor who is that he is bearing
away wounded from the field; from his back I should say it was Machaon
son of Aesculapius, but I could not see his face for the horses went
by me at full speed."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him, and set off
running by the ships and tents of the Achaeans.
When Nestor and Machaon had reached the tents of the son of
Neleus, they dismounted, and an esquire, Eurymedon, took the horses
from the chariot. The pair then stood in the breeze by the seaside
to dry the sweat from their shirts, and when they had so done they
came inside and took their seats. Fair Hecamede, whom Nestor had had
awarded to him from Tenedos when Achilles took it, mixed them a
mess; she was daughter of wise Arsinous, and the Achaeans had given
her to Nestor because he excelled all of them in counsel. First she
set for them a fair and well-made table that had feet of cyanus; on it
there was a vessel of bronze and an onion to give relish to the drink,
with honey and cakes of barley-meal. There was also a cup of rare
workmanship which the old man had brought with him from home,
studded with bosses of gold; it had four handles, on each of which
there were two golden doves feeding, and it had two feet to stand
on. Any one else would hardly have been able to lift it from the table
when it was full, but Nestor could do so quite easily. In this the
woman, as fair as a goddess, mixed them a mess with Pramnian wine; she
grated goat's milk cheese into it with a bronze grater, threw in a
handful of white barley-meal, and having thus prepared the mess she
bade them drink it. When they had done so and had thus quenched
their thirst, they fell talking with one another, and at this moment
Patroclus appeared at the door.
When the old man saw him he sprang from his seat, seized his hand,
led him into the tent, and bade him take his place among them; but
Patroclus stood where he was and said, "Noble sir, I may not stay, you
cannot persuade me to come in; he that sent me is not one to be
trifled with, and he bade me ask who the wounded man was whom you were
bearing away from the field. I can now see for myself that he is
Machaon shepherd of his people. I must go back and tell Achilles. You,
sir, know what a terrible man he is, and how ready to blame even where
no blame should lie."
And Nestor answered, "Why should Achilles care to know how many of
the Achaeans may be wounded? He recks not of the dismay that reigns in
our host; our most valiant chieftains lie disabled, brave Diomed son
of Tydeus is wounded; so are Ulysses and Agamemnon; Eurypylus has been
hit with an arrow in the thigh, and I have just been bringing this man
from the field- he too wounded- with an arrow; nevertheless
Achilles, so valiant though he be, cares not and knows no ruth. Will
he wait till the ships, do what we may, are in a blaze, and we
perish one upon the other? As for me, I have no strength nor stay in
me any longer; would that I Were still young and strong as in the days
when there was a fight between us and the men of Elis about some
cattle-raiding. I then killed Itymoneus the valiant son of Hypeirochus
a dweller in Elis, as I was driving in the spoil; he was hit by a dart
thrown my hand while fighting in the front rank in defence of his
cows, so he fell and the country people around him were in great fear.
We drove off a vast quantity of booty from the plain, fifty herds of
cattle and as many flocks of sheep; fifty droves also of pigs, and
as many wide-spreading flocks of goats. Of horses moreover we seized a
hundred and fifty, all of them mares, and many had foals running
with them. All these did we drive by night to Pylus the city of
Neleus, taking them within the city; and the heart of Neleus was
glad in that I had taken so much, though it was the first time I had
ever been in the field. At daybreak the heralds went round crying that
all in Elis to whom there was a debt owing should come; and the
leading Pylians assembled to divide the spoils. There were many to
whom the Epeans owed chattels, for we men of Pylus were few and had
been oppressed with wrong; in former years Hercules had come, and
had laid his hand heavy upon us, so that all our best men had
