The Odyssey: Book 4
They reached the low lying city of Lacedaemon them where they
drove straight to the of abode Menelaus [and found him in his own
house, feasting with his many clansmen in honour of the wedding of his
son, and also of his daughter, whom he was marrying to the son of that
valiant warrior Achilles. He had given his consent and promised her to
him while he was still at Troy, and now the gods were bringing the
marriage about; so he was sending her with chariots and horses to
the city of the Myrmidons over whom Achilles' son was reigning. For
his only son he had found a bride from Sparta, daughter of Alector.
This son, Megapenthes, was born to him of a bondwoman, for heaven
vouchsafed Helen no more children after she had borne Hermione, who
was fair as golden Venus herself.
So the neighbours and kinsmen of Menelaus were feasting and making
merry in his house. There was a bard also to sing to them and play his
lyre, while two tumblers went about performing in the midst of them
when the man struck up with his tune.]
Telemachus and the son of Nestor stayed their horses at the gate,
whereon Eteoneus servant to Menelaus came out, and as soon as he saw
them ran hurrying back into the house to tell his Master. He went
close up to him and said, "Menelaus, there are some strangers come
here, two men, who look like sons of Jove. What are we to do? Shall we
take their horses out, or tell them to find friends elsewhere as
they best can?"
Menelaus was very angry and said, "Eteoneus, son of Boethous, you
never used to be a fool, but now you talk like a simpleton. Take their
horses out, of course, and show the strangers in that they may have
supper; you and I have stayed often enough at other people's houses
before we got back here, where heaven grant that we may rest in
So Eteoneus bustled back and bade other servants come with him. They
took their sweating hands from under the yoke, made them fast to the
mangers, and gave them a feed of oats and barley mixed. Then they
leaned the chariot against the end wall of the courtyard, and led
the way into the house. Telemachus and Pisistratus were astonished
when they saw it, for its splendour was as that of the sun and moon;
then, when they had admired everything to their heart's content,
they went into the bath room and washed themselves.
When the servants had washed them and anointed them with oil, they
brought them woollen cloaks and shirts, and the two took their seats
by the side of Menelaus. A maidservant brought them water in a
beautiful golden ewer, and poured it into a silver basin for them to
wash their hands; and she drew a clean table beside them. An upper
servant brought them bread, and offered them many good things of
what there was in the house, while the carver fetched them plates of
all manner of meats and set cups of gold by their side.
Menelaus then greeted them saying, "Fall to, and welcome; when you
have done supper I shall ask who you are, for the lineage of such
men as you cannot have been lost. You must be descended from a line of
sceptre-bearing kings, for poor people do not have such sons as you
On this he handed them a piece of fat roast loin, which had been set
near him as being a prime part, and they laid their hands on the
good things that were before them; as soon as they had had enough to
eat and drink, Telemachus said to the son of Nestor, with his head
so close that no one might hear, "Look, Pisistratus, man after my
own heart, see the gleam of bronze and gold- of amber, ivory, and
silver. Everything is so splendid that it is like seeing the palace of
Olympian Jove. I am lost in admiration."
Menelaus overheard him and said, "No one, my sons, can hold his
own with Jove, for his house and everything about him is immortal; but
among mortal men- well, there may be another who has as much wealth as
I have, or there may not; but at all events I have travelled much
and have undergone much hardship, for it was nearly eight years before
I could get home with my fleet. I went to Cyprus, Phoenicia and the
Egyptians; I went also to the Ethiopians, the Sidonians, and the
Erembians, and to Libya where the lambs have horns as soon as they are
born, and the sheep lamb down three times a year. Every one in that
country, whether master or man, has plenty of cheese, meat, and good
milk, for the ewes yield all the year round. But while I was
travelling and getting great riches among these people, my brother was
secretly and shockingly murdered through the perfidy of his wicked
wife, so that I have no pleasure in being lord of all this wealth.
Whoever your parents may be they must have told you about all this,
and of my heavy loss in the ruin of a stately mansion fully and
magnificently furnished. Would that I had only a third of what I now
have so that I had stayed at home, and all those were living who
perished on the plain of Troy, far from Argos. I of grieve, as I sit
here in my house, for one and all of them. At times I cry aloud for
sorrow, but presently I leave off again, for crying is cold comfort
and one soon tires of it. Yet grieve for these as I may, I do so for
one man more than for them all. I cannot even think of him without
loathing both food and sleep, so miserable does he make me, for no one
of all the Achaeans worked so hard or risked so much as he did. He
took nothing by it, and has left a legacy of sorrow to myself, for
he has been gone a long time, and we know not whether he is alive or
dead. His old father, his long-suffering wife Penelope, and his son
Telemachus, whom he left behind him an infant in arms, are plunged
in grief on his account."
Thus spoke Menelaus, and the heart of Telemachus yearned as he
bethought him of his father. Tears fell from his eyes as he heard
him thus mentioned, so that he held his cloak before his face with
both hands. When Menelaus saw this he doubted whether to let him
choose his own time for speaking, or to ask him at once and find
what it was all about.
While he was thus in two minds Helen came down from her high vaulted
and perfumed room, looking as lovely as Diana herself. Adraste brought
her a seat, Alcippe a soft woollen rug while Phylo fetched her the
silver work-box which Alcandra wife of Polybus had given her.
Polybus lived in Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in the
whole world; he gave Menelaus two baths, both of pure silver, two
tripods, and ten talents of gold; besides all this, his wife gave
Helen some beautiful presents, to wit, a golden distaff, and a
silver work-box that ran on wheels, with a gold band round the top
of it. Phylo now placed this by her side, full of fine spun yarn,
and a distaff charged with violet coloured wool was laid upon the
top of it. Then Helen took her seat, put her feet upon the
footstool, and began to question her husband.
"Do we know, Menelaus," said she, "the names of these strangers
who have come to visit us? Shall I guess right or wrong?-but I
cannot help saying what I think. Never yet have I seen either man or
woman so like somebody else (indeed when I look at him I hardly know
what to think) as this young man is like Telemachus, whom Ulysses left
as a baby behind him, when you Achaeans went to Troy with battle in
your hearts, on account of my most shameless self."
"My dear wife," replied Menelaus, "I see the likeness just as you
do. His hands and feet are just like Ulysses'; so is his hair, with
the shape of his head and the expression of his eyes. Moreover, when I
was talking about Ulysses, and saying how much he had suffered on my
account, tears fell from his eyes, and he hid his face in his mantle."
Then Pisistratus said, "Menelaus, son of Atreus, you are right in
thinking that this young man is Telemachus, but he is very modest, and
is ashamed to come here and begin opening up discourse with one
whose conversation is so divinely interesting as your own. My
father, Nestor, sent me to escort him hither, for he wanted to know
whether you could give him any counsel or suggestion. A son has always
trouble at home when his father has gone away leaving him without
supporters; and this is how Telemachus is now placed, for his father
is absent, and there is no one among his own people to stand by him."
"Bless my heart," replied Menelaus, "then I am receiving a visit
from the son of a very dear friend, who suffered much hardship for
my sake. I had always hoped to entertain him with most marked
distinction when heaven had granted us a safe return from beyond the
seas. I should have founded a city for him in Argos, and built him a
house. I should have made him leave Ithaca with his goods, his son,
and all his people, and should have sacked for them some one of the
neighbouring cities that are subject to me. We should thus have seen
one another continually, and nothing but death could have
interrupted so close and happy an intercourse. I suppose, however,
that heaven grudged us such great good fortune, for it has prevented
the poor fellow from ever getting home at all."
Thus did he speak, and his words set them all a weeping. Helen wept,
Telemachus wept, and so did Menelaus, nor could Pisistratus keep his
eyes from filling, when he remembered his dear brother Antilochus whom
the son of bright Dawn had killed. Thereon he said to Menelaus,
"Sir, my father Nestor, when we used to talk about you at home, told
me you were a person of rare and excellent understanding. If, then, it
be possible, do as I would urge you. I am not fond of crying while I
am getting my supper. Morning will come in due course, and in the
forenoon I care not how much I cry for those that are dead and gone.
This is all we can do for the poor things. We can only shave our heads
for them and wring the tears from our cheeks. I had a brother who died
at Troy; he was by no means the worst man there; you are sure to
have known him- his name was Antilochus; I never set eyes upon him
myself, but they say that he was singularly fleet of foot and in fight
"Your discretion, my friend," answered Menelaus, "is beyond your
years. It is plain you take after your father. One can soon see when a
man is son to one whom heaven has blessed both as regards wife and
offspring- and it has blessed Nestor from first to last all his
days, giving him a green old age in his own house, with sons about him
who are both we disposed and valiant. We will put an end therefore
to all this weeping, and attend to our supper again. Let water be
poured over our hands. Telemachus and I can talk with one another
fully in the morning."
On this Asphalion, one of the servants, poured water over their
hands and they laid their hands on the good things that were before
Then Jove's daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She
drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and
ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear
all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of
them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces
before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue,
had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt,
where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the
mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole
country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon.
When Helen had put this drug in the bowl, and had told the servants to
serve the wine round, she said:
"Menelaus, son of Atreus, and you my good friends, sons of
honourable men (which is as Jove wills, for he is the giver both of
good and evil, and can do what he chooses), feast here as you will,
and listen while I tell you a tale in season. I cannot indeed name
every single one of the exploits of Ulysses, but I can say what he did
when he was before Troy, and you Achaeans were in all sorts of
difficulties. He covered himself with wounds and bruises, dressed
himself all in rags, and entered the enemy's city looking like a
menial or a beggar. and quite different from what he did when he was
among his own people. In this disguise he entered the city of Troy,
and no one said anything to him. I alone recognized him and began to
question him, but he was too cunning for me. When, however, I had
washed and anointed him and had given him clothes, and after I had
sworn a solemn oath not to betray him to the Trojans till he had got
safely back to his own camp and to the ships, he told me all that
the Achaeans meant to do. He killed many Trojans and got much
information before he reached the Argive camp, for all which things
the Trojan women made lamentation, but for my own part I was glad, for
my heart was beginning to oam after my home, and I was unhappy about
wrong that Venus had done me in taking me over there, away from my
country, my girl, and my lawful wedded husband, who is indeed by no
means deficient either in person or understanding."
Then Menelaus said, "All that you have been saying, my dear wife, is
true. I have travelled much, and have had much to do with heroes,
but I have never seen such another man as Ulysses. What endurance too,
and what courage he displayed within the wooden horse, wherein all the
bravest of the Argives were lying in wait to bring death and
destruction upon the Trojans. At that moment you came up to us; some
god who wished well to the Trojans must have set you on to it and
you had Deiphobus with you. Three times did you go all round our
hiding place and pat it; you called our chiefs each by his own name,
and mimicked all our wives -Diomed, Ulysses, and I from our seats
inside heard what a noise you made. Diomed and I could not make up our
minds whether to spring out then and there, or to answer you from
inside, but Ulysses held us all in check, so we sat quite still, all
except Anticlus, who was beginning to answer you, when Ulysses clapped
his two brawny hands over his mouth, and kept them there. It was
this that saved us all, for he muzzled Anticlus till Minerva took
you away again."
"How sad," exclaimed Telemachus, "that all this was of no avail to
save him, nor yet his own iron courage. But now, sir, be pleased to
send us all to bed, that we may lie down and enjoy the blessed boon of
On this Helen told the maid servants to set beds in the room that
was in the gatehouse, and to make them with good red rugs, and
spread coverlets on the top of them with woollen cloaks for the guests
to wear. So the maids went out, carrying a torch, and made the beds,
to which a man-servant presently conducted the strangers. Thus,
then, did Telemachus and Pisistratus sleep there in the forecourt,
while the son of Atreus lay in an inner room with lovely Helen by
When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, Menelaus
rose and dressed himself. He bound his sandals on to his comely
feet, girded his sword about his shoulders, and left his room
looking like an immortal god. Then, taking a seat near Telemachus he
"And what, Telemachus, has led you to take this long sea voyage to
Lacedaemon? Are you on public or private business? Tell me all about
"I have come, sir replied Telemachus, "to see if you can tell me
anything about my father. I am being eaten out of house and home; my
fair estate is being wasted, and my house is full of miscreants who
keep killing great numbers of my sheep and oxen, on the pretence of
paying their addresses to my mother. Therefore, I am suppliant at your
knees if haply you may tell me about my father's melancholy end,
whether you saw it with your own eyes, or heard it from some other
traveller; for he was a man born to trouble. Do not soften things
out of any pity for myself, but tell me in all plainness exactly
what you saw. If my brave father Ulysses ever did you loyal service
either by word or deed, when you Achaeans were harassed by the
Trojans, bear it in mind now as in my favour and tell me truly all."
Menelaus on hearing this was very much shocked. "So," he
exclaimed, "these cowards would usurp a brave man's bed? A hind
might as well lay her new born young in the lair of a lion, and then
go off to feed in the forest or in some grassy dell: the lion when
he comes back to his lair will make short work with the pair of
them- and so will Ulysses with these suitors. By father Jove, Minerva,
and Apollo, if Ulysses is still the man that he was when he wrestled
with Philomeleides in Lesbos, and threw him so heavily that all the
Achaeans cheered him- if he is still such and were to come near
these suitors, they would have a short shrift and a sorry wedding.
As regards your questions, however, I will not prevaricate nor deceive
you, but will tell you without concealment all that the old man of the
sea told me.
"I was trying to come on here, but the gods detained me in Egypt,
for my hecatombs had not given them full satisfaction, and the gods
are very strict about having their dues. Now off Egypt, about as far
as a ship can sail in a day with a good stiff breeze behind her, there
is an island called Pharos- it has a good harbour from which vessels
can get out into open sea when they have taken in water- and the
gods becalmed me twenty days without so much as a breath of fair
wind to help me forward. We should have run clean out of provisions
and my men would have starved, if a goddess had not taken pity upon me
and saved me in the person of Idothea, daughter to Proteus, the old
man of the sea, for she had taken a great fancy to me.
"She came to me one day when I was by myself, as I often was, for
the men used to go with their barbed hooks, all over the island in the
hope of catching a fish or two to save them from the pangs of
hunger. 'Stranger,' said she, 'it seems to me that you like starving
in this way- at any rate it does not greatly trouble you, for you
stick here day after day, without even trying to get away though
your men are dying by inches.'
"'Let me tell you,' said I, 'whichever of the goddesses you may
happen to be, that I am not staying here of my own accord, but must
have offended the gods that live in heaven. Tell me, therefore, for
the gods know everything. which of the immortals it is that is
hindering me in this way, and tell me also how I may sail the sea so
as to reach my home.'
"'Stranger,' replied she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you.
There is an old immortal who lives under the sea hereabouts and
whose name is Proteus. He is an Egyptian, and people say he is my
father; he is Neptune's head man and knows every inch of ground all
over the bottom of the sea. If you can snare him and hold him tight,
he will tell you about your voyage, what courses you are to take,
and how you are to sail the sea so as to reach your home. He will also
tell you, if you so will, all that has been going on at your house
both good and bad, while you have been away on your long and dangerous
"'Can you show me,' said I, 'some stratagem by means of which I
may catch this old god without his suspecting it and finding me out?
For a god is not easily caught- not by a mortal man.'
"'Stranger,' said she, 'I will make it all quite clear to you. About
the time when the sun shall have reached mid heaven, the old man of
the sea comes up from under the waves, heralded by the West wind
that furs the water over his head. As soon as he has come up he lies
down, and goes to sleep in a great sea cave, where the seals-
Halosydne's chickens as they call them- come up also from the grey
sea, and go to sleep in shoals all round him; and a very strong and
fish-like smell do they bring with them. Early to-morrow morning I
will take you to this place and will lay you in ambush. Pick out,
therefore, the three best men you have in your fleet, and I will
tell you all the tricks that the old man will play you.
"'First he will look over all his seals, and count them; then,
when he has seen them and tallied them on his five fingers, he will go
to sleep among them, as a shepherd among his sheep. The moment you see
that he is asleep seize him; put forth all your strength and hold
him fast, for he will do his very utmost to get away from you. He will
turn himself into every kind of creature that goes upon the earth, and
will become also both fire and water; but you must hold him fast and
grip him tighter and tighter, till he begins to talk to you and
comes back to what he was when you saw him go to sleep; then you may
slacken your hold and let him go; and you can ask him which of the
gods it is that is angry with you, and what you must do to reach
your home over the seas.'
"Having so said she dived under the waves, whereon I turned back
to the place where my ships were ranged upon the shore; and my heart
was clouded with care as I went along. When I reached my ship we got
supper ready, for night was falling, and camped down upon the beach.
"When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn, appeared, I took the
three men on whose prowess of all kinds I could most rely, and went
along by the sea-side, praying heartily to heaven. Meanwhile the
goddess fetched me up four seal skins from the bottom of the sea,
all of them just skinned, for she meant playing a trick upon her
father. Then she dug four pits for us to lie in, and sat down to
wait till we should come up. When we were close to her, she made us
lie down in the pits one after the other, and threw a seal skin over
each of us. Our ambuscade would have been intolerable, for the
stench of the fishy seals was most distressing- who would go to bed
with a sea monster if he could help it?-but here, too, the goddess
helped us, and thought of something that gave us great relief, for she
put some ambrosia under each man's nostrils, which was so fragrant
that it killed the smell of the seals.
"We waited the whole morning and made the best of it, watching the
seals come up in hundreds to bask upon the sea shore, till at noon the
old man of the sea came up too, and when he had found his fat seals he
went over them and counted them. We were among the first he counted,
and he never suspected any guile, but laid himself down to sleep as
soon as he had done counting. Then we rushed upon him with a shout and
seized him; on which he began at once with his old tricks, and changed
himself first into a lion with a great mane; then all of a sudden he
became a dragon, a leopard, a wild boar; the next moment he was
running water, and then again directly he was a tree, but we stuck
to him and never lost hold, till at last the cunning old creature
became distressed, and said, Which of the gods was it, Son of
Atreus, that hatched this plot with you for snaring me and seizing
me against my will? What do you want?'
"'You know that yourself, old man,' I answered, 'you will gain
nothing by trying to put me off. It is because I have been kept so
long in this island, and see no sign of my being able to get away. I
am losing all heart; tell me, then, for you gods know everything,
which of the immortals it is that is hindering me, and tell me also
how I may sail the sea so as to reach my home?'
"Then,' he said, 'if you would finish your voyage and get home
quickly, you must offer sacrifices to Jove and to the rest of the gods
before embarking; for it is decreed that you shall not get back to
your friends, and to your own house, till you have returned to the
heaven fed stream of Egypt, and offered holy hecatombs to the immortal
gods that reign in heaven. When you have done this they will let you
finish your voyage.'
"I was broken hearted when I heard that I must go back all that long
and terrible voyage to Egypt; nevertheless, I answered, 'I will do
all, old man, that you have laid upon me; but now tell me, and tell me
true, whether all the Achaeans whom Nestor and I left behind us when
we set sail from Troy have got home safely, or whether any one of them
came to a bad end either on board his own ship or among his friends
when the days of his fighting were done.'
"'Son of Atreus,' he answered, 'why ask me? You had better not
know what I can tell you, for your eyes will surely fill when you have
heard my story. Many of those about whom you ask are dead and gone,
but many still remain, and only two of the chief men among the
Achaeans perished during their return home. As for what happened on
the field of battle- you were there yourself. A third Achaean leader
is still at sea, alive, but hindered from returning. Ajax was wrecked,
for Neptune drove him on to the great rocks of Gyrae; nevertheless, he
let him get safe out of the water, and in spite of all Minerva's
hatred he would have escaped death, if he had not ruined himself by
boasting. He said the gods could not drown him even though they had
tried to do so, and when Neptune heard this large talk, he seized
his trident in his two brawny hands, and split the rock of Gyrae in
two pieces. The base remained where it was, but the part on which Ajax
was sitting fell headlong into the sea and carried Ajax with it; so he
drank salt water and was drowned.
"'Your brother and his ships escaped, for Juno protected him, but
when he was just about to reach the high promontory of Malea, he was
caught by a heavy gale which carried him out to sea again sorely
against his will, and drove him to the foreland where Thyestes used to
dwell, but where Aegisthus was then living. By and by, however, it
seemed as though he was to return safely after all, for the gods
backed the wind into its old quarter and they reached home; whereon
Agamemnon kissed his native soil, and shed tears of joy at finding
himself in his own country.
"'Now there was a watchman whom Aegisthus kept always on the
watch, and to whom he had promised two talents of gold. This man had
been looking out for a whole year to make sure that Agamemnon did
not give him the slip and prepare war; when, therefore, this man saw
Agamemnon go by, he went and told Aegisthus who at once began to lay a
plot for him. He picked twenty of his bravest warriors and placed them
in ambuscade on one side the cloister, while on the opposite side he
prepared a banquet. Then he sent his chariots and horsemen to
Agamemnon, and invited him to the feast, but he meant foul play. He
got him there, all unsuspicious of the doom that was awaiting him, and
killed him when the banquet was over as though he were butchering an
ox in the shambles; not one of Agamemnon's followers was left alive,
nor yet one of Aegisthus', but they were all killed there in the
"Thus spoke Proteus, and I was broken hearted as I heard him. I
sat down upon the sands and wept; I felt as though I could no longer
bear to live nor look upon the light of the sun. Presently, when I had
had my fill of weeping and writhing upon the ground, the old man of
the sea said, 'Son of Atreus, do not waste any more time in crying
so bitterly; it can do no manner of good; find your way home as fast
as ever you can, for Aegisthus be still alive, and even though Orestes
has beforehand with you in kilting him, you may yet come in for his
"On this I took comfort in spite of all my sorrow, and said, 'I
know, then, about these two; tell me, therefore, about the third man
of whom you spoke; is he still alive, but at sea, and unable to get
home? or is he dead? Tell me, no matter how much it may grieve me.'
"'The third man,' he answered, 'is Ulysses who dwells in Ithaca. I
can see him in an island sorrowing bitterly in the house of the
nymph Calypso, who is keeping him prisoner, and he cannot reach his
home for he has no ships nor sailors to take him over the sea. As
for your own end, Menelaus, you shall not die in Argos, but the gods
will take you to the Elysian plain, which is at the ends of the world.
There fair-haired Rhadamanthus reigns, and men lead an easier life
than any where else in the world, for in Elysium there falls not rain,
nor hail, nor snow, but Oceanus breathes ever with a West wind that
sings softly from the sea, and gives fresh life to all men. This
will happen to you because you have married Helen, and are Jove's
"As he spoke he dived under the waves, whereon I turned back to
the ships with my companions, and my heart was clouded with care as
I went along. When we reached the ships we got supper ready, for night
was falling, and camped down upon the beach. When the child of
morning, rosy-fingered Dawn appeared, we drew our ships into the
water, and put our masts and sails within them; then we went on
board ourselves, took our seats on the benches, and smote the grey sea
with our oars. I again stationed my ships in the heaven-fed stream
of Egypt, and offered hecatombs that were full and sufficient. When
I had thus appeased heaven's anger, I raised a barrow to the memory of
Agamemnon that his name might live for ever, after which I had a quick
passage home, for the gods sent me a fair wind.
"And now for yourself- stay here some ten or twelve days longer, and
I will then speed you on your way. I will make you a noble present
of a chariot and three horses. I will also give you a beautiful
chalice that so long as you live you may think of me whenever you make
a drink-offering to the immortal gods."
"Son of Atreus," replied Telemachus, "do not press me to stay
longer; I should be contented to remain with you for another twelve
months; I find your conversation so delightful that I should never
once wish myself at home with my parents; but my crew whom I have left
at Pylos are already impatient, and you are detaining me from them. As
for any present you may be disposed to make me, I had rather that it
should he a piece of plate. I will take no horses back with me to
Ithaca, but will leave them to adorn your own stables, for you have
much flat ground in your kingdom where lotus thrives, as also
meadowsweet and wheat and barley, and oats with their white and
spreading ears; whereas in Ithaca we have neither open fields nor
racecourses, and the country is more fit for goats than horses, and
I like it the better for that. None of our islands have much level
ground, suitable for horses, and Ithaca least of all."
Menelaus smiled and took Telemachus's hand within his own. "What you
say," said he, "shows that you come of good family. I both can, and
will, make this exchange for you, by giving you the finest and most
precious piece of plate in all my house. It is a mixing-bowl by
Vulcan's own hand, of pure silver, except the rim, which is inlaid
with gold. Phaedimus, king of the Sidonians, gave it me in the
course of a visit which I paid him when I returned thither on my
homeward journey. I will make you a present of it."
