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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 16

Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd had lit a fire in the hut and
were were getting breakfast ready at daybreak for they had sent the
men out with the pigs. When Telemachus came up, the dogs did not bark,
but fawned upon him, so Ulysses, hearing the sound of feet and
noticing that the dogs did not bark, said to Eumaeus:
"Eumaeus, I hear footsteps; I suppose one of your men or some one of
your acquaintance is coming here, for the dogs are fawning urn him and
not barking."
The words were hardly out of his mouth before his son stood at the
door. Eumaeus sprang to his feet, and the bowls in which he was mixing
wine fell from his hands, as he made towards his master. He kissed his
head and both his beautiful eyes, and wept for joy. A father could not
be more delighted at the return of an only son, the child of his old
age, after ten years' absence in a foreign country and after having
gone through much hardship. He embraced him, kissed him all over as
though he had come back from the dead, and spoke fondly to him saying:
"So you are come, Telemachus, light of my eyes that you are. When
I heard you had gone to Pylos I made sure I was never going to see you
any more. Come in, my dear child, and sit down, that I may have a good
look at you now you are home again; it is not very often you come into
the country to see us herdsmen; you stick pretty close to the town
generally. I suppose you think it better to keep an eye on what the
suitors are doing."
"So be it, old friend," answered Telemachus, "but I am come now
because I want to see you, and to learn whether my mother is still
at her old home or whether some one else has married her, so that
the bed of Ulysses is without bedding and covered with cobwebs."
"She is still at the house," replied Eumaeus, "grieving and breaking
her heart, and doing nothing but weep, both night and day
continually."
As spoke he took Telemachus' spear, whereon he crossed the stone
threshold and came inside. Ulysses rose from his seat to give him
place as he entered, but Telemachus checked him; "Sit down, stranger."
said he, "I can easily find another seat, and there is one here who
will lay it for me."
Ulysses went back to his own place, and Eumaeus strewed some green
brushwood on the floor and threw a sheepskin on top of it for
Telemachus to sit upon. Then the swineherd brought them platters of
cold meat, the remains from what they had eaten the day before, and he
filled the bread baskets with bread as fast as he could. He mixed wine
also in bowls of ivy-wood, and took his seat facing Ulysses. Then they
laid their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink Telemachus said to Eumaeus,
"Old friend, where does this stranger come from? How did his crew
bring him to Ithaca, and who were they?-for assuredly he did not
come here by land"'
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "My son, I will tell
you the real truth. He says he is a Cretan, and that he has been a
great traveller. At this moment he is running away from a
Thesprotian ship, and has refuge at my station, so I will put him into
your hands. Do whatever you like with him, only remember that he is
your suppliant."
"I am very much distressed," said Telemachus, "by what you have just
told me. How can I take this stranger into my house? I am as yet
young, and am not strong enough to hold my own if any man attacks
me. My mother cannot make up her mind whether to stay where she is and
look after the house out of respect for public opinion and the
memory of her husband, or whether the time is now come for her to take
the best man of those who are wooing her, and the one who will make
her the most advantageous offer; still, as the stranger has come to
your station I will find him a cloak and shirt of good wear, with a
sword and sandals, and will send him wherever he wants to go. Or if
you like you can keep him here at the station, and I will send him
clothes and food that he may be no burden on you and on your men;
but I will not have him go near the suitors, for they are very
insolent, and are sure to ill-treat him in a way that would greatly
grieve me; no matter how valiant a man may be he can do nothing
against numbers, for they will be too strong for him."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, it is right that I should say something
myself. I am much shocked about what you have said about the
insolent way in which the suitors are behaving in despite of such a
man as you are. Tell me, do you submit to such treatment tamely, or
has some god set your people against you? May you not complain of your
brothers- for it is to these that a man may look for support,
however great his quarrel may be? I wish I were as young as you are
and in my present mind; if I were son to Ulysses, or, indeed,
Ulysses himself, I would rather some one came and cut my head off, but
I would go to the house and be the bane of every one of these men.
If they were too many for me- I being single-handed- I would rather
die fighting in my own house than see such disgraceful sights day
after day, strangers grossly maltreated, and men dragging the women
servants about the house in an unseemly way, wine drawn recklessly,
and bread wasted all to no purpose for an end that shall never be
accomplished."
And Telemachus answered, "I will tell you truly everything. There is
no emnity between me and my people, nor can I complain of brothers, to
whom a man may look for support however great his quarrel may be. Jove
has made us a race of only sons. Laertes was the only son of
Arceisius, and Ulysses only son of Laertes. I am myself the only son
of Ulysses who left me behind him when he went away, so that I have
never been of any use to him. Hence it comes that my house is in the
hands of numberless marauders; for the chiefs from all the
neighbouring islands, Dulichium, Same, Zacynthus, as also all the
principal men of Ithaca itself, are eating up my house under the
pretext of paying court to my mother, who will neither say point blank
that she will not marry, nor yet bring matters to an end, so they
are making havoc of my estate, and before long will do so with
myself into the bargain. The issue, however, rests with heaven. But do
you, old friend Eumaeus, go at once and tell Penelope that I am safe
and have returned from Pylos. Tell it to herself alone, and then
come back here without letting any one else know, for there are many
who are plotting mischief against me."
"I understand and heed you," replied Eumaeus; "you need instruct
me no further, only I am going that way say whether I had not better
let poor Laertes know that you are returned. He used to superintend
the work on his farm in spite of his bitter sorrow about Ulysses,
and he would eat and drink at will along with his servants; but they
tell me that from the day on which you set out for Pylos he has
neither eaten nor drunk as he ought to do, nor does he look after
his farm, but sits weeping and wasting the flesh from off his bones."
"More's the pity," answered Telemachus, "I am sorry for him, but
we must leave him to himself just now. If people could have everything
their own way, the first thing I should choose would be the return
of my father; but go, and give your message; then make haste back
again, and do not turn out of your way to tell Laertes. Tell my mother
to send one of her women secretly with the news at once, and let him
hear it from her."
Thus did he urge the swineherd; Eumaeus, therefore, took his
sandals, bound them to his feet, and started for the town. Minerva
watched him well off the station, and then came up to it in the form
of a woman- fair, stately, and wise. She stood against the side of the
entry, and revealed herself to Ulysses, but Telemachus could not see
her, and knew not that she was there, for the gods do not let
themselves be seen by everybody. Ulysses saw her, and so did the dogs,
for they did not bark, but went scared and whining off to the other
side of the yards. She nodded her head and motioned to Ulysses with
her eyebrows; whereon he left the hut and stood before her outside the
main wall of the yards. Then she said to him:
"Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, it is now time for you to tell
your son: do not keep him in the dark any longer, but lay your plans
for the destruction of the suitors, and then make for the town. I will
not be long in joining you, for I too am eager for the fray."
As she spoke she touched him with her golden wand. First she threw a
fair clean shirt and cloak about his shoulders; then she made him
younger and of more imposing presence; she gave him back his colour,
filled out his cheeks, and let his beard become dark again. Then she
went away and Ulysses came back inside the hut. His son was
astounded when he saw him, and turned his eyes away for fear he
might be looking upon a god.
"Stranger," said he, "how suddenly you have changed from what you
were a moment or two ago. You are dressed differently and your
colour is not the same. Are you some one or other of the gods that
live in heaven? If so, be propitious to me till I can make you due
sacrifice and offerings of wrought gold. Have mercy upon me."
And Ulysses said, "I am no god, why should you take me for one? I am
your father, on whose account you grieve and suffer so much at the
hands of lawless men."
As he spoke he kissed his son, and a tear fell from his cheek on
to the ground, for he had restrained all tears till now. but
Telemachus could not yet believe that it was his father, and said:
"You are not my father, but some god is flattering me with vain
hopes that I may grieve the more hereafter; no mortal man could of
himself contrive to do as you have been doing, and make yourself old
and young at a moment's notice, unless a god were with him. A second
ago you were old and all in rags, and now you are like some god come
down from heaven."
Ulysses answered, "Telemachus, you ought not to be so immeasurably
astonished at my being really here. There is no other Ulysses who will
come hereafter. Such as I am, it is I, who after long wandering and
much hardship have got home in the twentieth year to my own country.
What you wonder at is the work of the redoubtable goddess Minerva, who
does with me whatever she will, for she can do what she pleases. At
one moment she makes me like a beggar, and the next I am a young man
with good clothes on my back; it is an easy matter for the gods who
live in heaven to make any man look either rich or poor."
As he spoke he sat down, and Telemachus threw his arms about his
father and wept. They were both so much moved that they cried aloud
like eagles or vultures with crooked talons that have been robbed of
their half fledged young by peasants. Thus piteously did they weep,
and the sun would have gone down upon their mourning if Telemachus had
not suddenly said, "In what ship, my dear father, did your crew
bring you to Ithaca? Of what nation did they declare themselves to be-
for you cannot have come by land?"
"I will tell you the truth, my son," replied Ulysses. "It was the
Phaeacians who brought me here. They are great sailors, and are in the
habit of giving escorts to any one who reaches their coasts. They took
me over the sea while I was fast asleep, and landed me in Ithaca,
after giving me many presents in bronze, gold, and raiment. These
things by heaven's mercy are lying concealed in a cave, and I am now
come here on the suggestion of Minerva that we may consult about
killing our enemies. First, therefore, give me a list of the
suitors, with their number, that I may learn who, and how many, they
are. I can then turn the matter over in my mind, and see whether we
two can fight the whole body of them ourselves, or whether we must
find others to help us."
To this Telemachus answered, "Father, I have always heard of your
renown both in the field and in council, but the task you talk of is a
very great one: I am awed at the mere thought of it; two men cannot
stand against many and brave ones. There are not ten suitors only, nor
twice ten, but ten many times over; you shall learn their number at
once. There are fifty-two chosen youths from Dulichium, and they
have six servants; from Same there are twenty-four; twenty young
Achaeans from Zacynthus, and twelve from Ithaca itself, all of them
well born. They have with them a servant Medon, a bard, and two men
who can carve at table. If we face such numbers as this, you may
have bitter cause to rue your coming, and your revenge. See whether
you cannot think of some one who would be willing to come and help
us."
"Listen to me," replied Ulysses, "and think whether Minerva and
her father Jove may seem sufficient, or whether I am to try and find
some one else as well."
"Those whom you have named," answered Telemachus, "are a couple of
good allies, for though they dwell high up among the clouds they
have power over both gods and men."
"These two," continued Ulysses, "will not keep long out of the fray,
when the suitors and we join fight in my house. Now, therefore, return
home early to-morrow morning, and go about among the suitors as
before. Later on the swineherd will bring me to the city disguised
as a miserable old beggar. If you see them ill-treating me, steel your
heart against my sufferings; even though they drag me feet foremost
out of the house, or throw things at me, look on and do nothing beyond
gently trying to make them behave more reasonably; but they will not
listen to you, for the day of their reckoning is at hand.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart, when Minerva shall
put it in my mind, I will nod my head to you, and on seeing me do this
you must collect all the armour that is in the house and hide it in
the strong store room. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why
you are removing it; say that you have taken it to be out of the way
of the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses
went away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this
more particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to
quarrel over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm
which may disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms
sometimes tempts people to use them. But leave a sword and a spear
apiece for yourself and me, and a couple oxhide shields so that we can
snatch them up at any moment; Jove and Minerva will then soon quiet
these people. There is also another matter; if you are indeed my son
and my blood runs in your veins, let no one know that Ulysses is
within the house- neither Laertes, nor yet the swineherd, nor any of
the servants, nor even Penelope herself. Let you and me exploit the
women alone, and let us also make trial of some other of the men
servants, to see who is on our side and whose hand is against us."
"Father," replied Telemachus, "you will come to know me by and by,
and when you do you will find that I can keep your counsel. I do not
think, however, the plan you propose will turn out well for either
of us. Think it over. It will take us a long time to go the round of
the farms and exploit the men, and all the time the suitors will be
wasting your estate with impunity and without compunction. Prove the
women by all means, to see who are disloyal and who guiltless, but I
am not in favour of going round and trying the men. We can attend to
that later on, if you really have some sign from Jove that he will
support you."
Thus did they converse, and meanwhile the ship which had brought
Telemachus and his crew from Pylos had reached the town of Ithaca.
When they had come inside the harbour they drew the ship on to the
land; their servants came and took their armour from them, and they
left all the presents at the house of Clytius. Then they sent a
servant to tell Penelope that Telemachus had gone into the country,
but had sent the ship to the town to prevent her from being alarmed
and made unhappy. This servant and Eumaeus happened to meet when
they were both on the same errand of going to tell Penelope. When they
reached the House, the servant stood up and said to the queen in the
presence of the waiting women, "Your son, Madam, is now returned
from Pylos"; but Eumaeus went close up to Penelope, and said privately
that her son had given bidden him tell her. When he had given his
message he left the house with its outbuildings and went back to his
pigs again.
The suitors were surprised and angry at what had happened, so they
went outside the great wall that ran round the outer court, and held a
council near the main entrance. Eurymachus, son of Polybus, was the
first to speak.
"My friends," said he, "this voyage of Telemachus's is a very
serious matter; we had made sure that it would come to nothing. Now,
however, let us draw a ship into the water, and get a crew together to
send after the others and tell them to come back as fast as they can."
He had hardly done speaking when Amphinomus turned in his place
and saw the ship inside the harbour, with the crew lowering her sails,
and putting by their oars; so he laughed, and said to the others,
"We need not send them any message, for they are here. Some god must
have told them, or else they saw the ship go by, and could not
overtake her.
On this they rose and went to the water side. The crew then drew the
ship on shore; their servants took their armour from them, and they
went up in a body to the place of assembly, but they would not let any
one old or young sit along with them, and Antinous, son of
Eupeithes, spoke first.
"Good heavens," said he, "see how the gods have saved this man
from destruction. We kept a succession of scouts upon the headlands
all day long, and when the sun was down we never went on shore to
sleep, but waited in the ship all night till morning in the hope of
capturing and killing him; but some god has conveyed him home in spite
of us. Let us consider how we can make an end of him. He must not
escape us; our affair is never likely to come off while is alive,
for he is very shrewd, and public feeling is by no means all on our
side. We must make haste before he can call the Achaeans in
assembly; he will lose no time in doing so, for he will be furious
with us, and will tell all the world how we plotted to kill him, but
failed to take him. The people will not like this when they come to
know of it; we must see that they do us no hurt, nor drive us from our
own country into exile. Let us try and lay hold of him either on his
farm away from the town, or on the road hither. Then we can divide
up his property amongst us, and let his mother and the man who marries
her have the house. If this does not please you, and you wish
Telemachus to live on and hold his father's property, then we must not
gather here and eat up his goods in this way, but must make our offers
to Penelope each from his own house, and she can marry the man who
will give the most for her, and whose lot it is to win her."
They all held their peace until Amphinomus rose to speak. He was the
son of Nisus, who was son to king Aretias, and he was foremost among
all the suitors from the wheat-growing and well grassed island of
Dulichium; his conversation, moreover, was more agreeable to
Penelope than that of any of the other for he was a man of good
natural disposition. "My friends," said he, speaking to them plainly
and in all honestly, "I am not in favour of killing Telemachus. It
is a heinous thing to kill one who is of noble blood. Let us first
take counsel of the gods, and if the oracles of Jove advise it, I will
both help to kill him myself, and will urge everyone else to do so;
but if they dissuade us, I would have you hold your hands."
Thus did he speak, and his words pleased them well, so they rose
forthwith and went to the house of Ulysses where they took their
accustomed seats.
Then Penelope resolved that she would show herself to the suitors.
She knew of the plot against Telemachus, for the servant Medon had
overheard their counsels and had told her; she went down therefore
to the court attended by her maidens, and 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 rebuked Antinous saying:
"Antinous, insolent and wicked schemer, they say you are the best
speaker and counsellor of any man your own age in Ithaca, but you
are nothing of the kind. Madman, why should you try to compass the
death of Telemachus, and take no heed of suppliants, whose witness
is Jove himself? It is not right for you to plot thus against one
another. Do you not remember how your father fled to this house in
fear of the people, who were enraged against him for having gone
with some Taphian pirates and plundered the Thesprotians who were at
peace with us? They wanted to tear him in pieces and eat up everything
he had, but Ulysses stayed their hands although they were
infuriated, and now you devour his property without paying for it, and
break my heart by his wooing his wife and trying to kill his son.
Leave off doing so, and stop the others also."
To this Eurymachus son of Polybus answered, "Take heart, Queen
Penelope daughter of Icarius, and do not trouble yourself about
these matters. The man is not yet born, nor never will be, who shall
lay hands upon your son Telemachus, while I yet live to look upon
the face of the earth. I say- and it shall surely be- that my spear
shall be reddened with his blood; for many a time has Ulysses taken me
on his knees, held wine up to my lips to drink, and put pieces of meat
into my hands. Therefore Telemachus is much the dearest friend I have,
and has nothing to fear from the hands of us suitors. Of course, if
death comes to him from the gods, he cannot escape it." He said this
to quiet her, but in reality he was plotting against Telemachus.
Then Penelope went upstairs again and mourned her husband till
Minerva shed sleep over her eyes. In the evening Eumaeus got back to
Ulysses and his son, who had just sacrificed a young pig of a year old
and were ready; helping one another to get supper ready; Minerva
therefore came up to Ulysses, turned him into an old man with a stroke
of her wand, and clad him in his old clothes again, for fear that
the swineherd might recognize him and not keep the secret, but go
and tell Penelope.
Telemachus was the first to speak. "So you have got back,
Eumaeus," said he. "What is the news of the town? Have the suitors
returned, or are they still waiting over yonder, to take me on my
way home?"
"I did not think of asking about that," replied Eumaeus, "when I was
in the town. I thought I would give my message and come back as soon
as I could. I met a man sent by those who had gone with you to
Pylos, and he was the first to tell the new your mother, but I can say
what I saw with my own eyes; I had just got on to the crest of the
hill of Mercury above the town when I saw a ship coming into harbour
with a number of men in her. They had many shields and spears, and I
thought it was the suitors, but I cannot be sure."
On hearing this Telemachus smiled to his father, but so that Eumaeus
could not see him.
Then, when they had finished their work and the meal was ready, they
ate it, and every man had his full share so that all were satisfied.
As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, they laid down to
rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.

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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 15

But Minerva went to the fair city of Lacedaemon to tell Ulysses' son
that he was to return at once. She found him and Pisistratus
sleeping in the forecourt of Menelaus's house; Pisistratus was fast
asleep, but Telemachus could get no rest all night for thinking of his
unhappy father, so Minerva went close up to him and said:
"Telemachus, you should not remain so far away from home any longer,
nor leave your property with such dangerous people in your house; they
will eat up everything you have among them, and you will have been
on a fool's errand. Ask Menelaus to send you home at once if you
wish to find your excellent mother still there when you get back.
Her father and brothers are already urging her to marry Eurymachus,
who has given her more than any of the others, and has been greatly
increasing his wedding presents. I hope nothing valuable may have been
taken from the house in spite of you, but you know what women are-
they always want to do the best they can for the man who marries them,
and never give another thought to the children of their first husband,
nor to their father either when he is dead and done with. Go home,
therefore, and put everything in charge of the most respectable
woman servant that you have, until it shall please heaven to send
you a wife of your own. Let me tell you also of another matter which
you had better attend to. The chief men among the suitors are lying in
wait for you in the Strait between Ithaca and Samos, and they mean
to kill you before you can reach home. I do not much think they will
succeed; it is more likely that some of those who are now eating up
your property will find a grave themselves. Sail night and day, and
keep your ship well away from the islands; the god who watches over
you and protects you will send you a fair wind. As soon as you get
to Ithaca send your ship and men on to the town, but yourself go
straight to the swineherd who has charge your pigs; he is well
disposed towards you, stay with him, therefore, for the night, and
then send him to Penelope to tell her that you have got back safe from
Pylos."
Then she went back to Olympus; but Telemachus stirred Pisistratus
with his heel to rouse him, and said, "Wake up Pisistratus, and yoke
the horses to the chariot, for we must set off home."
But Pisistratus said, "No matter what hurry we are in we cannot
drive in the dark. It will be morning soon; wait till Menelaus has
brought his presents and put them in the chariot for us; and let him
say good-bye to us in the usual way. So long as he lives a guest
should never forget a host who has shown him kindness."
As he spoke day began to break, and Menelaus, who had already risen,
leaving Helen in bed, came towards them. When Telemachus saw him he
put on his shirt as fast as he could, threw a great cloak over his
shoulders, and went out to meet him. "Menelaus," said he, "let me go
back now to my own country, for I want to get home."
And Menelaus answered, "Telemachus, if you insist on going I will
not detain you. not like to see a host either too fond of his guest or
too rude to him. Moderation is best in all things, and not letting a
man go when he wants to do so is as bad as telling him to go if he
would like to stay. One should treat a guest well as long as he is
in the house and speed him when he wants to leave it. Wait, then, till
I can get your beautiful presents into your chariot, and till you have
yourself seen them. I will tell the women to prepare a sufficient
dinner for you of what there may be in the house; it will be at once
more proper and cheaper for you to get your dinner before setting
out on such a long journey. If, moreover, you have a fancy for
making a tour in Hellas or in the Peloponnese, I will yoke my
horses, and will conduct you myself through all our principal
cities. No one will send us away empty handed; every one will give
us something- a bronze tripod, a couple of mules, or a gold cup."
"Menelaus," replied Telemachus, "I want to go home at once, for when
I came away I left my property without protection, and fear that while
looking for my father I shall come to ruin myself, or find that
something valuable has been stolen during my absence."
When Menelaus heard this he immediately told his wife and servants
to prepare a sufficient dinner from what there might be in the
house. At this moment Eteoneus joined him, for he lived close by and
had just got up; so Menelaus told him to light the fire and cook
some meat, which he at once did. Then Menelaus went down into his
fragrant store room, not alone, but Helen went too, with
Megapenthes. When he reached the place where the treasures of his
house were kept, he selected a double cup, and told his son
Megapenthes to bring also a silver mixing-bowl. Meanwhile Helen went
to the chest where she kept the lovely dresses which she had made with
her own hands, and took out one that was largest and most
beautifully enriched with embroidery; it glittered like a star, and
lay at the very bottom of the chest. Then they all came back through
the house again till they got to Telemachus, and Menelaus said,
"Telemachus, may Jove, the mighty husband of Juno, bring you safely
home according to your desire. I will now present you with the
finest and most precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a
mixing-bowl of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid with gold,
and it is the work of Vulcan. Phaedimus king of the Sidonians made
me a present of it in the course of a visit that I paid him while I
was on my return home. I should like to give it to you."
With these words he placed the double cup in the hands of
Telemachus, while Megapenthes brought the beautiful mixing-bowl and
set it before him. Hard by stood lovely Helen with the robe ready in
her hand.
"I too, my son," said she, "have something for you as a keepsake
from the hand of Helen; it is for your bride to wear upon her
wedding day. Till then, get your dear mother to keep it for you;
thus may you go back rejoicing to your own country and to your home."
So saying she gave the robe over to him and he received it gladly.
Then Pisistratus put the presents into the chariot, and admired them
all as he did so. Presently Menelaus took Telemachus and Pisistratus
into the house, and they both of them sat down to table. A maid
servant 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. Eteoneus
carved the meat and gave them each their portions, while Megapenthes
poured out the wine. Then they laid their hands upon the good things
that were before them, but as soon as they had had had enough to eat
and drink Telemachus and Pisistratus yoked the horses, and took
their places in the chariot. They drove out through the inner
gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court, and
Menelaus came after them with a golden goblet of wine in his right
hand that they might make a drink-offering before they set out. He
stood in front of the horses and pledged them, saying, "Farewell to
both of you; see that you tell Nestor how I have treated you, for he
was as kind to me as any father could be while we Achaeans were
fighting before Troy."
"We will be sure, sir," answered Telemachus, "to tell him everything
as soon as we see him. I wish I were as certain of finding Ulysses
returned when I get back to Ithaca, that I might tell him of the
very great kindness you have shown me and of the many beautiful
presents I am taking with me."
As he was thus speaking a bird flew on his right hand- an eagle with
a great white goose in its talons which it had carried off from the
farm yard- and all the men and women were running after it and
shouting. It came quite close up to them and flew away on their
right hands in front of the horses. When they saw it they were glad,
and their hearts took comfort within them, whereon Pisistratus said,
"Tell me, Menelaus, has heaven sent this omen for us or for you?"
Menelaus was thinking what would be the most proper answer for him
to make, but Helen was too quick for him and said, "I will read this
matter as heaven has put it in my heart, and as I doubt not that it
will come to pass. The eagle came from the mountain where it was
bred and has its nest, and in like manner Ulysses, after having
travelled far and suffered much, will return to take his revenge- if
indeed he is not back already and hatching mischief for the suitors."
"May Jove so grant it," replied Telemachus; "if it should prove to
be so, I will make vows to you as though you were a god, even when I
am at home."
As he spoke he lashed his horses and they started off at full
speed through the town towards the open country. They swayed the
yoke upon their necks and travelled the whole day long till the sun
set and darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae,
where Diocles lived who was son of Ortilochus, the son of Alpheus.
There they passed the night and were treated hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, they again yoked their
horses and their places in the chariot. They drove out through the
inner gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court. Then
Pisistratus lashed his horses on and they flew forward nothing
loath; ere long they came to Pylos, and then Telemachus said:
"Pisistratus, I hope you will promise to do what I am going to ask
you. You know our fathers were old friends before us; moreover, we are
both of an age, and this journey has brought us together still more
closely; do not, therefore, take me past my ship, but leave me
there, for if I go to your father's house he will try to keep me in
the warmth of his good will towards me, and I must go home at once."
Pisistratus thought how he should do as he was asked, and in the end
he deemed it best to turn his horses towards the ship, and put
Menelaus's beautiful presents of gold and raiment in the stern of
the vessel. Then he said, "Go on board at once and tell your men to do
so also before I can reach home to tell my father. I know how
obstinate he is, and am sure he will not let you go; he will come down
here to fetch you, and he will not go back without you. But he will be
very angry."
With this he drove his goodly steeds back to the city of the Pylians
and soon reached his home, but Telemachus called the men together
and gave his orders. "Now, my men," said he, "get everything in
order on board the ship, and let us set out home."
Thus did he speak, and they went on board even as he had said. But
as Telemachus was thus busied, praying also and sacrificing to Minerva
in the ship's stern, there came to him a man from a distant country, a
seer, who was flying from Argos because he had killed a man. He was
descended from Melampus, who used to live in Pylos, the land of sheep;
he was rich and owned a great house, but he was driven into exile by
the great and powerful king Neleus. Neleus seized his goods and held
them for a whole year, during which he was a close prisoner in the
house of king Phylacus, and in much distress of mind both on account
of the daughter of Neleus and because he was haunted by a great sorrow
that dread Erinyes had laid upon him. In the end, however, he
escaped with his life, drove the cattle from Phylace to Pylos, avenged
the wrong that had been done him, and gave the daughter of Neleus to
his brother. Then he left the country and went to Argos, where it
was ordained that he should reign over much people. There he
married, established himself, and had two famous sons Antiphates and
Mantius. Antiphates became father of Oicleus, and Oicleus of
Amphiaraus, who was dearly loved both by Jove and by Apollo, but he
did not live to old age, for he was killed in Thebes by reason of a
woman's gifts. His sons were Alcmaeon and Amphilochus. Mantius, the
other son of Melampus, was father to Polypheides and Cleitus.
Aurora, throned in gold, carried off Cleitus for his beauty's sake,
that he might dwell among the immortals, but Apollo made Polypheides
the greatest seer in the whole world now that Amphiaraus was dead.
He quarrelled with his father and went to live in Hyperesia, where
he remained and prophesied for all men.
His son, Theoclymenus, it was who now came up to Telemachus as he
was making drink-offerings and praying in his ship. "Friend'" said he,
"now that I find you sacrificing in this place, I beseech you by
your sacrifices themselves, and by the god to whom you make them, I
pray you also by your own head and by those of your followers, tell me
the truth and nothing but the truth. Who and whence are you? Tell me
also of your town and parents."
Telemachus said, "I will answer you quite truly. I am from Ithaca,
and my father is 'Ulysses, as surely as that he ever lived. But he has
come to some miserable end. Therefore I have taken this ship and got
my crew together to see if I can hear any news of him, for he has been
away a long time."
"I too," answered Theoclymenus, am an exile, for I have killed a man
of my own race. He has many brothers and kinsmen in Argos, and they
have great power among the Argives. I am flying to escape death at
their hands, and am thus doomed to be a wanderer on the face of the
earth. I am your suppliant; take me, therefore, on board your ship
that they may not kill me, for I know they are in pursuit."
"I will not refuse you," replied Telemachus, "if you wish to join
us. Come, therefore, and in Ithaca we will treat you hospitably
according to what we have."
On this he received Theoclymenus' spear and laid it down on the deck
of the ship. He went on board and sat in the stern, bidding
Theoclymenus sit beside him; then the men let go the hawsers.
Telemachus told them to catch hold of the ropes, and they made all
haste to do so. They set the mast in its socket in the cross plank,
raised it and made it fast with the forestays, and they hoisted
their white sails with sheets of twisted ox hide. Minerva sent them
a fair wind that blew fresh and strong to take the ship on her
course as fast as possible. Thus then they passed by Crouni and
Chalcis.
Presently the sun set and darkness was over all the land. The vessel
made a quick pass sage to Pheae and thence on to Elis, where the
Epeans rule. Telemachus then headed her for the flying islands,
wondering within himself whether he should escape death or should be
taken prisoner.
Meanwhile Ulysses and the swineherd were eating their supper in
the hut, and the men supped with them. As soon as they had had to
eat and drink, Ulysses began trying to prove the swineherd and see
whether he would continue to treat him kindly, and ask him to stay
on at the station or pack him off to the city; so he said:
"Eumaeus, and all of you, to-morrow I want to go away and begin
begging about the town, so as to be no more trouble to you or to
your men. Give me your advice therefore, and let me have a good
guide to go with me and show me the way. I will go the round of the
city begging as I needs must, to see if any one will give me a drink
and a piece of bread. I should like also to go to the house of Ulysses
and bring news of her husband to queen Penelope. I could then go about
among the suitors and see if out of all their abundance they will give
me a dinner. I should soon make them an excellent servant in all sorts
of ways. Listen and believe when I tell you that by the blessing of
Mercury who gives grace and good name to the works of all men, there
is no one living who would make a more handy servant than I should- to
put fresh wood on the fire, chop fuel, carve, cook, pour out wine, and
do all those services that poor men have to do for their betters."
The swineherd was very much disturbed when he heard this. "Heaven
help me," he exclaimed, "what ever can have put such a notion as
that into your head? If you go near the suitors you will be undone
to a certainty, for their pride and insolence reach the very
heavens. They would never think of taking a man like you for a
servant. Their servants are all young men, well dressed, wearing
good cloaks and shirts, with well looking faces and their hair
always tidy, the tables are kept quite clean and are loaded with
bread, meat, and wine. Stay where you are, then; you are not in
anybody's way; I do not mind your being here, no more do any of the
others, and when Telemachus comes home he will give you a shirt and
cloak and will send you wherever you want to go."
Ulysses answered, "I hope you may be as dear to the gods as you
are to me, for having saved me from going about and getting into
trouble; there is nothing worse than being always ways on the tramp;
still, when men have once got low down in the world they will go
through a great deal on behalf of their miserable bellies. Since
however you press me to stay here and await the return of
Telemachus, tell about Ulysses' mother, and his father whom he left on
the threshold of old age when he set out for Troy. Are they still
living or are they already dead and in the house of Hades?"
"I will tell you all about them," replied Eumaeus, "Laertes is still
living and prays heaven to let him depart peacefully his own house,
for he is terribly distressed about the absence of his son, and also
about the death of his wife, which grieved him greatly and aged him
more than anything else did. She came to an unhappy end through sorrow
for her son: may no friend or neighbour who has dealt kindly by me
come to such an end as she did. As long as she was still living,
though she was always grieving, I used to like seeing her and asking
her how she did, for she brought me up along with her daughter
Ctimene, the youngest of her children; we were boy and girl
together, and she made little difference between us. When, however, we
both grew up, they sent Ctimene to Same and received a splendid
dowry for her. As for me, my mistress gave me a good shirt and cloak
with a pair of sandals for my feet, and sent me off into the
country, but she was just as fond of me as ever. This is all over now.
Still it has pleased heaven to prosper my work in the situation
which I now hold. I have enough to eat and drink, and can find
something for any respectable stranger who comes here; but there is no
getting a kind word or deed out of my mistress, for the house has
fallen into the hands of wicked people. Servants want sometimes to see
their mistress and have a talk with her; they like to have something
to eat and drink at the house, and something too to take back with
them into the country. This is what will keep servants in a good
humour."
Ulysses answered, "Then you must have been a very little fellow,
Eumaeus, when you were taken so far away from your home and parents.
Tell me, and tell me true, was the city in which your father and
mother lived sacked and pillaged, or did some enemies carry you off
when you were alone tending sheep or cattle, ship you off here, and
sell you for whatever your master gave them?"
"Stranger," replied Eumaeus, "as regards your question: sit still,
make yourself comfortable, drink your wine, and listen to me. The
nights are now at their longest; there is plenty of time both for
sleeping and sitting up talking together; you ought not to go to bed
till bed time, too much sleep is as bad as too little; if any one of
the others wishes to go to bed let him leave us and do so; he can then
take my master's pigs out when he has done breakfast in the morning.
We two will sit here eating and drinking in the hut, and telling one
another stories about our misfortunes; for when a man has suffered
much, and been buffeted about in the world, he takes pleasure in
recalling the memory of sorrows that have long gone by. As regards
your question, then, my tale is as follows:
"You may have heard of an island called Syra that lies over above
Ortygia, where the land begins to turn round and look in another
direction. It is not very thickly peopled, but the soil is good,
with much pasture fit for cattle and sheep, and it abounds with wine
and wheat. Dearth never comes there, nor are the people plagued by any
sickness, but when they grow old Apollo comes with Diana and kills
them with his painless shafts. It contains two communities, and the
whole country is divided between these two. My father Ctesius son of
Ormenus, a man comparable to the gods, reigned over both.
"Now to this place there came some cunning traders from Phoenicia
(for the Phoenicians are great mariners) in a ship which they had
freighted with gewgaws of all kinds. There happened to be a Phoenician
woman in my father's house, very tall and comely, and an excellent
servant; these scoundrels got hold of her one day when she was washing
near their ship, seduced her, and cajoled her in ways that no woman
can resist, no matter how good she may be by nature. The man who had
seduced her asked her who she was and where she came from, and on
this she told him her father's name. 'I come from Sidon,' said she,
'and am daughter to Arybas, a man rolling in wealth. One day as I
was coming into the town from the country some Taphian pirates
seized me and took me here over the sea, where they sold me to the man
who owns this house, and he gave them their price for me.'
"The man who had seduced her then said, 'Would you like to come
along with us to see the house of your parents and your parents
themselves? They are both alive and are said to be well off.'
"'I will do so gladly,' answered she, 'if you men will first swear
me a solemn oath that you will do me no harm by the way.'
"They all swore as she told them, and when they had completed
their oath the woman said, 'Hush; and if any of your men meets me in
the street or at the well, do not let him speak to me, for fear some
one should go and tell my master, in which case he would suspect
something. He would put me in prison, and would have all of you
murdered; keep your own counsel therefore; buy your merchandise as
fast as you can, and send me word when you have done loading. I will
bring as much gold as I can lay my hands on, and there is something
else also that I can do towards paying my fare. I am nurse to the
son of the good man of the house, a funny little fellow just able to
run about. I will carry him off in your ship, and you will get a great
deal of money for him if you take him and sell him in foreign parts.'
"On this she went back to the house. The Phoenicians stayed a
whole year till they had loaded their ship with much precious
merchandise, and then, when they had got freight enough, they sent
to tell the woman. Their messenger, a very cunning fellow, came to
my father's house bringing a necklace of gold with amber beads
strung among it; and while my mother and the servants had it in
their hands admiring it and bargaining about it, he made a sign
quietly to the woman and then went back to the ship, whereon she
took me by the hand and led me out of the house. In the fore part of
the house she saw the tables set with the cups of guests who had
been feasting with my father, as being in attendance on him; these
were now all gone to a meeting of the public assembly, so she snatched
up three cups and carried them off in the bosom of her dress, while
I followed her, for I knew no better. The sun was now set, and
darkness was over all the land, so we hurried on as fast as we could
till we reached the harbour, where the Phoenician ship was lying. When
they had got on board they sailed their ways over the sea, taking us
with them, and Jove sent then a fair wind; six days did we sail both
night and day, but on the seventh day Diana struck the woman and she
fell heavily down into the ship's hold as though she were a sea gull
alighting on the water; so they threw her overboard to the seals and
fishes, and I was left all sorrowful and alone. Presently the winds
and waves took the ship to Ithaca, where Laertes gave sundry of his
chattels for me, and thus it was that ever I came to set eyes upon
this country."
Ulysses answered, "Eumaeus, I have heard the story of your
misfortunes with the most lively interest and pity, but Jove has given
you good as well as evil, for in spite of everything you have a good
master, who sees that you always have enough to eat and drink; and you
lead a good life, whereas I am still going about begging my way from
city to city."
Thus did they converse, and they had only a very little time left
for sleep, for it was soon daybreak. In the meantime Telemachus and
his crew were nearing land, so they loosed the sails, took down the
mast, and rowed the ship into the harbour. They cast out their mooring
stones and made fast the hawsers; they then got out upon the sea
shore, mixed their wine, and got dinner ready. As soon as they had had
enough to eat and drink Telemachus said, "Take the ship on to the
town, but leave me here, for I want to look after the herdsmen on
one of my farms. In the evening, when I have seen all I want, I will
come down to the city, and to-morrow morning in return for your
trouble I will give you all a good dinner with meat and wine."
Then Theoclymenus said, 'And what, my dear young friend, is to
become of me? To whose house, among all your chief men, am I to
repair? or shall I go straight to your own house and to your mother?"
"At any other time," replied Telemachus, "I should have bidden you
go to my own house, for you would find no want of hospitality; at
the present moment, however, you would not be comfortable there, for I
shall be away, and my mother will not see you; she does not often show
herself even to the suitors, but sits at her loom weaving in an
upper chamber, out of their way; but I can tell you a man whose
house you can go to- I mean Eurymachus the son of Polybus, who is held
in the highest estimation by every one in Ithaca. He is much the
best man and the most persistent wooer, of all those who are paying
court to my mother and trying to take Ulysses' place. Jove, however,
in heaven alone knows whether or no they will come to a bad end before
the marriage takes place."
As he was speaking a bird flew by upon his right hand- a hawk,
Apollo's messenger. It held a dove in its talons, and the feathers, as
it tore them off, fell to the ground midway between Telemachus and the
ship. On this Theoclymenus called him apart and caught him by the
hand. "Telemachus," said he, "that bird did not fly on your right hand
without having been sent there by some god. As soon as I saw it I knew
it was an omen; it means that you will remain powerful and that
there will be no house in Ithaca more royal than your own."
"I wish it may prove so," answered Telemachus. "If it does, I will
show you so much good will and give you so many presents that all
who meet you will congratulate you."
Then he said to his friend Piraeus, "Piraeus, son of Clytius, you
have throughout shown yourself the most willing to serve me of all
those who have accompanied me to Pylos; I wish you would take this
stranger to your own house and entertain him hospitably till I can
come for him."
And Piraeus answered, "Telemachus, you may stay away as long as
you please, but I will look after him for you, and he shall find no
lack of hospitality."
As he spoke he went on board, and bade the others do so also and
loose the hawsers, so they took their places in the ship. But
Telemachus bound on his sandals, and took a long and doughty spear
with a head of sharpened bronze from the deck of the ship. Then they
loosed the hawsers, thrust the ship off from land, and made on towards
the city as they had been told to do, while Telemachus strode on as
fast as he could, till he reached the homestead where his countless
herds of swine were feeding, and where dwelt the excellent
swineherd, who was so devoted a servant to his master.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 17

When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Telemachus bound on his sandals and took a strong spear that suited
his hands, for he wanted to go into the city. "Old friend," said he to
the swineherd, "I will now go to the town and show myself to my
mother, for she will never leave off grieving till she has seen me. As
for this unfortunate stranger, take him to the town and let him beg
there of any one who will give him a drink and a piece of bread. I
have trouble enough of my own, and cannot be burdened with other
people. If this makes him angry so much the worse for him, but I
like to say what I mean."
Then Ulysses said, "Sir, I do not want to stay here; a beggar can
always do better in town than country, for any one who likes can
give him something. I am too old to care about remaining here at the
beck and call of a master. Therefore let this man do as you have
just told him, and take me to the town as soon as I have had a warm by
the fire, and the day has got a little heat in it. My clothes are
wretchedly thin, and this frosty morning I shall be perished with
cold, for you say the city is some way off."
On this Telemachus strode off through the yards, brooding his
revenge upon the When he reached home he stood his spear against a
bearing-post of the cloister, crossed the stone floor of the
cloister itself, and went inside.
Nurse Euryclea saw him long before any one else did. She was putting
the fleeces on to the seats, and she burst out crying as she ran up to
him; all the other maids came up too, and covered his head and
shoulders with their kisses. Penelope came out of her room looking
like Diana or Venus, and wept as she flung her arms about her son. She
kissed his forehead and both his beautiful eyes, "Light of my eyes,"
she cried as she spoke fondly to him, "so you are come home again; I
made sure I was never going to see you any more. To think of your
having gone off to Pylos without saying anything about it or obtaining
my consent. But come, tell me what you saw."
"Do not scold me, mother,' answered Telemachus, "nor vex me,
seeing what a narrow escape I have had, but wash your face, change
your dress, go upstairs with your maids, and promise full and
sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if Jove will only grant us our
revenge upon the suitors. I must now go to the place of assembly to
invite a stranger who has come back with me from Pylos. I sent him
on with my crew, and told Piraeus to take him home and look after
him till I could come for him myself."
She heeded her son's words, washed her face, changed her dress,
and vowed full and sufficient hecatombs to all the gods if they
would only vouchsafe her revenge upon the suitors.
Telemachus went through, and out of, the cloisters spear in hand-
not alone, for his two fleet dogs went with him. Minerva endowed him
with a presence of such divine comeliness that all marvelled at him as
he went by, and the suitors gathered round him with fair words in
their mouths and malice in their hearts; but he avoided them, and went
to sit with Mentor, Antiphus, and Halitherses, old friends of his
father's house, and they made him tell them all that had happened to
him. Then Piraeus came up with Theoclymenus, whom he had escorted
through the town to the place of assembly, whereon Telemachus at
once joined them. Piraeus was first to speak: "Telemachus," said he,
"I wish you would send some of your women to my house to take awa
the presents Menelaus gave you."
"We do not know, Piraeus," answered Telemachus, "what may happen. If
the suitors kill me in my own house and divide my property among them,
I would rather you had the presents than that any of those people
should get hold of them. If on the other hand I manage to kill them, I
shall be much obliged if you will kindly bring me my presents."
With these words he took Theoclymenus to his own house. When they
got there they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats, went into
the baths, and washed themselves. When the maids had washed and
anointed them, and had given them cloaks and shirts, they took their
seats at table. A maid servant then 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. Opposite them sat Penelope, reclining on a
couch by one of the bearing-posts of the cloister, and spinning.
Then they laid their hands on the good things that were before them,
and as soon as they had had enough to eat and drink Penelope said:
"Telemachus, I shall go upstairs and lie down on that sad couch,
which I have not ceased to water with my tears, from the day Ulysses
set out for Troy with the sons of Atreus. You failed, however, to make
it clear to me before the suitors came back to the house, whether or
no you had been able to hear anything about the return of your
father."
"I will tell you then truth," replied her son. "We went to Pylos and
saw Nestor, who took me to his house and treated me as hospitably as
though I were a son of his own who had just returned after a long
absence; so also did his sons; but he said he had not heard a word
from any human being about Ulysses, whether he was alive or dead. He
sent me, therefore, with a chariot and horses to Menelaus. There I saw
Helen, for whose sake so many, both Argives and Trojans, were in
heaven's wisdom doomed to suffer. Menelaus asked me what it was that
had brought me to Lacedaemon, and I told him the whole truth,
whereon he said, 'So, then, 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 Greeks 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 question, however, I will not prevaricate nor
deceive you, but what the old man of the sea told me, so much will I
tell you in full. He said he could see Ulysses on an island
sorrowing bitterly in the house of the nymph Calypso, who was
keeping him prisoner, and he could not reach his home, for he had no
ships nor sailors to take him over the sea.' This was what Menelaus
told me, and when I had heard his story I came away; the gods then
gave me a fair wind and soon brought me safe home again."
With these words he moved the heart of Penelope. Then Theoclymenus
said to her:
"Madam, wife of Ulysses, Telemachus does not understand these
things; listen therefore to me, for I can divine them surely, and will
hide nothing from you. May Jove the king of heaven be my witness,
and the rites of hospitality, with that hearth of Ulysses to which I
now come, that Ulysses himself is even now in Ithaca, and, either
going about the country or staying in one place, is enquiring into all
these evil deeds and preparing a day of reckoning for the suitors. I
saw an omen when I was on the ship which meant this, and I told
Telemachus about it."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true,
you shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who
see you shall congratulate you."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs,
or aiming with spears at a mark on the levelled ground in front of the
house, and behaving with all their old insolence. But when it was
now time for dinner, and the flock of sheep and goats had come into
the town from all the country round, with their shepherds as usual,
then Medon, who was their favourite servant, and who waited upon
them at table, said, "Now then, my young masters, you have had
enough sport, so come inside that we may get dinner ready. Dinner is
not a bad thing, at dinner time."
They left their sports as he told them, and when they were within
the house, they laid their cloaks on the benches and seats inside, and
then sacrificed some sheep, goats, pigs, and a heifer, all of them fat
and well grown. Thus they made ready for their meal. In the meantime
Ulysses and the swineherd were about starting for the town, and the
swineherd said, "Stranger, I suppose you still want to go to town
to-day, as my master said you were to do; for my own part I should
have liked you to stay here as a station hand, but I must do as my
master tells me, or he will scold me later on, and a scolding from
one's master is a very serious thing. Let us then be off, for it is
now broad day; it will be night again directly and then you will
find it colder."
"I know, and understand you," replied Ulysses; "you need say no
more. Let us be going, but if you have a stick ready cut, let me
have it to walk with, for you say the road is a very rough one."
As he spoke he threw his shabby old tattered wallet over his
shoulders, by the cord from which it hung, and Eumaeus gave him a
stick to his liking. The two then started, leaving the station in
charge of the dogs and herdsmen who remained behind; the swineherd led
the way and his master followed after, looking like some broken-down
old tramp as he leaned upon his staff, and his clothes were all in
rags. When they had got over the rough steep ground and were nearing
the city, they reached the fountain from which the citizens drew their
water. This had been made by Ithacus, Neritus, and Polyctor. There was
a grove of water-loving poplars planted in a circle all round it,
and the clear cold water came down to it from a rock high up, while
above the fountain there was an altar to the nymphs, at which all
wayfarers used to sacrifice. Here Melanthius son of Dolius overtook
them as he was driving down some goats, the best in his flock, for the
suitors' dinner, and there were two shepherds with him. When he saw
Eumaeus and Ulysses he reviled them with outrageous and unseemly
language, which made Ulysses very angry.
"There you go," cried he, "and a precious pair you are. See how
heaven brings birds of the same feather to one another. Where, pray,
master swineherd, are you taking this poor miserable object? It
would make any one sick to see such a creature at table. A fellow like
this never won a prize for anything in his life, but will go about
rubbing his shoulders against every man's door post, and begging,
not for swords and cauldrons like a man, but only for a few scraps not
worth begging for. If you would give him to me for a hand on my
station, he might do to clean out the folds, or bring a bit of sweet
feed to the kids, and he could fatten his thighs as much as he pleased
on whey; but he has taken to bad ways and will not go about any kind
of work; he will do nothing but beg victuals all the town over, to
feed his insatiable belly. I say, therefore and it shall surely be- if
he goes near Ulysses' house he will get his head broken by the
stools they will fling at him, till they turn him out."
On this, as he passed, he gave Ulysses a kick on the hip out of pure
wantonness, but Ulysses stood firm, and did not budge from the path.
For a moment he doubted whether or no to fly at Melanthius and kill
him with his staff, or fling him to the ground and beat his brains
out; he resolved, however, to endure it and keep himself in check, but
the swineherd looked straight at Melanthius and rebuked him, lifting
up his hands and praying to heaven as he did so.
"Fountain nymphs," he cried, "children of Jove, if ever Ulysses
burned you thigh bones covered with fat whether of lambs or kids,
grant my prayer that heaven may send him home. He would soon put an
end to the swaggering threats with which such men as you go about
insulting people-gadding all over the town while your flocks are going
to ruin through bad shepherding."
Then Melanthius the goatherd answered, "You ill-conditioned cur,
what are you talking about? Some day or other I will put you on
board ship and take you to a foreign country, where I can sell you and
pocket the money you will fetch. I wish I were as sure that Apollo
would strike Telemachus dead this very day, or that the suitors
would kill him, as I am that Ulysses will never come home again."
With this he left them to come on at their leisure, while he went
quickly forward and soon reached the house of his master. When he
got there he went in and took his seat among the suitors opposite
Eurymachus, who liked him better than any of the others. The
servants brought him a portion of meat, and an upper woman servant set
bread before him that he might eat. Presently Ulysses and the
swineherd came up to the house and stood by it, amid a sound of music,
for Phemius was just beginning to sing to the suitors. Then Ulysses
took hold of the swineherd's hand, and said:
"Eumaeus, this house of Ulysses is a very fine place. No matter
how far you go you will find few like it. One building keeps following
on after another. The outer court has a wall with battlements all
round it; the doors are double folding, and of good workmanship; it
would be a hard matter to take it by force of arms. I perceive, too,
that there are many people banqueting within it, for there is a
smell of roast meat, and I hear a sound of music, which the gods
have made to go along with feasting."
Then Eumaeus said, "You have perceived aright, as indeed you
generally do; but let us think what will be our best course. Will
you go inside first and join the suitors, leaving me here behind
you, or will you wait here and let me go in first? But do not wait
long, or some one may you loitering about outside, and throw something
at you. Consider this matter I pray you."
And Ulysses answered, "I understand and heed. Go in first and
leave me here where I am. I am quite used to being beaten and having
things thrown at me. I have been so much buffeted about in war and
by sea that I am case-hardened, and this too may go with the rest. But
a man cannot hide away the cravings of a hungry belly; this is an
enemy which gives much trouble to all men; it is because of this
that ships are fitted out to sail the seas, and to make war upon other
people."
As they were thus talking, a dog that had been lying asleep raised
his head and pricked up his ears. This was Argos, whom Ulysses had
bred before setting out for Troy, but he had never had any work out of
him. In the old days he used to be taken out by the young men when
they went hunting wild goats, or deer, or hares, but now that his
master was gone he was lying neglected on the heaps of mule and cow
dung that lay in front of the stable doors till the men should come
and draw it away to manure the great close; and he was full of
fleas. As soon as he saw Ulysses standing there, he dropped his ears
and wagged his tail, but he could not get close up to his master. When
Ulysses saw the dog on the other side of the yard, dashed a tear
from his eyes without Eumaeus seeing it, and said:
"Eumaeus, what a noble hound that is over yonder on the manure heap:
his build is splendid; is he as fine a fellow as he looks, or is he
only one of those dogs that come begging about a table, and are kept
merely for show?"
"This hound," answered Eumaeus, "belonged to him who has died in a
far country. If he were what he was when Ulysses left for Troy, he
would soon show you what he could do. There was not a wild beast in
the forest that could get away from him when he was once on its
tracks. But now he has fallen on evil times, for his master is dead
and gone, and the women take no care of him. Servants never do their
work when their master's hand is no longer over them, for Jove takes
half the goodness out of a man when he makes a slave of him."
As he spoke he went inside the buildings to the cloister where the
suitors were, but Argos died as soon as he had recognized his master.
Telemachus saw Eumaeus long before any one else did, and beckoned
him to come and sit beside him; so he looked about and saw a seat
lying near where the carver sat serving out their portions to the
suitors; he picked it up, brought it to Telemachus's table, and sat
down opposite him. Then the servant brought him his portion, and
gave him bread from the bread-basket.
Immediately afterwards Ulysses came inside, looking like a poor
miserable old beggar, leaning on his staff and with his clothes all in
rags. He sat down upon the threshold of ash-wood just inside the doors
leading from the outer to the inner court, and against a
bearing-post of cypress-wood which the carpenter had skillfully
planed, and had made to join truly with rule and line. Telemachus took
a whole loaf from the bread-basket, with as much meat as he could hold
in his two hands, and said to Eumaeus, "Take this to the stranger, and
tell him to go the round of the suitors, and beg from them; a beggar
must not be shamefaced."
So Eumaeus went up to him and said, "Stranger, Telemachus sends
you this, and says you are to go the round of the suitors begging, for
beggars must not be shamefaced."
Ulysses answered, "May King Jove grant all happiness to
Telemachus, and fulfil the desire of his heart."
Then with both hands he took what Telemachus had sent him, and
laid it on the dirty old wallet at his feet. He went on eating it
while the bard was singing, and had just finished his dinner as he
left off. The suitors applauded the bard, whereon Minerva went up to
Ulysses and prompted him to beg pieces of bread from each one of the
suitors, that he might see what kind of people they were, and tell the
good from the bad; but come what might she was not going to save a
single one of them. Ulysses, therefore, went on his round, going
from left to right, and stretched out his hands to beg as though he
were a real beggar. Some of them pitied him, and were curious about
him, asking one another who he was and where he came from; whereon the
goatherd Melanthius said, "Suitors of my noble mistress, I can tell
you something about him, for I have seen him before. The swineherd
brought him here, but I know nothing about the man himself, nor
where he comes from."
On this Antinous began to abuse the swineherd. "You precious idiot,"
he cried, "what have you brought this man to town for? Have we not
tramps and beggars enough already to pester us as we sit at meat? Do
you think it a small thing that such people gather here to waste
your master's property and must you needs bring this man as well?"
And Eumaeus answered, "Antinous, your birth is good but your words
evil. It was no doing of mine that he came here. Who is likely to
invite a stranger from a foreign country, unless it be one of those
who can do public service as a seer, a healer of hurts, a carpenter,
or a bard who can charm us with his Such men are welcome all the world
over, but no one is likely to ask a beggar who will only worry him.
You are always harder on Ulysses' servants than any of the other
suitors are, and above all on me, but I do not care so long as
Telemachus and Penelope are alive and here."
But Telemachus said, "Hush, do not answer him; Antinous has the
bitterest tongue of all the suitors, and he makes the others worse."
Then turning to Antinous he said, "Antinous, you take as much care
of my interests as though I were your son. Why should you want to
see this stranger turned out of the house? Heaven forbid; take'
something and give it him yourself; I do not grudge it; I bid you take
it. Never mind my mother, nor any of the other servants in the
house; but I know you will not do what I say, for you are more fond of
eating things yourself than of giving them to other people."
"What do you mean, Telemachus," replied Antinous, "by this
swaggering talk? If all the suitors were to give him as much as I
will, he would not come here again for another three months."
As he spoke he drew the stool on which he rested his dainty feet
from under the table, and made as though he would throw it at Ulysses,
but the other suitors all gave him something, and filled his wallet
with bread and meat; he was about, therefore, to go back to the
threshold and eat what the suitors had given him, but he first went up
to Antinous and said:
"Sir, give me something; you are not, surely, the poorest man
here; you seem to be a chief, foremost among them all; therefore you
should be the better giver, and I will tell far and wide of your
bounty. I too was a rich man once, and had a fine house of my own;
in those days I gave to many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who
he might be nor what he wanted. I had any number of servants, and
all the other things which people have who live well and are accounted
wealthy, but it pleased Jove to take all away from me. He sent me with
a band of roving robbers to Egypt; it was a long voyage and I was
undone by it. I stationed my bade ships in the river Aegyptus, and
bade my men stay by them and keep guard over them, while sent out
scouts to reconnoitre from every point of vantage.
"But the men disobeyed my orders, took to their own devices, and
ravaged the land of the Egyptians, killing the men, and taking their
wives and children captives. The alarm was soon carried to the city,
and when they heard the war-cry, the people came out at daybreak
till the plain was filled with soldiers horse and foot, and with the
gleam of armour. Then Jove spread panic among my men, and they would
no longer face the enemy, for they found themselves surrounded. The
Egyptians killed many of us, and took the rest alive to do forced
labour for them; as for myself, they gave me to a friend who met them,
to take to Cyprus, Dmetor by name, son of Iasus, who was a great man
in Cyprus. Thence I am come hither in a state of great misery."
Then Antinous said, "What god can have sent such a pestilence to
plague us during our dinner? Get out, into the open part of the court,
or I will give you Egypt and Cyprus over again for your insolence
and importunity; you have begged of all the others, and they have
given you lavishly, for they have abundance round them, and it is easy
to be free with other people's property when there is plenty of it."
On this Ulysses began to move off, and said, "Your looks, my fine
sir, are better than your breeding; if you were in your own house
you would not spare a poor man so much as a pinch of salt, for
though you are in another man's, and surrounded with abundance, you
cannot find it in you to give him even a piece of bread."
This made Antinous very angry, and he scowled at him saying, "You
shall pay for this before you get clear of the court." With these
words he threw a footstool at him, and hit him on the right
shoulder-blade near the top of his back. Ulysses stood firm as a
rock and the blow did not even stagger him, but he shook his head in
silence as he brooded on his revenge. Then he went back to the
threshold and sat down there, laying his well-filled wallet at his
feet.
"Listen to me," he cried, "you suitors of Queen Penelope, that I may
speak even as I am minded. A man knows neither ache nor pain if he
gets hit while fighting for his money, or for his sheep or his cattle;
and even so Antinous has hit me while in the service of my miserable
belly, which is always getting people into trouble. Still, if the poor
have gods and avenging deities at all, I pray them that Antinous may
come to a bad end before his marriage."
"Sit where you are, and eat your victuals in silence, or be off
elsewhere," shouted Antinous. "If you say more I will have you dragged
hand and foot through the courts, and the servants shall flay you
alive."
The other suitors were much displeased at this, and one of the young
men said, "Antinous, you did ill in striking that poor wretch of a
tramp: it will be worse for you if he should turn out to be some
god- and we know the gods go about disguised in all sorts of ways as
people from foreign countries, and travel about the world to see who
do amiss and who righteously."
Thus said the suitors, but Antinous paid them no heed. Meanwhile
Telemachus was furious about the blow that had been given to his
father, and though no tear fell from him, he shook his head in silence
and brooded on his revenge.
Now when Penelope heard that the beggar had been struck in the
banqueting-cloister, she said before her maids, "Would that Apollo
would so strike you, Antinous," and her waiting woman Eurynome
answered, "If our prayers were answered not one of the suitors would
ever again see the sun rise." Then Penelope said, "Nurse, I hate every
single one of them, for they mean nothing but mischief, but I hate
Antinous like the darkness of death itself. A poor unfortunate tramp
has come begging about the house for sheer want. Every one else has
given him something to put in his wallet, but Antinous has hit him
on the right shoulder-blade with a footstool."
Thus did she talk with her maids as she sat in her own room, and
in the meantime Ulysses was getting his dinner. Then she called for
the swineherd and said, "Eumaeus, go and tell the stranger to come
here, I want to see him and ask him some questions. He seems to have
travelled much, and he may have seen or heard something of my
unhappy husband."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "If these Achaeans,
Madam, would only keep quiet, you would be charmed with the history of
his adventures. I had him three days and three nights with me in my
hut, which was the first place he reached after running away from
his ship, and he has not yet completed the story of his misfortunes.
If he had been the most heaven-taught minstrel in the whole world,
on whose lips all hearers hang entranced, I could not have been more
charmed as I sat in my hut and listened to him. He says there is an
old friendship between his house and that of Ulysses, and that he
comes from Crete where the descendants of Minos live, after having
been driven hither and thither by every kind of misfortune; he also
declares that he has heard of Ulysses as being alive and near at
hand among the Thesprotians, and that he is bringing great wealth home
with him."
"Call him here, then," said Penelope, "that I too may hear his
story. As for the suitors, let them take their pleasure indoors or out
as they will, for they have nothing to fret about. Their corn and wine
remain unwasted in their houses with none but servants to consume
them, while they keep hanging about our house day after day
sacrificing our oxen, sheep, and fat goats for their banquets, and
never giving so much as a thought to the quantity of wine they
drink. No estate can stand such recklessness, for we have now no
Ulysses to protect us. If he were to come again, he and his son
would soon have their revenge."
As she spoke Telemachus sneezed so loudly that the whole house
resounded with it. Penelope laughed when she heard this, and said to
Eumaeus, "Go and call the stranger; did you not hear how my son
sneezed just as I was speaking? This can only mean that all the
suitors are going to be killed, and that not one of them shall escape.
Furthermore I say, and lay my saying to your heart: if I am
satisfied that the stranger is speaking the truth I shall give him a
shirt and cloak of good wear."
When Eumaeus heard this he went straight to Ulysses and said,
"Father stranger, my mistress Penelope, mother of Telemachus, has sent
for you; she is in great grief, but she wishes to hear anything you
can tell her about her husband, and if she is satisfied that you are
speaking the truth, she will give you a shirt and cloak, which are the
very things that you are most in want of. As for bread, you can get
enough of that to fill your belly, by begging about the town, and
letting those give that will."
"I will tell Penelope," answered Ulysses, "nothing but what is
strictly true. I know all about her husband, and have been partner
with him in affliction, but I am afraid of passing. through this crowd
of cruel suitors, for their pride and insolence reach heaven. Just
now, moreover, as I was going about the house without doing any
harm, a man gave me a blow that hurt me very much, but neither
Telemachus nor any one else defended me. Tell Penelope, therefore,
to be patient and wait till sundown. Let her give me a seat close up
to the fire, for my clothes are worn very thin- you know they are, for
you have seen them ever since I first asked you to help me- she can
then ask me about the return of her husband."
The swineherd went back when he heard this, and Penelope said as she
saw him cross the threshold, "Why do you not bring him here,
Eumaeus? Is he afraid that some one will ill-treat him, or is he shy
of coming inside the house at all? Beggars should not be shamefaced."
To this you answered, O swineherd Eumaeus, "The stranger is quite
reasonable. He is avoiding the suitors, and is only doing what any one
else would do. He asks you to wait till sundown, and it will be much
better, madam, that you should have him all to yourself, when you
can hear him and talk to him as you will."
"The man is no fool," answered Penelope, "it would very likely be as
he says, for there are no such abominable people in the whole world as
these men are."
When she had done speaking Eumaeus went back to the suitors, for
he had explained everything. Then he went up to Telemachus and said in
his ear so that none could overhear him, "My dear sir, I will now go
back to the pigs, to see after your property and my own business.
You will look to what is going on here, but above all be careful to
keep out of danger, for there are many who bear you ill will. May Jove
bring them to a bad end before they do us a mischief."
"Very well," replied Telemachus, "go home when you have had your
dinner, and in the morning come here with the victims we are to
sacrifice for the day. Leave the rest to heaven and me."
On this Eumaeus took his seat again, and when he had finished his
dinner he left the courts and the cloister with the men at table,
and went back to his pigs. As for the suitors, they presently began to
amuse themselves with singing and dancing, for it was now getting on
towards evening.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 23