perished. Neleus had had twelve sons, but I alone was left; the others
had all been killed. The Epeans presuming upon all this had looked
down upon us and had done us much evil. My father chose a herd of
cattle and a great flock of sheep- three hundred in all- and he took
their shepherds with him, for there was a great debt due to him in
Elis, to wit four horses, winners of prizes. They and their chariots
with them had gone to the games and were to run for a tripod, but King
Augeas took them, and sent back their driver grieving for the loss
of his horses. Neleus was angered by what he had both said and done,
and took great value in return, but he divided the rest, that no man
might have less than his full share.
"Thus did we order all things, and offer sacrifices to the gods
throughout the city; but three days afterwards the Epeans came in a
body, many in number, they and their chariots, in full array, and with
them the two Moliones in their armour, though they were still lads and
unused to fighting. Now there is a certain town, Thryoessa, perched
upon a rock on the river Alpheus, the border city Pylus; this they
would destroy, and pitched their camp about it, but when they had
crossed their whole plain, Minerva darted down by night from Olympus
and bade us set ourselves in array; and she found willing soldiers
in Pylos, for the men meant fighting. Neleus would not let me arm, and
hid my horses, for he said that as yet I could know nothing about war;
nevertheless Minerva so ordered the fight that, all on foot as I
was, I fought among our mounted forces and vied with the foremost of
them. There is a river Minyeius that falls into the sea near Arene,
and there they that were mounted (and I with them) waited till
morning, when the companies of foot soldiers came up with us in force.
Thence in full panoply and equipment we came towards noon to the
sacred waters of the Alpheus, and there we offered victims to almighty
Jove, with a bull to Alpheus, another to Neptune, and a herd-heifer to
Minerva. After this we took supper in our companies, and laid us
down to rest each in his armour by the river.
"The Epeans were beleaguering the city and were determined to take
it, but ere this might be there was a desperate fight in store for
them. When the sun's rays began to fall upon the earth we joined
battle, praying to Jove and to Minerva, and when the fight had
begun, I was the first to kill my man and take his horses- to wit
the warrior Mulius. He was son-in-law to Augeas, having married his
eldest daughter, golden-haired Agamede, who knew the virtues of
every herb which grows upon the face of the earth. I speared him as he
was coming towards me, and when he fell headlong in the dust, I sprang
upon his chariot and took my place in the front ranks. The Epeans fled
in all directions when they saw the captain of their horsemen (the
best man they had) laid low, and I swept down on them like a
whirlwind, taking fifty chariots- and in each of them two men bit
the dust, slain by my spear. I should have even killed the two
Moliones sons of Actor, unless their real father, Neptune lord of
the earthquake, had hidden them in a thick mist and borne them out
of the fight. Thereon Jove vouchsafed the Pylians a great victory, for
we chased them far over the plain, killing the men and bringing in
their armour, till we had brought our horses to Buprasium rich in
wheat and to the Olenian rock, with the hill that is called Alision,
at which point Minerva turned the people back. There I slew the last
man and left him; then the Achaeans drove their horses back from
Buprasium to Pylos and gave thanks to Jove among the gods, and among
mortal men to Nestor.
"Such was I among my peers, as surely as ever was, but Achilles is
for keeping all his valour for himself; bitterly will he rue it
hereafter when the host is being cut to pieces. My good friend, did
not Menoetius charge you thus, on the day when he sent you from Phthia
to Agamemnon? Ulysses and I were in the house, inside, and heard all
that he said to you; for we came to the fair house of Peleus while
beating up recruits throughout all Achaea, and when we got there we