Thus did they converse [and guests kept coming to the king's
house. They brought sheep and wine, while their wives had put up bread
for them to take with them; so they were busy cooking their dinners in
Meanwhile the suitors were throwing discs or aiming with spears at a
mark on the levelled ground in front of Ulysses' house, and were
behaving with all their old insolence. Antinous and Eurymachus, who
were their ringleaders and much the foremost among them all, were
sitting together when Noemon son of Phronius came up and said to
"Have we any idea, Antinous, on what day Telemachus returns from
Pylos? He has a ship of mine, and I want it, to cross over to Elis:
I have twelve brood mares there with yearling mule foals by their side
not yet broken in, and I want to bring one of them over here and break
They were astounded when they heard this, for they had made sure
that Telemachus had not gone to the city of Neleus. They thought he
was only away somewhere on the farms, and was with the sheep, or
with the swineherd; so Antinous said, "When did he go? Tell me
truly, and what young men did he take with him? Were they freemen or
his own bondsmen- for he might manage that too? Tell me also, did
you let him have the ship of your own free will because he asked
you, or did he take it without yourleave?"
"I lent it him," answered Noemon, "what else could I do when a man
of his position said he was in a difficulty, and asked me to oblige
him? I could not possibly refuse. As for those who went with him
they were the best young men we have, and I saw Mentor go on board
as captain- or some god who was exactly like him. I cannot
understand it, for I saw Mentor here myself yesterday morning, and yet
he was then setting out for Pylos."
Noemon then went back to his father's house, but Antinous and
Eurymachus were very angry. They told the others to leave off playing,
and to come and sit down along with themselves. When they came,
Antinous son of Eupeithes spoke in anger. His heart was black with
rage, and his eyes flashed fire as he said:
"Good heavens, this voyage of Telemachus is a very serious matter;
we had made sure that it would come to nothing, but the young fellow
has got away in spite of us, and with a picked crew too. He will be
giving us trouble presently; may Jove take him before he is full
grown. Find me a ship, therefore, with a crew of twenty men, and I
will lie in wait for him in the straits between Ithaca and Samos; he
will then rue the day that he set out to try and get news of his
Thus did he speak, and the others applauded his saying; they then
all of them went inside the buildings.
It was not long ere Penelope came to know what the suitors were
plotting; for a man servant, Medon, overheard them from outside the
outer court as they were laying their schemes within, and went to tell
his mistress. As he crossed the threshold of her room Penelope said:
"Medon, what have the suitors sent you here for? Is it to tell the
maids to leave their master's business and cook dinner for them? I
wish they may neither woo nor dine henceforward, neither here nor
anywhere else, but let this be the very last time, for the waste you
all make of my son's estate. Did not your fathers tell you when you
were children how good Ulysses had been to them- never doing
anything high-handed, nor speaking harshly to anybody? Kings may say
things sometimes, and they may take a fancy to one man and dislike
another, but Ulysses never did an unjust thing by anybody- which shows
what bad hearts you have, and that there is no such thing as gratitude
left in this world."
Then Medon said, "I wish, Madam, that this were all; but they are
plotting something much more dreadful now- may heaven frustrate
their design. They are going to try and murder Telemachus as he is
coming home from Pylos and Lacedaemon, where he has been to get news
of his father."
Then Penelope's heart sank within her, and for a long time she was
speechless; her eyes filled with tears, and she could find no
utterance. At last, however, she said, "Why did my son leave me?
What business had he to go sailing off in ships that make long voyages
over the ocean like sea-horses? Does he want to die without leaving
any one behind him to keep up his name?"
"I do not know," answered Medon, "whether some god set him on to it,
or whether he went on his own impulse to see if he could find out if
his father was dead, or alive and on his way home."
Then he went downstairs again, leaving Penelope in an agony of
grief. There were plenty of seats in the house, but she. had no
heart for sitting on any one of them; she could only fling herself
on the floor of her own room and cry; whereon all the maids in the
house, both old and young, gathered round her and began to cry too,
till at last in a transport of sorrow she exclaimed,
"My dears, heaven has been pleased to try me with more affliction
than any other woman of my age and country. First I lost my brave
and lion-hearted husband, who had every good quality under heaven, and
whose name was great over all Hellas and middle Argos, and now my
darling son is at the mercy of the winds and waves, without my
having heard one word about his leaving home. You hussies, there was
not one of you would so much as think of giving me a call out of my
bed, though you all of you very well knew when he was starting. If I
had known he meant taking this voyage, he would have had to give it
up, no matter how much he was bent upon it, or leave me a corpse
behind him- one or other. Now, however, go some of you and call old
Dolius, who was given me by my father on my marriage, and who is my
gardener. Bid him go at once and tell everything to Laertes, who may
be able to hit on some plan for enlisting public sympathy on our side,
as against those who are trying to exterminate his own race and that
Then the dear old nurse Euryclea said, "You may kill me, Madam, or
let me live on in your house, whichever you please, but I will tell
you the real truth. I knew all about it, and gave him everything he
wanted in the way of bread and wine, but he made me take my solemn
oath that I would not tell you anything for some ten or twelve days,
unless you asked or happened to hear of his having gone, for he did
not want you to spoil your beauty by crying. And now, Madam, wash your
face, change your dress, and go upstairs with your maids to offer
prayers to Minerva, daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove, for she can save
him even though he be in the jaws of death. Do not trouble Laertes: he
has trouble enough already. Besides, I cannot think that the gods hate
die race of the race of the son of Arceisius so much, but there will
be a son left to come up after him, and inherit both the house and the
fair fields that lie far all round it."
With these words she made her mistress leave off crying, and dried
the tears from her eyes. Penelope washed her face, changed her
dress, and went upstairs with her maids. She then put some bruised
barley into a basket and began praying to Minerva.
"Hear me," she cried, "Daughter of Aegis-bearing Jove,
unweariable. If ever Ulysses while he was here burned you fat thigh
bones of sheep or heifer, bear it in mind now as in my favour, and
save my darling son from the villainy of the suitors."
She cried aloud as she spoke, and the goddess heard her prayer;
meanwhile the suitors were clamorous throughout the covered
cloister, and one of them said:
"The queen is preparing for her marriage with one or other of us.
Little does she dream that her son has now been doomed to die."
This was what they said, but they did not know what was going to
happen. Then Antinous said, "Comrades, let there be no loud talking,
lest some of it get carried inside. Let us be up and do that in
silence, about which we are all of a mind."
He then chose twenty men, and they went down to their. ship and to
the sea side; they drew the vessel into the water and got her mast and
sails inside her; they bound the oars to the thole-pins with twisted
thongs of leather, all in due course, and spread the white sails
aloft, while their fine servants brought them their armour. Then
they made the ship fast a little way out, came on shore again, got
their suppers, and waited till night should fall.
But Penelope lay in her own room upstairs unable to eat or drink,
and wondering whether her brave son would escape, or be overpowered by
the wicked suitors. Like a lioness caught in the toils with huntsmen
hemming her in on every side she thought and thought till she sank
into a slumber, and lay on her bed bereft of thought and motion.
Then Minerva bethought her of another matter, and made a vision in
the likeness of Penelope's sister Iphthime daughter of Icarius who had
married Eumelus and lived in Pherae. She told the vision to go to
the house of Ulysses, and to make Penelope leave off crying, so it
came into her room by the hole through which the thong went for
pulling the door to, and hovered over her head, saying,
"You are asleep, Penelope: the gods who live at ease will not suffer
you to weep and be so sad. Your son has done them no wrong, so he will
yet come back to you."
Penelope, who was sleeping sweetly at the gates of dreamland,
answered, "Sister, why have you come here? You do not come very often,
but I suppose that is because you live such a long way off. Am I,
then, to leave off crying and refrain from all the sad thoughts that
torture me? I, who have lost my brave and lion-hearted husband, who
had every good quality under heaven, and whose name was great over all
Hellas and middle Argos; and now my darling son has gone off on
board of a ship- a foolish fellow who has never been used to
roughing it, nor to going about among gatherings of men. I am even
more anxious about him than about my husband; I am all in a tremble
when I think of him, lest something should happen to him, either
from the people among whom he has gone, or by sea, for he has many
enemies who are plotting against him, and are bent on killing him
before he can return home."
Then the vision said, "Take heart, and be not so much dismayed.
There is one gone with him whom many a man would be glad enough to
have stand by his side, I mean Minerva; it is she who has compassion
upon you, and who has sent me to bear you this message."
"Then," said Penelope, "if you are a god or have been sent here by
divine commission, tell me also about that other unhappy one- is he
still alive, or is he already dead and in the house of Hades?"
And the vision said, "I shall not tell you for certain whether he is
alive or dead, and there is no use in idle conversation."
Then it vanished through the thong-hole of the door and was
dissipated into thin air; but Penelope rose from her sleep refreshed
and comforted, so vivid had been her dream.
Meantime the suitors went on board and sailed their ways over the
sea, intent on murdering Telemachus. Now there is a rocky islet called
Asteris, of no great size, in mid channel between Ithaca and Samos,
and there is a harbour on either side of it where a ship can lie. Here
then the Achaeans placed themselves in ambush.
- quotes about Minerva
- quotes about sheep
- quotes about home
- quotes about sadness
- quotes about travel
- quotes about wedding
- quotes about promises
- quotes about islands
- quotes about elders
A Son Was Born To A Poor Peasant
A son was born to a poor peasant.
A foul old woman stepped inside
The hut, with trembling bony fingers
Clawing her tangled locks aside.
And when the midwife wasn't looking,
Across towards that babe she reached.
And with her gnarled, misshapen fingers
His cheek she very lightly touched.
Mumbling weird words and slowly tapping
Her crooked stick, she went away.
Nobody knew what charm she'd woven,
And so the years went duly by -
The secret spell came to fulfilment:
In life, much sorrow came to him
But happiness, and joy, and true love
Fled the dark sign upon the skin.
- quotes about midwives
- quotes about happiness
- quotes about poverty
- quotes about birth
- quotes about beauty
- quotes about women
- quotes about time
- quotes about words
And Drove Straight On
The sign on the roadside said,
detour here to find love.
Beside it was an advertisement
for the latest Frankenstein film.
The romantic mood of Dr Frank
just around the corner.
I ignored the detour
and drove straight on.
The Odyssey: Book 13
Thus did he speak, and they all held their peace throughout the
covered cloister, enthralled by the charm of his story, till presently
Alcinous began to speak.
"Ulysses," said he, "now that you have reached my house I doubt
not you will get home without further misadventure no matter how
much you have suffered in the past. To you others, however, who come
here night after night to drink my choicest wine and listen to my
bard, I would insist as follows. Our guest has already packed up the
clothes, wrought gold, and other valuables which you have brought
for his acceptance; let us now, therefore, present him further, each
one of us, with a large tripod and a cauldron. We will recoup
ourselves by the levy of a general rate; for private individuals
cannot be expected to bear the burden of such a handsome present."
Every one approved of this, and then they went home to bed each in
his own abode. When the child of morning, rosy-fingered Dawn,
appeared, they hurried down to the ship and brought their cauldrons
with them. Alcinous went on board and saw everything so securely
stowed under the ship's benches that nothing could break adrift and
injure the rowers. Then they went to the house of Alcinous to get
dinner, and he sacrificed a bull for them in honour of Jove who is the
lord of all. They set the steaks to grill and made an excellent
dinner, after which the inspired bard, Demodocus, who was a
favourite with every one, sang to them; but Ulysses kept on turning
his eyes towards the sun, as though to hasten his setting, for he
was longing to be on his way. As one who has been all day ploughing
a fallow field with a couple of oxen keeps thinking about his supper
and is glad when night comes that he may go and get it, for it is
all his legs can do to carry him, even so did Ulysses rejoice when the
sun went down, and he at once said to the Phaecians, addressing
himself more particularly to King Alcinous:
"Sir, and all of you, farewell. Make your drink-offerings and send
me on my way rejoicing, for you have fulfilled my heart's desire by
giving me an escort, and making me presents, which heaven grant that I
may turn to good account; may I find my admirable wife living in peace
among friends, and may you whom I leave behind me give satisfaction to
your wives and children; may heaven vouchsafe you every good grace,
and may no evil thing come among your people."
Thus did he speak. His hearers all of them approved his saying and
agreed that he should have his escort inasmuch as he had spoken
reasonably. Alcinous therefore said to his servant, "Pontonous, mix
some wine and hand it round to everybody, that we may offer a prayer
to father Jove, and speed our guest upon his way."
Pontonous mixed the wine and handed it to every one in turn; the
others each from his own seat made a drink-offering to the blessed
gods that live in heaven, but Ulysses rose and placed the double cup
in the hands of queen Arete.
"Farewell, queen," said he, "henceforward and for ever, till age and
death, the common lot of mankind, lay their hands upon you. I now take
my leave; be happy in this house with your children, your people,
and with king Alcinous."
As he spoke he crossed the threshold, and Alcinous sent a man to
conduct him to his ship and to the sea shore. Arete also sent some
maid servants with him- one with a clean shirt and cloak, another to
carry his strong-box, and a third with corn and wine. When they got to
the water side the crew took these things and put them on board,
with all the meat and drink; but for Ulysses they spread a rug and a
linen sheet on deck that he might sleep soundly in the stern of the
ship. Then he too went on board and lay down without a word, but the
crew took every man his place and loosed the hawser from the pierced
stone to which it had been bound. Thereon, when they began rowing
out to sea, Ulysses fell into a deep, sweet, and almost deathlike
The ship bounded forward on her way as a four in hand chariot
flies over the course when the horses feel the whip. Her prow curveted
as it were the neck of a stallion, and a great wave of dark blue water
seethed in her wake. She held steadily on her course, and even a
falcon, swiftest of all birds, could not have kept pace with her.
Thus, then, she cut her way through the water. carrying one who was as
cunning as the gods, but who was now sleeping peacefully, forgetful of
all that he had suffered both on the field of battle and by the
waves of the weary sea.
When the bright star that heralds the approach of dawn began to
show. the ship drew near to land. Now there is in Ithaca a haven of
the old merman Phorcys, which lies between two points that break the
line of the sea and shut the harbour in. These shelter it from the
storms of wind and sea that rage outside, so that, when once within
it, a ship may lie without being even moored. At the head of this
harbour there is a large olive tree, and at no distance a fine
overarching cavern sacred to the nymphs who are called Naiads. There
are mixing-bowls within it and wine-jars of stone, and the bees hive
there. Moreover, there are great looms of stone on which the nymphs
weave their robes of sea purple- very curious to see- and at all times
there is water within it. It has two entrances, one facing North by
which mortals can go down into the cave, while the other comes from
the South and is more mysterious; mortals cannot possibly get in by
it, it is the way taken by the gods.
Into this harbour, then, they took their ship, for they knew the
place, She had so much way upon her that she ran half her own length
on to the shore; when, however, they had landed, the first thing
they did was to lift Ulysses with his rug and linen sheet out of the
ship, and lay him down upon the sand still fast asleep. Then they took
out the presents which Minerva had persuaded the Phaeacians to give
him when he was setting out on his voyage homewards. They put these
all together by the root of the olive tree, away from the road, for
fear some passer by might come and steal them before Ulysses awoke;
and then they made the best of their way home again.
But Neptune did not forget the threats with which he had already
threatened Ulysses, so he took counsel with Jove. "Father Jove,"
said he, "I shall no longer be held in any sort of respect among you
gods, if mortals like the Phaeacians, who are my own flesh and
blood, show such small regard for me. I said I would Ulysses get
home when he had suffered sufficiently. I did not say that he should
never get home at all, for I knew you had already nodded your head
about it, and promised that he should do so; but now they have brought
him in a ship fast asleep and have landed him in Ithaca after
loading him with more magnificent presents of bronze, gold, and
raiment than he would ever have brought back from Troy, if he had
had his share of the spoil and got home without misadventure."
And Jove answered, "What, O Lord of the Earthquake, are you
talking about? The gods are by no means wanting in respect for you. It
would be monstrous were they to insult one so old and honoured as
you are. As regards mortals, however, if any of them is indulging in
insolence and treating you disrespectfully, it will always rest with
yourself to deal with him as you may think proper, so do just as you
"I should have done so at once," replied Neptune, "if I were not
anxious to avoid anything that might displease you; now, therefore,
I should like to wreck the Phaecian ship as it is returning from its
escort. This will stop them from escorting people in future; and I
should also like to bury their city under a huge mountain."
"My good friend," answered Jove, "I should recommend you at the very
moment when the people from the city are watching the ship on her way,
to turn it into a rock near the land and looking like a ship. This
will astonish everybody, and you can then bury their city under the
When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went to Scheria where
the Phaecians live, and stayed there till the ship, which was making
rapid way, had got close-in. Then he went up to it, turned it into
stone, and drove it down with the flat of his hand so as to root it in
the ground. After this he went away.
The Phaeacians then began talking among themselves, and one would
turn towards his neighbour, saying, "Bless my heart, who is it that
can have rooted the ship in the sea just as she was getting into port?
We could see the whole of her only moment ago."
This was how they talked, but they knew nothing about it; and
Alcinous said, "I remember now the old prophecy of my father. He
said that Neptune would be angry with us for taking every one so
safely over the sea, and would one day wreck a Phaeacian ship as it
was returning from an escort, and bury our city under a high mountain.
This was what my old father used to say, and now it is all coming
true. Now therefore let us all do as I say; in the first place we must
leave off giving people escorts when they come here, and in the next
let us sacrifice twelve picked bulls to Neptune that he may have mercy
upon us, and not bury our city under the high mountain." When the
people heard this they were afraid and got ready the bulls.
Thus did the chiefs and rulers of the Phaecians to king Neptune,
standing round his altar; and at the same time Ulysses woke up once
more upon his own soil. He had been so long away that he did not
know it again; moreover, Jove's daughter Minerva had made it a foggy
day, so that people might not know of his having come, and that she
might tell him everything without either his wife or his fellow
citizens and friends recognizing him until he had taken his revenge
upon the wicked suitors. Everything, therefore, seemed quite different
to him- the long straight tracks, the harbours, the precipices, and
the goodly trees, appeared all changed as he started up and looked
upon his native land. So he smote his thighs with the flat of his
hands and cried aloud despairingly.
"Alas," he exclaimed, "among what manner of people am I fallen?
Are they savage and uncivilized or hospitable and humane? Where
shall I put all this treasure, and which way shall I go? I wish I
had stayed over there with the Phaeacians; or I could have gone to
some other great chief who would have been good to me and given me
an escort. As it is I do not know where to put my treasure, and I
cannot leave it here for fear somebody else should get hold of it.
In good truth the chiefs and rulers of the Phaeacians have not been
dealing fairly by me, and have left me in the wrong country; they said
they would take me back to Ithaca and they have not done so: may
Jove the protector of suppliants chastise them, for he watches over
everybody and punishes those who do wrong. Still, I suppose I must
count my goods and see if the crew have gone off with any of them."
He counted his goodly coppers and cauldrons, his gold and all his
clothes, but there was nothing missing; still he kept grieving about
not being in his own country, and wandered up and down by the shore of
the sounding sea bewailing his hard fate. Then Minerva came up to
him disguised as a young shepherd of delicate and princely mien,
with a good cloak folded double about her shoulders; she had sandals
on her comely feet and held a javelin in her hand. Ulysses was glad
when he saw her, and went straight up to her.
"My friend," said he, "you are the first person whom I have met with
in this country; I salute you, therefore, and beg you to be will
disposed towards me. Protect these my goods, and myself too, for I
embrace your knees and pray to you as though you were a god. Tell
me, then, and tell me truly, what land and country is this? Who are
its inhabitants? Am I on an island, or is this the sea board of some
Minerva answered, "Stranger, you must be very simple, or must have
come from somewhere a long way off, not to know what country this
is. It is a very celebrated place, and everybody knows it East and
West. It is rugged and not a good driving country, but it is by no
means a bid island for what there is of it. It grows any quantity of
corn and also wine, for it is watered both by rain and dew; it
breeds cattle also and goats; all kinds of timber grow here, and there
are watering places where the water never runs dry; so, sir, the
name of Ithaca is known even as far as Troy, which I understand to
be a long way off from this Achaean country."
Ulysses was glad at finding himself, as Minerva told him, in his own
country, and he began to answer, but he did not speak the truth, and
made up a lying story in the instinctive wiliness of his heart.
"I heard of Ithaca," said he, "when I was in Crete beyond the
seas, and now it seems I have reached it with all these treasures. I
have left as much more behind me for my children, but am flying
because I killed Orsilochus son of Idomeneus, the fleetest runner in
Crete. I killed him because he wanted to rob me of the spoils I had
got from Troy with so much trouble and danger both on the field of
battle and by the waves of the weary sea; he said I had not served his
father loyally at Troy as vassal, but had set myself up as an
independent ruler, so I lay in wait for him and with one of my
followers by the road side, and speared him as he was coming into town
from the country. my It was a very dark night and nobody saw us; it
was not known, therefore, that I had killed him, but as soon as I
had done so I went to a ship and besought the owners, who were
Phoenicians, to take me on board and set me in Pylos or in Elis
where the Epeans rule, giving them as much spoil as satisfied them.
They meant no guile, but the wind drove them off their course, and
we sailed on till we came hither by night. It was all we could do to
get inside the harbour, and none of us said a word about supper though
we wanted it badly, but we all went on shore and lay down just as we
were. I was very tired and fell asleep directly, so they took my goods
out of the ship, and placed them beside me where I was lying upon
the sand. Then they sailed away to Sidonia, and I was left here in
great distress of mind."
Such was his story, but Minerva smiled and caressed him with her
hand. Then she took the form of a woman, fair, stately, and wise,
"He must be indeed a shifty lying fellow," said she, "who could
surpass you in all manner of craft even though you had a god for
your antagonist. Dare-devil that you are, full of guile, unwearying in
deceit, can you not drop your tricks and your instinctive falsehood,
even now that you are in your own country again? We will say no
more, however, about this, for we can both of us deceive upon
occasion- you are the most accomplished counsellor and orator among
all mankind, while I for diplomacy and subtlety have no equal among
the gods. Did you not know Jove's daughter Minerva- me, who have
been ever with you, who kept watch over you in all your troubles,
and who made the Phaeacians take so great a liking to you? And now,
again, I am come here to talk things over with you, and help you to
hide the treasure I made the Phaeacians give you; I want to tell you
about the troubles that await you in your own house; you have got to
face them, but tell no one, neither man nor woman, that you have
come home again. Bear everything, and put up with every man's
insolence, without a word."
And Ulysses answered, "A man, goddess, may know a great deal, but
you are so constantly changing your appearance that when he meets
you it is a hard matter for him to know whether it is you or not. This
much, however, I know exceedingly well; you were very kind to me as
long as we Achaeans were fighting before Troy, but from the day on
which we went on board ship after having sacked the city of Priam, and
heaven dispersed us- from that day, Minerva, I saw no more of you, and
cannot ever remember your coming to my ship to help me in a
difficulty; I had to wander on sick and sorry till the gods
delivered me from evil and I reached the city of the Phaeacians, where
you encouraged me and took me into the town. And now, I beseech you in
your father's name, tell me the truth, for I do not believe I am
really back in Ithaca. I am in some other country and you are
mocking me and deceiving me in all you have been saying. Tell me
then truly, have I really got back to my own country?"
"You are always taking something of that sort into your head,"
replied Minerva, "and that is why I cannot desert you in your
afflictions; you are so plausible, shrewd and shifty. Any one but
yourself on returning from so long a voyage would at once have gone
home to see his wife and children, but you do not seem to care about
asking after them or hearing any news about them till you have
exploited your wife, who remains at home vainly grieving for you,
and having no peace night or day for the tears she sheds on your
behalf. As for my not coming near you, I was never uneasy about you,
for I was certain you would get back safely though you would lose
all your men, and I did not wish to quarrel with my uncle Neptune, who
never forgave you for having blinded his son. I will now, however,
point out to you the lie of the land, and you will then perhaps
believe me. This is the haven of the old merman Phorcys, and here is
the olive tree that grows at the head of it; [near it is the cave
sacred to the Naiads;] here too is the overarching cavern in which you
have offered many an acceptable hecatomb to the nymphs, and this is
the wooded mountain Neritum."
As she spoke the goddess dispersed the mist and the land appeared.