Euryclea now went upstairs laughing to tell her mistress that her
dear husband had come home. Her aged knees became young again and
her feet were nimble for joy as she went up to her mistress and bent
over her head to speak to her. "Wake up Penelope, my dear child,"
she exclaimed, "and see with your own eyes something that you have
been wanting this long time past. Ulysses has at last indeed come home
again, and has killed the suitors who were giving so much trouble in
his house, eating up his estate and ill-treating his son."
"My good nurse," answered Penelope, "you must be mad. The gods
sometimes send some very sensible people out of their minds, and
make foolish people become sensible. This is what they must have
been doing to you; for you always used to be a reasonable person.
Why should you thus mock me when I have trouble enough already-
talking such nonsense, and waking me up out of a sweet sleep that
had taken possession of my eyes and closed them? I have never slept so
soundly from the day my poor husband went to that city with the
ill-omened name. Go back again into the women's room; if it had been
any one else, who had woke me up to bring me such absurd news I should
have sent her away with a severe scolding. As it is, your age shall
protect you."
"My dear child," answered Euryclea, "I am not mocking you. It is
quite true as I tell you that Ulysses is come home again. He was the
stranger whom they all kept on treating so badly in the cloister.
Telemachus knew all the time that he was come back, but kept his
father's secret that he might have his revenge on all these wicked
people.
Then Penelope sprang up from her couch, threw her arms round
Euryclea, and wept for joy. "But my dear nurse," said she, "explain
this to me; if he has really come home as you say, how did he manage
to overcome the wicked suitors single handed, seeing what a number
of them there always were?"
"I was not there," answered Euryclea, "and do not know; I only heard
them groaning while they were being killed. We sat crouching and
huddled up in a corner of the women's room with the doors closed, till
your son came to fetch me because his father sent him. Then I found
Ulysses standing over the corpses that were lying on the ground all
round him, one on top of the other. You would have enjoyed it if you
could have seen him standing there all bespattered with blood and
filth, and looking just like a lion. But the corpses are now all piled
up in the gatehouse that is in the outer court, and Ulysses has lit
a great fire to purify the house with sulphur. He has sent me to
call you, so come with me that you may both be happy together after
all; for now at last the desire of your heart has been fulfilled; your
husband is come home to find both wife and son alive and well, and
to take his revenge in his own house on the suitors who behaved so
badly to him."
"'My dear nurse," said Penelope, "do not exult too confidently
over all this. You know how delighted every one would be to see
Ulysses come home- more particularly myself, and the son who has
been born to both of us; but what you tell me cannot be really true.
It is some god who is angry with the suitors for their great
wickedness, and has made an end of them; for they respected no man
in the whole world, neither rich nor poor, who came near them, who
came near them, and they have come to a bad end in consequence of
their iniquity. Ulysses is dead far away from the Achaean land; he
will never return home again."
Then nurse Euryclea said, "My child, what are you talking about? but
you were all hard of belief and have made up your mind that your
husband is never coming, although he is in the house and by his own
fire side at this very moment. Besides I can give you another proof;
when I was washing him I perceived the scar which the wild boar gave
him, and I wanted to tell you about it, but in his wisdom he would not
let me, and clapped his hands over my mouth; so come with me and I
will make this bargain with you- if I am deceiving you, you may have
me killed by the most cruel death you can think of."
"My dear nurse," said Penelope, "however wise you may be you can
hardly fathom the counsels of the gods. Nevertheless, we will go in
search of my son, that I may see the corpses of the suitors, and the
man who has killed them."
On this she came down from her upper room, and while doing so she
considered whether she should keep at a distance from her husband
and question him, or whether she should at once go up to him and
embrace him. When, however, she had crossed the stone floor of the
cloister, she sat down opposite Ulysses by the fire, against the
wall at right angles [to that by which she had entered], while Ulysses
sat near one of the bearing-posts, looking upon the ground, and
waiting to see what his wife would say to him when she saw him. For
a long time she sat silent and as one lost in amazement. At one moment
she looked him full in the face, but then again directly, she was
misled by his shabby clothes and failed to recognize him, till
Telemachus began to reproach her and said:
"Mother- but you are so hard that I cannot call you by such a
name- why do you keep away from my father in this way? Why do you
not sit by his side and begin talking to him and asking him questions?
No other woman could bear to keep away from her husband when he had
come back to her after twenty years of absence, and after having
gone through so much; but your heart always was as hard as a stone."
Penelope answered, "My son, I am so lost in astonishment that I
can find no words in which either to ask questions or to answer
them. I cannot even look him straight in the face. Still, if he really
is Ulysses come back to his own home again, we shall get to understand
one another better by and by, for there are tokens with which we two
are alone acquainted, and which are hidden from all others."
Ulysses smiled at this, and said to Telemachus, "Let your mother put
me to any proof she likes; she will make up her mind about it
presently. She rejects me for the moment and believes me to be
somebody else, because I am covered with dirt and have such bad
clothes on; let us, however, consider what we had better do next. When
one man has killed another, even though he was not one who would leave
many friends to take up his quarrel, the man who has killed him must
still say good bye to his friends and fly the country; whereas we have
been killing the stay of a whole town, and all the picked youth of
Ithaca. I would have you consider this matter."
"Look to it yourself, father," answered Telemachus, "for they say
you are the wisest counsellor in the world, and that there is no other
mortal man who can compare with you. We will follow you with right
good will, nor shall you find us fail you in so far as our strength
holds out."
"I will say what I think will be best," answered Ulysses. "First
wash and put your shirts on; tell the maids also to go to their own
room and dress; Phemius shall then strike up a dance tune on his lyre,
so that if people outside hear, or any of the neighbours, or some
one going along the street happens to notice it, they may think
there is a wedding in the house, and no rumours about the death of the
suitors will get about in the town, before we can escape to the
woods upon my own land. Once there, we will settle which of the
courses heaven vouchsafes us shall seem wisest."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. First they
washed and put their shirts on, while the women got ready. Then
Phemius took his lyre and set them all longing for sweet song and
stately dance. The house re-echoed with the sound of men and women
dancing, and the people outside said, "I suppose the queen has been
getting married at last. She ought to be ashamed of herself for not
continuing to protect her husband's property until he comes home."
This was what they said, but they did not know what it was that
had been happening. The upper servant Eurynome washed and anointed
Ulysses in his own house and gave him a shirt and cloak, while Minerva
made him look taller and stronger than before; she also made the
hair grow thick on the top of his head, and flow down in curls like
hyacinth blossoms; she glorified him about the head and shoulders just
as a skilful workman who has studied art of all kinds under Vulcan
or Minerva- and his work is full of beauty- enriches a piece of silver
plate by gilding it. He came from the bath looking like one of the
immortals, and sat down opposite his wife on the seat he had left. "My
dear," said he, "heaven has endowed you with a heart more unyielding
than woman ever yet had. No other woman could bear to keep away from
her husband when he had come back to her after twenty years of
absence, and after having gone through so much. But come, nurse, get a
bed ready for me; I will sleep alone, for this woman has a heart as
hard as iron."
"My dear," answered Penelope, "I have no wish to set myself up,
nor to depreciate you; but I am not struck by your appearance, for I
very well remember what kind of a man you were when you set sail
from Ithaca. Nevertheless, Euryclea, take his bed outside the bed
chamber that he himself built. Bring the bed outside this room, and
put bedding upon it with fleeces, good coverlets, and blankets."
She said this to try him, but Ulysses was very angry and said,
"Wife, I am much displeased at what you have just been saying. Who has
been taking my bed from the place in which I left it? He must have
found it a hard task, no matter how skilled a workman he was, unless
some god came and helped him to shift it. There is no man living,
however strong and in his prime, who could move it from its place, for
it is a marvellous curiosity which I made with my very own hands.
There was a young olive growing within the precincts of the house,
in full vigour, and about as thick as a bearing-post. I built my
room round this with strong walls of stone and a roof to cover them,
and I made the doors strong and well-fitting. Then I cut off the top
boughs of the olive tree and left the stump standing. This I dressed
roughly from the root upwards and then worked with carpenter's tools
well and skilfully, straightening my work by drawing a line on the
wood, and making it into a bed-prop. I then bored a hole down the
middle, and made it the centre-post of my bed, at which I worked
till I had finished it, inlaying it with gold and silver; after this I
stretched a hide of crimson leather from one side of it to the
other. So you see I know all about it, and I desire to learn whether
it is still there, or whether any one has been removing it by
cutting down the olive tree at its roots."
When she heard the sure proofs Ulysses now gave her, she fairly
broke down. She flew weeping to his side, flung her arms about his
neck, and kissed him. "Do not be angry with me Ulysses," she cried,
"you, who are the wisest of mankind. We have suffered, both of us.
Heaven has denied us the happiness of spending our youth, and of
growing old, together; do not then be aggrieved or take it amiss
that I did not embrace you thus as soon as I saw you. I have been
shuddering all the time through fear that someone might come here
and deceive me with a lying story; for there are many very wicked
people going about. Jove's daughter Helen would never have yielded
herself to a man from a foreign country, if she had known that the
sons of Achaeans would come after her and bring her back. Heaven put
it in her heart to do wrong, and she gave no thought to that sin,
which has been the source of all our sorrows. Now, however, that you
have convinced me by showing that you know all about our bed (which no
human being has ever seen but you and I and a single maid servant, the
daughter of Actor, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and
who keeps the doors of our room) hard of belief though I have been I
can mistrust no longer."
Then Ulysses in his turn melted, and wept as he clasped his dear and
faithful wife to his bosom. As the sight of land is welcome to men who
are swimming towards the shore, when Neptune has wrecked their ship
with the fury of his winds and waves- a few alone reach the land,
and these, covered with brine, are thankful when they find
themselves on firm ground and out of danger- even so was her husband
welcome to her as she looked upon him, and she could not tear her
two fair arms from about his neck. Indeed they would have gone on
indulging their sorrow till rosy-fingered morn appeared, had not
Minerva determined otherwise, and held night back in the far west,
while she would not suffer Dawn to leave Oceanus, nor to yoke the
two steeds Lampus and Phaethon that bear her onward to break the day
upon mankind.
At last, however, Ulysses said, "Wife, we have not yet reached the
end of our troubles. I have an unknown amount of toil still to
undergo. It is long and difficult, but I must go through with it,
for thus the shade of Teiresias prophesied concerning me, on the day
when I went down into Hades to ask about my return and that of my
companions. But now let us go to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy
the blessed boon of sleep."
"You shall go to bed as soon as you please," replied Penelope,
"now that the gods have sent you home to your own good house and to
your country. But as heaven has put it in your mind to speak of it,
tell me about the task that lies before you. I shall have to hear
about it later, so it is better that I should be told at once."
"My dear," answered Ulysses, "why should you press me to tell you?
Still, I will not conceal it from you, though you will not like BOOK
it. I do not like it myself, for Teiresias bade me travel far and
wide, carrying an oar, till I came to a country where the people
have never heard of the sea, and do not even mix salt with their food.
They know nothing about ships, nor oars that are as the wings of a
ship. He gave me this certain token which I will not hide from you. He
said that a wayfarer should meet me and ask me whether it was a
winnowing shovel that I had on my shoulder. On this, I was to fix my
oar in the ground and sacrifice a ram, a bull, and a boar to
Neptune; after which I was to go home and offer hecatombs to all the
gods in heaven, one after the other. As for myself, he said that death
should come to me from the sea, and that my life should ebb away
very gently when I was full of years and peace of mind, and my
people should bless me. All this, he said, should surely come to
pass."
And Penelope said, "If the gods are going to vouchsafe you a happier
time in your old age, you may hope then to have some respite from
misfortune."
Thus did they converse. Meanwhile Eurynome and the nurse took
torches and made the bed ready with soft coverlets; as soon as they
had laid them, the nurse went back into the house to go to her rest,
leaving the bed chamber woman Eurynome to show Ulysses and Penelope to
bed by torch light. When she had conducted them to their room she went
back, and they then came joyfully to the rites of their own old bed.
Telemachus, Philoetius, and the swineherd now left off dancing, and
made the women leave off also. They then laid themselves down to sleep
in the cloisters.
When Ulysses and Penelope had had their fill of love they fell
talking with one another. She told him how much she had had to bear in
seeing the house filled with a crowd of wicked suitors who had
killed so many sheep and oxen on her account, and had drunk so many
casks of wine. Ulysses in his turn told her what he had suffered,
and how much trouble he had himself given to other people. He told her
everything, and she was so delighted to listen that she never went
to sleep till he had ended his whole story.
He began with his victory over the Cicons, and how he thence reached
the fertile land of the Lotus-eaters. He told her all about the
Cyclops and how he had punished him for having so ruthlessly eaten his
brave comrades; how he then went on to Aeolus, who received him
hospitably and furthered him on his way, but even so he was not to
reach home, for to his great grief a hurricane carried him out to
sea again; how he went on to the Laestrygonian city Telepylos, where
the people destroyed all his ships with their crews, save himself
and his own ship only. Then he told of cunning Circe and her craft,
and how he sailed to the chill house of Hades, to consult the ghost of
the Theban prophet Teiresias, and how he saw his old comrades in arms,
and his mother who bore him and brought him up when he was a child;
how he then heard the wondrous singing of the Sirens, and went on to
the wandering rocks and terrible Charybdis and to Scylla, whom no
man had ever yet passed in safety; how his men then ate the cattle
of the sun-god, and how Jove therefore struck the ship with his
thunderbolts, so that all his men perished together, himself alone
being left alive; how at last he reached the Ogygian island and the
nymph Calypso, who kept him there in a cave, and fed him, and wanted
him to marry her, in which case she intended making him immortal so
that he should never grow old, but she could not persuade him to let
her do so; and how after much suffering he had found his way to the
Phaeacians, who had treated him as though he had been a god, and
sent him back in a ship to his own country after having given him
gold, bronze, and raiment in great abundance. This was the last
thing about which he told her, for here a deep sleep took hold upon
him and eased the burden of his sorrows.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter. When she deemed that
Ulysses had had both of his wife and of repose, she bade
gold-enthroned Dawn rise out of Oceanus that she might shed light upon
mankind. On this, Ulysses rose from his comfortable bed and said to
Penelope, "Wife, we have both of us had our full share of troubles,
you, here, in lamenting my absence, and I in being prevented from
getting home though I was longing all the time to do so. Now, however,
that we have at last come together, take care of the property that
is in the house. As for the sheep and goats which the wicked suitors
have eaten, I will take many myself by force from other people, and
will compel the Achaeans to make good the rest till they shall have
filled all my yards. I am now going to the wooded lands out in the
country to see my father who has so long been grieved on my account,
and to yourself I will give these instructions, though you have little
need of them. At sunrise it will at once get abroad that I have been
killing the suitors; go upstairs, therefore, and stay there with
your women. See nobody and ask no questions."
As he spoke he girded on his armour. Then he roused Telemachus,
Philoetius, and Eumaeus, and told them all to put on their armour
also. This they did, and armed themselves. When they had done so, they
opened the gates and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way. It was
now daylight, but Minerva nevertheless concealed them in darkness
and led them quickly out of the town.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 24

Then Mercury of Cyllene summoned the ghosts of the suitors, and in
his hand he held the fair golden wand with which he seals men's eyes
in sleep or wakes them just as he pleases; with this he roused the
ghosts and led them, while they followed whining and gibbering
behind him. As bats fly squealing in the hollow of some great cave,
when one of them has fallen out of the cluster in which they hang,
even so did the ghosts whine and squeal as Mercury the healer of
sorrow led them down into the dark abode of death. When they had
passed the waters of Oceanus and the rock Leucas, they came to the
gates of the sun and the land of dreams, whereon they reached the
meadow of asphodel where dwell the souls and shadows of them that
can labour no more.
Here they found the ghost of Achilles son of Peleus, with those of
Patroclus, Antilochus, and Ajax, who was the finest and handsomest man
of all the Danaans after the son of Peleus himself.
They gathered round the ghost of the son of Peleus, and the ghost of
Agamemnon joined them, sorrowing bitterly. Round him were gathered
also the ghosts of those who had perished with him in the house of
Aeisthus; and the ghost of Achilles spoke first.
"Son of Atreus," it said, "we used to say that Jove had loved you
better from first to last than any other hero, for you were captain
over many and brave men, when we were all fighting together before
Troy; yet the hand of death, which no mortal can escape, was laid upon
you all too early. Better for you had you fallen at Troy in the
hey-day of your renown, for the Achaeans would have built a mound over
your ashes, and your son would have been heir to your good name,
whereas it has now been your lot to come to a most miserable end."
"Happy son of Peleus," answered the ghost of Agamemnon, "for
having died at Troy far from Argos, while the bravest of the Trojans
and the Achaeans fell round you fighting for your body. There you
lay in the whirling clouds of dust, all huge and hugely, heedless
now of your chivalry. We fought the whole of the livelong day, nor
should we ever have left off if Jove had not sent a hurricane to
stay us. Then, when we had borne you to the ships out of the fray,
we laid you on your bed and cleansed your fair skin with warm water
and with ointments. The Danaans tore their hair and wept bitterly
round about you. Your mother, when she heard, came with her immortal
nymphs from out of the sea, and the sound of a great wailing went
forth over the waters so that the Achaeans quaked for fear. They would
have fled panic-stricken to their ships had not wise old Nestor
whose counsel was ever truest checked them saying, 'Hold, Argives, fly
not sons of the Achaeans, this is his mother coming from the sea
with her immortal nymphs to view the body of her son.'
"Thus he spoke, and the Achaeans feared no more. The daughters of
the old man of the sea stood round you weeping bitterly, and clothed
you in immortal raiment. The nine muses also came and lifted up
their sweet voices in lament- calling and answering one another; there
was not an Argive but wept for pity of the dirge they chaunted. Days
and nights seven and ten we mourned you, mortals and immortals, but on
the eighteenth day we gave you to the flames, and many a fat sheep
with many an ox did we slay in sacrifice around you. You were burnt in
raiment of the gods, with rich resins and with honey, while heroes,
horse and foot, clashed their armour round the pile as you were
burning, with the tramp as of a great multitude. But when the flames
of heaven had done their work, we gathered your white bones at
daybreak and laid them in ointments and in pure wine. Your mother
brought us a golden vase to hold them- gift of Bacchus, and work of
Vulcan himself; in this we mingled your bleached bones with those of
Patroclus who had gone before you, and separate we enclosed also those
of Antilochus, who had been closer to you than any other of your
comrades now that Patroclus was no more.
"Over these the host of the Argives built a noble tomb, on a point
jutting out over the open Hellespont, that it might be seen from far
out upon the sea by those now living and by them that shall be born
hereafter. Your mother begged prizes from the gods, and offered them
to be contended for by the noblest of the Achaeans. You must have been
present at the funeral of many a hero, when the young men gird
themselves and make ready to contend for prizes on the death of some
great chieftain, but you never saw such prizes as silver-footed Thetis
offered in your honour; for the gods loved you well. Thus even in
death your fame, Achilles, has not been lost, and your name lives
evermore among all mankind. But as for me, what solace had I when
the days of my fighting were done? For Jove willed my destruction on
my return, by the hands of Aegisthus and those of my wicked wife."
Thus did they converse, and presently Mercury came up to them with
the ghosts of the suitors who had been killed by Ulysses. The ghosts
of Agamemnon and Achilles were astonished at seeing them, and went
up to them at once. The ghost of Agamemnon recognized Amphimedon son
of Melaneus, who lived in Ithaca and had been his host, so it began to
talk to him.
"Amphimedon," it said, "what has happened to all you fine young men-
all of an age too- that you are come down here under the ground? One
could pick no finer body of men from any city. Did Neptune raise his
winds and waves against you when you were at sea, or did your
enemies make an end of you on the mainland when you were
cattle-lifting or sheep-stealing, or while fighting in defence of
their wives and city? Answer my question, for I have been your
guest. Do you not remember how I came to your house with Menelaus,
to persuade Ulysses to join us with his ships against Troy? It was a
whole month ere we could resume our voyage, for we had hard work to
persuade Ulysses to come with us."
And the ghost of Amphimedon answered, "Agamemnon, son of Atreus,
king of men, I remember everything that you have said, and will tell
you fully and accurately about the way in which our end was brought
about. Ulysses had been long gone, and we were courting his wife,
who did not say point blank that she would not marry, nor yet bring
matters to an end, for she meant to compass our destruction: this,
then, was the trick she played us. She set up a great tambour frame in
her room and began to work on an enormous piece of fine needlework.
'Sweethearts,' said she, 'Ulysses is indeed dead, still, do not
press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would not have my
skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have completed a pall
for the hero Laertes, against the time when death shall take him. He
is very rich, and the women of the place will talk if he is laid out
without a pall.' This is what she said, and we assented; whereupon
we could see her working upon her great web all day long, but at night
she would unpick the stitches again by torchlight. She fooled us in
this way for three years without our finding it out, but as time
wore on and she was now in her fourth year, in the waning of moons and
many days had been accomplished, one of her maids who knew what she
was doing told us, and we caught her in the act of undoing her work,
so she had to finish it whether she would or no; and when she showed
us the robe she had made, after she had had it washed, its splendour
was as that of the sun or moon.
"Then some malicious god conveyed Ulysses to the upland farm where
his swineherd lives. Thither presently came also his son, returning
from a voyage to Pylos, and the two came to the town when they had
hatched their plot for our destruction. Telemachus came first, and
then after him, accompanied by the swineherd, came Ulysses, clad in
rags and leaning on a staff as though he were some miserable old
beggar. He came so unexpectedly that none of us knew him, not even the
older ones among us, and we reviled him and threw things at him. He
endured both being struck and insulted without a word, though he was
in his own house; but when the will of Aegis-bearing Jove inspired
him, he and Telemachus took the armour and hid it in an inner chamber,
bolting the doors behind them. Then he cunningly made his wife offer
his bow and a quantity of iron to be contended for by us ill-fated
suitors; and this was the beginning of our end, for not one of us
could string the bow- nor nearly do so. When it was about to reach the
hands of Ulysses, we all of us shouted out that it should not be given
him, no matter what he might say, but Telemachus insisted on his
having it. When he had got it in his hands he strung it with ease
and sent his arrow through the iron. Then he stood on the floor of the
cloister and poured his arrows on the ground, glaring fiercely about
him. First he killed Antinous, and then, aiming straight before him,
he let fly his deadly darts and they fell thick on one another. It was
plain that some one of the gods was helping them, for they fell upon
us with might and main throughout the cloisters, and there was a
hideous sound of groaning as our brains were being battered in, and
the ground seethed with our blood. This, Agamemnon, is how we came
by our end, and our bodies are lying still un-cared for in the house
of Ulysses, for our friends at home do not yet know what has happened,
so that they cannot lay us out and wash the black blood from our
wounds, making moan over us according to the offices due to the
departed."
"Happy Ulysses, son of Laertes," replied the ghost of Agamemnon,
"you are indeed blessed in the possession of a wife endowed with
such rare excellence of understanding, and so faithful to her wedded
lord as Penelope the daughter of Icarius. The fame, therefore, of
her virtue shall never die, and the immortals shall compose a song
that shall be welcome to all mankind in honour of the constancy of
Penelope. How far otherwise was the wickedness of the daughter of
Tyndareus who killed her lawful husband; her song shall be hateful
among men, for she has brought disgrace on all womankind even on the
good ones."
Thus did they converse in the house of Hades deep down within the
bowels of the earth. Meanwhile Ulysses and the others passed out of
the town and soon reached the fair and well-tilled farm of Laertes,
which he had reclaimed with infinite labour. Here was his house,
with a lean-to running all round it, where the slaves who worked for
him slept and sat and ate, while inside the house there was an old
Sicel woman, who looked after him in this his country-farm. When
Ulysses got there, he said to his son and to the other two:
"Go to the house, and kill the best pig that you can find for
dinner. Meanwhile I want to see whether my father will know me, or
fail to recognize me after so long an absence."
He then took off his armour and gave it to Eumaeus and Philoetius,
who went straight on to the house, while he turned off into the
vineyard to make trial of his father. As he went down into the great
orchard, he did not see Dolius, nor any of his sons nor of the other
bondsmen, for they were all gathering thorns to make a fence for the
vineyard, at the place where the old man had told them; he therefore
found his father alone, hoeing a vine. He had on a dirty old shirt,
patched and very shabby; his legs were bound round with thongs of
oxhide to save him from the brambles, and he also wore sleeves of
leather; he had a goat skin cap on his head, and was looking very
woe-begone. When Ulysses saw him so worn, so old and full of sorrow,
he stood still under a tall pear tree and began to weep. He doubted
whether to embrace him, kiss him, and tell him all about his having
come home, or whether he should first question him and see what he
would say. In the end he deemed it best to be crafty with him, so in
this mind he went up to his father, who was bending down and digging
about a plant.
"I see, sir," said Ulysses, "that you are an excellent gardener-
what pains you take with it, to be sure. There is not a single
plant, not a fig tree, vine, olive, pear, nor flower bed, but bears
the trace of your attention. I trust, however, that you will not be
offended if I say that you take better care of your garden than of
yourself. You are old, unsavoury, and very meanly clad. It cannot be
because you are idle that your master takes such poor care of you,
indeed your face and figure have nothing of the slave about them,
and proclaim you of noble birth. I should have said that you were
one of those who should wash well, eat well, and lie soft at night
as old men have a right to do; but tell me, and tell me true, whose
bondman are you, and in whose garden are you working? Tell me also
about another matter. Is this place that I have come to really Ithaca?
I met a man just now who said so, but he was a dull fellow, and had
not the patience to hear my story out when I was asking him about an
old friend of mine, whether he was still living, or was already dead
and in the house of Hades. Believe me when I tell you that this man
came to my house once when I was in my own country and never yet did
any stranger come to me whom I liked better. He said that his family
came from Ithaca and that his father was Laertes, son of Arceisius.
I received him hospitably, making him welcome to all the abundance
of my house, and when he went away I gave him all customary
presents. I gave him seven talents of fine gold, and a cup of solid
silver with flowers chased upon it. I gave him twelve light cloaks,
and as many pieces of tapestry; I also gave him twelve cloaks of
single fold, twelve rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number
of shirts. To all this I added four good looking women skilled in
all useful arts, and I let him take his choice."
His father shed tears and answered, "Sir, you have indeed come to
the country that you have named, but it is fallen into the hands of
wicked people. All this wealth of presents has been given to no
purpose. If you could have found your friend here alive in Ithaca,
he would have entertained you hospitably and would have required
your presents amply when you left him- as would have been only right
considering what you have already given him. But tell me, and tell
me true, how many years is it since you entertained this guest- my
unhappy son, as ever was? Alas! He has perished far from his own
country; the fishes of the sea have eaten him, or he has fallen a prey
to the birds and wild beasts of some continent. Neither his mother,
nor I his father, who were his parents, could throw our arms about him
and wrap him in his shroud, nor could his excellent and richly dowered
wife Penelope bewail her husband as was natural upon his death bed,
and close his eyes according to the offices due to the departed. But
now, tell me truly for I want to know. Who and whence are you- tell me
of your town and parents? Where is the ship lying that has brought you
and your men to Ithaca? Or were you a passenger on some other man's
ship, and those who brought you here have gone on their way and left
you?"
"I will tell you everything," answered Ulysses, "quite truly. I come
from Alybas, where I have a fine house. I am son of king Apheidas, who
is the son of Polypemon. My own name is Eperitus; heaven drove me
off my course as I was leaving Sicania, and I have been carried here
against my will. As for my ship it is lying over yonder, off the
open country outside the town, and this is the fifth year since
Ulysses left my country. Poor fellow, yet the omens were good for
him when he left me. The birds all flew on our right hands, and both
he and I rejoiced to see them as we parted, for we had every hope that
we should have another friendly meeting and exchange presents."
A dark cloud of sorrow fell upon Laertes as he listened. He filled
both hands with the dust from off the ground and poured it over his
grey head, groaning heavily as he did so. The heart of Ulysses was
touched, and his nostrils quivered as he looked upon his father;
then he sprang towards him, flung his arms about him and kissed him,
saying, "I am he, father, about whom you are asking- I have returned
after having been away for twenty years. But cease your sighing and
lamentation- we have no time to lose, for I should tell you that I
have been killing the suitors in my house, to punish them for their
insolence and crimes."
"If you really are my son Ulysses," replied Laertes, "and have
come back again, you must give me such manifest proof of your identity
as shall convince me."
"First observe this scar," answered Ulysses, "which I got from a
boar's tusk when I was hunting on Mount Parnassus. You and my mother
had sent me to Autolycus, my mother's father, to receive the
presents which when he was over here he had promised to give me.
Furthermore I will point out to you the trees in the vineyard which
you gave me, and I asked you all about them as I followed you round
the garden. We went over them all, and you told me their names and
what they all were. You gave me thirteen pear trees, ten apple
trees, and forty fig trees; you also said you would give me fifty rows
of vines; there was corn planted between each row, and they yield
grapes of every kind when the heat of heaven has been laid heavy
upon them."
Laertes' strength failed him when he heard the convincing proofs
which his son had given him. He threw his arms about him, and
Ulysses had to support him, or he would have gone off into a swoon;
but as soon as he came to, and was beginning to recover his senses, he
said, "O father Jove, then you gods are still in Olympus after all, if
the suitors have really been punished for their insolence and folly.
Nevertheless, I am much afraid that I shall have all the townspeople
of Ithaca up here directly, and they will be sending messengers
everywhere throughout the cities of the Cephallenians."
Ulysses answered, "Take heart and do not trouble yourself about
that, but let us go into the house hard by your garden. I have already
told Telemachus, Philoetius, and Eumaeus to go on there and get dinner
ready as soon as possible."
Thus conversing the two made their way towards the house. When
they got there they found Telemachus with the stockman and the
swineherd cutting up meat and mixing wine with water. Then the old
Sicel woman took Laertes inside and washed him and anointed him with
oil. She put him on a good cloak, and Minerva came up to him and
gave him a more imposing presence, making him taller and stouter
than before. When he came back his son was surprised to see him
looking so like an immortal, and said to him, "My dear father, some
one of the gods has been making you much taller and better-looking."
Laertes answered, "Would, by Father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo,
that I were the man I was when I ruled among the Cephallenians, and
took Nericum, that strong fortress on the foreland. If I were still
what I then was and had been in our house yesterday with my armour on,
I should have been able to stand by you and help you against the
suitors. I should have killed a great many of them, and you would have
rejoiced to see it."
Thus did they converse; but the others, when they had finished their
work and the feast was ready, left off working, and took each his
proper place on the benches and seats. Then they began eating; by
and by old Dolius and his sons left their work and came up, for
their mother, the Sicel woman who looked after Laertes now that he was
growing old, had been to fetch them. When they saw Ulysses and were
certain it was he, they stood there lost in astonishment; but
Ulysses scolded them good-naturedly and said, "Sit down to your
dinner, old man, and never mind about your surprise; we have been
wanting to begin for some time and have been waiting for you."
Then Dolius put out both his hands and went up to Ulysses. "Sir,"
said he, seizing his master's hand and kissing it at the wrist, "we
have long been wishing you home: and now heaven has restored you to us
after we had given up hoping. All hail, therefore, and may the gods
prosper you. But tell me, does Penelope already know of your return,
or shall we send some one to tell her?"
"Old man," answered Ulysses, "she knows already, so you need not
trouble about that." On this he took his seat, and the sons of
Dolius gathered round Ulysses to give him greeting and embrace him one
after the other; then they took their seats in due order near Dolius
their father.
While they were thus busy getting their dinner ready, Rumour went
round the town, and noised abroad the terrible fate that had
befallen the suitors; as soon, therefore, as the people heard of it
they gathered from every quarter, groaning and hooting before the
house of Ulysses. They took the dead away, buried every man his own,
and put the bodies of those who came from elsewhere on board the
fishing vessels, for the fishermen to take each of them to his own
place. They then met angrily in the place of assembly, and when they
were got together Eupeithes rose to speak. He was overwhelmed with
grief for the death of his son Antinous, who had been the first man
killed by Ulysses, so he said, weeping bitterly, "My friend, this
man has done the Achaeans great wrong. He took many of our best men
away with him in his fleet, and he has lost both ships and men; now,
moreover, on his return he has been killing all the foremost men among
the Cephallenians. Let us be up and doing before he can get away to
Pylos or to Elis where the Epeans rule, or we shall be ashamed of
ourselves for ever afterwards. It will be an everlasting disgrace to
us if we do not avenge the murder of our sons and brothers. For my own
part I should have no mote pleasure in life, but had rather die at
once. Let us be up, then, and after them, before they can cross over
to the mainland."
He wept as he spoke and every one pitied him. But Medon and the bard
Phemius had now woke up, and came to them from the house of Ulysses.
Every one was astonished at seeing them, but they stood in the
middle of the assembly, and Medon said, "Hear me, men of Ithaca.
Ulysses did not do these things against the will of heaven. I myself
saw an immortal god take the form of Mentor and stand beside him. This
god appeared, now in front of him encouraging him, and now going
furiously about the court and attacking the suitors whereon they
fell thick on one another."
On this pale fear laid hold of them, and old Halitherses, son of
Mastor, rose to speak, for he was the only man among them who knew
both past and future; so he spoke to them plainly and in all
honesty, saying,
"Men of Ithaca, it is all your own fault that things have turned out
as they have; you would not listen to me, nor yet to Mentor, when we
bade you check the folly of your sons who were doing much wrong in the
wantonness of their hearts- wasting the substance and dishonouring the
wife of a chieftain who they thought would not return. Now, however,
let it be as I say, and do as I tell you. Do not go out against
Ulysses, or you may find that you have been drawing down evil on
your own heads."
This was what he said, and more than half raised a loud shout, and
at once left the assembly. But the rest stayed where they were, for
the speech of Halitherses displeased them, and they sided with
Eupeithes; they therefore hurried off for their armour, and when
they had armed themselves, they met together in front of the city, and
Eupeithes led them on in their folly. He thought he was going to
avenge the murder of his son, whereas in truth he was never to return,
but was himself to perish in his attempt.
Then Minerva said to Jove, "Father, son of Saturn, king of kings,
answer me this question- What do you propose to do? Will you set
them fighting still further, or will you make peace between them?"
And Jove answered, "My child, why should you ask me? Was it not by
your own arrangement that Ulysses came home and took his revenge
upon the suitors? Do whatever you like, but I will tell you what I
think will be most reasonable arrangement. Now that Ulysses is
revenged, let them swear to a solemn covenant, in virtue of which he
shall continue to rule, while we cause the others to forgive and
forget the massacre of their sons and brothers. Let them then all
become friends as heretofore, and let peace and plenty reign."
This was what Minerva was already eager to bring about, so down
she darted from off the topmost summits of Olympus.
Now when Laertes and the others had done dinner, Ulysses began by
saying, "Some of you go out and see if they are not getting close up
to us." So one of Dolius's sons went as he was bid. Standing on the
threshold he could see them all quite near, and said to Ulysses, "Here
they are, let us put on our armour at once."
They put on their armour as fast as they could- that is to say
Ulysses, his three men, and the six sons of Dolius. Laertes also and
Dolius did the same- warriors by necessity in spite of their grey
hair. When they had all put on their armour, they opened the gate
and sallied forth, Ulysses leading the way.
Then Jove's daughter Minerva came up to them, having assumed the
form and voice of Mentor. Ulysses was glad when he saw her, and said
to his son Telemachus, "Telemachus, now that are about to fight in
an engagement, which will show every man's mettle, be sure not to
disgrace your ancestors, who were eminent for their strength and
courage all the world over."
"You say truly, my dear father," answered Telemachus, "and you shall
see, if you will, that I am in no mind to disgrace your family."
Laertes was delighted when he heard this. "Good heavens, he
exclaimed, "what a day I am enjoying: I do indeed rejoice at it. My
son and grandson are vying with one another in the matter of valour."
On this Minerva came close up to him and said, "Son of Arceisius-
best friend I have in the world- pray to the blue-eyed damsel, and
to Jove her father; then poise your spear and hurl it."
As she spoke she infused fresh vigour into him, and when he had
prayed to her he poised his spear and hurled it. He hit Eupeithes'
helmet, and the spear went right through it, for the helmet stayed
it not, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell heavily to
the ground. Meantime Ulysses and his son fell the front line of the
foe and smote them with their swords and spears; indeed, they would
have killed every one of them, and prevented them from ever getting
home again, only Minerva raised her voice aloud, and made every one
pause. "Men of Ithaca," she cried, cease this dreadful war, and settle
the matter at once without further bloodshed."
On this pale fear seized every one; they were so frightened that
their arms dropped from their hands and fell upon the ground at the
sound of the goddess's voice, and they fled back to the city for their
lives. But Ulysses gave a great cry, and gathering himself together
swooped down like a soaring eagle. Then the son of Saturn sent a
thunderbolt of fire that fell just in front of Minerva, so she said to
Ulysses, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, stop this warful strife, or
Jove will be angry with you."
Thus spoke Minerva, and Ulysses obeyed her gladly. Then Minerva
assumed the form and voice of Mentor, and presently made a covenant of
peace between the two contending parties.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 9

And Ulysses answered, "King Alcinous, it is a good thing to hear a
bard with such a divine voice as this man has. There is nothing better
or more delightful than when a whole people make merry together,
with the guests sitting orderly to listen, while the table is loaded
with bread and meats, and the cup-bearer draws wine and fills his
cup for every man. This is indeed as fair a sight as a man can see.
Now, however, since you are inclined to ask the story of my sorrows,
and rekindle my own sad memories in respect of them, I do not know how
to begin, nor yet how to continue and conclude my tale, for the hand
of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.
"Firstly, then, I will tell you my name that you too may know it,
and one day, if I outlive this time of sorrow, may become my there
guests though I live so far away from all of you. I am Ulysses son
of Laertes, reknowned among mankind for all manner of subtlety, so
that my fame ascends to heaven. I live in Ithaca, where there is a
high mountain called Neritum, covered with forests; and not far from
it there is a group of islands very near to one another- Dulichium,
Same, and the wooded island of Zacynthus. It lies squat on the
horizon, all highest up in the sea towards the sunset, while the
others lie away from it towards dawn. It is a rugged island, but it
breeds brave men, and my eyes know none that they better love to
look upon. The goddess Calypso kept me with her in her cave, and
wanted me to marry her, as did also the cunning Aeaean goddess
Circe; but they could neither of them persuade me, for there is
nothing dearer to a man than his own country and his parents, and
however splendid a home he may have in a foreign country, if it be far
from father or mother, he does not care about it. Now, however, I will
tell you of the many hazardous adventures which by Jove's will I met
with on my return from Troy.
"When I had set sail thence the wind took me first to Ismarus, which
is the city of the Cicons. There I sacked the town and put the
people to the sword. We took their wives and also much booty, which we
divided equitably amongst us, so that none might have reason to
complain. I then said that we had better make off at once, but my
men very foolishly would not obey me, so they stayed there drinking
much wine and killing great numbers of sheep and oxen on the sea
shore. Meanwhile the Cicons cried out for help to other Cicons who
lived inland. These were more in number, and stronger, and they were
more skilled in the art of war, for they could fight, either from
chariots or on foot as the occasion served; in the morning, therefore,
they came as thick as leaves and bloom in summer, and the hand of
heaven was against us, so that we were hard pressed. They set the
battle in array near the ships, and the hosts aimed their
bronze-shod spears at one another. So long as the day waxed and it was
still morning, we held our own against them, though they were more
in number than we; but as the sun went down, towards the time when men
loose their oxen, the Cicons got the better of us, and we lost half
a dozen men from every ship we had; so we got away with those that
were left.
"Thence we sailed onward with sorrow in our hearts, but glad to have
escaped death though we had lost our comrades, nor did we leave till
we had thrice invoked each one of the poor fellows who had perished by
the hands of the Cicons. Then Jove raised the North wind against us
till it blew a hurricane, so that land and sky were hidden in thick
clouds, and night sprang forth out of the heavens. We let the ships
run before the gale, but the force of the wind tore our sails to
tatters, so we took them down for fear of shipwreck, and rowed our
hardest towards the land. There we lay two days and two nights
suffering much alike from toil and distress of mind, but on the
morning of the third day we again raised our masts, set sail, and took
our places, letting the wind and steersmen direct our ship. I should
have got home at that time unharmed had not the North wind and the
currents been against me as I was doubling Cape Malea, and set me
off my course hard by the island of Cythera.
"I was driven thence by foul winds for a space of nine days upon the
sea, but on the tenth day we reached the land of the Lotus-eater,
who live on a food that comes from a kind of flower. Here we landed to
take in fresh water, and our crews got their mid-day meal on the shore
near the ships. When they had eaten and drunk I sent two of my company
to see what manner of men the people of the place might be, and they
had a third man under them. They started at once, and went about among
the Lotus-eaters, who did them no hurt, but gave them to eat of the
lotus, which was so delicious that those who ate of it left off caring
about home, and did not even want to go back and say what had happened
to them, but were for staying and munching lotus with the
Lotus-eater without thinking further of their return; nevertheless,
though they wept bitterly I forced them back to the ships and made
them fast under the benches. Then I told the rest to go on board at
once, lest any of them should taste of the lotus and leave off wanting
to get home, so they took their places and smote the grey sea with
their oars.
"We sailed hence, always in much distress, till we came to the
land of the lawless and inhuman Cyclopes. Now the Cyclopes neither
plant nor plough, but trust in providence, and live on such wheat,
barley, and grapes as grow wild without any kind of tillage, and their
wild grapes yield them wine as the sun and the rain may grow them.
They have no laws nor assemblies of the people, but live in caves on
the tops of high mountains; each is lord and master in his family, and
they take no account of their neighbours.
"Now off their harbour there lies a wooded and fertile island not
quite close to the land of the Cyclopes, but still not far. It is
overrun with wild goats, that breed there in great numbers and are
never disturbed by foot of man; for sportsmen- who as a rule will
suffer so much hardship in forest or among mountain precipices- do not
go there, nor yet again is it ever ploughed or fed down, but it lies a
wilderness untilled and unsown from year to year, and has no living
thing upon it but only goats. For the Cyclopes have no ships, nor
yet shipwrights who could make ships for them; they cannot therefore
go from city to city, or sail over the sea to one another's country as
people who have ships can do; if they had had these they would have
colonized the island, for it is a very good one, and would yield
everything in due season. There are meadows that in some places come
right down to the sea shore, well watered and full of luscious
grass; grapes would do there excellently; there is level land for
ploughing, and it would always yield heavily at harvest time, for
the soil is deep. There is a good harbour where no cables are
wanted, nor yet anchors, nor need a ship be moored, but all one has to
do is to beach one's vessel and stay there till the wind becomes
fair for putting out to sea again. At the head of the harbour there is
a spring of clear water coming out of a cave, and there are poplars
growing all round it.
"Here we entered, but so dark was the night that some god must
have brought us in, for there was nothing whatever to be seen. A thick
mist hung all round our ships; the moon was hidden behind a mass of
clouds so that no one could have seen the island if he had looked
for it, nor were there any breakers to tell us we were close in
shore before we found ourselves upon the land itself; when, however,
we had beached the ships, we took down the sails, went ashore and
camped upon the beach till daybreak.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, we admired
the island and wandered all over it, while the nymphs Jove's daughters
roused the wild goats that we might get some meat for our dinner. On
this we fetched our spears and bows and arrows from the ships, and
dividing ourselves into three bands began to shoot the goats. Heaven
sent us excellent sport; I had twelve ships with me, and each ship got
nine goats, while my own ship had ten; thus through the livelong day
to the going down of the sun we ate and drank our fill,- and we had
plenty of wine left, for each one of us had taken many jars full
when we sacked the city of the Cicons, and this had not yet run out.
While we were feasting we kept turning our eyes towards the land of
the Cyclopes, which was hard by, and saw the smoke of their stubble
fires. We could almost fancy we heard their voices and the bleating of
their sheep and goats, but when the sun went down and it came on dark,
we camped down upon the beach, and next morning I called a council.
"'Stay here, my brave fellows,' said I, 'all the rest of you,
while I go with my ship and exploit these people myself: I want to see
if they are uncivilized savages, or a hospitable and humane race.'
"I went on board, bidding my men to do so also and loose the
hawsers; so they took their places and smote the grey sea with their
oars. When we got to the land, which was not far, there, on the face
of a cliff near the sea, we saw a great cave overhung with laurels. It
was a station for a great many sheep and goats, and outside there
was a large yard, with a high wall round it made of stones built
into the ground and of trees both pine and oak. This was the abode
of a huge monster who was then away from home shepherding his
flocks. He would have nothing to do with other people, but led the
life of an outlaw. He was a horrid creature, not like a human being at
all, but resembling rather some crag that stands out boldly against
the sky on the top of a high mountain.
"I told my men to draw the ship ashore, and stay where they were,
all but the twelve best among them, who were to go along with
myself. I also took a goatskin of sweet black wine which had been
given me by Maron, Apollo son of Euanthes, who was priest of Apollo
the patron god of Ismarus, and lived within the wooded precincts of
the temple. When we were sacking the city we respected him, and spared
his life, as also his wife and child; so he made me some presents of
great value- seven talents of fine gold, and a bowl of silver, with
twelve jars of sweet wine, unblended, and of the most exquisite
flavour. Not a man nor maid in the house knew about it, but only
himself, his wife, and one housekeeper: when he drank it he mixed
twenty parts of water to one of wine, and yet the fragrance from the
mixing-bowl was so exquisite that it was impossible to refrain from
drinking. I filled a large skin with this wine, and took a wallet full
of provisions with me, for my mind misgave me that I might have to
deal with some savage who would be of great strength, and would
respect neither right nor law.
"We soon reached his cave, but he was out shepherding, so we went
inside and took stock of all that we could see. His cheese-racks
were loaded with cheeses, and he had more lambs and kids than his pens
could hold. They were kept in separate flocks; first there were the
hoggets, then the oldest of the younger lambs and lastly the very
young ones all kept apart from one another; as for his dairy, all
the vessels, bowls, and milk pails into which he milked, were swimming
with whey. When they saw all this, my men begged me to let them
first steal some cheeses, and make off with them to the ship; they
would then return, drive down the lambs and kids, put them on board
and sail away with them. It would have been indeed better if we had
done so but I would not listen to them, for I wanted to see the
owner himself, in the hope that he might give me a present. When,
however, we saw him my poor men found him ill to deal with.
"We lit a fire, offered some of the cheeses in sacrifice, ate others
of them, and then sat waiting till the Cyclops should come in with his
sheep. When he came, he brought in with him a huge load of dry
firewood to light the fire for his supper, and this he flung with such
a noise on to the floor of his cave that we hid ourselves for fear
at the far end of the cavern. Meanwhile he drove all the ewes
inside, as well as the she-goats that he was going to milk, leaving
the males, both rams and he-goats, outside in the yards. Then he
rolled a huge stone to the mouth of the cave- so huge that two and
twenty strong four-wheeled waggons would not be enough to draw it from
its place against the doorway. When he had so done he sat down and
milked his ewes and goats, all in due course, and then let each of
them have her own young. He curdled half the milk and set it aside
in wicker strainers, but the other half he poured into bowls that he
might drink it for his supper. When he had got through with all his
work, he lit the fire, and then caught sight of us, whereon he said:
"'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do
you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every
man's hand against you?'
"We were frightened out of our senses by his loud voice and
monstrous form, but I managed to say, 'We are Achaeans on our way home
from Troy, but by the will of Jove, and stress of weather, we have
been driven far out of our course. We are the people of Agamemnon, son
of Atreus, who has won infinite renown throughout the whole world,
by sacking so great a city and killing so many people. We therefore
humbly pray you to show us some hospitality, and otherwise make us
such presents as visitors may reasonably expect. May your excellency
fear the wrath of heaven, for we are your suppliants, and Jove takes
all respectable travellers under his protection, for he is the avenger
of all suppliants and foreigners in distress.'
"To this he gave me but a pitiless answer, 'Stranger,' said he, 'you
are a fool, or else you know nothing of this country. Talk to me,
indeed, about fearing the gods or shunning their anger? We Cyclopes do
not care about Jove or any of your blessed gods, for we are ever so
much stronger than they. I shall not spare either yourself or your
companions out of any regard for Jove, unless I am in the humour for
doing so. And now tell me where you made your ship fast when you
came on shore. Was it round the point, or is she lying straight off
the land?'
"He said this to draw me out, but I was too cunning to be caught
in that way, so I answered with a lie; 'Neptune,' said I, 'sent my
ship on to the rocks at the far end of your country, and wrecked it.
We were driven on to them from the open sea, but I and those who are
with me escaped the jaws of death.'
"The cruel wretch vouchsafed me not one word of answer, but with a
sudden clutch he gripped up two of my men at once and dashed them down
upon the ground as though they had been puppies. Their brains were
shed upon the ground, and the earth was wet with their blood. Then
he tore them limb from limb and supped upon them. He gobbled them up
like a lion in the wilderness, flesh, bones, marrow, and entrails,
without leaving anything uneaten. As for us, we wept and lifted up our
hands to heaven on seeing such a horrid sight, for we did not know
what else to do; but when the Cyclops had filled his huge paunch,
and had washed down his meal of human flesh with a drink of neat milk,
he stretched himself full length upon the ground among his sheep,
and went to sleep. I was at first inclined to seize my sword, draw it,
and drive it into his vitals, but I reflected that if I did we
should all certainly be lost, for we should never be able to shift the
stone which the monster had put in front of the door. So we stayed
sobbing and sighing where we were till morning came.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, he again
lit his fire, milked his goats and ewes, all quite rightly, and then
let each have her own young one; as soon as he had got through with
all his work, he clutched up two more of my men, and began eating them
for his morning's meal. Presently, with the utmost ease, he rolled the
stone away from the door and drove out his sheep, but he at once put
it back again- as easily as though he were merely clapping the lid
on to a quiver full of arrows. As soon as he had done so he shouted,
and cried 'Shoo, shoo,' after his sheep to drive them on to the
mountain; so I was left to scheme some way of taking my revenge and
covering myself with glory.
"In the end I deemed it would be the best plan to do as follows. The
Cyclops had a great club which was lying near one of the sheep pens;
it was of green olive wood, and he had cut it intending to use it
for a staff as soon as it should be dry. It was so huge that we
could only compare it to the mast of a twenty-oared merchant vessel of
large burden, and able to venture out into open sea. I went up to this
club and cut off about six feet of it; I then gave this piece to the
men and told them to fine it evenly off at one end, which they
proceeded to do, and lastly I brought it to a point myself, charring
the end in the fire to make it harder. When I had done this I hid it
under dung, which was lying about all over the cave, and told the
men to cast lots which of them should venture along with myself to
lift it and bore it into the monster's eye while he was asleep. The
lot fell upon the very four whom I should have chosen, and I myself
made five. In the evening the wretch came back from shepherding, and
drove his flocks into the cave- this time driving them all inside, and
not leaving any in the yards; I suppose some fancy must have taken
him, or a god must have prompted him to do so. As soon as he had put
the stone back to its place against the door, he sat down, milked
his ewes and his goats all quite rightly, and then let each have her
own young one; when he had got through with all this work, he
gripped up two more of my men, and made his supper off them. So I went
up to him with an ivy-wood bowl of black wine in my hands:
"'Look here, Cyclops,' said I, you have been eating a great deal
of man's flesh, so take this and drink some wine, that you may see
what kind of liquor we had on board my ship. I was bringing it to
you as a drink-offering, in the hope that you would take compassion
upon me and further me on my way home, whereas all you do is to go
on ramping and raving most intolerably. You ought to be ashamed
yourself; how can you expect people to come see you any more if you
treat them in this way?'
"He then took the cup and drank. He was so delighted with the
taste of the wine that he begged me for another bowl full. 'Be so
kind,' he said, 'as to give me some more, and tell me your name at
once. I want to make you a present that you will be glad to have. We
have wine even in this country, for our soil grows grapes and the
sun ripens them, but this drinks like nectar and ambrosia all in one.'
"I then gave him some more; three times did I fill the bowl for him,
and three times did he drain it without thought or heed; then, when
I saw that the wine had got into his head, I said to him as
plausibly as I could: 'Cyclops, you ask my name and I will tell it
you; give me, therefore, the present you promised me; my name is
Noman; this is what my father and mother and my friends have always
called me.'
"But the cruel wretch said, 'Then I will eat all Noman's comrades
before Noman himself, and will keep Noman for the last. This is the
present that I will make him.'
As he spoke he reeled, and fell sprawling face upwards on the
ground. His great neck hung heavily backwards and a deep sleep took
hold upon him. Presently he turned sick, and threw up both wine and
the gobbets of human flesh on which he had been gorging, for he was
very drunk. Then I thrust the beam of wood far into the embers to heat
it, and encouraged my men lest any of them should turn
faint-hearted. When the wood, green though it was, was about to blaze,
I drew it out of the fire glowing with heat, and my men gathered round
me, for heaven had filled their hearts with courage. We drove the
sharp end of the beam into the monster's eye, and bearing upon it with
all my weight I kept turning it round and round as though I were
boring a hole in a ship's plank with an auger, which two men with a
wheel and strap can keep on turning as long as they choose. Even
thus did we bore the red hot beam into his eye, till the boiling blood
bubbled all over it as we worked it round and round, so that the steam
from the burning eyeball scalded his eyelids and eyebrows, and the
roots of the eye sputtered in the fire. As a blacksmith plunges an axe
or hatchet into cold water to temper it- for it is this that gives
strength to the iron- and it makes a great hiss as he does so, even
thus did the Cyclops' eye hiss round the beam of olive wood, and his
hideous yells made the cave ring again. We ran away in a fright, but
he plucked the beam all besmirched with gore from his eye, and
hurled it from him in a frenzy of rage and pain, shouting as he did so
to the other Cyclopes who lived on the bleak headlands near him; so
they gathered from all quarters round his cave when they heard him
crying, and asked what was the matter with him.
"'What ails you, Polyphemus,' said they, 'that you make such a
noise, breaking the stillness of the night, and preventing us from
being able to sleep? Surely no man is carrying off your sheep?
Surely no man is trying to kill you either by fraud or by force?
"But Polyphemus shouted to them from inside the cave, 'Noman is
killing me by fraud! Noman is killing me by force!'
"'Then,' said they, 'if no man is attacking you, you must be ill;
when Jove makes people ill, there is no help for it, and you had
better pray to your father Neptune.'
"Then they went away, and I laughed inwardly at the success of my
clever stratagem, but the Cyclops, groaning and in an agony of pain,
felt about with his hands till he found the stone and took it from the
door; then he sat in the doorway and stretched his hands in front of
it to catch anyone going out with the sheep, for he thought I might be
foolish enough to attempt this.
"As for myself I kept on puzzling to think how I could best save
my own life and those of my companions; I schemed and schemed, as
one who knows that his life depends upon it, for the danger was very
great. In the end I deemed that this plan would be the best. The
male sheep were well grown, and carried a heavy black fleece, so I
bound them noiselessly in threes together, with some of the withies on
which the wicked monster used to sleep. There was to be a man under
the middle sheep, and the two on either side were to cover him, so
that there were three sheep to each man. As for myself there was a ram
finer than any of the others, so I caught hold of him by the back,
esconced myself in the thick wool under his belly, and flung on
patiently to his fleece, face upwards, keeping a firm hold on it all
the time.
"Thus, then, did we wait in great fear of mind till morning came,
but when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the
male sheep hurried out to feed, while the ewes remained bleating about
the pens waiting to be milked, for their udders were full to bursting;
but their master in spite of all his pain felt the backs of all the
sheep as they stood upright, without being sharp enough to find out
that the men were underneath their bellies. As the ram was going
out, last of all, heavy with its fleece and with the weight of my
crafty self; Polyphemus laid hold of it and said:
"'My good ram, what is it that makes you the last to leave my cave
this morning? You are not wont to let the ewes go before you, but lead
the mob with a run whether to flowery mead or bubbling fountain, and
are the first to come home again at night; but now you lag last of
all. Is it because you know your master has lost his eye, and are
sorry because that wicked Noman and his horrid crew have got him
down in his drink and blinded him? But I will have his life yet. If
you could understand and talk, you would tell me where the wretch is
hiding, and I would dash his brains upon the ground till they flew all
over the cave. I should thus have some satisfaction for the harm a
this no-good Noman has done me.'
"As spoke he drove the ram outside, but when we were a little way
out from the cave and yards, I first got from under the ram's belly,
and then freed my comrades; as for the sheep, which were very fat,
by constantly heading them in the right direction we managed to
drive them down to the ship. The crew rejoiced greatly at seeing those
of us who had escaped death, but wept for the others whom the
Cyclops had killed. However, I made signs to them by nodding and
frowning that they were to hush their crying, and told them to get all
the sheep on board at once and put out to sea; so they went aboard,
took their places, and smote the grey sea with their oars. Then,
when I had got as far out as my voice would reach, I began to jeer
at the Cyclops.
"'Cyclops,' said I, 'you should have taken better measure of your
man before eating up his comrades in your cave. You wretch, eat up
your visitors in your own house? You might have known that your sin
would find you out, and now Jove and the other gods have punished
you.'
"He got more and more furious as he heard me, so he tore the top
from off a high mountain, and flung it just in front of my ship so
that it was within a little of hitting the end of the rudder. The
sea quaked as the rock fell into it, and the wash of the wave it
raised carried us back towards the mainland, and forced us towards the
shore. But I snatched up a long pole and kept the ship off, making
signs to my men by nodding my head, that they must row for their
lives, whereon they laid out with a will. When we had got twice as far
as we were before, I was for jeering at the Cyclops again, but the men
begged and prayed of me to hold my tongue.
"'Do not,' they exclaimed, 'be mad enough to provoke this savage
creature further; he has thrown one rock at us already which drove
us back again to the mainland, and we made sure it had been the
death of us; if he had then heard any further sound of voices he would
have pounded our heads and our ship's timbers into a jelly with the
rugged rocks he would have heaved at us, for he can throw them a
long way.'
"But I would not listen to them, and shouted out to him in my
rage, 'Cyclops, if any one asks you who it was that put your eye out
and spoiled your beauty, say it was the valiant warrior Ulysses, son
of Laertes, who lives in Ithaca.'
"On this he groaned, and cried out, 'Alas, alas, then the old
prophecy about me is coming true. There was a prophet here, at one
time, a man both brave and of great stature, Telemus son of Eurymus,
who was an excellent seer, and did all the prophesying for the
Cyclopes till he grew old; he told me that all this would happen to me
some day, and said I should lose my sight by the hand of Ulysses. I
have been all along expecting some one of imposing presence and
superhuman strength, whereas he turns out to be a little insignificant
weakling, who has managed to blind my eye by taking advantage of me in
my drink; come here, then, Ulysses, that I may make you presents to
show my hospitality, and urge Neptune to help you forward on your
journey- for Neptune and I are father and son. He, if he so will,
shall heal me, which no one else neither god nor man can do.'
"Then I said, 'I wish I could be as sure of killing you outright and
sending you down to the house of Hades, as I am that it will take more
than Neptune to cure that eye of yours.'
"On this he lifted up his hands to the firmament of heaven and
prayed, saying, 'Hear me, great Neptune; if I am indeed your own
true-begotten son, grant that Ulysses may never reach his home
alive; or if he must get back to his friends at last, let him do so
late and in sore plight after losing all his men [let him reach his
home in another man's ship and find trouble in his house.']
"Thus did he pray, and Neptune heard his prayer. Then he picked up a
rock much larger than the first, swung it aloft and hurled it with
prodigious force. It fell just short of the ship, but was within a
little of hitting the end of the rudder. The sea quaked as the rock
fell into it, and the wash of the wave it raised drove us onwards on
our way towards the shore of the island.
"When at last we got to the island where we had left the rest of our
ships, we found our comrades lamenting us, and anxiously awaiting
our return. We ran our vessel upon the sands and got out of her on
to the sea shore; we also landed the Cyclops' sheep, and divided
them equitably amongst us so that none might have reason to
complain. As for the ram, my companions agreed that I should have it
as an extra share; so I sacrificed it on the sea shore, and burned its
thigh bones to Jove, who is the lord of all. But he heeded not my
sacrifice, and only thought how he might destroy my ships and my
comrades.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
feasted our fill on meat and drink, but when the sun went down and
it came on dark, we camped upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I bade my men on board and
loose the hawsers. Then they took their places and smote the grey
sea with their oars; so we sailed on with sorrow in our hearts, but
glad to have escaped death though we had lost our comrades.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 9