found Menoetius and yourself, and Achilles with you. The old knight
Peleus was in the outer court, roasting the fat thigh-bones of a
heifer to Jove the lord of thunder; and he held a gold chalice in
his hand from which he poured drink-offerings of wine over the burning
sacrifice. You two were busy cutting up the heifer, and at that moment
we stood at the gates, whereon Achilles sprang to his feet, led us
by the hand into the house, placed us at table, and set before us such
hospitable entertainment as guests expect. When we had satisfied
ourselves with meat and drink, I said my say and urged both of you
to join us. You were ready enough to do so, and the two old men
charged you much and straitly. Old Peleus bade his son Achilles
fight ever among the foremost and outvie his peers, while Menoetius
the son of Actor spoke thus to you: 'My son,' said he, 'Achilles is of
nobler birth than you are, but you are older than he, though he is far
the better man of the two. Counsel him wisely, guide him in the
right way, and he will follow you to his own profit.' Thus did your
father charge you, but you have forgotten; nevertheless, even now, say
all this to Achilles if he will listen to you. Who knows but with
heaven's help you may talk him over, for it is good to take a friend's
advice. If, however, he is fearful about some oracle, or if his mother
has told him something from Jove, then let him send you, and let the
rest of the Myrmidons follow with you, if perchance you may bring
light and saving to the Danaans. And let him send you into battle clad
in his own armour, that the Trojans may mistake you for him and
leave off fighting; the sons of the Achaeans may thus have time to get
their breath, for they are hard pressed and there is little
breathing time in battle. You, who are fresh, might easily drive a
tired enemy back to his walls and away from the tents and ships."
With these words he moved the heart of Patroclus, who set off
running by the line of the ships to Achilles, descendant of Aeacus.
When he had got as far as the ships of Ulysses, where was their
place of assembly and court of justice, with their altars dedicated to
the gods, Eurypylus son of Euaemon met him, wounded in the thigh
with an arrow, and limping out of the fight. Sweat rained from his
head and shoulders, and black blood welled from his cruel wound, but
his mind did not wander. The son of Menoetius when he saw him had
compassion upon him and spoke piteously saying, "O unhappy princes and
counsellors of the Danaans, are you then doomed to feed the hounds
of Troy with your fat, far from your friends and your native land?
say, noble Eurypylus, will the Achaeans be able to hold great Hector
in check, or will they fall now before his spear?"
Wounded Eurypylus made answer, "Noble Patroclus, there is no hope
left for the Achaeans but they will perish at their ships. All they
that were princes among us are lying struck down and wounded at the
hands of the Trojans, who are waxing stronger and stronger. But save
me and take me to your ship; cut out the arrow from my thigh; wash the
black blood from off it with warm water, and lay upon it those
gracious herbs which, so they say, have been shown you by Achilles,
who was himself shown them by Chiron, most righteous of all the
centaurs. For of the physicians Podalirius and Machaon, I hear that
the one is lying wounded in his tent and is himself in need of
healing, while the other is fighting the Trojans upon the plain."
"Hero Eurypylus," replied the brave son of Menoetius, "how may these
things be? What can I do? I am on my way to bear a message to noble
Achilles from Nestor of Gerene, bulwark of the Achaeans, but even so I
will not be unmindful your distress."
With this he clasped him round the middle and led him into the tent,
and a servant, when he saw him, spread bullock-skins on the ground for
him to lie on. He laid him at full length and cut out the sharp
arrow from his thigh; he washed the black blood from the wound with
warm water; he then crushed a bitter herb, rubbing it between his
hands, and spread it upon the wound; this was a virtuous herb which
killed all pain; so the wound presently dried and the blood left off
flowing.