Then Ulysses rejoiced at finding himself again in his own land, and
kissed the bounteous soil; he lifted up his hands and prayed to the
nymphs, saying, "Naiad nymphs, daughters of Jove, I made sure that I
was never again to see you, now therefore I greet you with all
loving salutations, and I will bring you offerings as in the old days,
if Jove's redoubtable daughter will grant me life, and bring my son to
"Take heart, and do not trouble yourself about that," rejoined
Minerva, "let us rather set about stowing your things at once in the
cave, where they will be quite safe. Let us see how we can best manage
Therewith she went down into the cave to look for the safest
hiding places, while Ulysses brought up all the treasure of gold,
bronze, and good clothing which the Phaecians had given him. They
stowed everything carefully away, and Minerva set a stone against
the door of the cave. Then the two sat down by the root of the great
olive, and consulted how to compass the destruction of the wicked
"Ulysses," said Minerva, "noble son of Laertes, think how you can
lay hands on these disreputable people who have been lording it in
your house these three years, courting your wife and making wedding
presents to her, while she does nothing but lament your absence,
giving hope and sending your encouraging messages to every one of
them, but meaning the very opposite of all she says'
And Ulysses answered, "In good truth, goddess, it seems I should
have come to much the same bad end in my own house as Agamemnon did,
if you had not given me such timely information. Advise me how I shall
best avenge myself. Stand by my side and put your courage into my
heart as on the day when we loosed Troy's fair diadem from her brow.
Help me now as you did then, and I will fight three hundred men, if
you, goddess, will be with me."
"Trust me for that," said she, "I will not lose sight of you when
once we set about it, and I would imagine that some of those who are
devouring your substance will then bespatter the pavement with their
blood and brains. I will begin by disguising you so that no human
being shall know you; I will cover your body with wrinkles; you
shall lose all your yellow hair; I will clothe you in a garment that
shall fill all who see it with loathing; I will blear your fine eyes
for you, and make you an unseemly object in the sight of the
suitors, of your wife, and of the son whom you left behind you. Then
go at once to the swineherd who is in charge of your pigs; he has been
always well affected towards you, and is devoted to Penelope and
your son; you will find him feeding his pigs near the rock that is
called Raven by the fountain Arethusa, where they are fattening on
beechmast and spring water after their manner. Stay with him and
find out how things are going, while I proceed to Sparta and see
your son, who is with Menelaus at Lacedaemon, where he has gone to try
and find out whether you are still alive."
"But why," said Ulysses, "did you not tell him, for you knew all
about it? Did you want him too to go sailing about amid all kinds of
hardship while others are eating up his estate?"
Minerva answered, "Never mind about him, I sent him that he might be
well spoken of for having gone. He is in no sort of difficulty, but is
staying quite comfortably with Menelaus, and is surrounded with
abundance of every kind. The suitors have put out to sea and are lying
in wait for him, for they mean to kill him before he can get home. I
do not much think they will succeed, but rather that some of those who
are now eating up your estate will first find a grave themselves."
As she spoke Minerva touched him with her wand and covered him
with wrinkles, took away all his yellow hair, and withered the flesh
over his whole body; she bleared his eyes, which were naturally very
fine ones; she changed his clothes and threw an old rag of a wrap
about him, and a tunic, tattered, filthy, and begrimed with smoke; she
also gave him an undressed deer skin as an outer garment, and
furnished him with a staff and a wallet all in holes, with a twisted
thong for him to sling it over his shoulder.
When the pair had thus laid their plans they parted, and the goddess
went straight to Lacedaemon to fetch Telemachus.
No Son Of Mine
Well the key to my survival
Was never in much doubt
The question was how I could keep sane
Trying to find a way out
Things were never easy for me
Peace of mind was hard to fin
And I needed a place where I could hide
Somewhere I could call mine
I didnt think much about it
Til it started happening all the time
Soon I was living with the fear everyday
Of what might happen that night
I couldnt stand to hear the
Crying of my mother
And I remember when
I swore that, that would be the
Last theyd see of me
And I never went home again
They say that time is a healer
And now my wounds are not the same
I rang the bell with my heart in my mouth
I had to hear what hed say
He sat me down to talk to me
He looked me straight in the eyes
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
You walked out, you left us behind
And youre no son, no son of mine
Oh, his words how they hurt me, Ill never forget it
And as the time, it went by, I lived to regret it
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
But where should I go,
And what should I do
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
But I came here for help, oh I came here for you
Well the years they passed so slowly
I thought about him everyday
What would I do, if we passed on the street
Would I keep running away
In and out of hiding places
Soon Id have to face the facts
Wed have to sit down and talk it over
And that would mean going back
They say that time is a healer
And now my wounds are not the same
I rang that bell with my heart in my mouth
I had to hear what hed say
He sat me down to talk to me
He looked me straight in the eyes
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
When you walked out, you left us behind
And youre no son, youre no son of mine
Oh, his words how they hurt me, Ill never forget it
And as the time, it went by, I lived to regret it
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
But where should I go and what should I do
Youre no son, youre no son of mine
But I came here for help, oh I was looking for you
Youre no son, youre no son of mine - oh
Youre no son - ha yeah, ha yeah, ha yeah, ha yeah
Youre no son, youre no son of mine - oh, oh...
Mother And Son
Now sleeps the land of houses,
and dead night holds the street,
And there thou liest, my baby,
and sleepest soft and sweet;
My man is away for awhile,
but safe and alone we lie,
And none heareth thy breath but thy mother,
and the moon looking down from the sky
On the weary waste of the town,
as it looked on the grass-edged road
Still warm with yesterday’s sun,
when I left my old abode;
Hand in hand with my love,
that night of all nights in the year;
When the river of love o’erflowed
and drowned all doubt and fear,
And we two were alone in the world,
and once if never again,
We knew of the secret of earth
and the tale of its labour and pain.
Lo amidst London I lift thee,
and how little and light thou art,
And thou without hope or fear
thou fear and hope of my heart!
Lo here thy body beginning,
O son, and thy soul and thy life;
But how will it be if thou livest,
and enterest into the strife,
And in love we dwell together
when the man is grown in thee,
When thy sweet speech I shall hearken,
and yet ’twixt thee and me
Shall rise that wall of distance,
that round each one doth grow,
And maketh it hard and bitter
each other’s thought to know.
Now, therefore, while yet thou art little
and hast no thought of thine own,
I will tell thee a word of the world;
of the hope whence thou hast grown;
Of the love that once begat thee,
of the sorrow that hath made
Thy little heart of hunger,
and thy hands on my bosom laid.
Then mayst thou remember hereafter,
as whiles when people say
All this hath happened before
in the life of another day;
So mayst thou dimly remember
this tale of thy mother’s voice,
As oft in the calm of dawning
I have heard the birds rejoice,
As oft I have heard the storm-wind
go moaning through the wood;
And I knew that earth was speaking,
and the mother’s voice was good.
Now, to thee alone will I tell it
that thy mother’s body is fair,
In the guise of the country maidens
Who play with the sun and the air;
Who have stood in the row of the reapers
in the August afternoon,
Who have sat by the frozen water
in the high day of the moon,
When the lights of the Christmas feasting
were dead in the house on the hill,
And the wild geese gone to the salt-marsh
had left the winter still.
Yea, I am fair, my firstling;
if thou couldst but remember me!
The hair that thy small hand clutcheth
is a goodly sight to see;
I am true, but my face is a snare;
soft and deep are my eyes,
And they seem for men’s beguiling
fulfilled with the dreams of the wise.
Kind are my lips, and they look
as though my soul had learned
Deep things I have never heard of,
my face and my hands are burned
By the lovely sun of the acres;
three months of London town
And thy birth-bed have bleached them indeed,
“But lo, where the edge of the gown”
(So said thy father) “is parting
the wrist that is white as the curd
From the brown of the hand that I love,
bright as the wing of a bird.”
Such is thy mother, O firstling,
yet strong as the maidens of old,
Whose spears and whose swords were the warders
of homestead, of field and of fold.
Oft were my feet on the highway,
often they wearied the grass;
From dusk unto dusk of the summer
three times in a week would I pass
To the downs from the house on the river
through the waves of the blossoming corn.
Fair then I lay down in the even,
and fresh I arose on the morn,
And scarce in the noon was I weary.
Ah, son, in the days of thy strife,
If thy soul could but harbour a dream
of the blossom of my life!
It would be as the sunlit meadows
beheld from a tossing sea,
And thy soul should look on a vision
of the peace that is to be.
Yet, yet the tears on my cheek!
and what is this doth move
My heart to thy heart, beloved,
save the flood of yearning love?
For fair and fierce is thy father,
and soft and strange are his eyes
That look on the days that shall be
with the hope of the brave and the wise.
It was many a day that we laughed,
as over the meadows we walked,
And many a day I hearkened
and the pictures came as he talked;
It was many a day that we longed,
and we lingered late at eve
Ere speech from speech was sundered,
and my hand his hand could leave.
Then I wept when I was alone,
and I longed till the daylight came;
And down the stairs I stole,
and there was our housekeeping dame
(No mother of me, the foundling)
kindling the fire betimes
Ere the haymaking folk went forth
to the meadows down by the limes;
All things I saw at a glance;
the quickening fire-tongues leapt
Through the crackling heap of sticks,
and the sweet smoke up from it crept,
And close to the very hearth
the low sun flooded the floor,
And the cat and her kittens played
in the sun by the open door.
The garden was fair in the morning,
and there in the road he stood
Beyond the crimson daisies
and the bush of southernwood.
Then side by side together
through the grey-walled place we went,
And O the fear departed,
and the rest and sweet content!
Son, sorrow and wisdom he taught me,
and sore I grieved and learned
As we twain grew into one;
and the heart within me burned
With the very hopes of his heart.
Ah, son, it is piteous,
But never again in my life
shall I dare to speak to thee thus;
So may these lonely words
about thee creep and cling,
These words of the lonely night
in the days of our wayfaring.
Many a child of woman
to-night is born in the town,
The desert of folly and wrong;
and of what and whence are they grown?
Many and many an one
of wont and use is born;
For a husband is taken to bed
as a hat or a ribbon is worn.
Prudence begets her thousands;
“good is a housekeeper’s life,
So shall I sell my body
that I may be matron and wife.”
“And I shall endure foul wedlock
and bear the children of need.”
Some are there born of hate,
many the children of greed.
“I, I too can be wedded,
though thou my love hast got.”
“I am fair and hard of heart,
and riches shall be my lot.”
And all these are the good and the happy,
on whom the world dawns fair.
O son, when wilt thou learn
of those that are born of despair,
As the fabled mud of the Nile
that quickens under the sun
With a growth of creeping things,
half dead when just begun?
E’en such is the care of Nature
that man should never die,
Though she breed of the fools of the earth,
and the dregs of the city sty.
But thou, O son, O son,
of very love wert born,
When our hope fulfilled bred hope,
and fear was a folly outworn.
On the eve of the toil and the battle
all sorrow and grief we weighed,
We hoped and we were not ashamed,
we knew and we were not afraid.
Now waneth the night and the moon;
ah, son, it is piteous
That never again in my life
shall I dare to speak to thee thus.
But sure from the wise and the simple
shall the mighty come to birth;
And fair were my fate, beloved,
if I be yet on the earth
When the world is awaken at last,
and from mouth to mouth they tell
Of thy love and thy deeds and thy valour,
and thy hope that nought can quell.
Hermann And Dorothea - V. Polyhymnia
BUT the Three, as before, were still sitting and talking together,
With the landlord, the worthy divine, and also the druggist,
And the conversation still concern'd the same subject,
Which in every form they had long been discussing together.
Full of noble thoughts, the excellent pastor continued
'I can't contradict you. I know 'tis the duty of mortals
Ever to strive for improvement; and, as we may see, they strive also
Ever for that which is higher, at least what is new they seek after,
But don't hurry too fast! For combined with these feelings, kind Nature
Also has given us pleasure in dwelling on that which is ancient,
And in clinging to that to which we have long been accustom'd.
Each situation is good that's accordant to nature and reason.
Many things man desires, and yet he has need of but little;
For but short are the days, and confined is the lot of a mortal.
I can never blame the man who, active and restless,
Hurries along, and explores each corner of earth and the ocean
Boldly and carefully, while he rejoices at seeing the profits
Which round him and his family gather themselves in abundance.
But I also duly esteem the peaceable burgher,
Who with silent steps his paternal inheritance paces,
And watches over the earth, the seasons carefully noting.
'Tis not every year that he finds his property alter'd;
Newly-planted trees cannot stretch out their arms tow'rds the heavens
All in a moment, adorn'd with beautiful buds in abundance.
No, a man has need of patience, he also has need of
Pure unruffled tranquil thoughts and an intellect honest;
For to the nourishing earth few seeds at a time he entrusteth,
Few are the creatures he keeps at a time, with a view to their breeding,
For what is Useful alone remains the first thought of his lifetime.
Happy the man to whom Nature a mind thus attuned may have given!
'Tis by him that we all are fed. And happy the townsman
Of the small town who unites the vocations of town and of country.
He is exempt from the pressure by which the poor farmer is worried,
Is not perplex'd by the citizens' cares and soaring ambition,
Who, with limited means,--especially women and maidens,--
Think of nothing but aping the ways of the great and the wealthy,
You should therefore bless your son's disposition so peaceful,
And the like-minded wife whom we soon may expect him to marry.
Thus he spoke. At that moment the mother and son stood before them.
By the hand she led him and placed him in front of her husband
'Father,' she said, 'how often have we, when talking together,
Thought of that joyful day in the future, when Hermann, selecting
After long waiting his bride at length would make us both happy!
All kinds of projects we form'd. designing first one, then another
Girl as his wife, as we talk'd in the manner that parents delight in.
Now the day has arrived; and now has his bride been conducted
Hither and shown him by Heaven; his heart at length has decided.
Were we not always saying that he should choose for himself, and
Were you not lately wishing that he might feel for a maiden
Warm and heart-felt emotions? And now has arrived the right moment!
Yes, he has felt and has chosen, and like a man has decided.
That fair maiden it is, the Stranger whom he encounter'd.
Give her him; else he'll remain--he has sworn it--unmarried for ever.'
And the son added himself:--'My father, O give her! My heart has
Chosen purely and truly: she'll make you an excellent daughter.'
But the father was silent. Then suddenly rose the good pastor,
And address'd him as follows:--' One single moment's decisive
Both of the life of a man, and of the whole of his Future.
After lengthen'd reflection, each resolution made by him
Is but the work of a moment; the prudent alone seize the right one.
Nothing more dangerous is, in making a choice, than revolving
First this point and then that, and so confusing the feelings.
Pure is Hermann's mind; from his youth I have known him; he never,
Even in boyhood, was wont to extend his hand hither and thither.
What he desired, was suitable to him; he held to it firmly.
Be not astonish'd and scared, because there appears on a sudden
What you so long have desired. 'Tis true the appearance at present
Bears not the shape of the wish, as you in your mind had conceived it.
For our wishes conceal the thing that we wish for; our gifts too
Come from above upon us, each clad in its own proper figure.
Do not now mistake the maiden who has succeeded
First in touching the heart of your good wise son, whom you love so.
Happy is he who is able to clasp the hand of his first love,
And whose dearest wish is not doom'd to pine in his bosom!
Yes, I can see by his face, already his fate is decided;
True affection converts the youth to a man in a moment.
He little changeable is; I fear me, if this you deny him,
All the fairest years of his life will be changed into sorrow.'
Then in prudent fashion the druggist, who long had been wanting
His opinion to give, rejoin'd in the following manner
'This is Just a case when the middle course is the wisest!
'Hasten slowly,' you know, was the motto of Caesar Augustus.
I am always ready to be of use to my neighbours,
And to turn to their profit what little wits I can boast of.
Youth especially needs the guidance of those who are older.
Let me then depart; I fain would prove her, that maiden,
And will examine the people 'mongst whom she lives, and who know her.
I am not soon deceived; I know how to rate their opinions.'
Then forthwith replied the son, with eagerness speaking:--
'Do so, neighbour, and go, make your inquiries. However,
I should greatly prefer that our friend, the pastor, went with you;
Two such excellent men are witnesses none can find fault with.
O, my father! the maiden no vagabond is, I assure you,
No mere adventurer, wand'ring about all over the country,
And deceiving the inexperienced youths with her cunning;
No! the harsh destiny link'd with this war, so destructive of all things,
Which is destroying the world, and already has wholly uprooted
Many a time-honour'd fabric, has driven the poor thing to exile.
Are not brave men of noble birth now wand'ring in mis'ry?
Princes are fleeing disguised, and monarchs in banishment living.
Ah, and she also herself, the best of her sisters, is driven
Out of her native land; but her own misfortunes forgetting,
Others she seeks to console, and, though helpless, is also most helpful.
Great are the woes and distress which over the earth's face are brooding,
But may happiness not be evoked from out of this sorrow?
May not I, in the arms of my bride, the wife I have chosen,
Even rejoice at the war, as you at the great conflagration?'
Then replied the father, and open'd his mouth with importance:--
'Strangely indeed, my son, has your tongue been suddenly loosen'd,
Which for years has stuck in your mouth, and moved there but rarely
I to-day must experience that which threatens each father:
How the ardent will of a son a too-gentle mother
Willingly favours, whilst each neighbour is ready to back him,
Only provided it be at the cost of a father or husband!
But what use would it be to resist so many together?
For I see that defiance and tears will otherwise greet me.
Go and prove her, and in God's name then hasten to bring her
Home as my daughter; if not, he must think no more of the maiden.'
Thus spake the father. The son exclaim'd with jubilant gesture
'Ere the ev'ning arrives, you shall have the dearest of daughters,
Such as the man desires whose bosom is govern'd by prudence
And I venture to think the good creature is fortunate also.
Yes, she will ever be grateful that I her father and mother
Have restored her in you, as sensible children would wish it.
But I will loiter no longer; I'll straightway harness the horses,
And conduct our friends on the traces of her whom I love so,
Leave the men to themselves and their own intuitive wisdom,
And be guided alone by their decision--I swear it,--
And not see the maiden again, until she my own is.'
Then he left the house; meanwhile the others were eagerly
Settling many a point, and the weighty matter debating.
Hermann sped to the stable forthwith, where the spirited stallions
Tranquilly stood and with eagerness swallow'd the pure oats before them,
And the well-dried hay, which was cut from the best of their meadows.
Then in eager haste in their mouths the shining bits placed he,
Quickly drew the harness through the well-plated buckles,
And then fastend the long broad reins in proper position,
Led the horses out in the yard, where already the carriage,
Easily moved along by its pole, had been push'd by the servant.
Then they restrain'd the impetuous strength of the fast-moving horses,
Fastening both with neat-looking ropes to the bar of the carriage.
Hermann seized his whip, took his seat, and drove to the gateway.
When in the roomy carriage his friends had taken their places,
Swiftly he drove away, and left the pavement behind them,
Left behind the walls of the town and the clean-looking towers,
Thus sped Hermann along, till he reach'd the familiar highway,
Not delaying a moment, and galloping uphill and downhill.
When however at length the village steeple descried he,
And not far away lay the houses surrounded by gardens,
He began to think it was time to hold in the horses.
By the time-honour'd gloom of noble lime-trees o'er shadow'd,
Which for many a century past on the spot had been rooted,
Stood there a green and spreading grass-plot in front of the village,
Cover'd with turf, for the peasants and neighbouring townsmen a playground.
Scooped out under the trees, to no great depth, stood a fountain.
On descending the steps, some benches of stone might be seen there,
Ranged all around the spring, which ceaselessly well'd forth its waters,
Cleanly, enclosed by a low wall all round, and convenient to draw from.
Hermann then determined beneath the shadow his horses
With the carriage to stop. He did so, and spoke then as follows
'Now, my friends, get down, and go by yourselves to discover
Whether the maiden is worthy to have the hand which I offer.
I am convinced that she is; and you'll bring me no new or strange story:
Had I to manage alone, I would straightway go off to the village,
And in few words should my fate by the charming creature be settled.
Her you will easily recognize 'mongst all the rest of the people,
For her appearance is altogether unlike that of others.
But I will now describe the modest dress she is wearing:--
First a bodice red her well-arch'd bosom upraises,
Prettily tied, while black are the stays fitting closely around her.
Then the seams of the ruff she has carefully plaited and folded,
Which with modest grace, her chin so round is encircling.
Free and joyously rises her head with its elegant oval,
Strongly round bodkins of silver her back-hair is many times twisted
Her blue well-plaited gown begins from under her bodice.
And as she walks envelopes her well-turn'd ankles completely.
But I have one thing to say, and this must expressly entreat you:
Do not speak to the maiden, and let not your scheme be discover'd.
But inquire of others, and hearken to all that they tell you,
When you have learnt enough to satisfy father and mother,
Then return to me straight, and we'll settle future proceedings.
This is the plan which I have matured, while driving you hither.'
Thus he spoke, and the friends forthwith went on to the village,
Where, in gardens and barns and houses, the multitude crowded;
All along the broad road the numberless carts were collected,
Men were feeding the lowing cattle and feeding the horses.
Women on every hedge the linen were carefully drying,
Whilst the children in glee were splashing about in the streamlet.
Forcing their way through the waggons, and past the men and the cattle,
Walk'd the ambassador spies, looking well to the righthand and lefthand,
Hoping somewhere to see the form of the well-described maiden;
But wherever they look'd, no trace of the girl they discover'd.
Presently denser became the crowd. Round some of the waggons.
Men in a passion were quarrelling, women also were screaming.
Then of a sudden approach'd an aged man with firm footstep
Marching straight up to the fighters; and forthwith was hush'd the contention,
When he bade them be still, and with fatherly earnestness threaten'd.
'Are we not yet,' he exclaim'd, 'by misfortune so knitted together,
As to have learnt at length the art of reciprocal patience
And toleration, though each cannot measure the actions of others?
Prosperous men indeed may quarrel! Will sorrow not teach you
How no longer as formerly you should quarrel with brethren?
Each should give way to each other, when treading the soil of the stranger,
And, as you hope for mercy yourselves, you should share your possessions.'
Thus the man address'd them, and all were silent. In peaceful
Humour the reconciled men look'd after their cattle and waggons.
When the pastor heard the man discourse in this fashion,
And the foreign magistrate's peaceful nature discovered,
He approach'd him in turn, and used this significant language
'Truly, Father, when nations are living in days of good fortune,
Drawing their food from the earth, which gladly opens its treasures,
And its wish'd-for gifts each year and each month is renewing,
Then all matters go smoothly; each thinks himself far the wisest,
And the best, and so they exist by the side of each other,
And the most sensible man no better than others is reckon'd
For the world moves on, as if by itself and in silence.
But when distress unsettles our usual manner of living,
Pulls down each time-honour'd fabric, and roots up the seed in our gardens,
Drives the man and his wife far away from the home they delight in,
Hurries them off in confusion through days and nights full of anguish,
Ah! then look we around in search of the man who is wisest,
And no longer in vain he utters his words full of wisdom.
Tell me whether you be these fugitives' magistrate, Father,
Over whose minds you appear to possess such an influence soothing?
Aye, to-day I could deem you one of the leaders of old time,
Who through wastes and through deserts conducted the wandering people;
I could imagine 'twas Joshua I am addressing, or Moses.'
Then with solemn looks the magistrate answer'd as follows
'Truly the present times resemble the strangest of old times,
Which are preserved in the pages of history, sacred or common.
He in these days who has lived to-day and yesterday only,
Many a year has lived, events so crowd on each other.
When I reflect back a little, a grey old age I could fancy
On my head to be lying, and yet my strength is still active.
Yes, we people in truth may liken ourselves to those others
Unto whom in a fiery bush appear'd, in a solemn
Moment, the Lord our God; in fire and clouds we behold him.'
When the pastor would fain continue to speak on this subject,
And was anxious to learn the fate of the man and his party,
Quickly into his ear his companion secretly whisper'd
'Speak for a time with the magistrate, turning your talk on the maiden,
Whilst I wander about, endeav'ring to find her. Directly
I am successful, I'll join you again.' Then nodded the pastor,
And the spy went to seek her, in barns and through hedges and gardens.
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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.
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.
The Odyssey: Book 10
Thence we went on to the Aeoli island where lives Aeolus son of
Hippotas, dear to the immortal gods. It is an island that floats (as
it were) upon the sea, iron bound with a wall that girds it. Now,
Aeolus has six daughters and six lusty sons, so he made the sons marry
the daughters, and they all live with their dear father and mother,
feasting and enjoying every conceivable kind of luxury. All day long
the atmosphere of the house is loaded with the savour of roasting
meats till it groans again, yard and all; but by night they sleep on
their well-made bedsteads, each with his own wife between the
blankets. These were the people among whom we had now come.
"Aeolus entertained me for a whole month asking me questions all the
time about Troy, the Argive fleet, and the return of the Achaeans. I
told him exactly how everything had happened, and when I said I must
go, and asked him to further me on my way, he made no sort of
difficulty, but set about doing so at once. Moreover, he flayed me a
prime ox-hide to hold the ways of the roaring winds, which he shut
up in the hide as in a sack- for Jove had made him captain over the
winds, and he could stir or still each one of them according to his
own pleasure. He put the sack in the ship and bound the mouth so
tightly with a silver thread that not even a breath of a side-wind
could blow from any quarter. The West wind which was fair for us did
he alone let blow as it chose; but it all came to nothing, for we were
lost through our own folly.