Thus did the Trojans watch. But Panic, comrade of blood-stained
Rout, had taken fast hold of the Achaeans and their princes were all
of them in despair. As when the two winds that blow from Thrace- the
north and the northwest- spring up of a sudden and rouse the fury of
the main- in a moment the dark waves uprear their heads and scatter
their sea-wrack in all directions- even thus troubled were the
hearts of the Achaeans.
The son of Atreus in dismay bade the heralds call the people to a
council man by man, but not to cry the matter aloud; he made haste
also himself to call them, and they sat sorry at heart in their
assembly. Agamemnon shed tears as it were a running stream or cataract
on the side of some sheer cliff; and thus, with many a heavy sigh he
spoke to the Achaeans. "My friends," said he, "princes and councillors
Of the Argives, the hand of heaven has been laid heavily upon me.
Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise that I should sack the city of
Troy before returning, but he has played me false, and is now
bidding me go ingloriously back to Argos with the loss of much people.
Such is the will of Jove, who has laid many a proud city in the dust
as he will yet lay others, for his power is above all. Now, therefore,
let us all do as I say and sail back to our own country, for we
shall not take Troy."
Thus he spoke, and the sons of the Achaeans for a long while sat
sorrowful there, but they all held their peace, till at last Diomed of
the loud battle-cry made answer saying, "Son of Atreus, I will chide
your folly, as is my right in council. Be not then aggrieved that I
should do so. In the first place you attacked me before all the
Danaans and said that I was a coward and no soldier. The Argives young
and old know that you did so. But the son of scheming Saturn endowed
you by halves only. He gave you honour as the chief ruler over us, but
valour, which is the highest both right and might he did not give you.
Sir, think you that the sons of the Achaeans are indeed as unwarlike
and cowardly as you say they are? If your own mind is set upon going
home- go- the way is open to you; the many ships that followed you
from Mycene stand ranged upon the seashore; but the rest of us stay
here till we have sacked Troy. Nay though these too should turn
homeward with their ships, Sthenelus and myself will still fight on
till we reach the goal of Ilius, for for heaven was with us when we
came."
The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words of Diomed,
and presently Nestor rose to speak. "Son of Tydeus," said he, "in
war your prowess is beyond question, and in council you excel all
who are of your own years; no one of the Achaeans can make light of
what you say nor gainsay it, but you have not yet come to the end of
the whole matter. You are still young- you might be the youngest of my
own children- still you have spoken wisely and have counselled the
chief of the Achaeans not without discretion; nevertheless I am
older than you and I will tell you every" thing; therefore let no man,
not even King Agamemnon, disregard my saying, for he that foments
civil discord is a clanless, hearthless outlaw.
"Now, however, let us obey the behests of night and get our suppers,
but let the sentinels every man of them camp by the trench that is
without the wall. I am giving these instructions to the young men;
when they have been attended to, do you, son of Atreus, give your
orders, for you are the most royal among us all. Prepare a feast for
your councillors; it is right and reasonable that you should do so;
there is abundance of wine in your tents, which the ships of the
Achaeans bring from Thrace daily. You have everything at your disposal
wherewith to entertain guests, and you have many subjects. When many
are got together, you can be guided by him whose counsel is wisest-
and sorely do we need shrewd and prudent counsel, for the foe has
lit his watchfires hard by our ships. Who can be other than
dismayed? This night will either be the ruin of our host, or save it."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. The sentinels
went out in their armour under command of Nestor's son Thrasymedes,
a captain of the host, and of the bold warriors Ascalaphus and
Ialmenus: there were also Meriones, Aphareus and Deipyrus, and the son
of Creion, noble Lycomedes. There were seven captains of the
sentinels, and with each there went a hundred youths armed with long
spears: they took their places midway between the trench and the wall,
and when they had done so they lit their fires and got every man his
supper.
The son of Atreus then bade many councillors of the Achaeans to
his quarters prepared a great feast in their honour. They laid their
hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon as they
had enough to eat and drink, old Nestor, whose counsel was ever
truest, was the first to lay his mind before them. He, therefore, with
all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus.
"With yourself, most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon,
will I both begin my speech and end it, for you are king over much
people. Jove, moreover, has vouchsafed you to wield the sceptre and to
uphold righteousness, that you may take thought for your people
under you; therefore it behooves you above all others both to speak
and to give ear, and to out the counsel of another who shall have been
minded to speak wisely. All turns on you and on your commands,
therefore I will say what I think will be best. No man will be of a
truer mind than that which has been mine from the hour when you,
sir, angered Achilles by taking the girl Briseis from his tent against
my judgment. I urged you not to do so, but you yielded to your own
pride, and dishonoured a hero whom heaven itself had honoured- for you
still hold the prize that had been awarded to him. Now, however, let
us think how we may appease him, both with presents and fair
speeches that may conciliate him."
And King Agamemnon answered, "Sir, you have reproved my folly
justly. I was wrong. I own it. One whom heaven befriends is in himself
a host, and Jove has shown that he befriends this man by destroying
much people of the Achaeans. I was blinded with passion and yielded to
my worser mind; therefore I will make amends, and will give him
great gifts by way of atonement. I will tell them in the presence of
you all. I will give him seven tripods that have never yet been on the
fire, and ten talents of gold. I will give him twenty iron cauldrons
and twelve strong horses that have won races and carried off prizes.
Rich, indeed, both in land and gold is he that has as many prizes as
my horses have won me. I will give him seven excellent workwomen,
Lesbians, whom I chose for myself when he took Lesbos- all of
surpassing beauty. I will give him these, and with them her whom I
erewhile took from him, the daughter of Briseus; and I swear a great
oath that I never went up into her couch, nor have been with her after
the manner of men and women.
"All these things will I give him now down, and if hereafter the
gods vouchsafe me to sack the city of Priam, let him come when we
Achaeans are dividing the spoil, and load his ship with gold and
bronze to his liking; furthermore let him take twenty Trojan women,
the loveliest after Helen herself. Then, when we reach Achaean
Argos, wealthiest of all lands, he shall be my son-in-law and I will
show him like honour with my own dear son Orestes, who is being
nurtured in all abundance. I have three daughters, Chrysothemis,
Laodice, and lphianassa, let him take the one of his choice, freely
and without gifts of wooing, to the house of Peleus; I will add such
dower to boot as no man ever yet gave his daughter, and will give
him seven well established cities, Cardamyle, Enope, and Hire, where
there is grass; holy Pherae and the rich meadows of Anthea; Aepea
also, and the vine-clad slopes of Pedasus, all near the sea, and on
the borders of sandy Pylos. The men that dwell there are rich in
cattle and sheep; they will honour him with gifts as though he were
a god, and be obedient to his comfortable ordinances. All this will
I do if he will now forgo his anger. Let him then yieldit is only
Hades who is utterly ruthless and unyielding- and hence he is of all
gods the one most hateful to mankind. Moreover I am older and more
royal than himself. Therefore, let him now obey me."
Then Nestor answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men,
Agamemnon. The gifts you offer are no small ones, let us then send
chosen messengers, who may go to the tent of Achilles son of Peleus
without delay. Let those go whom I shall name. Let Phoenix, dear to
Jove, lead the way; let Ajax and Ulysses follow, and let the heralds
Odius and Eurybates go with them. Now bring water for our hands, and
bid all keep silence while we pray to Jove the son of Saturn, if so be
that he may have mercy upon us."
Thus did he speak, and his saying pleased them well. 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 was minded, the envoys set
out from the tent of Agamemnon son of Atreus; and Nestor, looking
first to one and then to another, but most especially at Ulysses,
was instant with them that they should prevail with the noble son of
Peleus.
They went their way by the shore of the sounding sea, and prayed
earnestly to earth-encircling Neptune that the high spirit of the
son of Aeacus might incline favourably towards them. When they reached
the ships and tents of the Myrmidons, they found Achilles playing on a
lyre, fair, of cunning workmanship, and its cross-bar was of silver.
It was part of the spoils which he had taken when he sacked the city
of Eetion, and he was now diverting himself with it and singing the
feats of heroes. He was alone with Patroclus, who sat opposite to
him and said nothing, waiting till he should cease singing. Ulysses
and Ajax now came in- Ulysses leading the way -and stood before him.
Achilles sprang from his seat with the lyre still in his hand, and
Patroclus, when he saw the strangers, rose also. Achilles then greeted
them saying, "All hail and welcome- you must come upon some great
matter, you, who for all my anger are still dearest to me of the
Achaeans."
With this he led them forward, and bade them sit on seats covered
with purple rugs; then he said to Patroclus who was close by him, "Son
of Menoetius, set a larger bowl upon the table, mix less water with
the wine, and give every man his cup, for these are very dear friends,
who are now under my roof."
Patroclus did as his comrade bade him; he set the chopping-block
in front of the fire, and on it he laid the loin of a sheep, the
loin also of a goat, and the chine of a fat hog. Automedon held the
meat while Achilles chopped it; he then sliced the pieces and put them
on spits while the son of Menoetius made the fire burn high. When
the flame had died down, he spread the embers, laid the spits on top
of them, lifting them up and setting them upon the spit-racks; and
he sprinkled them with salt. When the meat was roasted, he set it on
platters, and handed bread round the table in fair baskets, while
Achilles dealt them their portions. Then Achilles took his seat facing
Ulysses against the opposite wall, and bade his comrade Patroclus
offer sacrifice to the gods; so he cast the offerings into the fire,
and they laid their hands upon the good things that were before
them. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, Ajax made a
sign to Phoenix, and when he saw this, Ulysses filled his cup with
wine and pledged Achilles.
"Hail," said he, "Achilles, we have had no scant of good cheer,
neither in the tent of Agamemnon, nor yet here; there has been
plenty to eat and drink, but our thought turns upon no such matter.
Sir, we are in the face of great disaster, and without your help
know not whether we shall save our fleet or lose it. The Trojans and
their allies have camped hard by our ships and by the wall; they
have lit watchfires throughout their host and deem that nothing can
now prevent them from falling on our fleet. Jove, moreover, has sent
his lightnings on their right; Hector, in all his glory, rages like
a maniac; confident that Jove is with him he fears neither god nor
man, but is gone raving mad, and prays for the approach of day. He
vows that he will hew the high sterns of our ships in pieces, set fire
to their hulls, and make havoc of the Achaeans while they are dazed
and smothered in smoke; I much fear that heaven will make good his
boasting, and it will prove our lot to perish at Troy far from our
home in Argos. Up, then, and late though it be, save the sons of the
Achaeans who faint before the fury of the Trojans. You will repent
bitterly hereafter if you do not, for when the harm is done there will
be no curing it; consider ere it be too late, and save the Danaans
from destruction.
"My good friend, when your father Peleus sent you from Phthia to
Agamemnon, did he not charge you saying, 'Son, Minerva and Juno will
make you strong if they choose, but check your high temper, for the
better part is in goodwill. Eschew vain quarrelling, and the
Achaeans old and young will respect you more for doing so.' These were
his words, but you have forgotten them. Even now, however, be
appeased, and put away your anger from you. Agamemnon will make you
great amends if you will forgive him; listen, and I will tell you what
he has said in his tent that he will give you. He will give you
seven tripods that have never yet been on the fire, and ten talents of
gold; twenty iron cauldrons, and twelve strong horses that have won
races and carried off prizes. Rich indeed both in land and gold is
he who has as many prizes as these horses have won for Agamemnon.
Moreover he will give you seven excellent workwomen, Lesbians, whom he
chose for himself, when you took Lesbos- all of surpassing beauty.
He will give you these, and with them her whom he erewhile took from
you, the daughter of Briseus, and he will swear a great oath, he has
never gone up into her couch nor been with her after the manner of men
and women. All these things will he give you now down, and if
hereafter the gods vouchsafe him to sack the city of Priam, you can
come when we Achaeans are dividing the spoil, and load your ship
with gold and bronze to your liking. You can take twenty Trojan women,
the loveliest after Helen herself. Then, when we reach Achaean
Argos, wealthiest of all lands, you shall be his son-in-law, and he
will show you like honour with his own dear son Orestes, who is
being nurtured in all abundance. Agamemnon has three daughters,
Chrysothemis, Laodice, and Iphianassa; you may take the one of your
choice, freely and without gifts of wooing, to the house of Peleus; he
will add such dower to boot as no man ever yet gave his daughter,
and will give you seven well-established cities, Cardamyle, Enope, and
Hire where there is grass; holy Pheras and the rich meadows of Anthea;
Aepea also, and the vine-clad slopes of Pedasus, all near the sea, and
on the borders of sandy Pylos. The men that dwell there are rich in
cattle and sheep; they will honour you with gifts as though were a
god, and be obedient to your comfortable ordinances. All this will
he do if you will now forgo your anger. Moreover, though you hate both
him and his gifts with all your heart, yet pity the rest of the
Achaeans who are being harassed in all their host; they will honour
you as a god, and you will earn great glory at their hands. You
might even kill Hector; he will come within your reach, for he is
infatuated, and declares that not a Danaan whom the ships have brought
can hold his own against him."
Achilles answered, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, I should give you
formal notice plainly and in all fixity of purpose that there be no
more of this cajoling, from whatsoever quarter it may come. Him do I
hate even as the gates of hell who says one thing while he hides
another in his heart; therefore I will say what I mean. I will be
appeased neither by Agamemnon son of Atreus nor by any other of the
Danaans, for I see that I have no thanks for all my fighting. He
that fights fares no better than he that does not; coward and hero are
held in equal honour, and death deals like measure to him who works
and him who is idle. I have taken nothing by all my hardships- with my
life ever in my hand; as a bird when she has found a morsel takes it
to her nestlings, and herself fares hardly, even so man a long night
have I been wakeful, and many a bloody battle have I waged by day
against those who were fighting for their women. With my ships I
have taken twelve cities, and eleven round about Troy have I stormed
with my men by land; I took great store of wealth from every one of
them, but I gave all up to Agamemnon son of Atreus. He stayed where he
was by his ships, yet of what came to him he gave little, and kept
much himself.
"Nevertheless he did distribute some meeds of honour among the
chieftains and kings, and these have them still; from me alone of
the Achaeans did he take the woman in whom I delighted- let him keep
her and sleep with her. Why, pray, must the Argives needs fight the
Trojans? What made the son of Atreus gather the host and bring them?
Was it not for the sake of Helen? Are the sons of Atreus the only
men in the world who love their wives? Any man of common right feeling
will love and cherish her who is his own, as I this woman, with my
whole heart, though she was but a fruitling of my spear. Agamemnon has
taken her from me; he has played me false; I know him; let him tempt
me no further, for he shall not move me. Let him look to you, Ulysses,
and to the other princes to save his ships from burning. He has done
much without me already. He has built a wall; he has dug a trench deep
and wide all round it, and he has planted it within with stakes; but
even so he stays not the murderous might of Hector. So long as I
fought the Achaeans Hector suffered not the battle range far from
the city walls; he would come to the Scaean gates and to the oak tree,
but no further. Once he stayed to meet me and hardly did he escape
my onset: now, however, since I am in no mood to fight him, I will
to-morrow offer sacrifice to Jove and to all the gods; I will draw
my ships into the water and then victual them duly; to-morrow morning,
if you care to look, you will see my ships on the Hellespont, and my
men rowing out to sea with might and main. If great Neptune vouchsafes
me a fair passage, in three days I shall be in Phthia. I have much
there that I left behind me when I came here to my sorrow, and I shall
bring back still further store of gold, of red copper, of fair
women, and of iron, my share of the spoils that we have taken; but one
prize, he who gave has insolently taken away. Tell him all as I now
bid you, and tell him in public that the Achaeans may hate him and
beware of him should he think that he can yet dupe others for his
effrontery never fails him.
"As for me, hound that he is, he dares not look me in the face. I
will take no counsel with him, and will undertake nothing in common
with him. He has wronged me and deceived me enough, he shall not cozen
me further; let him go his own way, for Jove has robbed him of his
reason. I loathe his presents, and for himself care not one straw.
He may offer me ten or even twenty times what he has now done, nay-
not though it be all that he has in the world, both now or ever
shall have; he may promise me the wealth of Orchomenus or of
Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the whole world, for
it has a hundred gates through each of which two hundred men may drive
at once with their chariots and horses; he may offer me gifts as the
sands of the sea or the dust of the plain in multitude, but even so he
shall not move me till I have been revenged in full for the bitter
wrong he has done me. I will not marry his daughter; she may be fair
as Venus, and skilful as Minerva, but I will have none of her: let
another take her, who may be a good match for her and who rules a
larger kingdom. If the gods spare me to return home, Peleus will
find me a wife; there are Achaean women in Hellas and Phthia,
daughters of kings that have cities under them; of these I can take
whom I will and marry her. Many a time was I minded when at home in
Phthia to woo and wed a woman who would make me a suitable wife, and
to enjoy the riches of my old father Peleus. My life is more to me
than all the wealth of Ilius while it was yet at peace before the
Achaeans went there, or than all the treasure that lies on the stone
floor of Apollo's temple beneath the cliffs of Pytho. Cattle and sheep
are to be had for harrying, and a man buy both tripods and horses if
he wants them, but when his life has once left him it can neither be
bought nor harried back again.
"My mother Thetis tells me that there are two ways in which I may
meet my end. If I stay here and fight, I shall not return alive but my
name will live for ever: whereas if I go home my name will die, but it
will be long ere death shall take me. To the rest of you, then, I say,
'Go home, for you will not take Ilius.' Jove has held his hand over
her to protect her, and her people have taken heart. Go, therefore, as
in duty bound, and tell the princes of the Achaeans the message that I
have sent them; tell them to find some other plan for the saving of
their ships and people, for so long as my displeasure lasts the one
that they have now hit upon may not be. As for Phoenix, let him
sleep here that he may sail with me in the morning if he so will.
But I will not take him by force."
They all held their peace, dismayed at the sternness with which he
had denied them, till presently the old knight Phoenix in his great
fear for the ships of the Achaeans, burst into tears and said,
"Noble Achilles, if you are now minded to return, and in the
fierceness of your anger will do nothing to save the ships from
burning, how, my son, can I remain here without you? Your father
Peleus bade me go with you when he sent you as a mere lad from
Phthia to Agamemnon. You knew nothing neither of war nor of the arts
whereby men make their mark in council, and he sent me with you to
train you in all excellence of speech and action. Therefore, my son, I
will not stay here without you- no, not though heaven itself vouchsafe
to strip my years from off me, and make me young as I was when I first
left Hellas the land of fair women. I was then flying the anger of
father Amyntor, son of Ormenus, who was furious with me in the
matter of his concubine, of whom he was enamoured to the wronging of
his wife my mother. My mother, therefore, prayed me without ceasing to
lie with the woman myself, that so she hate my father, and in the
course of time I yielded. But my father soon came to know, and
cursed me bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness. He prayed
that no son of mine might ever sit upon knees- and the gods, Jove of
the world below and awful Proserpine, fulfilled his curse. I took
counsel to kill him, but some god stayed my rashness and bade me think
on men's evil tongues and how I should be branded as the murderer of
my father: nevertheless I could not bear to stay in my father's
house with him so bitter a against me. My cousins and clansmen came
about me, and pressed me sorely to remain; many a sheep and many an ox
did they slaughter, and many a fat hog did they set down to roast
before the fire; many a jar, too, did they broach of my father's wine.
Nine whole nights did they set a guard over me taking it in turns to
watch, and they kept a fire always burning, both in the cloister of
the outer court and in the inner court at the doors of the room
wherein I lay; but when the darkness of the tenth night came, I
broke through the closed doors of my room, and climbed the wall of the
outer court after passing quickly and unperceived through the men on
guard and the women servants. I then fled through Hellas till I came
to fertile Phthia, mother of sheep, and to King Peleus, who made me
welcome and treated me as a father treats an only son who will be heir
to all his wealth. He made me rich and set me over much people,
establishing me on the borders of Phthia where I was chief ruler
over the Dolopians.
"It was I, Achilles, who had the making of you; I loved you with all
my heart: for you would eat neither at home nor when you had gone
out elsewhere, till I had first set you upon my knees, cut up the
dainty morsel that you were to eat, and held the wine-cup to your
lips. Many a time have you slobbered your wine in baby helplessness
over my shirt; I had infinite trouble with you, but I knew that heaven
had vouchsafed me no offspring of my own, and I made a son of you,
Achilles, that in my hour of need you might protect me. Now,
therefore, I say battle with your pride and beat it; cherish not
your anger for ever; the might and majesty of heaven are more than
ours, but even heaven may be appeased; and if a man has sinned he
prays the gods, and reconciles them to himself by his piteous cries
and by frankincense, with drink-offerings and the savour of burnt
sacrifice. For prayers are as daughters to great Jove; halt, wrinkled,
with eyes askance, they follow in the footsteps of sin, who, being
fierce and fleet of foot, leaves them far behind him, and ever baneful
to mankind outstrips them even to the ends of the world; but
nevertheless the prayers come hobbling and healing after. If a man has
pity upon these daughters of Jove when they draw near him, they will
bless him and hear him too when he is praying; but if he deny them and
will not listen to them, they go to Jove the son of Saturn and pray
that he may presently fall into sin- to his ruing bitterly
hereafter. Therefore, Achilles, give these daughters of Jove due
reverence, and bow before them as all good men will bow. Were not
the son of Atreus offering you gifts and promising others later- if he
were still furious and implacable- I am not he that would bid you
throw off your anger and help the Achaeans, no matter how great
their need; but he is giving much now, and more hereafter; he has sent
his captains to urge his suit, and has chosen those who of all the
Argives are most acceptable to you; make not then their words and
their coming to be of none effect. Your anger has been righteous so
far. We have heard in song how heroes of old time quarrelled when they
were roused to fury, but still they could be won by gifts, and fair
words could soothe them.
"I have an old story in my mind- a very old one- but you are all
friends and I will tell it. The Curetes and the Aetolians were
fighting and killing one another round Calydon- the Aetolians
defending the city and the Curetes trying to destroy it. For Diana
of the golden throne was angry and did them hurt because Oeneus had
not offered her his harvest first-fruits. The other gods had all
been feasted with hecatombs, but to the daughter of great Jove alone
he had made no sacrifice. He had forgotten her, or somehow or other it
had escaped him, and this was a grievous sin. Thereon the archer
goddess in her displeasure sent a prodigious creature against him- a
savage wild boar with great white tusks that did much harm to his
orchard lands, uprooting apple-trees in full bloom and throwing them
to the ground. But Meleager son of Oeneus got huntsmen and hounds from
many cities and killed it- for it was so monstrous that not a few were
needed, and many a man did it stretch upon his funeral pyre. On this
the goddess set the Curetes and the Aetolians fighting furiously about
the head and skin of the boar.
"So long as Meleager was in the field things went badly with the
Curetes, and for all their numbers they could not hold their ground
under the city walls; but in the course of time Meleager was angered
as even a wise man will sometimes be. He was incensed with his
mother Althaea, and therefore stayed at home with his wedded wife fair
Cleopatra, who was daughter of Marpessa daughter of Euenus, and of
Ides the man then living. He it was who took his bow and faced King
Apollo himself for fair Marpessa's sake; her father and mother then
named her Alcyone, because her mother had mourned with the plaintive
strains of the halcyon-bird when Phoebus Apollo had carried her off.
Meleager, then, stayed at home with Cleopatra, nursing the anger which
he felt by reason of his mother's curses. His mother, grieving for the
death of her brother, prayed the gods, and beat the earth with her
hands, calling upon Hades and on awful Proserpine; she went down
upon her knees and her bosom was wet with tears as she prayed that
they would kill her son- and Erinys that walks in darkness and knows
no ruth heard her from Erebus.
"Then was heard the din of battle about the gates of Calydon, and
the dull thump of the battering against their walls. Thereon the
elders of the Aetolians besought Meleager; they sent the chiefest of
their priests, and begged him to come out and help them, promising him
a great reward. They bade him choose fifty plough-gates, the most
fertile in the plain of Calydon, the one-half vineyard and the other
open plough-land. The old warrior Oeneus implored him, standing at the
threshold of his room and beating the doors in supplication. His
sisters and his mother herself besought him sore, but he the more
refused them; those of his comrades who were nearest and dearest to
him also prayed him, but they could not move him till the foe was
battering at the very doors of his chamber, and the Curetes had scaled
the walls and were setting fire to the city. Then at last his
sorrowing wife detailed the horrors that befall those whose city is
taken; she reminded him how the men are slain, and the city is given
over to the flames, while the women and children are carried into
captivity; when he heard all this, his heart was touched, and he
donned his armour to go forth. Thus of his own inward motion he
saved the city of the Aetolians; but they now gave him nothing of
those rich rewards that they had offered earlier, and though he
saved the city he took nothing by it. Be not then, my son, thus
minded; let not heaven lure you into any such course. When the ships
are burning it will be a harder matter to save them. Take the gifts,
and go, for the Achaeans will then honour you as a god; whereas if you
fight without taking them, you may beat the battle back, but you
will not be held in like honour."
And Achilles answered, "Phoenix, old friend and father, I have no
need of such honour. I have honour from Jove himself, which will abide
with me at my ships while I have breath in my body, and my limbs are
strong. I say further- and lay my saying to your heart- vex me no more
with this weeping and lamentation, all in the cause of the son of
Atreus. Love him so well, and you may lose the love I bear you. You
ought to help me rather in troubling those that trouble me; be king as
much as I am, and share like honour with myself; the others shall take
my answer; stay here yourself and sleep comfortably in your bed; at
daybreak we will consider whether to remain or go."
On this she nodded quietly to Patroclus as a sign that he was to
prepare a bed for Phoenix, and that the others should take their
leave. Ajax son of Telamon then said, "Ulysses, noble son of
Laertes, let us be gone, for I see that our journey is vain. We must
now take our answer, unwelcome though it be, to the Danaans who are
waiting to receive it. Achilles is savage and remorseless; he is
cruel, and cares nothing for the love his comrades lavished upon him
more than on all the others. He is implacable- and yet if a man's
brother or son has been slain he will accept a fine by way of amends
from him that killed him, and the wrong-doer having paid in full
remains in peace among his own people; but as for you, Achilles, the
gods have put a wicked unforgiving spirit in your heart, and this, all
about one single girl, whereas we now offer you the seven best we
have, and much else into the bargain. Be then of a more gracious mind,
respect the hospitality of your own roof. We are with you as
messengers from the host of the Danaans, and would fain he held
nearest and dearest to yourself of all the Achaeans."
"Ajax," replied Achilles, "noble son of Telamon, you have spoken
much to my liking, but my blood boils when I think it all over, and
remember how the son of Atreus treated me with contumely as though I
were some vile tramp, and that too in the presence of the Argives. Go,
then, and deliver your message; say that I will have no concern with
fighting till Hector, son of noble Priam, reaches the tents of the
Myrmidons in his murderous course, and flings fire upon their ships.
For all his lust of battle, I take it he will be held in check when he
is at my own tent and ship."
On this they took every man his double cup, made their
drink-offerings, and went back to the ships, Ulysses leading the
way. But Patroclus told his men and the maid-servants to make ready
a comfortable bed for Phoenix; they therefore did so with
sheepskins, a rug, and a sheet of fine linen. The old man then laid
himself down and waited till morning came. But Achilles slept in an
inner room, and beside him the daughter of Phorbas lovely Diomede,
whom he had carried off from Lesbos. Patroclus lay on the other side
of the room, and with him fair Iphis whom Achilles had given him
when he took Scyros the city of Enyeus.
When the envoys reached the tents of the son of Atreus, the Achaeans
rose, pledged them in cups of gold, and began to question them. King
Agamemnon was the first to do so. Tell me, Ulysses," said he, "will he
save the ships from burning, or did be refuse, and is he still
furious?"
Ulysses answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon,
Achilles will not be calmed, but is more fiercely angry than ever, and
spurns both you and your gifts. He bids you take counsel with the
Achaeans to save the ships and host as you best may; as for himself,
he said that at daybreak he should draw his ships into the water. He
said further that he should advise every one to sail home likewise,
for that you will not reach the goal of Ilius. 'Jove,' he said, 'has
laid his hand over the city to protect it, and the people have taken
heart.' This is what he said, and the others who were with me can tell
you the same story- Ajax and the two heralds, men, both of them, who
may be trusted. The old man Phoenix stayed where he was to sleep,
for so Achilles would have it, that he might go home with him in the
morning if he so would; but he will not take him by force."
They all held their peace, sitting for a long time silent and
dejected, by reason of the sternness with which Achilles had refused
them, till presently Diomed said, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of
men, Agamemnon, you ought not to have sued the son of Peleus nor
offered him gifts. He is proud enough as it is, and you have
encouraged him in his pride am further. Let him stay or go as he will.
He will fight later when he is in the humour, and heaven puts it in
his mind to do so. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; we have
eaten and drunk our fill, let us then take our rest, for in rest there
is both strength and stay. But when fair rosy-fingered morn appears,
forthwith bring out your host and your horsemen in front of the ships,
urging them on, and yourself fighting among the foremost."
Thus he spoke, and the other chieftains approved his words. They
then made their drink-offerings and went every man to his own tent,
where they laid down to rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.

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William Butler Yeats

Narrative And Dramatic The Wanderings Of Oisin

BOOK I

S. Patrick. You who are bent, and bald, and blind,
With a heavy heart and a wandering mind,
Have known three centuries, poets sing,
Of dalliance with a demon thing.

Oisin. Sad to remember, sick with years,
The swift innumerable spears,
The horsemen with their floating hair,
And bowls of barley, honey, and wine,
Those merry couples dancing in tune,
And the white body that lay by mine;
But the tale, though words be lighter than air.
Must live to be old like the wandering moon.

Caoilte, and Conan, and Finn were there,
When we followed a deer with our baying hounds.
With Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
And passing the Firbolgs' burial-motmds,
Came to the cairn-heaped grassy hill
Where passionate Maeve is stony-still;
And found On the dove-grey edge of the sea
A pearl-pale, high-born lady, who rode
On a horse with bridle of findrinny;
And like a sunset were her lips,
A stormy sunset on doomed ships;
A citron colour gloomed in her hair,

But down to her feet white vesture flowed,
And with the glimmering crimson glowed
Of many a figured embroidery;
And it was bound with a pearl-pale shell
That wavered like the summer streams,
As her soft bosom rose and fell.

S. Patrick. You are still wrecked among heathen dreams.

Oisin. 'Why do you wind no horn?' she said
'And every hero droop his head?
The hornless deer is not more sad
That many a peaceful moment had,
More sleek than any granary mouse,
In his own leafy forest house
Among the waving fields of fern:
The hunting of heroes should be glad.'

'O pleasant woman,' answered Finn,
'We think on Oscar's pencilled urn,
And on the heroes lying slain
On Gabhra's raven-covered plain;
But where are your noble kith and kin,
And from what country do you ride?'

'My father and my mother are
Aengus and Edain, my own name
Niamh, and my country far
Beyond the tumbling of this tide.'

'What dream came with you that you came
Through bitter tide on foam-wet feet?
Did your companion wander away
From where the birds of Aengus wing?'
Thereon did she look haughty and sweet:
'I have not yet, war-weary king,
Been spoken of with any man;
Yet now I choose, for these four feet
Ran through the foam and ran to this
That I might have your son to kiss.'

'Were there no better than my son
That you through all that foam should run?'

'I loved no man, though kings besought,
Until the Danaan poets brought
Rhyme that rhymed upon Oisin's name,
And now I am dizzy with the thought
Of all that wisdom and the fame
Of battles broken by his hands,
Of stories builded by his words
That are like coloured Asian birds
At evening in their rainless lands.'

O Patrick, by your brazen bell,
There was no limb of mine but fell
Into a desperate gulph of love!
'You only will I wed,' I cried,
'And I will make a thousand songs,
And set your name all names above,
And captives bound with leathern thongs
Shall kneel and praise you, one by one,
At evening in my western dun.'

'O Oisin, mount by me and ride
To shores by the wash of the tremulous tide,
Where men have heaped no burial-mounds,
And the days pass by like a wayward tune,
Where broken faith has never been known
And the blushes of first love never have flown;
And there I will give you a hundred hounds;
No mightier creatures bay at the moon;
And a hundred robes of murmuring silk,
And a hundred calves and a hundred sheep
Whose long wool whiter than sea-froth flows,
And a hundred spears and a hundred bows,
And oil and wine and honey and milk,
And always never-anxious sleep;
While a hundred youths, mighty of limb,
But knowing nor tumult nor hate nor strife,
And a hundred ladies, merry as birds,
Who when they dance to a fitful measure
Have a speed like the speed of the salmon herds,
Shall follow your horn and obey your whim,
And you shall know the Danaan leisure;
And Niamh be with you for a wife.'
Then she sighed gently, 'It grows late.
Music and love and sleep await,
Where I would be when the white moon climbs,
The red sun falls and the world grows dim.'

And then I mounted and she bound me
With her triumphing arms around me,
And whispering to herself enwound me;
He shook himself and neighed three times:
Caoilte, Conan, and Finn came near,
And wept, and raised their lamenting hands,
And bid me stay, with many a tear;
But we rode out from the human lands.
In what far kingdom do you go'
Ah Fenians, with the shield and bow?
Or are you phantoms white as snow,
Whose lips had life's most prosperous glow?
O you, with whom in sloping vallcys,
Or down the dewy forest alleys,
I chased at morn the flying deer,
With whom I hurled the hurrying spear,
And heard the foemen's bucklers rattle,
And broke the heaving ranks of battle!
And Bran, Sceolan, and Lomair,
Where are you with your long rough hair?
You go not where the red deer feeds,
Nor tear the foemen from their steeds.

S. Patrick. Boast not, nor mourn with drooping head
Companions long accurst and dead,
And hounds for centuries dust and air.

Oisin. We galloped over the glossy sea:
I know not if days passed or hours,
And Niamh sang continually
Danaan songs, and their dewy showers
Of pensive laughter, unhuman sound,
Lulled weariness, and softly round
My human sorrow her white arms wound.
We galloped; now a hornless deer
Passed by us, chased by a phantom hound
All pearly white, save one red ear;
And now a lady rode like the wind
With an apple of gold in her tossing hand;
And a beautiful young man followed behind
With quenchless gaze and fluttering hair.
'Were these two born in the Danaan land,
Or have they breathed the mortal air?'

'Vex them no longer,' Niamh said,
And sighing bowed her gentle head,
And sighing laid the pearly tip
Of one long finger on my lip.

But now the moon like a white rose shone
In the pale west, and the sun'S rim sank,
And clouds atrayed their rank on rank
About his fading crimson ball:
The floor of Almhuin's hosting hall
Was not more level than the sea,
As, full of loving fantasy,
And with low murmurs, we rode on,
Where many a trumpet-twisted shell
That in immortal silence sleeps
Dreaming of her own melting hues,
Her golds, her ambers, and her blues,
Pierced with soft light the shallowing deeps.
But now a wandering land breeze came
And a far sound of feathery quires;
It seemed to blow from the dying flame,
They seemed to sing in the smouldering fires.
The horse towards the music raced,
Neighing along the lifeless waste;
Like sooty fingers, many a tree
Rose ever out of the warm sea;
And they were trembling ceaselessly,
As though they all were beating time,
Upon the centre of the sun,
To that low laughing woodland rhyme.
And, now our wandering hours were done,
We cantered to the shore, and knew
The reason of the trembling trees:
Round every branch the song-birds flew,
Or clung thereon like swarming bees;
While round the shore a million stood
Like drops of frozen rainbow light,
And pondered in a soft vain mood
Upon their shadows in the tide,
And told the purple deeps their pride,
And murmured snatches of delight;
And on the shores were many boats
With bending sterns and bending bows,
And carven figures on their prows
Of bitterns, and fish-eating stoats,
And swans with their exultant throats:
And where the wood and waters meet
We tied the horse in a leafy clump,
And Niamh blew three merry notes
Out of a little silver trump;
And then an answering whispering flew
Over the bare and woody land,
A whisper of impetuous feet,
And ever nearer, nearer grew;
And from the woods rushed out a band
Of men and ladies, hand in hand,
And singing, singing all together;
Their brows were white as fragrant milk,
Their cloaks made out of yellow silk,
And trimmed with many a crimson feather;
And when they saw the cloak I wore
Was dim with mire of a mortal shore,
They fingered it and gazed on me
And laughed like murmurs of the sea;
But Niamh with a swift distress
Bid them away and hold their peace;
And when they heard her voice they ran
And knelt there, every girl and man,
And kissed, as they would never cease,
Her pearl-pale hand and the hem of her dress.
She bade them bring us to the hall
Where Aengus dreams, from sun to sun,
A Druid dream of the end of days
When the stars are to wane and the world be done.

They led us by long and shadowy ways
Where drops of dew in myriads fall,
And tangled creepers every hour
Blossom in some new crimson flower,
And once a sudden laughter sprang
From all their lips, and once they sang
Together, while the dark woods rang,
And made in all their distant parts,
With boom of bees in honey-marts,
A rumour of delighted hearts.
And once a lady by my side
Gave me a harp, and bid me sing,
And touch the laughing silver string;
But when I sang of human joy
A sorrow wrapped each merry face,
And, patrick! by your beard, they wept,
Until one came, a tearful boy;
'A sadder creature never stept
Than this strange human bard,' he cried;
And caught the silver harp away,
And, weeping over the white strings, hurled
It down in a leaf-hid, hollow place
That kept dim waters from the sky;
And each one said, with a long, long sigh,
'O saddest harp in all the world,
Sleep there till the moon and the stars die!'

And now, still sad, we came to where
A beautiful young man dreamed within
A house of wattles, clay, and skin;
One hand upheld his beardless chin,
And one a sceptre flashing out
Wild flames of red and gold and blue,
Like to a merry wandering rout
Of dancers leaping in the air;
And men and ladies knelt them there
And showed their eyes with teardrops dim,
And with low murmurs prayed to him,
And kissed the sceptre with red lips,
And touched it with their finger-tips.
He held that flashing sceptre up.
'Joy drowns the twilight in the dew,
And fills with stars night's purple cup,
And wakes the sluggard seeds of corn,
And stirs the young kid's budding horn,
And makes the infant ferns unwrap,
And for the peewit paints his cap,
And rolls along the unwieldy sun,
And makes the little planets run:
And if joy were not on the earth,
There were an end of change and birth,
And Earth and Heaven and Hell would die,
And in some gloomy barrow lie
Folded like a frozen fly;
Then mock at Death and Time with glances
And wavering arms and wandering dances.

'Men's hearts of old were drops of flame
That from the saffron morning came,
Or drops of silver joy that fell
Out of the moon's pale twisted shell;
But now hearts cry that hearts are slaves,
And toss and turn in narrow caves;
But here there is nor law nor rule,
Nor have hands held a weary tool;
And here there is nor Change nor Death,
But only kind and merry breath,
For joy is God and God is joy.'
With one long glance for girl and boy
And the pale blossom of the moon,
He fell into a Druid swoon.

And in a wild and sudden dance
We mocked at Time and Fate and Chance
And swept out of the wattled hall
And came to where the dewdrops fall
Among the foamdrops of the sea,
And there we hushed the revelry;
And, gathering on our brows a frown,
Bent all our swaying bodies down,
And to the waves that glimmer by
That sloping green De Danaan sod
Sang, 'God is joy and joy is God,
And things that have grown sad are wicked,
And things that fear the dawn of the morrow
Or the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

We danced to where in the winding thicket
The damask roses, bloom on bloom,
Like crimson meteors hang in the gloom.
And bending over them softly said,
Bending over them in the dance,
With a swift and friendly glance
From dewy eyes: 'Upon the dead
Fall the leaves of other roses,
On the dead dim earth encloses:
But never, never on our graves,
Heaped beside the glimmering waves,
Shall fall the leaves of damask roses.
For neither Death nor Change comes near us,
And all listless hours fear us,
And we fear no dawning morrow,
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

The dance wound through the windless woods;
The ever-summered solitudes;
Until the tossing arms grew still
Upon the woody central hill;
And, gathered in a panting band,
We flung on high each waving hand,
And sang unto the starry broods.
In our raised eyes there flashed a glow
Of milky brightness to and fro
As thus our song arose: 'You stars,
Across your wandering ruby cars
Shake the loose reins: you slaves of God.
He rules you with an iron rod,
He holds you with an iron bond,
Each one woven to the other,
Each one woven to his brother
Like bubbles in a frozen pond;
But we in a lonely land abide
Unchainable as the dim tide,
With hearts that know nor law nor rule,
And hands that hold no wearisome tool,
Folded in love that fears no morrow,
Nor the grey wandering osprey Sorrow.'

O Patrick! for a hundred years
I chased upon that woody shore
The deer, the badger, and the boar.
O patrick! for a hundred years
At evening on the glimmering sands,
Beside the piled-up hunting spears,
These now outworn and withered hands
Wrestled among the island bands.
O patrick! for a hundred years
We went a-fishing in long boats
With bending sterns and bending bows,
And carven figures on their prows
Of bitterns and fish-eating stoats.
O patrick! for a hundred years
The gentle Niamh was my wife;
But now two things devour my life;
The things that most of all I hate:
Fasting and prayers.

S. Patrick. Tell On.

Oisin. Yes, yes,
For these were ancient Oisin's fate
Loosed long ago from Heaven's gate,
For his last days to lie in wait.
When one day by the tide I stood,
I found in that forgetfulness
Of dreamy foam a staff of wood
From some dead warrior's broken lance:
I tutned it in my hands; the stains
Of war were on it, and I wept,
Remembering how the Fenians stept
Along the blood-bedabbled plains,
Equal to good or grievous chance:
Thereon young Niamh softly came
And caught my hands, but spake no word
Save only many times my name,
In murmurs, like a frighted bird.
We passed by woods, and lawns of clover,
And found the horse and bridled him,
For we knew well the old was over.
I heard one say, 'His eyes grow dim
With all the ancient sorrow of men';
And wrapped in dreams rode out again
With hoofs of the pale findrinny
Over the glimmering purple sea.
Under the golden evening light,
The Immortals moved among thc fountains
By rivers and the woods' old night;
Some danced like shadows on the mountains
Some wandered ever hand in hand;
Or sat in dreams on the pale strand,
Each forehead like an obscure star
Bent down above each hooked knee,
And sang, and with a dreamy gaze
Watched where the sun in a saffron blaze
Was slumbering half in the sea-ways;
And, as they sang, the painted birds

Kept time with their bright wings and feet;
Like drops of honey came their words,
But fainter than a young lamb's bleat.

'An old man stirs the fire to a blaze,
In the house of a child, of a friend, of a brother.
He has over-lingered his welcome; the days,
Grown desolate, whisper and sigh to each other;
He hears the storm in the chimney above,
And bends to the fire and shakes with the cold,
While his heart still dreams of battle and love,
And the cry of the hounds on the hills of old.

But We are apart in the grassy places,
Where care cannot trouble the least of our days,
Or the softness of youth be gone from our faces,
Or love's first tenderness die in our gaze.
The hare grows old as she plays in the sun
And gazes around her with eyes of brightness;
Before the swift things that she dreamed of were done
She limps along in an aged whiteness;
A storm of birds in the Asian trees
Like tulips in the air a-winging,
And the gentle waves of the summer seas,
That raise their heads and wander singing,
Must murmur at last, ''Unjust, unjust';
And ''My speed is a weariness,' falters the mouse,
And the kingfisher turns to a ball of dust,
And the roof falls in of his tunnelled house.
But the love-dew dims our eyes till the day
When God shall come from the Sea with a sigh
And bid the stars drop down from the sky,
And the moon like a pale rose wither away.'


BOOK II


NOW, man of croziers, shadows called our names
And then away, away, like whirling flames;
And now fled by, mist-covered, without sound,
The youth and lady and the deer and hound;
'Gaze no more on the phantoms,' Niamh said,
And kissed my eyes, and, swaying her bright head
And her bright body, sang of faery and man
Before God was or my old line began;
Wars shadowy, vast, exultant; faeries of old
Who wedded men with rings of Druid gold;
And how those lovers never turn their eyes
Upon the life that fades and flickers and dies,
Yet love and kiss on dim shores far away
Rolled round with music of the sighing spray:
Yet sang no more as when, like a brown bee
That has drunk full, she crossed the misty sea
With me in her white arms a hundred years
Before this day; for now the fall of tears
Troubled her song.
I do not know if days
Or hours passed by, yet hold the morning rays
Shone many times among the glimmering flowers
Woven into her hair, before dark towers
Rose in the darkness, and the white surf gleamed
About them; and the horse of Faery screamed
And shivered, knowing the Isle of Many Fears,
Nor ceased until white Niamh stroked his ears
And named him by sweet names.
A foaming tide
Whitened afar with surge, fan-formed and wide,
Burst from a great door matred by many a blow
From mace and sword and pole-axe, long ago
When gods and giants warred. We rode between
The seaweed-covered pillars; and the green
And surging phosphorus alone gave light
On our dark pathway, till a countless flight
Of moonlit steps glimmered; and left and right
Dark statues glimmered over the pale tide
Upon dark thrones. Between the lids of one
The imaged meteors had flashed and run
And had disported in the stilly jet,
And the fixed stars had dawned and shone and set,
Since God made Time and Death and Sleep: the other
Stretched his long arm to where, a misty smother,
The stream churned, churned, and churned -- his lips apart,
As though he told his never-slumbering heart
Of every foamdrop on its misty way.
Tying the horse to his vast foot that lay
Half in the unvesselled sea, we climbed the stair
And climbed so long, I thought the last steps were
Hung from the morning star; when these mild words
Fanned the delighted air like wings of birds:
'My brothers spring out of their beds at morn,
A-murmur like young partridge: with loud horn
They chase the noontide deer;
And when the dew-drowned stars hang in the air
Look to long fishing-lines, or point and pare
An ashen hunting spear.
O sigh, O fluttering sigh, be kind to me;
Flutter along the froth lips of the sea,
And shores the froth lips wet:
And stay a little while, and bid them weep:
Ah, touch their blue-veined eyelids if they sleep,
And shake their coverlet.
When you have told how I weep endlessly,
Flutter along the froth lips of the sea
And home to me again,
And in the shadow of my hair lie hid,
And tell me that you found a man unbid,
The saddest of all men.'

A lady with soft eyes like funeral tapers,
And face that seemed wrought out of moonlit vapours,
And a sad mouth, that fear made tremulous
As any ruddy moth, looked down on us;
And she with a wave-rusted chain was tied
To two old eagles, full of ancient pride,
That with dim eyeballs stood on either side.
Few feathers were on their dishevelled wings,
For their dim minds were with the ancient things.

'I bring deliverance,' pearl-pale Niamh said.

'Neither the living, nor the unlabouring dead,
Nor the high gods who never lived, may fight
My enemy and hope; demons for fright
Jabber and scream about him in the night;
For he is strong and crafty as the seas
That sprang under the Seven Hazel Trees,
And I must needs endure and hate and weep,
Until the gods and demons drop asleep,
Hearing Acdh touch thc mournful strings of gold.'
'Is he So dreadful?'
'Be not over-bold,
But fly while still you may.'
And thereon I:
'This demon shall be battered till he die,
And his loose bulk be thrown in the loud tide.'
'Flee from him,' pearl-pale Niamh weeping cried,
'For all men flee the demons'; but moved not
My angry king-remembering soul one jot.
There was no mightier soul of Heber's line;
Now it is old and mouse-like. For a sign
I burst the chain: still earless, neNeless, blind,
Wrapped in the things of the unhuman mind,
In some dim memory or ancient mood,
Still earless, netveless, blind, the eagles stood.

And then we climbed the stair to a high door;
A hundred horsemen on the basalt floor
Beneath had paced content: we held our way
And stood within: clothed in a misty ray
I saw a foam-white seagull drift and float
Under the roof, and with a straining throat
Shouted, and hailed him: he hung there a star,
For no man's cry shall ever mount so far;
Not even your God could have thrown down that hall;
Stabling His unloosed lightnings in their stall,
He had sat down and sighed with cumbered heart,
As though His hour were come.
We sought the patt
That was most distant from the door; green slime
Made the way slippery, and time on time
Showed prints of sea-born scales. while down through it
The captive's journeys to and fro were writ
Like a small river, and where feet touched came
A momentary gleam of phosphorus flame.
Under the deepest shadows of the hall
That woman found a ring hung on the wall,
And in the ring a torch, and with its flare
Making a world about her in the air,
Passed under the dim doorway, out of sight,
And came again, holding a second light
Burning between her fingers, and in mine
Laid it and sighed: I held a sword whose shine
No centuries could dim, and a word ran
Thereon in Ogham letters, 'Manannan';
That sea-god's name, who in a deep content
Sprang dripping, and, with captive demons sent
Out of the sevenfold seas, built the dark hall
Rooted in foam and clouds, and cried to all
The mightier masters of a mightier race;
And at his cry there came no milk-pale face
Under a crown of thorns and dark with blood,
But only exultant faces.
Niamh stood
With bowed head, trembling when the white blade shone,
But she whose hours of tenderness were gone
Had neither hope nor fear. I bade them hide
Under the shadowS till the tumults died
Of the loud-crashing and earth-shaking fight,
Lest they should look upon some dreadful sight;
And thrust the torch between the slimy flags.
A dome made out of endless carven jags,
Where shadowy face flowed into shadowy face,
Looked down on me; and in the self-same place
I waited hour by hour, and the high dome,
Windowless, pillarless, multitudinous home
Of faces, waited; and the leisured gaze
Was loaded with the memory of days
Buried and mighty. When through the great door
The dawn came in, and glimmered on the floor
With a pale light, I journeyed round the hall
And found a door deep sunken in the wall,
The least of doors; beyond on a dim plain
A little mnnel made a bubbling strain,
And on the runnel's stony and bare edge
A dusky demon dry as a withered sedge
Swayed, crooning to himself an unknown tongue:
In a sad revelry he sang and swung
Bacchant and mournful, passing to and fro
His hand along the runnel's side, as though
The flowers still grew there: far on the sea's waste
Shaking and waving, vapour vapour chased,
While high frail cloudlets, fed with a green light,
Like drifts of leaves, immovable and bright,
Hung in the passionate dawn. He slowly turned:
A demon's leisure: eyes, first white, now burned
Like wings of kingfishers; and he arose
Barking. We trampled up and down with blows
Of sword and brazen battle-axe, while day
Gave to high noon and noon to night gave way;
And when he knew the sword of Manannan
Amid the shades of night, he changed and ran
Through many shapes; I lunged at the smooth throat
Of a great eel; it changed, and I but smote
A fir-tree roaring in its leafless top;
And thereupon I drew the livid chop
Of a drowned dripping body to my breast;
Horror from horror grew; but when the west
Had surged up in a plumy fire, I drave
Through heart and spine; and cast him in the wave
Lest Niamh shudder.

Full of hope and dread
Those two came carrying wine and meat and bread,
And healed my wounds with unguents out of flowers
That feed white moths by some De Danaan shrine;
Then in that hall, lit by the dim sea-shine,
We lay on skins of otters, and drank wine,
Brewed by the sea-gods, from huge cups that lay
Upon the lips of sea-gods in their day;
And then on heaped-up skins of otters slept.
And when the sun once more in saffron stept,
Rolling his flagrant wheel out of the deep,
We sang the loves and angers without sleep,
And all the exultant labours of the strong.
But now the lying clerics murder song
With barren words and flatteries of the weak.
In what land do the powerless turn the beak
Of ravening Sorrow, or the hand of Wrath?
For all your croziers, they have left the path
And wander in the storms and clinging snows,
Hopeless for ever: ancient Oisin knows,
For he is weak and poor and blind, and lies
On the anvil of the world.
S. Patrick. Be still: the skies
Are choked with thunder, lightning, and fierce wind,
For God has heard, and speaks His angry mind;
Go cast your body on the stones and pray,
For He has wrought midnight and dawn and day.
Oisin. Saint, do you weep? I hear amid the thunder
The Fenian horses; atmour torn asunder;
Laughter and cries. The armies clash and shock,
And now the daylight-darkening ravens flock.
Cease, cease, O mournful, laughing Fenian horn!