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The Great Brown Family Tree

Hey mum, where's all this info'
You said you'd send to me
About the dear departed
That comprise our family tree?
I need this information
To complete my little chart;
So here's a little poem
To help you make a start.

Please write out all the details
From certificates of birth,
Of you and dad, you never know
Just what they may be worth;
And gran's and grandad's too
I thought I'd ask: can you remember
If details of their birth are kept
By any family member?

Who knows what little secrets
My searching might lay bare,
The Browns may hail from Switzerland,
Or France, or anywhere;
We could have famous ancestors,
It's possible you know,
That's why I thought I'd give this
'Trace your family tree' a go.

Just think if I uncover
A link with Kings and Queens,
To prove it would be easy
'Cause the proof is in the genes;
Our friends would all be jealous,
But that's the way it goes,
And Charles the first, like all Brown men,
Was not without a nose.

So mum you'll have to help me,
Sit down with dad and think,
And give me all the details
While you're both still in the pink;
Please make investigations
Then send the facts to me,
And I'll record for ever
The great Brown family tree.

(Written 17th Aug 1996)

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The kid only kept me alive and helped me stand the pain

I was holding the tender
Left hand palm of the
Little child lying by my side
Seeking the kid
To bless me with strength
And a part of his enthusiasm
So that we keep alive
And see the light of the day

It must be early morning now
And I was able to hear shouts
Of people arrived at the spot of the mishap
We were survivors of a
Recent train accident

I saw the same kid yesternight
Playing with his mom
And dodging her efforts
To feed him with the most nutritious food
She could best afford
I do not know what time we went off in sleep
In this three tier air conditioned coach

But all came to a halt with a big bang and great jerk
All settled with cries of help
Emanating from all directions
And the cries also died down over a period to time
I was trapped between two berth slabs
The berth in which the child is sleeping
Getting crushed close to mine
But the kid was not injured and still sleeping
After some initial cries immediately after the mishap

I was holding that child’s palm
And praying all gods known to me
To help us come out
I was in great pains and was unable to
Move my legs while hands were free

Prayers of mine were answered
When I saw an acetylene torch
Cutting the ceiling and molten hot
Metal splinters started showering from top
I made shouts so that they could exercise caution
Which they did
And entered a pair of asbestos gloved hands
I carefully grabbed the sleeping kid
And handed over to the rescuers
Telling that the kid was fine
And requesting them to take a good care of him
I did not know what happened
After the child was handed over

When I became conscious
I smelt the disinfectant laden hospital environ
And I heard doctors discussing about me
I understood I have lost both my legs
And they were wondering how I
Withstood the pain of such a crush
At the same time saved the life of a kid

They did not know
The kid only kept me alive
And helped me stand the pain

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Cameron The Great Space Ranger, Sorry Cadet

Billions of pounds worth of spy planes destroyed,
While we're still fighting a war,
Of intelligence our government must be devoid,
It's time we asked them what for.

We have aircraft carriers without any planes,
It just doesn't make any sense,
Do our ministers in office have an ounce of brains?
Can they possibly be so dense?

Paying off our forces on whom we depend,
Is utterly and totally mad,
If we were attacked we could no longer defend,
What happened to, ‘'we need you comrade''

But wait for it they've called in the M.I.5,
They've came up with a dastardly plan,
To keep our enemies at bay and all of us alive,
They've hired the invisible man.

Our enemies won't know where our forces are,
From now on they can no longer be seen,
They can travel wide and venture far,
Even our enemies can't tell where they've been.

We can't pay them wages as they've all disappeared,
That'll save our treasury a bomb,
It's to saving money our coalition's endeared,
They can herald this with so much aplomb.

If any of them are killed they will never be missed,
As we won't know where or how,
As far as governments concerned they do not exist,
Not really that different from now.

Before you all say this can't possibly be true,
Our duties we will never shirk,
We can proudly announce, let the battle ensue,
Our new commander is James T. Kirk.

He will lead from the front we just cannot lose,
Don't you dare say that we're all potty,
We must tell you the truth no it's not a ruse,
The Captain's joined by Spock and Scotty.

The planes on our carriers have a cloaking device,
Nobody can see if they're there,
To our foes they'll make it clear and concise,
We're still dangerous so you'd better beware.

We've got photon torpedoes to blow you apart,
Phasers, which vaporise all life,
Trilithium resin to tear out your heart,
Disruptors which cause all sorts of strife.

Our enemies run scared now, new technology rules,
You've put the ‘'GREAT'' back into Great Britain,
No more need to suffer the fools,
In our history books is where this will be written.

We're sorry for doubting you Cameron and Clegg,
Our defence is up there with the best,
For surrender or mercy we'll not need to beg,
If attacked we will now pass the test.