"Nine days and nine nights did we sail, and on the tenth day our
native land showed on the horizon. We got so close in that we could
see the stubble fires burning, and I, being then dead beat, fell
into a light sleep, for I had never let the rudder out of my own
hands, that we might get home the faster. On this the men fell to
talking among themselves, and said I was bringing back gold and silver
in the sack that Aeolus had given me. 'Bless my heart,' would one turn
to his neighbour, saying, 'how this man gets honoured and makes
friends to whatever city or country he may go. See what fine prizes he
is taking home from Troy, while we, who have travelled just as far
as he has, come back with hands as empty as we set out with- and now
Aeolus has given him ever so much more. Quick- let us see what it
all is, and how much gold and silver there is in the sack he gave
"Thus they talked and evil counsels prevailed. They loosed the sack,
whereupon the wind flew howling forth and raised a storm that
carried us weeping out to sea and away from our own country. Then I
awoke, and knew not whether to throw myself into the sea or to live on
and make the best of it; but I bore it, covered myself up, and lay
down in the ship, while the men lamented bitterly as the fierce
winds bore our fleet back to the Aeolian island.
"When we reached it we went ashore to take in water, and dined
hard by the ships. Immediately after dinner I took a herald and one of
my men and went straight to the house of Aeolus, where I found him
feasting with his wife and family; so we sat down as suppliants on the
threshold. They were astounded when they saw us and said, 'Ulysses,
what brings you here? What god has been ill-treating you? We took
great pains to further you on your way home to Ithaca, or wherever
it was that you wanted to go to.'
"Thus did they speak, but I answered sorrowfully, 'My men have
undone me; they, and cruel sleep, have ruined me. My friends, mend
me this mischief, for you can if you will.'
"I spoke as movingly as I could, but they said nothing, till their
father answered, 'Vilest of mankind, get you gone at once out of the
island; him whom heaven hates will I in no wise help. Be off, for
you come here as one abhorred of heaven. "And with these words he sent
me sorrowing from his door.
"Thence we sailed sadly on till the men were worn out with long
and fruitless rowing, for there was no longer any wind to help them.
Six days, night and day did we toil, and on the seventh day we reached
the rocky stronghold of Lamus- Telepylus, the city of the
Laestrygonians, where the shepherd who is driving in his sheep and
goats [to be milked] salutes him who is driving out his flock [to
feed] and this last answers the salute. In that country a man who
could do without sleep might earn double wages, one as a herdsman of
cattle, and another as a shepherd, for they work much the same by
night as they do by day.
"When we reached the harbour we found it land-locked under steep
cliffs, with a narrow entrance between two headlands. My captains took
all their ships inside, and made them fast close to one another, for
there was never so much as a breath of wind inside, but it was
always dead calm. I kept my own ship outside, and moored it to a
rock at the very end of the point; then I climbed a high rock to
reconnoitre, but could see no sign neither of man nor cattle, only
some smoke rising from the ground. So I sent two of my company with an
attendant to find out what sort of people the inhabitants were.
"The men when they got on shore followed a level road by which the
people draw their firewood from the mountains into the town, till
presently they met a young woman who had come outside to fetch
water, and who was daughter to a Laestrygonian named Antiphates. She
was going to the fountain Artacia from which the people bring in their
water, and when my men had come close up to her, they asked her who
the king of that country might be, and over what kind of people he
ruled; so she directed them to her father's house, but when they got
there they found his wife to be a giantess as huge as a mountain,
and they were horrified at the sight of her.
"She at once called her husband Antiphates from the place of
assembly, and forthwith he set about killing my men. He snatched up
one of them, and began to make his dinner off him then and there,
whereon the other two ran back to the ships as fast as ever they
could. But Antiphates raised a hue and cry after them, and thousands
of sturdy Laestrygonians sprang up from every quarter- ogres, not men.
They threw vast rocks at us from the cliffs as though they had been
mere stones, and I heard the horrid sound of the ships crunching up
against one another, and the death cries of my men, as the
Laestrygonians speared them like fishes and took them home to eat
them. While they were thus killing my men within the harbour I drew my
sword, cut the cable of my own ship, and told my men to row with alf
their might if they too would not fare like the rest; so they laid out
for their lives, and we were thankful enough when we got into open
water out of reach of the rocks they hurled at us. As for the others
there was not one of them left.
"Thence we sailed sadly on, glad to have escaped death, though we
had lost our comrades, and came to the Aeaean island, where Circe
lives a great and cunning goddess who is own sister to the magician
Aeetes- for they are both children of the sun by Perse, who is
daughter to Oceanus. We brought our ship into a safe harbour without a
word, for some god guided us thither, and having landed we there for
two days and two nights, worn out in body and mind. When the morning
of the third day came I took my spear and my sword, and went away from
the ship to reconnoitre, and see if I could discover signs of human
handiwork, or hear the sound of voices. Climbing to the top of a
high look-out I espied the smoke of Circe's house rising upwards
amid a dense forest of trees, and when I saw this I doubted whether,
having seen the smoke, I would not go on at once and find out more,
but in the end I deemed it best to go back to the ship, give the men
their dinners, and send some of them instead of going myself.
"When I had nearly got back to the ship some god took pity upon my
solitude, and sent a fine antlered stag right into the middle of my
path. He was coming down his pasture in the forest to drink of the
river, for the heat of the sun drove him, and as he passed I struck
him in the middle of the back; the bronze point of the spear went
clean through him, and he lay groaning in the dust until the life went
out of him. Then I set my foot upon him, drew my spear from the wound,
and laid it down; I also gathered rough grass and rushes and twisted
them into a fathom or so of good stout rope, with which I bound the
four feet of the noble creature together; having so done I hung him
round my neck and walked back to the ship leaning upon my spear, for
the stag was much too big for me to be able to carry him on my
shoulder, steadying him with one hand. As I threw him down in front of
the ship, I called the men and spoke cheeringly man by man to each
of them. 'Look here my friends,' said I, 'we are not going to die so
much before our time after all, and at any rate we will not starve
so long as we have got something to eat and drink on board.' On this
they uncovered their heads upon the sea shore and admired the stag,
for he was indeed a splendid fellow. Then, when they had feasted their
eyes upon him sufficiently, they washed their hands and began to
cook him for dinner.
"Thus through the livelong day to the going down of the sun we
stayed there eating and drinking our fill, but when the sun went
down and it came on dark, we camped upon the sea shore. When the child
of morning, fingered Dawn, appeared, I called a council and said,
'My friends, we are in very great difficulties; listen therefore to
me. We have no idea where the sun either sets or rises, so that we
do not even know East from West. I see no way out of it; nevertheless,
we must try and find one. We are certainly on an island, for I went as
high as I could this morning, and saw the sea reaching all round it to
the horizon; it lies low, but towards the middle I saw smoke rising
from out of a thick forest of trees.'
"Their hearts sank as they heard me, for they remembered how they
had been treated by the Laestrygonian Antiphates, and by the savage
ogre Polyphemus. They wept bitterly in their dismay, but there was
nothing to be got by crying, so I divided them into two companies
and set a captain over each; I gave one company to Eurylochus, while I
took command of the other myself. Then we cast lots in a helmet, and
the lot fell upon Eurylochus; so he set out with his twenty-two men,
and they wept, as also did we who were left behind.
"When they reached Circe's house they found it built of cut
stones, on a site that could be seen from far, in the middle of the
forest. There were wild mountain wolves and lions prowling all round
it- poor bewitched creatures whom she had tamed by her enchantments
and drugged into subjection. They did not attack my men, but wagged
their great tails, fawned upon them, and rubbed their noses lovingly
against them. As hounds crowd round their master when they see him
coming from dinner- for they know he will bring them something- even
so did these wolves and lions with their great claws fawn upon my men,
but the men were terribly frightened at seeing such strange creatures.
Presently they reached the gates of the goddess's house, and as they
stood there they could hear Circe within, singing most beautifully
as she worked at her loom, making a web so fine, so soft, and of
such dazzling colours as no one but a goddess could weave. On this
Polites, whom I valued and trusted more than any other of my men,
said, 'There is some one inside working at a loom and singing most
beautifully; the whole place resounds with it, let us call her and see
whether she is woman or goddess.'
"They called her and she came down, unfastened the door, and bade
them enter. They, thinking no evil, followed her, all except
Eurylochus, who suspected mischief and stayed outside. When she had
got them into her house, she set them upon benches and seats and mixed
them a mess with cheese, honey, meal, and Pramnian but she drugged
it with wicked poisons to make them forget their homes, and when
they had drunk she turned them into pigs by a stroke of her wand,
and shut them up in her pigsties. They were like pigs-head, hair,
and all, and they grunted just as pigs do; but their senses were the
same as before, and they remembered everything.
"Thus then were they shut up squealing, and Circe threw them some
acorns and beech masts such as pigs eat, but Eurylochus hurried back
to tell me about the sad fate of our comrades. He was so overcome with
dismay that though he tried to speak he could find no words to do
so; his eyes filled with tears and he could only sob and sigh, till at
last we forced his story out of him, and he told us what had
happened to the others.
"'We went,' said he, as you told us, through the forest, and in
the middle of it there was a fine house built with cut stones in a
place that could be seen from far. There we found a woman, or else she
was a goddess, working at her loom and singing sweetly; so the men
shouted to her and called her, whereon she at once came down, opened
the door, and invited us in. The others did not suspect any mischief
so they followed her into the house, but I stayed where I was, for I
thought there might be some treachery. From that moment I saw them
no more, for not one of them ever came out, though I sat a long time
watching for them.'
"Then I took my sword of bronze and slung it over my shoulders; I
also took my bow, and told Eurylochus to come back with me and show me
the way. But he laid hold of me with both his hands and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Sir, do not force me to go with you, but let me
stay here, for I know you will not bring one of them back with you,
nor even return alive yourself; let us rather see if we cannot
escape at any rate with the few that are left us, for we may still
save our lives.'
"'Stay where you are, then, 'answered I, 'eating and drinking at the
ship, but I must go, for I am most urgently bound to do so.'
"With this I left the ship and went up inland. When I got through
the charmed grove, and was near the great house of the enchantress
Circe, I met Mercury with his golden wand, disguised as a young man in
the hey-day of his youth and beauty with the down just coming upon his
face. He came up to me and took my hand within his own, saying, 'My
poor unhappy man, whither are you going over this mountain top,
alone and without knowing the way? Your men are shut up in Circe's
pigsties, like so many wild boars in their lairs. You surely do not
fancy that you can set them free? I can tell you that you will never
get back and will have to stay there with the rest of them. But
never mind, I will protect you and get you out of your difficulty.
Take this herb, which is one of great virtue, and keep it about you
when you go to Circe's house, it will be a talisman to you against
every kind of mischief.
"'And I will tell you of all the wicked witchcraft that Circe will
try to practise upon you. She will mix a mess for you to drink, and
she will drug the meal with which she makes it, but she will not be
able to charm you, for the virtue of the herb that I shall give you
will prevent her spells from working. I will tell you all about it.
When Circe strikes you with her wand, draw your sword and spring
upon her as though you were goings to kill her. She will then be
frightened and will desire you to go to bed with her; on this you must
not point blank refuse her, for you want her to set your companions
free, and to take good care also of yourself, but you make her swear
solemnly by all the blessed that she will plot no further mischief
against you, or else when she has got you naked she will unman you and
make you fit for nothing.'
"As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground an showed me
what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as
milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but
the gods can do whatever they like.
"Then Mercury went back to high Olympus passing over the wooded
island; but I fared onward to the house of Circe, and my heart was
clouded with care as I walked along. When I got to the gates I stood
there and called the goddess, and as soon as she heard me she came
down, opened the door, and asked me to come in; so I followed her-
much troubled in my mind. She set me on a richly decorated seat inlaid
with silver, there was a footstool also under my feet, and she mixed a
mess in a golden goblet for me to drink; but she drugged it, for she
meant me mischief. When she had given it me, and I had drunk it
without its charming me, she struck she, struck me with her wand.
'There now,' she cried, 'be off to the pigsty, and make your lair with
the rest of them.'
"But I rushed at her with my sword drawn as though I would kill her,
whereon she fell with a loud scream, clasped my knees, and spoke
piteously, saying, 'Who and whence are you? from what place and people
have you come? How can it be that my drugs have no power to charm you?
Never yet was any man able to stand so much as a taste of the herb I
gave you; you must be spell-proof; surely you can be none other than
the bold hero Ulysses, who Mercury always said would come here some
day with his ship while on his way home form Troy; so be it then;
sheathe your sword and let us go to bed, that we may make friends
and learn to trust each other.'
"And I answered, 'Circe, how can you expect me to be friendly with
you when you have just been turning all my men into pigs? And now that
you have got me here myself, you mean me mischief when you ask me to
go to bed with you, and will unman me and make me fit for nothing. I
shall certainly not consent to go to bed with you unless you will
first take your solemn oath to plot no further harm against me.'
"So she swore at once as I had told her, and when she had
completed her oath then I went to bed with her.
"Meanwhile her four servants, who are her housemaids, set about
their work. They are the children of the groves and fountains, and
of the holy waters that run down into the sea. One of them spread a
fair purple cloth over a seat, and laid a carpet underneath it.
Another brought tables of silver up to the seats, and set them with
baskets of gold. A third mixed some sweet wine with water in a
silver bowl and put golden cups upon the tables, while the fourth
she brought in water and set it to boil in a large cauldron over a
good fire which she had lighted. When the water in the cauldron was
boiling, she poured cold into it till it was just as I liked it, and
then she set me in a bath and began washing me from the cauldron about
the head and shoulders, to take the tire and stiffness out of my
limbs. As soon as she had done washing me and anointing me with oil,
she arrayed me in a good cloak and shirt and led me to a richly
decorated seat inlaid with silver; there was a footstool also under my
feet. A maid servant then brought me water in a beautiful golden
ewer and poured it into a silver basin for me to wash my hands, and
she drew a clean table beside me; an upper servant brought me bread
and offered me many things of what there was in the house, and then
Circe bade me eat, but I would not, and sat without heeding what was
before me, still moody and suspicious.
"When Circe saw me sitting there without eating, and in great grief,
she came to me and said, 'Ulysses, why do you sit like that as
though you were dumb, gnawing at your own heart, and refusing both
meat and drink? Is it that you are still suspicious? You ought not
to be, for I have already sworn solemnly that I will not hurt you.'
"And I said, 'Circe, no man with any sense of what is right can
think of either eating or drinking in your house until you have set
his friends free and let him see them. If you want me to eat and
drink, you must free my men and bring them to me that I may see them
with my own eyes.'
"When I had said this she went straight through the court with her
wand in her hand and opened the pigsty doors. My men came out like
so many prime hogs and stood looking at her, but she went about
among them and anointed each with a second drug, whereon the
bristles that the bad drug had given them fell off, and they became
men again, younger than they were before, and much taller and better
looking. They knew me at once, seized me each of them by the hand, and
wept for joy till the whole house was filled with the sound of their
hullabalooing, and Circe herself was so sorry for them that she came
up to me and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, go back at once
to the sea where you have left your ship, and first draw it on to
the land. Then, hide all your ship's gear and property in some cave,
and come back here with your men.'
"I agreed to this, so I went back to the sea shore, and found the
men at the ship weeping and wailing most piteously. When they saw me
the silly blubbering fellows began frisking round me as calves break
out and gambol round their mothers, when they see them coming home
to be milked after they have been feeding all day, and the homestead
resounds with their lowing. They seemed as glad to see me as though
they had got back to their own rugged Ithaca, where they had been born
and bred. 'Sir,' said the affectionate creatures, 'we are as glad to
see you back as though we had got safe home to Ithaca; but tell us all
about the fate of our comrades.'
"I spoke comfortingly to them and said, 'We must draw our ship on to
the land, and hide the ship's gear with all our property in some cave;
then come with me all of you as fast as you can to Circe's house,
where you will find your comrades eating and drinking in the midst
of great abundance.'
"On this the men would have come with me at once, but Eurylochus
tried to hold them back and said, 'Alas, poor wretches that we are,
what will become of us? Rush not on your ruin by going to the house of
Circe, who will turn us all into pigs or wolves or lions, and we shall
have to keep guard over her house. Remember how the Cyclops treated us
when our comrades went inside his cave, and Ulysses with them. It
was all through his sheer folly that those men lost their lives.'
"When I heard him I was in two minds whether or no to draw the
keen blade that hung by my sturdy thigh and cut his head off in
spite of his being a near relation of my own; but the men interceded
for him and said, 'Sir, if it may so be, let this fellow stay here and
mind the ship, but take the rest of us with you to Circe's house.'
"On this we all went inland, and Eurylochus was not left behind
after all, but came on too, for he was frightened by the severe
reprimand that I had given him.
"Meanwhile Circe had been seeing that the men who had been left
behind were washed and anointed with olive oil; she had also given
them woollen cloaks and shirts, and when we came we found them all
comfortably at dinner in her house. As soon as the men saw each
other face to face and knew one another, they wept for joy and cried
aloud till the whole palace rang again. Thereon Circe came up to me
and said, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, tell your men to leave off
crying; I know how much you have all of you suffered at sea, and how
ill you have fared among cruel savages on the mainland, but that is
over now, so stay here, and eat and drink till you are once more as
strong and hearty as you were when you left Ithaca; for at present you
are weakened both in body and mind; you keep all the time thinking
of the hardships- you have suffered during your travels, so that you
have no more cheerfulness left in you.'
"Thus did she speak and we assented. We stayed with Circe for a
whole twelvemonth feasting upon an untold quantity both of meat and
wine. But when the year had passed in the waning of moons and the long
days had come round, my men called me apart and said, 'Sir, it is time
you began to think about going home, if so be you are to be spared
to see your house and native country at all.'
"Thus did they speak and I assented. Thereon through the livelong
day to the going down of the sun we feasted our fill on meat and wine,
but when the sun went down and it came on dark the men laid themselves
down to sleep in the covered cloisters. I, however, after I had got
into bed with Circe, besought her by her knees, and the goddess
listened to what I had got to say. 'Circe,' said I, 'please to keep
the promise you made me about furthering me on my homeward voyage. I
want to get back and so do my men, they are always pestering me with
their complaints as soon as ever your back is turned.'
"And the goddess answered, 'Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, you shall
none of you stay here any longer if you do not want to, but there is
another journey which you have got to take before you can sail
homewards. You must go to the house of Hades and of dread Proserpine
to consult the ghost of the blind Theban prophet Teiresias whose
reason is still unshaken. To him alone has Proserpine left his
understanding even in death, but the other ghosts flit about
"I was dismayed when I heard this. I sat up in bed and wept, and
would gladly have lived no longer to see the light of the sun, but
presently when I was tired of weeping and tossing myself about, I
said, 'And who shall guide me upon this voyage- for the house of Hades
is a port that no ship can reach.'
"'You will want no guide,' she answered; 'raise you mast, set your
white sails, sit quite still, and the North Wind will blow you there
of itself. When your ship has traversed the waters of Oceanus, you
will reach the fertile shore of Proserpine's country with its groves
of tall poplars and willows that shed their fruit untimely; here beach
your ship upon the shore of Oceanus, and go straight on to the dark
abode of Hades. You will find it near the place where the rivers
Pyriphlegethon and Cocytus (which is a branch of the river Styx)
flow into Acheron, and you will see a rock near it, just where the two
roaring rivers run into one another.
"'When you have reached this spot, as I now tell you, dig a trench a
cubit or so in length, breadth, and depth, and pour into it as a
drink-offering to all the dead, first, honey mixed with milk, then
wine, and in the third place water-sprinkling white barley meal over
the whole. Moreover you must offer many prayers to the poor feeble
ghosts, and promise them that when you get back to Ithaca you will
sacrifice a barren heifer to them, the best you have, and will load
the pyre with good things. More particularly you must promise that
Teiresias shall have a black sheep all to himself, the finest in all
"'When you shall have thus besought the ghosts with your prayers,
offer them a ram and a black ewe, bending their heads towards
Erebus; but yourself turn away from them as though you would make
towards the river. On this, many dead men's ghosts will come to you,
and you must tell your men to skin the two sheep that you have just
killed, and offer them as a burnt sacrifice with prayers to Hades
and to Proserpine. Then draw your sword and sit there, so as to
prevent any other poor ghost from coming near the split blood before
Teiresias shall have answered your questions. The seer will
presently come to you, and will tell you about your voyage- what
stages you are to make, and how you are to sail the see so as to reach
"It was day-break by the time she had done speaking, so she
dressed me in my shirt and cloak. As for herself she threw a beautiful
light gossamer fabric over her shoulders, fastening it with a golden
girdle round her waist, and she covered her head with a mantle. Then I
went about among the men everywhere all over the house, and spoke
kindly to each of them man by man: 'You must not lie sleeping here any
longer,' said I to them, 'we must be going, for Circe has told me
all about it.' And this they did as I bade them.
"Even so, however, I did not get them away without misadventure.
We had with us a certain youth named Elpenor, not very remarkable
for sense or courage, who had got drunk and was lying on the house-top
away from the rest of the men, to sleep off his liquor in the cool.
When he heard the noise of the men bustling about, he jumped up on a
sudden and forgot all about coming down by the main staircase, so he
tumbled right off the roof and broke his neck, and his soul went
down to the house of Hades.
"When I had got the men together I said to them, 'You think you
are about to start home again, but Circe has explained to me that
instead of this, we have got to go to the house of Hades and
Proserpine to consult the ghost of the Theban prophet Teiresias.'
"The men were broken-hearted as they heard me, and threw
themselves on the ground groaning and tearing their hair, but they did
not mend matters by crying. When we reached the sea shore, weeping and
lamenting our fate, Circe brought the ram and the ewe, and we made
them fast hard by the ship. She passed through the midst of us without
our knowing it, for who can see the comings and goings of a god, if
the god does not wish to be seen?
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
The Holy Grail
From noiseful arms, and acts of prowess done
In tournament or tilt, Sir Percivale,
Whom Arthur and his knighthood called The Pure,
Had passed into the silent life of prayer,
Praise, fast, and alms; and leaving for the cowl
The helmet in an abbey far away
From Camelot, there, and not long after, died.
And one, a fellow-monk among the rest,
Ambrosius, loved him much beyond the rest,
And honoured him, and wrought into his heart
A way by love that wakened love within,
To answer that which came: and as they sat
Beneath a world-old yew-tree, darkening half
The cloisters, on a gustful April morn
That puffed the swaying branches into smoke
Above them, ere the summer when he died
The monk Ambrosius questioned Percivale:
`O brother, I have seen this yew-tree smoke,
Spring after spring, for half a hundred years:
For never have I known the world without,
Nor ever strayed beyond the pale: but thee,
When first thou camest--such a courtesy
Spake through the limbs and in the voice--I knew
For one of those who eat in Arthur's hall;
For good ye are and bad, and like to coins,
Some true, some light, but every one of you
Stamped with the image of the King; and now
Tell me, what drove thee from the Table Round,
My brother? was it earthly passion crost?'
`Nay,' said the knight; `for no such passion mine.
But the sweet vision of the Holy Grail
Drove me from all vainglories, rivalries,
And earthly heats that spring and sparkle out
Among us in the jousts, while women watch
Who wins, who falls; and waste the spiritual strength
Within us, better offered up to Heaven.'
To whom the monk: `The Holy Grail!--I trust
We are green in Heaven's eyes; but here too much
We moulder--as to things without I mean--
Yet one of your own knights, a guest of ours,
Told us of this in our refectory,
But spake with such a sadness and so low
We heard not half of what he said. What is it?
The phantom of a cup that comes and goes?'
`Nay, monk! what phantom?' answered Percivale.
`The cup, the cup itself, from which our Lord
Drank at the last sad supper with his own.
This, from the blessd land of Aromat--
After the day of darkness, when the dead
Went wandering o'er Moriah--the good saint
Arimathan Joseph, journeying brought
To Glastonbury, where the winter thorn
Blossoms at Christmas, mindful of our Lord.
And there awhile it bode; and if a man
Could touch or see it, he was healed at once,
By faith, of all his ills. But then the times
Grew to such evil that the holy cup
Was caught away to Heaven, and disappeared.'
To whom the monk: `From our old books I know
That Joseph came of old to Glastonbury,
And there the heathen Prince, Arviragus,
Gave him an isle of marsh whereon to build;
And there he built with wattles from the marsh
A little lonely church in days of yore,
For so they say, these books of ours, but seem
Mute of this miracle, far as I have read.
But who first saw the holy thing today?'