We feasted for three days. On the fourth morn
I found, dropping sea-foam on the wide stair,
And hung with slime, and whispering in his hair,
That demon dull and unsubduable;
And once more to a day-long battle fell,
And at the sundown threw him in the surge,
To lie until the fourth morn saw emerge
His new-healed shape; and for a hundred years
So watred, so feasted, with nor dreams nor fears,
Nor languor nor fatigue: an endless feast,
An endless war.

The hundred years had ceased;
I stood upon the stair: the surges bore
A beech-bough to me, and my heart grew sore,
Remembering how I had stood by white-haired Finn
Under a beech at Almhuin and heard the thin
Outcry of bats.

And then young Niamh came
Holding that horse, and sadly called my name;
I mounted, and we passed over the lone
And drifting greyness, while this monotone,
Surly and distant, mixed inseparably
Into the clangour of the wind and sea.

'I hear my soul drop
And Mananna's dark tower, stone after stone.
Gather sea-slime and fall the seaward way,
And the moon goad the waters night and day,
That all be overthrown.

'But till the moon has taken all, I wage
War on the mightiest men under the skies,
And they have fallen or fled, age after age.
Light is man's love, and lighter is man's rage;
His purpose drifts and dies.'

And then lost Niamh murmured, 'Love, we go
To the Island of Forgetfulness, for lo!
The Islands of Dancing and of Victories
Are empty of all power.'

'And which of these
Is the Island of Content?'

'None know,' she said;
And on my bosom laid her weeping head.

BOOK III


FLED foam underneath us, and round us, a wandering and milky smoke,
High as the Saddle-girth, covering away from our glances the tide;
And those that fled, and that followed, from the foam-pale distance broke;
The immortal desire of Immortals we saw in their faces, and sighed.

I mused on the chase with the Fenians, and Bran, Sceolan, Lomair,
And never a song sang Niamh, and over my finger-tips
Came now the sliding of tears and sweeping of mist-cold hair,
And now the warmth of sighs, and after the quiver of lips.

Were we days long or hours long in riding, when, rolled in a grisly peace,
An isle lay level before us, with dripping hazel and oak?
And we stood on a sea's edge we saw not; for whiter than new-washed fleece
Fled foam underneath us, and round us, a wandering and milky smoke.

And we rode on the plains of the sea's edge; the sea's edge barren and grey,
Grey sand on the green of the grasses and over the dripping trees,
Dripping and doubling landward, as though they would hasten away,
Like an army of old men longing for rest from the moan of the seas.

But the trees grew taller and closer, immense in their wrinkling bark;
Dropping; a murmurous dropping; old silence and that one sound;
For no live creatures lived there, no weasels moved in the dark:
Long sighs arose in our spirits, beneath us bubbled the ground.
And the ears of the horse went sinking away in the hollow night,
For, as drift from a sailor slow drowning the gleams of the world and the sun,
Ceased on our hands and our faces, on hazel and oak leaf, the light,
And the stars were blotted above us, and the whole of the world was one.

Till the horse gave a whinny; for, cumbrous with stems of the hazel and oak,
A valley flowed down from his hoofs, and there in the long grass lay,
Under the starlight and shadow, a monstrous slumbering folk,
Their naked and gleaming bodies poured out and heaped in the way.

And by them were arrow and war-axe, arrow and shield and blade;
And dew-blanched horns, in whose hollow a child of three years old
Could sleep on a couch of rushes, and all inwrought and inlaid,
And more comely than man can make them with bronze and silver and gold.

And each of the huge white creatures was huger than fourscore men;
The tops of their ears were feathered, their hands were the claws of birds,
And, shaking the plumes of the grasses and the leaves of the mural glen,
The breathing came from those bodies, long warless, grown whiter than curds.

The wood was so Spacious above them, that He who has stars for His flocks
Could fondle the leaves with His fingers, nor go from His dew-cumbered skies;
So long were they sleeping, the owls had builded their nests in their locks,
Filling the fibrous dimness with long generations of eyes.

And over the limbs and the valley the slow owls wandered and came,
Now in a place of star-fire, and now in a shadow-place wide;
And the chief of the huge white creatures, his knees in the soft star-flame,
Lay loose in a place of shadow: we drew the reins by his side.

Golden the nails of his bird-clawS, flung loosely along the dim ground;
In one was a branch soft-shining with bells more many than sighs
In midst of an old man's bosom; owls ruffling and pacing around
Sidled their bodies against him, filling the shade with their eyes.
And my gaze was thronged with the sleepers; no, not since the world began,
In realms where the handsome were many, nor in glamours by demons flung,
Have faces alive with such beauty been known to the salt eye of man,
Yet weary with passions that faded when the sevenfold seas were young.

And I gazed on the bell-branch, sleep's forebear, far sung by the Sennachies.
I saw how those slumbererS, grown weary, there camping in grasses deep,
Of wars with the wide world and pacing the shores of the wandering seas,
Laid hands on the bell-branch and swayed it, and fed of unhuman sleep.

Snatching the horn of Niamh, I blew a long lingering note.
Came sound from those monstrous sleepers, a sound like the stirring of flies.
He, shaking the fold of his lips, and heaving the pillar of his throat,
Watched me with mournful wonder out of the wells of his eyes.

I cried, 'Come out of the shadow, king of the nails of gold!
And tell of your goodly household and the goodly works of your hands,
That we may muse in the starlight and talk of the battles of old;
Your questioner, Oisin, is worthy, he comes from the Fenian lands.'

Half open his eyes were, and held me, dull with the smoke of their dreams;
His lips moved slowly in answer, no answer out of them came;
Then he swayed in his fingers the bell-branch, slowdropping a sound in faint streams
Softer than snow-flakes in April and piercing the marrow like flame.

Wrapt in the wave of that music, with weariness more than of earth,
The moil of my centuries filled me; and gone like a sea-covered stone
Were the memories of the whole of my sorrow and the memories of the whole of my mirth,
And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.

In the roots of the grasses, the sorrels, I laid my body as low;
And the pearl-pale Niamh lay by me, her brow on the midst of my breast;
And the horse was gone in the distance, and years after years 'gan flow;
Square leaves of the ivy moved over us, binding us down to our rest.
And, man of the many white croziers, a century there I forgot
How the fetlocks drip blocd in the battle, when the fallen on fallen lie rolled;
How the falconer follows the falcon in the weeds of the heron's plot,
And the name of the demon whose hammer made
Conchubar's sword-blade of old.

And, man of the many white croziers, a century there I forgot
That the spear-shaft is made out of ashwood, the shield out of osier and hide;
How the hammers spring on the anvil, on the spearhead's burning spot;
How the slow, blue-eyed oxen of Finn low sadly at evening tide.

But in dreams, mild man of the croziers, driving the dust with their throngs,
Moved round me, of seamen or landsmen, all who are winter tales;
Came by me the kings of the Red Branch, with roaring of laughter and songs,
Or moved as they moved once, love-making or piercing the tempest with sails.

Came Blanid, Mac Nessa, tall Fergus who feastward of old time slunk,
Cook Barach, the traitor; and warward, the spittle on his beard never dry,
Dark Balor, as old as a forest, car-borne, his mighty head sunk
Helpless, men lifting the lids of his weary and deathmaking eye.

And by me, in soft red raiment, the Fenians moved in loud streams,
And Grania, walking and smiling, sewed with her needle of bone.
So lived I and lived not, so wrought I and wrought not, with creatures of dreams,
In a long iron sleep, as a fish in the water goes dumb as a stone.

At times our slumber was lightened. When the sun was on silver or gold;
When brushed with the wings of the owls, in the dimness they love going by;
When a glow-worm was green on a grass-leaf, lured from his lair in the mould;
Half wakening, we lifted our eyelids, and gazed on the grass with a sigh.

So watched I when, man of the croziers, at the heel of a century fell,
Weak, in the midst of the meadow, from his miles in the midst of the air,
A starling like them that forgathered 'neath a moon waking white as a shell
When the Fenians made foray at morning with Bran, Sceolan, Lomair.
I awoke: the strange horse without summons out of the distance ran,
Thrusting his nose to my shoulder; he knew in his bosom deep
That once more moved in my bosom the ancient sadness of man,
And that I would leave the Immortals, their dimness, their dews dropping sleep.
O, had you seen beautiful Niamh grow white as the waters are white,
Lord of the croziers, you even had lifted your hands and wept:
But, the bird in my fingers, I mounted, remembering alone that delight
Of twilight and slumber were gone, and that hoofs impatiently stept.
I died, 'O Niamh! O white one! if only a twelve-houred day,
I must gaze on the beard of Finn, and move where the old men and young
In the Fenians' dwellings of wattle lean on the chessboards and play,
Ah, sweet to me now were even bald Conan's slanderous tongue!
'Like me were some galley forsaken far off in Meridian isle,
Remembering its long-oared companions, sails turning to threadbare rags;
No more to crawl on the seas with long oars mile after mile,
But to be amid shooting of flies and flowering of rushes and flags.'
Their motionless eyeballs of spirits grown mild with mysterious thought,
Watched her those seamless faces from the valley's glimmering girth;
As she murmured, 'O wandering Oisin, the strength of the bell-branch is naught,
For there moves alive in your fingers the fluttering sadness of earth.
'Then go through the lands in the saddle and see what the mortals do,
And softly come to your Niamh over the tops of the tide;
But weep for your Niamh, O Oisin, weep; for if only your shoe
Brush lightly as haymouse earth's pebbles, you will come no more to my side.
'O flaming lion of the world, O when will you turn to your rest?'
I saw from a distant saddle; from the earth she made her moan:
'I would die like a small withered leaf in the autumn, for breast unto breast
We shall mingle no more, nor our gazes empty their sweetness lone
'In the isles of the farthest seas where only the spirits come.
Were the winds less soft than the breath of a pigeon who sleeps on her nest,
Nor lost in the star-fires and odours the sound of the sea's vague drum?
O flaming lion of the world, O when will you turn to your rest?'
The wailing grew distant; I rode by the woods of the wrinkling bark,
Where ever is murmurous dropping, old silence and that one sound;
For no live creatures live there, no weasels move in the dark:
In a reverie forgetful of all things, over the bubbling' ground.
And I rode by the plains of the sea's edge, where all is barren and grey,
Grey sand on the green of the grasses and over the dripping trees,
Dripping and doubling landward, as though they would hasten away',
Like an army of old men longing for rest from the moan of the seas.
And the winds made the sands on the sea's edge turning and turning go,
As my mind made the names of the Fenians. Far from the hazel and oak,
I rode away on the surges, where, high aS the saddlebow,
Fled foam underneath me, and round me, a wandering and milky smoke.
Long fled the foam-flakes around me, the winds fled out of the vast,
Snatching the bird in secret; nor knew I, embosomed apart,
When they froze the cloth on my body like armour riveted fast,
For Remembrance, lifting her leanness, keened in the gates of my heart.
Till, fattening the winds of the morning, an odour of new-mown hay
Came, and my forehead fell low, and my tears like berries fell down;
Later a sound came, half lost in the sound of a shore far away,
From the great grass-barnacle calling, and later the shore-weeds brown.
If I were as I once was, the strong hoofs crushing the sand and the shells,
Coming out of the sea as the dawn comes, a chaunt of love on my lips,
Not coughing, my head on my knees, and praying, and wroth with the bells,
I would leave no saint's head on his body from Rachlin to Bera of ships.
Making way from the kindling surges, I rode on a bridle-path
Much wondering to see upon all hands, of wattles and woodwork made,
Your bell-mounted churches, and guardless the sacred cairn and the mth,
And a small and a feeble populace stooping with mattock and spade,
Or weeding or ploughing with faces a-shining with much-toil wet;
While in this place and that place, with bodies un, glorious, their chieftains stood,
Awaiting in patience the straw-death, croziered one, caught in your net:
Went the laughter of scorn from my mouth like the roaring of wind in a wood.
And before I went by them so huge and so speedy with eyes so bright,
Came after the hard gaze of youth, or an old man lifted his head:
And I rode and I rode, and I cried out, 'The Fenians hunt wolves in the night,
So sleep thee by daytime.' A voice cried, 'The Fenians a long time are dead.'
A whitebeard stood hushed on the pathway, the flesh of his face as dried grass,
And in folds round his eyes and his mouth, he sad as a child without milk-
And the dreams of the islands were gone, and I knew how men sorrow and pass,
And their hound, and their horse, and their love, and their eyes that glimmer like silk.
And wrapping my face in my hair, I murmured, 'In old age they ceased';
And my tears were larger than berries, and I murmured, 'Where white clouds lie spread
On Crevroe or broad Knockfefin, with many of old they feast
On the floors of the gods.' He cried, 'No, the gods a long time are dead.'
And lonely and longing for Niamh, I shivered and turned me about,
The heart in me longing to leap like a grasshopper into her heart;
I turned and rode to the westward, and followed the sea's old shout
Till I saw where Maeve lies sleeping till starlight and midnight part.
And there at the foot of the mountain, two carried a sack full of sand,
They bore it with staggering and sweating, but fell with their burden at length.
Leaning down from the gem-studded saddle, I flung it five yards with my hand,
With a sob for men waxing so weakly, a sob for the Fenians' old strength.
The rest you have heard of, O croziered man; how, when divided the girth,
I fell on the path, and the horse went away like a summer fly;
And my years three hundred fell on me, and I rose, and walked on the earth,
A creeping old man, full of sleep, with the spittle on his beard never dry'.
How the men of the sand-sack showed me a church with its belfry in air;
Sorry place, where for swing of the war-axe in my dim eyes the crozier gleams;
What place have Caoilte and Conan, and Bran, Sceolan, Lomair?
Speak, you too are old with your memories, an old man surrounded with dreams.
S. Patrick. Where the flesh of the footsole clingeth on the burning stones is their place;
Where he demons whip them with wires on the burning stones of wide Hell,
Watching the blessed ones move far off, and the smile on God's face,
Between them a gateway of brass, and the howl of the angels who fell.
Oisin. Put the staff in my hands; for I go to the Fenians,
O cleric, to chaunt
The war-songs that roused them of old; they will rise, making clouds with their Breath,
Innumerable, singing, exultant; the clay underneath them shall pant,
And demons be broken in pieces, and trampled beneath them in death.
And demons afraid in their darkness; deep horror of eyes and of wings,
Afraid, their ears on the earth laid, shall listen and rise up and weep;
Hearing the shaking of shields and the quiver of stretched bowstrings,
Hearing Hell loud with a murmur, as shouting and mocking we sweep.
We will tear out the flaming stones, and batter the gateway of brass
And enter, and none sayeth 'No' when there enters the strongly armed guest;
Make clean as a broom cleans, and march on as oxen move over young grass;
Then feast, making converse of wars, and of old wounds, and turn to our rest.
S. Patrick. On the flaming stones, without refuge, the limbs of the Fenians are tost;
None war on the masters of Hell, who could break up the world in their rage;
But kneel and wear out the flags and pray for your soul that is lost
Through the demon love of its youth and its godless and passionate age.
Oisin. Ah me! to be Shaken with coughing and broken with old age and pain,
Without laughter, a show unto children, alone with remembrance and fear;
All emptied of purple hours as a beggar's cloak in the rain,
As a hay-cock out on the flood, or a wolf sucked under a weir.
It were sad to gaze on the blessed and no man I loved of old there;
I throw down the chain of small stones! when life in my body has ceased,
I will go to Caoilte, and Conan, and Bran, Sceolan, Lomair,
And dwell in the house of the Fenians, be they in flames or at feast.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 24

The assembly now broke up and the people went their ways each to his
own ship. There they made ready their supper, and then bethought
them of the blessed boon of sleep; but Achilles still wept for
thinking of his dear comrade, and sleep, before whom all things bow,
could take no hold upon him. This way and that did he turn as he
yearned after the might and manfulness of Patroclus; he thought of all
they had done together, and all they had gone through both on the
field of battle and on the waves of the weary sea. As he dwelt on
these things he wept bitterly and lay now on his side, now on his
back, and now face downwards, till at last he rose and went out as one
distraught to wander upon the seashore. Then, when he saw dawn
breaking over beach and sea, he yoked his horses to his chariot, and
bound the body of Hector behind it that he might drag it about. Thrice
did he drag it round the tomb of the son of Menoetius, and then went
back into his tent, leaving the body on the ground full length and
with its face downwards. But Apollo would not suffer it to be
disfigured, for he pitied the man, dead though he now was; therefore
he shielded him with his golden aegis continually, that he might
take no hurt while Achilles was dragging him.
Thus shamefully did Achilles in his fury dishonour Hector; but the
blessed gods looked down in pity from heaven, and urged Mercury,
slayer of Argus, to steal the body. All were of this mind save only
Juno, Neptune, and Jove's grey-eyed daughter, who persisted in the
hate which they had ever borne towards Ilius with Priam and his
people; for they forgave not the wrong done them by Alexandrus in
disdaining the goddesses who came to him when he was in his
sheepyards, and preferring her who had offered him a wanton to his
ruin.
When, therefore, the morning of the twelfth day had now come,
Phoebus Apollo spoke among the immortals saying, "You gods ought to be
ashamed of yourselves; you are cruel and hard-hearted. Did not
Hector burn you thigh-bones of heifers and of unblemished goats? And
now dare you not rescue even his dead body, for his wife to look upon,
with his mother and child, his father Priam, and his people, who would
forthwith commit him to the flames, and give him his due funeral
rites? So, then, you would all be on the side of mad Achilles, who
knows neither right nor ruth? He is like some savage lion that in
the pride of his great strength and daring springs upon men's flocks
and gorges on them. Even so has Achilles flung aside all pity, and all
that conscience which at once so greatly banes yet greatly boons him
that will heed it. man may lose one far dearer than Achilles has lost-
a son, it may be, or a brother born from his own mother's womb; yet
when he has mourned him and wept over him he will let him bide, for it
takes much sorrow to kill a man; whereas Achilles, now that he has
slain noble Hector, drags him behind his chariot round the tomb of his
comrade. It were better of him, and for him, that he should not do so,
for brave though he be we gods may take it ill that he should vent his
fury upon dead clay."
Juno spoke up in a rage. "This were well," she cried, "O lord of the
silver bow, if you would give like honour to Hector and to Achilles;
but Hector was mortal and suckled at a woman's breast, whereas
Achilles is the offspring of a goddess whom I myself reared and
brought up. I married her to Peleus, who is above measure dear to
the immortals; you gods came all of you to her wedding; you feasted
along with them yourself and brought your lyre- false, and fond of low
company, that you have ever been."
Then said Jove, "Juno, be not so bitter. Their honour shall not be
equal, but of all that dwell in Ilius, Hector was dearest to the gods,
as also to myself, for his offerings never failed me. Never was my
altar stinted of its dues, nor of the drink-offerings and savour of
sacrifice which we claim of right. I shall therefore permit the body
of mighty Hector to be stolen; and yet this may hardly be without
Achilles coming to know it, for his mother keeps night and day
beside him. Let some one of you, therefore, send Thetis to me, and I
will impart my counsel to her, namely that Achilles is to accept a
ransom from Priam, and give up the body."
On this Iris fleet as the wind went forth to carry his message. Down
she plunged into the dark sea midway between Samos and rocky Imbrus;
the waters hissed as they closed over her, and she sank into the
bottom as the lead at the end of an ox-horn, that is sped to carry
death to fishes. She found Thetis sitting in a great cave with the
other sea-goddesses gathered round her; there she sat in the midst
of them weeping for her noble son who was to fall far from his own
land, on the rich plains of Troy. Iris went up to her and said,
"Rise Thetis; Jove, whose counsels fail not, bids you come to him."
And Thetis answered, "Why does the mighty god so bid me? I am in great
grief, and shrink from going in and out among the immortals. Still,
I will go, and the word that he may speak shall not be spoken in
vain."
The goddess took her dark veil, than which there can be no robe more
sombre, and went forth with fleet Iris leading the way before her. The
waves of the sea opened them a path, and when they reached the shore
they flew up into the heavens, where they found the all-seeing son
of Saturn with the blessed gods that live for ever assembled near him.
Minerva gave up her seat to her, and she sat down by the side of
father Jove. Juno then placed a fair golden cup in her hand, and spoke
to her in words of comfort, whereon Thetis drank and gave her back the
cup; and the sire of gods and men was the first to speak.
"So, goddess," said he, "for all your sorrow, and the grief that I
well know reigns ever in your heart, you have come hither to
Olympus, and I will tell you why I have sent for you. This nine days
past the immortals have been quarrelling about Achilles waster of
cities and the body of Hector. The gods would have Mercury slayer of
Argus steal the body, but in furtherance of our peace and amity
henceforward, I will concede such honour to your son as I will now
tell you. Go, then, to the host and lay these commands upon him; say
that the gods are angry with him, and that I am myself more angry than
them all, in that he keeps Hector at the ships and will not give him
up. He may thus fear me and let the body go. At the same time I will
send Iris to great Priam to bid him go to the ships of the Achaeans,
and ransom his son, taking with him such gifts for Achilles as may
give him satisfaction.
Silver-footed Thetis did as the god had told her, and forthwith down
she darted from the topmost summits of Olympus. She went to her
son's tents where she found him grieving bitterly, while his trusty
comrades round him were busy preparing their morning meal, for which
they had killed a great woolly sheep. His mother sat down beside him
and caressed him with her hand saying, "My son, how long will you keep
on thus grieving and making moan? You are gnawing at your own heart,
and think neither of food nor of woman's embraces; and yet these too
were well, for you have no long time to live, and death with the
strong hand of fate are already close beside you. Now, therefore, heed
what I say, for I come as a messenger from Jove; he says that the gods
are angry with you, and himself more angry than them all, in that
you keep Hector at the ships and will not give him up. Therefore let
him go, and accept a ransom for his body."
And Achilles answered, "So be it. If Olympian Jove of his own motion
thus commands me, let him that brings the ransom bear the body away."
Thus did mother and son talk together at the ships in long discourse
with one another. Meanwhile the son of Saturn sent Iris to the
strong city of Ilius. "Go," said he, "fleet Iris, from the mansions of
Olympus, and tell King Priam in Ilius, that he is to go to the ships
of the Achaeans and free the body of his dear son. He is to take
such gifts with him as shall give satisfaction to Achilles, and he
is to go alone, with no other Trojan, save only some honoured
servant who may drive his mules and waggon, and bring back the body of
him whom noble Achilles has slain. Let him have no thought nor fear of
death in his heart, for we will send the slayer of Argus to escort
him, and bring him within the tent of Achilles. Achilles will not kill
him nor let another do so, for he will take heed to his ways and sin
not, and he will entreat a suppliant with all honourable courtesy."
On this Iris, fleet as the wind, sped forth to deliver her
message. She went to Priam's house, and found weeping and
lamentation therein. His sons were seated round their father in the
outer courtyard, and their raiment was wet with tears: the old man sat
in the midst of them with his mantle wrapped close about his body, and
his head and neck all covered with the filth which he had clutched
as he lay grovelling in the mire. His daughters and his sons' wives
went wailing about the house, as they thought of the many and brave
men who lay dead, slain by the Argives. The messenger of Jove stood by
Priam and spoke softly to him, but fear fell upon him as she did so.
"Take heart," she said, "Priam offspring of Dardanus, take heart and
fear not. I bring no evil tidings, but am minded well towards you. I
come as a messenger from Jove, who though he be not near, takes
thought for you and pities you. The lord of Olympus bids you go and
ransom noble Hector, and take with you such gifts as shall give
satisfaction to Achilles. You are to go alone, with no Trojan, save
only some honoured servant who may drive your mules and waggon, and
bring back to the city the body of him whom noble Achilles has
slain. You are to have no thought, nor fear of death, for Jove will
send the slayer of Argus to escort you. When he has brought you within
Achilles' tent, Achilles will not kill you nor let another do so,
for he will take heed to his ways and sin not, and he will entreat a
suppliant with all honourable courtesy."
Iris went her way when she had thus spoken, and Priam told his
sons to get a mule-waggon ready, and to make the body of the waggon
fast upon the top of its bed. Then he went down into his fragrant
store-room, high-vaulted, and made of cedar-wood, where his many
treasures were kept, and he called Hecuba his wife. "Wife," said he,
"a messenger has come to me from Olympus, and has told me to go to the
ships of the Achaeans to ransom my dear son, taking with me such gifts
as shall give satisfaction to Achilles. What think you of this matter?
for my own part I am greatly moved to pass through the of the Achaeans
and go to their ships."
His wife cried aloud as she heard him, and said, "Alas, what has
become of that judgement for which you have been ever famous both
among strangers and your own people? How can you venture alone to
the ships of the Achaeans, and look into the face of him who has slain
so many of your brave sons? You must have iron courage, for if the
cruel savage sees you and lays hold on you, he will know neither
respect nor pity. Let us then weep Hector from afar here in our own
house, for when I gave him birth the threads of overruling fate were
spun for him that dogs should eat his flesh far from his parents, in
the house of that terrible man on whose liver I would fain fasten
and devour it. Thus would I avenge my son, who showed no cowardice
when Achilles slew him, and thought neither of Right nor of avoiding
battle as he stood in defence of Trojan men and Trojan women."
Then Priam said, "I would go, do not therefore stay me nor be as a
bird of ill omen in my house, for you will not move me. Had it been
some mortal man who had sent me some prophet or priest who divines
from sacrifice- I should have deemed him false and have given him no
heed; but now I have heard the goddess and seen her face to face,
therefore I will go and her saying shall not be in vain. If it be my
fate to die at the ships of the Achaeans even so would I have it;
let Achilles slay me, if I may but first have taken my son in my
arms and mourned him to my heart's comforting."
So saying he lifted the lids of his chests, and took out twelve
goodly vestments. He took also twelve cloaks of single fold, twelve
rugs, twelve fair mantles, and an equal number of shirts. He weighed
out ten talents of gold, and brought moreover two burnished tripods,
four cauldrons, and a very beautiful cup which the Thracians had given
him when he had gone to them on an embassy; it was very precious,
but he grudged not even this, so eager was he to ransom the body of
his son. Then he chased all the Trojans from the court and rebuked
them with words of anger. "Out," he cried, "shame and disgrace to me
that you are. Have you no grief in your own homes that you are come to
plague me here? Is it a small thing, think you, that the son of Saturn
has sent this sorrow upon me, to lose the bravest of my sons? Nay, you
shall prove it in person, for now he is gone the Achaeans will have
easier work in killing you. As for me, let me go down within the house
of Hades, ere mine eyes behold the sacking and wasting of the city."
He drove the men away with his staff, and they went forth as the old
man sped them. Then he called to his sons, upbraiding Helenus,
Paris, noble Agathon, Pammon, Antiphonus, Polites of the loud
battle-cry, Deiphobus, Hippothous, and Dius. These nine did the old
man call near him. "Come to me at once," he cried, "worthless sons who
do me shame; would that you had all been killed at the ships rather
than Hector. Miserable man that I am, I have had the bravest sons in
all Troy- noble Nestor, Troilus the dauntless charioteer, and Hector
who was a god among men, so that one would have thought he was son
to an immortal- yet there is not one of them left. Mars has slain them
and those of whom I am ashamed are alone left me. Liars, and light
of foot, heroes of the dance, robbers of lambs and kids from your
own people, why do you not get a waggon ready for me at once, and
put all these things upon it that I may set out on my way?"
Thus did he speak, and they feared the rebuke of their father.
They brought out a strong mule-waggon, newly made, and set the body of
the waggon fast on its bed. They took the mule-yoke from the peg on
which it hung, a yoke of boxwood with a knob on the top of it and
rings for the reins to go through. Then they brought a yoke-band
eleven cubits long, to bind the yoke to the pole; they bound it on
at the far end of the pole, and put the ring over the upright pin
making it fast with three turns of the band on either side the knob,
and bending the thong of the yoke beneath it. This done, they
brought from the store-chamber the rich ransom that was to purchase
the body of Hector, and they set it all orderly on the waggon; then
they yoked the strong harness-mules which the Mysians had on a time
given as a goodly present to Priam; but for Priam himself they yoked
horses which the old king had bred, and kept for own use.
Thus heedfully did Priam and his servant see to the yolking of their
cars at the palace. Then Hecuba came to them all sorrowful, with a
golden goblet of wine in her right hand, that they might make a
drink-offering before they set out. She stood in front of the horses
and said, "Take this, make a drink-offering to father Jove, and
since you are minded to go to the ships in spite of me, pray that
you may come safely back from the hands of your enemies. Pray to the
son of Saturn lord of the whirlwind, who sits on Ida and looks down
over all Troy, pray him to send his swift messenger on your right
hand, the bird of omen which is strongest and most dear to him of
all birds, that you may see it with your own eyes and trust it as
you go forth to the ships of the Danaans. If all-seeing Jove will
not send you this messenger, however set upon it you may be, I would
not have you go to the ships of the Argives."
And Priam answered, "Wife, I will do as you desire me; it is well to
lift hands in prayer to Jove, if so be he may have mercy upon me."
With this the old man bade the serving-woman pour pure water over
his hands, and the woman came, bearing the water in a bowl. He
washed his hands and took the cup from his wife; then he made the
drink-offering and prayed, standing in the middle of the courtyard and
turning his eyes to heaven. "Father Jove," he said, "that rulest
from Ida, most glorious and most great, grant that I may be received
kindly and compassionately in the tents of Achilles; and send your
swift messenger upon my right hand, the bird of omen which is
strongest and most dear to you of all birds, that I may see it with my
own eyes and trust it as I go forth to the ships of the Danaans."
So did he pray, and Jove the lord of counsel heard his prayer.
Forthwith he sent an eagle, the most unerring portent of all birds
that fly, the dusky hunter that men also call the Black Eagle. His
wings were spread abroad on either side as wide as the well-made and
well-bolted door of a rich man's chamber. He came to them flying
over the city upon their right hands, and when they saw him they
were glad and their hearts took comfort within them. The old man
made haste to mount his chariot, and drove out through the inner
gateway and under the echoing gatehouse of the outer court. Before him
went the mules drawing the four-wheeled waggon, and driven by wise
Idaeus; behind these were the horses, which the old man lashed with
his whip and drove swiftly through the city, while his friends
followed after, wailing and lamenting for him as though he were on his
road to death. As soon as they had come down from the city and had
reached the plain, his sons and sons-in-law who had followed him
went back to Ilius.
But Priam and Idaeus as they showed out upon the plain did not
escape the ken of all-seeing Jove, who looked down upon the old man
and pitied him; then he spoke to his son Mercury and said, "Mercury,
for it is you who are the most disposed to escort men on their way,
and to hear those whom you will hear, go, and so conduct Priam to
the ships of the Achaeans that no other of the Danaans shall see him
nor take note of him until he reach the son of Peleus."
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 till he came to
Troy and to the Hellespont. To look at, he was like a young man of
noble birth in the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down
just coming upon his face.
Now when Priam and Idaeus had driven past the great tomb of Ilius,
they stayed their mules and horses that they might drink in the river,
for the shades of night were falling, when, therefore, Idaeus saw
Mercury standing near them he said to Priam, "Take heed, descendant of
Dardanus; here is matter which demands consideration. I see a man
who I think will presently fall upon us; let us fly with our horses,
or at least embrace his knees and implore him to take compassion
upon us?
When he heard this the old man's heart failed him, and he was in
great fear; he stayed where he was as one dazed, and the hair stood on
end over his whole body; but the bringer of good luck came up to him
and took him by the hand, saying, "Whither, father, are you thus
driving your mules and horses in the dead of night when other men
are asleep? Are you not afraid of the fierce Achaeans who are hard
by you, so cruel and relentless? Should some one of them see you
bearing so much treasure through the darkness of the flying night,
what would not your state then be? You are no longer young, and he who
is with you is too old to protect you from those who would attack you.
For myself, I will do you no harm, and I will defend you from any
one else, for you remind me of my own father."
And Priam answered, "It is indeed as you say, my dear son;
nevertheless some god has held his hand over me, in that he has sent
such a wayfarer as yourself to meet me so Opportunely; you are so
comely in mien and figure, and your judgement is so excellent that you
must come of blessed parents."
Then said the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, all that
you have said is right; but tell me and tell me true, are you taking
this rich treasure to send it to a foreign people where it may be
safe, or are you all leaving strong Ilius in dismay now that your
son has fallen who was the bravest man among you and was never lacking
in battle with the Achaeans?"
And Priam said, "Wo are you, my friend, and who are your parents,
that you speak so truly about the fate of my unhappy son?"
The slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, answered him, "Sir, you
would prove me, that you question me about noble Hector. Many a time
have I set eyes upon him in battle when he was driving the Argives
to their ships and putting them to the sword. We stood still and
marvelled, for Achilles in his anger with the son of Atreus suffered
us not to fight. I am his squire, and came with him in the same
ship. I am a Myrmidon, and my father's name is Polyctor: he is a
rich man and about as old as you are; he has six sons besides
myself, and I am the seventh. We cast lots, and it fell upon me to
sail hither with Achilles. I am now come from the ships on to the
plain, for with daybreak the Achaeans will set battle in array about
the city. They chafe at doing nothing, and are so eager that their
princes cannot hold them back."
Then answered Priam, "If you are indeed the squire of Achilles son
of Peleus, tell me now the Whole truth. Is my son still at the
ships, or has Achilles hewn him limb from limb, and given him to his
hounds?"
"Sir," replied the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "neither
hounds nor vultures have yet devoured him; he is still just lying at
the tents by the ship of Achilles, and though it is now twelve days
that he has lain there, his flesh is not wasted nor have the worms
eaten him although they feed on warriors. At daybreak Achilles drags
him cruelly round the sepulchre of his dear comrade, but it does him
no hurt. You should come yourself and see how he lies fresh as dew,
with the blood all washed away, and his wounds every one of them
closed though many pierced him with their spears. Such care have the
blessed gods taken of your brave son, for he was dear to them beyond
all measure."
The old man was comforted as he heard him and said, "My son, see
what a good thing it is to have made due offerings to the immortals;
for as sure as that he was born my son never forgot the gods that hold
Olympus, and now they requite it to him even in death. Accept
therefore at my hands this goodly chalice; guard me and with
heaven's help guide me till I come to the tent of the son of Peleus."
Then answered the slayer of Argus, guide and guardian, "Sir, you are
tempting me and playing upon my youth, but you shall not move me,
for you are offering me presents without the knowledge of Achilles
whom I fear and hold it great guiltless to defraud, lest some evil
presently befall me; but as your guide I would go with you even to
Argos itself, and would guard you so carefully whether by sea or land,
that no one should attack you through making light of him who was with
you."
The bringer of good luck then sprang on to the chariot, and
seizing the whip and reins he breathed fresh spirit into the mules and
horses. When they reached the trench and the wall that was before
the ships, those who were on guard had just been getting their
suppers, and the slayer of Argus threw them all into a deep sleep.
Then he drew back the bolts to open the gates, and took Priam inside
with the treasure he had upon his waggon. Ere long they came to the
lofty dwelling of the son of Peleus for which the Myrmidons had cut
pine and which they had built for their king; when they had built it
they thatched it with coarse tussock-grass which they had mown out
on the plain, and all round it they made a large courtyard, which
was fenced with stakes set close together. The gate was barred with
a single bolt of pine which it took three men to force into its place,
and three to draw back so as to open the gate, but Achilles could draw
it by himself. Mercury opened the gate for the old man, and brought in
the treasure that he was taking with him for the son of Peleus. Then
he sprang from the chariot on to the ground and said, "Sir, it is I,
immortal Mercury, that am come with you, for my father sent me to
escort you. I will now leave you, and will not enter into the presence
of Achilles, for it might anger him that a god should befriend
mortal men thus openly. Go you within, and embrace the knees of the
son of Peleus: beseech him by his father, his lovely mother, and his
son; thus you may move him."
With these words Mercury went back to high Olympus. Priam sprang
from his chariot to the ground, leaving Idaeus where he was, in charge
of the mules and horses. The old man went straight into the house
where Achilles, loved of the gods, was sitting. There he found him
with his men seated at a distance from him: only two, the hero
Automedon, and Alcimus of the race of Mars, were busy in attendance
about his person, for he had but just done eating and drinking, and
the table was still there. King Priam entered without their seeing
him, and going right up to Achilles he clasped his knees and kissed
the dread murderous hands that had slain so many of his sons.
As when some cruel spite has befallen a man that he should have
killed some one in his own country, and must fly to a great man's
protection in a land of strangers, and all marvel who see him, even so
did Achilles marvel as he beheld Priam. The others looked one to
another and marvelled also, but Priam besought Achilles saying, "Think
of your father, O Achilles like unto the gods, who is such even as I
am, on the sad threshold of old age. It may be that those who dwell
near him harass him, and there is none to keep war and ruin from
him. Yet when he hears of you being still alive, he is glad, and his
days are full of hope that he shall see his dear son come home to
him from Troy; but I, wretched man that I am, had the bravest in all
Troy for my sons, and there is not one of them left. I had fifty
sons when the Achaeans came here; nineteen of them were from a
single womb, and the others were borne to me by the women of my
household. The greater part of them has fierce Mars laid low, and
Hector, him who was alone left, him who was the guardian of the city
and ourselves, him have you lately slain; therefore I am now come to
the ships of the Achaeans to ransom his body from you with a great
ransom. Fear, O Achilles, the wrath of heaven; think on your own
father and have compassion upon me, who am the more pitiable, for I
have steeled myself as no man yet has ever steeled himself before
me, and have raised to my lips the hand of him who slew my son."
Thus spoke Priam, and the heart of Achilles yearned as he
bethought him of his father. He took the old man's hand and moved
him gently away. The two wept bitterly- Priam, as he lay at
Achilles' feet, weeping for Hector, and Achilles now for his father
and now for Patroclous, till the house was filled with their
lamentation. But when Achilles was now sated with grief and had
unburthened the bitterness of his sorrow, he left his seat and
raised the old man by the hand, in pity for his white hair and
beard; then he said, "Unhappy man, you have indeed been greatly
daring; how could you venture to come alone to the ships of the
Achaeans, and enter the presence of him who has slain so many of
your brave sons? You must have iron courage: sit now upon this seat,
and for all our grief we will hide our sorrows in our hearts, for
weeping will not avail us. The immortals know no care, yet the lot
they spin for man is full of sorrow; on the floor of Jove's palace
there stand two urns, the one filled with evil gifts, and the other
with good ones. He for whom Jove the lord of thunder mixes the gifts
he sends, will meet now with good and now with evil fortune; but he to
whom Jove sends none but evil gifts will be pointed at by the finger
of scorn, the hand of famine will pursue him to the ends of the world,
and he will go up and down the face of the earth, respected neither by
gods nor men. Even so did it befall Peleus; the gods endowed him
with all good things from his birth upwards, for he reigned over the
Myrmidons excelling all men in prosperity and wealth, and mortal
though he was they gave him a goddess for his bride. But even on him
too did heaven send misfortune, for there is no race of royal children
born to him in his house, save one son who is doomed to die all
untimely; nor may I take care of him now that he is growing old, for I
must stay here at Troy to be the bane of you and your children. And
you too, O Priam, I have heard that you were aforetime happy. They say
that in wealth and plenitude of offspring you surpassed all that is in
Lesbos, the realm of Makar to the northward, Phrygia that is more
inland, and those that dwell upon the great Hellespont; but from the
day when the dwellers in heaven sent this evil upon you, war and
slaughter have been about your city continually. Bear up against it,
and let there be some intervals in your sorrow. Mourn as you may for
your brave son, you will take nothing by it. You cannot raise him from
the dead, ere you do so yet another sorrow shall befall you."
And Priam answered, "O king, bid me not be seated, while Hector is
still lying uncared for in your tents, but accept the great ransom
which I have brought you, and give him to me at once that I may look
upon him. May you prosper with the ransom and reach your own land in
safety, seeing that you have suffered me to live and to look upon
the light of the sun."
Achilles looked at him sternly and said, "Vex me, sir, no longer;
I am of myself minded to give up the body of Hector. My mother,
daughter of the old man of the sea, came to me from Jove to bid me
deliver it to you. Moreover I know well, O Priam, and you cannot
hide it, that some god has brought you to the ships of the Achaeans,
for else, no man however strong and in his prime would dare to come to
our host; he could neither pass our guard unseen, nor draw the bolt of
my gates thus easily; therefore, provoke me no further, lest I sin
against the word of Jove, and suffer you not, suppliant though you
are, within my tents."
The old man feared him and obeyed. Then the son of Peleus sprang
like a lion through the door of his house, not alone, but with him
went his two squires Automedon and Alcimus who were closer to him than
any others of his comrades now that Patroclus was no more. These
unyoked the horses and mules, and bade Priam's herald and attendant be
seated within the house. They lifted the ransom for Hector's body from
the waggon. but they left two mantles and a goodly shirt, that
Achilles might wrap the body in them when he gave it to be taken home.
Then he called to his servants and ordered them to wash the body and
anoint it, but he first took it to a place where Priam should not
see it, lest if he did so, he should break out in the bitterness of
his grief, and enrage Achilles, who might then kill him and sin
against the word of Jove. When the servants had washed the body and
anointed it, and had wrapped it in a fair shirt and mantle, Achilles
himself lifted it on to a bier, and he and his men then laid it on the
waggon. He cried aloud as he did so and called on the name of his dear
comrade, "Be not angry with me, Patroclus," he said, "if you hear even
in the house of Hades that I have given Hector to his father for a
ransom. It has been no unworthy one, and I will share it equitably
with you."
Achilles then went back into the tent and took his place on the
richly inlaid seat from which he had risen, by the wall that was at
right angles to the one against which Priam was sitting. "Sir," he
said, "your son is now laid upon his bier and is ransomed according to
desire; you shall look upon him when you him away at daybreak; for the
present let us prepare our supper. Even lovely Niobe had to think
about eating, though her twelve children- six daughters and six
lusty sons- had been all slain in her house. Apollo killed the sons
with arrows from his silver bow, to punish Niobe, and Diana slew the
daughters, because Niobe had vaunted herself against Leto; she said
Leto had borne two children only, whereas she had herself borne
many- whereon the two killed the many. Nine days did they lie
weltering, and there was none to bury them, for the son of Saturn
turned the people into stone; but on the tenth day the gods in
heaven themselves buried them, and Niobe then took food, being worn
out with weeping. They say that somewhere among the rocks on the
mountain pastures of Sipylus, where the nymphs live that haunt the
river Achelous, there, they say, she lives in stone and still nurses
the sorrows sent upon her by the hand of heaven. Therefore, noble sir,
let us two now take food; you can weep for your dear son hereafter
as you are bearing him back to Ilius- and many a tear will he cost
you."
With this Achilles sprang from his seat and killed a sheep of
silvery whiteness, which his followers skinned and made ready all in
due order. They cut the meat carefully up into smaller pieces, spitted
them, and drew them off again when they were well roasted. Automedon
brought bread in fair baskets and served it round the table, while
Achilles dealt out the meat, and they laid their hands on the good
things that were before them. As soon as they had had enough to eat
and drink, Priam, descendant of Dardanus, marvelled at the strength
and beauty of Achilles for he was as a god to see, and Achilles
marvelled at Priam as he listened to him and looked upon his noble
presence. When they had gazed their fill Priam spoke first. "And
now, O king," he said, "take me to my couch that we may lie down and
enjoy the blessed boon of sleep. Never once have my eyes been closed
from the day your hands took the life of my son; I have grovelled
without ceasing in the mire of my stable-yard, making moan and
brooding over my countless sorrows. Now, moreover, I have eaten
bread and drunk wine; hitherto I have tasted nothing."
As he spoke Achilles told his men and the women-servants to set beds
in the room that was in the gatehouse, and make them with good red
rugs, and spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks
for Priam and Idaeus to wear. So the maids went out carrying a torch
and got the two beds ready in all haste. Then Achilles said laughingly
to Priam, "Dear sir, you shall lie outside, lest some counsellor of
those who in due course keep coming to advise with me should see you
here in the darkness of the flying night, and tell it to Agamemnon.
This might cause delay in the delivery of the body. And now tell me
and tell me true, for how many days would you celebrate the funeral
rites of noble Hector? Tell me, that I may hold aloof from war and
restrain the host."
And Priam answered, "Since, then, you suffer me to bury my noble son
with all due rites, do thus, Achilles, and I shall be grateful. You
know how we are pent up within our city; it is far for us to fetch
wood from the mountain, and the people live in fear. Nine days,
therefore, will we mourn Hector in my house; on the tenth day we
will bury him and there shall be a public feast in his honour; on
the eleventh we will build a mound over his ashes, and on the twelfth,
if there be need, we will fight."
And Achilles answered, "All, King Priam, shall be as you have
said. I will stay our fighting for as long a time as you have named."
As he spoke he laid his hand on the old man's right wrist, in
token that he should have no fear; thus then did Priam and his
attendant sleep there in the forecourt, full of thought, while
Achilles lay in an inner room of the house, with fair Briseis by his
side.
And now both gods and mortals were fast asleep through the
livelong night, but upon Mercury alone, the bringer of good luck,
sleep could take no hold for he was thinking all the time how to get
King Priam away from the ships without his being seen by the strong
force of sentinels. He hovered therefore over Priam's head and said,
"Sir, now that Achilles has spared your life, you seem to have no fear
about sleeping in the thick of your foes. You have paid a great
ransom, and have received the body of your son; were you still alive
and a prisoner the sons whom you have left at home would have to
give three times as much to free you; and so it would be if
Agamemnon and the other Achaeans were to know of your being here."
When he heard this the old man was afraid and roused his servant.
Mercury then yoked their horses and mules, and drove them quickly
through the host so that no man perceived them. When they came to
the ford of eddying Xanthus, begotten of immortal Jove, Mercury went
back to high Olympus, and dawn in robe of saffron began to break
over all the land. Priam and Idaeus then drove on toward the city
lamenting and making moan, and the mules drew the body of Hector. No
one neither man nor woman saw them, till Cassandra, fair as golden
Venus standing on Pergamus, caught sight of her dear father in his
chariot, and his servant that was the city's herald with him. Then she
saw him that was lying upon the bier, drawn by the mules, and with a
loud cry she went about the city saying, "Come hither Trojans, men and
women, and look on Hector; if ever you rejoiced to see him coming from
battle when he was alive, look now on him that was the glory of our
city and all our people."
At this there was not man nor woman left in the city, so great a
sorrow had possessed them. Hard by the gates they met Priam as he
was bringing in the body. Hector's wife and his mother were the
first to mourn him: they flew towards the waggon and laid their
hands upon his head, while the crowd stood weeping round them. They
would have stayed before the gates, weeping and lamenting the livelong
day to the going down of the sun, had not Priam spoken to them from
the chariot and said, "Make way for the mules to pass you.
Afterwards when I have taken the body home you shall have your fill of
weeping."
On this the people stood asunder, and made a way for the waggon.
When they had borne the body within the house they laid it upon a
bed and seated minstrels round it to lead the dirge, whereon the women
joined in the sad music of their lament. Foremost among them all
Andromache led their wailing as she clasped the head of mighty
Hector in her embrace. "Husband," she cried, "you have died young, and
leave me in your house a widow; he of whom we are the ill-starred
parents is still a mere child, and I fear he may not reach manhood.
Ere he can do so our city will be razed and overthrown, for you who
watched over it are no more- you who were its saviour, the guardian of
our wives and children. Our women will be carried away captives to the
ships, and I among them; while you, my child, who will be with me will
be put to some unseemly tasks, working for a cruel master. Or, may be,
some Achaean will hurl you (O miserable death) from our walls, to
avenge some brother, son, or father whom Hector slew; many of them
have indeed bitten the dust at his hands, for your father's hand in
battle was no light one. Therefore do the people mourn him. You have
left, O Hector, sorrow unutterable to your parents, and my own grief
is greatest of all, for you did not stretch forth your arms and
embrace me as you lay dying, nor say to me any words that might have
lived with me in my tears night and day for evermore."
Bitterly did she weep the while, and the women joined in her lament.
Hecuba in her turn took up the strains of woe. "Hector," she cried,
"dearest to me of all my children. So long as you were alive the
gods loved you well, and even in death they have not been utterly
unmindful of you; for when Achilles took any other of my sons, he
would sell him beyond the seas, to Samos Imbrus or rugged Lemnos;
and when he had slain you too with his sword, many a time did he
drag you round the sepulchre of his comrade- though this could not
give him life- yet here you lie all fresh as dew, and comely as one
whom Apollo has slain with his painless shafts."
Thus did she too speak through her tears with bitter moan, and
then Helen for a third time took up the strain of lamentation.
"Hector," said she, "dearest of all my brothers-in-law-for I am wife
to Alexandrus who brought me hither to Troy- would that I had died ere
he did so- twenty years are come and gone since I left my home and
came from over the sea, but I have never heard one word of insult or
unkindness from you. When another would chide with me, as it might
be one of your brothers or sisters or of your brothers' wives, or my
mother-in-law- for Priam was as kind to me as though he were my own
father- you would rebuke and check them with words of gentleness and
goodwill. Therefore my tears flow both for you and for my unhappy
self, for there is no one else in Troy who is kind to me, but all
shrink and shudder as they go by me."
She wept as she spoke and the vast crowd that was gathered round her
joined in her lament. Then King Priam spoke to them saying, "Bring
wood, O Trojans, to the city, and fear no cunning ambush of the
Argives, for Achilles when he dismissed me from the ships gave me
his word that they should not attack us until the morning of the
twelfth day."
Forthwith they yoked their oxen and mules and gathered together
before the city. Nine days long did they bring in great heaps wood,
and on the morning of the tenth day with many tears they took trave
Hector forth, laid his dead body upon the summit of the pile, and
set the fire thereto. Then when the child of morning rosy-fingered
dawn appeared on the eleventh day, the people again assembled, round
the pyre of mighty Hector. When they were got together, they first
quenched the fire with wine wherever it was burning, and then his
brothers and comrades with many a bitter tear gathered his white
bones, wrapped them in soft robes of purple, and laid them in a golden
urn, which they placed in a grave and covered over with large stones
set close together. Then they built a barrow hurriedly over it keeping
guard on every side lest the Achaeans should attack them before they
had finished. When they had heaped up the barrow they went back
again into the city, and being well assembled they held high feast
in the house of Priam their king.
Thus, then, did they celebrate the funeral of Hector tamer of
horses.