With Kirk at the helm you have shown your resolve,
Our country's no longer in danger, you bet,
From Prime Minister to hero you will evolve, you are,

‘' Cameron, the great Space Ranger '' Sorry Cadet ''

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The Great Stealth-burger Caper

A head cold had settled in with a vengeance.
After a couple of days at home I felt stir crazy.
Was it time to go somewhere, maybe a movie?

A quick glance at Arts & Entertainment section
and we made our choice of movies playing at our
favorite theater.

We jumped in the car and headed to the cinema.
“Haven’t eaten all day lets get a burger” I said.
“We don’t have enough time to stop to eat, lets
get something at the theater” Laureen replied.

“Nope, too expensive and the food is crappy anyway.
Let’s get some burgers to go and sneak them into the theater”

“What? ” You know they don’t let people take in food”
“Yeah, so they don’t need to know, right? ”

We wheeled into “Cruisers” a 50’s throwback diner.
You know the kind with old pictures of Elvis and Marilyn,
hanging on the walls and black & white checkerboard floors.

Cruisers make great burgers cheap (volume...Over a zillion sold) .
Thin patties, shredded lettuce, onions, tomatoes, pickles
and fresh sesame buns. Burgers better than the guys
with the “Golden Arches” or “flame broiled” belly busters.

It was 30 minutes before show time, but we were in luck.
Things were going well because we arrived 15 minutes before noon.
The movie gods were with us…
Just as we placed our order, people started lining up behind us.

“Two regular burgers with the works and mustard dressing please”
“Want fries with your burgers”
“Nope” I said hurriedly.

Laureen placed her order,
“One regular burger with everything except onions and an order of fries.”
“Do you want curly, regular, tatter tots or steak fries? ”
“Uh, I’ll take the steak fries please”
“Anything to drink? ”
“No thanks, just a cup for water (she wasn’t about to let me drink from her water bottle) .
We looked at each other as we sat down holding
our plastic tent with a black number 3 on it.

“Uh, how are we going to smuggle in that much food”, laureen asked.
“In your purse” I answered with a clueless grin on my face.
“Are you kidding, it’s already full and besides my water bottle is in it”
“I’ll put the water bottle in my back pocket”
“That’s still not enough room”

The waitress called our number.
We walked over to get our order then ran to the car
and zoomed off to the theater.

Laureen opened the bag and looked inside.
“Maybe we better eat the fries because they have a strong odor from
the deep fryer and they may not get by the ushers.
They take up a lot of room anyway”.
“Ok…get em out” I answered.
She set the white bag full of steak fries out and proceeded to pour ketchup on them from a few of those troublesome, sparsely filled plastic packets.
“Mmmm, pretty good I said as I stuffed a couple in my mouth.
I glanced at the bag and said, “Oh what the Hell, hand me a burger”.

By the time we arrived at the theater the burgers and fries were gone.
So much for the stealth burger caper…
We comfort in knowing that we’d smuggled in our whole lunch in our bellies and who likes to eat in the dark anyway.

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The Monster & Captain Kreel

We were out in the North Atlantic
When the storm began to blow,
We reefed in the tops and gallants so
We wouldn't end down below,
The ship was tossed in a fury,
The mate was strapped to the wheel,
There wasn't a dry man left aboard,
Not even Captain Kreel.

The Captain, he was a bully,
He would flog 'til his arm was sore,
He drove the men at their stations 'til
They couldn't have taken more,
He kept a rope at the yardarm,
A warning to every man,
His word was not to be questioned if
A tar didn't want to hang!

Each wave was a liquid mountain
That crashed on the after deck,
The wind was a screaming banshee that
Would threaten, despair and wreck,
When out from below there came a scream,
A woman, so fair of face,
But the Captain swore an ugly oath
That the ship was in disgrace!