`A woman,' answered Percivale, `a nun,
And one no further off in blood from me
Than sister; and if ever holy maid
With knees of adoration wore the stone,
A holy maid; though never maiden glowed,
But that was in her earlier maidenhood,
With such a fervent flame of human love,
Which being rudely blunted, glanced and shot
Only to holy things; to prayer and praise
She gave herself, to fast and alms. And yet,
Nun as she was, the scandal of the Court,
Sin against Arthur and the Table Round,
And the strange sound of an adulterous race,
Across the iron grating of her cell
Beat, and she prayed and fasted all the more.
`And he to whom she told her sins, or what
Her all but utter whiteness held for sin,
A man wellnigh a hundred winters old,
Spake often with her of the Holy Grail,
A legend handed down through five or six,
And each of these a hundred winters old,
From our Lord's time. And when King Arthur made
His Table Round, and all men's hearts became
Clean for a season, surely he had thought
That now the Holy Grail would come again;
But sin broke out. Ah, Christ, that it would come,
And heal the world of all their wickedness!
"O Father!" asked the maiden, "might it come
To me by prayer and fasting?" "Nay," said he,
"I know not, for thy heart is pure as snow."
And so she prayed and fasted, till the sun
Shone, and the wind blew, through her, and I thought
She might have risen and floated when I saw her.
`For on a day she sent to speak with me.
And when she came to speak, behold her eyes
Beyond my knowing of them, beautiful,
Beyond all knowing of them, wonderful,
Beautiful in the light of holiness.
And "O my brother Percivale," she said,
"Sweet brother, I have seen the Holy Grail:
For, waked at dead of night, I heard a sound
As of a silver horn from o'er the hills
Blown, and I thought, `It is not Arthur's use
To hunt by moonlight;' and the slender sound
As from a distance beyond distance grew
Coming upon me--O never harp nor horn,
Nor aught we blow with breath, or touch with hand,
Was like that music as it came; and then
Streamed through my cell a cold and silver beam,
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail,
Rose-red with beatings in it, as if alive,
Till all the white walls of my cell were dyed
With rosy colours leaping on the wall;
And then the music faded, and the Grail
Past, and the beam decayed, and from the walls
The rosy quiverings died into the night.
So now the Holy Thing is here again
Among us, brother, fast thou too and pray,
And tell thy brother knights to fast and pray,
That so perchance the vision may be seen
By thee and those, and all the world be healed."
`Then leaving the pale nun, I spake of this
To all men; and myself fasted and prayed
Always, and many among us many a week
Fasted and prayed even to the uttermost,
Expectant of the wonder that would be.
`And one there was among us, ever moved
Among us in white armour, Galahad.
"God make thee good as thou art beautiful,"
Said Arthur, when he dubbed him knight; and none,
In so young youth, was ever made a knight
Till Galahad; and this Galahad, when he heard
My sister's vision, filled me with amaze;
His eyes became so like her own, they seemed
Hers, and himself her brother more than I.
`Sister or brother none had he; but some
Called him a son of Lancelot, and some said
Begotten by enchantment--chatterers they,
Like birds of passage piping up and down,
That gape for flies--we know not whence they come;
For when was Lancelot wanderingly lewd?
`But she, the wan sweet maiden, shore away
Clean from her forehead all that wealth of hair
Which made a silken mat-work for her feet;
And out of this she plaited broad and long
A strong sword-belt, and wove with silver thread
And crimson in the belt a strange device,
A crimson grail within a silver beam;
And saw the bright boy-knight, and bound it on him,
Saying, "My knight, my love, my knight of heaven,
O thou, my love, whose love is one with mine,
I, maiden, round thee, maiden, bind my belt.
Go forth, for thou shalt see what I have seen,
And break through all, till one will crown thee king
Far in the spiritual city:" and as she spake
She sent the deathless passion in her eyes
Through him, and made him hers, and laid her mind
On him, and he believed in her belief.
`Then came a year of miracle: O brother,
In our great hall there stood a vacant chair,
Fashioned by Merlin ere he past away,
And carven with strange figures; and in and out
The figures, like a serpent, ran a scroll
Of letters in a tongue no man could read.
And Merlin called it "The Siege perilous,"
Perilous for good and ill; "for there," he said,
"No man could sit but he should lose himself:"
And once by misadvertence Merlin sat
In his own chair, and so was lost; but he,
Galahad, when he heard of Merlin's doom,
Cried, "If I lose myself, I save myself!"
`Then on a summer night it came to pass,
While the great banquet lay along the hall,
That Galahad would sit down in Merlin's chair.
`And all at once, as there we sat, we heard
A cracking and a riving of the roofs,
And rending, and a blast, and overhead
Thunder, and in the thunder was a cry.
And in the blast there smote along the hall
A beam of light seven times more clear than day:
And down the long beam stole the Holy Grail
All over covered with a luminous cloud.
And none might see who bare it, and it past.
But every knight beheld his fellow's face
As in a glory, and all the knights arose,
And staring each at other like dumb men
Stood, till I found a voice and sware a vow.
`I sware a vow before them all, that I,
Because I had not seen the Grail, would ride
A twelvemonth and a day in quest of it,
Until I found and saw it, as the nun
My sister saw it; and Galahad sware the vow,
And good Sir Bors, our Lancelot's cousin, sware,
And Lancelot sware, and many among the knights,
And Gawain sware, and louder than the rest.'
Then spake the monk Ambrosius, asking him,
`What said the King? Did Arthur take the vow?'
`Nay, for my lord,' said Percivale, `the King,
Was not in hall: for early that same day,
Scaped through a cavern from a bandit hold,
An outraged maiden sprang into the hall
Crying on help: for all her shining hair
Was smeared with earth, and either milky arm
Red-rent with hooks of bramble, and all she wore
Torn as a sail that leaves the rope is torn
In tempest: so the King arose and went
To smoke the scandalous hive of those wild bees
That made such honey in his realm. Howbeit
Some little of this marvel he too saw,
Returning o'er the plain that then began
To darken under Camelot; whence the King
Looked up, calling aloud, "Lo, there! the roofs
Of our great hall are rolled in thunder-smoke!
Pray Heaven, they be not smitten by the bolt."
For dear to Arthur was that hall of ours,
As having there so oft with all his knights
Feasted, and as the stateliest under heaven.
`O brother, had you known our mighty hall,
Which Merlin built for Arthur long ago!
For all the sacred mount of Camelot,
And all the dim rich city, roof by roof,
Tower after tower, spire beyond spire,
By grove, and garden-lawn, and rushing brook,
Climbs to the mighty hall that Merlin built.
And four great zones of sculpture, set betwixt
With many a mystic symbol, gird the hall:
And in the lowest beasts are slaying men,
And in the second men are slaying beasts,
And on the third are warriors, perfect men,
And on the fourth are men with growing wings,
And over all one statue in the mould
Of Arthur, made by Merlin, with a crown,
And peaked wings pointed to the Northern Star.
And eastward fronts the statue, and the crown
And both the wings are made of gold, and flame
At sunrise till the people in far fields,
Wasted so often by the heathen hordes,
Behold it, crying, "We have still a King."
`And, brother, had you known our hall within,
Broader and higher than any in all the lands!
Where twelve great windows blazon Arthur's wars,
And all the light that falls upon the board
Streams through the twelve great battles of our King.
Nay, one there is, and at the eastern end,
Wealthy with wandering lines of mount and mere,
Where Arthur finds the brand Excalibur.
And also one to the west, and counter to it,
And blank: and who shall blazon it? when and how?--
O there, perchance, when all our wars are done,
The brand Excalibur will be cast away.
`So to this hall full quickly rode the King,
In horror lest the work by Merlin wrought,
Dreamlike, should on the sudden vanish, wrapt
In unremorseful folds of rolling fire.
And in he rode, and up I glanced, and saw
The golden dragon sparkling over all:
And many of those who burnt the hold, their arms
Hacked, and their foreheads grimed with smoke, and seared,
Followed, and in among bright faces, ours,
Full of the vision, prest: and then the King
Spake to me, being nearest, "Percivale,"
(Because the hall was all in tumult--some
Vowing, and some protesting), "what is this?"
`O brother, when I told him what had chanced,
My sister's vision, and the rest, his face
Darkened, as I have seen it more than once,
When some brave deed seemed to be done in vain,
Darken; and "Woe is me, my knights," he cried,
"Had I been here, ye had not sworn the vow."
Bold was mine answer, "Had thyself been here,
My King, thou wouldst have sworn." "Yea, yea," said he,
"Art thou so bold and hast not seen the Grail?"
`"Nay, lord, I heard the sound, I saw the light,
But since I did not see the Holy Thing,
I sware a vow to follow it till I saw."
`Then when he asked us, knight by knight, if any
Had seen it, all their answers were as one:
"Nay, lord, and therefore have we sworn our vows."
`"Lo now," said Arthur, "have ye seen a cloud?
What go ye into the wilderness to see?"
`Then Galahad on the sudden, and in a voice
Shrilling along the hall to Arthur, called,
"But I, Sir Arthur, saw the Holy Grail,
I saw the Holy Grail and heard a cry--
`O Galahad, and O Galahad, follow me.'"
`"Ah, Galahad, Galahad," said the King, "for such
As thou art is the vision, not for these.
Thy holy nun and thou have seen a sign--
Holier is none, my Percivale, than she--
A sign to maim this Order which I made.
But ye, that follow but the leader's bell"
(Brother, the King was hard upon his knights)
"Taliessin is our fullest throat of song,
And one hath sung and all the dumb will sing.
Lancelot is Lancelot, and hath overborne
Five knights at once, and every younger knight,
Unproven, holds himself as Lancelot,
Till overborne by one, he learns--and ye,
What are ye? Galahads?--no, nor Percivales"
(For thus it pleased the King to range me close
After Sir Galahad); "nay," said he, "but men
With strength and will to right the wronged, of power
To lay the sudden heads of violence flat,
Knights that in twelve great battles splashed and dyed
The strong White Horse in his own heathen blood--
But one hath seen, and all the blind will see.
Go, since your vows are sacred, being made:
Yet--for ye know the cries of all my realm
Pass through this hall--how often, O my knights,
Your places being vacant at my side,
This chance of noble deeds will come and go
Unchallenged, while ye follow wandering fires
Lost in the quagmire! Many of you, yea most,
Return no more: ye think I show myself
Too dark a prophet: come now, let us meet
The morrow morn once more in one full field
Of gracious pastime, that once more the King,
Before ye leave him for this Quest, may count
The yet-unbroken strength of all his knights,
Rejoicing in that Order which he made."
`So when the sun broke next from under ground,
All the great table of our Arthur closed
And clashed in such a tourney and so full,
So many lances broken--never yet
Had Camelot seen the like, since Arthur came;
And I myself and Galahad, for a strength
Was in us from this vision, overthrew
So many knights that all the people cried,
And almost burst the barriers in their heat,
Shouting, "Sir Galahad and Sir Percivale!"
`But when the next day brake from under ground--
O brother, had you known our Camelot,
Built by old kings, age after age, so old
The King himself had fears that it would fall,
So strange, and rich, and dim; for where the roofs
Tottered toward each other in the sky,
Met foreheads all along the street of those
Who watched us pass; and lower, and where the long
Rich galleries, lady-laden, weighed the necks
Of dragons clinging to the crazy walls,
Thicker than drops from thunder, showers of flowers
Fell as we past; and men and boys astride
On wyvern, lion, dragon, griffin, swan,
At all the corners, named us each by name,
Calling, "God speed!" but in the ways below
The knights and ladies wept, and rich and poor
Wept, and the King himself could hardly speak
For grief, and all in middle street the Queen,
Who rode by Lancelot, wailed and shrieked aloud,
"This madness has come on us for our sins."
So to the Gate of the three Queens we came,
Where Arthur's wars are rendered mystically,
And thence departed every one his way.
`And I was lifted up in heart, and thought
Of all my late-shown prowess in the lists,
How my strong lance had beaten down the knights,
So many and famous names; and never yet
Had heaven appeared so blue, nor earth so green,
For all my blood danced in me, and I knew
That I should light upon the Holy Grail.
`Thereafter, the dark warning of our King,
That most of us would follow wandering fires,
Came like a driving gloom across my mind.
Then every evil word I had spoken once,
And every evil thought I had thought of old,
And every evil deed I ever did,
Awoke and cried, "This Quest is not for thee."
And lifting up mine eyes, I found myself
Alone, and in a land of sand and thorns,
And I was thirsty even unto death;
And I, too, cried, "This Quest is not for thee."
`And on I rode, and when I thought my thirst
Would slay me, saw deep lawns, and then a brook,
With one sharp rapid, where the crisping white
Played ever back upon the sloping wave,
And took both ear and eye; and o'er the brook
Were apple-trees, and apples by the brook
Fallen, and on the lawns. "I will rest here,"
I said, "I am not worthy of the Quest;"
But even while I drank the brook, and ate
The goodly apples, all these things at once
Fell into dust, and I was left alone,
And thirsting, in a land of sand and thorns.
`And then behold a woman at a door
Spinning; and fair the house whereby she sat,
And kind the woman's eyes and innocent,
And all her bearing gracious; and she rose
Opening her arms to meet me, as who should say,
"Rest here;" but when I touched her, lo! she, too,
Fell into dust and nothing, and the house
Became no better than a broken shed,
And in it a dead babe; and also this
Fell into dust, and I was left alone.
`And on I rode, and greater was my thirst.
Then flashed a yellow gleam across the world,
And where it smote the plowshare in the field,
The plowman left his plowing, and fell down
Before it; where it glittered on her pail,
The milkmaid left her milking, and fell down
Before it, and I knew not why, but thought
"The sun is rising," though the sun had risen.
Then was I ware of one that on me moved
In golden armour with a crown of gold
About a casque all jewels; and his horse
In golden armour jewelled everywhere:
And on the splendour came, flashing me blind;
And seemed to me the Lord of all the world,
Being so huge. But when I thought he meant
To crush me, moving on me, lo! he, too,
Opened his arms to embrace me as he came,
And up I went and touched him, and he, too,
Fell into dust, and I was left alone
And wearying in a land of sand and thorns.
`And I rode on and found a mighty hill,
And on the top, a city walled: the spires
Pricked with incredible pinnacles into heaven.
And by the gateway stirred a crowd; and these
Cried to me climbing, "Welcome, Percivale!
Thou mightiest and thou purest among men!"
And glad was I and clomb, but found at top
No man, nor any voice. And thence I past
Far through a ruinous city, and I saw
That man had once dwelt there; but there I found
Only one man of an exceeding age.
"Where is that goodly company," said I,
"That so cried out upon me?" and he had
Scarce any voice to answer, and yet gasped,
"Whence and what art thou?" and even as he spoke
Fell into dust, and disappeared, and I
Was left alone once more, and cried in grief,
"Lo, if I find the Holy Grail itself
And touch it, it will crumble into dust."
`And thence I dropt into a lowly vale,
Low as the hill was high, and where the vale
Was lowest, found a chapel, and thereby
A holy hermit in a hermitage,
To whom I told my phantoms, and he said:
`"O son, thou hast not true humility,
The highest virtue, mother of them all;
For when the Lord of all things made Himself
Naked of glory for His mortal change,
`Take thou my robe,' she said, `for all is thine,'
And all her form shone forth with sudden light
So that the angels were amazed, and she
Followed Him down, and like a flying star
Led on the gray-haired wisdom of the east;
But her thou hast not known: for what is this
Thou thoughtest of thy prowess and thy sins?
Thou hast not lost thyself to save thyself
As Galahad." When the hermit made an end,
In silver armour suddenly Galahad shone
Before us, and against the chapel door
Laid lance, and entered, and we knelt in prayer.
And there the hermit slaked my burning thirst,
And at the sacring of the mass I saw
The holy elements alone; but he,
"Saw ye no more? I, Galahad, saw the Grail,
The Holy Grail, descend upon the shrine:
I saw the fiery face as of a child
That smote itself into the bread, and went;
And hither am I come; and never yet
Hath what thy sister taught me first to see,
This Holy Thing, failed from my side, nor come
Covered, but moving with me night and day,
Fainter by day, but always in the night
Blood-red, and sliding down the blackened marsh
Blood-red, and on the naked mountain top
Blood-red, and in the sleeping mere below
Blood-red. And in the strength of this I rode,
Shattering all evil customs everywhere,
And past through Pagan realms, and made them mine,
And clashed with Pagan hordes, and bore them down,
And broke through all, and in the strength of this
Come victor. But my time is hard at hand,
And hence I go; and one will crown me king
Far in the spiritual city; and come thou, too,
For thou shalt see the vision when I go."
`While thus he spake, his eye, dwelling on mine,
Drew me, with power upon me, till I grew
One with him, to believe as he believed.
Then, when the day began to wane, we went.
`There rose a hill that none but man could climb,
Scarred with a hundred wintry water-courses--
Storm at the top, and when we gained it, storm
Round us and death; for every moment glanced
His silver arms and gloomed: so quick and thick
The lightnings here and there to left and right
Struck, till the dry old trunks about us, dead,
Yea, rotten with a hundred years of death,
Sprang into fire: and at the base we found
On either hand, as far as eye could see,
A great black swamp and of an evil smell,
Part black, part whitened with the bones of men,
Not to be crost, save that some ancient king
Had built a way, where, linked with many a bridge,
A thousand piers ran into the great Sea.
And Galahad fled along them bridge by bridge,
And every bridge as quickly as he crost
Sprang into fire and vanished, though I yearned
To follow; and thrice above him all the heavens
Opened and blazed with thunder such as seemed
Shoutings of all the sons of God: and first
At once I saw him far on the great Sea,
In silver-shining armour starry-clear;
And o'er his head the Holy Vessel hung
Clothed in white samite or a luminous cloud.
And with exceeding swiftness ran the boat,
If boat it were--I saw not whence it came.
And when the heavens opened and blazed again
Roaring, I saw him like a silver star--
And had he set the sail, or had the boat
Become a living creature clad with wings?
And o'er his head the Holy Vessel hung
Redder than any rose, a joy to me,
For now I knew the veil had been withdrawn.
Then in a moment when they blazed again
Opening, I saw the least of little stars
Down on the waste, and straight beyond the star
I saw the spiritual city and all her spires
And gateways in a glory like one pearl--
No larger, though the goal of all the saints--
Strike from the sea; and from the star there shot
A rose-red sparkle to the city, and there
Dwelt, and I knew it was the Holy Grail,
Which never eyes on earth again shall see.
Then fell the floods of heaven drowning the deep.
And how my feet recrost the deathful ridge
No memory in me lives; but that I touched
The chapel-doors at dawn I know; and thence
Taking my war-horse from the holy man,
Glad that no phantom vext me more, returned
To whence I came, the gate of Arthur's wars.'
`O brother,' asked Ambrosius,--`for in sooth
These ancient books--and they would win thee--teem,
Only I find not there this Holy Grail,
With miracles and marvels like to these,
Not all unlike; which oftentime I read,
Who read but on my breviary with ease,
Till my head swims; and then go forth and pass
Down to the little thorpe that lies so close,
And almost plastered like a martin's nest
To these old walls--and mingle with our folk;
And knowing every honest face of theirs
As well as ever shepherd knew his sheep,
And every homely secret in their hearts,
Delight myself with gossip and old wives,
And ills and aches, and teethings, lyings-in,
And mirthful sayings, children of the place,
That have no meaning half a league away:
Or lulling random squabbles when they rise,
Chafferings and chatterings at the market-cross,
Rejoice, small man, in this small world of mine,
Yea, even in their hens and in their eggs--
O brother, saving this Sir Galahad,
Came ye on none but phantoms in your quest,
No man, no woman?'
Then Sir Percivale:
`All men, to one so bound by such a vow,
And women were as phantoms. O, my brother,
Why wilt thou shame me to confess to thee
How far I faltered from my quest and vow?
For after I had lain so many nights
A bedmate of the snail and eft and snake,
In grass and burdock, I was changed to wan
And meagre, and the vision had not come;
And then I chanced upon a goodly town
With one great dwelling in the middle of it;
Thither I made, and there was I disarmed
By maidens each as fair as any flower:
But when they led me into hall, behold,
The Princess of that castle was the one,
Brother, and that one only, who had ever
Made my heart leap; for when I moved of old
A slender page about her father's hall,
And she a slender maiden, all my heart
Went after her with longing: yet we twain
Had never kissed a kiss, or vowed a vow.
And now I came upon her once again,
And one had wedded her, and he was dead,
And all his land and wealth and state were hers.
And while I tarried, every day she set
A banquet richer than the day before
By me; for all her longing and her will
Was toward me as of old; till one fair morn,
I walking to and fro beside a stream
That flashed across her orchard underneath
Her castle-walls, she stole upon my walk,
And calling me the greatest of all knights,
Embraced me, and so kissed me the first time,
And gave herself and all her wealth to me.
Then I remembered Arthur's warning word,
That most of us would follow wandering fires,
And the Quest faded in my heart. Anon,
The heads of all her people drew to me,
With supplication both of knees and tongue:
"We have heard of thee: thou art our greatest knight,
Our Lady says it, and we well believe:
Wed thou our Lady, and rule over us,
And thou shalt be as Arthur in our land."
O me, my brother! but one night my vow
Burnt me within, so that I rose and fled,
But wailed and wept, and hated mine own self,
And even the Holy Quest, and all but her;
Then after I was joined with Galahad
Cared not for her, nor anything upon earth.'
Then said the monk, `Poor men, when yule is cold,
Must be content to sit by little fires.
And this am I, so that ye care for me
Ever so little; yea, and blest be Heaven
That brought thee here to this poor house of ours
Where all the brethren are so hard, to warm
My cold heart with a friend: but O the pity
To find thine own first love once more--to hold,
Hold her a wealthy bride within thine arms,
Or all but hold, and then--cast her aside,
Foregoing all her sweetness, like a weed.
For we that want the warmth of double life,
We that are plagued with dreams of something sweet
Beyond all sweetness in a life so rich,--
Ah, blessd Lord, I speak too earthlywise,
Seeing I never strayed beyond the cell,
But live like an old badger in his earth,
With earth about him everywhere, despite
All fast and penance. Saw ye none beside,
None of your knights?'
`Yea so,' said Percivale:
`One night my pathway swerving east, I saw
The pelican on the casque of our Sir Bors
All in the middle of the rising moon:
And toward him spurred, and hailed him, and he me,
And each made joy of either; then he asked,
"Where is he? hast thou seen him--Lancelot?--Once,"
Said good Sir Bors, "he dashed across me--mad,
And maddening what he rode: and when I cried,
`Ridest thou then so hotly on a quest
So holy,' Lancelot shouted, `Stay me not!
I have been the sluggard, and I ride apace,
For now there is a lion in the way.'
`Then Sir Bors had ridden on
Softly, and sorrowing for our Lancelot,
Because his former madness, once the talk
And scandal of our table, had returned;
For Lancelot's kith and kin so worship him
That ill to him is ill to them; to Bors
Beyond the rest: he well had been content
Not to have seen, so Lancelot might have seen,
The Holy Cup of healing; and, indeed,
Being so clouded with his grief and love,
Small heart was his after the Holy Quest:
If God would send the vision, well: if not,
The Quest and he were in the hands of Heaven.
`And then, with small adventure met, Sir Bors
Rode to the lonest tract of all the realm,
And found a people there among their crags,
Our race and blood, a remnant that were left
Paynim amid their circles, and the stones
They pitch up straight to heaven: and their wise men
Were strong in that old magic which can trace
The wandering of the stars, and scoffed at him
And this high Quest as at a simple thing:
Told him he followed--almost Arthur's words--
A mocking fire: "what other fire than he,
Whereby the blood beats, and the blossom blows,
And the sea rolls, and all the world is warmed?"
And when his answer chafed them, the rough crowd,
Hearing he had a difference with their priests,
Seized him, and bound and plunged him into a cell
Of great piled stones; and lying bounden there
In darkness through innumerable hours
He heard the hollow-ringing heavens sweep
Over him till by miracle--what else?--
Heavy as it was, a great stone slipt and fell,
Such as no wind could move: and through the gap
Glimmered the streaming scud: then came a night
Still as the day was loud; and through the gap
The seven clear stars of Arthur's Table Round--
For, brother, so one night, because they roll
Through such a round in heaven, we named the stars,
Rejoicing in ourselves and in our King--
And these, like bright eyes of familiar friends,
In on him shone: "And then to me, to me,"
Said good Sir Bors, "beyond all hopes of mine,
Who scarce had prayed or asked it for myself--
Across the seven clear stars--O grace to me--
In colour like the fingers of a hand
Before a burning taper, the sweet Grail
Glided and past, and close upon it pealed
A sharp quick thunder." Afterwards, a maid,
Who kept our holy faith among her kin
In secret, entering, loosed and let him go.'