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Metamorphoses: Book The Thirteenth

THE chiefs were set; the soldiers crown'd the
field:
To these the master of the seven-fold shield
Upstarted fierce: and kindled with disdain.
Eager to speak, unable to contain
His boiling rage, he rowl'd his eyes around
The shore, and Graecian gallies hall'd a-ground.
The Then stretching out his hands, O Jove, he cry'd,
Speeches of Must then our cause before the fleet be try'd?
Ajax and And dares Ulysses for the prize contend,
Ulysses In sight of what he durst not once defend?
But basely fled that memorable day,
When I from Hector's hands redeem'd the flaming
prey.
So much 'tis safer at the noisie bar
With words to flourish, than ingage in war.
By diff'rent methods we maintain our right,
Nor am I made to talk, nor he to fight.
In bloody fields I labour to be great;
His arms are a smooth tongue, and soft deceit:
Nor need I speak my deeds, for those you see,
The sun, and day are witnesses for me.
Let him who fights unseen, relate his own,
And vouch the silent stars, and conscious moon.
Great is the prize demanded, I confess,
But such an abject rival makes it less;
That gift, those honours, he but hop'd to gain,
Can leave no room for Ajax to be vain:
Losing he wins, because his name will be
Ennobled by defeat, who durst contend with me.
Were my known valour question'd, yet my blood
Without that plea wou'd make my title good:
My sire was Telamon, whose arms, employ'd
With Hercules, these Trojan walls destroy'd;
And who before with Jason sent from Greece,
In the first ship brought home the golden fleece.
Great Telamon from Aeacus derives
His birth (th' inquisitor of guilty lives
In shades below; where Sisyphus, whose son
This thief is thought, rouls up the restless heavy
stone),
Just Aeacus, the king of Gods above
Begot: thus Ajax is the third from Jove.
Nor shou'd I seek advantage from my line,
Unless (Achilles) it was mix'd with thine:
As next of kin, Achilles' arms I claim;
This fellow wou'd ingraft a foreign name
Upon our stock, and the Sisyphian seed
By fraud, and theft asserts his father's breed:
Then must I lose these arms, because I came
To fight uncall'd, a voluntary name,
Nor shunn'd the cause, but offer'd you my aid?
While he long lurking was to war betray'd:
Forc'd to the field he came, but in the reer;
And feign'd distraction to conceal his fear:
'Till one more cunning caught him in the snare
(Ill for himself); and dragg'd him into war.
Now let a hero's arms a coward vest,
And he who shunn'd all honours, gain the best:
And let me stand excluded from my right,
Robb'd of my kinsman's arms, who first appear'd in
fight,
Better for us, at home had he remain'd,
Had it been true the madness which he feign'd,
Or so believ'd; the less had been our shame,
The less his counsell'd crime, which brands the
Grecian name;
Nor Philoctetes had been left inclos'd
In a bare isle, to wants and pains expos'd,
Where to the rocks, with solitary groans,
His suff'rings, and our baseness he bemoans:
And wishes (so may Heav'n his wish fulfill)
The due reward to him, who caus'd his ill.
Now he, with us to Troy's destruction sworn,
Our brother of the war, by whom are born
Alcides' arrows, pent in narrow bounds,
With cold and hunger pinch'd, and pain'd with
wounds,
To find him food and cloathing, must employ
Against the birds the shafts due to the fate of
Troy.
Yet still he lives, and lives from treason free,
Because he left Ulysses' company;
Poor Palamede might wish, so void of aid,
Rather to have been left, than so to death
betray'd.
The coward bore the man immortal spight,
Who sham'd him out of madness into fight:
Nor daring otherwise to vent his hate,
Accus'd him first of treason to the state;
And then for proof produc'd the golden store,
Himself had hidden in his tent before:
Thus of two champions he depriv'd our host,
By exile one, and one by treason lost.
Thus fights Ulysses, thus his fame extends,
A formidable man, but to his friends:
Great, for what greatness is in words, and sound,
Ev'n faithful Nestor less in both is found:
But that he might without a rival reign,
He left this faithful Nestor on the plain;
Forsook his friend ev'n at his utmost need,
Who tir'd, and tardy with his wounded steed,
Cry'd out for aid, and call'd him by his name;
But cowardice has neither ears nor shame;
Thus fled the good old man, bereft of aid,
And, for as much as lay in him, betray'd:
That this is not a fable forg'd by me,
Like one of his, an Ulyssean lie,
I vouch ev'n Diomede, who tho' his friend,
Cannot that act excuse, much less defend:
He call'd him back aloud, and tax'd his fear;
And sure enough he heard, but durst not hear.
The Gods with equal eyes on mortal look,
He justly was forsaken, who forsook:
Wanted that succour, he refus'd to lend,
Found ev'ry fellow such another friend:
No wonder, if he roar'd that all might hear;
His elocution was increas'd by fear:
I heard, I ran, I found him out of breath,
Pale, trembling, and half dead with fear of death.
Though he had judg'd himself by his own laws,
And stood condemn'd, I help'd the common cause:
With my broad buckler hid him from the foe
(Ev'n the shield trembled as he lay below);
And from impending Fate the coward freed:
Good Heav'n forgive me for so bad a deed!
If still he will persist, and urge the strife,
First let him give me back his forfeit life:
Let him return to that opprobrious field;
Again creep under my protecting shield:
Let him lie wounded, let the foe be near,
And let his quiv'ring heart confess his fear;
There put him in the very jaws of Fate;
And let him plead his cause in that estate:
And yet when snatch'd from death, when from below
My lifted shield I loos'd, and let him go;
Good Heav'ns, how light he rose, with what a bound
He sprung from earth, forgetful of his wound;
How fresh, how eager then his feet to ply;
Who had not strength to stand, had speed to fly!
Hector came on, and brought the Gods along;
Fear seiz'd alike the feeble, and the strong:
Each Greek was an Ulysses; such a dread
Th' approach, and ev'n the sound of Hector bred:
Him, flesh'd with slaughter, and with conquest
crown'd,
I met, and over-turn'd him to the ground;
When after, matchless as he deem'd in might,
He challeng'd all our host to single fight;
All eyes were fix'd on me: the lots were thrown;
But for your champion I was wish'd alone:
Your vows were heard; we fought, and neither yield;
Yet I return'd unvanquish'd from the field.
With Jove to friend, th' insulting Trojan came,
And menac'd us with force, our fleet with flame.
Was it the strength of this tongue-valiant lord,
In that black hour, that sav'd you from the sword?
Or was my breast expos'd alone, to brave
A thousand swords, a thousand ships to save?
The hopes of your return! And can you yield,
For a sav'd fleet, less than a single shield?
Think it no boast, o Grecians, if I deem
These arms want Ajax, more than Ajax them:
Or, I with them an equal honour share;
They honour'd to be worn, and I to wear.
Will he compare my courage with his sleight?
As well he may compare the day with night.
Night is indeed the province of his reign:
Yet all his dark exploits no more contain
Than a spy taken, and a sleeper slain;
A priest made pris'ner, Pallas made a prey:
But none of all these actions done by day:
Nor ought of these was done, and Diomede away.
If on such petty merits you confer
So vast a prize, let each his portion share;
Make a just dividend; and if not all,
The greater part to Diomede will fall.
But why for Ithacus such arms as those,
Who naked, and by night invades his foes?
The glitt'ring helm by moonlight will proclaim
The latent robber, and prevent his game:
Nor cou'd he hold his tott'ring head upright
Beneath that morion, or sustain the weight;
Nor that right arm cou'd toss the beamy lance;
Much less the left that ampler shield advance;
Pond'rous with precious weight, and rough with cost
Of the round world in rising gold emboss'd.
That orb would ill become his hand to wield,
And look as for the gold he stole the shield;
Which, shou'd your error on the wretch bestow,
It would not frighten, but allure the foe:
Why asks he, what avails him not in fight,
And wou'd but cumber, and retard his flight,
In which his only excellence is plac'd?
You give him death, that intercept his haste.
Add, that his own is yet a maiden-shield,
Nor the least dint has suffer'd in the field,
Guiltless of fight: mine batter'd, hew'd, and
bor'd,
Worn out of service, must forsake his lord,
What farther need of words our right to scan?
My arguments are deeds, let action speak the man.
Since from a champion's arms the strife arose,
Go cast the glorious prize amid the foes;
Then send us to redeem both arms, and shield,
And let him wear, who wins 'em in the field.
He said: a murmur from a multitude,
Or somewhat like a stifled shout, ensu'd:
'Till from his seat arose Laertes' son,
Look'd down a while, and paus'd, e'er he begun;
Then, to th' expecting audience, rais'd his look,
And not without prepar'd attention spoke:
Soft was his tone, and sober was his face;
Action his words, and words his action grace.
If Heav'n, my lords, had heard our common pray'r,
These arms had caus'd no quarrel for an heir;
Still great Achilles had his own possess'd,
And we with great Achilles had been bless'd;
But since hard Fate, and Heav'n's severe decree,
Have ravish'd him away from you, and me
(At this he sigh'd, and wip'd his eyes, and drew,
Or seem'd to draw, some drops of kindly dew),
Who better can succeed Achilles lost,
Than he, who gave Achilles to your hoast?
This only I request, that neither he
May gain, by being what he seems to be,
A stupid thing; nor I may lose the prize,
By having sense, which Heav'n to him denies:
Since great or small, the talent I enjoy'd
Was ever in the common cause employ'd;
Nor let my wit, and wonted eloquence,
Which often has been us'd in your defense,
And in my own, this only time be brought
To bear against my self, and deem'd a fault.
Make not a crime, where Nature made it none;
For ev'ry man may freely use his own.
The deeds of long-descended ancestors
Are but by grace of imputation ours,
Theirs in effect; but since he draws his line
From Jove, and seems to plead a right divine;
From Jove, like him, I claim my pedigree,
And am descended in the same degree:
My sire Laertes was Arcesius' heir,
Arcesius was the son of Jupiter:
No parricide, no banish'd man, is known
In all my line: let him excuse his own.
Hermes ennobles too my mother's side,
By both my parents to the Gods ally'd.
But not because that on the female part
My blood is better, dare I claim desert,
Or that my sire from parricide is free;
But judge by merit betwixt him, and me:
The prize be to the best; provided yet
That Ajax for a while his kin forget,
And his great sire, and greater uncle's name,
To fortifie by them his feeble claim:
Be kindred and relation laid aside,
And honour's cause by laws of honour try'd:
For if he plead proximity of blood;
That empty title is with ease withstood.
Peleus, the hero's sire, more nigh than he,
And Pyrrhus, his undoubted progeny,
Inherit first these trophies of the field;
To Scyros, or to Pthia, send the shield:
And Teucer has an uncle's right; yet he
Waves his pretensions, nor contends with me.
Then since the cause on pure desert is plac'd,
Whence shall I take my rise, what reckon last?
I not presume on ev'ry act to dwell,
But take these few, in order as they fell.
Thetis, who knew the Fates, apply'd her care
To keep Achilles in disguise from war;
And 'till the threatning influence was past,
A woman's habit on the hero cast:
All eyes were cozen'd by the borrow'd vest,
And Ajax (never wiser than the rest)
Found no Pelides there: at length I came
With proffer'd wares to this pretended dame;
She, not discover'd by her mien, or voice,
Betray'd her manhood by her manly choice;
And while on female toys her fellows look,
Grasp'd in her warlike hand, a javelin shook;
Whom, by this act reveal'd, I thus bespoke:
O Goddess-born! resist not Heav'n's decree,
The fall of Ilium is reserv'd for thee;
Then seiz'd him, and produc'd in open light,
Sent blushing to the field the fatal knight.
Mine then are all his actions of the war;
Great Telephus was conquer'd by my spear,
And after cur'd: to me the Thebans owe,
Lesbos, and Tenedos, their overthrow;
Syros and Cylla: not on all to dwell,
By me Lyrnesus, and strong Chrysa fell:
And since I sent the man who Hector slew,
To me the noble Hector's death is due:
Those arms I put into his living hand,
Those arms, Pelides dead, I now demand.
When Greece was injur'd in the Spartan prince,
And met at Aulis to avenge th' offence,
'Twas a dead calm, or adverse blasts, that reign'd,
And in the port the wind-bound fleet detain'd:
Bad signs were seen, and oracles severe
Were daily thunder'd in our gen'ral's ear;
That by his daughter's blood we must appease
Diana's kindled wrath, and free the seas.
Affection, int'rest, fame, his heart assail'd:
But soon the father o'er the king prevail'd:
Bold, on himself he took the pious crime,
As angry with the Gods, as they with him.
No subject cou'd sustain their sov'reign's look,
'Till this hard enterprize I undertook:
I only durst th' imperial pow'r controul,
And undermin'd the parent in his soul;
Forc'd him t' exert the king for common good,
And pay our ransom with his daughter's blood.
Never was cause more difficult to plead,
Than where the judge against himself decreed:
Yet this I won by dint of argument;
The wrongs his injur'd brother underwent,
And his own office, sham'd him to consent.
'Tis harder yet to move the mother's mind,
And to this heavy task was I design'd:
Reasons against her love I knew were vain;
I circumvented whom I could not gain:
Had Ajax been employ'd, our slacken'd sails
Had still at Aulis waited happy gales.
Arriv'd at Troy, your choice was fix'd on me,
A fearless envoy, fit for a bold embassy:
Secure, I enter'd through the hostile court,
Glitt'ring with steel, and crowded with resort:
There, in the midst of arms, I plead our cause,
Urge the foul rape, and violated laws;
Accuse the foes, as authors of the strife,
Reproach the ravisher, demand the wife.
Priam, Antenor, and the wiser few,
I mov'd; but Paris, and his lawless crew
Scarce held their hands, and lifted swords; but
stood
In act to quench their impious thirst of blood:
This Menelaus knows; expos'd to share
With me the rough preludium of the war.
Endless it were to tell, what I have done,
In arms, or council, since the siege begun:
The first encounter's past, the foe repell'd,
They skulk'd within the town, we kept the field.
War seem'd asleep for nine long years; at length
Both sides resolv'd to push, we try'd our strength
Now what did Ajax, while our arms took breath,
Vers'd only in the gross mechanick trade of death?
If you require my deeds, with ambush'd arms
I trapp'd the foe, or tir'd with false alarms;
Secur'd the ships, drew lines along the plain,
The fainting chear'd, chastis'd the rebel-train,
Provided forage, our spent arms renew'd;
Employ'd at home, or sent abroad, the common cause
pursu'd.
The king, deluded in a dream by Jove,
Despair'd to take the town, and order'd to remove.
What subject durst arraign the Pow'r supream,
Producing Jove to justifie his dream?
Ajax might wish the soldiers to retain
From shameful flight, but wishes were in vain:
As wanting of effect had been his words,
Such as of course his thundring tongue affords.
But did this boaster threaten, did he pray,
Or by his own example urge their stay?
None, none of these: but ran himself away.
I saw him run, and was asham'd to see;
Who ply'd his feet so fast to get aboard, as he?
Then speeding through the place, I made a stand,
And loudly cry'd, O base degenerate band,
To leave a town already in your hand!
After so long expence of blood, for fame,
To bring home nothing, but perpetual shame!
These words, or what I have forgotten since
(For grief inspir'd me then with eloquence),
Reduc'd their minds; they leave the crowded port,
And to their late forsaken camp resort:
Dismay'd the council met: this man was there,
But mute, and not recover'd of his fear:
Thersites tax'd the king, and loudly rail'd,
But his wide opening mouth with blows I seal'd.
Then, rising, I excite their souls to fame,
And kindle sleeping virtue into flame.
From thence, whatever he perform'd in fight
Is justly mine, who drew him back from flight.
Which of the Grecian chiefs consorts with thee?
But Diomede desires my company,
And still communicates his praise with me.
As guided by a God, secure he goes,
Arm'd with my fellowship, amid the foes:
And sure no little merit I may boast,
Whom such a man selects from such an hoast;
Unforc'd by lots I went without affright,
To dare with him the dangers of the night:
On the same errand sent, we met the spy
Of Hector, double-tongu'd, and us'd to lie;
Him I dispatch'd, but not 'till undermin'd,
I drew him first to tell, what treach'rous Troy
design'd:
My task perform'd, with praise I had retir'd,
But not content with this, to greater praise
aspir'd:
Invaded Rhesus, and his Thracian crew,
And him, and his, in their own strength I slew;
Return'd a victor, all my vows compleat,
With the king's chariot, in his royal seat:
Refuse me now his arms, whose fiery steeds
Were promis'd to the spy for his nocturnal deeds:
Yet let dull Ajax bear away my right,
When all his days out-balance this one night.
Nor fought I darkling still: the sun beheld
With slaughter'd Lycians when I strew'd the field:
You saw, and counted as I pass'd along,
Alastor, Chromius, Ceranos the strong,
Alcander, Prytanis, and Halius,
Noemon, Charopes, and Ennomus;
Coon, Chersidamas; and five beside,
Men of obscure descent, but courage try'd:
All these this hand laid breathless on the ground;
Nor want I proofs of many a manly wound:
All honest, all before: believe not me;
Words may deceive, but credit what you see.
At this he bar'd his breast, and show'd his
scars,
As of a furrow'd field, well plow'd with wars;
Nor is this part unexercis'd, said he;
That gyant-bulk of his from wounds is free:
Safe in his shield he fears no foe to try,
And better manages his blood, than I:
But this avails me not; our boaster strove
Not with our foes alone, but partial Jove,
To save the fleet: this I confess is true
(Nor will I take from any man his due):
But thus assuming all, he robs from you.
Some part of honour to your share will fall,
He did the best indeed, but did not all.
Patroclus in Achilles' arms, and thought
The chief he seem'd, with equal ardour fought;
Preserv'd the fleet, repell'd the raging fire,
And forc'd the fearful Trojans to retire.
But Ajax boasts, that he was only thought
A match for Hector, who the combat sought:
Sure he forgets the king, the chiefs, and me:
All were as eager for the fight, as he:
He but the ninth, and not by publick voice,
Or ours preferr'd, was only Fortune's choice:
They fought; nor can our hero boast th' event,
For Hector from the field unwounded went.
Why am I forc'd to name that fatal day,
That snatch'd the prop and pride of Greece away?
I saw Pelides sink, with pious grief,
And ran in vain, alas! to his relief;
For the brave soul was fled: full of my friend
I rush'd amid the war, his relicks to defend:
Nor ceas'd my toil, 'till I redeem'd the prey,
And, loaded with Achilles, march'd away:
Those arms, which on these shoulders then I bore,
'Tis just you to these shoulders should restore.
You see I want not nerves, who cou'd sustain
The pond'rous ruins of so great a man:
Or if in others equal force you find,
None is endu'd with a more grateful mind.
Did Thetis then, ambitious in her care,
These arms thus labour'd for her son prepare;
That Ajax after him the heav'nly gift shou'd wear!
For that dull soul to stare with stupid eyes,
On the learn'd unintelligible prize!
What are to him the sculptures of the shield,
Heav'n's planets, Earth, and Ocean's watry field?
The Pleiads, Hyads; less, and greater Bear,
Undipp'd in seas; Orion's angry star;
Two diff'ring cities, grav'd on either hand;
Would he wear arms he cannot understand?
Beside, what wise objections he prepares
Against my late accession to the wars?
Does not the fool perceive his argument
Is with more force against Achilles bent?
For if dissembling be so great a crime,
The fault is common, and the same in him:
And if he taxes both of long delay,
My guilt is less, who sooner came away.
His pious mother, anxious for his life,
Detain'd her son; and me, my pious wife.
To them the blossoms of our youth were due,
Our riper manhood we reserv'd for you.
But grant me guilty, 'tis not much my care,
When with so great a man my guilt I share:
My wit to war the matchless hero brought,
But by this fool I never had been caught.
Nor need I wonder, that on me he threw
Such foul aspersions, when he spares not you:
If Palamede unjustly fell by me,
Your honour suffer'd in th' unjust decree:
I but accus'd, you doom'd: and yet he dy'd,
Convinc'd of treason, and was fairly try'd:
You heard not he was false; your eyes beheld
The traytor manifest; the bribe reveal'd.
That Philoctetes is on Lemnos left,
Wounded, forlorn, of human aid bereft,
Is not my crime, or not my crime alone;
Defend your justice, for the fact's your own:
'Tis true, th' advice was mine; that staying there
He might his weary limbs with rest repair,
From a long voyage free, and from a longer war.
He took the counsl, and he lives at least;
Th' event declares I counsell'd for the best:
Though faith is all in ministers of state;
For who can promise to be fortunate?
Now since his arrows are the Fate of Troy,
Do not my wit, or weak address, employ;
Send Ajax there, with his persuasive sense,
To mollifie the man, and draw him thence:
But Xanthus shall run backward; Ida stand
A leafless mountain; and the Grecian band
Shall fight for Troy; if, when my councils fail,
The wit of heavy Ajax can prevail.
Hard Philoctetes, exercise thy spleen
Against thy fellows, and the king of men;
Curse my devoted head, above the rest,
And wish in arms to meet me breast to breast:
Yet I the dang'rous task will undertake,
And either die my self, or bring thee back.
Nor doubt the same success, as when before
The Phrygian prophet to these tents I bore,
Surpriz'd by night, and forc'd him to declare
In what was plac'd the fortune of the war,
Heav'n's dark decrees, and answers to display,
And how to take the town, and where the secret lay:
Yet this I compass'd, and from Troy convey'd
The fatal image of their guardian-maid;
That work was mine; for Pallas, though our friend,
Yet while she was in Troy, did Troy defend.
Now what has Ajax done, or what design'd?
A noisie nothing, and an empty wind.
If he be what he promises in show,
Why was I sent, and why fear'd he to go?
Our boasting champion thought the task not light
To pass the guards, commit himself to night;
Not only through a hostile town to pass,
But scale, with steep ascent, the sacred place;
With wand'ring steps to search the cittadel,
And from the priests their patroness to steal:
Then through surrounding foes to force my way,
And bear in triumph home the heavn'ly prey;
Which had I not, Ajax in vain had held,
Before that monst'rous bulk, his sev'nfold shield.
That night to conquer Troy I might be said,
When Troy was liable to conquest made.
Why point'st thou to my partner of the war?
Tydides had indeed a worthy share
In all my toil, and praise; but when thy might
Our ships protected, did'st thou singly fight?
All join'd, and thou of many wert but one;
I ask'd no friend, nor had, but him alone:
Who, had he not been well assur'd, that art,
And conduct were of war the better part,
And more avail'd than strength, my valiant friend
Had urg'd a better right, than Ajax can pretend:
As good at least Eurypilus may claim,
And the more mod'rate Ajax of the name:
The Cretan king, and his brave charioteer,
And Menelaus bold with sword, and spear:
All these had been my rivals in the shield,
And yet all these to my pretensions yield.
Thy boist'rous hands are then of use, when I
With this directing head those hands apply.
Brawn without brain is thine: my prudent care
Foresees, provides, administers the war:
Thy province is to fight; but when shall be
The time to fight, the king consults with me:
No dram of judgment with thy force is join'd:
Thy body is of profit, and my mind.
By how much more the ship her safety owes
To him who steers, than him that only rows;
By how much more the captain merits praise,
Than he who fights, and fighting but obeys;
By so much greater is my worth than thine,
Who canst but execute, what I design.
What gain'st thou, brutal man, if I confess
Thy strength superior, when thy wit is less?
Mind is the man: I claim my whole desert,
From the mind's vigour, and th' immortal part.
But you, o Grecian chiefs, reward my care,
Be grateful to your watchman of the war:
For all my labours in so long a space,
Sure I may plead a title to your grace:
Enter the town, I then unbarr'd the gates,
When I remov'd their tutelary Fates.
By all our common hopes, if hopes they be
Which I have now reduc'd to certainty;
By falling Troy, by yonder tott'ring tow'rs,
And by their taken Gods, which now are ours;
Or if there yet a farther task remains,
To be perform'd by prudence, or by pains;
If yet some desp'rate action rests behind,
That asks high conduct, and a dauntless mind;
If ought be wanting to the Trojan doom,
Which none but I can manage, and o'ercome,
Award, those arms I ask, by your decree:
Or give to this, what you refuse to me.
He ceas'd: and ceasing with respect he bow'd,
And with his hand at once the fatal statue show'd.
Heav'n, air and ocean rung, with loud applause,
And by the gen'ral vote he gain'd his cause.
Thus conduct won the prize, when courage fail'd,
And eloquence o'er brutal force prevail'd.
The Death of He who cou'd often, and alone, withstand
Ajax The foe, the fire, and Jove's own partial hand,
Now cannot his unmaster'd grief sustain,
But yields to rage, to madness, and disdain;
Then snatching out his fauchion, Thou, said he,
Art mine; Ulysses lays no claim to thee.
O often try'd, and ever-trusty sword,
Now do thy last kind office to thy lord:
'Tis Ajax who requests thy aid, to show
None but himself, himself cou'd overthrow:
He said, and with so good a will to die,
Did to his breast the fatal point apply,
It found his heart, a way 'till then unknown,
Where never weapon enter'd, but his own.
No hands cou'd force it thence, so fix'd it stood,
'Till out it rush'd, expell'd by streams of
spouting blood.
The fruitful blood produc'd a flow'r, which grew
On a green stem; and of a purple hue:
Like his, whom unaware Apollo slew:
Inscrib'd in both, the letters are the same,
But those express the grief, and these the name.
The Story of The victor with full sails for Lemnos stood
Polyxena and (Once stain'd by matrons with their husbands'
Hecuba blood),
Thence great Alcides' fatal shafts to bear,
Assign'd to Philoctetes' secret care.
These with their guardian to the Greeks convey'd,
Their ten years' toil with wish'd success repaid.
With Troy old Priam falls: his queen survives;
'Till all her woes compleat, transform'd she
grieves
In borrow'd sounds, nor with an human face,
Barking tremendous o'er the plains of Thrace.
Still Ilium's flames their pointed columns raise,
And the red Hellespont reflects the blaze.
Shed on Jove's altar are the poor remains
Of blood, which trickl'd from old Priam's veins.
Cassandra lifts her hands to Heav'n in vain,
Drag'd by her sacred hair; the trembling train
Of matrons to their burning temples fly:
There to their Gods for kind protection cry;
And to their statues cling 'till forc'd away,
The victor Greeks bear off th' invidious prey.
From those high tow'rs Astyanax is thrown,
Whence he was wont with pleasure to look down.
When oft his mother with a fond delight
Pointed to view his father's rage in fight,
To win renown, and guard his country's right.
The winds now call to sea; brisk northern gales
Sing in the shrowds, and court the spreading sails.
Farewel, dear Troy, the captive matrons cry;
Yes, we must leave our long-lov'd native sky.
Then prostrate on the shore they kiss the sand,
And quit the smoking ruines of the land.
Last Hecuba on board, sad sight! appears;
Found weeping o'er her children's sepulchres:
Drag'd by Ulysses from her slaughter'd sons,
Whilst yet she graspt their tombs, and kist their
mouldring bones.
Yet Hector's ashes from his urn she bore,
And in her bosom the sad relique wore:
Then scatter'd on his tomb her hoary hairs,
A poor oblation mingled with her tears.
Oppos'd to Ilium lye the Thracian plains,
Where Polymestor safe in plenty reigns.
King Priam to his care commits his son,
Young Polydore, the chance of war to shun.
A wise precaution! had not gold, consign'd
For the child's use, debauch'd the tyrant's mind.
When sinking Troy to its last period drew,
With impious hands his royal charge he slew;
Then in the sea the lifeless coarse is thrown;
As with the body he the guilt could drown.
The Greeks now riding on the Thracian shore,
'Till kinder gales invite, their vessels moor.
Here the wide-op'ning Earth to sudden view
Disclos'd Achilles, great as when he drew
The vital air, but fierce with proud disdain,
As when he sought Briseis to regain;
When stern debate, and rash injurious strife
Unsheath'd his sword, to reach Atrides' life.
And will ye go? he said. Is then the name
Of the once great Achilles lost to fame?
Yet stay, ungrateful Greeks; nor let me sue
In vain for honours to my Manes due.
For this just end, Polyxena I doom
With victim-rites to grace my slighted tomb.
The phantom spoke; the ready Greeks obey'd,
And to the tomb led the devoted maid
Snatch'd from her mother, who with pious care
Cherish'd this last relief of her despair.
Superior to her sex, the fearless maid,
Approach'd the altar, and around survey'd
The cruel rites, and consecrated knife,
Which Pyrrhus pointed at her guiltless life,
Then as with stern amaze intent he stood,
"Now strike," she said; "now spill my genr'ous
blood;
Deep in my breast, or throat, your dagger sheath,
Whilst thus I stand prepar'd to meet my death.
For life on terms of slav'ry I despise:
Yet sure no God approves this sacrifice.
O cou'd I but conceal this dire event
From my sad mother, I should dye content.
Yet should she not with tears my death deplore,
Since her own wretched life demands them more.
But let not the rude touch of man pollute
A virgin-victim; 'tis a modest suit.
It best will please, whoe'er demands my blood,
That I untainted reach the Stygian flood.
Yet let one short, last, dying prayer be heard;
To Priam's daughter pay this last regard;
'Tis Priam's daughter, not a captive, sues;
Do not the rites of sepulture refuse.
To my afflicted mother, I implore,
Free without ransom my dead corpse restore:
Nor barter me for gain, when I am cold;
But be her tears the price, if I am sold:
Time was she could have ransom'd me with gold".
Thus as she pray'd, one common shower of tears
Burst forth, and stream'd from ev'ry eye but hers.
Ev'n the priest wept, and with a rude remorse
Plung'd in her heart the steel's resistless force.
Her slacken'd limbs sunk gently to the ground,
Dauntless her looks, unalter'd by the wound.
And as she fell, she strove with decent pride
To hide, what suits a virgin's care to hide.
The Trojan matrons the pale corpse receive,
And the whole slaughter'd race of Priam grieve,
Sad they recount the long disastrous tale;
Then with fresh tears, thee, royal maid, bewail;
Thy widow'd mother too, who flourish'd late
The royal pride of Asia's happier state:
A captive lot now to Ulysses born;
Whom yet the victor would reject with scorn,
Were she not Hector's mother: Hector's fame
Scarce can a master for his mother claim!
With strict embrace the lifeless coarse she view'd;
And her fresh grief that flood of tears renew'd,
With which she lately mourn'd so many dead;
Tears for her country, sons, and husband shed.
With the thick gushing stream she bath'd the wound;
Kiss'd her pale lips; then weltring on the ground,
With wonted rage her frantick bosom tore;
Sweeping her hair amidst the clotted gore;
Whilst her sad accents thus her loss deplore.
"Behold a mother's last dear pledge of woe!
Yes, 'tis the last I have to suffer now.
Thou, my Polyxena, my ills must crown:
Already in thy Fate, I feel my own.
'Tis thus, lest haply of my numerous seed
One should unslaughter'd fall, even thou must
bleed:
And yet I hop'd thy sex had been thy guard;
But neither has thy tender sex been spar'd.
The same Achilles, by whose deadly hate
Thy brothers fell, urg'd thy untimely fate!
The same Achilles, whose destructive rage
Laid waste my realms, has robb'd my childless age.
When Paris' shafts with Phoebus' certain aid
At length had pierc'd this dreaded chief, I said,
Secure of future ills, he can no more:
But see, he still pursues me as before.
With rage rekindled his dead ashes burn;
And his yet murd'ring ghost my wretched house must
mourn.
This tyrant's lust of slaughter I have fed
With large supplies from my too-fruitful bed.
Troy's tow'rs lye waste; and the wide ruin ends
The publick woe; but me fresh woe attends.
Troy still survives to me; to none but me;
And from its ills I never must be free.
I, who so late had power, and wealth, and ease,
Bless'd with my husband, and a large encrease,
Must now in poverty an exile mourn;
Ev'n from the tombs of my dead offspring torn:
Giv'n to Penelope, who proud of spoil,
Allots me to the loom's ungrateful toil;
Points to her dames, and crys with scorning mien:
See Hector's mother, and great Priam's queen!
And thou, my child, sole hope of all that's lost,
Thou now art slain, to sooth this hostile ghost.
Yes, my child falls an offering to my foe!
Then what am I, who still survive this woe?
Say, cruel Gods! for what new scenes of death
Must a poor aged wretch prolong this hated breath?
Troy fal'n, to whom could Priam happy seem?
Yet was he so; and happy must I deem
His death; for O! my child, he saw not thine,
When he his life did with his Troy resign.
Yet sure due obsequies thy tomb might grace;
And thou shalt sleep amidst thy kingly race.
Alas! my child, such fortune does not wait
Our suffering house in this abandon'd state.
A foreign grave, and thy poor mother's tears
Are all the honours that attend thy herse.
All now is lost!- Yet no; one comfort more
Of life remains, my much-lov'd Polydore.
My youngest hope: here on this coast he lives,
Nurs'd by the guardian-king, he still survives.
Then let me hasten to the cleansing flood,
And wash away these stains of guiltless blood."
Streit to the shore her feeble steps repair
With limping pace, and torn dishevell'd hair
Silver'd with age. "Give me an urn," she cry'd,
"To bear back water from this swelling tide":
When on the banks her son in ghastly hue
Transfix'd with Thracian arrows strikes her view.
The matrons shriek'd; her big-swoln grief surpast
The pow'r of utterance; she stood aghast;
She had nor speech, nor tears to give relief;
Excess of woe suppress'd the rising grief.
Lifeless as stone, on Earth she fix'd her eyes;
And then look'd up to Heav'n with wild surprise.
Now she contemplates o'er with sad delight
Her son's pale visage; then her aking sight
Dwells on his wounds: she varys thus by turns,
Wild as the mother-lion, when among
The haunts of prey she seeks her ravish'd young:
Swift flies the ravisher; she marks his trace,
And by the print directs her anxious chase.
So Hecuba with mingled grief, and rage
Pursues the king, regardless of her age.
She greets the murd'rer with dissembled joy
Of secret treasure hoarded for her boy.
The specious tale th' unwary king betray'd.
Fir'd with the hopes of prey: "Give quick," he said
With soft enticing speech, "the promis'd store:
Whate'er you give, you give to Polydore.
Your son, by the immortal Gods I swear,
Shall this with all your former bounty share."
She stands attentive to his soothing lyes,
And darts avenging horrour from her eyes.
Then full resentment fires her boyling blood:
She springs upon him, 'midst the captive crowd
(Her thirst of vengeance want of strength
supplies):
Fastens her forky fingers in his eyes:
Tears out the rooted balls; her rage pursues,
And in the hollow orbs her hand imbrews.
The Thracians, fir'd, at this inhuman scene,
With darts, and stones assail the frantick queen.
She snarls, and growls, nor in an human tone;
Then bites impatient at the bounding stone;
Extends her jaws, as she her voice would raise
To keen invectives in her wonted phrase;
But barks, and thence the yelping brute betrays.
Still a sad monument the place remains,
And from this monstrous change its name obtains:
Where she, in long remembrance of her ills,
With plaintive howlings the wide desart fills.
Greeks, Trojans, friends, and foes, and Gods
above
Her num'rous wrongs to just compassion move.
Ev'n Juno's self forgets her ancient hate,
And owns, she had deserv'd a milder fate.
The Funeral of Yet bright Aurora, partial as she was
Memnon To Troy, and those that lov'd the Trojan cause,
Nor Troy, nor Hecuba can now bemoan,
But weeps a sad misfortune, more her own.
Her offspring Memnon, by Achilles slain,
She saw extended on the Phrygian plain:
She saw, and strait the purple beams, that grace
The rosie morning, vanish'd from her face;
A deadly pale her wonted bloom invades,
And veils the lowring skies with mournful shades.
But when his limbs upon the pile were laid,
The last kind duty that by friends is paid,
His mother to the skies directs her flight,
Nor cou'd sustain to view the doleful sight:
But frantick, with her loose neglected hair,
Hastens to Jove, and falls a suppliant there.
O king of Heav'n, o father of the skies,
The weeping Goddess passionately cries,
Tho' I the meanest of immortals am,
And fewest temples celebrate my fame,
Yet still a Goddess, I presume to come
Within the verge of your etherial dome:
Yet still may plead some merit, if my light
With purple dawn controuls the Pow'rs of night;
If from a female hand that virtue springs,
Which to the Gods, and men such pleasure brings.
Yet I nor honours seek, nor rites divine,
Nor for more altars, or more fanes repine;
Oh! that such trifles were the only cause,
From whence Aurora's mind its anguish draws!
For Memnon lost, my dearest only child,
With weightier grief my heavy heart is fill'd;
My warrior son! that liv'd but half his time,
Nipt in the bud, and blasted in his prime;
Who for his uncle early took the field,
And by Achilles' fatal spear was kill'd.
To whom but Jove shou'd I for succour come?
For Jove alone cou'd fix his cruel doom.
O sov'reign of the Gods accept my pray'r,
Grant my request, and sooth a mother's care;
On the deceas'd some solemn boon bestow,
To expiate the loss, and ease my woe.
Jove, with a nod, comply'd with her desire;
Around the body flam'd the fun'ral fire;
The pile decreas'd, that lately seem'd so high,
And sheets of smoak roll'd upward to the sky:
As humid vapours from a marshy bog,
Rise by degrees, condensing into fog,
That intercept the sun's enliv'ning ray,
And with a cloud infect the chearful day.
The sooty ashes wafted by the air,
Whirl round, and thicken in a body there;
Then take a form, which their own heat, and fire
With active life, and energy inspire.
Its lightness makes it seem to fly, and soon
It skims on real wings, that are its own;
A real bird, it beats the breezy wind,
Mix'd with a thousand sisters of the kind,
That, from the same formation newly sprung,
Up-born aloft on plumy pinions hung.
Thrice round the pile advanc'd the circling throng.
Thrice, with their wings, a whizzing consort rung.
In the fourth flight their squadron they divide,
Rank'd in two diff'rent troops, on either side:
Then two, and two, inspir'd with martial rage,
From either troop in equal pairs engage.
Each combatant with beak, and pounces press'd,
In wrathful ire, his adversary's breast;
Each falls a victim, to preserve the fame
Of that great hero, whence their being came.
From him their courage, and their name they take,
And, as they liv'd, they dye for Memnon's sake.
Punctual to time, with each revolving year,
In fresh array the champion birds appear;
Again, prepar'd with vengeful minds, they come
To bleed, in honour of the souldier's tomb.
Therefore in others it appear'd not strange,
To grieve for Hecuba's unhappy change:
But poor Aurora had enough to do
With her own loss, to mind another's woe;
Who still in tears, her tender nature shews,
Besprinkling all the world with pearly dews.
The Voyage of Troy thus destroy'd, 'twas still deny'd by Fate,
Aeneas The hopes of Troy should perish with the state.
His sire, the son of Cytherea bore,
And household-Gods from burning Ilium's shore,
The pious prince (a double duty paid)
Each sacred burthen thro' the flames convey'd.
With young Ascanius, and this only prize,
Of heaps of wealth, he from Antandros flies;
But struck with horror, left the Thracian shore,
Stain'd with the blood of murder'd Polydore.
The Delian isle receives the banish'd train,
Driv'n by kind gales, and favour'd by the main.
Here pious Anius, priest, and monarch reign'd,
And either charge, with equal care sustain'd,
His subjects rul'd, to Phoebus homage pay'd,
His God obeying, and by those obey'd.
The priest displays his hospitable gate,
And shows the riches of his church, and state
The sacred shrubs, which eas'd Latona's pain,
The palm, and olive, and the votive fane.
Here grateful flames with fuming incense fed,
And mingled wine, ambrosial odours shed;
Of slaughter'd steers the crackling entrails
burn'd:
And then the strangers to the court return'd.
On beds of tap'stry plac'd aloft, they dine
With Ceres' gift, and flowing bowls of wine;
When thus Anchises spoke, amidst the feast:
Say, mitred monarch, Phoebus' chosen priest,
Or (e'er from Troy by cruel Fate expell'd)
When first mine eyes these sacred walls beheld,
A son, and twice two daughters crown'd thy bliss?
Or errs my mem'ry, and I judge amiss?
The royal prophet shook his hoary head,
With snowy fillets bound, and sighing, said:

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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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Adonais

I weep for Adonais -he is dead!
O, weep for Adonais! though our tears
Thaw not the frost which binds so dear a head!
And thou, sad Hour, selected from all years
To mourn our loss, rouse thy obscure compeers,
And teach them thine own sorrow, say: "With me
Died Adonais; till the Future dares
Forget the Past, his fate and fame shall be
An echo and a light unto eternity!"

Where wert thou, mighty Mother, when he lay,
When thy Son lay, pierced by the shaft which flies
In darkness? where was lorn Urania
When Adonais died? With veiled eyes,
Mid listening Echoes, in her Paradise
She sate, while one, with soft enamoured breath,
Rekindled all the fading melodies
With which, like flowers that mock the corse beneath,
He had adorned and hid the coming bulk of death.

O, weep for Adonais -he is dead!
Wake, melancholy Mother, wake and weep!
Yet wherefore? Quench within their burning bed
Thy fiery tears, and let thy loud heart keep
Like his, a mute and uncomplaining sleep;
For he is gone, where all things wise and fair
Descend; -oh, dream not that the amorous Deep
Will yet restore him to the vital air;
Death feeds on his mute voice, and laughs at our despair.

Most musical of mourners, weep again!
Lament anew, Urania! -He died,
Who was the Sire of an immortal strain,
Blind, old, and lonely, when his country's pride,
The priest, the slave, and the liberticide
Trampled and mocked with many a loathed rite
Of lust and blood; he went, unterrified,
Into the gulf of death; but his clear Sprite
Yet reigns o'er earth; the third among the sons of light.

Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Not all to that bright station dared to climb;
And happier they their happiness who knew,
Whose tapers yet burn through that night of time
In which suns perished; others more sublime,
Struck by the envious wrath of man or god,
Have sunk, extinct in their refulgent prime;
And some yet live, treading the thorny road
Which leads, through toil and hate, to Fame's serene abode.

But now, thy youngest, dearest one, has perished -
The nursling of thy widowhood, who grew,
Like a pale flower by some sad maiden cherished,
And fed with true-love tears, instead of dew;
Most musical of mourners, weep anew!
Thy extreme hope, the loveliest and the last,
The bloom, whose petals nipped before they blew
Died on the promise of the fruit, is waste;
The broken lily lies -the storm is overpast.

To that high Capital, where kingly Death
Keeps his pale court in beauty and decay,
He came; and bought, with price of purest breath,
A grave among the eternal. -Come away!
Haste, while the vault of blue Italian day
Is yet his fitting charnel-roof! while still
He lies, as if in dewy sleep he lay;
Awake him not! surely he takes his fill
Of deep and liquid rest, forgetful of all ill.

He will awake no more, oh, never more! -
Within the twilight chamber spreads apace
The shadow of white Death, and at the door
Invisible Corruption waits to trace
His extreme way to her dim dwelling-place;
The eternal Hunger sits, but pity and awe
Soothe her pale rage, nor dares she to deface
So fair a prey, till darkness, and the law
Of change, shall o'er his sleep the mortal curtain draw.

O, weep for Adonais! -The quick Dreams,
The passion-winged Ministers of thought,
Who were his flocks, whom near the living streams
Of his young spirit he fed, and whom he taught
The love which was its music, wander not, -
Wander no more, from kindling brain to brain,
But droop there, whence they sprung; and mourn their lot
Round the cold heart, where, after their sweet pain,
They ne'er will gather strength, or find a home again.

And one with trembling hands clasps his cold head,
And fans him with her moonlight wings, and cries,
"Our love, our hope, our sorrow, is not dead;
See, on the silken fringe of his faint eyes,
Like dew upon a sleeping flower, there lies
A tear some Dream has loosened from his brain."
Lost Angel of a ruined Paradise!
She knew not 'twas her own; as with no stain
She faded, like a cloud which had outwept its rain.

One from a lucid urn of starry dew
Washed his light limbs as if embalming them;
Another clipped her profuse locks, and threw
The wreath upon him, like an anadem,
Which frozen tears instead of pearls begem;
Another in her wilful grief would break
Her bow and winged reeds, as if to stem
A greater loss with one which was more weak;
And dull the barbed fire against his frozen cheek.

Another Splendour on his mouth alit,
That mouth, whence it was wont to draw the breath
Which gave it strength to pierce the guarded wit,
And pass into the panting heart beneath
With lightning and with music: the damp death
Quenched its caress upon his icy lips;
And, as a dying meteor stains a wreath
Of moonlight vapour, which the cold night clips,
It flushed through his pale limbs, and passed to its eclipse.

And others came... Desires and Adorations,
Winged Persuasions and veiled Destinies,
Splendours, and Glooms, and glimmering Incarnations
Of hopes and fears, and twilight Phantasies;
And Sorrow, with her family of Sighs,
And Pleasure, blind with tears, led by the gleam
Of her own dying smile instead of eyes,
Came in slow pomp; -the moving pomp might seem
Like pageantry of mist on an autumnal stream.

All he had loved, and moulded into thought,
From shape, and hue, and odour, and sweet sound,
Lamented Adonais. Morning sought
Her eastern watch-tower, and her hair unbound,
Wet with the tears which should adorn the ground,
Dimmed the aereal eyes that kindle day;
Afar the melancholy thunder moaned,
Pale Ocean in unquiet slumber lay,
And the wild Winds flew round, sobbing in their dismay.

Lost Echo sits amid the voiceless mountains,
And feeds her grief with his remembered lay,
And will no more reply to winds or fountains,
Or amorous birds perched on the young green spray,
Or herdsman's horn, or bell at closing day;
Since she can mimic not his lips, more dear
Than those for whose disdain she pined away
Into a shadow of all sounds: -a drear
Murmur, between their songs, is all the woodmen hear.

Grief made the young Spring wild, and she threw down
Her kindling buds, as if she Autumn were,
Or they dead leaves; since her delight is flown,
For whom should she have waked the sullen year?
To Phoebus was not Hyacinth so dear
Nor to himself Narcissus, as to both
Thou, Adonais: wan they stand and sere
Amid the faint companions of their youth,
With dew all turned to tears; odour, to sighing ruth.

Thy spirit's sister, the lorn nightingale
Mourns not her mate with such melodious pain;
Not so the eagle, who like thee could scale
Heaven, and could nourish in the sun's domain
Her mighty youth with morning, doth complain,
Soaring and screaming round her empty nest,
As Albion wails for thee: the curse of Cain
Light on his head who pierced thy innocent breast,
And scared the angel soul that was its earthly guest!

Ah, woe is me! Winter is come and gone,
But grief returns with the revolving year;
The airs and streams renew their joyous tone;
The ants, the bees, the swallows reappear;
Fresh leaves and flowers deck the dead Season's bier;
The amorous birds now pair in every brake,
And build their mossy homes in field and brere;
And the green lizard, and the golden snake,
Like unimprisoned flames, out of their trance awake.

Through wood and stream and field and hill and Ocean
A quickening life from the Earth's heart has burst
As it has ever done, with change and motion,
From the great morning of the world when first
God dawned on Chaos; in its stream immersed,
The lamps of Heaven flash with a softer light;
All baser things pant with life's sacred thirst;
Diffuse themselves; and spend in love's delight
The beauty and the joy of their renewed might.

The leprous corpse, touched by this spirit tender,
Exhales itself in flowers of gentle breath;
Like incarnations of the stars, when splendour
Is changed to fragrance, they illumine death
And mock the merry worm that wakes beneath;
Nought we know, dies. Shall that alone which knows
Be as a sword consumed before the sheath
By sightless lightning? -the intense atom glows
A moment, then is quenched in a most cold repose.

Alas! that all we loved of him should be,
But for our grief, as if it had not been,
And grief itself be mortal! Woe is me!
Whence are we, and why are we? of what scene
The actors or spectators? Great and mean
Meet massed in death, who lends what life must borrow.
As long as skies are blue, and fields are green,
Evening must usher night, night urge the morrow,
Month follow month with woe, and year wake year to sorrow.

He will awake no more, oh, never more!
"Wake thou," cried Misery, "childless Mother, rise
Out of thy sleep, and slake, in thy heart's core,
A wound more fierce than his with tears and sighs."
And all the Dreams that watched Urania's eyes,
And all the Echoes whom their sister's song
Had held in holy silence, cried: "Arise!"
Swift as a Thought by the snake Memory stung,
From her ambrosial rest the fading Splendour sprung.

She rose like an autumnal Night, that springs
Our of the East, and follows wild and drear
The golden Day, which, on eternal wings,
Even as a ghost abandoning a bier,
Had left the Earth a corpse. Sorrow and fear
So struck, so roused, so rapt Urania;
So saddened round her like an atmosphere
Of stormy mist; so swept her on her way
Even to the mournful place where Adonais lay.

Our of her secret Paradise she sped,
Through camps and cities rough with stone, and steel,
And human hearts, which to her aery tread
Yielding not, wounded the invisible
Palms of her tender feet where'er they fell:
And barbed tongues, and thoughts more sharp than they,
Rent the soft Form they never could repel,
Whose sacred blood, like the young tears of May,
Paved with eternal flowers that undeserving way.

In the death-chamber for a moment Death,
Shamed by the presence of that living Might,
Blushed to annihilation, and the breath
Revisited those lips, and Life's pale light
Flashed through those limbs, so late her dear delight.
"Leave me not wild and drear and comfortless,
As silent lightning leaves the starless night!
Leave me not!" cried Urania: her distress
Roused Death: Death rose and smiled, and met her vain caress.

"'Stay yet awhile! speak to me once again;
Kiss me, so long but as a kiss may live;
And in my heartless breast and burning brain
That word, that kiss, shall all thoughts else survive,
With food of saddest memory kept alive,
Now thou art dead, as if it were a part
Of thee, my Adonais! I would give
All that I am to be as thou now art!
But I am chained to Time, and cannot thence depart!

"O gentle child, beautiful as thou wert,
Why didst thou leave the trodden paths of men
Too soon, and with weak hands though mighty heart
Dare the unpastured dragon in his den?
Defenceless as thou wert, oh, where was then
Wisdom the mirrored shield, or scorn the spear?
Or hadst thou waited the full cycle, when
Thy spirit should have filled its crescent sphere,
The monsters of life's waste had fled from thee like deer.

"The herded wolves, bold only to pursue;
The obscene ravens, clamorous o'er the dead;
The vultures to the conqueror's banner true
Who feed where Desolation first has fed,
And whose wings rain contagion; -how they fled,
When, like Apollo, from his golden bow
The Pythian of the age one arrow sped
And smiled! -The spoilers tempt no second blow,
They fawn on the proud feet that spurn them lying low.

"The sun comes forth, and many reptiles spawn;
He sets, and each ephemeral insect then
Is gathered into death without a dawn,
And the immortal stars awake again;
So is it in the world of living men:
A godlike mind soars forth, in its delight
Making earth bare and veiling heaven, and when
It sinks, the swarms that dimmed or shared its light
Leave to its kindred lamps the spirit's awful night."

Thus ceased she: and the mountain shepherds came,
Their garlands sere, their magic mantles rent;
The Pilgrim of Eternity, whose fame
Over his living head like Heaven is bent,
An early but enduring monument,
Came, veiling all the lightnings of his song
In sorrow; from her wilds Irene sent
The sweetest lyrist of her saddest wrong,
And Love taught Grief to fall like music from his tongue.

Midst others of less note, came one frail Form,
A phantom among men; companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm
Whose thunder is its knell; he, as I guess,
Had gazed on Nature's naked loveliness,
Actaeon-like, and now he fled astray
With feeble steps o'er the world's wilderness,
And his own thoughts, along that rugged way,
Pursued, like raging hounds, their father and their prey.

A pardlike Spirit beautiful and swift -
A Love in desolation masked; -a Power
Girt round with weakness; -it can scarce uplift
The weight of the superincumbent hour;
It is a dying lamp, a falling shower,
A breaking billow; -even whilst we speak
Is it not broken? On the withering flower
The killing sun smiles brightly: on a cheek
The life can burn in blood, even while the heart may break.

His head was bound with pansies overblown,
And faded violets, white, and pied, and blue;
And a light spear topped with a cypress cone,
Round whose rude shaft dark ivy-tresses grew
Yet dripping with the forest's noonday dew,
Vibrated, as the ever-beating heart
Shook the weak hand that grasped it; of that crew
He came the last, neglected and apart;
A herd-abandoned deer struck by the hunter's dart.

All stood aloof, and at his partial moan
Smiled through their tears; well knew that gentle band
Who in another's fate now wept his own,
As in the accents of an unknown land
He sung new sorrow; sad Urania scanned
The Stranger's mien, and murmured: "Who art thou?"
He answered not, but with a sudden hand
Made bare his branded and ensanguined brow,
Which was like Cain's or Christ's -oh! that it should be so!

What softer voice is hushed over the dead?
Athwart what brow is that dark mantle thrown?
What form leans sadly o'er the white death-bed,
In mockery of monumental stone,
The heavy heart heaving without a moan?
If it be He, who, gentlest of the wise,
Taught, soothed, loved, honoured the departed one,
Let me not vex, with inharmonious sighs,
The silence of that heart's accepted sacrifice.

Our Adonais has drunk poison -oh!
What deaf and viperous murderer could crown
Life's early cup with such a draught of woe?
The nameless worm would now itself disown:
It felt, yet could escape, the magic tone
Whose prelude held all envy, hate, and wrong,
But what was howling in one breast alone,
Silent with expectation of the song,
Whose master's hand is cold, whose silver lyre unstrung.

Live thou, whose infamy is not thy fame!
Live! fear no heavier chastisement from me,
Thou noteless blot on a remembered name!
But be thyself, and know thyself to be!
And ever at thy season be thou free
To spill the venom when thy fangs o'erflow:
Remorse and Self-contempt shall cling to thee;
Hot Shame shall burn upon thy secret brow,
And like a beaten hound tremble thou shalt -as now.

Nor let us weep that our delight is fled
Far from these carrion kites that scream below;
He wakes or sleeps with the enduring dead;
Thou canst not soar where he is sitting now -
Dust to the dust! but the pure spirit shall flow
Back to the burning fountain whence it came,
A portion of the Eternal, which must glow
Through time and change, unquenchably the same,
Whilst thy cold embers choke the sordid hearth of shame.

Peace, peace! he is not dead, he doth not sleep -
He hath awakened from the dream of life -
'Tis we, who lost in stormy visions, keep
With phantoms an unprofitable strife,
And in mad trance, strike with our spirit's knife
Invulnerable nothings. -We decay
Like corpses in a charnel; fear and grief
Convulse us and consume us day by day,
And cold hopes swarm like worms within our living clay.

He has outsoared the shadow of our night;
Envy and calumny and hate and pain,
And that unrest which men miscall delight,
Can touch him not and torture not again;
From the contagion of the world's slow stain
He is secure, and now can never mourn
A heart grown cold, a head grown grey in vain;
Nor, when the spirit's self has ceased to burn,
With sparkless ashes load an unlamented urn.

He lives, he wakes -'tis Death is dead, not he;
Mourn not for Adonais. -Thou young Dawn,
Turn all thy dew to splendour, for from thee
The spirit thou lamentest is not gone;
Ye caverns and ye forests, cease to moan!
Cease, ye faint flowers and fountains, and thou Air
Which like a mourning veil thy scarf hadst thrown
O'er the abandoned Earth, now leave it bare
Even to the joyous stars which smile on its despair!

He is made one with Nature: there is heard
His voice in all her music, from the moan
Of thunder, to the song of night's sweet bird;
He is a presence to be felt and known
In darkness and in light, from herb and stone,
Spreading itself where'er that Power may move
Which has withdrawn his being to its own;
Which wields the world with never-wearied love,
Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.

He is a portion of the loveliness
Which once he made more lovely: he doth bear
His part, while the one Spirit's plastic stress
Sweeps through the dull dense world, compelling there
All new successions to the forms they wear;
Torturing th' unwilling dross that checks its flight
To its own likeness, as each mass may bear;
And bursting in its beauty and its might
From trees and beasts and men into the Heavens' light.

The splendours of the firmament of time
May be eclipsed, but are extinguished not;
Like stars to their appointed height they climb,
And death is a low mist which cannot blot
The brightness it may veil. When lofty thought
Lifts a young heart above its mortal lair,
And love and life contend in it, for what
Shall be its earthly doom, the dead live there
And move like winds of light on dark and stormy air.

The inheritors of unfulfilled renown
Rose from their thrones, built beyond mortal thought,
Far in the Unapparent. Chatterton
Rose pale, -his solemn agony had not
Yet faded from him; Sidney, as he fought
And as he fell and as he lived and loved
Sublimely mild, a Spirit without spot,
Arose; and Lucan, by his death approved:
Oblivion as they rose shrank like a thing reproved.

And many more, whose names on Earth are dark,
But whose transmitted effluence cannot die
So long as fire outlives the parent spark,
Rose, robed in dazzling immortality.
"Thou art become as one of us," they cry,
"It was for thee yon kingless sphere has long
Swung blind in unascended majesty,
Silent alone amid an Heaven of Song.
Assume thy winged throne, thou Vesper of our throng!"

Who mourns for Adonais? Oh, come forth,
Fond wretch! and know thyself and him aright.
Clasp with thy panting soul the pendulous Earth;
As from a centre, dart thy spirit's light
Beyond all worlds, until its spacious might
Satiate the void circumference: then shrink
Even to a point within our day and night;
And keep thy heart light lest it make thee sink
When hope has kindled hope, and lured thee to the brink.

Or go to Rome, which is the sepulchre,
Oh, not of him, but of our joy: 'tis nought
That ages, empires, and religions there
Lie buried in the ravage they have wrought;
For such as he can lend, -they borrow not
Glory from those who made the world their prey;
And he is gathered to the kings of thought
Who waged contention with their time's decay,
And of the past are all that cannot pass away.

Go thou to Rome, -at once the Paradise,
The grave, the city, and the wilderness;
And where its wrecks like shattered mountains rise,
And flowering weeds, and fragrant copses dress
The bones of Desolation's nakedness
Pass, till the spirit of the spot shall lead
Thy footsteps to a slope of green access
Where, like an infant's smile, over the dead
A light of laughing flowers along the grass is spread;

And grey walls moulder round, on which dull Time
Feeds, like slow fire upon a hoary brand;
And one keen pyramid with wedge sublime,
Pavilioning the dust of him who planned
This refuge for his memory, doth stand
Like flame transformed to marble; and beneath,
A field is spread, on which a newer band
Have pitched in Heaven's smile their camp of death,
Welcoming him we lose with scarce extinguished breath.

Here pause: these graves are all too young as yet
To have outgrown the sorrow which consigned
Its charge to each; and if the seal is set,
Here, on one fountain of a mourning mind,
Break it not thou! too surely shalt thou find
Thine own well full, if thou returnest home,
Of tears and gall. From the world's bitter wind
Seek shelter in the shadow of the tomb.
What Adonais is, why fear we to become?

The One remains, the many change and pass;
Heaven's light forever shines, Earth's shadows fly;
Life, like a dome of many-coloured glass,
Stains the white radiance of Eternity,
Until Death tramples it to fragments. -Die,
If thou wouldst be with that which thou dost seek!
Follow where all is fled! -Rome's azure sky,
Flowers, ruins, statues, music, words, are weak
The glory they transfuse with fitting truth to speak.

Why linger, why turn back, why shrink, my Heart?
Thy hopes are gone before: from all things here
They have departed; thou shouldst now depart!
A light is passed from the revolving year,
And man, and woman; and what still is dear
Attracts to crush, repels to make thee wither.
The soft sky smiles, -the low wind whispers near:
'Tis Adonais calls! oh, hasten thither,
No more let Life divide what Death can join together.

That Light whose smile kindles the Universe,
That Beauty in which all things work and move,
That Benediction which the eclipsing Curse
Of birth can quench not, that sustaining Love
Which through the web of being blindly wove
By man and beast and earth and air and sea,
Burns bright or dim, as each are mirrors of
The fire for which all thirst, now beams on me,
Consuming the last clouds of cold mortality.