The wife of an able seaman,
He'd smuggled the girl aboard,
He'd thought he could keep her hidden there
Until they went ashore,
But the men with their superstitions
Then blamed her for the storm,
They seized her, dragged to the gunnels
And would hurry her overboard!

The Captain barked out an order,
The jack tars staggered back,
They wouldn't defy their Captain if
The ship was under attack!
The mate then seized the woman
And bared her at the breast,
Turned her to face the heaving sea
As she stood there, half undressed.

Bare breasted, like the figurehead
They carried on the prow,
A woman was known to calm the seas
If she shamed its gods somehow,
The wind died down in the stays and yards
And the sea died down as well,
But she little knew as she covered up
She approached the gates of hell!

The seaman was court-martialled,
Up there, on the quarter deck,
Where the Captain gave no quarter,
It was keel haul, or his neck!
They tied the rope around his chest
And flung him overboard,
We heaved on the rope, and prayed he'd hold
His breath 'til he came aboard.

We dragged him under the water,
And felt him under the keel,
The rope was a little bit lighter
Than the brow of Captain Kreel,
For he was a livid monster
Who just wanted the seaman dead,
His plans for the wife were plain to see
As he sent her to his bed!

The seaman's body surfaced,
It wasn't going well,
We hauled him over the side of the ship
'Til we caught a glimpse of hell,
The rope was knotted about his chest
And twisted around his neck,
There was nothing at all below the waist,
As his entrails sprayed the deck!

Even the Captain blanched at this
But he motioned us away,
'Toss the remains all overboard
Then swab the decks - Belay! '
We wondered how Jones was cut in half,
It couldn't have been the keel,
But kept our mutterings to ourselves,
For fear of the monster, Kreel.

Out on the starboard side we saw
A giant head appear,
Just as the body hit the waves
It reared, and sniffed the air,
Then pounced on the human morsel,
Picked it up in its savage jaw,
As we shrank on back at its evil eye
It gave out a primitive roar.

There wasn't a moment from then on
We weren't all chilled inside,
The monster followed and circled us
As we rode the heaving tide,
It must have been eighty feet or more,
A great, carnivorous beast,
The serpent had tasted human flesh
And we were a human feast!

The wind had dropped, the sails were limp,
We couldn't sail for home,
We were caught in the theme of a nightmare dream
Where the beasts of the world could roam,
The Captain kept to his cabin then,
We could hear the woman plead,
With a monster within, a monster without
We were caught in a monstrous creed.

'It's all the fault of that woman there! '
I knew what the ratings thought,
'We need to be throwing her overboard
To escape the luck she brought! '
The mate came down and roused them out,
'There'll be no talk of this,
We have to get under sail tonight
When the wind begins to rise.'

The Captain showed on the quarter-deck
Just after the seventh bell,
The sun was down in the west, the moon
Was riding high, as well.
We raised the sails as the shadows loomed,
Unfurled topgallant stays,
I was watching the Captain against the moon
His back to the after rail.

The serpent's head loomed large above
The figure of Captain Kreel,
The hairs rose up on the back of my neck
As I watched the shadows steal.
It opened up with its mighty jaw
Clamped down on the Captain's head,
Lifted him clear of the quarter deck
As he screamed - 'Oh God! I'm dead! '

We never saw Captain Kreel again,
But nobody seemed to care,
We sailed for the Falkland Islands then,
And we left the woman there,
I heard she married again, sometime,
To a sailor known as Kip,
And dreams of her home in Pompey, but -
They won't let her onto a ship!

24 December 2009

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The Great Pig Story of the Tweed

“Hands off, old man!” the young man cried—
They stood beside the Tweed,
Where still the name of Murder Creek
Records some bloody deed.

The old man seized the hapless youth,
With frantic grasp and rough,
By what is popularly called
(But vulgarly) the scruff;

And shouted as he twirled him round,
And shook him to and fro,
“Was them consignments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?”

Wild-eyed and gaunt, and grim he stood,
Beneath the scorching noon,—
Cantharides P. Roebuck, late
Of the steamboat Arakoon.