To whom the monk: `And I remember now
That pelican on the casque: Sir Bors it was
Who spake so low and sadly at our board;
And mighty reverent at our grace was he:
A square-set man and honest; and his eyes,
An out-door sign of all the warmth within,
Smiled with his lips--a smile beneath a cloud,
But heaven had meant it for a sunny one:
Ay, ay, Sir Bors, who else? But when ye reached
The city, found ye all your knights returned,
Or was there sooth in Arthur's prophecy,
Tell me, and what said each, and what the King?'
Then answered Percivale: `And that can I,
Brother, and truly; since the living words
Of so great men as Lancelot and our King
Pass not from door to door and out again,
But sit within the house. O, when we reached
The city, our horses stumbling as they trode
On heaps of ruin, hornless unicorns,
Cracked basilisks, and splintered cockatrices,
And shattered talbots, which had left the stones
Raw, that they fell from, brought us to the hall.
`And there sat Arthur on the das-throne,
And those that had gone out upon the Quest,
Wasted and worn, and but a tithe of them,
And those that had not, stood before the King,
Who, when he saw me, rose, and bad me hail,
Saying, "A welfare in thine eye reproves
Our fear of some disastrous chance for thee
On hill, or plain, at sea, or flooding ford.
So fierce a gale made havoc here of late
Among the strange devices of our kings;
Yea, shook this newer, stronger hall of ours,
And from the statue Merlin moulded for us
Half-wrenched a golden wing; but now--the Quest,
This vision--hast thou seen the Holy Cup,
That Joseph brought of old to Glastonbury?"
`So when I told him all thyself hast heard,
Ambrosius, and my fresh but fixt resolve
To pass away into the quiet life,
He answered not, but, sharply turning, asked
Of Gawain, "Gawain, was this Quest for thee?"
`"Nay, lord," said Gawain, "not for such as I.
Therefore I communed with a saintly man,
Who made me sure the Quest was not for me;
For I was much awearied of the Quest:
But found a silk pavilion in a field,
And merry maidens in it; and then this gale
Tore my pavilion from the tenting-pin,
And blew my merry maidens all about
With all discomfort; yea, and but for this,
My twelvemonth and a day were pleasant to me."
`He ceased; and Arthur turned to whom at first
He saw not, for Sir Bors, on entering, pushed
Athwart the throng to Lancelot, caught his hand,
Held it, and there, half-hidden by him, stood,
Until the King espied him, saying to him,
"Hail, Bors! if ever loyal man and true
Could see it, thou hast seen the Grail;" and Bors,
"Ask me not, for I may not speak of it:
I saw it;" and the tears were in his eyes.
`Then there remained but Lancelot, for the rest
Spake but of sundry perils in the storm;
Perhaps, like him of Cana in Holy Writ,
Our Arthur kept his best until the last;
"Thou, too, my Lancelot," asked the king, "my friend,
Our mightiest, hath this Quest availed for thee?"
`"Our mightiest!" answered Lancelot, with a groan;
"O King!"--and when he paused, methought I spied
A dying fire of madness in his eyes--
"O King, my friend, if friend of thine I be,
Happier are those that welter in their sin,
Swine in the mud, that cannot see for slime,
Slime of the ditch: but in me lived a sin
So strange, of such a kind, that all of pure,
Noble, and knightly in me twined and clung
Round that one sin, until the wholesome flower
And poisonous grew together, each as each,
Not to be plucked asunder; and when thy knights
Sware, I sware with them only in the hope
That could I touch or see the Holy Grail
They might be plucked asunder. Then I spake
To one most holy saint, who wept and said,
That save they could be plucked asunder, all
My quest were but in vain; to whom I vowed
That I would work according as he willed.
And forth I went, and while I yearned and strove
To tear the twain asunder in my heart,
My madness came upon me as of old,
And whipt me into waste fields far away;
There was I beaten down by little men,
Mean knights, to whom the moving of my sword
And shadow of my spear had been enow
To scare them from me once; and then I came
All in my folly to the naked shore,
Wide flats, where nothing but coarse grasses grew;
But such a blast, my King, began to blow,
So loud a blast along the shore and sea,
Ye could not hear the waters for the blast,
Though heapt in mounds and ridges all the sea
Drove like a cataract, and all the sand
Swept like a river, and the clouded heavens
Were shaken with the motion and the sound.
And blackening in the sea-foam swayed a boat,
Half-swallowed in it, anchored with a chain;
And in my madness to myself I said,
`I will embark and I will lose myself,
And in the great sea wash away my sin.'
I burst the chain, I sprang into the boat.
Seven days I drove along the dreary deep,
And with me drove the moon and all the stars;
And the wind fell, and on the seventh night
I heard the shingle grinding in the surge,
And felt the boat shock earth, and looking up,
Behold, the enchanted towers of Carbonek,
A castle like a rock upon a rock,
With chasm-like portals open to the sea,
And steps that met the breaker! there was none
Stood near it but a lion on each side
That kept the entry, and the moon was full.
Then from the boat I leapt, and up the stairs.
There drew my sword. With sudden-flaring manes
Those two great beasts rose upright like a man,
Each gript a shoulder, and I stood between;
And, when I would have smitten them, heard a voice,
`Doubt not, go forward; if thou doubt, the beasts
Will tear thee piecemeal.' Then with violence
The sword was dashed from out my hand, and fell.
And up into the sounding hall I past;
But nothing in the sounding hall I saw,
No bench nor table, painting on the wall
Or shield of knight; only the rounded moon
Through the tall oriel on the rolling sea.
But always in the quiet house I heard,
Clear as a lark, high o'er me as a lark,
A sweet voice singing in the topmost tower
To the eastward: up I climbed a thousand steps
With pain: as in a dream I seemed to climb
For ever: at the last I reached a door,
A light was in the crannies, and I heard,
`Glory and joy and honour to our Lord
And to the Holy Vessel of the Grail.'
Then in my madness I essayed the door;
It gave; and through a stormy glare, a heat
As from a seventimes-heated furnace, I,
Blasted and burnt, and blinded as I was,
With such a fierceness that I swooned away--
O, yet methought I saw the Holy Grail,
All palled in crimson samite, and around
Great angels, awful shapes, and wings and eyes.
And but for all my madness and my sin,
And then my swooning, I had sworn I saw
That which I saw; but what I saw was veiled
And covered; and this Quest was not for me."
`So speaking, and here ceasing, Lancelot left
The hall long silent, till Sir Gawain--nay,
Brother, I need not tell thee foolish words,--
A reckless and irreverent knight was he,
Now boldened by the silence of his King,--
Well, I will tell thee: "O King, my liege," he said,
"Hath Gawain failed in any quest of thine?
When have I stinted stroke in foughten field?
But as for thine, my good friend Percivale,
Thy holy nun and thou have driven men mad,
Yea, made our mightiest madder than our least.
But by mine eyes and by mine ears I swear,
I will be deafer than the blue-eyed cat,
And thrice as blind as any noonday owl,
To holy virgins in their ecstasies,
`"Deafer," said the blameless King,
"Gawain, and blinder unto holy things
Hope not to make thyself by idle vows,
Being too blind to have desire to see.
But if indeed there came a sign from heaven,
Blessd are Bors, Lancelot and Percivale,
For these have seen according to their sight.
For every fiery prophet in old times,
And all the sacred madness of the bard,
When God made music through them, could but speak
His music by the framework and the chord;
And as ye saw it ye have spoken truth.
`"Nay--but thou errest, Lancelot: never yet
Could all of true and noble in knight and man
Twine round one sin, whatever it might be,
With such a closeness, but apart there grew,
Save that he were the swine thou spakest of,
Some root of knighthood and pure nobleness;
Whereto see thou, that it may bear its flower.
`"And spake I not too truly, O my knights?
Was I too dark a prophet when I said
To those who went upon the Holy Quest,
That most of them would follow wandering fires,
Lost in the quagmire?--lost to me and gone,
And left me gazing at a barren board,
And a lean Order--scarce returned a tithe--
And out of those to whom the vision came
My greatest hardly will believe he saw;
Another hath beheld it afar off,
And leaving human wrongs to right themselves,
Cares but to pass into the silent life.
And one hath had the vision face to face,
And now his chair desires him here in vain,
However they may crown him otherwhere.
`"And some among you held, that if the King
Had seen the sight he would have sworn the vow:
Not easily, seeing that the King must guard
That which he rules, and is but as the hind
To whom a space of land is given to plow.
Who may not wander from the allotted field
Before his work be done; but, being done,
Let visions of the night or of the day
Come, as they will; and many a time they come,
Until this earth he walks on seems not earth,
This light that strikes his eyeball is not light,
This air that smites his forehead is not air
But vision--yea, his very hand and foot--
In moments when he feels he cannot die,
And knows himself no vision to himself,
Nor the high God a vision, nor that One
Who rose again: ye have seen what ye have seen."
`So spake the King: I knew not all he meant.'
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
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
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The Aeneid of Virgil: Book 12
WHEN Turnus saw the Latins leave the field,
Their armies broken, and their courage quell’d,
Himself become the mark of public spite,
His honor question’d for the promis’d fight;
The more he was with vulgar hate oppress’d, 5
The more his fury boil’d within his breast:
He rous’d his vigor for the last debate,
And rais’d his haughty soul to meet his fate.
As, when the swains the Libyan lion chase,
He makes a sour retreat, nor mends his pace; 10
But, if the pointed jav’lin pierce his side,
The lordly beast returns with double pride:
He wrenches out the steel, he roars for pain;
His sides he lashes, and erects his mane:
So Turnus fares; his eyeballs flash with fire, 15
Thro’ his wide nostrils clouds of smoke expire.
Trembling with rage, around the court he ran,
At length approach’d the king, and thus began:
“No more excuses or delays: I stand
In arms prepar’d to combat, hand to hand, 20
This base deserter of his native land.
The Trojan, by his word, is bound to take
The same conditions which himself did make.
Renew the truce; the solemn rites prepare,
And to my single virtue trust the war. 25
The Latians unconcern’d shall see the fight;
This arm unaided shall assert your right:
Then, if my prostrate body press the plain,
To him the crown and beauteous bride remain.”
To whom the king sedately thus replied: 30
“Brave youth, the more your valor has been tried,
The more becomes it us, with due respect,
To weigh the chance of war, which you neglect.
You want not wealth, or a successive throne,
Or cities which your arms have made your own: 35
My towns and treasures are at your command,
And stor’d with blooming beauties is my land;
Laurentum more than one Lavinia sees,
Unmarried, fair, of noble families.
Now let me speak, and you with patience hear, 40
Things which perhaps may grate a lover’s ear,
But sound advice, proceeding from a heart
Sincerely yours, and free from fraudful art.
The gods, by signs, have manifestly shown,
No prince Italian born should heir my throne: 45
Oft have our augurs, in prediction skill’d,
And oft our priests, a foreign son reveal’d.
Yet, won by worth that cannot be withstood,
Brib’d by my kindness to my kindred blood,
Urg’d by my wife, who would not be denied, 50
I promis’d my Lavinia for your bride:
Her from her plighted lord by force I took;
All ties of treaties, and of honor, broke:
On your account I wag’d an impious war—
With what success, ’t is needless to declare; 55
I and my subjects feel, and you have had your share.
Twice vanquish’d while in bloody fields we strive,
Scarce in our walls we keep our hopes alive:
The rolling flood runs warm with human gore;
The bones of Latians blanch the neighb’ring shore. 60
Why put I not an end to this debate,
Still unresolv’d, and still a slave to fate?
If Turnus’ death a lasting peace can give,
Why should I not procure it whilst you live?
Should I to doubtful arms your youth betray, 65
What would my kinsmen the Rutulians say?
And, should you fall in fight, (which Heav’n defend!)
How curse the cause which hasten’d to his end
The daughter’s lover and the father’s friend?
Weigh in your mind the various chance of war; 70
Pity your parent’s age, and ease his care.”
Such balmy words he pour’d, but all in vain:
The proffer’d med’cine but provok’d the pain.
The wrathful youth, disdaining the relief,
With intermitting sobs thus vents his grief: 75
“The care, O best of fathers, which you take
For my concerns, at my desire forsake.
Permit me not to languish out my days,
But make the best exchange of life for praise.
This arm, this lance, can well dispute the prize; 80
And the blood follows, where the weapon flies.
His goddess mother is not near, to shroud
The flying coward with an empty cloud.”
But now the queen, who fear’d for Turnus’ life,
And loath’d the hard conditions of the strife, 85
Held him by force; and, dying in his death,
In these sad accents gave her sorrow breath:
“O Turnus, I adjure thee by these tears,
And whate’er price Amata’s honor bears
Within thy breast, since thou art all my hope, 90
My sickly mind’s repose, my sinking age’s prop;
Since on the safety of thy life alone
Depends Latinus, and the Latian throne:
Refuse me not this one, this only pray’r,
To waive the combat, and pursue the war. 95
Whatever chance attends this fatal strife,
Think it includes, in thine, Amata’s life.
I cannot live a slave, or see my throne
Usurp’d by strangers or a Trojan son.”
At this, a flood of tears Lavinia shed; 100
A crimson blush her beauteous face o’erspread,
Varying her cheeks by turns with white and red.
The driving colors, never at a stay,
Run here and there, and flush, and fade away.
Delightful change! Thus Indian iv’ry shows, 105
Which with the bord’ring paint of purple glows;
Or lilies damask’d by the neighb’ring rose.
The lover gaz’d, and, burning with desire,
The more he look’d, the more he fed the fire:
Revenge, and jealous rage, and secret spite, 110
Roll in his breast, and rouse him to the fight.
Then fixing on the queen his ardent eyes,
Firm to his first intent, he thus replies:
“O mother, do not by your tears prepare
Such boding omens, and prejudge the war. 115
Resolv’d on fight, I am no longer free
To shun my death, if Heav’n my death decree.”
Then turning to the herald, thus pursues:
“Go, greet the Trojan with ungrateful news;
Denounce from me, that, when to-morrow’s light 120
Shall gild the heav’ns, he need not urge the fight;
The Trojan and Rutulian troops no more
Shall dye, with mutual blood, the Latian shore:
Our single swords the quarrel shall decide,
And to the victor be the beauteous bride.” 125
He said, and striding on, with speedy pace,
He sought his coursers of the Thracian race.
At his approach they toss their heads on high,
And, proudly neighing, promise victory.
The sires of these Orythia sent from far, 130
To grace Pilumnus, when he went to war.
The drifts of Thracian snows were scarce so white,
Nor northern winds in fleetness match’d their flight.
Officious grooms stand ready by his side;
And some with combs their flowing manes divide, 135
And others stroke their chests and gently soothe their pride.
He sheath’d his limbs in arms; a temper’d mass
Of golden metal those, and mountain brass.
Then to his head his glitt’ring helm he tied,
And girt his faithful fauchion to his side. 140
In his Ætnæan forge, the God of Fire
That fauchion labor’d for the hero’s sire;
Immortal keenness on the blade bestow’d,
And plung’d it hissing in the Stygian flood.
Propp’d on a pillar, which the ceiling bore, 145
Was plac’d the lance Auruncan Actor wore;
Which with such force he brandish’d in his hand,
The tough ash trembled like an osier wand:
Then cried: “O pond’rous spoil of Actor slain,
And never yet by Turnus toss’d in vain, 150
Fail not this day thy wonted force; but go,
Sent by this hand, to pierce the Trojan foe!
Give me to tear his corslet from his breast,
And from that eunuch head to rend the crest;
Dragg’d in the dust, his frizzled hair to soil, 155
Hot from the vexing ir’n, and smear’d with fragrant oil!”
Thus while he raves, from his wide nostrils flies
A fiery steam, and sparkles from his eyes.
So fares the bull in his lov’d female’s sight:
Proudly he bellows, and preludes the fight; 160
He tries his goring horns against a tree,
And meditates his absent enemy;
He pushes at the winds; he digs the strand
With his black hoofs, and spurns the yellow sand.
Nor less the Trojan, in his Lemnian arms, 165
To future fight his manly courage warms:
He whets his fury, and with joy prepares
To terminate at once the ling’ring wars;
To cheer his chiefs and tender son, relates
What Heav’n had promis’d, and expounds the fates. 170
Then to the Latian king he sends, to cease
The rage of arms, and ratify the peace.
The morn ensuing, from the mountain’s height,
Had scarcely spread the skies with rosy light;
Th’ ethereal coursers, bounding from the sea, 175
From out their flaming nostrils breath’d the day;
When now the Trojan and Rutulian guard,
In friendly labor join’d, the list prepar’d.
Beneath the walls they measure out the space;
Then sacred altars rear, on sods of grass, 180
Where, with religious rites, their common gods they place.
In purest white the priests their heads attire;
And living waters bear, and holy fire;
And, o’er their linen hoods and shaded hair,
Long twisted wreaths of sacred vervain wear, 185
In order issuing from the town appears
The Latin legion, arm’d with pointed spears;
And from the fields, advancing on a line,
The Trojan and the Tuscan forces join:
Their various arms afford a pleasing sight; 190
A peaceful train they seem, in peace prepar’d for fight.
Betwixt the ranks the proud commanders ride,
Glitt’ring with gold, and vests in purple dyed;
Here Mnestheus, author of the Memmian line,
And there Messapus, born of seed divine. 195
The sign is giv’n; and, round the listed space,
Each man in order fills his proper place.
Reclining on their ample shields, they stand,
And fix their pointed lances in the sand.
Now, studious of the sight, a num’rous throng 200
Of either sex promiscuous, old and young,
Swarm from the town: by those who rest behind,
The gates and walls and houses’ tops are lin’d.
Meantime the Queen of Heav’n beheld the sight,
With eyes unpleas’d, from Mount Albano’s height 205
(Since call’d Albano by succeeding fame,
But then an empty hill, without a name).
She thence survey’d the field, the Trojan pow’rs,
The Latian squadrons, and Laurentine tow’rs.
Then thus the goddess of the skies bespake, 210
With sighs and tears, the goddess of the lake,
King Turnus’ sister, once a lovely maid,
Ere to the lust of lawless Jove betray’d:
Compress’d by force, but, by the grateful god,
Now made the Nais of the neighb’ring flood. 215
“O nymph, the pride of living lakes,” said she,
“O most renown’d, and most belov’d by me,
Long hast thou known, nor need I to record,
The wanton sallies of my wand’ring lord.
Of ev’ry Latian fair whom Jove misled 220
To mount by stealth my violated bed,
To thee alone I grudg’d not his embrace,
But gave a part of heav’n, and an unenvied place.
Now learn from me thy near approaching grief,
Nor think my wishes want to thy relief. 225
While fortune favor’d, nor Heav’n’s King denied
To lend my succor to the Latian side,
I sav’d thy brother, and the sinking state:
But now he struggles with unequal fate,
And goes, with gods averse, o’ermatch’d in might, 230
To meet inevitable death in fight;
Nor must I break the truce, nor can sustain the sight.
Thou, if thou dar’st, thy present aid supply;
It well becomes a sister’s care to try.”
At this the lovely nymph, with grief oppress’d, 235
Thrice tore her hair, and beat her comely breast.
To whom Saturnia thus: “Thy tears are late:
Haste, snatch him, if he can be snatch’d from fate:
New tumults kindle; violate the truce:
Who knows what changeful fortune may produce? 240
’T is not a crime t’ attempt what I decree;
Or, if it were, discharge the crime on me.”
She said, and, sailing on the winged wind,
Left the sad nymph suspended in her mind.
And now in pomp the peaceful kings appear: 245
Four steeds the chariot of Latinus bear;
Twelve golden beams around his temples play,
To mark his lineage from the God of Day.
Two snowy coursers Turnus’ chariot yoke,
And in his hand two massy spears he shook: 250
Then issued from the camp, in arms divine,
Æneas, author of the Roman line;
And by his side Ascanius took his place,
The second hope of Rome’s immortal race.
Adorn’d in white, a rev’rend priest appears, 255
And off’rings to the flaming altars bears;
A porket, and a lamb that never suffer’d shears.
Then to the rising sun he turns his eyes,
And strews the beasts, design’d for sacrifice,
With salt and meal: with like officious care 260
He marks their foreheads, and he clips their hair.
Betwixt their horns the purple wine he sheds;
With the same gen’rous juice the flame he feeds.
Æneas then unsheath’d his shining sword,
And thus with pious pray’rs the gods ador’d: 265
“All-seeing sun, and thou, Ausonian soil,
For which I have sustain’d so long a toil,
Thou, King of Heav’n, and thou, the Queen of Air,
Propitious now, and reconcil’d by pray’r;
Thou, God of War, whose unresisted sway 270
The labors and events of arms obey;
Ye living fountains, and ye running floods,
All pow’rs of ocean, all ethereal gods,
Hear, and bear record: if I fall in field,
Or, recreant in the fight, to Turnus yield, 275
My Trojans shall encrease Evander’s town;
Ascanius shall renounce th’ Ausonian crown:
All claims, all questions of debate, shall cease;
Nor he, nor they, with force infringe the peace.
But, if my juster arms prevail in fight, 280
(As sure they shall, if I divine aright,)
My Trojans shall not o’er th’ Italians reign:
Both equal, both unconquer’d shall remain,
Join’d in their laws, their lands, and their abodes;
I ask but altars for my weary gods. 285
The care of those religious rites be mine;
The crown to King Latinus I resign:
His be the sov’reign sway. Nor will I share
His pow’r in peace, or his command in war.
For me, my friends another town shall frame, 290
And bless the rising tow’rs with fair Lavinia’s name.”
Thus he. Then, with erected eyes and hands,
The Latian king before his altar stands.
“By the same heav’n,” said he, “and earth, and main,
And all the pow’rs that all the three contain; 295
By hell below, and by that upper god
Whose thunder signs the peace, who seals it with his nod;
So let Latona’s double offspring hear,
And double-fronted Janus, what I swear:
I touch the sacred altars, touch the flames, 300
And all those pow’rs attest, and all their names;
Whatever chance befall on either side,
No term of time this union shall divide:
No force, no fortune, shall my vows unbind,
Or shake the steadfast tenor of my mind; 305
Not tho’ the circling seas should break their bound,
O’erflow the shores, or sap the solid ground;
Not tho’ the lamps of heav’n their spheres forsake,
Hurl’d down, and hissing in the nether lake:
Ev’n as this royal scepter” (for he bore 310
A scepter in his hand) “shall never more
Shoot out in branches, or renew the birth:
An orphan now, cut from the mother earth
By the keen ax, dishonor’d of its hair,
And cas’d in brass, for Latian kings to bear.” 315
When thus in public view the peace was tied
With solemn vows, and sworn on either side,
All dues perform’d which holy rites require;
The victim beasts are slain before the fire,
The trembling entrails from their bodies torn, 320
And to the fatten’d flames in chargers borne.
Already the Rutulians deem their man
O’ermatch’d in arms, before the fight began.
First rising fears are whisper’d thro’ the crowd;
Then, gath’ring sound, they murmur more aloud. 325
Now, side to side, they measure with their eyes
The champions’ bulk, their sinews, and their size:
The nearer they approach, the more is known
Th’ apparent disadvantage of their own.
Turnus himself appears in public sight 330
Conscious of fate, desponding of the fight.
Slowly he moves, and at his altar stands
With eyes dejected, and with trembling hands;
And, while he mutters undistinguish’d pray’rs,
A livid deadness in his cheeks appears. 335
With anxious pleasure when Juturna view’d
Th’ increasing fright of the mad multitude,
When their short sighs and thick’ning sobs she heard,
And found their ready minds for change prepar’d;
Dissembling her immortal form, she took 340
Camertus’ mien, his habit, and his look;
A chief of ancient blood; in arms well known
Was his great sire, and he his greater son.
His shape assum’d, amid the ranks she ran,
And humoring their first motions, thus began: 345
“For shame, Rutulians, can you bear the sight
Of one expos’d for all, in single fight?
Can we, before the face of heav’n, confess
Our courage colder, or our numbers less?
View all the Trojan host, th’ Arcadian band, 350
And Tuscan army; count ’em as they stand:
Undaunted to the battle if we go,
Scarce ev’ry second man will share a foe.
Turnus, ’t is true, in this unequal strife,
Shall lose, with honor, his devoted life, 355
Or change it rather for immortal fame,
Succeeding to the gods, from whence he came:
But you, a servile and inglorious band,
For foreign lords shall sow your native land,
Those fruitful fields your fighting fathers gain’d, 360
Which have so long their lazy sons sustain’d.”
With words like these, she carried her design:
A rising murmur runs along the line.
Then ev’n the city troops, and Latians, tir’d
With tedious war, seem with new souls inspir’d: 365
Their champion’s fate with pity they lament,
And of the league, so lately sworn, repent.
Nor fails the goddess to foment the rage
With lying wonders, and a false presage;
But adds a sign, which, present to their eyes, 370
Inspires new courage, and a glad surprise.