The breath whose might I have invoked in song
Descends on me; my spirit's bark is driven
Far from the shore, far from the trembling throng
Whose sails were never to the tempest given;
The massy earth and sphered skies are riven!
I am borne darkly, fearfully, afar;
Whilst, burning through the inmost veil of Heaven,
The soul of Adonais, like a star,
Beacons from the abode where the Eternal are.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 12

"After we were clear of the river Oceanus, and had got out into
the open sea, we went on till we reached the Aeaean island where there
is dawn and sunrise as in other places. We then drew our ship on to
the sands and got out of her on to the shore, where we went to sleep
and waited till day should break.
"Then, when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I
sent some men to Circe's house to fetch the body of Elpenor. We cut
firewood from a wood where the headland jutted out into the sea, and
after we had wept over him and lamented him we performed his funeral
rites. When his body and armour had been burned to ashes, we raised
a cairn, set a stone over it, and at the top of the cairn we fixed the
oar that he had been used to row with.
"While we were doing all this, Circe, who knew that we had got
back from the house of Hades, dressed herself and came to us as fast
as she could; and her maid servants came with her bringing us bread,
meat, and wine. Then she stood in the midst of us and said, 'You
have done a bold thing in going down alive to the house of Hades,
and you will have died twice, to other people's once; now, then,
stay here for the rest of the day, feast your fill, and go on with
your voyage at daybreak tomorrow morning. In the meantime I will
tell Ulysses about your course, and will explain everything to him
so as to prevent your suffering from misadventure either by land or
sea.'
"We agreed to do as she had said, and feasted through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun, but when the sun had set and it came
on dark, the men laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables
of the ship. Then Circe took me by the hand and bade me be seated away
from the others, while she reclined by my side and asked me all
about our adventures.
"'So far so good,' said she, when I had ended my story, 'and now pay
attention to what I am about to tell you- heaven itself, indeed,
will recall it to your recollection. First you will come to the Sirens
who enchant all who come near them. If any one unwarily draws in too
close and hears the singing of the Sirens, his wife and children
will never welcome him home again, for they sit in a green field and
warble him to death with the sweetness of their song. There is a great
heap of dead men's bones lying all around, with the flesh still
rotting off them. Therefore pass these Sirens by, and stop your
men's ears with wax that none of them may hear; but if you like you
can listen yourself, for you may get the men to bind you as you
stand upright on a cross-piece half way up the mast, and they must
lash the rope's ends to the mast itself, that you may have the
pleasure of listening. If you beg and pray the men to unloose you,
then they must bind you faster.
"'When your crew have taken you past these Sirens, I cannot give you
coherent directions as to which of two courses you are to take; I will
lay the two alternatives before you, and you must consider them for
yourself. On the one hand there are some overhanging rocks against
which the deep blue waves of Amphitrite beat with terrific fury; the
blessed gods call these rocks the Wanderers. Here not even a bird
may pass, no, not even the timid doves that bring ambrosia to Father
Jove, but the sheer rock always carries off one of them, and Father
Jove has to send another to make up their number; no ship that ever
yet came to these rocks has got away again, but the waves and
whirlwinds of fire are freighted with wreckage and with the bodies
of dead men. The only vessel that ever sailed and got through, was the
famous Argo on her way from the house of Aetes, and she too would have
gone against these great rocks, only that Juno piloted her past them
for the love she bore to Jason.
"'Of these two rocks the one reaches heaven and its peak is lost
in a dark cloud. This never leaves it, so that the top is never
clear not even in summer and early autumn. No man though he had twenty
hands and twenty feet could get a foothold on it and climb it, for
it runs sheer up, as smooth as though it had been polished. In the
middle of it there is a large cavern, looking West and turned
towards Erebus; you must take your ship this way, but the cave is so
high up that not even the stoutest archer could send an arrow into it.
Inside it Scylla sits and yelps with a voice that you might take to be
that of a young hound, but in truth she is a dreadful monster and no
one- not even a god- could face her without being terror-struck. She
has twelve mis-shapen feet, and six necks of the most prodigious
length; and at the end of each neck she has a frightful head with
three rows of teeth in each, all set very close together, so that they
would crunch any one to death in a moment, and she sits deep within
her shady cell thrusting out her heads and peering all round the rock,
fishing for dolphins or dogfish or any larger monster that she can
catch, of the thousands with which Amphitrite teems. No ship ever
yet got past her without losing some men, for she shoots out all her
heads at once, and carries off a man in each mouth.
"'You will find the other rocks lie lower, but they are so close
together that there is not more than a bowshot between them. [A
large fig tree in full leaf grows upon it], and under it lies the
sucking whirlpool of Charybdis. Three times in the day does she
vomit forth her waters, and three times she sucks them down again; see
that you be not there when she is sucking, for if you are, Neptune
himself could not save you; you must hug the Scylla side and drive
ship by as fast as you can, for you had better lose six men than
your whole crew.'
"'Is there no way,' said I, 'of escaping Charybdis, and at the
same time keeping Scylla off when she is trying to harm my men?'
"'You dare-devil,' replied the goddess, you are always wanting to
fight somebody or something; you will not let yourself be beaten
even by the immortals. For Scylla is not mortal; moreover she is
savage, extreme, rude, cruel and invincible. There is no help for
it; your best chance will be to get by her as fast as ever you can,
for if you dawdle about her rock while you are putting on your armour,
she may catch you with a second cast of her six heads, and snap up
another half dozen of your men; so drive your ship past her at full
speed, and roar out lustily to Crataiis who is Scylla's dam, bad
luck to her; she will then stop her from making a second raid upon
you.
"'You will now come to the Thrinacian island, and here you will
see many herds of cattle and flocks of sheep belonging to the sun-god-
seven herds of cattle and seven flocks of sheep, with fifty head in
each flock. They do not breed, nor do they become fewer in number, and
they are tended by the goddesses Phaethusa and Lampetie, who are
children of the sun-god Hyperion by Neaera. Their mother when she
had borne them and had done suckling them sent them to the
Thrinacian island, which was a long way off, to live there and look
after their father's flocks and herds. If you leave these flocks
unharmed, and think of nothing but getting home, you may yet after
much hardship reach Ithaca; but if you harm them, then I forewarn
you of the destruction both of your ship and of your comrades; and
even though you may yourself escape, you will return late, in bad
plight, after losing all your men.'
"Here she ended, and dawn enthroned in gold began to show in heaven,
whereon she returned inland. I then went on board and told my men to
loose the ship from her moorings; so they at once got into her, took
their places, and began to smite the grey sea with their oars.
Presently the great and cunning goddess Circe befriended us with a
fair wind that blew dead aft, and stayed steadily with us, keeping our
sails well filled, so we did whatever wanted doing to the ship's gear,
and let her go as wind and helmsman headed her.
"Then, being much troubled in mind, I said to my men, 'My friends,
it is not right that one or two of us alone should know the prophecies
that Circe has made me, I will therefore tell you about them, so
that whether we live or die we may do so with our eyes open. First she
said we were to keep clear of the Sirens, who sit and sing most
beautifully in a field of flowers; but she said I might hear them
myself so long as no one else did. Therefore, take me and bind me to
the crosspiece half way up the mast; bind me as I stand upright,
with a bond so fast that I cannot possibly break away, and lash the
rope's ends to the mast itself. If I beg and pray you to set me
free, then bind me more tightly still.'
"I had hardly finished telling everything to the men before we
reached the island of the two Sirens, for the wind had been very
favourable. Then all of a sudden it fell dead calm; there was not a
breath of wind nor a ripple upon the water, so the men furled the
sails and stowed them; then taking to their oars they whitened the
water with the foam they raised in rowing. Meanwhile I look a large
wheel of wax and cut it up small with my sword. Then I kneaded the wax
in my strong hands till it became soft, which it soon did between
the kneading and the rays of the sun-god son of Hyperion. Then I
stopped the ears of all my men, and they bound me hands and feet to
the mast as I stood upright on the crosspiece; but they went on rowing
themselves. When we had got within earshot of the land, and the ship
was going at a good rate, the Sirens saw that we were getting in shore
and began with their singing.
"'Come here,' they sang, 'renowned Ulysses, honour to the Achaean
name, and listen to our two voices. No one ever sailed past us without
staying to hear the enchanting sweetness of our song- and he who
listens will go on his way not only charmed, but wiser, for we know
all the ills that the gods laid upon the Argives and Trojans before
Troy, and can tell you everything that is going to happen over the
whole world.'
"They sang these words most musically, and as I longed to hear
them further I made by frowning to my men that they should set me
free; but they quickened their stroke, and Eurylochus and Perimedes
bound me with still stronger bonds till we had got out of hearing of
the Sirens' voices. Then my men took the wax from their ears and
unbound me.
"Immediately after we had got past the island I saw a great wave
from which spray was rising, and I heard a loud roaring sound. The men
were so frightened that they loosed hold of their oars, for the
whole sea resounded with the rushing of the waters, but the ship
stayed where it was, for the men had left off rowing. I went round,
therefore, and exhorted them man by man not to lose heart.
"'My friends,' said I, 'this is not the first time that we have been
in danger, and we are in nothing like so bad a case as when the
Cyclops shut us up in his cave; nevertheless, my courage and wise
counsel saved us then, and we shall live to look back on all this as
well. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say, trust in Jove and row on
with might and main. As for you, coxswain, these are your orders;
attend to them, for the ship is in your hands; turn her head away from
these steaming rapids and hug the rock, or she will give you the
slip and be over yonder before you know where you are, and you will be
the death of us.'
"So they did as I told them; but I said nothing about the awful
monster Scylla, for I knew the men would not on rowing if I did, but
would huddle together in the hold. In one thing only did I disobey
Circe's strict instructions- I put on my armour. Then seizing two
strong spears I took my stand on the ship Is bows, for it was there
that I expected first to see the monster of the rock, who was to do my
men so much harm; but I could not make her out anywhere, though I
strained my eyes with looking the gloomy rock all over and over
"Then we entered the Straits in great fear of mind, for on the one
hand was Scylla, and on the other dread Charybdis kept sucking up
the salt water. As she vomited it up, it was like the water in a
cauldron when it is boiling over upon a great fire, and the spray
reached the top of the rocks on either side. When she began to suck
again, we could see the water all inside whirling round and round, and
it made a deafening sound as it broke against the rocks. We could
see the bottom of the whirlpool all black with sand and mud, and the
men were at their wit's ends for fear. While we were taken up with
this, and were expecting each moment to be our last, Scylla pounced
down suddenly upon us and snatched up my six best men. I was looking
at once after both ship and men, and in a moment I saw their hands and
feet ever so high above me, struggling in the air as Scylla was
carrying them off, and I heard them call out my name in one last
despairing cry. As a fisherman, seated, spear in hand, upon some
jutting rock throws bait into the water to deceive the poor little
fishes, and spears them with the ox's horn with which his spear is
shod, throwing them gasping on to the land as he catches them one by
one- even so did Scylla land these panting creatures on her rock and
munch them up at the mouth of her den, while they screamed and
stretched out their hands to me in their mortal agony. This was the
most sickening sight that I saw throughout all my voyages.
"When we had passed the [Wandering] rocks, with Scylla and
terrible Charybdis, we reached the noble island of the sun-god,
where were the goodly cattle and sheep belonging to the sun
Hyperion. While still at sea in my ship I could bear the cattle lowing
as they came home to the yards, and the sheep bleating. Then I
remembered what the blind Theban prophet Teiresias had told me, and
how carefully Aeaean Circe had warned me to shun the island of the
blessed sun-god. So being much troubled I said to the men, 'My men,
I know you are hard pressed, but listen while I tell you the
prophecy that Teiresias made me, and how carefully Aeaean Circe warned
me to shun the island of the blessed sun-god, for it was here, she
said, that our worst danger would lie. Head the ship, therefore,
away from the island.'
"The men were in despair at this, and Eurylochus at once gave me
an insolent answer. 'Ulysses,' said he, 'you are cruel; you are very
strong yourself and never get worn out; you seem to be made of iron,
and now, though your men are exhausted with toil and want of sleep,
you will not let them land and cook themselves a good supper upon this
island, but bid them put out to sea and go faring fruitlessly on
through the watches of the flying night. It is by night that the winds
blow hardest and do so much damage; how can we escape should one of
those sudden squalls spring up from South West or West, which so often
wreck a vessel when our lords the gods are unpropitious? Now,
therefore, let us obey the of night and prepare our supper here hard
by the ship; to-morrow morning we will go on board again and put out
to sea.'
"Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. I saw that
heaven meant us a mischief and said, 'You force me to yield, for you
are many against one, but at any rate each one of you must take his
solemn oath that if he meet with a herd of cattle or a large flock
of sheep, he will not be so mad as to kill a single head of either,
but will be satisfied with the food that Circe has given us.'
"They all swore as I bade them, and when they had completed their
oath we made the ship fast in a harbour that was near a stream of
fresh water, and the men went ashore and cooked their suppers. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, they began talking about
their poor comrades whom Scylla had snatched up and eaten; this set
them weeping and they went on crying till they fell off into a sound
sleep.
"In the third watch of the night when the stars had shifted their
places, Jove raised a great gale of wind that flew a hurricane so that
land and sea were covered with thick clouds, and night sprang forth
out of the heavens. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn,
appeared, we brought the ship to land and drew her into a cave wherein
the sea-nymphs hold their courts and dances, and I called the men
together in council.
"'My friends,' said I, 'we have meat and drink in the ship, let us
mind, therefore, and not touch the cattle, or we shall suffer for
it; for these cattle and sheep belong to the mighty sun, who sees
and gives ear to everything. And again they promised that they would
obey.
"For a whole month the wind blew steadily from the South, and
there was no other wind, but only South and East. As long as corn
and wine held out the men did not touch the cattle when they were
hungry; when, however, they had eaten all there was in the ship,
they were forced to go further afield, with hook and line, catching
birds, and taking whatever they could lay their hands on; for they
were starving. One day, therefore, I went up inland that I might
pray heaven to show me some means of getting away. When I had gone far
enough to be clear of all my men, and had found a place that was
well sheltered from the wind, I washed my hands and prayed to all
the gods in Olympus till by and by they sent me off into a sweet
sleep.
"Meanwhile Eurylochus had been giving evil counsel to the men,
'Listen to me,' said he, 'my poor comrades. All deaths are bad
enough but there is none so bad as famine. Why should not we drive
in the best of these cows and offer them in sacrifice to the
immortal Rods? If we ever get back to Ithaca, we can build a fine
temple to the sun-god and enrich it with every kind of ornament; if,
however, he is determined to sink our ship out of revenge for these
homed cattle, and the other gods are of the same mind, I for one would
rather drink salt water once for all and have done with it, than be
starved to death by inches in such a desert island as this is.'
"Thus spoke Eurylochus, and the men approved his words. Now the
cattle, so fair and goodly, were feeding not far from the ship; the
men, therefore drove in the best of them, and they all stood round
them saying their prayers, and using young oak-shoots instead of
barley-meal, for there was no barley left. When they had done
praying they killed the cows and dressed their carcasses; they cut out
the thigh bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some
pieces of raw meat on top of them. They had no wine with which to make
drink-offerings over the sacrifice while it was cooking, so they
kept pouring on a little water from time to time while the inward
meats were being grilled; then, when the thigh bones were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small and put
the pieces upon the spits.
"By this time my deep sleep had left me, and I turned back to the
ship and to the sea shore. As I drew near I began to smell hot roast
meat, so I groaned out a prayer to the immortal gods. 'Father Jove,' I
exclaimed, 'and all you other gods who live in everlasting bliss,
you have done me a cruel mischief by the sleep into which you have
sent me; see what fine work these men of mine have been making in my
absence.'
"Meanwhile Lampetie went straight off to the sun and told him we had
been killing his cows, whereon he flew into a great rage, and said
to the immortals, 'Father Jove, and all you other gods who live in
everlasting bliss, I must have vengeance on the crew of Ulysses' ship:
they have had the insolence to kill my cows, which were the one
thing I loved to look upon, whether I was going up heaven or down
again. If they do not square accounts with me about my cows, I will go
down to Hades and shine there among the dead.'
"'Sun,' said Jove, 'go on shining upon us gods and upon mankind over
the fruitful earth. I will shiver their ship into little pieces with a
bolt of white lightning as soon as they get out to sea.'
"I was told all this by Calypso, who said she had heard it from
the mouth of Mercury.
"As soon as I got down to my ship and to the sea shore I rebuked
each one of the men separately, but we could see no way out of it, for
the cows were dead already. And indeed the gods began at once to
show signs and wonders among us, for the hides of the cattle crawled
about, and the joints upon the spits began to low like cows, and the
meat, whether cooked or raw, kept on making a noise just as cows do.
"For six days my men kept driving in the best cows and feasting upon
them, but when Jove the son of Saturn had added a seventh day, the
fury of the gale abated; we therefore went on board, raised our masts,
spread sail, and put out to sea. As soon as we were well away from the
island, and could see nothing but sky and sea, the son of Saturn
raised a black cloud over our ship, and the sea grew dark beneath
it. We not get on much further, for in another moment we were caught
by a terrific squall from the West that snapped the forestays of the
mast so that it fell aft, while all the ship's gear tumbled about at
the bottom of the vessel. The mast fell upon the head of the
helmsman in the ship's stern, so that the bones of his head were
crushed to pieces, and he fell overboard as though he were diving,
with no more life left in him.
"Then Jove let fly with his thunderbolts, and the ship went round
and round, and was filled with fire and brimstone as the lightning
struck it. The men all fell into the sea; they were carried about in
the water round the ship, looking like so many sea-gulls, but the
god presently deprived them of all chance of getting home again.
"I stuck to the ship till the sea knocked her sides from her keel
(which drifted about by itself) and struck the mast out of her in
the direction of the keel; but there was a backstay of stout
ox-thong still hanging about it, and with this I lashed the mast and
keel together, and getting astride of them was carried wherever the
winds chose to take me.
"[The gale from the West had now spent its force, and the wind got
into the South again, which frightened me lest I should be taken
back to the terrible whirlpool of Charybdis. This indeed was what
actually happened, for I was borne along by the waves all night, and
by sunrise had reacfied the rock of Scylla, and the whirlpool. She was
then sucking down the salt sea water, but I was carried aloft toward
the fig tree, which I caught hold of and clung on to like a bat. I
could not plant my feet anywhere so as to stand securely, for the
roots were a long way off and the boughs that overshadowed the whole
pool were too high, too vast, and too far apart for me to reach
them; so I hung patiently on, waiting till the pool should discharge
my mast and raft again- and a very long while it seemed. A juryman
is not more glad to get home to supper, after having been long
detained in court by troublesome cases, than I was to see my raft
beginning to work its way out of the whirlpool again. At last I let go
with my hands and feet, and fell heavily into the sea, bard by my raft
on to which I then got, and began to row with my hands. As for Scylla,
the father of gods and men would not let her get further sight of
me- otherwise I should have certainly been lost.]
"Hence I was carried along for nine days till on the tenth night the
gods stranded me on the Ogygian island, where dwells the great and
powerful goddess Calypso. She took me in and was kind to me, but I
need say no more about this, for I told you and your noble wife all
about it yesterday, and I hate saying the same thing over and over
again."

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 3

But as the sun was rising from the fair sea into the firmament of
heaven to shed Blight on mortals and immortals, they reached Pylos the
city of Neleus. Now the people of Pylos were gathered on the sea shore
to offer sacrifice of black bulls to Neptune lord of the Earthquake.
There were nine guilds with five hundred men in each, and there were
nine bulls to each guild. As they were eating the inward meats and
burning the thigh bones [on the embers] in the name of Neptune,
Telemachus and his crew arrived, furled their sails, brought their
ship to anchor, and went ashore.
Minerva led the way and Telemachus followed her. Presently she said,
"Telemachus, you must not be in the least shy or nervous; you have
taken this voyage to try and find out where your father is buried
and how he came by his end; so go straight up to Nestor that we may
see what he has got to tell us. Beg of him to speak the truth, and
he will tell no lies, for he is an excellent person."
"But how, Mentor," replied Telemachus, "dare I go up to Nestor,
and how am I to address him? I have never yet been used to holding
long conversations with people, and am ashamed to begin questioning
one who is so much older than myself."
"Some things, Telemachus," answered Minerva, "will be suggested to
you by your own instinct, and heaven will prompt you further; for I am
assured that the gods have been with you from the time of your birth
until now."
She then went quickly on, and Telemachus followed in her steps
till they reached the place where the guilds of the Pylian people were
assembled. There they found Nestor sitting with his sons, while his
company round him were busy getting dinner ready, and putting pieces
of meat on to the spits while other pieces were cooking. When they saw
the strangers they crowded round them, took them by the hand and
bade them take their places. Nestor's son Pisistratus at once
offered his hand to each of them, and seated them on some soft
sheepskins that were lying on the sands near his father and his
brother Thrasymedes. Then he gave them their portions of the inward
meats and poured wine for them into a golden cup, handing it to
Minerva first, and saluting her at the same time.
"Offer a prayer, sir," said he, "to King Neptune, for it is his
feast that you are joining; when you have duly prayed and made your
drink-offering, pass the cup to your friend that he may do so also.
I doubt not that he too lifts his hands in prayer, for man cannot live
without God in the world. Still he is younger than you are, and is
much of an age with myself, so I he handed I will give you the
precedence."
As he spoke he handed her the cup. Minerva thought it very right and
proper of him to have given it to herself first; she accordingly began
praying heartily to Neptune. "O thou," she cried, "that encirclest the
earth, vouchsafe to grant the prayers of thy servants that call upon
thee. More especially we pray thee send down thy grace on Nestor and
on his sons; thereafter also make the rest of the Pylian people some
handsome return for the goodly hecatomb they are offering you. Lastly,
grant Telemachus and myself a happy issue, in respect of the matter
that has brought us in our to Pylos."
When she had thus made an end of praying, she handed the cup to
Telemachus and he prayed likewise. By and by, when the outer meats
were roasted and had been taken off the spits, the carvers gave
every man his portion and they all made an excellent dinner. As soon
as they had had enough to eat and drink, Nestor, knight of Gerene,
began to speak.
"Now," said he, "that our guests have done their dinner, it will
be best to ask them who they are. Who, then, sir strangers, are you,
and from what port have you sailed? Are you traders? or do you sail
the seas as rovers with your hand against every man, and every man's
hand against you?"
Telemachus answered boldly, for Minerva had given him courage to ask
about his father and get himself a good name.
"Nestor," said he, "son of Neleus, honour to the Achaean name, you
ask whence we come, and I will tell you. We come from Ithaca under
Neritum, and the matter about which I would speak is of private not
public import. I seek news of my unhappy father Ulysses, who is said
to have sacked the town of Troy in company with yourself. We know what
fate befell each one of the other heroes who fought at Troy, but as
regards Ulysses heaven has hidden from us the knowledge even that he
is dead at all, for no one can certify us in what place he perished,
nor say whether he fell in battle on the mainland, or was lost at
sea amid the waves of Amphitrite. Therefore I am suppliant at your
knees, if haply you may be pleased to tell me of his 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 me, 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 among the Trojans,
bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
"My friend," answered Nestor, "you recall a time of much sorrow to
my mind, for the brave Achaeans suffered much both at sea, while
privateering under Achilles, and when fighting before the great city
of king Priam. Our best men all of them fell there- Ajax, Achilles,
Patroclus peer of gods in counsel, and my own dear son Antilochus, a
man singularly fleet of foot and in fight valiant. But we suffered
much more than this; what mortal tongue indeed could tell the whole
story? Though you were to stay here and question me for five years, or
even six, I could not tell you all that the Achaeans suffered, and you
would turn homeward weary of my tale before it ended. Nine long
years did we try every kind of stratagem, but the hand of heaven was
against us; during all this time there was no one who could compare
with your father in subtlety- if indeed you are his son- I can
hardly believe my eyes- and you talk just like him too- no one would
say that people of such different ages could speak so much alike. He
and I never had any kind of difference from first to last neither in
camp nor council, but in singleness of heart and purpose we advised
the Argives how all might be ordered for the best.
"When however, we had sacked the city of Priam, and were setting
sail in our ships as heaven had dispersed us, then Jove saw fit to vex
the Argives on their homeward voyage; for they had Not all been either
wise or understanding, and hence many came to a bad end through the
displeasure of Jove's daughter Minerva, who brought about a quarrel
between the two sons of Atreus.
"The sons of Atreus called a meeting which was not as it should
be, for it was sunset and the Achaeans were heavy with wine. When they
explained why they had called- the people together, it seemed that
Menelaus was for sailing homeward at once, and this displeased
Agamemnon, who thought that we should wait till we had offered
hecatombs to appease the anger of Minerva. Fool that he was, he
might have known that he would not prevail with her, for when the gods
have made up their minds they do not change them lightly. So the two
stood bandying hard words, whereon the Achaeans sprang to their feet
with a cry that rent the air, and were of two minds as to what they
should do.
"That night we rested and nursed our anger, for Jove was hatching
mischief against us. But in the morning some of us drew our ships into
the water and put our goods with our women on board, while the rest,
about half in number, stayed behind with Agamemnon. We- the other
half- embarked and sailed; and the ships went well, for heaven had
smoothed the sea. When we reached Tenedos we offered sacrifices to the
gods, for we were longing to get home; cruel Jove, however, did not
yet mean that we should do so, and raised a second quarrel in the
course of which some among us turned their ships back again, and
sailed away under Ulysses to make their peace with Agamemnon; but I,
and all the ships that were with me pressed forward, for I saw that
mischief was brewing. The son of Tydeus went on also with me, and
his crews with him. Later on Menelaus joined us at Lesbos, and found
us making up our minds about our course- for we did not know whether
to go outside Chios by the island of Psyra, keeping this to our
left, or inside Chios, over against the stormy headland of Mimas. So
we asked heaven for a sign, and were shown one to the effect that we
should be soonest out of danger if we headed our ships across the open
sea to Euboea. This we therefore did, and a fair wind sprang up
which gave us a quick passage during the night to Geraestus, where
we offered many sacrifices to Neptune for having helped us so far on
our way. Four days later Diomed and his men stationed their ships in
Argos, but I held on for Pylos, and the wind never fell light from the
day when heaven first made it fair for me.
"Therefore, my dear young friend, I returned without hearing
anything about the others. I know neither who got home safely nor
who were lost but, as in duty bound, I will give you without reserve
the reports that have reached me since I have been here in my own
house. They say the Myrmidons returned home safely under Achilles' son
Neoptolemus; so also did the valiant son of Poias, Philoctetes.
Idomeneus, again, lost no men at sea, and all his followers who
escaped death in the field got safe home with him to Crete. No
matter how far out of the world you live, you will have heard of
Agamemnon and the bad end he came to at the hands of Aegisthus- and
a fearful reckoning did Aegisthus presently pay. See what a good thing
it is for a man to leave a son behind him to do as Orestes did, who
killed false Aegisthus the murderer of his noble father. You too,
then- for you are a tall, smart-looking fellow- show your mettle and
make yourself a name in story."
"Nestor son of Neleus," answered Telemachus, "honour to the
Achaean name, the Achaeans applaud Orestes and his name will live
through all time for he has avenged his father nobly. Would that
heaven might grant me to do like vengeance on the insolence of the
wicked suitors, who are ill treating me and plotting my ruin; but
the gods have no such happiness in store for me and for my father,
so we must bear it as best we may."
"My friend," said Nestor, "now that you remind me, I remember to
have heard that your mother has many suitors, who are ill disposed
towards you and are making havoc of your estate. Do you submit to this
tamely, or are public feeling and the voice of heaven against you? Who
knows but what Ulysses may come back after all, and pay these
scoundrels in full, either single-handed or with a force of Achaeans
behind him? If Minerva were to take as great a liking to you as she
did to Ulysses when we were fighting before Troy (for I never yet
saw the gods so openly fond of any one as Minerva then was of your
father), if she would take as good care of you as she did of him,
these wooers would soon some of them him, forget their wooing."
Telemachus answered, "I can expect nothing of the kind; it would
be far too much to hope for. I dare not let myself think of it. Even
though the gods themselves willed it no such good fortune could befall
me."
On this Minerva said, "Telemachus, what are you talking about?
Heaven has a long arm if it is minded to save a man; and if it were
me, I should not care how much I suffered before getting home,
provided I could be safe when I was once there. I would rather this,
than get home quickly, and then be killed in my own house as Agamemnon
was by the treachery of Aegisthus and his wife. Still, death is
certain, and when a man's hour is come, not even the gods can save
him, no matter how fond they are of him."
"Mentor," answered Telemachus, "do not let us talk about it any
more. There is no chance of my father's ever coming back; the gods
have long since counselled his destruction. There is something else,
however, about which I should like to ask Nestor, for he knows much
more than any one else does. They say he has reigned for three
generations so that it is like talking to an immortal. Tell me,
therefore, Nestor, and tell me true; how did Agamemnon come to die
in that way? What was Menelaus doing? And how came false Aegisthus
to kill so far better a man than himself? Was Menelaus away from
Achaean Argos, voyaging elsewhither among mankind, that Aegisthus took
heart and killed Agamemnon?"
"I will tell you truly," answered Nestor, "and indeed you have
yourself divined how it all happened. If Menelaus when he got back
from Troy had found Aegisthus still alive in his house, there would
have been no barrow heaped up for him, not even when he was dead,
but he would have been thrown outside the city to dogs and vultures,
and not a woman would have mourned him, for he had done a deed of
great wickedness; but we were over there, fighting hard at Troy, and
Aegisthus who was taking his ease quietly in the heart of Argos,
cajoled Agamemnon's wife Clytemnestra with incessant flattery.
"At first she would have nothing to do with his wicked scheme, for
she was of a good natural disposition; moreover there was a bard
with her, to whom Agamemnon had given strict orders on setting out for
Troy, that he was to keep guard over his wife; but when heaven had
counselled her destruction, Aegisthus thus this bard off to a desert
island and left him there for crows and seagulls to batten upon- after
which she went willingly enough to the house of Aegisthus. Then he
offered many burnt sacrifices to the gods, and decorated many
temples with tapestries and gilding, for he had succeeded far beyond
his expectations.
"Meanwhile Menelaus and I were on our way home from Troy, on good
terms with one another. When we got to Sunium, which is the point of
Athens, Apollo with his painless shafts killed Phrontis the
steersman of Menelaus' ship (and never man knew better how to handle a
vessel in rough weather) so that he died then and there with the
helm in his hand, and Menelaus, though very anxious to press
forward, had to wait in order to bury his comrade and give him his due
funeral rites. Presently, when he too could put to sea again, and
had sailed on as far as the Malean heads, Jove counselled evil against
him and made it it blow hard till the waves ran mountains high. Here
he divided his fleet and took the one half towards Crete where the
Cydonians dwell round about the waters of the river Iardanus. There is
a high headland hereabouts stretching out into the sea from a place
called Gortyn, and all along this part of the coast as far as Phaestus
the sea runs high when there is a south wind blowing, but arter
Phaestus the coast is more protected, for a small headland can make
a great shelter. Here this part of the fleet was driven on to the
rocks and wrecked; but the crews just managed to save themselves. As
for the other five ships, they were taken by winds and seas to
Egypt, where Menelaus gathered much gold and substance among people of
an alien speech. Meanwhile Aegisthus here at home plotted his evil
deed. For seven years after he had killed Agamemnon he ruled in
Mycene, and the people were obedient under him, but in the eighth year
Orestes came back from Athens to be his bane, and killed the
murderer of his father. Then he celebrated the funeral rites of his
mother and of false Aegisthus by a banquet to the people of Argos, and
on that very day Menelaus came home, with as much treasure as his
ships could carry.
"Take my advice then, and do not go travelling about for long so far
from home, nor leave your property with such dangerous people in
your house; they will eat up everything you have among them, and you
will have been on a fool's errand. Still, I should advise you by all
means to go and visit Menelaus, who has lately come off a voyage among
such distant peoples as no man could ever hope to get back from,
when the winds had once carried him so far out of his reckoning;
even birds cannot fly the distance in a twelvemonth, so vast and
terrible are the seas that they must cross. Go to him, therefore, by
sea, and take your own men with you; or if you would rather travel
by land you can have a chariot, you can have horses, and here are my
sons who can escort you to Lacedaemon where Menelaus lives. Beg of him
to speak the truth, and he will tell you no lies, for he is an
excellent person."
As he spoke the sun set and it came on dark, whereon Minerva said,
"Sir, all that you have said is well; now, however, order the
tongues of the victims to be cut, and mix wine that we may make
drink-offerings to Neptune, and the other immortals, and then go to
bed, for it is bed time. People should go away early and not keep late
hours at a religious festival."
Thus spoke the daughter of Jove, and they obeyed her saying. 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 they threw the tongues of the
victims into the fire, and stood up to make their drink-offerings.
When they had made their offerings and had drunk each as much as he
was minded, Minerva and Telemachus were forgoing on board their
ship, but Nestor caught them up at once and stayed them.
"Heaven and the immortal gods," he exclaimed, "forbid that you
should leave my house to go on board of a ship. Do you think I am so
poor and short of clothes, or that I have so few cloaks and as to be
unable to find comfortable beds both for myself and for my guests? Let
me tell you I have store both of rugs and cloaks, and shall not permit
the son of my old friend Ulysses to camp down on the deck of a ship-
not while I live- nor yet will my sons after me, but they will keep
open house as have done."
Then Minerva answered, "Sir, you have spoken well, and it will be
much better that Telemachus should do as you have said; he, therefore,
shall return with you and sleep at your house, but I must go back to
give orders to my crew, and keep them in good heart. I am the only
older person among them; the rest are all young men of Telemachus' own
age, who have taken this voyage out of friendship; so I must return to
the ship and sleep there. Moreover to-morrow I must go to the
Cauconians where I have a large sum of money long owing to me. As
for Telemachus, now that he is your guest, send him to Lacedaemon in a
chariot, and let one of your sons go with him. Be pleased also to
provide him with your best and fleetest horses."
When she had thus spoken, she flew away in the form of an eagle, and
all marvelled as they beheld it. Nestor was astonished, and took
Telemachus by the hand. "My friend," said he, "I see that you are
going to be a great hero some day, since the gods wait upon you thus
while you are still so young. This can have been none other of those
who dwell in heaven than Jove's redoubtable daughter, the
Trito-born, who showed such favour towards your brave father among the
Argives." "Holy queen," he continued, "vouchsafe to send down thy
grace upon myself, my good wife, and my children. In return, I will
offer you in sacrifice a broad-browed heifer of a year old,
unbroken, and never yet brought by man under the yoke. I will gild her
horns, and will offer her up to you in sacrifice."
Thus did he pray, and Minerva heard his prayer. He then led the
way to his own house, followed by his sons and sons-in-law. When
they had got there and had taken their places on the benches and
seats, he mixed them a bowl of sweet wine that was eleven years old
when the housekeeper took the lid off the jar that held it. As he
mixed the wine, he prayed much and made drink-offerings to Minerva,
daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove. Then, when they had made their
drink-offerings and had drunk each as much as he was minded, the
others went home to bed each in his own abode; but Nestor put
Telemachus to sleep in the room that was over the gateway along with
Pisistratus, who was the only unmarried son now left him. As for
himself, he slept in an inner room of the house, with the queen his
wife by his side.
Now when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared,
Nestor left his couch and took his seat on the benches of white and
polished marble that stood in front of his house. Here aforetime sat
Neleus, peer of gods in counsel, but he was now dead, and had gone
to the house of Hades; so Nestor sat in his seat, sceptre in hand,
as guardian of the public weal. His sons as they left their rooms
gathered round him, Echephron, Stratius, Perseus, Aretus, and
Thrasymedes; the sixth son was Pisistratus, and when Telemachus joined
them they made him sit with them. Nestor then addressed them.
"My sons," said he, "make haste to do as I shall bid you. I wish
first and foremost to propitiate the great goddess Minerva, who
manifested herself visibly to me during yesterday's festivities. Go,
then, one or other of you to the plain, tell the stockman to look me
out a heifer, and come on here with it at once. Another must go to
Telemachus's ship, and invite all the crew, leaving two men only in
charge of the vessel. Some one else will run and fetch Laerceus the
goldsmith to gild the horns of the heifer. The rest, stay all of you
where you are; tell the maids in the house to prepare an excellent
dinner, and to fetch seats, and logs of wood for a burnt offering.
Tell them also- to bring me some clear spring water."
On this they hurried off on their several errands. The heifer was
brought in from the plain, and Telemachus's crew came from the ship;
the goldsmith brought the anvil, hammer, and tongs, with which he
worked his gold, and Minerva herself came to the sacrifice. Nestor
gave out the gold, and the smith gilded the horns of the heifer that
the goddess might have pleasure in their beauty. Then Stratius and
Echephron brought her in by the horns; Aretus fetched water from the
house in a ewer that had a flower pattern on it, and in his other hand
he held a basket of barley meal; sturdy Thrasymedes stood by with a
sharp axe, ready to strike the heifer, while Perseus held a bucket.
Then Nestor began with washing his hands and sprinkling the barley
meal, and he offered many a prayer to Minerva as he threw a lock
from the heifer's head upon the fire.
When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley meal
Thrasymedes dealt his blow, and brought the heifer down with a
stroke that cut through the tendons at the base of her neck, whereon
the daughters and daughters-in-law of Nestor, and his venerable wife
Eurydice (she was eldest daughter to Clymenus) screamed with
delight. Then they lifted the heifer's head from off the ground, and
Pisistratus cut her throat. When she had done bleeding and was quite
dead, they cut her up. They cut out the thigh bones all in due course,
wrapped them round in two layers of fat, and set some pieces of raw
meat on the top of them; then Nestor laid them upon the wood fire
and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with
five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thighs were burned and
they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest of the meat up
small, put the pieces on the spits and toasted them over the fire.
Meanwhile lovely Polycaste, Nestor's youngest daughter, washed
Telemachus. When she had washed him and anointed him with oil, she
brought him a fair mantle and shirt, and he looked like a god as he
came from the bath and took his seat by the side of Nestor. When the
outer meats were done they drew them off the spits and sat down to
dinner where they were waited upon by some worthy henchmen, who kept
pouring them out their wine in cups of gold. As soon as they had had
had enough to eat and drink Nestor said, "Sons, put Telemachus's
horses to the chariot that he may start at once."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said, and yoked the
fleet horses to the chariot. The housekeeper packed them up a
provision of bread, wine, and sweetmeats fit for the sons of
princes. Then Telemachus got into the chariot, while Pisistratus
gathered up the reins and took his seat beside him. He lashed the
horses on and they flew forward nothing loth into the open country,
leaving the high citadel of Pylos behind them. All that day did they
travel, swaying the yoke upon their necks till the sun went down and
darkness was over all the land. Then they reached Pherae where Diocles
lived, who was son to Ortilochus and grandson to Alpheus. Here they
passed the night and Diocles entertained them hospitably. When the
child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn; appeared, they again yoked their
horses and drove out through the gateway under the echoing
gatehouse. Pisistratus lashed the horses on and they flew forward
nothing loth; presently they came to the corn lands Of the open
country, and in the course of time completed their journey, so well
did their steeds take them.
Now when the sun had set and darkness was over the land,

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Orlando Furioso Canto 3

ARGUMENT
Restored to sense, the beauteous Bradamant
Finds sage Melissa in the vaulted tomb,
And hears from her of many a famous plant
And warrior, who shall issue from her womb.
Next, to release Rogero from the haunt
Of old Atlantes, learns how from the groom,
Brunello hight, his virtuous ring to take;
And thus the knight's and others' fetters break.


I
Who will vouchsafe me voice that shall ascend
As high as I would raise my noble theme?
Who will afford befitting words, and lend
Wings to my verse, to soar the pitch I scheme?
Since fiercer fire for such illustrious end,
Than what was wont, may well my song beseem.
For this fair portion to my lord is due
Which sings the sires from whom his lineage grew.

II
Than whose fair line, 'mid those by heavenly grace
Chosen to minister this earth below,
You see not, Phoebus, in your daily race,
One that in peace or war doth fairer show;
Nor lineage that hath longer kept its place;
And still shall keep it, if the lights which glow
Within me, but aright inspire my soul,
While the blue heaven shall turn about the pole.

III
But should I seek at full its worth to blaze,
Not mine were needful, but that noble lyre
Which sounded at your touch the thunderer's praise,
What time the giants sank in penal fire.
Yet should you instruments, more fit to raise
The votive work, bestow, as I desire,
All labour and all thought will I combine,
To shape and shadow forth the great design.

IV
Till when, this chisel may suffice to scale
The stone, and give my lines a right direction;
And haply future study may avail,
To bring the stubborn labour to perfection.
Return we now to him, to whom the mail
Of hawberk, shield, and helm, were small protection:
I speak of Pinabel the Maganzeze,
Who hopes the damsel's death, whose fall he sees.

V
The wily traitor thought that damsel sweet
Had perished on the darksome cavern's floor,
And with pale visages hurried his retreat
From that, through him contaminated door.
And, thence returning, clomb into his seat:
Then, like one who a wicked spirit bore,
To add another sin to evil deed,
Bore off with him the warlike virgin's steed.

VI
Leave we sometime the wretch who, while he layed
Snares for another, wrought his proper doom;
And turn we to the damsel he betrayed,
Who had nigh found at once her death and tomb.
She, after rising from the rock, dismayed
At her shrewd fall, and gazing through the gloom,
Beheld and passed that inner door, which gave
Entrance to other and more spacious cave.

VII
For the first cavern in a second ended,
Fashioned in form of church, and large and square;
With roof by cunning architect extended
On shafts of alabaster rich and rare.
The flame of a clear-burning lamp ascended
Before the central altar; and the glare,
Illuminating all the space about,
Shone through the gate, and lit the cave without.

VIII
Touched with the sanctifying thoughts which wait
On worthy spirit in a holy place,
She prays with eager lips, and heart elate,
To the Disposer of all earthly grace:
And, kneeling, hears a secret wicket grate
In the opposing wall; whence, face to face,
A woman issuing forth, the maid addresses,
Barefoot, ungirt, and with dishevelled tresses.

IX
"O generous Bradamant," the matron cried,
"Know thine arrival in this hallowed hold
Was not unauthorized of heavenly guide:
And the prophetic ghost of Merlin told,
Thou to this cave shouldst come by path untried,
Which covers the renowned magician's mould.
And here have I long time awaited thee,
To tell what is the heavens' pronounced decree.

X
"This is the ancient memorable cave
Which Merlin, that enchanter sage, did make:
Thou may'st have heard how that magician brave
Was cheated by the Lady of the Lake.
Below, beneath the cavern, is the grave
Which holds his bones; where, for that lady's sake,
His limbs (for such her will) the wizard spread.
Living he laid him there, and lies there dead.

XI
"Yet lives the spirit of immortal strain;
Lodged in the enchanter's corpse, till to the skies
The trumpet call it, or to endless pain,
As it with dove or raven's wing shall rise.
Yet lives the voice, and thou shalt hear how plain
From its sepulchral case of marble cries:
Since this has still the past and future taught
To every wight that has its counsel sought.

XII
"Long days have passed since I from distant land
My course did to this cemetery steer,
That in the solemn mysteries I scanned,
Merlin to me the truth should better clear;
And having compassed the design I planned,
A month beyond, for thee, have tarried here;
Since Merlin, still with certain knowledge summing
Events, prefixed this moment for thy coming."

XIII
The daughter of Duke Aymon stood aghast,
And silent listened to the speech; while she
Knew not, sore marvelling at all that passed,
If 'twere a dream or a reality.
At length, with modest brow, and eyes down cast,
Replied (like one that was all modesty),
"And is this wrought for me? and have I merit
Worthy the workings of prophetic spirit?"

XIV
And full of joy the adventure strange pursues,
Moving with ready haste behind the dame,
Who brings her to the sepulchre which mews
The bones and spirit, erst of Merlin's name.
The tomb, of hardest stone which masons use,
Shone smooth and lucid, and as red as flame.
So that although no sun-beam pierced the gloom,
Its splendour lit the subterraneous room.

XV
Whether it be the native operation
O certain stones, to shine like torch i' the dark,
Or whether force of spell or fumigation,
(A guess that seems to come more near the mark)
Or sign made under mystic constellation,
The blaze that came from the sepulchral ark
Discovered sculpture, colour, gems, and gilding,
And whatsoever else adorned the building.

XVI
Scarcely had Bradamant above the sill
Lifter her foot, and trod the secret cave,
When the live spirit, in clear tones that thrill,
Addressed the martial virgin from the grave;
"May Fortune, chaste and noble maid, fulfil
Thine every wish!" exclaimed the wizard brave.
"Since from thy womb a princely race shall spring,
Whose name through Italy and earth shall ring.

XVII
"The noble blood derived from ancient Troy,
Mingling in thee its two most glorious streams,
Shall be the ornament, and flower, and joy
Of every lineage on which Phoebus beams,
Where genial stars lend warmth, or cold annoy,
Where Indus, Tagus, Nile, or Danube gleams;
And in thy progeny and long drawn line
Shall marquises, counts, dukes and Caesers shine.

XVIII
"Captains and cavaliers shall spring from thee,
Who both by knightly lance and prudent lore,
Shall once again to widowed Italy
Her ancient praise and fame in arms restore;
And in her realms just lords shall seated be,
(Such Numa and Augustus were of yore),
Who with their government, benign and sage,
Shall re-create on earth the golden age.

XIX
"Then, that the will of Heaven be duly brought
To a fair end through thee, in fitting date,
Which from the first to bless thy love has wrought,
And destined young Rogero for thy mate,
Let nothing interpose to break that thought,
But boldly tread the path perscribed by fate;
Nor let aught stay thee till the thief be thrown
By thy good lance, who keeps thee from thine own."

XX
Here Merlin ceased, that for the solemn feat
Melissa might prepare with fitting spell,
To show bold Bradamant, in aspect meet,
The heirs who her illustrious race should swell.
Hence many sprites she chose; but from what seat
Evoked, I know not, or if called from hell;
And gathered in one place (so bade the dame),
In various garb and guise the shadows came.

XXI
This done, into the church she called the maid,
Where she had drawn a magic ring, as wide
As might contain the damsel, prostrate laid;
With the full measure of a palm beside.
And on her head, lest spirit should invade,
A pentacle for more assurance tied.
So bade her hold her peace, and stand and look,
Then read, and schooled the demons from her book.

XXII
Lo! forth of that first cave what countless swarm
Presses upon the circle's sacred round,
But, when they would the magic rampart storm,
Finds the way barred as if by fosse or mound;
Then back the rabble turns of various form;
And when it thrice with bending march has wound
About the circle, troops into the cave,
Where stands that beauteous urn, the wizard's grave.

XXIII
"To tell at large the puissant acts and worth,
And name of each who, figured in a sprite,
Is present to our eyes before his birth,"
Said sage Melissa to the damsel bright;
"To tell the deeds which they shall act on earth,
Were labour not to finish with the night.
Hence I shall call few worthies of thy line,
As time and fair occasion shall combine.

XXIV
"See yonder first-born of thy noble breed,
Who well reflects thy fair and joyous face;
He, first of thine and of Rogero's seed,
Shall plant in Italy thy generous race.
In him behold who shall distain the mead,
And his good sword with blood of Pontier base;
The mighty wrong chastised, and traitor's guilt,
By whom his princely father's blood was spilt.

XXV
"By him King Desiderius shall be pressed,
The valiant leader of the Lombard horde:
And of the fiefs of Calaon and Este;
For this imperial Charles shall make him lord.
Hubert, thy grandson, comes behind; the best
Of Italy, with arms and belted sword:
Who shall defend the church from barbarous foes,
And more than once assure her safe repose.

XXVI
"Alberto next, unconquered captain, see,
Whose trophies shall so many fanes array.
Hugh, the bold son, is with the sire, and he
Shall conquer Milan, and the snakes display.
Azo, that next approaching form shall be,
And, his good brother dead, the Insubri sway.
Lo! Albertazo! by whose rede undone,
See Berengarius banished, and his son.

XXVII
"With him shall the imperial Otho join
In wedlock worthily his daughter fair.
And lo! another Hugh! O noble line!
O! sire succeeded by an equal heir!
He, thwarting with just cause their ill design,
Shall thrash the Romans' pride who overbear;
Shall from their hands the sovereign pontiff take,
With the third Otho, and their leaguer break.

XXVIII
"See Fulke, who to his brother will convey
All his Italian birth-right, and command
To take a mighty dukedom far away
From his fair home, in Almayn's northern land.
There he the house of Saxony shall stay,
And prop the ruin with his saving hand;
This in his mother's right he shall possess,
And with his progeny maintain and bless.

XXIX
"More famed for courtesy than warlike deed,
Azo the second, he who next repairs!
Bertoldo and Albertazo are his seed:
And, lo! the father walkes between his heirs.
By Parma's walls I see the Germans bleed,
Their second Henry quelled; such trophy bears
The one renowned in story's future page:
The next shall wed Matilda, chaste and sage.

XXX
"His virtues shall deserve so fair a flower,
(And in his age, I wot, no common grace)
To hold the half of Italy in dower,
With that descendent of first Henry's race.
Rinaldo shall succeed him in his power,
Pledge of Bertoldo's wedded love, and chase
Fierce Frederick Barbarossa's hireling bands,
Saving the church from his rapacious hands.

XXXI
"Another Azo rules Verona's town,
With its fair fields; and two great chiefs this while
(One wears the papal, one the imperial crown),
The baron, Marquis of Ancona style.
But to show all who rear the gonfalon
Of the consistory, amid that file,
Were task too long; as long to tell each deed
Achieved for Rome by thy devoted seed.

XXXII
"See Fulke and Obyson, more Azos, Hughs!
Both Henrys! -- mark the father and his boy.
Two Guelphs: the first fair Umbria's land subdues,
And shall Spoleto's ducal crown enjoy.
Behold the princely phantom that ensues,
Shall turn fair Italy's long grief to joy;
I speak of the fifth Azo of thy strain,
By whom shall Ezelin be quelled and slain.

XXXIII
"Fierce Ezelin, that most inhuman lord,
Who shall be deemed by men a child of hell.
And work such evil, thinning with the sword
Who in Ausonia's wasted cities dwell;
Rome shall no more her Anthony record,
Her Marius, Sylla, Nero, Cajus fell.
And this fifth Azo shall to scathe and shame
Put Frederick, second Caeser of the name.

XXXIV
"He, with his better sceptre well contented,
Shall rule the city, seated by the streams,
Where Phoebus to his plaintive lyre lamented
The son, ill-trusted with the father's beams;
Where Cygnus spread his pinions, and the scented
Amber was wept, as fabling poet dreams.
To him such honour shall the church decree;
Fit guerdon of his works, and valour's fee.

XXXV
"But does no laurel for his brother twine,
Aldobrandino, who will carry cheer
To Rome (when Otho, with the Ghibelline,
Into the troubled capital strikes fear),
And make the Umbri and Piceni sign
Their shame, and sack the cities far and near;
Then hopeless to relieve the sacred hold,
Sue to the neighbouring Florentine for gold:

XXXVI
"And trust a noble brother to his hands,
Boasting no dearer pledge, the pact to bind:
And next, victorious o'er the German bands,
Give his triumphant ensigns to the wind:
To the afflicted church restore her lands,
And take due vengeance of Celano's kind.
Then die, cut off in manhood's early flower,
Beneath the banners of the Papal power?

XXXVII
"He, dying, leaves his brother Azo heir
Of Pesaro and fair Ancona's reign,
And all the cities which 'twixt Tronto are,
And green Isauro's stream, from mount to main;
With other heritage, more rich and rare,
Greatness of mind, and faith without a strain.
All else is Fortune's in this mortal state;
But Virtue soars beyond her love and hate.

XXXVIII
"In good Rinaldo equal worth shall shine,
(Such is the promise of his early fire)
If such a hope of thine exalted line.
Dark Fate and Fortune wreck not in their ire.
Alas! from Naples in this distant shrine,
Naples, where he is hostage for his sire,
His dirge is heard: A stripling of thy race,
Young Obyson, shall fill his grandsire's place.

XXXIX
"This lord to his dominion shall unite
Gay Reggio, joined to Modena's bold land.
And his redoubted valour lend such light,
The willing people call him to command.
Sixth of the name, his Azo rears upright
The church's banner in his noble hand:
Fair Adria's fief to him in dower shall bring
The child of second Charles, Sicilia's king.

XL
"Behold in yonder friendly group agreed.
Many fair princes of illustrious name;
Obyson, Albert famed for pious deed,
Aldobrandino, Nicholas the lame.
But we may pass them by, for better speed,
Faenza conquered, and their feats and fame;
With Adria (better held and surer gain)
Which gives her title to the neighbouring main:

XLI
"And that fair town, whose produce is the rose,
The rose which gives it name in Grecian speech:
That, too, which fishy marshes round enclose,
And Po's two currents threat with double breach;
Whose townsmen loath the lazy calm's repose,
And pray that stormy waves may lash the beach.
I pass, mid towns and towers, a countless store,
Argenta, Lugo, and a thousand more.

XLII
"See Nicholas, whom in his tender age,
The willing people shall elect their lord;
He who shall laugh to scorn the civil rage
Of the rebellious Tideus and his horde;
Whose infantine delight shall be to wage
The mimic fight, and sweat with spear and sword:
And through the discipline such nurture yields,
Shall flourish as the flower of martial fields.

XLIII
"By him rebellious plans are overthrown,
And turned upon the rash contriver's head;
And so each stratagem of warfare blown,
That vainly shall the cunning toils be spread.
To the third Otho this too late is known,
Of Parma and the pleasant Reggio dread;
Who shall by him be spoiled in sudden strife,
Of his possessions and his wretched life.

XLIV
"And still the fair dominion shall increase,
And without wrong its spreading bounds augment;
Nor its glad subjects violate the peace,
Unless provoked some outrage to resent,
And hence its wealth and welfare shall not cease;
And the Divine Disposer be content
To let it flourish (such his heavenly love!)
While the celestial spheres revolve above.

XLV
"Lo! Lionel! lo! Borse great and kind!
First duke of thy fair race, his realm's delight;
Who reigns secure, and shall more triumphs find
In peace, than warlike princes win in fight.
Who struggling Fury's hands shall tie behind
Her back, and prison Mars, removed from sight.
His fair endeavours bent to bless and stay
The people, that his sovereign rule obey.

XLVI
"Lo! Hercules, who may reproach his neighbour,
With foot half burnt, and halting gait and slow,
That at Budrio, with protecting sabre,
He saved his troops from fatal overthrow;
Not that, for guerdon of his glorious labour,
He should distress and vex him as a foe;
Chased into Barco. It were hard to say,
If most he shine in peace or martial fray.

XLVII
"Lucania, Puglia, and Calabria's strand,
Shall with the rumour of his prowess ring:
Where he shall strive in duel, hand to hand,
And gain the praise of Catalonia's king.
Him, with the wisest captains of the land
His worth shall class; such fame his actions bring;
And he the fief shall win like valiant knight,
Which thirty years before was his of right.

XLVIII
"To him his grateful city owes a debt,
The greatest subjects to their lord can owe;
Not that he moves her from a marsh, to set
Her stones, where Ceres' fruitful treasures grow.
Nor that he shall enlarge her bounds, nor yet
That he shall fence her walls against the foe;
Nor that he theatre and dome repairs,
And beautifies her streets and goodly squares;

XLIX
"Not that he keeps his lordship well defended
From the winged lions' claws and fierce attacks;
Nor that, when Gallic ravage is extended,
And the invader all Italia sacks,
His happy state alone is unoffended;
Unharassed, and ungalled by toll or tax.
Not for these blessings I recount, and more
His grateful realm shall Hercules adore;

L
"So much as that from him shall spring a pair
Of brothers, leagued no less by love than blood;
Who shall be all that Leda's children were;
The just Alphonso, Hippolite the good.
And as each twin resigned the vital air
His fellow to redeem from Stygian flood,
So each of these would gladly spend his breath,
And for his brother brave perpetual death.

LI
"In these two princes' excellent affection,
Their happy lieges more assurance feel,
Than if their noble town, for its protection,
Were girded twice by Vulcan's works of steel.
And so Alphonso in his good direction,
Justice, with knowledge and with love, shall deal,
Astrea shall appear returned from heaven,
To this low earth to varying seasons given.

LII
"Well is it that his wisdom shines as bright
As his good sire's, nor is his valour less;
Since here usurping Venice arms for fight,
And her full troops his scanty numbers press,
There she (I know not if more justly hight
Mother or stepmother) brings new distress;
But, if a mother, scarce to him more mild
Than Progue or Medea to her child.

LIII
"This chief, what time soever he shall go
Forth with his faithful crew, by night or day,
By water or by land, will shame the foe,
With memorable rout and disarray;
And this too late Romagna's sons shall know.
Led against former friends in bloody fray,
Who shall bedew the campaign with their blood,
By Santern, Po, and Zaniolus' flood.

LIV
"This shall the Spaniard know, to his dismay,
'Mid the same bounds, whom papal gold shall gain,
Who shall from him Bastia win and slay,
With cruel rage, her hapless Castellain,
The city taken; but shall dearly pay;
His crime, the town retrieved, and victor slain:
Since in the rescued city not a groom
Is left alive, to bear the news to Rome.

LV
" 'Tis he, who with his counsel and his lance,
Shall win the honours of Romagna's plain,
And open to the chivalry of France
The victory over Julius, leagued with Spain.
Paunch-deep in human blood shall steeds advance
In that fierce strife, and struggle through the slain,
'Mid crowded fields, which scarce a grace supply,
Where Greek, Italian, Frank, and Spaniard die.

LVI
"Lo! who in priestly vesture clad, is crowned
With purple hat, conferred in hallowed dome!
'Tis he, the wise, the liberal, the renowned
Hippolitus, great cardinal of Rome;
Whose actions shall in every region sound,
Where'er the honoured muse shall find a home:
To whose glad era, by indulgent heaven,
As to Augustus' is a Maro given.

LVII
"His deeds adorn his race, as from his car
The glorious sun illumes the subject earth
More than the silver moon or lesser star;
So far all others he transcends in worth.
I see this captain, ill bested for war,
Go forth afflicted, and return in mirth:
Backed by few foot, and fewer cavaliers,
He homeward barks, and fifteen gallies steers.

LVIII
"Two Sigismonds, the first, the second, see;
To these Alphonso's five good sons succeed;
Whose glories spread o'er seas and land shall be.
The first shall wed a maid of France's seed.
This is the second Hercules; and he,
(That you may know their every name and deed),
Hippolitus; who with the light shall shine,
Of his wise uncle, gilding all his line.

LIX
"Francis the third comes next; the other two
Alphonsos both; -- but yet again I say,
Thy line through all its branches to pursue,
Fair virgin, would too long protract thy stay;
And Phoebus, many times, to mortal view,
Would quench and light again the lamp of day.
Then, with thy leave, 'tis time the pageant cease,
And I dismiss the shades and hold my peace."

LX
So with the lady's leave the volume closed,
Whose precepts to her will the spirits bent.
And they, where Merlin's ancient bones reposed,
From the first cavern disappearing, went.
Then Bradamant her eager lips unclosed,
Since the divine enchantress gave consent;
"And who," she cried, "that pair of sorrowing mien,
Alphonso and Hippolitus between?

LXI
"Sighing, those youths advanced amid the show,
Their brows with shame and sorrow overcast,
With downward look, and gait subdued and slow:
I saw the brothers shun them as they passed."
Melissa heard the dame with signs of woe,
And thus, with streaming eyes, exclaim'd at last:
"Ah! luckless youths, with vain illusions fed,
Whither by wicked men's bad counsel led!

LXII
"O, worthy seed of Hercules the good,
Let not their guilt beyond thy love prevail;
Alas! the wretched pair are of thy blood,
So many prevailing pity turn the scale!"
And in a sad and softer tone pursued,
"I will not further press the painful tale.
Chew on fair fancy's food: Nor deem unmeet
I will not with a bitter chase the sweet.

LXIII
"Soon as to-morrow's sun shall gild the skies
With his first light, myself the way will show
To where the wizard knight Rogero sties;
And built with polished steel the ramparts glow:
So long as through deep woods thy journey lies,
Till, at the sea arrived, I shall bestow
Such new instructions for the future way,
That thou no more shalt need Melissa's stay."

LXIV
All night the maid reposes in the cave,
And the best part in talk with Merlin spends;
While with persuasive voice the wizard grave
To her Rogero's honest love commends;
Till from the vault goes forth that virgin brave,
As through the sky the rising sun ascends,
By path, long space obscure on either side,
The weird woman still her faithful guide.

LXV
They gain a hidden glen, which heights inclose,
And mountains inaccessible to man:
And they all day toil on, without repose,
Where precipices frowned and torrents ran.
And (what may some diversion interpose)
Sweet subjects of discourse together scan,
In conference, which best might make appear
The rugged road less dismal and severe.

LXVI
Of these the greater portion served to guide
(Such the wise woman's scope) the warlike dame;
And teach by what device might be untied
Rogero's gyves, if stedfast were her flame.
"If thou wert Mars himself, or Pallas," cried
The sage Melissa, "though with thee there came
More than King Charles or Agramant command,
Against the wizard foe thou could'st not stand.

LXVII
"Besides that it is walled about with steel,
And inexpugnable his tower, and high;
Besides that his swift horse is taught to wheel,
And caracol and gallop in mid sky,
He bears a mortal shield of power to seal,
As soon as 'tis exposed, the dazzled eye;
And so invades each sense, the splendour shed,
That he who sees the blaze remains as dead.

LXVIII
"And lest to shut thine eyes, thou should'st suppose
Might serve, contending with the wizard knight;
How would'st thou know, when both in combat close,
When he strikes home, or when eschews the fight?
But to escape the blaze which blinds his foes,
And render vain each necromantic sleight,
Have here a speedy mean which cannot miss;
Nor can the world afford a way but this.

LXIX
"King Agramant of Africa a ring.
Thieved from an Indian queen by subtle guiles,
Has to a baron of his following
Consigned, who now precedes us by few miles;
Brunello he. Who wears the gift shall bring
To nought all sorceries and magic wiles.
In thefts and cheats Brunello is as well
Instructed, as the sage in charm and spell.

LXX
"Brunello, he so practised and so sly
As now I tell thee, by his king is sent,
That he with aid of mother wit may try,
And of this ring, well proved in like event,
To take Rogero from the castle high;
So has he boasted, by the wizard pent:
And to his lord such promise did impart,
Who has Rogero's presence most at heart.

LXXI
"That his escape to thee alone may owe,
Not to the king, the youthful cavalier,
How to release Rogero from his foe
And his enchanted cage, prepare to hear.
Three days along the shingle shalt thou go,
Beside the sea, whose waves will soon appear;
Thee the third day shall to a hostel bring,
Where he shall come who bears the virtuous ring.

LXXII
"That thou may'st recognise the man, in height
Less than six palms, observe one at this inn
Of black and curly hair, the dwarfish wight!
Beard overgrown about the cheek and chin;
With shaggy brow, swoln eyes, and cloudy sight,
A nose close flattened, and a sallow skin;
To this, that I may make my sketch complete,
Succinctly clad, like courier, goes the cheat.

LXXIII
"Thy conversation with this man shall turn
Upon enchantment, spell, and mystic pact;
And thou shalt, in thy talk, appear to yearn
To prove the wizard's strength, as is the fact.
But, lady, let him not thy knowledge learn
Of his good ring, which mars all magic act:
He shall propose to bring thee as a guide
To the tall castle, whither thou would'st ride.

LXXIV
"Follow him close, and viewing (for a sign),
Now near, the fortress of the enchanter hoar;
Let no false pity there thy mind incline
To stay the execution of my lore.
Give him his death; but let him not divine
Thy thought, nor grant him respite; for before
Thine eyes, concealed by it, the caitiff slips
If once he place the ring between his lips."

LXXV
Discoursing thus, they came upon the sea
Where Garonne near fair Bordeaux meets the tide;
Here, fellow travellers no more to be,
Some natural tears they drop and then divide.
Duke Aymon's child, who slumbers not till she
Release her knight, holds on till even-tide:
'Twas then the damsel at a hostel rested,
Where Sir Brunello was already guested.

LXXVI
The maid Brunello knows as soon as found
(So was his image on her mind impressed),
And asks him whence he came, and whither bound;
And he replies and lies, as he is pressed.
The dame, who is forewarned, and knows her ground,
Feigns too as well as he, and lies her best:
And changes sex and sect, and name and land,
And her quick eye oft glances at his hand;

LXXVII
Oft glances at his resless hand, in fear
That he might undetected make some prize;
Nor ever lets the knave approach too near,
Well knowing his condition: In this guise
The couple stand together, when they hear
A sudden sound: but what that sound implies
I, sir, shall tell hereafter with its cause;
But first shall break my song with fitting pause.