He was an ancient mariner,
A Yankee skipper he,
Whom winds of adverse destiny
Had blown across the sea;—

Whom hither still had Fate pursued,
And served with many a trick,
Till now he roamed the Tweed a one-
Idea'd lunatic;—

Whom all men shunned, for whosoe'er
Upon his beat might chance,
Was bound to hear his tale in each
Minutest circumstance.

A tale that haunted such as heard,
Nor left them night or day;
A torturing enigma, too,
That turned their wits astray;—
For ofttimes they, like him who told,
Would vaguely wandering go,
And cry, “Was them consignments pigs?
Was them things pigs or no?”

“Hands off!” again the young man cried.
“It's this way, boss, you see,

We've come a stretch of thirty mile,
Her uncle, her, an' me.

“You see it's this way. Parson comes
Our road but once a year—
We lives at Yougerbungaree,
Just thirty mile from here;—

“At sundown yesterday I spied
The parson ridin' past;
I runs to Sue's, an' ‘Sue,’ says I,
‘Our chance is come at last!’

“This morning to his camp we goes,
Us three, an' mother, four;
‘Splice us,’ says we, but parson, he
Puts in his blessed oar.

“ ‘Fill up this form,’ says he. We fills.
‘Hullo!’ he cries, ‘my dear!
Father alive? You under age?
Me marry ye! No fear.’

“(Don't throttle, boss!)—Says parson then;
‘Go, seek a magistrate;
Get his consent; an’ hurry back;
I leave to-night at eight.'

“So off we starts, ten mile an hour—
(For heav'n's sake let me speak!)
You see, it's this way, boss; they've gone
To square it with the beak.

“I'm only hangin' round. I fixed
To meet them there at one;
An' if I fail, my pretty Sue
Will think I've cut an' run.”—

“Was them things pigs?”—“Oh drat the pigs!
It's this way, boss,—we're late.
Think, thirty mile! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson off at eight!”

'Twas all in vain; and when at length,
Exhausted, limp, and pale,
He gave reluctant ear, 'twas thus
The skipper told his tale.

“I took the things on board as pigs,
As pigs I signed for them;
I passed an entry on them—pigs!

Pigs, sar, from starn to stem.

“Wal, wal; I little guessed that Fate
Would play it down so low.
Was them things pigs, d'ye hear! . . But how
The [Hades] should you know!

“It was the steamboat Arakoon,
A craft of coasting fame;
Cantharides P. Roebuck, sar,
Was skipper of the same.

The iserlated cusses here
Was runnin' all to seed
When first the steamboat Arakoon
Come tradin' to the Tweed.

“Pigs, pigs, all sprung (mark that) from two,
They fetched them by the score,
An' nary strain had crossed the breed
For twenty year an' more.

“I cleaned the settlement of pigs,
Upp'd steam an' tore for town,
Nor guessed that them all-fired galoots
Had been and done me brown.

“An' sech a voyage! grunt and squeak!
(Pard, never load with swine.)
Whate'er the durned abortions wur,
The grunt was genu-ine.

“A hundred thousand times I swore
To drown them in the sea;
But, lord, they had an idgiot look
That fairly gravelled me.

“We made the port. Upon the wharf
A Brisbane butcher sot,
An' through the roarin' of the steam,
He hollered, ‘What ye got?’

“ ‘Got pigs,’ sez I, ‘like bullocks, sar!’
Cries butcher, ‘I'm your man,’
An' clewin' up his apron, slick
Along the plank he ran.”—

(But here the youth renewed his plaint;
“Have mercy on me mate!
It's thirty miles! the mokes dead beat!
An' parson leaves at eight!”)

“He eyed the brutes,” the tale flowed on,
“An' tossed his cussèd head;
An' turnin' on his heel, sez he,
‘I thought 'twas pigs you said.’