For, sudden, in the fiery tracts above,
Appears in pomp th’ imperial bird of Jove:
A plump of fowl he spies, that swim the lakes,
And o’er their heads his sounding pinions shakes; 375
Then, stooping on the fairest of the train,
In his strong talons truss’d a silver swan.
Th’ Italians wonder at th’ unusual sight;
But, while he lags, and labors in his flight,
Behold, the dastard fowl return anew, 380
And with united force the foe pursue:
Clam’rous around the royal hawk they fly,
And, thick’ning in a cloud, o’ershade the sky.
They cuff, they scratch, they cross his airy course;
Nor can th’ incumber’d bird sustain their force; 385
But vex’d, not vanquish’d, drops the pond’rous prey,
And, lighten’d of his burthen, wings his way.
Th’ Ausonian bands with shouts salute the sight,
Eager of action, and demand the fight.
Then King Tolumnius, vers’d in augurs’ arts, 390
Cries out, and thus his boasted skill imparts:
“At length ’t is granted, what I long desir’d!
This, this is what my frequent vows requir’d.
Ye gods, I take your omen, and obey.
Advance, my friends, and charge! I lead the way. 395
These are the foreign foes, whose impious band,
Like that rapacious bird, infest our land:
But soon, like him, they shall be forc’d to sea
By strength united, and forego the prey.
Your timely succor to your country bring, 400
Haste to the rescue, and redeem your king.”
He said; and, pressing onward thro’ the crew,
Pois’d in his lifted arm, his lance he threw.
The winged weapon, whistling in the wind,
Came driving on, nor miss’d the mark design’d. 405
At once the cornel rattled in the skies;
At once tumultuous shouts and clamors rise.
Nine brothers in a goodly band there stood,
Born of Arcadian mix’d with Tuscan blood,
Gylippus’ sons: the fatal jav’lin flew, 410
Aim’d at the midmost of the friendly crew.
A passage thro’ the jointed arms it found,
Just where the belt was to the body bound,
And struck the gentle youth extended on the ground.
Then, fir’d with pious rage, the gen’rous train 415
Run madly forward to revenge the slain.
And some with eager haste their jav’lins throw;
And some with sword in hand assault the foe.
The wish’d insult the Latine troops embrace,
And meet their ardor in the middle space. 420
The Trojans, Tuscans, and Arcadian line,
With equal courage obviate their design.
Peace leaves the violated fields, and hate
Both armies urges to their mutual fate.
With impious haste their altars are o’erturn’d, 425
The sacrifice half-broil’d, and half-unburn’d.
Thick storms of steel from either army fly,
And clouds of clashing darts obscure the sky;
Brands from the fire are missive weapons made,
With chargers, bowls, and all the priestly trade. 430
Latinus, frighted, hastens from the fray,
And bears his unregarded gods away.
These on their horses vault; those yoke the car;
The rest, with swords on high, run headlong to the war.
Messapus, eager to confound the peace, 435
Spurr’d his hot courser thro’ the fighting prease,
At King Aulestes, by his purple known
A Tuscan prince, and by his regal crown;
And, with a shock encount’ring, bore him down.
Backward he fell; and, as his fate design’d, 440
The ruins of an altar were behind:
There, pitching on his shoulders and his head,
Amid the scatt’ring fires he lay supinely spread.
The beamy spear, descending from above,
His cuirass pierc’d, and thro’ his body drove. 445
Then, with a scornful smile, the victor cries:
“The gods have found a fitter sacrifice.”
Greedy of spoils, th’ Italians strip the dead
Of his rich armor, and uncrown his head.
Priest Corynæus, arm’d his better hand, 450
From his own altar, with a blazing brand;
And, as Ebusus with a thund’ring pace
Advanc’d to battle, dash’d it on his face:
His bristly beard shines out with sudden fires;
The crackling crop a noisome scent expires. 455
Following the blow, he seiz’d his curling crown
With his left hand; his other cast him down.
The prostrate body with his knees he press’d,
And plung’d his holy poniard in his breast.
While Podalirius, with his sword, pursued 460
The shepherd Alsus thro’ the flying crowd,
Swiftly he turns, and aims a deadly blow
Full on the front of his unwary foe.
The broad ax enters with a crashing sound,
And cleaves the chin with one continued wound; 465
Warm blood, and mingled brains, besmear his arms around.
An iron sleep his stupid eyes oppress’d,
And seal’d their heavy lids in endless rest.
But good Æneas rush’d amid the bands;
Bare was his head, and naked were his hands, 470
In sign of truce: then thus he cries aloud:
“What sudden rage, what new desire of blood,
Inflames your alter’d minds? O Trojans, cease
From impious arms, nor violate the peace!
By human sanctions, and by laws divine, 475
The terms are all agreed; the war is mine.
Dismiss your fears, and let the fight ensue;
This hand alone shall right the gods and you:
Our injur’d altars, and their broken vow,
To this avenging sword the faithless Turnus owe.” 480
Thus while he spoke, unmindful of defense,
A winged arrow struck the pious prince.
But, whether from some human hand it came,
Or hostile god, is left unknown by fame:
No human hand or hostile god was found, 485
To boast the triumph of so base a wound.
When Turnus saw the Trojan quit the plain,
His chiefs dismay’d, his troops a fainting train,
Th’ unhop’d event his heighten’d soul inspires:
At once his arms and coursers he requires; 490
Then, with a leap, his lofty chariot gains,
And with a ready hand assumes the reins.
He drives impetuous, and, where’er he goes,
He leaves behind a lane of slaughter’d foes.
These his lance reaches; over those he rolls 495
His rapid car, and crushes out their souls:
In vain the vanquish’d fly; the victor sends
The dead men’s weapons at their living friends.
Thus, on the banks of Hebrus’ freezing flood,
The God of Battles, in his angry mood, 500
Clashing his sword against his brazen shield,
Let loose the reins, and scours along the field:
Before the wind his fiery coursers fly;
Groans the sad earth, resounds the rattling sky.
Wrath, Terror, Treason, Tumult, and Despair 505
(Dire faces, and deform’d) surround the car;
Friends of the god, and followers of the war.
With fury not unlike, nor less disdain,
Exulting Turnus flies along the plain:
His smoking horses, at their utmost speed, 510
He lashes on, and urges o’er the dead.
Their fetlocks run with blood; and, when they bound,
The gore and gath’ring dust are dash’d around.
Thamyris and Pholus, masters of the war,
He kill’d at hand, but Sthenelus afar: 515
From far the sons of Imbracus he slew,
Glaucus and Lades, of the Lycian crew;
Both taught to fight on foot, in battle join’d,
Or mount the courser that outstrips the wind.
Meantime Eumedes, vaunting in the field, 520
New fir’d the Trojans, and their foes repell’d.
This son of Dolon bore his grandsire’s name,
But emulated more his father’s fame;
His guileful father, sent a nightly spy,
The Grecian camp and order to descry: 525
Hard enterprise! and well he might require
Achilles’ car and horses, for his hire:
But, met upon the scout, th’ Ætolian prince
In death bestow’d a juster recompense.
Fierce Turnus view’d the Trojan from afar, 530
And launch’d his jav’lin from his lofty car;
Then lightly leaping down, pursued the blow,
And, pressing with his foot his prostrate foe,
Wrench’d from his feeble hold the shining sword,
And plung’d it in the bosom of its lord. 535
“Possess,” said he, “the fruit of all thy pains,
And measure, at thy length, our Latian plains.
Thus are my foes rewarded by my hand;
Thus may they build their town, and thus enjoy the land!”
Then Dares, Butes, Sybaris he slew, 540
Whom o’er his neck his flound’ring courser threw.
As when loud Boreas, with his blust’ring train,
Stoops from above, incumbent on the main;
Where’er he flies, he drives the rack before,
And rolls the billows on th’ Ægæan shore: 545
So, where resistless Turnus takes his course,
The scatter’d squadrons bend before his force;
His crest of horses’ hair is blown behind
By adverse air, and rustles in the wind.
This haughty Phegeus saw with high disdain, 550
And, as the chariot roll’d along the plain,
Light from the ground he leapt, and seiz’d the rein.
Thus hung in air, he still retain’d his hold,
The coursers frighted, and their course controll’d.
The lance of Turnus reach’d him as he hung, 555
And pierc’d his plated arms, but pass’d along,
And only raz’d the skin. He turn’d, and held
Against his threat’ning foe his ample shield;
Then call’d for aid: but, while he cried in vain,
The chariot bore him backward on the plain. 560
He lies revers’d; the victor king descends,
And strikes so justly where his helmet ends,
He lops the head. The Latian fields are drunk
With streams that issue from the bleeding trunk.
While he triumphs, and while the Trojans yield, 565
The wounded prince is forc’d to leave the field:
Strong Mnestheus, and Achates often tried,
And young Ascanius, weeping by his side,
Conduct him to his tent. Scarce can he rear
His limbs from earth, supported on his spear. 570
Resolv’d in mind, regardless of the smart,
He tugs with both his hands, and breaks the dart.
The steel remains. No readier way he found
To draw the weapon, than t’ inlarge the wound.
Eager of fight, impatient of delay, 575
He begs; and his unwilling friends obey.
Iapis was at hand to prove his art,
Whose blooming youth so fir’d Apollo’s heart,
That, for his love, he proffer’d to bestow
His tuneful harp and his unerring bow. 580
The pious youth, more studious how to save
His aged sire, now sinking to the grave,
Preferr’d the pow’r of plants, and silent praise
Of healing arts, before Phœbean bays.
Propp’d on his lance the pensive hero stood, 585
And heard and saw, unmov’d, the mourning crowd.
The fam’d physician tucks his robes around
With ready hands, and hastens to the wound.
With gentle touches he performs his part,
This way and that, soliciting the dart, 590
And exercises all his heav’nly art.
All soft’ning simples, known of sov’reign use,
He presses out, and pours their noble juice.
These first infus’d, to lenify the pain,
He tugs with pincers, but he tugs in vain. 595
Then to the patron of his art he pray’d:
The patron of his art refus’d his aid.
Meantime the war approaches to the tents;
Th’ alarm grows hotter, and the noise augments:
The driving dust proclaims the danger near; 600
And first their friends, and then their foes appear:
Their friends retreat; their foes pursue the rear.
The camp is fill’d with terror and affright:
The hissing shafts within the trench alight;
An undistinguish’d noise ascends the sky, 605
The shouts of those who kill, and groans of those who die.
But now the goddess mother, mov’d with grief,
And pierc’d with pity, hastens her relief.
A branch of healing dittany she brought,
Which in the Cretan fields with care she sought: 610
Rough is the stem, which woolly leafs surround;
The leafs with flow’rs, the flow’rs with purple crown’d,
Well known to wounded goats; a sure relief
To draw the pointed steel, and ease the grief.
This Venus brings, in clouds involv’d, and brews 615
Th’ extracted liquor with ambrosian dews,
And od’rous panacee. Unseen she stands,
Temp’ring the mixture with her heav’nly hands,
And pours it in a bowl, already crown’d
With juice of med’c’nal herbs prepar’d to bathe the wound. 620
The leech, unknowing of superior art
Which aids the cure, with this foments the part;
And in a moment ceas’d the raging smart.
Stanch’d is the blood, and in the bottom stands:
The steel, but scarcely touch’d with tender hands, 625
Moves up, and follows of its own accord,
And health and vigor are at once restor’d.
Iapis first perceiv’d the closing wound,
And first the footsteps of a god he found.
“Arms! arms!” he cries; “the sword and shield prepare, 630
And send the willing chief, renew’d, to war.
This is no mortal work, no cure of mine,
Nor art’s effect, but done by hands divine.
Some god our general to the battle sends;
Some god preserves his life for greater ends.” 635
The hero arms in haste; his hands infold
His thighs with cuishes of refulgent gold:
Inflam’d to fight, and rushing to the field,
That hand sustaining the celestial shield,
This gripes the lance, and with such vigor shakes, 640
That to the rest the beamy weapon quakes.
Then with a close embrace he strain’d his son,
And, kissing thro’ his helmet, thus begun:
“My son, from my example learn the war,
In camps to suffer, and in fields to dare; 645
But happier chance than mine attend thy care!
This day my hand thy tender age shall shield,
And crown with honors of the conquer’d field:
Thou, when thy riper years shall send thee forth
To toils of war, be mindful of my worth; 650
Assert thy birthright, and in arms be known,
For Hector’s nephew, and Æneas’ son.”
He said; and, striding, issued on the plain.
Anteus and Mnestheus, and a num’rous train,
Attend his steps; the rest their weapons take, 655
And, crowding to the field, the camp forsake.
A cloud of blinding dust is rais’d around,
Labors beneath their feet the trembling ground.
Now Turnus, posted on a hill, from far
Beheld the progress of the moving war: 660
With him the Latins view’d the cover’d plains,
And the chill blood ran backward in their veins.
Juturna saw th’ advancing troops appear,
And heard the hostile sound, and fled for fear.
Æneas leads; and draws a sweeping train, 665
Clos’d in their ranks, and pouring on the plain.
As when a whirlwind, rushing to the shore
From the mid ocean, drives the waves before;
The painful hind with heavy heart foresees
The flatted fields, and slaughter of the trees; 670
With like impetuous rage the prince appears
Before his doubled front, nor less destruction bears.
And now both armies shock in open field;
Osiris is by strong Thymbræus kill’d.
Archetius, Ufens, Epulon, are slain 675
(All fam’d in arms, and of the Latian train)
By Gyas’, Mnestheus’, and Achates’ hand.
The fatal augur falls, by whose command
The truce was broken, and whose lance, embrued
With Trojan blood, th’ unhappy fight renew’d. 680
Loud shouts and clamors rend the liquid sky,
And o’er the field the frighted Latins fly.
The prince disdains the dastards to pursue,
Nor moves to meet in arms the fighting few;
Turnus alone, amid the dusky plain, 685
He seeks, and to the combat calls in vain.
Juturna heard, and, seiz’d with mortal fear,
Forc’d from the beam her brother’s charioteer;
Assumes his shape, his armor, and his mien,
And, like Metiscus, in his seat is seen. 690
As the black swallow near the palace plies;
O’er empty courts, and under arches, flies;
Now hawks aloft, now skims along the flood,
To furnish her loquacious nest with food:
So drives the rapid goddess o’er the plains; 695
The smoking horses run with loosen’d reins.
She steers a various course among the foes;
Now here, now there, her conqu’ring brother shows;
Now with a straight, now with a wheeling flight,
She turns, and bends, but shuns the single fight. 700
Æneas, fir’d with fury, breaks the crowd,
And seeks his foe, and calls by name aloud:
He runs within a narrower ring, and tries
To stop the chariot; but the chariot flies.
If he but gain a glimpse, Juturna fears, 705
And far away the Daunian hero bears.
What should he do! Nor arts nor arms avail;
And various cares in vain his mind assail.
The great Messapus, thund’ring thro’ the field,
In his left hand two pointed jav’lins held: 710
Encount’ring on the prince, one dart he drew,
And with unerring aim and utmost vigor threw.
Æneas saw it come, and, stooping low
Beneath his buckler, shunn’d the threat’ning blow.
The weapon hiss’d above his head, and tore 715
The waving plume which on his helm he wore.
Forced by this hostile act, and fir’d with spite,
That flying Turnus still declin’d the fight,
The Prince, whose piety had long repell’d
His inborn ardor, now invades the field; 720
Invokes the pow’rs of violated peace,
Their rites and injur’d altars to redress;
Then, to his rage abandoning the rein,
With blood and slaughter’d bodies fills the plain.
What god can tell, what numbers can display, 725
The various labors of that fatal day;
What chiefs and champions fell on either side,
In combat slain, or by what deaths they died;
Whom Turnus, whom the Trojan hero kill’d;
Who shar’d the fame and fortune of the field! 730
Jove, could’st thou view, and not avert thy sight,
Two jarring nations join’d in cruel fight,
Whom leagues of lasting love so shortly shall unite!
Æneas first Rutulian Sucro found,
Whose valor made the Trojans quit their ground; 735
Betwixt his ribs the jav’lin drove so just,
It reach’d his heart, nor needs a second thrust.
Now Turnus, at two blows, two brethren slew;
First from his horse fierce Amycus he threw:
Then, leaping on the ground, on foot assail’d 740
Diores, and in equal fight prevail’d.
Their lifeless trunks he leaves upon the place;
Their heads, distilling gore, his chariot grace.
Three cold on earth the Trojan hero threw,
Whom without respite at one charge he slew: 745
Cethegus, Tanais, Tagus, fell oppress’d,
And sad Onythes, added to the rest,
Of Theban blood, whom Peridia bore.
Turnus two brothers from the Lycian shore,
And from Apollo’s fane to battle sent, 750
O’erthrew; nor Phœbus could their fate prevent.
Peaceful Menoetes after these he kill’d,
Who long had shunn’d the dangers of the field:
On Lerna’s lake a silent life he led,
And with his nets and angle earn’d his bread; 755
Nor pompous cares, nor palaces, he knew,
But wisely from th’ infectious world withdrew:
Poor was his house; his father’s painful hand
Discharg’d his rent, and plow’d another’s land.
As flames among the lofty woods are thrown 760
On diff’rent sides, and both by winds are blown;
The laurels crackle in the sputt’ring fire;
The frighted sylvans from their shades retire:
Or as two neighb’ring torrents fall from high;
Rapid they run; the foamy waters fry; 765
They roll to sea with unresisted force,
And down the rocks precipitate their course:
Not with less rage the rival heroes take
Their diff’rent ways, nor less destruction make.
With spears afar, with swords at hand, they strike; 770
And zeal of slaughter fires their souls alike.
Like them, their dauntless men maintain the field;
And hearts are pierc’d, unknowing how to yield:
They blow for blow return, and wound for wound;
And heaps of bodies raise the level ground. 775
Murranus, boasting of his blood, that springs
From a long royal race of Latian kings,
Is by the Trojan from his chariot thrown,
Crush’d with the weight of an unwieldy stone:
Betwixt the wheels he fell; the wheels, that bore 780
His living load, his dying body tore.
His starting steeds, to shun the glitt’ring sword,
Paw down his trampled limbs, forgetful of their lord.
Fierce Hyllus threaten’d high, and, face to face,
Affronted Turnus in the middle space: 785
The prince encounter’d him in full career,
And at his temples aim’d the deadly spear;
So fatally the flying weapon sped,
That thro’ his brazen helm it pierc’d his head.
Nor, Cisseus, couldst thou scape from Turnus’ hand, 790
In vain the strongest of th’ Arcadian band:
Nor to Cupentus could his gods afford
Availing aid against th’ Ænean sword,
Which to his naked heart pursued the course;
Nor could his plated shield sustain the force. 795
Iolas fell, whom not the Grecian pow’rs,
Nor great subverter of the Trojan tow’rs,
Were doom’d to kill, while Heav’n prolong’d his date;
But who can pass the bounds prefix’d by fate?
In high Lyrnessus, and in Troy, he held 800
Two palaces, and was from each expell’d:
Of all the mighty man, the last remains
A little spot of foreign earth contains.
And now both hosts their broken troops unite
In equal ranks, and mix in mortal fight. 805
Seresthus and undaunted Mnestheus join
The Trojan, Tuscan, and Arcadian line:
Sea-born Messapus, with Atinas, heads
The Latin squadrons, and to battle leads.
They strike, they push, they throng the scanty space, 810
Resolv’d on death, impatient of disgrace;
And, where one falls, another fills his place.
The Cyprian goddess now inspires her son
To leave th’ unfinish’d fight, and storm the town:
For, while he rolls his eyes around the plain 815
In quest of Turnus, whom he seeks in vain,
He views th’ unguarded city from afar,
In careless quiet, and secure of war.
Occasion offers, and excites his mind
To dare beyond the task he first design’d. 820
Resolv’d, he calls his chiefs; they leave the fight:
Attended thus, he takes a neighb’ring height;
The crowding troops about their gen’ral stand,
All under arms, and wait his high command.
Then thus the lofty prince: “Hear and obey, 825
Ye Trojan bands, without the least delay
Jove is with us; and what I have decreed
Requires our utmost vigor, and our speed.
Your instant arms against the town prepare,
The source of mischief, and the seat of war. 830
This day the Latian tow’rs, that mate the sky,
Shall level with the plain in ashes lie:
The people shall be slaves, unless in time
They kneel for pardon, and repent their crime.
Twice have our foes been vanquish’d on the plain: 835
Then shall I wait till Turnus will be slain?
Your force against the perjur’d city bend.
There it began, and there the war shall end.
The peace profan’d our rightful arms requires;
Cleanse the polluted place with purging fires.” 840
He finish’d; and, one soul inspiring all,
Form’d in a wedge, the foot approach the wall.
Without the town, an unprovided train
Of gaping, gazing citizens are slain.
Some firebrands, others scaling ladders bear, 845
And those they toss aloft, and these they rear:
The flames now launch’d, the feather’d arrows fly,
And clouds of missive arms obscure the sky.
Advancing to the front, the hero stands,
And, stretching out to heav’n his pious hands, 850
Attests the gods, asserts his innocence,
Upbraids with breach of faith th’ Ausonian prince;
Declares the royal honor doubly stain’d,
And twice the rites of holy peace profan’d.
Dissenting clamors in the town arise; 855
Each will be heard, and all at once advise.
One part for peace, and one for war contends;
Some would exclude their foes, and some admit their friends.
The helpless king is hurried in the throng,
And, whate’er tide prevails, is borne along. 860
Thus, when the swain, within a hollow rock,
Invades the bees with suffocating smoke,
They run around, or labor on their wings,
Disus’d to flight, and shoot their sleepy stings;
To shun the bitter fumes in vain they try; 865
Black vapors, issuing from the vent, involve the sky.
But fate and envious fortune now prepare
To plunge the Latins in the last despair.
The queen, who saw the foes invade the town,
And brands on tops of burning houses thrown, 870
Cast round her eyes, distracted with her fear—
No troops of Turnus in the field appear.
Once more she stares abroad, but still in vain,
And then concludes the royal youth is slain.
Mad with her anguish, impotent to bear 875
The mighty grief, she loathes the vital air.
She calls herself the cause of all this ill,
And owns the dire effects of her ungovern’d will;
She raves against the gods; she beats her breast;
She tears with both her hands her purple vest: 880
Then round a beam a running noose she tied,
And, fasten’d by the neck, obscenely died.
Soon as the fatal news by Fame was blown,
And to her dames and to her daughter known,
The sad Lavinia rends her yellow hair 885
And rosy cheeks; the rest her sorrow share:
With shrieks the palace rings, and madness of despair.
The spreading rumor fills the public place:
Confusion, fear, distraction, and disgrace,
And silent shame, are seen in ev’ry face. 890
Latinus tears his garments as he goes,
Both for his public and his private woes;
With filth his venerable beard besmears,
And sordid dust deforms his silver hairs.
And much he blames the softness of his mind, 895
Obnoxious to the charms of womankind,
And soon seduc’d to change what he so well design’d;
To break the solemn league so long desir’d,
Nor finish what his fates, and those of Troy, requir’d.
Now Turnus rolls aloof o’er empty plains, 900
And here and there some straggling foes he gleans.
His flying coursers please him less and less,
Asham’d of easy fight and cheap success.
Thus half-contented, anxious in his mind,
The distant cries come driving in the wind, 905
Shouts from the walls, but shouts in murmurs drown’d;
A jarring mixture, and a boding sound.
“Alas!” said he, “what mean these dismal cries?
What doleful clamors from the town arise?”
Confus’d, he stops, and backward pulls the reins. 910
She who the driver’s office now sustains,
Replies: “Neglect, my lord, these new alarms;
Here fight, and urge the fortune of your arms:
There want not others to defend the wall.
If by your rival’s hand th’ Italians fall, 915
So shall your fatal sword his friends oppress,
In honor equal, equal in success.”
To this, the prince: “O sister—for I knew
The peace infring’d proceeded first from you;
I knew you, when you mingled first in fight; 920
And now in vain you would deceive my sight—
Why, goddess, this unprofitable care?
Who sent you down from heav’n, involv’d in air,
Your share of mortal sorrows to sustain,
And see your brother bleeding on the plain? 925
For to what pow’r can Turnus have recourse,
Or how resist his fate’s prevailing force?
These eyes beheld Murranus bite the ground:
Mighty the man, and mighty was the wound.
I heard my dearest friend, with dying breath, 930
My name invoking to revenge his death.
Brave Ufens fell with honor on the place,
To shun the shameful sight of my disgrace.
On earth supine, a manly corpse he lies;
His vest and armor are the victor’s prize. 935
Then, shall I see Laurentum in a flame,
Which only wanted, to complete my shame?
How will the Latins hoot their champion’s flight!
How Drances will insult and point them to the sight!
Is death so hard to bear? Ye gods below, 940
(Since those above so small compassion show,)
Receive a soul unsullied yet with shame,
Which not belies my great forefather’s name!”