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Homer

The Iliad: Book 1

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought
countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send
hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs
and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the
day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first
fell out with one another.
And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the
son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a
pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of
Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the
ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a
great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo
wreathed with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but
most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.
"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods
who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach
your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for
her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."
On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for
respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not
so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away.
"Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor
yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall
profit you nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my
house at Argos far from her own home, busying herself with her loom
and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the
worse for you."
The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went
by the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo
whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the
silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos
with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your
temple with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or
goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon
the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down
furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver
upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage
that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with
a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot
his arrow in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their
hounds, but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves,
and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.
For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon
the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno,
who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon
them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.
"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving
home if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by
war and pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some
reader of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why
Phoebus Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we
have broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will
accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take
away the plague from us."
With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest
of augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He
it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius,
through the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him.
With all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-
"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of
King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear that
you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that I
shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the
Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger
of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse
revenge till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you
will protect me."
And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon
you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose
oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand
upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth- no, not
though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the
Achaeans."
Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither
about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon
has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a
ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will
yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this
pestilence till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or
ransom to her father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus
we may perhaps appease him."
With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart
was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on
Calchas and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth
things concerning me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was
evil. You have brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you
come seeing among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us
because I would not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of
Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I
love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she
is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments.
Still I will give her up if I must, for I would have the people
live, not die; but you must find me a prize instead, or I alone
among the Argives shall be without one. This is not well; for you
behold, all of you, that my prize is to go elsewhither."
And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond
all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no
common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities
have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made
already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove
grants us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and
fourfold."
Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not
thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me.
Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and
give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize
in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or
that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall
rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the
present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her
expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis
also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax,
or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are,
that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the god."
Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in
insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do
your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not
warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel
with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut
down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them
there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have
followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours- to gain
satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for
Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for
which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me.
Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive
so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better
part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the
largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can
get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now,
therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to
return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to
gather gold and substance for you."
And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no
prayers to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and
above all Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so
hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill
affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you
so? Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the
Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for your anger; and thus will
I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send
her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and
take your own prize Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am
than you are, and that another may fear to set himself up as equal
or comparable with me."
The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy
breast was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside,
and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his
anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty
sword from its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had
sent her in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of
Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others
no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that
flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are
you here," said he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the
pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall
surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."
And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid
you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you
alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at
him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you-
and it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three
times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore,
and obey."
"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must
do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear
the prayers of him who has obeyed them."
He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it
back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to
Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.
But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus,
for he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of
a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the
host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this
as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes
from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you
are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward
you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great
oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor
shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon
the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the
sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of
heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall
look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your
distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector,
you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with
rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the
Achaeans."
With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the
ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning
fiercely from his place upon the other side. Then uprose
smooth-tongued Nestor, the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the
words fell from his lips sweeter than honey. Two generations of men
born and bred in Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was
now reigning over the third. With all sincerity and goodwill,
therefore, he addressed them thus:-
"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean
land. Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be
glad at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are
so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you;
therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of
men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels.
Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of
his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus
son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men
ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought
the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I
came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would
have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living
could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by
them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent
way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl
away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles;
and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who by
the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon. You
are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon is
stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus,
check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who
in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."
And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but
this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord
of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be.
Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also
given him the right to speak with railing?"
Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried,
"were I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not
me, for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying
to your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this
girl, for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else
that is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that
others may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your
blood."
When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the
assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back
to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company,
while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of
twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a
hecatomb for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.
These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But
the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they
purified themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they
offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore,
and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up
towards heaven.
Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did
not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty
messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to
the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and
bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and
take her- which will press him harder."
He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon
they went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to
the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by
his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them.
They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did
they speak, but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers
of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with
Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus,
bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the
blessed gods, by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's
anger, that if ever again there be need of me to save the people
from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad
with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans
may fight by their ships in safety."
Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis
from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them
to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then
Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and
looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in
prayer to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed
to live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from
Olympus, might have made that little glorious. It is not so.
Agamemnon, son of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me
of my prize by force."
As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was
sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father.
Forthwith she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down
before him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and
said, "My son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you?
Keep it not from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."
Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you
what you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of
Eetion, sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the
Achaeans shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as
the meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the
ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a
great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo,
wreathed with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans,
but most of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.
"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting
the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so
Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So
he went back in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his
prayer. Then the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the
people died thick on one another, for the arrows went everywhither
among the wide host of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness
of his knowledge declared to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was
myself first to say that we should appease him. Whereon the son of
Atreus rose in anger, and threatened that which he has since done. The
Achaeans are now taking the girl in a ship to Chryse, and sending
gifts of sacrifice to the god; but the heralds have just taken from my
tent the daughter of Briseus, whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.
"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and
if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid
of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in
that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin,
when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put
him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to
Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men
Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he
took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods
were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of all
this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans. Let
the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish
on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their
king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to
the foremost of the Achaeans."
Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have
borne or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free
from all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you
should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers:
woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I
will go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove,
if he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your
ships, nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from
fight. For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the
Ethiopians, and the other gods went with him. He will return to
Olympus twelve days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with
bronze and will beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to
persuade him."
On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been
taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb.
When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid
them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the
mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they
would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and
made fast the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed
the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses
led her to the altar to deliver her into the hands of her father.
"Chryses," said he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your
child, and to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that
we may propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the
Argives."
So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her
gladly, and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the
altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the
barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims, while Chryses lifted up
his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O
god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and
rulest Tenedos with thy might. Even as thou didst hear me aforetime
when I prayed, and didst press hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me
yet again, and stay this fearful pestilence from the Danaans."
Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done
praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of
the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the
thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some
pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on
the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood
near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the
thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut
the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till
they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished
their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his
full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough
to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and
handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering.
Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song,
hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took
pleasure in their voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on
dark, they laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the
ship, and when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they
again set sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair
wind, so they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft.
As the sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep
blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward.
When they reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they
drew the vessel ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong
props beneath her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.
But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not to
the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed at
his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.
Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to
Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the
charge her son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and
went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she
found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost
ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized
his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and
besought him, saying-
"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the
immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to
be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking
his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord
of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give
my son his due and load him with riches in requital."
Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still
kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time.
"Incline your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny
me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you
disdain me."
At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble
if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with
her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before the
other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back
now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will
bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me.
This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall
my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my
head."
As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the
ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.
When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his
house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged
into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before the
coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting, but all
stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But
Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter,
silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began
to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you
been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in
secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help
it, one word of your intentions."
"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be
informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it
hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there is
no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to keep a
matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."
"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about?
I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in
everything. Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's
daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she was with you and
had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore,
that you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to
kill much people at the ships of the Achaeans."
"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find
it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you
the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you
say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid
you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven
were on your side it would profit you nothing."
On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat
down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout
the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and
pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you two
fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of
mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no
pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must
herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear
father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the
Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do
so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will
then soon be in a good humour with us."
As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his
mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best
of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you get a
thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for there is
no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to help you,
he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All
day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to
ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very little life
left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."
Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her
son's hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and
served it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the
blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing
bustling about the heavenly mansion.
Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they
feasted, and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied.
Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices,
calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light
had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame
Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove,
the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always
slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the
golden throne by his side.

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Homer

The Iliad (bk I)

Sing, O goddess, the anger of Achilles son of Peleus, that brought countless ills upon the Achaeans. Many a brave soul did it send hurrying down to Hades, and many a hero did it yield a prey to dogs and vultures, for so were the counsels of Jove fulfilled from the day on which the son of Atreus, king of men, and great Achilles, first fell out with one another.

And which of the gods was it that set them on to quarrel? It was the son of Jove and Leto; for he was angry with the king and sent a pestilence upon the host to plague the people, because the son of Atreus had dishonoured Chryses his priest. Now Chryses had come to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and had brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo wreathed with a suppliant's wreath and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus, who were their chiefs.

"Sons of Atreus," he cried, "and all other Achaeans, may the gods who dwell in Olympus grant you to sack the city of Priam, and to reach your homes in safety; but free my daughter, and accept a ransom for her, in reverence to Apollo, son of Jove."

On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. "Old man," said he, "let me not find you tarrying about our ships, nor yet coming hereafter. Your sceptre of the god and your wreath shall profit you nothing. I will not free her. She shall grow old in my house at Argos far from her own home, busying herself with her loom and visiting my couch; so go, and do not provoke me or it shall be the worse for you."

The old man feared him and obeyed. Not a word he spoke, but went by the shore of the sounding sea and prayed apart to King Apollo whom lovely Leto had borne. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla and rulest Tenedos with thy might, hear me oh thou of Sminthe. If I have ever decked your temple with garlands, or burned your thigh-bones in fat of bulls or goats, grant my prayer, and let your arrows avenge these my tears upon the Danaans."

Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. He came down furious from the summits of Olympus, with his bow and his quiver upon his shoulder, and the arrows rattled on his back with the rage that trembled within him. He sat himself down away from the ships with a face as dark as night, and his silver bow rang death as he shot his arrow in the midst of them. First he smote their mules and their hounds, but presently he aimed his shafts at the people themselves, and all day long the pyres of the dead were burning.

For nine whole days he shot his arrows among the people, but upon the tenth day Achilles called them in assembly- moved thereto by Juno, who saw the Achaeans in their death-throes and had compassion upon them. Then, when they were got together, he rose and spoke among them.

"Son of Atreus," said he, "I deem that we should now turn roving home if we would escape destruction, for we are being cut down by war and pestilence at once. Let us ask some priest or prophet, or some reader of dreams (for dreams, too, are of Jove) who can tell us why Phoebus Apollo is so angry, and say whether it is for some vow that we have broken, or hecatomb that we have not offered, and whether he will accept the savour of lambs and goats without blemish, so as to take away the plague from us."

With these words he sat down, and Calchas son of Thestor, wisest of augurs, who knew things past present and to come, rose to speak. He it was who had guided the Achaeans with their fleet to Ilius, through the prophesyings with which Phoebus Apollo had inspired him. With all sincerity and goodwill he addressed them thus:-

"Achilles, loved of heaven, you bid me tell you about the anger of King Apollo, I will therefore do so; but consider first and swear that you will stand by me heartily in word and deed, for I know that I shall offend one who rules the Argives with might, to whom all the Achaeans are in subjection. A plain man cannot stand against the anger of a king, who if he swallow his displeasure now, will yet nurse revenge till he has wreaked it. Consider, therefore, whether or no you will protect me."

And Achilles answered, "Fear not, but speak as it is borne in upon you from heaven, for by Apollo, Calchas, to whom you pray, and whose oracles you reveal to us, not a Danaan at our ships shall lay his hand upon you, while I yet live to look upon the face of the earth- no, not though you name Agamemnon himself, who is by far the foremost of the Achaeans."

Thereon the seer spoke boldly. "The god," he said, "is angry neither about vow nor hecatomb, but for his priest's sake, whom Agamemnon has dishonoured, in that he would not free his daughter nor take a ransom for her; therefore has he sent these evils upon us, and will yet send others. He will not deliver the Danaans from this pestilence till Agamemnon has restored the girl without fee or ransom to her father, and has sent a holy hecatomb to Chryse. Thus we may perhaps appease him."

With these words he sat down, and Agamemnon rose in anger. His heart was black with rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he scowled on Calchas and said, "Seer of evil, you never yet prophesied smooth things concerning me, but have ever loved to foretell that which was evil. You have brought me neither comfort nor performance; and now you come seeing among Danaans, and saying that Apollo has plagued us because I would not take a ransom for this girl, the daughter of Chryses. I have set my heart on keeping her in my own house, for I love her better even than my own wife Clytemnestra, whose peer she is alike in form and feature, in understanding and accomplishments. Still I will give her up if I must, for I would have the people live, not die; but you must find me a prize instead, or I alone among the Argives shall be without one. This is not well; for you behold, all of you, that my prize is to go elsewhither."

And Achilles answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, covetous beyond all mankind, how shall the Achaeans find you another prize? We have no common store from which to take one. Those we took from the cities have been awarded; we cannot disallow the awards that have been made already. Give this girl, therefore, to the god, and if ever Jove grants us to sack the city of Troy we will requite you three and fourfold."

Then Agamemnon said, "Achilles, valiant though you be, you shall not thus outwit me. You shall not overreach and you shall not persuade me. Are you to keep your own prize, while I sit tamely under my loss and give up the girl at your bidding? Let the Achaeans find me a prize in fair exchange to my liking, or I will come and take your own, or that of Ajax or of Ulysses; and he to whomsoever I may come shall rue my coming. But of this we will take thought hereafter; for the present, let us draw a ship into the sea, and find a crew for her expressly; let us put a hecatomb on board, and let us send Chryseis also; further, let some chief man among us be in command, either Ajax, or Idomeneus, or yourself, son of Peleus, mighty warrior that you are, that we may offer sacrifice and appease the the anger of the god."

Achilles scowled at him and answered, "You are steeped in insolence and lust of gain. With what heart can any of the Achaeans do your bidding, either on foray or in open fighting? I came not warring here for any ill the Trojans had done me. I have no quarrel with them. They have not raided my cattle nor my horses, nor cut down my harvests on the rich plains of Phthia; for between me and them there is a great space, both mountain and sounding sea. We have followed you, Sir Insolence! for your pleasure, not ours- to gain satisfaction from the Trojans for your shameless self and for Menelaus. You forget this, and threaten to rob me of the prize for which I have toiled, and which the sons of the Achaeans have given me. Never when the Achaeans sack any rich city of the Trojans do I receive so good a prize as you do, though it is my hands that do the better part of the fighting. When the sharing comes, your share is far the largest, and I, forsooth, must go back to my ships, take what I can get and be thankful, when my labour of fighting is done. Now, therefore, I shall go back to Phthia; it will be much better for me to return home with my ships, for I will not stay here dishonoured to gather gold and substance for you."

And Agamemnon answered, "Fly if you will, I shall make you no prayers to stay you. I have others here who will do me honour, and above all Jove, the lord of counsel. There is no king here so hateful to me as you are, for you are ever quarrelsome and ill affected. What though you be brave? Was it not heaven that made you so? Go home, then, with your ships and comrades to lord it over the Myrmidons. I care neither for you nor for your anger; and thus will I do: since Phoebus Apollo is taking Chryseis from me, I shall send her with my ship and my followers, but I shall come to your tent and take your own prize Briseis, that you may learn how much stronger I am than you are, and that another may fear to set himself up as equal or comparable with me."

The son of Peleus was furious, and his heart within his shaggy breast was divided whether to draw his sword, push the others aside, and kill the son of Atreus, or to restrain himself and check his anger. While he was thus in two minds, and was drawing his mighty sword from its scabbard, Minerva came down from heaven (for Juno had sent her in the love she bore to them both), and seized the son of Peleus by his yellow hair, visible to him alone, for of the others no man could see her. Achilles turned in amaze, and by the fire that flashed from her eyes at once knew that she was Minerva. "Why are you here," said he, "daughter of aegis-bearing Jove? To see the pride of Agamemnon, son of Atreus? Let me tell you- and it shall surely be- he shall pay for this insolence with his life."

And Minerva said, "I come from heaven, if you will hear me, to bid you stay your anger. Juno has sent me, who cares for both of you alike. Cease, then, this brawling, and do not draw your sword; rail at him if you will, and your railing will not be vain, for I tell you- and it shall surely be- that you shall hereafter receive gifts three times as splendid by reason of this present insult. Hold, therefore, and obey."

"Goddess," answered Achilles, "however angry a man may be, he must do as you two command him. This will be best, for the gods ever hear the prayers of him who has obeyed them."

He stayed his hand on the silver hilt of his sword, and thrust it back into the scabbard as Minerva bade him. Then she went back to Olympus among the other gods, and to the house of aegis-bearing Jove.

But the son of Peleus again began railing at the son of Atreus, for he was still in a rage. "Wine-bibber," he cried, "with the face of a dog and the heart of a hind, you never dare to go out with the host in fight, nor yet with our chosen men in ambuscade. You shun this as you do death itself. You had rather go round and rob his prizes from any man who contradicts you. You devour your people, for you are king over a feeble folk; otherwise, son of Atreus, henceforward you would insult no man. Therefore I say, and swear it with a great oath- nay, by this my sceptre which shalt sprout neither leaf nor shoot, nor bud anew from the day on which it left its parent stem upon the mountains- for the axe stripped it of leaf and bark, and now the sons of the Achaeans bear it as judges and guardians of the decrees of heaven- so surely and solemnly do I swear that hereafter they shall look fondly for Achilles and shall not find him. In the day of your distress, when your men fall dying by the murderous hand of Hector, you shall not know how to help them, and shall rend your heart with rage for the hour when you offered insult to the bravest of the Achaeans."

With this the son of Peleus dashed his gold-bestudded sceptre on the ground and took his seat, while the son of Atreus was beginning fiercely from his place upon the other side. Then uprose smooth-tongued Nestor, the facile speaker of the Pylians, and the words fell from his lips sweeter than honey. Two generations of men born and bred in Pylos had passed away under his rule, and he was now reigning over the third. With all sincerity and goodwill, therefore, he addressed them thus:-

"Of a truth," he said, "a great sorrow has befallen the Achaean land. Surely Priam with his sons would rejoice, and the Trojans be glad at heart if they could hear this quarrel between you two, who are so excellent in fight and counsel. I am older than either of you; therefore be guided by me. Moreover I have been the familiar friend of men even greater than you are, and they did not disregard my counsels. Never again can I behold such men as Pirithous and Dryas shepherd of his people, or as Caeneus, Exadius, godlike Polyphemus, and Theseus son of Aegeus, peer of the immortals. These were the mightiest men ever born upon this earth: mightiest were they, and when they fought the fiercest tribes of mountain savages they utterly overthrew them. I came from distant Pylos, and went about among them, for they would have me come, and I fought as it was in me to do. Not a man now living could withstand them, but they heard my words, and were persuaded by them. So be it also with yourselves, for this is the more excellent way. Therefore, Agamemnon, though you be strong, take not this girl away, for the sons of the Achaeans have already given her to Achilles; and you, Achilles, strive not further with the king, for no man who by the grace of Jove wields a sceptre has like honour with Agamemnon. You are strong, and have a goddess for your mother; but Agamemnon is stronger than you, for he has more people under him. Son of Atreus, check your anger, I implore you; end this quarrel with Achilles, who in the day of battle is a tower of strength to the Achaeans."

And Agamemnon answered, "Sir, all that you have said is true, but this fellow must needs become our lord and master: he must be lord of all, king of all, and captain of all, and this shall hardly be. Granted that the gods have made him a great warrior, have they also given him the right to speak with railing?"

Achilles interrupted him. "I should be a mean coward," he cried, "were I to give in to you in all things. Order other people about, not me, for I shall obey no longer. Furthermore I say- and lay my saying to your heart- I shall fight neither you nor any man about this girl, for those that take were those also that gave. But of all else that is at my ship you shall carry away nothing by force. Try, that others may see; if you do, my spear shall be reddened with your blood."

When they had quarrelled thus angrily, they rose, and broke up the assembly at the ships of the Achaeans. The son of Peleus went back to his tents and ships with the son of Menoetius and his company, while Agamemnon drew a vessel into the water and chose a crew of twenty oarsmen. He escorted Chryseis on board and sent moreover a hecatomb for the god. And Ulysses went as captain.

These, then, went on board and sailed their ways over the sea. But the son of Atreus bade the people purify themselves; so they purified themselves and cast their filth into the sea. Then they offered hecatombs of bulls and goats without blemish on the sea-shore, and the smoke with the savour of their sacrifice rose curling up towards heaven.

Thus did they busy themselves throughout the host. But Agamemnon did not forget the threat that he had made Achilles, and called his trusty messengers and squires Talthybius and Eurybates. "Go," said he, "to the tent of Achilles, son of Peleus; take Briseis by the hand and bring her hither; if he will not give her I shall come with others and take her- which will press him harder."

He charged them straightly further and dismissed them, whereon they went their way sorrowfully by the seaside, till they came to the tents and ships of the Myrmidons. They found Achilles sitting by his tent and his ships, and ill-pleased he was when he beheld them. They stood fearfully and reverently before him, and never a word did they speak, but he knew them and said, "Welcome, heralds, messengers of gods and men; draw near; my quarrel is not with you but with Agamemnon who has sent you for the girl Briseis. Therefore, Patroclus, bring her and give her to them, but let them be witnesses by the blessed gods, by mortal men, and by the fierceness of Agamemnon's anger, that if ever again there be need of me to save the people from ruin, they shall seek and they shall not find. Agamemnon is mad with rage and knows not how to look before and after that the Achaeans may fight by their ships in safety."

Patroclus did as his dear comrade had bidden him. He brought Briseis from the tent and gave her over to the heralds, who took her with them to the ships of the Achaeans- and the woman was loth to go. Then Achilles went all alone by the side of the hoar sea, weeping and looking out upon the boundless waste of waters. He raised his hands in prayer to his immortal mother, "Mother," he cried, "you bore me doomed to live but for a little season; surely Jove, who thunders from Olympus, might have made that little glorious. It is not so. Agamemnon, son of Atreus, has done me dishonour, and has robbed me of my prize by force."

As he spoke he wept aloud, and his mother heard him where she was sitting in the depths of the sea hard by the old man her father. Forthwith she rose as it were a grey mist out of the waves, sat down before him as he stood weeping, caressed him with her hand, and said, "My son, why are you weeping? What is it that grieves you? Keep it not from me, but tell me, that we may know it together."

Achilles drew a deep sigh and said, "You know it; why tell you what you know well already? We went to Thebe the strong city of Eetion, sacked it, and brought hither the spoil. The sons of the Achaeans shared it duly among themselves, and chose lovely Chryseis as the meed of Agamemnon; but Chryses, priest of Apollo, came to the ships of the Achaeans to free his daughter, and brought with him a great ransom: moreover he bore in his hand the sceptre of Apollo, wreathed with a suppliant's wreath, and he besought the Achaeans, but most of all the two sons of Atreus who were their chiefs.

"On this the rest of the Achaeans with one voice were for respecting the priest and taking the ransom that he offered; but not so Agamemnon, who spoke fiercely to him and sent him roughly away. So he went back in anger, and Apollo, who loved him dearly, heard his prayer. Then the god sent a deadly dart upon the Argives, and the people died thick on one another, for the arrows went everywhither among the wide host of the Achaeans. At last a seer in the fulness of his knowledge declared to us the oracles of Apollo, and I was myself first to say that we should appease him. Whereon the son of Atreus rose in anger, and threatened that which he has since done. The Achaeans are now taking the girl in a ship to Chryse, and sending gifts of sacrifice to the god; but the heralds have just taken from my tent the daughter of Briseus, whom the Achaeans had awarded to myself.

"Help your brave son, therefore, if you are able. Go to Olympus, and if you have ever done him service in word or deed, implore the aid of Jove. Ofttimes in my father's house have I heard you glory in that you alone of the immortals saved the son of Saturn from ruin, when the others, with Juno, Neptune, and Pallas Minerva would have put him in bonds. It was you, goddess, who delivered him by calling to Olympus the hundred-handed monster whom gods call Briareus, but men Aegaeon, for he is stronger even than his father; when therefore he took his seat all-glorious beside the son of Saturn, the other gods were afraid, and did not bind him. Go, then, to him, remind him of all this, clasp his knees, and bid him give succour to the Trojans. Let the Achaeans be hemmed in at the sterns of their ships, and perish on the sea-shore, that they may reap what joy they may of their king, and that Agamemnon may rue his blindness in offering insult to the foremost of the Achaeans."

Thetis wept and answered, "My son, woe is me that I should have borne or suckled you. Would indeed that you had lived your span free from all sorrow at your ships, for it is all too brief; alas, that you should be at once short of life and long of sorrow above your peers: woe, therefore, was the hour in which I bore you; nevertheless I will go to the snowy heights of Olympus, and tell this tale to Jove, if he will hear our prayer: meanwhile stay where you are with your ships, nurse your anger against the Achaeans, and hold aloof from fight. For Jove went yesterday to Oceanus, to a feast among the Ethiopians, and the other gods went with him. He will return to Olympus twelve days hence; I will then go to his mansion paved with bronze and will beseech him; nor do I doubt that I shall be able to persuade him."

On this she left him, still furious at the loss of her that had been taken from him. Meanwhile Ulysses reached Chryse with the hecatomb. When they had come inside the harbour they furled the sails and laid them in the ship's hold; they slackened the forestays, lowered the mast into its place, and rowed the ship to the place where they would have her lie; there they cast out their mooring-stones and made fast the hawsers. They then got out upon the sea-shore and landed the hecatomb for Apollo; Chryseis also left the ship, and Ulysses led her to the altar to deliver her into the hands of her father. "Chryses," said he, "King Agamemnon has sent me to bring you back your child, and to offer sacrifice to Apollo on behalf of the Danaans, that we may propitiate the god, who has now brought sorrow upon the Argives."

So saying he gave the girl over to her father, who received her gladly, and they ranged the holy hecatomb all orderly round the altar of the god. They washed their hands and took up the barley-meal to sprinkle over the victims, while Chryses lifted up his hands and prayed aloud on their behalf. "Hear me," he cried, "O god of the silver bow, that protectest Chryse and holy Cilla, and rulest Tenedos with thy might. Even as thou didst hear me aforetime when I prayed, and didst press hardly upon the Achaeans, so hear me yet again, and stay this fearful pestilence from the Danaans."

Thus did he pray, and Apollo heard his prayer. When they had done praying and sprinkling the barley-meal, they drew back the heads of the victims and killed and flayed them. They cut out the thigh-bones, wrapped them round in two layers of fat, set some pieces of raw meat on the top of them, and then Chryses laid them on the wood fire and poured wine over them, while the young men stood near him with five-pronged spits in their hands. When the thigh-bones were burned and they had tasted the inward meats, they cut the rest up small, put the pieces upon the spits, roasted them till they were done, and drew them off: then, when they had finished their work and the feast was ready, they ate it, and every man had his full share, so that all were satisfied. As soon as they had had enough to eat and drink, pages filled the mixing-bowl with wine and water and handed it round, after giving every man his drink-offering.

Thus all day long the young men worshipped the god with song, hymning him and chaunting the joyous paean, and the god took pleasure in their voices; but when the sun went down, and it came on dark, they laid themselves down to sleep by the stern cables of the ship, and when the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared they again set sail for the host of the Achaeans. Apollo sent them a fair wind, so they raised their mast and hoisted their white sails aloft. As the sail bellied with the wind the ship flew through the deep blue water, and the foam hissed against her bows as she sped onward. When they reached the wide-stretching host of the Achaeans, they drew the vessel ashore, high and dry upon the sands, set her strong props beneath her, and went their ways to their own tents and ships.

But Achilles abode at his ships and nursed his anger. He went not to the honourable assembly, and sallied not forth to fight, but gnawed at his own heart, pining for battle and the war-cry.

Now after twelve days the immortal gods came back in a body to Olympus, and Jove led the way. Thetis was not unmindful of the charge her son had laid upon her, so she rose from under the sea and went through great heaven with early morning to Olympus, where she found the mighty son of Saturn sitting all alone upon its topmost ridges. She sat herself down before him, and with her left hand seized his knees, while with her right she caught him under the chin, and besought him, saying-

"Father Jove, if I ever did you service in word or deed among the immortals, hear my prayer, and do honour to my son, whose life is to be cut short so early. King Agamemnon has dishonoured him by taking his prize and keeping her. Honour him then yourself, Olympian lord of counsel, and grant victory to the Trojans, till the Achaeans give my son his due and load him with riches in requital."

Jove sat for a while silent, and without a word, but Thetis still kept firm hold of his knees, and besought him a second time. "Incline your head," said she, "and promise me surely, or else deny me- for you have nothing to fear- that I may learn how greatly you disdain me."

At this Jove was much troubled and answered, "I shall have trouble if you set me quarrelling with Juno, for she will provoke me with her taunting speeches; even now she is always railing at me before the other gods and accusing me of giving aid to the Trojans. Go back now, lest she should find out. I will consider the matter, and will bring it about as wish. See, I incline my head that you believe me. This is the most solemn that I can give to any god. I never recall my word, or deceive, or fail to do what I say, when I have nodded my head."

As he spoke the son of Saturn bowed his dark brows, and the ambrosial locks swayed on his immortal head, till vast Olympus reeled.

When the pair had thus laid their plans, they parted- Jove to his house, while the goddess quitted the splendour of Olympus, and plunged into the depths of the sea. The gods rose from their seats, before the coming of their sire. Not one of them dared to remain sitting, but all stood up as he came among them. There, then, he took his seat. But Juno, when she saw him, knew that he and the old merman's daughter, silver-footed Thetis, had been hatching mischief, so she at once began to upbraid him. "Trickster," she cried, "which of the gods have you been taking into your counsels now? You are always settling matters in secret behind my back, and have never yet told me, if you could help it, one word of your intentions."

"Juno," replied the sire of gods and men, "you must not expect to be informed of all my counsels. You are my wife, but you would find it hard to understand them. When it is proper for you to hear, there is no one, god or man, who will be told sooner, but when I mean to keep a matter to myself, you must not pry nor ask questions."

"Dread son of Saturn," answered Juno, "what are you talking about? I? Pry and ask questions? Never. I let you have your own way in everything. Still, I have a strong misgiving that the old merman's daughter Thetis has been talking you over, for she was with you and had hold of your knees this self-same morning. I believe, therefore, that you have been promising her to give glory to Achilles, and to kill much people at the ships of the Achaeans."

"Wife," said Jove, "I can do nothing but you suspect me and find it out. You will take nothing by it, for I shall only dislike you the more, and it will go harder with you. Granted that it is as you say; I mean to have it so; sit down and hold your tongue as I bid you for if I once begin to lay my hands about you, though all heaven were on your side it would profit you nothing."

On this Juno was frightened, so she curbed her stubborn will and sat down in silence. But the heavenly beings were disquieted throughout the house of Jove, till the cunning workman Vulcan began to try and pacify his mother Juno. "It will be intolerable," said he, "if you two fall to wrangling and setting heaven in an uproar about a pack of mortals. If such ill counsels are to prevail, we shall have no pleasure at our banquet. Let me then advise my mother- and she must herself know that it will be better- to make friends with my dear father Jove, lest he again scold her and disturb our feast. If the Olympian Thunderer wants to hurl us all from our seats, he can do so, for he is far the strongest, so give him fair words, and he will then soon be in a good humour with us."

As he spoke, he took a double cup of nectar, and placed it in his mother's hand. "Cheer up, my dear mother," said he, "and make the best of it. I love you dearly, and should be very sorry to see you get a thrashing; however grieved I might be, I could not help for there is no standing against Jove. Once before when I was trying to help you, he caught me by the foot and flung me from the heavenly threshold. All day long from morn till eve, was I falling, till at sunset I came to ground in the island of Lemnos, and there I lay, with very little life left in me, till the Sintians came and tended me."

Juno smiled at this, and as she smiled she took the cup from her son's hands. Then Vulcan drew sweet nectar from the mixing-bowl, and served it round among the gods, going from left to right; and the blessed gods laughed out a loud applause as they saw him ing bustling about the heavenly mansion.

Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun they feasted, and every one had his full share, so that all were satisfied. Apollo struck his lyre, and the Muses lifted up their sweet voices, calling and answering one another. But when the sun's glorious light had faded, they went home to bed, each in his own abode, which lame Vulcan with his consummate skill had fashioned for them. So Jove, the Olympian Lord of Thunder, hied him to the bed in which he always slept; and when he had got on to it he went to sleep, with Juno of the golden throne by his side.

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Homer

The Odyssey: Book 19

Ulysses was left in the cloister, pondering on the means whereby
with Minerva's help he might be able to kill the suitors. Presently he
said to Telemachus, "Telemachus, we must get the armour together and
take it down inside. Make some excuse when the suitors ask you why you
have removed it. Say that you have taken it to be out of the way of
the smoke, inasmuch as it is no longer what it was when Ulysses went
away, but has become soiled and begrimed with soot. Add to this more
particularly that you are afraid Jove may set them on to quarrel
over their wine, and that they may do each other some harm which may
disgrace both banquet and wooing, for the sight of arms sometimes
tempts people to use them."
Telemachus approved of what his father had said, so he called
nurse Euryclea and said, "Nurse, shut the women up in their room,
while I take the armour that my father left behind him down into the
store room. No one looks after it now my father is gone, and it has
got all smirched with soot during my own boyhood. I want to take it
down where the smoke cannot reach it."
"I wish, child," answered Euryclea, "that you would take the
management of the house into your own hands altogether, and look after
all the property yourself. But who is to go with you and light you
to the store room? The maids would have so, but you would not let
them.
"The stranger," said Telemachus, "shall show me a light; when people
eat my bread they must earn it, no matter where they come from."
Euryclea did as she was told, and bolted the women inside their
room. Then Ulysses and his son made all haste to take the helmets,
shields, and spears inside; and Minerva went before them with a gold
lamp in her hand that shed a soft and brilliant radiance, whereon
Telemachus said, "Father, my eyes behold a great marvel: the walls,
with the rafters, crossbeams, and the supports on which they rest
are all aglow as with a flaming fire. Surely there is some god here
who has come down from heaven."
"Hush," answered Ulysses, "hold your peace and ask no questions, for
this is the manner of the gods. Get you to your bed, and leave me here
to talk with your mother and the maids. Your mother in her grief
will ask me all sorts of questions."
On this Telemachus went by torch-light to the other side of the
inner court, to the room in which he always slept. There he lay in his
bed till morning, while Ulysses was left in the cloister pondering
on the means whereby with Minerva's help he might be able to kill
the suitors.
Then Penelope came down from her room looking like Venus or Diana,
and they set her a seat inlaid with scrolls of silver and ivory near
the fire in her accustomed place. It had been made by Icmalius and had
a footstool all in one piece with the seat itself; and it was
covered with a thick fleece: on this she now sat, and the maids came
from the women's room to join her. They set about removing the
tables at which the wicked suitors had been dining, and took away
the bread that was left, with the cups from which they had drunk. They
emptied the embers out of the braziers, and heaped much wood upon them
to give both light and heat; but Melantho began to rail at Ulysses a
second time and said, "Stranger, do you mean to plague us by hanging
about the house all night and spying upon the women? Be off, you
wretch, outside, and eat your supper there, or you shall be driven out
with a firebrand."
Ulysses scowled at her and answered, "My good woman, why should
you be so angry with me? Is it because I am not clean, and my
clothes are all in rags, and because I am obliged to go begging
about after the manner of tramps and beggars generall? I too was a
rich man once, and had a fine house of my own; in those days I gave to
many a tramp such as I now am, no matter who he might be nor what he
wanted. I had any number of servants, and all the other things which
people have who live well and are accounted wealthy, but it pleased
Jove to take all away from me; therefore, woman, beware lest you too
come to lose that pride and place in which you now wanton above your
fellows; have a care lest you get out of favour with your mistress,
and lest Ulysses should come home, for there is still a chance that he
may do so. Moreover, though he be dead as you think he is, yet by
Apollo's will he has left a son behind him, Telemachus, who will
note anything done amiss by the maids in the house, for he is now no
longer in his boyhood."
Penelope heard what he was saying and scolded the maid, "Impudent
baggage, said she, "I see how abominably you are behaving, and you
shall smart for it. You knew perfectly well, for I told you myself,
that I was going to see the stranger and ask him about my husband, for
whose sake I am in such continual sorrow."
Then she said to her head waiting woman Eurynome, "Bring a seat with
a fleece upon it, for the stranger to sit upon while he tells his
story, and listens to what I have to say. I wish to ask him some
questions."
Eurynome brought the seat at once and set a fleece upon it, and as
soon as Ulysses had sat down Penelope began by saying, "Stranger, I
shall first ask you who and whence are you? Tell me of your town and
parents."
"Madam;" answered Ulysses, "who on the face of the whole earth can
dare to chide with you? Your fame reaches the firmament of heaven
itself; you are like some blameless king, who upholds righteousness,
as the monarch over a great and valiant nation: the earth yields its
wheat and barley, the trees are loaded with fruit, the ewes bring
forth lambs, and the sea abounds with fish by reason of his virtues,
and his people do good deeds under him. Nevertheless, as I sit here in
your house, ask me some other question and do not seek to know my race
and family, or you will recall memories that will yet more increase my
sorrow. I am full of heaviness, but I ought not to sit weeping and
wailing in another person's house, nor is it well to be thus
grieving continually. I shall have one of the servants or even
yourself complaining of me, and saying that my eyes swim with tears
because I am heavy with wine."
Then Penelope answered, "Stranger, heaven robbed me of all beauty,
whether of face or figure, when the Argives set sail for Troy and my
dear husband with them. If he were to return and look after my affairs
I should be both more respected and should show a better presence to
the world. As it is, I am oppressed with care, and with the
afflictions which heaven has seen fit to heap upon me. The chiefs from
all our islands- Dulichium, Same, and Zacynthus, as also from Ithaca
itself, are wooing me against my will and are wasting my estate. I can
therefore show no attention to strangers, nor suppliants, nor to
people who say that they are skilled artisans, but am all the time
brokenhearted about Ulysses. They want me to marry again at once,
and I have to invent stratagems in order to deceive them. In the first
place heaven put it in my mind to set up a great tambour-frame in my
room, and to begin working upon an enormous piece of fine
needlework. Then I said to them, 'Sweethearts, Ulysses is indeed dead,
still, do not press me to marry again immediately; wait- for I would
not have my skill in needlework perish unrecorded- till I have
finished making a pall for the hero Laertes, to be ready against the
time when death shall take him. He is very rich, and the women of
the place will talk if he is laid out without a pall.' This was what I
said, and they assented; whereon I used to keep working at my great
web all day long, but at night I would unpick the stitches again by
torch light. I fooled them in this way for three years without their
finding it out, but as time wore on and I was now in my fourth year,
in the waning of moons, and many days had been accomplished, those
good-for-nothing hussies my maids betrayed me to the suitors, who
broke in upon me and caught me; they were very angry with me, so I was
forced to finish my work whether I would or no. And now I do not see
how I can find any further shift for getting out of this marriage.
My parents are putting great pressure upon me, and my son chafes at
the ravages the suitors are making upon his estate, for he is now
old enough to understand all about it and is perfectly able to look
after his own affairs, for heaven has blessed him with an excellent
disposition. Still, notwithstanding all this, tell me who you are
and where you come from- for you must have had father and mother of
some sort; you cannot be the son of an oak or of a rock."
Then Ulysses answered, "madam, wife of Ulysses, since you persist in
asking me about my family, I will answer, no matter what it costs
me: people must expect to be pained when they have been exiles as long
as I have, and suffered as much among as many peoples. Nevertheless,
as regards your question I will tell you all you ask. There is a
fair and fruitful island in mid-ocean called Crete; it is thickly
peopled and there are nine cities in it: the people speak many
different languages which overlap one another, for there are Achaeans,
brave Eteocretans, Dorians of three-fold race, and noble Pelasgi.
There is a great town there, Cnossus, where Minos reigned who every
nine years had a conference with Jove himself. Minos was father to
Deucalion, whose son I am, for Deucalion had two sons Idomeneus and
myself. Idomeneus sailed for Troy, and I, who am the younger, am
called Aethon; my brother, however, was at once the older and the more
valiant of the two; hence it was in Crete that I saw Ulysses and
showed him hospitality, for the winds took him there as he was on
his way to Troy, carrying him out of his course from cape Malea and
leaving him in Amnisus off the cave of Ilithuia, where the harbours
are difficult to enter and he could hardly find shelter from the winds
that were then xaging. As soon as he got there he went into the town
and asked for Idomeneus, claiming to be his old and valued friend, but
Idomeneus had already set sail for Troy some ten or twelve days
earlier, so I took him to my own house and showed him every kind of
hospitality, for I had abundance of everything. Moreover, I fed the
men who were with him with barley meal from the public store, and
got subscriptions of wine and oxen for them to sacrifice to their
heart's content. They stayed with me twelve days, for there was a gale
blowing from the North so strong that one could hardly keep one's feet
on land. I suppose some unfriendly god had raised it for them, but
on the thirteenth day the wind dropped, and they got away."
Many a plausible tale did Ulysses further tell her, and Penelope
wept as she listened, for her heart was melted. As the snow wastes
upon the mountain tops when the winds from South East and West have
breathed upon it and thawed it till the rivers run bank full with
water, even so did her cheeks overflow with tears for the husband
who was all the time sitting by her side. Ulysses felt for her and was
for her, but he kept his eyes as hard as or iron without letting
them so much as quiver, so cunningly did he restrain his tears.
Then, when she had relieved herself by weeping, she turned to him
again and said: "Now, stranger, I shall put you to the test and see
whether or no you really did entertain my husband and his men, as
you say you did. Tell me, then, how he was dressed, what kind of a man
he was to look at, and so also with his companions."
"Madam," answered Ulysses, "it is such a long time ago that I can
hardly say. Twenty years are come and gone since he left my home,
and went elsewhither; but I will tell you as well as I can
recollect. Ulysses wore a mantle of purple wool, double lined, and
it was fastened by a gold brooch with two catches for the pin. On
the face of this there was a device that showed a dog holding a
spotted fawn between his fore paws, and watching it as it lay
panting upon the ground. Every one marvelled at the way in which these
things had been done in gold, the dog looking at the fawn, and
strangling it, while the fawn was struggling convulsively to escape.
As for the shirt that he wore next his skin, it was so soft that it
fitted him like the skin of an onion, and glistened in the sunlight to
the admiration of all the women who beheld it. Furthermore I say,
and lay my saying to your heart, that I do not know whether Ulysses
wore these clothes when he left home, or whether one of his companions
had given them to him while he was on his voyage; or possibly some one
at whose house he was staying made him a present of them, for he was a
man of many friends and had few equals among the Achaeans. I myself
gave him a sword of bronze and a beautiful purple mantle, double
lined, with a shirt that went down to his feet, and I sent him on
board his ship with every mark of honour. He had a servant with him, a
little older than himself, and I can tell you what he was like; his
shoulders were hunched, he was dark, and he had thick curly hair.
His name was Eurybates, and Ulysses treated him with greater
familiarity than he did any of the others, as being the most
like-minded with himself."
Penelope was moved still more deeply as she heard the indisputable
proofs that Ulysses laid before her; and when she had again found
relief in tears she said to him, "Stranger, I was already disposed
to pity you, but henceforth you shall be honoured and made welcome
in my house. It was I who gave Ulysses the clothes you speak of. I
took them out of the store room and folded them up myself, and I
gave him also the gold brooch to wear as an ornament. Alas! I shall
never welcome him home again. It was by an ill fate that he ever set
out for that detested city whose very name I cannot bring myself
even to mention."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam, wife of Ulysses, do not disfigure
yourself further by grieving thus bitterly for your loss, though I can
hardly blame you for doing so. A woman who has loved her husband and
borne him children, would naturally be grieved at losing him, even
though he were a worse man than Ulysses, who they say was like a
god. Still, cease your tears and listen to what I can tell I will hide
nothing from you, and can say with perfect truth that I have lately
heard of Ulysses as being alive and on his way home; he is among the
Thesprotians, and is bringing back much valuable treasure that he
has begged from one and another of them; but his ship and all his crew
were lost as they were leaving the Thrinacian island, for Jove and the
sun-god were angry with him because his men had slaughtered the
sun-god's cattle, and they were all drowned to a man. But Ulysses
stuck to the keel of the ship and was drifted on to the land of the
Phaecians, who are near of kin to the immortals, and who treated him
as though he had been a god, giving him many presents, and wishing
to escort him home safe and sound. In fact Ulysses would have been
here long ago, had he not thought better to go from land to land
gathering wealth; for there is no man living who is so wily as he
is; there is no one can compare with him. Pheidon king of the
Thesprotians told me all this, and he swore to me- making
drink-offerings in his house as he did so- that the ship was by the
water side and the crew found who would take Ulysses to his own
country. He sent me off first, for there happened to be a
Thesprotian ship sailing for the wheat-growing island of Dulichium,
but he showed me all treasure Ulysses had got together, and he had
enough lying in the house of king Pheidon to keep his family for ten
generations; but the king said Ulysses had gone to Dodona that he
might learn Jove's mind from the high oak tree, and know whether after
so long an absence he should return to Ithaca openly or in secret.
So you may know he is safe and will be here shortly; he is close at
hand and cannot remain away from home much longer; nevertheless I will
confirm my words with an oath, and call Jove who is the first and
mightiest of all gods to witness, as also that hearth of Ulysses to
which I have now come, that all I have spoken shall surely come to
pass. Ulysses will return in this self same year; with the end of this
moon and the beginning of the next he will be here."
"May it be even so," answered Penelope; "if your words come true you
shall have such gifts and such good will from me that all who see
you shall congratulate you; but I know very well how it will be.
Ulysses will not return, neither will you get your escort hence, for
so surely as that Ulysses ever was, there are now no longer any such
masters in the house as he was, to receive honourable strangers or
to further them on their way home. And now, you maids, wash his feet
for him, and make him a bed on a couch with rugs and blankets, that he
may be warm and quiet till morning. Then, at day break wash him and
anoint him again, that he may sit in the cloister and take his meals
with Telemachus. It shall be the worse for any one of these hateful
people who is uncivil to him; like it or not, he shall have no more to
do in this house. For how, sir, shall you be able to learn whether
or no I am superior to others of my sex both in goodness of heart
and understanding, if I let you dine in my cloisters squalid and ill
clad? Men live but for a little season; if they are hard, and deal
hardly, people wish them ill so long as they are alive, and speak
contemptuously of them when they are dead, but he that is righteous
and deals righteously, the people tell of his praise among all
lands, and many shall call him blessed."
Ulysses answered, "Madam, I have foresworn rugs and blankets from
the day that I left the snowy ranges of Crete to go on shipboard. I
will lie as I have lain on many a sleepless night hitherto. Night
after night have I passed in any rough sleeping place, and waited
for morning. Nor, again, do I like having my feet washed; I shall
not let any of the young hussies about your house touch my feet;
but, if you have any old and respectable woman who has gone through as
much trouble as I have, I will allow her to wash them."
To this Penelope said, "My dear sir, of all the guests who ever
yet came to my house there never was one who spoke in all things
with such admirable propriety as you do. There happens to be in the
house a most respectable old woman- the same who received my poor dear
husband in her arms the night he was born, and nursed him in
infancy. She is very feeble now, but she shall wash your feet."
"Come here," said she, "Euryclea, and wash your master's age-mate; I
suppose Ulysses' hands and feet are very much the same now as his are,
for trouble ages all of us dreadfully fast."
On these words the old woman covered her face with her hands; she
began to weep and made lamentation saying, "My dear child, I cannot
think whatever I am to do with you. I am certain no one was ever
more god-fearing than yourself, and yet Jove hates you. No one in
the whole world ever burned him more thigh bones, nor gave him finer
hecatombs when you prayed you might come to a green old age yourself
and see your son grow up to take after you; yet see how he has
prevented you alone from ever getting back to your own home. I have no
doubt the women in some foreign palace which Ulysses has got to are
gibing at him as all these sluts here have been gibing you. I do not
wonder at your not choosing to let them wash you after the manner in
which they have insulted you; I will wash your feet myself gladly
enough, as Penelope has said that I am to do so; I will wash them both
for Penelope's sake and for your own, for you have raised the most
lively feelings of compassion in my mind; and let me say this
moreover, which pray attend to; we have had all kinds of strangers
in distress come here before now, but I make bold to say that no one
ever yet came who was so like Ulysses in figure, voice, and feet as
you are."
"Those who have seen us both," answered Ulysses, "have always said
we were wonderfully like each other, and now you have noticed it too.
Then the old woman took the cauldron in which she was going to
wash his feet, and poured plenty of cold water into it, adding hot
till the bath was warm enough. Ulysses sat by the fire, but ere long
he turned away from the light, for it occurred to him that when the
old woman had hold of his leg she would recognize a certain scar which
it bore, whereon the whole truth would come out. And indeed as soon as
she began washing her master, she at once knew the scar as one that
had been given him by a wild boar when he was hunting on Mount
Parnassus with his excellent grandfather Autolycus- who was the most
accomplished thief and perjurer in the whole world- and with the
sons of Autolycus. Mercury himself had endowed him with this gift, for
he used to burn the thigh bones of goats and kids to him, so he took
pleasure in his companionship. It happened once that Autolycus had
gone to Ithaca and had found the child of his daughter just born. As
soon as he had done supper Euryclea set the infant upon his knees
and said, you must find a name for your grandson; you greatly wished
that you might have one."
'Son-in-law and daughter," replied Autolycus, "call the child
thus: I am highly displeased with a large number of people in one
place and another, both men and women; so name the child 'Ulysses,' or
the child of anger. When he grows up and comes to visit his mother's
family on Mount Parnassus, where my possessions lie, I will make him a
present and will send him on his way rejoicing."
Ulysses, therefore, went to Parnassus to get the presents from
Autolycus, who with his sons shook hands with him and gave him
welcome. His grandmother Amphithea threw her arms about him, and
kissed his head, and both his beautiful eyes, while Autolycus
desired his sons to get dinner ready, and they did as he told them.
They brought in a five year old bull, flayed it, made it ready and
divided it into joints; these they then cut carefully up into
smaller pieces and spitted them; they roasted them sufficiently and
served the portions round. Thus through the livelong day to the
going down of the sun they feasted, and every man had his full share
so that all were satisfied; but when the sun set and it came on
dark, they went to bed and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, the sons of
Autolycus went out with their hounds hunting, and Ulysses went too.
They climbed the wooded slopes of Parnassus and soon reached its
breezy upland valleys; but as the sun was beginning to beat upon the
fields, fresh-risen from the slow still currents of Oceanus, they came
to a mountain dell. The dogs were in front searching for the tracks of
the beast they were chasing, and after them came the sons of
Autolycus, among whom was Ulysses, close behind the dogs, and he had a
long spear in his hand. Here was the lair of a huge boar among some
thick brushwood, so dense that the wind and rain could not get through
it, nor could the sun's rays pierce it, and the ground underneath
lay thick with fallen leaves. The boar heard the noise of the men's
feet, and the hounds baying on every side as the huntsmen came up to
him, so rushed from his lair, raised the bristles on his neck, and
stood at bay with fire flashing from his eyes. Ulysses was the first
to raise his spear and try to drive it into the brute, but the boar
was too quick for him, and charged him sideways, ripping him above the
knee with a gash that tore deep though it did not reach the bone. As
for the boar, Ulysses hit him on the right shoulder, and the point
of the spear went right through him, so that he fell groaning in the
dust until the life went out of him. The sons of Autolycus busied
themselves with the carcass of the boar, and bound Ulysses' wound;
then, after saying a spell to stop the bleeding, they went home as
fast as they could. But when Autolycus and his sons had thoroughly
healed Ulysses, they made him some splendid presents, and sent him
back to Ithaca with much mutual good will. When he got back, his
father and mother were rejoiced to see him, and asked him all about
it, and how he had hurt himself to get the scar; so he told them how
the boar had ripped him when he was out hunting with Autolycus and his
sons on Mount Parnassus.
As soon as Euryclea had got the scarred limb in her hands and had
well hold of it, she recognized it and dropped the foot at once. The
leg fell into the bath, which rang out and was overturned, so that all
the water was spilt on the ground; Euryclea's eyes between her joy and
her grief filled with tears, and she could not speak, but she caught
Ulysses by the beard and said, "My dear child, I am sure you must be
Ulysses himself, only I did not know you till I had actually touched
and handled you."
As she spoke she looked towards Penelope, as though wanting to
tell her that her dear husband was in the house, but Penelope was
unable to look in that direction and observe what was going on, for
Minerva had diverted her attention; so Ulysses caught Euryclea by
the throat with his right hand and with his left drew her close to
him, and said, "Nurse, do you wish to be the ruin of me, you who
nursed me at your own breast, now that after twenty years of wandering
I am at last come to my own home again? Since it has been borne in
upon you by heaven to recognize me, hold your tongue, and do not say a
word about it any one else in the house, for if you do I tell you- and
it shall surely be- that if heaven grants me to take the lives of
these suitors, I will not spare you, though you are my own nurse, when
I am killing the other women."
"My child," answered Euryclea, "what are you talking about? You know
very well that nothing can either bend or break me. I will hold my
tongue like a stone or a piece of iron; furthermore let me say, and
lay my saying to your heart, when heaven has delivered the suitors
into your hand, I will give you a list of the women in the house who
have been ill-behaved, and of those who are guiltless."
And Ulysses answered, "Nurse, you ought not to speak in that way;
I am well able to form my own opinion about one and all of them;
hold your tongue and leave everything to heaven."
As he said this Euryclea left the cloister to fetch some more water,
for the first had been all spilt; and when she had washed him and
anointed him with oil, Ulysses drew his seat nearer to the fire to
warm himself, and hid the scar under his rags. Then Penelope began
talking to him and said:
"Stranger, I should like to speak with you briefly about another
matter. It is indeed nearly bed time- for those, at least, who can
sleep in spite of sorrow. As for myself, heaven has given me a life of
such unmeasurable woe, that even by day when I am attending to my
duties and looking after the servants, I am still weeping and
lamenting during the whole time; then, when night comes, and we all of
us go to bed, I lie awake thinking, and my heart comes a prey to the
most incessant and cruel tortures. As the dun nightingale, daughter of
Pandareus, sings in the early spring from her seat in shadiest
covert hid, and with many a plaintive trill pours out the tale how
by mishap she killed her own child Itylus, son of king Zethus, even so
does my mind toss and turn in its uncertainty whether I ought to
stay with my son here, and safeguard my substance, my bondsmen, and
the greatness of my house, out of regard to public opinion and the
memory of my late husband, or whether it is not now time for me to
go with the best of these suitors who are wooing me and making me such
magnificent presents. As long as my son was still young, and unable to
understand, he would not hear of my leaving my husband's house, but
now that he is full grown he begs and prays me to do so, being
incensed at the way in which the suitors are eating up his property.
Listen, then, to a dream that I have had and interpret it for me if
you can. I have twenty geese about the house that eat mash out of a
trough, and of which I am exceedingly fond. I dreamed that a great
eagle came swooping down from a mountain, and dug his curved beak into
the neck of each of them till he had killed them all. Presently he
soared off into the sky, and left them lying dead about the yard;
whereon I wept in my room till all my maids gathered round me, so
piteously was I grieving because the eagle had killed my geese. Then
he came back again, and perching on a projecting rafter spoke to me
with human voice, and told me to leave off crying. 'Be of good
courage,' he said, 'daughter of Icarius; this is no dream, but a
vision of good omen that shall surely come to pass. The geese are
the suitors, and I am no longer an eagle, but your own husband, who am
come back to you, and who will bring these suitors to a disgraceful
end.' On this I woke, and when I looked out I saw my geese at the
trough eating their mash as usual."
"This dream, Madam," replied Ulysses, "can admit but of one
interpretation, for had not Ulysses himself told you how it shall be
fulfilled? The death of the suitors is portended, and not one single
one of them will escape."
And Penelope answered, "Stranger, dreams are very curious and
unaccountable things, and they do not by any means invariably come
true. There are two gates through which these unsubstantial fancies
proceed; the one is of horn, and the other ivory. Those that come
through the gate of ivory are fatuous, but those from the gate of horn
mean something to those that see them. I do not think, however, that
my own dream came through the gate of horn, though I and my son should
be most thankful if it proves to have done so. Furthermore I say-
and lay my saying to your heart- the coming dawn will usher in the
ill-omened day that is to sever me from the house of Ulysses, for I am
about to hold a tournament of axes. My husband used to set up twelve
axes in the court, one in front of the other, like the stays upon
which a ship is built; he would then go back from them and shoot an
arrow through the whole twelve. I shall make the suitors try to do the
same thing, and whichever of them can string the bow most easily,
and send his arrow through all the 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."
Then Ulysses answered, "Madam wife of Ulysses, you need not defer
your tournament, for Ulysses will return ere ever they can string
the bow, handle it how they will, and send their arrows through the
iron."
To this Penelope said, "As long, sir, as you will sit here and
talk to me, I can have no desire to go to bed. Still, people cannot do
permanently without sleep, and heaven has appointed us dwellers on
earth a time for all things. I will therefore go upstairs and
recline upon that couch which I have never ceased to flood with my
tears from the day Ulysses set out for the city with a hateful name."
She then went upstairs to her own room, not alone, but attended by
her maidens, and when there, she lamented her dear husband till
Minerva shed sweet sleep over her eyelids.

poem by , translated by Samuel ButlerReport problemRelated quotes
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Guilt and Sorrow

I

A traveller on the skirt of Sarum's Plain
Pursued his vagrant way, with feet half bare;
Stooping his gait, but not as if to gain
Help from the staff he bore; for mien and air
Were hardy, though his cheek seemed worn with care
Both of the time to come, and time long fled:
Down fell in straggling locks his thin grey hair;
A coat he wore of military red
But faded, and stuck o'er with many a patch and shred.

II

While thus he journeyed, step by step led on,
He saw and passed a stately inn, full sure
That welcome in such house for him was none.
No board inscribed the needy to allure
Hung there, no bush proclaimed to old and poor
And desolate, "Here you will find a friend!"
The pendent grapes glittered above the door;--
On he must pace, perchance 'till night descend,
Where'er the dreary roads their bare white lines extend.

III

The gathering clouds grow red with stormy fire,
In streaks diverging wide and mounting high;
That inn he long had passed; the distant spire,
Which oft as he looked back had fixed his eye,
Was lost, though still he looked, in the blank sky.
Perplexed and comfortless he gazed around,
And scarce could any trace of man descry,
Save cornfields stretched and stretching without bound;
But where the sower dwelt was nowhere to be found.

IV

No tree was there, no meadow's pleasant green,
No brook to wet his lip or soothe his ear;
Long files of corn-stacks here and there were seen,
But not one dwelling-place his heart to cheer.
Some labourer, thought he, may perchance be near;
And so he sent a feeble shout--in vain;
No voice made answer, he could only hear
Winds rustling over plots of unripe grain,
Or whistling thro' thin grass along the unfurrowed plain.

V

Long had he fancied each successive slope
Concealed some cottage, whither he might turn
And rest; but now along heaven's darkening cope
The crows rushed by in eddies, homeward borne.
Thus warned he sought some shepherd's spreading thorn
Or hovel from the storm to shield his head,
But sought in vain; for now, all wild, forlorn,
And vacant, a huge waste around him spread;
The wet cold ground, he feared, must be his only bed.

VI

And be it so--for to the chill night shower
And the sharp wind his head he oft hath bared;
A Sailor he, who many a wretched hour
Hath told; for, landing after labour hard,
Full long endured in hope of just reward,
He to an armed fleet was forced away
By seamen, who perhaps themselves had shared
Like fate; was hurried off, a helpless prey,
'Gainst all that in 'his' heart, or theirs perhaps, said nay.

VII

For years the work of carnage did not cease,
And death's dire aspect daily he surveyed,
Death's minister; then came his glad release,
And hope returned, and pleasure fondly made
Her dwelling in his dreams. By Fancy's aid
The happy husband flies, his arms to throw
Round his wife's neck; the prize of victory laid
In her full lap, he sees such sweet tears flow
As if thenceforth nor pain nor trouble she could know.