“ ‘An' ain't them pigs?’—but he was gone.
Wal, though I biled at this,
I tried my level best to see
The p'ints he took amiss.

“But 'cep' a kinder cur'ous smile
That squintin' didn't mend,
An' an appealin' way they had
Of settin' up on end,—

“An' cept' about the snout a tech
Of Native Porkypine,
I couldn't see no reason why
That parcel wasn't swine.

“Wal, stranger, just as I had cussed
My liver into tune,
Another bloomin' butcher stepped
On board the Arakoon.”

(But here, at sound of distant hoofs,
The captive writhed anew;
“That's them!” he cried, “They've given me up!
Oh curse your pigs and you!”)

“No, pard—it ain't no use to squirm.
Whar was I? le'mme see.
Another butcher jumps aboard;
‘Good marnin', sar,’ sez he.

“Got any p—?' But here he stuck.
The critturs caught his eye.
Sakes! how he stared as one by one
The things meandered by.

“At length sez he, astoopin' down,
The better to survey,
‘I wonder now what day o’ the week
The Lord created they!

“ ‘What name, mate?’ ‘Pigs, sar, PIGS!’ I yelled,
‘As prime as ever growed!
D'ye know pigs when you see them, sar?’
‘Oh, pigs,’ sez he, ‘be blowed.’

“Pard, should you come across him, say

That I apologize;
For, oh! I banged that butcher's head
Agin the smokestack guys!

“I sought an old an' trusted friend,
A butcher in the town;
I struck his diggin's, seized him, hailed
A shay, and yanked him down.

“I carried him aboard—he was
A heavy man and slow—
‘Now on your naked oath,’ sez I,
‘Air them things pigs or no?’

“He made no sign, he made no sound,
But something in his eye,
As plain as signal lights, declared
The contract was awry.

“At last sez he, consid'rin' like,
An' strokin' down his jaws,
‘Cantharides P., it seems to me
Them pettitoes is claws!’

“ ‘Great Neptune!’—that was all I said,
And fell down in a swoon,
A broken wreck, upon the deck
Of the steamboat Arakoon.

“But twurn't Finis yet, old hoss,
For at the smell of gin
Cantharides P. Roebuck's soul
Jumped back into his skin.

“ ‘Go, fetch me a zew-ologist!’
I thundered as I rose.
‘Let's see what larnèd science makes
Of them 'ere pettitoes!
“ ‘Who knows of one?’—The fireman's son
Sez, ‘Captain, if you please,
If what you mean stuffs beastises,
I'll fetch you wan o' these.’

“ ‘Go, bub!’ I cried. ‘Make tracks to onst,
An' ketch him out or in!—
This butcherin' conspiracy
Is just a trifle thin.’

“Wal, pard, the great man came. I slipped
A sov'rin in his hand,

Which, though he 'peared almighty skeered,
He seemed to understand.

“Sez I then, as he stooped an' spread
His hands upon his knees,
‘Illustrious zew-ologist,
What articles air these?’

“A wild surprise lit up his eyes
As through his specs he blinked,—
‘Dear me,’ sez he, ‘I always thought
That griffins wur extinct!’

* * * * *
“From that to this is blank—all blank;
But if 'tis true they say,
I ordered round the vessel's head,
An' ran her down the Bay.

“An' there, in spite of mate an' crew,
An' cook an' fireman's son,
I slung the critturs overboard,
An' drowned them every one.

“An' now beside this blessèd Tweed
I wander day an' night,
An' vainly ask of airth an' heaven
To read the riddle right.

“I ask the sea, I ask the skies,
I ask it high an' low,—
Was them 'ere shipments pigs? . . Great Scott!
Was them things pigs or no?”

* * * * *
That night at Yougerbungaree,
The house clock striking ten,
Into a maiden's presence burst
The most distraught of men.

“Oh, Ned, he's gone!” the maiden wailed.
“How could you treat me so?”—
For all reply there came the cry,
“Was them things pigs or no?”

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