VIII

Vain hope! for frand took all that he had earned.
The lion roars and gluts his tawny brood
Even in the desert's heart; but he, returned,
Bears not to those he loves their needful food.
His home approaching, but in such a mood
That from his sight his children might have run.
He met a traveller, robbed him, shed his blood;
And when the miserable work was done
He fled, a vagrant since, the murderer's fate to shun.

IX

From that day forth no place to him could be
So lonely, but that thence might come a pang
Brought from without to inward misery.
Now, as he plodded on, with sullen clang
A sound of chains along the desert rang;
He looked, and saw upon a gibbet high
A human body that in irons swang,
Uplifted by the tempest whirling by;
And, hovering, round it often did a raven fly.

X

It was a spectacle which none might view,
In spot so savage, but with shuddering pain;
Nor only did for him at once renew
All he had feared from man, but roused a train
Of the mind's phantoms, horrible as vain.
The stones, as if to cover him from day,
Rolled at his back along the living plain;
He fell, and without sense or motion lay;
But, when the trance was gone, feebly pursued his way.

XI

As one whose brain habitual phrensy fires
Owes to the fit in which his soul hath tossed
Profounder quiet, when the fit retires,
Even so the dire phantasma which had crossed
His sense, in sudden vacancy quite lost,
Left his mind still as a deep evening stream.
Nor, if accosted now, in thought engrossed,
Moody, or inly troubled, would he seem
To traveller who might talk of any casual theme.

XII

Hurtle the clouds in deeper darkness piled,
Gone is the raven timely rest to seek;
He seemed the only creature in the wild
On whom the elements their rage might wreak;
Save that the bustard, of those regions bleak
Shy tenant, seeing by the uncertain light
A man there wandering, gave a mournful shriek,
And half upon the ground, with strange affright,
Forced hard against the wind a thick unwieldy flight.

XIII

All, all was cheerless to the horizon's bound;
The weary eye--which, wheresoe'er it strays,
Marks nothing but the red sun's setting round,
Or on the earth strange lines, in former days
Left by gigantic arms--at length surveys
What seems an antique castle spreading wide;
Hoary and naked are its walls, and raise
Their brow sublime: in shelter there to bide
He turned, while rain poured down smoking on every side.

XIV

Pile of Stone-henge! so proud to hint yet keep
Thy secrets, thou that lov'st to stand and hear
The Plain resounding to the whirlwind's sweep,
Inmate of lonesome Nature's endless year;
Even if thou saw'st the giant wicker rear
For sacrifice its throngs of living men,
Before thy face did ever wretch appear,
Who in his heart had groaned with deadlier pain
Than he who, tempest-driven, thy shelter now would gain.

XV

Within that fabric of mysterious form,
Winds met in conflict, each by turns supreme;
And, from the perilous ground dislodged, through storm
And rain he wildered on, no moon to stream
From gulf of parting clouds one friendly beam,
Nor any friendly sound his footsteps led;
Once did the lightning's faint disastrous gleam
Disclose a naked guide-post's double head,
Sight which tho' lost at once a gleam of pleasure shed.

XVI

No swinging sign-board creaked from cottage elm
To stay his steps with faintness overcome;
'Twas dark and void as ocean's watery realm
Roaring with storms beneath night's starless gloom;
No gipsy cowered o'er fire of furze or broom;
No labourer watched his red kiln glaring bright,
Nor taper glimmered dim from sick man's room;
Along the waste no line of mournful light
From lamp of lonely toll-gate streamed athwart the night.

XVII

At length, though hid in clouds, the moon arose;
The downs were visible--and now revealed
A structure stands, which two bare slopes enclose.
It was a spot, where, ancient vows fulfilled,
Kind pious hands did to the Virgin build
A lonely Spital, the belated swain
From the night terrors of that waste to shield:
But there no human being could remain,
And now the walls are named the "Dead House" of the plain.

XVIII

Though he had little cause to love the abode
Of man, or covet sight of mortal face,
Yet when faint beams of light that ruin showed,
How glad he was at length to find some trace
Of human shelter in that dreary place.
Till to his flock the early shepherd goes,
Here shall much-needed sleep his frame embrace.
In a dry nook where fern the floor bestrows
He lays his stiffened limbs,--his eyes begin to close;

XIX

When hearing a deep sigh, that seemed to come
From one who mourned in sleep, he raised his head,
And saw a woman in the naked room
Outstretched, and turning on a restless bed:
The moon a wan dead light around her shed.
He waked her--spake in tone that would not fail,
He hoped, to calm her mind; but ill he sped,
For of that ruin she had heard a tale
Which now with freezing thoughts did all her powers assail;

XX

Had heard of one who, forced from storms to shroud,
Felt the loose walls of this decayed Retreat
Rock to incessant neighings shrill and loud,
While his horse pawed the floor with furious heat;
Till on a stone, that sparkled to his feet,
Struck, and still struck again, the troubled horse:
The man half raised the stone with pain and sweat,
Half raised, for well his arm might lose its force
Disclosing the grim head of a late murdered corse.

XXI

Such tale of this lone mansion she had learned
And, when that shape, with eyes in sleep half drowned,
By the moon's sullen lamp she first discerned,
Cold stony horror all her senses bound.
Her he addressed in words of cheering sound;
Recovering heart, like answer did she make;
And well it was that, of the corse there found,
In converse that ensued she nothing spake;
She knew not what dire pangs in him such tale could wake.

XXII

But soon his voice and words of kind intent
Banished that dismal thought; and now the wind
In fainter howlings told its 'rage' was spent:
Meanwhile discourse ensued of various kind,
Which by degrees a confidence of mind
And mutual interest failed not to create.
And, to a natural sympathy resigned,
In that forsaken building where they sate
The Woman thus retraced her own untoward fate.

XXIII

"By Derwent's side my father dwelt--a man
Of virtuous life, by pious parents bred;
And I believe that, soon as I began
To lisp, he made me kneel beside my bed,
And in his hearing there my prayers I said:
And afterwards, by my good father taught,
I read, and loved the books in which I read;
For books in every neighbouring house I sought,
And nothing to my mind a sweeter pleasure brought.

XXIV

"A little croft we owned--a plot of corn,
A garden stored with peas, and mint, and thyme,
And flowers for posies, oft on Sunday morn
Plucked while the church bells rang their earliest chime.
Can I forget our freaks at shearing time!
My hen's rich nest through long grass scarce espied;
The cowslip-gathering in June's dewy prime;
The swans that with white chests upreared in pride
Rushing and racing came to meet me at the water-side.

XXV

"The staff I well remember which upbore
The bending body of my active sire;
His seat beneath the honied sycamore
Where the bees hummed, and chair by winter fire;
When market-morning came, the neat attire
With which, though bent on haste, myself I decked;
Our watchful house-dog, that would tease and tire
The stranger till its barking-fit I checked;
The red-breast, known for years, which at my casement pecked.

XXVI

"The suns of twenty summers danced along,--
Too little marked how fast they rolled away:
But, through severe mischance and cruel wrong,
My father's substance fell into decay:
We toiled and struggled, hoping for a day
When Fortune might put on a kinder look;
But vain were wishes, efforts vain as they;
He from his old hereditary nook
Must part; the summons came;--our final leave we took.

XXVII

"It was indeed a miserable hour
When, from the last hill-top, my sire surveyed,
Peering above the trees, the steeple tower
That on his marriage day sweet music made!
Tilt then, he hoped his bones might there be laid
Close by my mother in their native bowers:
Bidding me trust in God, he stood and prayed;--
I could not pray:--through tears that fell in showers
Glimmered our dear-loved home, alas! no longer ours!

XXVIII

"There was a Youth whom I had loved so long,
That when I loved him not I cannot say:
'Mid the green mountains many a thoughtless song
We two had sung, like gladsome birds in May;
When we began to tire of childish play,
We seemed still more and more to prize each other;
We talked of marriage and our marriage day;
And I in truth did love him like a brother,
For never could I hope to meet with such another.

XXIX

"Two years were passed since to a distant town
He had repaired to ply a gainful trade:
What tears of bitter grief, till then unknown!
What tender vows, our last sad kiss delayed!
To him we turned:--we had no other aid:
Like one revived, upon his neck I wept;
And her whom he had loved in joy, he said,
He well could love in grief; his faith he kept;
And in a quiet home once more my father slept.

XXX

"We lived in peace and comfort; and were blest
With daily bread, by constant toil supplied.
Three lovely babes had lain upon my breast;
And often, viewing their sweet smiles, I sighed,
And knew not why. My happy father died,
When threatened war reduced the children's meal:
Thrice happy! that for him the grave could hide
The empty loom, cold hearth, and silent wheel,
And tears that flowed for ills which patience might not heal.

XXXI

"'Twas a hard change; an evil time was come;
We had no hope, and no relief could gain:
But soon, with proud parade, the noisy drum
Beat round to clear the streets of want and pain.
My husband's arms now only served to strain
Me and his children hungering in his view;
In such dismay my prayers and tears were vain:
To join those miserable men he flew,
And now to the sea-coast, with numbers more, we drew.

XXXII

"There were we long neglected, and we bore
Much sorrow ere the fleet its anchor weighed;
Green fields before us, and our native shore,
We breathed a pestilential air, that made
Ravage for which no knell was heard. We prayed
For our departure; wished and wished--nor knew,
'Mid that long sickness and those hopes delayed,
That happier days we never more must view.
The parting signal streamed--at last the land withdrew.

XXXIII

"But the calm summer season now was past.
On as we drove, the equinoctial deep
Ran mountains high before the howling blast,
And many perished in the whirlwind's sweep.
We gazed with terror on their gloomy sleep,
Untaught that soon such anguish must ensue,
Our hopes such harvest of affliction reap,
That we the mercy of the waves should rue:
We reached the western world, a poor devoted crew.

XXXIV

"The pains and plagues that on our heads came down,
Disease and famine, agony and fear,
In wood or wilderness, in camp or town,
It would unman the firmest heart to hear.
All perished--all in one remorseless year,
Husband and children! one by one, by sword
And ravenous plague, all perished: every tear
Dried up, despairing, desolate, on board
A British ship I waked, as from a trance restored."

XXXV

Here paused she of all present thought forlorn,
Nor voice nor sound, that moment's pain expressed,
Yet Nature, with excess of grief o'erborne,
From her full eyes their watery load released.
He too was mute; and, ere her weeping ceased,
He rose, and to the ruin's portal went,
And saw the dawn opening the silvery east
With rays of promise, north and southward sent;
And soon with crimson fire kindled the firmament.

XXXVI

"O come," he cried, "come, after weary night
Of such rough storm, this happy change to view."
So forth she came, and eastward looked; the sight
Over her brow like dawn of gladness threw;
Upon her cheek, to which its youthful hue
Seemed to return, dried the last lingering tear,
And from her grateful heart a fresh one drew:
The whilst her comrade to her pensive cheer
Tempered fit words of hope; and the lark warbled near.

XXXVII

They looked and saw a lengthening road, and wain
That rang down a bare slope not far remote:
The barrows glistered bright with drops of rain,
Whistled the waggoner with merry note,
The cock far off sounded his clarion throat;
But town, or farm, or hamlet, none they viewed,
Only were told there stood a lonely cot
A long mile thence. While thither they pursued
Their way, the Woman thus her mournful tale renewed.

XXXVIII

"Peaceful as this immeasurable plain
Is now, by beams of dawning light imprest,
In the calm sunshine slept the glittering main;
The very ocean hath its hour of rest.
I too forgot the heavings of my breast.
How quiet 'round me ship and ocean were!
As quiet all within me. I was blest,
And looked, and fed upon the silent air
Until it seemed to bring a joy to my despair.

XXXIX

"Ah! how unlike those late terrific sleeps,
And groans that rage of racking famine spoke;
The unburied dead that lay in festering heaps,
The breathing pestilence that rose like smoke,
The shriek that from the distant battle broke,
The mine's dire earthquake, and the pallid host
Driven by the bomb's incessant thunderstroke
To loathsome vaults, where heart-sick anguish tossed,
Hope died, and fear itself in agony was lost!

XL

"Some mighty gulf of separation past,
I seemed transported to another world;
A thought resigned with pain, when from the mast
The impatient mariner the sail unfurled,
And, whistling, called the wind that hardly curled
The silent sea. From the sweet thoughts of home
And from all hope I was for ever hurled.
For me--farthest from earthly port to roam
Was best, could I but shun the spot where man might come.

XLI

"And oft I thought (my fancy was so strong)
That I, at last, a resting-place had found;
'Here will I dwell,' said I, 'my whole life long,
Roaming the illimitable waters round;
Here will I live, of all but heaven disowned,
And end my days upon the peaceful flood.'--
To break my dream the vessel reached its bound;
And homeless near a thousand homes I stood,
And near a thousand tables pined and wanted food.

XLII

"No help I sought; in sorrow turned adrift,
Was hopeless, as if cast on some bare rock;
Nor morsel to my mouth that day did lift,
Nor raised my hand at any door to knock.
I lay where, with his drowsy mates, the cock
From the cross-timber of an out-house hung:
Dismally tolled, that night, the city clock!
At morn my sick heart hunger scarcely stung,
Nor to the beggar's language could I fit my tongue.

XLIII

"So passed a second day; and, when the third
Was come, I tried in vain the crowd's resort.
--In deep despair, by frightful wishes stirred,
Near the sea-side I reached a ruined fort;
There, pains which nature could no more support,
With blindness linked, did on my vitals fall;
And, after many interruptions short
Of hideous sense, I sank, nor step could crawl:
Unsought for was the help that did my life recall.

XLIV

"Borne to a hospital, I lay with brain
Drowsy and weak, and shattered memory;
I heard my neighbours in their beds complain
Of many things which never troubled me--
Of feet still bustling round with busy glee,
Of looks where common kindness had no part,
Of service done with cold formality,
Fretting the fever round the languid heart,
And groans which, as they said, might make a dead man start.

XLV

"These things just served to stir the slumbering sense,
Nor pain nor pity in my bosom raised.
With strength did memory return; and, thence
Dismissed, again on open day I gazed,
At houses, men, and common light, amazed.
The lanes I sought, and, as the sun retired,
Came where beneath the trees a faggot blazed,
The travellers saw me weep, my fate inquired,
And gave me food--and rest, more welcome, more desired.

XLVI

"Rough potters seemed they, trading soberly
With panniered asses driven from door to door;
But life of happier sort set forth to me,
And other joys my fancy to allure--
The bag-pipe dinning on the midnight moor
In barn uplighted; and companions boon,
Well met from far with revelry secure
Among the forest glades, while jocund June
Rolled fast along the sky his warm and genial moon.

XLVII

"But ill they suited me--those journeys dark
O'er moor and mountain, midnight theft to hatch!
To charm the surly house-dog's faithful bark,
Or hang on tip-toe at the lifted latch.
The gloomy lantern, and the dim blue match,
The black disguise, the warning whistle shrill,
And ear still busy on its nightly watch,
Were not for me, brought up in nothing ill:
Besides, on griefs so fresh my thoughts were brooding still.

XLVIII

"What could I do, unaided and unblest?
My father! gone was every friend of thine:
And kindred of dead husband are at best
Small help; and, after marriage such as mine,
With little kindness would to me incline.
Nor was I then for toil or service fit;
My deep-drawn sighs no effort could confine;
In open air forgetful would I sit
Whole hours, with idle arms in moping sorrow knit.

XLIX

"The roads I paced, I loitered through the fields;
Contentedly, yet sometimes self-accused.
Trusted my life to what chance bounty yields,
Now coldly given, now utterly refused.
The ground I for my bed have often used:
But what afflicts my peace with keenest ruth,
Is that I have my inner self abused,
Foregone the home delight of constant truth,
And clear and open soul, so prized in fearless youth.

L

"Through tears the rising sun I oft have viewed,
Through tears have seen him towards that world descend
Where my poor heart lost all its fortitude:
Three years a wanderer now my course I bend--
Oh! tell me whither--for no earthly friend
Have I."--She ceased, and weeping turned away;
As if because her tale was at an end,
She wept; because she had no more to say
Of that perpetual weight which on her spirit lay.

LI

True sympathy the Sailor's looks expressed,
His looks--for pondering he was mute the while.
Of social Order's care for wretchedness,
Of Time's sure help to calm and reconcile,
Joy's second spring and Hope's long-treasured smile,
'Twas not for 'him' to speak--a man so tried,
Yet, to relieve her heart, in friendly style
Proverbial words of comfort he applied,
And not in vain, while they went pacing side by side.

LII

Ere long, from heaps of turf, before their sight,
Together smoking in the sun's slant beam,
Rise various wreaths that into one unite
Which high and higher mounts with silver gleam:
Fair spectacle,---but instantly a scream
Thence bursting shrill did all remark prevent;
They paused, and heard a hoarser voice blaspheme,
And female cries. Their course they thither bent,
And met a man who foamed with anger vehement,

LIII

A woman stood with quivering lips and pale,
And, pointing to a little child that lay
Stretched on the ground, began a piteous tale;
How in a simple freak of thoughtless play
He had provoked his father, who straightway,
As if each blow were deadlier than the last,
Struck the poor innocent. Pallid with dismay
The Soldier's Widow heard and stood aghast;
And stern looks on the man her grey-haired Comrade cast.

LIV

His voice with indignation rising high
Such further deed in manhood's name forbade;
The peasant, wild in passion, made reply
With bitter insult and revilings sad;
Asked him in scorn what business there he had;
What kind of plunder he was hunting now;
The gallows would one day of him be glad;--
Though inward anguish damped the Sailor's brow,
Yet calm he seemed as thoughts so poignant would allow.

LV

Softly he stroked the child, who lay outstretched
With face to earth; and, as the boy turned round
His battered head, a groan the Sailor fetched
As if he saw--there and upon that ground--
Strange repetition of the deadly wound
He had himself inflicted. Through his brain
At once the griding iron passage found;
Deluge of tender thoughts then rushed amain,
Nor could his sunken eyes the starting tear restrain.

LVI

Within himself he said--What hearts have we!
The blessing this a father gives his child!
Yet happy thou, poor boy! compared with me,
Suffering not doing ill--fate far more mild.
The stranger's looks and tears of wrath beguiled
The father, and relenting thoughts awoke;
He kissed his son--so all was reconciled.
Then, with a voice which inward trouble broke
Ere to his lips it came, the Sailor them bespoke.

LVII

"Bad is the world, and hard is the world's law
Even for the man who wears the warmest fleece;
Much need have ye that time more closely draw
The bond of nature, all unkindness cease,
And that among so few there still be peace:
Else can ye hope but with such numerous foes
Your pains shall ever with your years increase?"--
While from his heart the appropriate lesson flows,
A correspondent calm stole gently o'er his woes.

LVIII

Forthwith the pair passed on; and down they look
Into a narrow valley's pleasant scene
Where wreaths of vapour tracked a winding brook,
That babbled on through groves and meadows green;
A low-roofed house peeped out the trees between;
The dripping groves resound with cheerful lays,
And melancholy lowings intervene
Of scattered herds, that in the meadow graze,
Some amid lingering shade, some touched by the sun's rays.

LIX

They saw and heard, and, winding with the road,
Down a thick wood, they dropt into the vale;
Comfort, by prouder mansions unbestowed,
Their wearied frames, she hoped, would soon regale.
Erelong they reached that cottage in the dale:
It was a rustic inn;--the board was spread,
The milk-maid followed with her brimming pail,
And lustily the master carved the bread,
Kindly the housewife pressed, and they in comfort fed.

LX

Their breakfast done, the pair, though loth, must part;
Wanderers whose course no longer now agrees.
She rose and bade farewell! and, while her heart
Struggled with tears nor could its sorrow ease,
She left him there; for, clustering round his knees,
With his oak-staff the cottage children played;
And soon she reached a spot o'erhung with trees
And banks of ragged earth; beneath the shade
Across the pebbly road a little runnel strayed.

LXI

A cart and horse beside the rivulet stood;
Chequering the canvas roof the sunbeams shone.
She saw the carman bend to scoop the flood
As the wain fronted her,--wherein lay one,
A pale-faced Woman, in disease far gone.
The carman wet her lips as well behoved;
Bed under her lean body there was none,
Though even to die near one she most had loved
She could not of herself those wasted limbs have moved.

LXII

The Soldier's Widow learned with honest pain
And homefelt force of sympathy sincere,
Why thus that worn-out wretch must there sustain
The jolting road and morning air severe.
The wain pursued its way; and following near
In pure compassion she her steps retraced
Far as the cottage. "A sad sight is here,"
She cried aloud; and forth ran out in haste
The friends whom she had left but a few minutes past.

LXIII

While to the door with eager speed they ran,
From her bare straw the Woman half upraised
Her bony visage--gaunt and deadly wan;
No pity asking, on the group she gazed
With a dim eye, distracted and amazed;
Then sank upon her straw with feeble moan.
Fervently cried the housewife--"God be praised,
I have a house that I can call my own;
Nor shall she perish there, untended and alone!"

LXIV

So in they bear her to the chimney seat,
And busily, though yet with fear, untie
Her garments, and, to warm her icy feet
And chafe her temples, careful hands apply.
Nature reviving, with a deep-drawn sigh
She strove, and not in vain, her head to rear;
Then said--"I thank you all; if I must die,
The God in heaven my prayers for you will hear;
Till now I did not think my end had been so near.

LXV

"Barred every comfort labour could procure,
Suffering what no endurance could assuage,
I was compelled to seek my father's door,
Though loth to be a burthen on his age.
But sickness stopped me in an early stage
Of my sad journey; and within the wain
They placed me--there to end life's pilgrimage,
Unless beneath your roof I may remain;
For I shall never see my father's door again.

LXVI

"My life, Heaven knows, hath long been burthensome;
But, if I have not meekly suffered, meek
May my end be! Soon will this voice be dumb:
Should child of mine e'er wander hither, speak
Of me, say that the worm is on my cheek.--
Torn from our hut, that stood beside the sea
Near Portland lighthouse in a lonesome creek,
My husband served in sad captivity
On shipboard, bound till peace or death should set him free.

LXVII

"A sailor's wife I knew a widow's cares,
Yet two sweet little ones partook my bed;
Hope cheered my dreams, and to my daily prayers
Our heavenly Father granted each day's bread;
Till one was found by stroke of violence dead,
Whose body near our cottage chanced to lie;
A dire suspicion drove us from our shed;
In vain to find a friendly face we try,
Nor could we live together those poor boys and I;

LXVIII

"For evil tongues made oath how on that day
My husband lurked about the neighbourhood;
Now he had fled, and whither none could say,
And 'he' had done the deed in the dark wood--
Near his own home!--but he was mild and good;
Never on earth was gentler creature seen;
He'd not have robbed the raven of its food.
My husband's lovingkindness stood between
Me and all worldly harms and wrongs however keen."

LXIX

Alas! the thing she told with labouring breath
The Sailor knew too well. That wickedness
His hand had wrought; and when, in the hour of death,
He saw his Wife's lips move his name to bless
With her last words, unable to suppress
His anguish, with his heart he ceased to strive;
And, weeping loud in this extreme distress,
He cried--"Do pity me! That thou shouldst live
I neither ask nor wish--forgive me, but forgive!"

LXX

To tell the change that Voice within her wrought
Nature by sign or sound made no essay;
A sudden joy surprised expiring thought,
And every mortal pang dissolved away.
Borne gently to a bed, in death she lay;
Yet still while over her the husband bent,
A look was in her face which seemed to say,
"Be blest; by sight of thee from heaven was sent
Peace to my parting soul, the fulness of content."

LXXI

'She' slept in peace,--his pulses throbbed and stopped,
Breathless he gazed upon her face,--then took
Her hand in his, and raised it, but both dropped,
When on his own he cast a rueful look.
His ears were never silent; sleep forsook
His burning eyelids stretched and stiff as lead;
All night from time to time under him shook
The floor as he lay shuddering on his bed;
And oft he groaned aloud, "O God, that I were dead!"

LXXII

The Soldier's Widow lingered in the cot,
And, when he rose, he thanked her pious care
Through which his Wife, to that kind shelter brought,
Died in his arms; and with those thanks a prayer
He breathed for her, and for that merciful pair.
The corse interred, not one hour heremained
Beneath their roof, but to the open air
A burthen, now with fortitude sustained,
He bore within a breast where dreadful quiet reigned.

LXXIII

Confirmed of purpose, fearlessly prepared
For act and suffering, to the city straight
He journeyed, and forthwith his crime declared:
"And from your doom," he added, "now I wait,
Nor let it linger long, the murderer's fate."
Not ineffectual was that piteous claim:
"O welcome sentence which will end though late,"
He said, "the pangs that to my conscience came
Out of that deed. My trust, Saviour! is in thy name!"

LXXIV

His fate was pitied. Him in iron case
(Reader, forgive the intolerable thought)
They hung not:--no one on 'his' form or face
Could gaze, as on a show by idlers sought;
No kindred sufferer, to his death-place brought
By lawless curiosity or chance,
When into storm the evening sky is wrought,
Upon his swinging corse an eye can glance,
And drop, as he once dropped, in miserable trance.

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The Golden Legend: IV. The Road To Hirschau

PRINCE HENRY _and_ ELSIE, _with their attendants, on
horseback._

_Elsie._ Onward and onward the highway runs
to the distant city, impatiently bearing
Tidings of human joy and disaster, of love and of
hate, of doing and daring!

_Prince Henry._ This life of ours is a wild aeolian
harp of many a joyous strain,
But under them all there runs a loud perpetual wail,
as of souls in pain.

_Elsie._ Faith alone can interpret life, and the heart
that aches and bleeds with the stigma
Of pain, alone bears the likeness of Christ, and can
comprehend its dark enigma.

_Prince Henry._ Man is selfish, and seeketh pleasure
with little care of what may betide;
Else why am I travelling here beside thee, a demon
that rides by an angel's side?

_Elsie._ All the hedges are white with dust, and
the great dog under the creaking wain
Hangs his head in the lazy heat, while onward the
horses toil and strain

_Prince Henry._ Now they stop at the wayside inn,
and the wagoner laughs with the landlord's daughter,
While out of the dripping trough the horses distend
their leathern sides with water.

_Elsie._ All through life there are wayside inns,
where man may refresh his soul with love;
Even the lowest may quench his thirst at rivulets fed
by springs from above.

_Prince Henry._ Yonder, where rises the cross of
stone, our journey along the highway ends,
And over the fields, by a bridle path, down into the
broad green valley descends.

_Elsie._ I am not sorry to leave behind the beaten
road with its dust and heat;
The air will be sweeter far, and the turf will be softer
under our horses' feet.

(_They turn down a green lane._)

_Elsie._ Sweet is the air with the budding haws,
and the valley stretching for miles below
Is white with blossoming cheery trees, as if just covered
with lightest snow.

_Prince Henry._ Over our heads a white cascade is
gleaming against the distant hill;
We cannot hear it, nor see it move, but it hangs like
a banner when winds are still.

_Elsie._ Damp and cool is this deep ravine, and
cool the sound of the brook by our side!
What is this castle that rises above us, and lords it
over a land so wide?

_Prince Henry._ It is the home of the Counts of
Calva; well have I known these scenes of old,
Well I remember each tower and turret, remember the
brooklet, the wood, and the wold.

_Elsie._ Hark! from the little village below us the
bells of the church are ringing for rain!
Priests and peasants in long procession come forth
and kneel on the arid plain.

_Prince Henry._ They have not long to wait, for I
see in the south uprising a little cloud,
That before the sun shall be set will cover the sky
above us as with a shroud.

(_They pass on._)

* * * * *

THE CONVENT OF HIRSCHAU IN THE BLACK FOREST.

* * * * *

_The Convent cellar._ FRIAR CLAUS _comes in with a
light and a basket of empty flagons._

_Friar Claus._ I always enter this sacred place
With a thoughtful, solemn, and reverent pace,
Pausing long enough on each stair
To breathe an ejaculatory prayer,
And a benediction on the vines
That produce these various sorts of wines!

For my part, I am well content
That we have got through with the tedious Lent!
Fasting is all very well for those
Who have to contend with invisible foes;
But I am quite sure it does not agree
With a quiet, peaceable man like me,
Who am not of that nervous and meagre kind
That are always distressed in body and mind!
And at times it really does me good
To come down among this brotherhood,
Dwelling forever under ground,
Silent, contemplative, round and sound;
Each one old, and brown with mould,
But filled to the lips with the ardor of youth,
With the latent power and love of truth,
And with virtues fervent and manifold.

I have heard it said, that at Easter-tide,
When buds are swelling on every side,
And the sap begins to move in the vine.
Then in all the cellars, far and wide,
The oldest, as well as the newest, wine
Begins to stir itself, and ferment,
With a kind of revolt and discontent
At being so long in darkness pent,
And fain would burst from its sombre tun
To bask on the hillside in the sun;
As in the bosom of us poor friars,
The tumult of half-subdued desires
For the world that we have left behind
Disturbs at times all peace of mind!
And now that we have lived through Lent,
My duty it is, as often before,
To open awhile the prison-door,
And give these restless spirits vent.

Now here is a cask that stands alone,
And has stood a hundred years or more,
Its beard of cobwebs, long and hoar,
Trailing and sweeping along the floor,
Like Barbarossa, who sits in his cave,
Taciturn, sombre, sedate, and grave,
Till his beard has grown through the table of stone!
It is of the quick and not of the dead!
In its veins the blood is hot and red,
And a heart still beats in those ribs of oak
That time may have tamed, but has not broke;
It comes from Bacharach on the Rhine,
Is one of the three best kinds of wine,
And costs some hundred florins the ohm;
But that I do not consider dear,
When I remember that every year
Four butts are sent to the Pope of Rome.
And whenever a goblet thereof I drain,
The old rhyme keeps running in my brain:

At Bacharach on the Rhine,
At Hochheim on the Main,
And at Wuerzburg on the Stein,
Grow the three best kinds of wine!

They are all good wines, and better far
Than those of the Neckar, or those of the Ahr
In particular, Wuerzburg well may boast
Of its blessed wine of the Holy Ghost,
Which of all wines I like the most.
This I shall draw for the Abbot's drinking,
Who seems to be much of my way of thinking.

(_Fills a flagon._)

Ah! how the streamlet laughs and sings!
What a delicious fragrance springs
From the deep flagon, while it fills,
As of hyacinths and daffodils!
Between this cask and the Abbot's lips
Many have been the sips and slips;
Many have been the draughts of wine,
On their way to his, that have stopped at mine;
And many a time my soul has hankered
For a deep draught out of his silver tankard,
When it should have been busy with other affairs,
Less with its longings and more with its prayers.
But now there is no such awkward condition,
No danger of death and eternal perdition;
So here's to the Abbot and Brothers all,
Who dwell in this convent of Peter and Paul!

(_He drinks._)

O cordial delicious! O soother of pain!
It flashes like sunshine into my brain!
A benison rest on the Bishop who sends
Such a fudder of wine as this to his friends!

And now a flagon for such as may ask
A draught from the noble Bacharach cask,
And I will be gone, though I know full well
The cellar's a cheerfuller place than the cell.
Behold where he stands, all sound and good,
Brown and old in his oaken hood;
Silent he seems externally
As any Carthusian monk may be;
But within, what a spirit of deep unrest!
What a seething and simmering in his breast!
As if the heaving of his great heart
Would burst his belt of oak apart!
Let me unloose this button of wood,
And quiet a little his turbulent mood.

(_Sets it running._)

See! how its currents gleam and shine,
As if they had caught the purple hues
Of autumn sunsets on the Rhine,
Descending and mingling with the dews;
Or as if the grapes were stained with the blood
Of the innocent boy, who, some years back,
Was taken and crucified by the Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach;
Perdition upon those infidel Jews,
In that ancient town of Bacharach!
The beautiful town, that gives us wine
With the fragrant odor of Muscadine!
I should deem it wrong to let this pass
Without first touching my lips to the glass,
For here in the midst of the current I stand,
Like the stone Pfalz in the midst of the river
Taking toll upon either hand,
And much more grateful to the giver.

(_He drinks._)

Here, now, is a very inferior kind,
Such as in any town you may find,
Such as one might imagine would suit
The rascal who drank wine out of a boot,
And, after all, it was not a crime,
For he won thereby Dorf Hueffelsheim.
A jolly old toper! who at a pull
Could drink a postilion's jack boot full,
And ask with a laugh, when that was done,
If the fellow had left the other one!
This wine is as good as we can afford
To the friars, who sit at the lower board,
And cannot distinguish bad from good,
And are far better off than if they could,
Being rather the rude disciples of beer
Than of anything more refined and dear!

(_Fills the other flagon and departs._)

* * * * *

THE SCRIPTORIUM.

FRIAR PACIFICUS _transcribing and illuminating._

_Friar Pacificus_ It is growing dark! Yet one line more,
And then my work for today is o'er.
I come again to the name of the Lord!
Ere I that awful name record,
That is spoken so lightly among men,
Let me pause awhile, and wash my pen;
Pure from blemish and blot must it be
When it writes that word of mystery!

Thus have I labored on and on,
Nearly through the Gospel of John.
Can it be that from the lips
Of this same gentle Evangelist,
That Christ himself perhaps has kissed,
Came the dread Apocalypse!
It has a very awful look,
As it stands there at the end of the book,
Like the sun in an eclipse.
Ah me! when I think of that vision divine,
Think of writing it, line by line,
I stand in awe of the terrible curse,
Like the trump of doom, in the closing verse!
God forgive me! if ever I
Take aught from the book of that Prophecy,
Lest my part too should be taken away
From the Book of Life on the Judgment Day.

This is well written, though I say it!
I should not be afraid to display it,
In open day, on the selfsame shelf
With the writings of St Thecla herself,
Or of Theodosius, who of old
Wrote the Gospels in letters of gold!
That goodly folio standing yonder,
Without a single blot or blunder,
Would not bear away the palm from mine,
If we should compare them line for line.

There, now, is an initial letter!
King Rene himself never made a better!
Finished down to the leaf and the snail,
Down to the eyes on the peacock's tail!
And now, as I turn the volume over,
And see what lies between cover and cover,
What treasures of art these pages hold,
All ablaze with crimson and gold,
God forgive me! I seem to feel
A certain satisfaction steal
Into my heart, and into my brain,
As if my talent had not lain
Wrapped in a napkin, and all in vain.
Yes, I might almost say to the Lord,
Here is a copy of thy Word,
Written out with much toil and pain;
Take it, O Lord, and let it be
As something I have done for thee!

(_He looks from the window._)

How sweet the air is! How fair the scene!
I wish I had as lovely a green
To paint my landscapes and my leaves!
How the swallows twitter under the eaves!
There, now, there is one in her nest;
I can just catch a glimpse of her head and breast,
And will sketch her thus, in her quiet nook,
In the margin of my Gospel book.

(_He makes a sketch._)

I can see no more. Through the valley yonder
A shower is passing; I hear the thunder
Mutter its curses in the air,
The Devil's own and only prayer!
The dusty road is brown with rain,
And speeding on with might and main,
Hitherward rides a gallant train.
They do not parley, they cannot wait,
But hurry in at the convent gate.
What a fair lady! and beside her
What a handsome, graceful, noble rider!
Now she gives him her hand to alight;
They will beg a shelter for the night.
I will go down to the corridor,
And try to see that face once more;
It will do for the face of some beautiful Saint,
Or for one of the Maries I shall paint.

(_Goes out._)

* * * * *

THE CLOISTERS.

* * * * *

_The_ ABBOT ERNESTUS _pacing to and fro._

_Abbot._ Slowly, slowly up the wall
Steals the sunshine, steals the shade;
Evening damps begin to fall,
Evening shadows are displayed.
Round me, o'er me, everywhere,
All the sky is grand with clouds,
And athwart the evening air
Wheel the swallows home in crowds.
Shafts of sunshine from the west
Paint the dusky windows red;
Darker shadows, deeper rest,
Underneath and overhead.
Darker, darker, and more wan,
In my breast the shadows fall;
Upward steals the life of man,
As the sunshine from the wall.
From the wall into the sky,
From the roof along the spire;
Ah, the souls of those that die
Are but sunbeams lifted higher.

(_Enter_ PRINCE HENRY.)

_Prince Henry._ Christ is arisen!

_Abbot._ Amen! he is arisen!
His peace be with you!

_Prince Henry._ Here it reigns forever!
The peace of God, that passeth understanding,
Reigns in these cloisters and these corridors,
Are you Ernestus, Abbot of the convent?

_Abbot._ I am.

_Prince Henry._ And I Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
Who crave your hospitality to-night.

_Abbot._ You are thrice welcome to our humble walls.
You do us honor; and we shall requite it,
I fear, but poorly, entertaining you
With Paschal eggs, and our poor convent wine,
The remnants of our Easter holidays.

_Prince Henry._ How fares it with the holy monks of Hirschau?
Are all things well with them?

_Abbot._ All things are well.

_Prince Henry._ A noble convent! I have known it long
By the report of travellers. I now see
Their commendations lag behind the truth.
You lie here in the valley of the Nagold
As in a nest: and the still river, gliding
Along its bed, is like an admonition
How all things pass. Your lands are rich and ample,
And your revenues large. God's benediction
Rests on your convent.

_Abbot._ By our charities
We strive to merit it. Our Lord and Master,
When he departed, left us in his will,
As our best legacy on earth, the poor!
These we have always with us; had we not,
Our hearts would grow as hard as are these stones.

_Prince Henry._ If I remember right, the Counts of Calva
Founded your convent.

_Abbot._ Even as you say.

_Prince Henry._ And, if I err not, it is very old.

_Abbot._ Within these cloisters lie already buried
Twelve holy Abbots. Underneath the flags
On which we stand, the Abbot William lies,
Of blessed memory.

_Prince Henry._ And whose tomb is that,
Which bears the brass escutcheon?

_Abbot._ A benefactor's.
Conrad, a Count of Calva, he who stood
Godfather to our bells.

_Prince Henry._ Your monks are learned
And holy men, I trust.

_Abbot._ There are among them
Learned and holy men. Yet in this age
We need another Hildebrand, to shake
And purify us like a mighty wind.
The world is wicked, and sometimes I wonder
God does not lose his patience with it wholly,
And shatter it like glass! Even here, at times,
Within these walls, where all should be at peace,
I have my trials. Time has laid his hand
Upon my heart, gently, not smiting it,
But as a harper lays his open palm
Upon his harp, to deaden its vibrations.
Ashes are on my head, and on my lips
Sackcloth, and in my breast a heaviness
And weariness of life, that makes me ready
To say to the dead Abbots under us,
'Make room for me!' Only I see the dusk
Of evening twilight coming, and have not
Completed half my task; and so at times
The thought of my shortcomings in this life
Falls like a shadow on the life to come.

_Prince Henry._ We must all die, and not the old alone;
The young have no exemption from that doom.

_Abbot._ Ah, yes! the young may die, but the old must!
That is the difference.

_Prince Henry._ I have heard much laud
Of your transcribers. Your Scriptorium
Is famous among all, your manuscripts
Praised for their beauty and their excellence.

_Abbot._ That is indeed our boast. If you desire it,
You shall behold these treasures. And meanwhile
Shall the Refectorarius bestow
Your horses and attendants for the night.

(_They go in. The Vesper-bell rings._)

* * * * *

THE CHAPEL.

* * * * *

_Vespers; after which the monks retire, a chorister
leading an old monk who is blind_.

_Prince Henry._ They are all gone, save one who lingers,
Absorbed in deep and silent prayer.
As if his heart could find no rest,
At times he beats his heaving breast
With clenched and convulsive fingers,
Then lifts them trembling in the air.
A chorister, with golden hair,
Guides hitherward his heavy pace.
Can it be so? Or does my sight
Deceive me in the uncertain light?
Ah no! I recognize that face,
Though Time has touched it in his flight,
And changed the auburn hair to white.
It is Count Hugo of the Rhine,
The deadliest foe of all our race,
And hateful unto me and mine!

_The Blind Monk_. Who is it that doth stand so near
His whispered words I almost hear?

_Prince Henry_. I am Prince Henry of Hoheneck,
And you, Count Hugo of the Rhine!
I know you, and I see the scar,
The brand upon your forehead, shine
And redden like a baleful star!

_The Blind Monk_. Count Hugo once, but now the wreck
Of what I was. O Hoheneck!
The passionate will, the pride, the wrath
That bore me headlong on my path,
Stumbled and staggered into fear,
And failed me in my mad career,
As a tired steed some evil-doer,
Alone upon a desolate moor,
Bewildered, lost, deserted, blind,
And hearing loud and close behind
The o'ertaking steps of his pursuer.
Then suddenly, from the dark there came
A voice that called me by my name,
And said to me, 'Kneel down and pray!'
And so my terror passed away,
Passed utterly away forever.
Contrition, penitence, remorse,
Came on me, with o'erwhelming force;
A hope, a longing, an endeavor,
By days of penance and nights of prayer,
To frustrate and defeat despair!
Calm, deep, and still is now my heart.
With tranquil waters overflowed;
A lake whose unseen fountains start,
Where once the hot volcano glowed.
And you, O Prince of Hoheneck!
Have known me in that earlier time,
A man of violence and crime,
Whose passions brooked no curb nor check.
Behold me now, in gentler mood,
One of this holy brotherhood.
Give me your hand; here let me kneel;
Make your reproaches sharp as steel;
Spurn me, and smite me on each cheek;
No violence can harm the meek,
There is no wound Christ cannot heal!
Yes; lift your princely hand, and take
Revenge, if 't is revenge you seek,
Then pardon me, for Jesus' sake!

_Prince Henry._ Arise, Count Hugo! let there be
No farther strife nor enmity
Between us twain; we both have erred!
Too rash in act, too wroth in word,
From the beginning have we stood
In fierce, defiant attitude,
Each thoughtless of the other's right,
And each reliant on his might.
But now our souls are more subdued;
The hand of God, and not in vain,
Has touched us with the fire of pain.
Let us kneel down, and side by side
Pray, till our souls are purified,
And pardon will not be denied!

(_They kneel._)

* * * * *

THE REFECTORY.

* * * * *

_Gaudiolum of Monks at midnight. LUCIFER disguised
as a Friar._

_Friar Paul (sings)._ Ave! color vini clari,
Dulcis potus, non aman,
Tua nos inebriari
Digneris potentia!

_Friar Cuthbert._ Not so much noise, my worthy freres,
You'll disturb the Abbot at his prayers.

_Friar Paul (sings)._ O! quam placens in colore!
O! quam fragrans in odore!
O! quam sapidum in ore!
Dulce linguse vinculum!

_Friar Cuthbert._ I should think your tongue had
broken its chain!

_Friar Paul (sings)._ Felix venter quern intrabis!
Felix guttur quod rigabis!
Felix os quod tu lavabis!
Et beata labia!

_Friar Cuthbert._ Peace! I say, peace!
Will you never cease!
You will rouse up the Abbot, I tell you again!

_Friar John._ No danger! to-night he will let us alone,
As I happen to know he has guests of his own.

_Friar Cuthbert._ Who are they?

_Friar John._ A German Prince and his train,
Who arrived here just before the rain.
There is with him a damsel fair to see,
As slender and graceful as a reed!
When she alighted from her steed,
It seemed like a blossom blown from a tree.

_Friar Cuthbert._ None of your pale-faced girls for me!

(_Kisses the girl at his side_.)

_Friar John._ Come, old fellow, drink down to your peg!
do not drink any farther, I beg!

_Friar Paul (sings)._ In the days of gold,
The days of old,
Cross of wood
And bishop of gold!

_Friar Cuthbert (to the girl)._ What an infernal racket and din!
No need not blush so, that's no sin.
You look very holy in this disguise,
Though there's something wicked in your eyes!

_Friar Paul (continues.)_ Now we have changed
That law so good,
To cross of gold
And bishop of wood!

_Friar Cuthbert._ I like your sweet face under a hood.
Sister! how came you into this way?

_Girl._ It was you, Friar Cuthbert, who led me astray.
Have you forgotten that day in June,
When the church was so cool in the afternoon,
And I came in to confess my sins?
That is where my ruin begins.

_Friar John._ What is the name of yonder friar,
With an eye that glows like a coal of fire,
And such a black mass of tangled hair?

_Friar Paul._ He who is sitting there,
With a rollicking,
Devil may care,
Free and easy look and air,
As if he were used to such feasting and frollicking?

_Friar John._ The same.

_Friar Paul._ He's a stranger. You had better ask his name,
And where he is going, and whence he came.

_Friar John._ Hallo! Sir Friar!

_Friar Paul._ You must raise your voice a little higher,
He does not seem to hear what you say.
Now, try again! He is looking this way.

_Friar John._ Hallo! Sir Friar,
We wish to inquire
Whence you came, and where you are going,
And anything else that is worth the knowing.
So be so good as to open your head.

_Lucifer._ I am a Frenchman born and bred,
Going on a pilgrimage to Rome.
My home
Is the convent of St. Gildas de Rhuys,
Of which, very like, you never have heard.

_Monks._ Never a word!

_Lucifer._ You must know, then, it is in the diocese
Called the Diocese of Vannes,
In the province of Brittany.
From the gray rocks of Morbihan
It overlooks the angry sea;
The very seashore where,
In his great despair,
Abbot Abelard walked to and fro,
Filling the night with woe,
And wailing aloud to the merciless seas
The name of his sweet Heloise!
Whilst overhead
The convent windows gleamed as red
As the fiery eyes of the monks within,
Who with jovial din
Gave themselves up to all kinds of sin!
Ha! that is a convent! that is an abbey!
Over the doors,
None of your death-heads carved in wood,
None of your Saints looking pious and good,
None of your Patriarchs old and shabby!
But the heads and tusks of boars,
And the cells
Hung all round with the fells
of the fallow-deer,
And then what cheer!
What jolly, fat friars,
Sitting round the great, roaring fires,
Roaring louder than they,
With their strong wines,
And their concubines,
And never a bell,
With its swagger and swell,
Calling you up with a start of affright
In the dead of night,
To send you grumbling down dark stairs,
To mumble your prayers,
But the cheery crow
Of cocks in the yard below,
After daybreak, an hour or so,
And the barking of deep-mouthed hounds,
These are the sounds
That, instead of bells, salute the ear.
And then all day
Up and away
Through the forest, hunting the deer!
Ah, my friends! I'm afraid that here
You are a little too pious, a little too tame,
And the more is the shame,
It is the greatest folly
Not to be jolly;
That's what I think!
Come, drink, drink,
Drink, and die game!

_Monks,_ And your Abbot What's-his-name?

_Lucifer._ Abelard!

_Monks._ Did he drink hard?

_Lucifer._ O, no! Not he!
He was a dry old fellow,
Without juice enough to get thoroughly mellow.
There he stood,
Lowering at us in sullen mood,
As if he had come into Brittany
Just to reform our brotherhood!

(_A roar of laughter_.)

But you see
It never would do!
For some of us knew a thing or two,
In the Abbey of St. Gildas de Rhuys!
For instance, the great ado
With old Fulbert's niece,
The young and lovely Heloise!

_Friar John._ Stop there, if you please,
Till we drink to the fair Heloise.

_All (drinking and shouting)._ Heloise! Heloise!

(_The Chapel-bell tolls_.)

_Lucifer (starting)._ What is that bell for? Are you such asses
As to keep up the fashion of midnight masses?

_Friar Cuthbert._ It is only a poor, unfortunate brother,
Who is gifted with most miraculous powers
Of getting up at all sorts of hours,
And, by way of penance and Christian meekness,
Of creeping silently out of his cell
To take a pull at that hideous bell;
So that all the monks who are lying awake
May murmur some kind of prayer for his sake,
And adapted to his peculiar weakness!

_Friar John._ From frailty and fall--

_All._ Good Lord, deliver us all!

_Friar Cuthbert._ And before the bell for matins sounds,
He takes his lantern, and goes the rounds,
Flashing it into our sleepy eyes,
Merely to say it is time to arise.
But enough of that. Go on, if you please,
With your story about St. Gildas de Rhuys.

_Lucifer._ Well, it finally came to pass
That, half in fun and half in malice,
One Sunday at Mass
We put some poison into the chalice.
But, either by accident or design,
Peter Abelard kept away
From the chapel that day,
And a poor, young friar, who in his stead
Drank the sacramental wine,
Fell on the steps of the altar, dead!
But look! do you see at the window there
That face, with a look of grief and despair,
That ghastly face, as of one in pain?

_Monks._ Who? where?

_Lucifer._ As I spoke, it vanished away again.

_Friar Cuthbert._ It is that nefarious
Siebald the Refectorarius.
That fellow is always playing the scout,
Creeping and peeping and prowling about;
And then he regales
The Abbot with Scandalous tales.

_Lucifer_. A spy in the convent? One of the brothers
Telling scandalous tales of the others?
Out upon him, the lazy loon!
I would put a stop to that pretty soon,
In a way he should rue it.

_Monks_. How shall we do it?

_Lucifer_. Do you, brother Paul,
Creep under the window, close to the wall,
And open it suddenly when I call.
Then seize the villain by the hair,
And hold him there,
And punish him soundly, once for all.

_Friar Cuthbert_. As St. Dustan of old,
We are told,
Once caught the Devil by the nose!

_Lucifer_. Ha! ha! that story is very clever,
But has no foundation whatsoever.
Quick! for I see his face again
Glaring in at the window pane;
Now! now! and do not spare your blows.

(FRIAR PAUL _opens the window suddenly, and seizes_
SIEBALD. _They beat him._)

_Friar Siebald_. Help! help! are you going to slay me?

_Friar Paul_. That will teach you again to betray me!

_Friar Siebald_. Mercy! mercy!

_Friar Paul_ (_shouting and beating_). Rumpas bellorum lorum,
Vim confer amorum
Morum verorum, rorun.
Tu plena polorum!

_Lucifer_. Who stands in the doorway yonder,
Stretching out his trembling hand,
Just as Abelard used to stand,
The flash of his keen, black eyes
Forerunning the thunder?

_The Monks (in confusion)_. The Abbot! the
Abbot!

_Friar Cuthbert (to the girl)_. Put on your disguise!

_Friar Francis_. Hide the great flagon
From the eyes of the dragon!

_Friar Cuthbert_. Pull the brown hood over your face,
Lest you bring me into disgrace!

_Abbot_. What means this revel and carouse?
Is this a tavern and drinking-house?
Are you Christian monks, or heathen devils,
To pollute this convent with your revels?
Were Peter Damian still upon earth,
To be shocked by such ungodly mirth,
He would write your names, with pen of gall,
In his Book of Gomorrah, one and all!
Away, you drunkards! to your cells,
And pray till you hear the matin-bells;
You, Brother Francis, and you, Brother Paul!
And as a penance mark each prayer
With the scourge upon your shoulders bare;
Nothing atones for such a sin
But the blood that follows the discipline.
And you, Brother Cuthbert, come with me
Alone into the sacristy;
You, who should be a guide to your brothers,
And are ten times worse than all the others,
For you I've a draught that has long been brewing
You shall do a penance worth the doing!
Away to your prayers, then, one and all!
I wonder the very, convent wall
Does not crumble and crush you in its fall!

* * * * *

THE NEIGHBORING NUNNERY.

* * * * *

_The_ ABBESS IRMINGARD _sitting with_ ELSIE _in the
moonlight._

_Irmingard_ The night is silent, the wind is still,
The moon is looking from yonder hill
Down upon convent, and grove, and garden;
The clouds have passed away from her face,
Leaving behind them no sorrowful trace,
Only the tender and quiet grace
Of one, whose heart had been healed with pardon!

And such am I. My soul within
Was dark with passion and soiled with sin.
But now its wounds are healed again;
Gone are the anguish, the terror, and pain;
For across that desolate land of woe,
O'er whose burning sands I was forced to go,
A wind from heaven began to blow;
And all my being trembled and shook,
As the leaves of the tree, or the grass of the field,
And I was healed, as the sick are healed,
When fanned by the leaves of the Holy Book!

As thou sittest in the moonlight there,
Its glory flooding thy golden hair,
And the only darkness that which lies
In the haunted chambers of thine eyes,
I feel my soul drawn unto thee,
Strangely, and strongly, and more and more,
As to one I have known and loved before;
For every soul is akin to me
That dwells in the land of mystery!
I am the Lady Irmingard,
Born of a noble race and name!
Many a wandering Suabian bard,
Whose life was dreary, and bleak, and hard,
Has found through me the way to fame.
Brief and bright were those days, and the night
Which followed was full of a lurid light.
Love, that of every woman's heart
Will have the whole, and not a part,
That is to her, in Nature's plan,
More than ambition is to man,
Her light, her life, her very breath,
With no alternative but death,
Found me a maiden soft and young,
Just from the convent's cloistered school,
And seated on my lowly stool,
Attentive while the minstrels sung.

Gallant, graceful, gentle, tall,
Fairest, noblest, best of all,
Was Walter of the Vogelweid,
And, whatsoever may betide,
Still I think of him with pride!
His song was of the summer-time
The very birds sang in his rhyme;
The sunshine, the delicious air,
The fragrance of the flowers, were there,
And I grew restless as I heard,
Restless and buoyant as a bird,
Down soft, aerial currents sailing,
O'er blossomed orchards, and fields in bloom,
And through the momentary gloom
Of shadows o'er the landscape trailing,
Yielding and borne I knew not where,
But feeling resistance unavailing.

And thus, unnoticed and apart,
And more by accident than choice.
I listened to that single voice
Until the chambers of my heart
Were filled with it by night and day,
One night,--it was a night in May,--
Within the garden, unawares,
Under the blossoms in the gloom,
I heard it utter my own name
With protestations and wild prayers;
And it rang through me, and became
Like the archangel's trump of doom,
Which the soul hears, and must obey;
And mine arose as from a tomb.
My former life now seemed to me
Such as hereafter death may be,
When in the great Eternity
We shall awake and find it day.

It was a dream, and would not stay;
A dream, that in a single night
Faded and vanished out of sight.
My father's anger followed fast
This passion, as a freshening blast
Seeks out and fans the fire, whose rage
It may increase, but not assuage.
And he exclaimed: 'No wandering bard
Shall win thy hand, O Irmingard!
For which Prince Henry of Hoheneck
By messenger and letter sues.'

Gently, but firmly, I replied:
'Henry of Hoheneck I discard!
Never the hand of Irmingard
Shall lie in his as the hand of a bride!'
This said I, Walter, for thy sake:
This said I, for I could not choose.
After a pause, my father spake
In that cold and deliberate tone
Which turns the hearer into stone,
And seems itself the act to be
That follows with such dread certainty;
'This, or the cloister and the veil!'
No other words than these he said,
But they were like a funeral wail;
My life was ended, my heart was dead.

That night from the castle-gate went down,
With silent, slow, and stealthy pace,
Two shadows, mounted on shadowy steeds,
Taking the narrow path that leads
Into the forest dense and brown,
In the leafy darkness of the place,
One could not distinguish form nor face,
Only a bulk without a shape,
A darker shadow in the shade;
One scarce could say it moved or stayed,
Thus it was we made our escape!
A foaming brook, with many a bound,
Followed us like a playful hound;
Then leaped before us, and in the hollow
Paused, and waited for us to follow,
And seemed impatient, and afraid
That our tardy flight should be betrayed
By the sound our horses' hoof-beats made,
And when we reached the plain below,
He paused a moment and drew rein
To look back at the castle again;
And we saw the windows all aglow
With lights, that were passing to and fro;
Our hearts with terror ceased to beat;
The brook crept silent to our feet;
We knew what most we feared to know.
Then suddenly horns began to blow;
And we heard a shout, and a heavy tramp,
And our horses snorted in the damp
Night-air of the meadows green and wide,
And in a moment, side by side,
So close, they must have seemed but one,
The shadows across the moonlight run,
And another came, and swept behind,
Like the shadow of clouds before the wind!

How I remember that breathless flight
Across the moors, in the summer night!
How under our feet the long, white road
Backward like a river flowed,
Sweeping with it fences and hedges,
Whilst farther away, and overhead,
Paler than I, with fear and dread,
The moon fled with us, as we fled
Along the forest's jagged edges!

All this I can remember well;
But of what afterward befell
I nothing farther can recall
Than a blind, desperate, headlong fall;
The rest is a blank and darkness all.
When I awoke out of this swoon,
The sun was shining, not the moon,
Making a cross upon the wall
With the bars of my windows narrow and tall;
And I prayed to it, as I had been wont to pray,
From early childhood, day by day,
Each morning, as in bed I lay!
I was lying again in my own room!
And I thanked God, in my fever and pain,
That those shadows on the midnight plain
Were gone, and could not come again!
I struggled no longer with my doom!
This happened many years ago.
I left my father's home to come
Like Catherine to her martyrdom,
For blindly I esteemed it so.
And when I heard the convent door
Behind me close, to ope no more,
I felt it smite me like a blow,
Through all my limbs a shudder ran,
And on my bruised spirit fell
The dampness of my narrow cell
As night-air on a wounded man,
Giving intolerable pain.

But now a better life began,
I felt the agony decrease
By slow degrees, then wholly cease,
Ending in perfect rest and peace!
It was not apathy, nor dulness,
That weighed and pressed upon my brain,
But the same passion I had given
To earth before, now turned to heaven
With all its overflowing fulness.

Alas! the world is full of peril!
The path that runs through the fairest meads,
On the sunniest side of the valley, leads
Into a region bleak and sterile!
Alike in the high-born and the lowly,
The will is feeble, and passion strong.
We cannot sever right from wrong;
Some falsehood mingles with all truth;
Nor is it strange the heart of youth
Should waver and comprehend but slowly
The things that are holy and unholy!

But in this sacred and calm retreat,
We are all well and safely shielded
From winds that blow, and waves that beat,
From the cold, and rain, and blighting heat,
To which the strongest hearts have yielded.
Here we stand as the Virgins Seven,
For our celestial bridegroom yearning;
Our hearts are lamps forever burning,
With a steady and unwavering flame,
Pointing upward, forever the same,
Steadily upward toward the Heaven!

The moon is hidden behind a cloud;
A sudden darkness fills the room,
And thy deep eyes, amid the gloom,
Shine like jewels in a shroud.
On the leaves is a sound of falling rain;
A bird, awakened in its nest,
Gives a faint twitter of unrest,
Then smoothes its plumes and sleeps again.

No other sounds than these I hear;
The hour of midnight must be near.
Thou art o'erspent with the day's fatigue
Of riding many a dusty league;
Sink, then, gently to thy slumber;
Me so many cares encumber,
So many ghosts, and forms of fright,
Have started from their graves to-night,
They have driven sleep from mine eyes away:
I will go down to the chapel and pray.

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