He said; and while he spoke, with flying speed
Came Sages urging on his foamy steed: 945
Fix’d on his wounded face a shaft he bore,
And, seeking Turnus, sent his voice before:
“Turnus, on you, on you alone, depends
Our last relief: compassionate your friends!
Like lightning, fierce Æneas, rolling on, 950
With arms invests, with flames invades the town:
The brands are toss’d on high; the winds conspire
To drive along the deluge of the fire.
All eyes are fix’d on you: your foes rejoice;
Ev’n the king staggers, and suspends his choice; 955
Doubts to deliver or defend the town,
Whom to reject, or whom to call his son.
The queen, on whom your utmost hopes were plac’d,
Herself suborning death, has breath’d her last.
’T is true, Messapus, fearless of his fate, 960
With fierce Atinas’ aid, defends the gate:
On ev’ry side surrounded by the foe,
The more they kill, the greater numbers grow;
An iron harvest mounts, and still remains to mow.
You, far aloof from your forsaken bands, 965
Your rolling chariot drive o’er empty sands.”
Stupid he sate, his eyes on earth declin’d,
And various cares revolving in his mind:
Rage, boiling from the bottom of his breast,
And sorrow mix’d with shame, his soul oppress’d; 970
And conscious worth lay lab’ring in his thought,
And love by jealousy to madness wrought.
By slow degrees his reason drove away
The mists of passion, and resum’d her sway.
Then, rising on his car, he turn’d his look, 975
And saw the town involv’d in fire and smoke.
A wooden tow’r with flames already blaz’d,
Which his own hands on beams and rafters rais’d;
And bridges laid above to join the space,
And wheels below to roll from place to place. 980
“Sister, the Fates have vanquish’d: let us go
The way which Heav’n and my hard fortune show.
The fight is fix’d; nor shall the branded name
Of a base coward blot your brother’s fame.
Death is my choice; but suffer me to try 985
My force, and vent my rage before I die.”
He said; and, leaping down without delay,
Thro’ crowds of scatter’d foes he freed his way.
Striding he pass’d, impetuous as the wind,
And left the grieving goddess far behind. 990
As when a fragment, from a mountain torn
By raging tempests, or by torrents borne,
Or sapp’d by time, or loosen’d from the roots—
Prone thro’ the void the rocky ruin shoots,
Rolling from crag to crag, from steep to steep; 995
Down sink, at once, the shepherds and their sheep:
Involv’d alike, they rush to nether ground;
Stunn’d with the shock they fall, and stunn’d from earth rebound:
So Turnus, hasting headlong to the town,
Should’ring and shoving, bore the squadrons down. 1000
Still pressing onward, to the walls he drew,
Where shafts, and spears, and darts promiscuous flew,
And sanguine streams the slipp’ry ground embrue.
First stretching out his arm, in sign of peace,
He cries aloud, to make the combat cease: 1005
“Rutulians, hold; and Latin troops, retire!
The fight is mine; and me the gods require.
’T is just that I should vindicate alone
The broken truce, or for the breach atone.
This day shall free from wars th’ Ausonian state, 1010
Or finish my misfortunes in my fate.”
Both armies from their bloody work desist,
And, bearing backward, form a spacious list.
The Trojan hero, who receiv’d from fame
The welcome sound, and heard the champion’s name, 1015
Soon leaves the taken works and mounted walls,
Greedy of war where greater glory calls.
He springs to fight, exulting in his force;
His jointed armor rattles in the course.
Like Eryx, or like Athos, great he shows, 1020
Or Father Apennine, when, white with snows,
His head divine obscure in clouds he hides,
And shakes the sounding forest on his sides.
The nations, overaw’d, surcease the fight;
Immovable their bodies, fix’d their sight. 1025
Ev’n death stands still; nor from above they throw
Their darts, nor drive their batt’ring-rams below.
In silent order either army stands,
And drop their swords, unknowing, from their hands.
Th’ Ausonian king beholds, with wond’ring sight, 1030
Two mighty champions match’d in single fight,
Born under climes remote, and brought by fate,
With swords to try their titles to the state.
Now, in clos’d field, each other from afar
They view; and, rushing on, begin the war. 1035
They launch their spears; then hand to hand they meet;
The trembling soil resounds beneath their feet:
Their bucklers clash; thick blows descend from high,
And flakes of fire from their hard helmets fly.
Courage conspires with chance, and both ingage 1040
With equal fortune yet, and mutual rage.
As when two bulls for their fair female fight
In Sila’s shades, or on Taburnus’ height;
With horns adverse they meet; the keeper flies;
Mute stands the herd; the heifers roll their eyes, 1045
And wait th’ event; which victor they shall bear,
And who shall be the lord, to rule the lusty year:
With rage of love the jealous rivals burn,
And push for push, and wound for wound return;
Their dewlaps gor’d, their sides are lav’d in blood; 1050
Loud cries and roaring sounds rebellow thro’ the wood:
Such was the combat in the listed ground;
So clash their swords, and so their shields resound.
Jove sets the beam; in either scale he lays
The champions’ fate, and each exactly weighs. 1055
On this side, life and lucky chance ascends;
Loaded with death, that other scale descends.
Rais’d on the stretch, young Turnus aims a blow
Full on the helm of his unguarded foe:
Shrill shouts and clamors ring on either side, 1060
As hopes and fears their panting hearts divide.
But all in pieces flies the traitor sword,
And, in the middle stroke, deserts his lord.
Now ’t is but death, or flight; disarm’d he flies,
When in his hand an unknown hilt he spies. 1065
Fame says that Turnus, when his steeds he join’d,
Hurrying to war, disorder’d in his mind,
Snatch’d the first weapon which his haste could find.
’T was not the fated sword his father bore,
But that his charioteer Metiscus wore. 1070
This, while the Trojans fled, the toughness held;
But, vain against the great Vulcanian shield,
The mortal-temper’d steel deceiv’d his hand:
The shiver’d fragments shone amid the sand.
Surpris’d with fear, he fled along the field, 1075
And now forthright, and now in orbits wheel’d;
For here the Trojan troops the list surround,
And there the pass is clos’d with pools and marshy ground.
Æneas hastens, tho’ with heavier pace—
His wound, so newly knit, retards the chase, 1080
And oft his trembling knees their aid refuse—
Yet, pressing foot by foot, his foe pursues.
Thus, when a fearful stag is clos’d around
With crimson toils, or in a river found,
High on the bank the deep-mouth’d hound appears, 1085
Still opening, following still, where’er he steers;
The persecuted creature, to and fro,
Turns here and there, to scape his Umbrian foe:
Steep is th’ ascent, and, if he gains the land,
The purple death is pitch’d along the strand. 1090
His eager foe, determin’d to the chase,
Stretch’d at his length, gains ground at ev’ry pace;
Now to his beamy head he makes his way,
And now he holds, or thinks he holds, his prey:
Just at the pinch, the stag springs out with fear; 1095
He bites the wind, and fills his sounding jaws with air:
The rocks, the lakes, the meadows ring with cries;
The mortal tumult mounts, and thunders in the skies.
Thus flies the Daunian prince, and, flying, blames
His tardy troops, and, calling by their names, 1100
Demands his trusty sword. The Trojan threats
The realm with ruin, and their ancient seats
To lay in ashes, if they dare supply
With arms or aid his vanquish’d enemy:
Thus menacing, he still pursues the course, 1105
With vigor, tho’ diminish’d of his force.
Ten times already round the listed place
One chief had fled, and t’other giv’n the chase:
No trivial prize is play’d; for on the life
Or death of Turnus now depends the strife. 1110
Within the space, an olive tree had stood,
A sacred shade, a venerable wood,
For vows to Faunus paid, the Latins’ guardian god.
Here hung the vests, and tablets were ingrav’d,
Of sinking mariners from shipwrack sav’d. 1115
With heedless hands the Trojans fell’d the tree,
To make the ground inclos’d for combat free.
Deep in the root, whether by fate, or chance,
Or erring haste, the Trojan drove his lance;
Then stoop’d, and tugg’d with force immense, to free 1120
Th’ incumber’d spear from the tenacious tree;
That, whom his fainting limbs pursued in vain,
His flying weapon might from far attain.
Confus’d with fear, bereft of human aid,
Then Turnus to the gods, and first to Faunus pray’d: 1125
“O Faunus, pity! and thou Mother Earth,
Where I thy foster son receiv’d my birth,
Hold fast the steel! If my religious hand
Your plant has honor’d, which your foes profan’d,
Propitious hear my pious pray’r!” He said, 1130
Nor with successless vows invok’d their aid.
Th’ incumbent hero wrench’d, and pull’d, and strain’d;
But still the stubborn earth the steel detain’d.
Juturna took her time; and, while in vain
He strove, assum’d Meticus’ form again, 1135
And, in that imitated shape, restor’d
To the despairing prince his Daunian sword.
The Queen of Love, who, with disdain and grief,
Saw the bold nymph afford this prompt relief,
T’ assert her offspring with a greater deed, 1140
From the tough root the ling’ring weapon freed.
Once more erect, the rival chiefs advance:
One trusts the sword, and one the pointed lance;
And both resolv’d alike to try their fatal chance.
Meantime imperial Jove to Juno spoke, 1145
Who from a shining cloud beheld the shock:
“What new arrest, O Queen of Heav’n, is sent
To stop the Fates now lab’ring in th’ event?
What farther hopes are left thee to pursue?
Divine Æneas, (and thou know’st it too,) 1150
Foredoom’d, to these celestial seats are due.
What more attempts for Turnus can be made,
That thus thou ling’rest in this lonely shade?
Is it becoming of the due respect
And awful honor of a god elect, 1155
A wound unworthy of our state to feel,
Patient of human hands and earthly steel?
Or seems it just, the sister should restore
A second sword, when one was lost before,
And arm a conquer’d wretch against his conqueror? 1160
For what, without thy knowledge and avow,
Nay more, thy dictate, durst Juturna do?
At last, in deference to my love, forbear
To lodge within thy soul this anxious care;
Reclin’d upon my breast, thy grief unload: 1165
Who should relieve the goddess, but the god?
Now all things to their utmost issue tend,
Push’d by the Fates to their appointed end.
While leave was giv’n thee, and a lawful hour
For vengeance, wrath, and unresisted pow’r, 1170
Toss’d on the seas, thou couldst thy foes distress,
And, driv’n ashore, with hostile arms oppress;
Deform the royal house; and, from the side
Of the just bridegroom, tear the plighted bride:
Now cease at my command.” The Thund’rer said; 1175
And, with dejected eyes, this answer Juno made:
“Because your dread decree too well I knew,
From Turnus and from earth unwilling I withdrew.
Else should you not behold me here, alone,
Involv’d in empty clouds, my friends bemoan, 1180
But, girt with vengeful flames, in open sight
Engag’d against my foes in mortal fight.
’T is true, Juturna mingled in the strife
By my command, to save her brother’s life—
At least to try; but, by the Stygian lake, 1185
(The most religious oath the gods can take,)
With this restriction, not to bend the bow,
Or toss the spear, or trembling dart to throw.
And now, resign’d to your superior might,
And tir’d with fruitless toils, I loathe the fight. 1190
This let me beg (and this no fates withstand)
Both for myself and for your father’s land,
That, when the nuptial bed shall bind the peace,
(Which I, since you ordain, consent to bless,)
The laws of either nation be the same; 1195
But let the Latins still retain their name,
Speak the same language which they spoke before,
Wear the same habits which their grandsires wore.
Call them not Trojans: perish the renown
And name of Troy, with that detested town. 1200
Latium be Latium still; let Alba reign
And Rome’s immortal majesty remain.”
Then thus the founder of mankind replies
(Unruffled was his front, serene his eyes):
“Can Saturn’s issue, and heav’n’s other heir, 1205
Such endless anger in her bosom bear?
Be mistress, and your full desires obtain;
But quench the choler you foment in vain.
From ancient blood th’ Ausonian people sprung,
Shall keep their name, their habit, and their tongue. 1210
The Trojans to their customs shall be tied:
I will, myself, their common rites provide;
The natives shall command, the foreigners subside.
All shall be Latium; Troy without a name;
And her lost sons forget from whence they came. 1215
From blood so mix’d, a pious race shall flow,
Equal to gods, excelling all below.
No nation more respect to you shall pay,
Or greater off’rings on your altars lay.”
Juno consents, well pleas’d that her desires 1220
Had found success, and from the cloud retires.
The peace thus made, the Thund’rer next prepares
To force the wat’ry goddess from the wars.
Deep in the dismal regions void of light,
Three daughters at a birth were born to Night: 1225
These their brown mother, brooding on her care,
Indued with windy wings to flit in air,
With serpents girt alike, and crown’d with hissing hair.
In heav’n the Diræ call’d, and still at hand,
Before the throne of angry Jove they stand, 1230
His ministers of wrath, and ready still
The minds of mortal men with fears to fill,
Whene’er the moody sire, to wreak his hate
On realms or towns deserving of their fate,
Hurls down diseases, death and deadly care, 1235
And terrifies the guilty world with war.
One sister plague if these from heav’n he sent,
To fright Juturna with a dire portent.
The pest comes whirling down: by far more slow
Springs the swift arrow from the Parthian bow, 1240
Or Cydon yew, when, traversing the skies,
And drench’d in pois’nous juice, the sure destruction flies.
With such a sudden and unseen a flight
Shot thro’ the clouds the daughter of the night.
Soon as the field inclos’d she had in view, 1245
And from afar her destin’d quarry knew,
Contracted, to the boding bird she turns,
Which haunts the ruin’d piles and hallow’d urns,
And beats about the tombs with nightly wings,
Where songs obscene on sepulchers she sings. 1
Epitaph on her Son H. P.
WHat on Earth deserves our trust ?
Youth and Beauty both are dust.
Long we gathering are with pain,
What one moment calls again.
Seven years childless, marriage past,
A Son, a son is born at last :
So exactly lim'd and fair.
Full of good Spirits, Meen, and Air,
As a long life promised,
Yet, in less than six weeks dead.
Too promising, too great a mind
In so small room to be confin'd :
Therefore, as fit in Heav'n to dwell,
He quickly broke the Prison shell.
So the subtle Alchimist,
Can't with Hermes Seal resist
The powerful spirit's subtler flight,
But t'will bid him long good night.
And so the Sun if it arise
Half so glorious as his Eyes,
Like this Infant, takes a shrowd,
Buried in a morning Cloud.
Cry of the fatherless son
I will not mourn my father's death
I won't even be struck by his death.
I will not contribute a coin to buy his coffin,
Or for the funeral which I won't even attend.
As is the custom,
I won't name my first son after him.
My children won't ever see photos of him.
I will not tell them tales
that my father supposedly told me.
His name in my house will never ring a bell,
Neither will he ring my doorbell -
For if he does I will let my dogs loose on him,
no matter how old and frail he'll be.
His name in my house shall be forbidden.
But how could I mourn your death?
How would your death strike me?
How could I contribute to your funeral?
Or attend your funeral?
As is custom,
how should I name my son after you?
And how would my children see your photos?
What tales did you tell me,
so I can tell them?
How could your name even ring a bell,
Or you ring my doorbell?
How would I let my dogs loose on you,
An old stranger that I haven't
My eyes set on?
The Iliad: Book 12
So the son of Menoetius was attending to the hurt of Eurypylus
within the tent, but the Argives and Trojans still fought desperately,
nor were the trench and the high wall above it, to keep the Trojans in
check longer. They had built it to protect their ships, and had dug
the trench all round it that it might safeguard both the ships and the
rich spoils which they had taken, but they had not offered hecatombs
to the gods. It had been built without the consent of the immortals,
and therefore it did not last. So long as Hector lived and Achilles
nursed his anger, and so long as the city of Priam remained untaken,
the great wall of the Achaeans stood firm; but when the bravest of the
Trojans were no more, and many also of the Argives, though some were
yet left alive when, moreover, the city was sacked in the tenth
year, and the Argives had gone back with their ships to their own
country- then Neptune and Apollo took counsel to destroy the wall, and
they turned on to it the streams of all the rivers from Mount Ida into
the sea, Rhesus, Heptaporus, Caresus, Rhodius, Grenicus, Aesopus,
and goodly Scamander, with Simois, where many a shield and helm had
fallen, and many a hero of the race of demigods had bitten the dust.
Phoebus Apollo turned the mouths of all these rivers together and made
them flow for nine days against the wall, while Jove rained the
whole time that he might wash it sooner into the sea. Neptune himself,
trident in hand, surveyed the work and threw into the sea all the
foundations of beams and stones which the Achaeans had laid with so
much toil; he made all level by the mighty stream of the Hellespont,
and then when he had swept the wall away he spread a great beach of
sand over the place where it had been. This done he turned the
rivers back into their old courses.
This was what Neptune and Apollo were to do in after time; but as
yet battle and turmoil were still raging round the wall till its
timbers rang under the blows that rained upon them. The Argives, cowed
by the scourge of Jove, were hemmed in at their ships in fear of
Hector the mighty minister of Rout, who as heretofore fought with
the force and fury of a whirlwind. As a lion or wild boar turns
fiercely on the dogs and men that attack him, while these form solid
wall and shower their javelins as they face him- his courage is all
undaunted, but his high spirit will be the death of him; many a time
does he charge at his pursuers to scatter them, and they fall back
as often as he does so- even so did Hector go about among the host
exhorting his men, and cheering them on to cross the trench.
But the horses dared not do so, and stood neighing upon its brink,
for the width frightened them. They could neither jump it nor cross
it, for it had overhanging banks all round upon either side, above
which there were the sharp stakes that the sons of the Achaeans had
planted so close and strong as a defence against all who would
assail it; a horse, therefore, could not get into it and draw his
chariot after him, but those who were on foot kept trying their very
utmost. Then Polydamas went up to Hector and said, "Hector, and you
other captains of the Trojans and allies, it is madness for us to
try and drive our horses across the trench; it will be very hard to
cross, for it is full of sharp stakes, and beyond these there is the
wall. Our horses therefore cannot get down into it, and would be of no
use if they did; moreover it is a narrow place and we should come to
harm. If, indeed, great Jove is minded to help the Trojans, and in his
anger will utterly destroy the Achaeans, I would myself gladly see
them perish now and here far from Argos; but if they should rally
and we are driven back from the ships pell-mell into the trench
there will be not so much as a man get back to the city to tell the
tale. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let our squires hold our
horses by the trench, but let us follow Hector in a body on foot, clad
in full armour, and if the day of their doom is at hand the Achaeans
will not be able to withstand us."
Thus spoke Polydamas and his saying pleased Hector, who sprang in
full armour to the ground, and all the other Trojans, when they saw
him do so, also left their chariots. Each man then gave his horses
over to his charioteer in charge to hold them ready for him at the
trench. Then they formed themselves into companies, made themselves
ready, and in five bodies followed their leaders. Those that went with
Hector and Polydamas were the bravest and most in number, and the most
determined to break through the wall and fight at the ships. Cebriones
was also joined with them as third in command, for Hector had left his
chariot in charge of a less valiant soldier. The next company was
led by Paris, Alcathous, and Agenor; the third by Helenus and
Deiphobus, two sons of Priam, and with them was the hero Asius-
Asius the son of Hyrtacus, whose great black horses of the breed
that comes from the river Selleis had brought him from Arisbe.
Aeneas the valiant son of Anchises led the fourth; he and the two sons
of Antenor, Archelochus and Acamas, men well versed in all the arts of
war. Sarpedon was captain over the allies, and took with him Glaucus
and Asteropaeus whom he deemed most valiant after himself- for he
was far the best man of them all. These helped to array one another in
their ox-hide shields, and then charged straight at the Danaans, for
they felt sure that they would not hold out longer and that they
should themselves now fall upon the ships.
The rest of the Trojans and their allies now followed the counsel of
Polydamas but Asius son of Hyrtacus would not leave his horses and his
esquire behind him; in his foolhardiness he took them on with him
towards the ships, nor did he fail to come by his end in
consequence. Nevermore was he to return to wind-beaten Ilius, exulting
in his chariot and his horses; ere he could do so, death of ill-omened
name had overshadowed him and he had fallen by the spear of
Idomeneus the noble son of Deucalion. He had driven towards the left
wing of the ships, by which way the Achaeans used to return with their
chariots and horses from the plain. Hither he drove and found the
gates with their doors opened wide, and the great bar down- for the
gatemen kept them open so as to let those of their comrades enter
who might be flying towards the ships. Hither of set purpose did he
direct his horses, and his men followed him with a loud cry, for
they felt sure that the Achaeans would not hold out longer, and that
they should now fall upon the ships. Little did they know that at
the gates they should find two of the bravest chieftains, proud sons
of the fighting Lapithae- the one, Polypoetes, mighty son of
Pirithous, and the other Leonteus, peer of murderous Mars. These stood
before the gates like two high oak trees upon the mountains, that
tower from their wide-spreading roots, and year after year battle with
wind and rain- even so did these two men await the onset of great
Asius confidently and without flinching. The Trojans led by him and by
Iamenus, Orestes, Adamas the son of Asius, Thoon and Oenomaus,
raised a loud cry of battle and made straight for the wall, holding
their shields of dry ox-hide above their heads; for a while the two
defenders remained inside and cheered the Achaeans on to stand firm in
the defence of their ships; when, however, they saw that the Trojans
were attacking the wall, while the Danaans were crying out for help
and being routed, they rushed outside and fought in front of the gates
like two wild boars upon the mountains that abide the attack of men
and dogs, and charging on either side break down the wood all round
them tearing it up by the roots, and one can hear the clattering of
their tusks, till some one hits them and makes an end of them- even so
did the gleaming bronze rattle about their breasts, as the weapons
fell upon them; for they fought with great fury, trusting to their own
prowess and to those who were on the wall above them. These threw
great stones at their assailants in defence of themselves their
tents and their ships. The stones fell thick as the flakes of snow
which some fierce blast drives from the dark clouds and showers down
in sheets upon the earth- even so fell the weapons from the hands
alike of Trojans and Achaeans. Helmet and shield rang out as the great
stones rained upon them, and Asius the son of Hyrtacus in his dismay
cried aloud and smote his two thighs. "Father Jove," he cried, "of a
truth you too are altogether given to lying. I made sure the Argive
heroes could not withstand us, whereas like slim-waisted wasps, or
bees that have their nests in the rocks by the wayside- they leave not
the holes wherein they have built undefended, but fight for their
little ones against all who would take them- even so these men, though
they be but two, will not be driven from the gates, but stand firm
either to slay or be slain."
He spoke, but moved not the mind of Jove, whose counsel it then
was to give glory to Hector. Meanwhile the rest of the Trojans were
fighting about the other gates; I, however, am no god to be able to
tell about all these things, for the battle raged everywhere about the
stone wall as it were a fiery furnace. The Argives, discomfited though
they were, were forced to defend their ships, and all the gods who
were defending the Achaeans were vexed in spirit; but the Lapithae
kept on fighting with might and main.
Thereon Polypoetes, mighty son of Pirithous, hit Damasus with a
spear upon his cheek-pierced helmet. The helmet did not protect him,
for the point of the spear went through it, and broke the bone, so
that the brain inside was scattered about, and he died fighting. He
then slew Pylon and Ormenus. Leonteus, of the race of Mars, killed
Hippomachus the son of Antimachus by striking him with his spear
upon the girdle. He then drew his sword and sprang first upon
Antiphates whom he killed in combat, and who fell face upwards on
the earth. After him he killed Menon, Iamenus, and Orestes, and laid
them low one after the other.
While they were busy stripping the armour from these heroes, the
youths who were led on by Polydamas and Hector (and these were the
greater part and the most valiant of those that were trying to break
through the wall and fire the ships) were still standing by the
trench, uncertain what they should do; for they had seen a sign from
heaven when they had essayed to cross it- a soaring eagle that flew
skirting the left wing of their host, with a monstrous blood-red snake
in its talons still alive and struggling to escape. The snake was
still bent on revenge, wriggling and twisting itself backwards till it
struck the bird that held it, on the neck and breast; whereon the bird
being in pain, let it fall, dropping it into the middle of the host,
and then flew down the wind with a sharp cry. The Trojans were
struck with terror when they saw the snake, portent of aegis-bearing
Jove, writhing in the midst of them, and Polydamas went up to Hector
and said, "Hector, at our councils of war you are ever given to rebuke
me, even when I speak wisely, as though it were not well, forsooth,
that one of the people should cross your will either in the field or
at the council board; you would have them support you always:
nevertheless I will say what I think will be best; let us not now go
on to fight the Danaans at their ships, for I know what will happen if
this soaring eagle which skirted the left wing of our with a monstrous
blood-red snake in its talons (the snake being still alive) was really
sent as an omen to the Trojans on their essaying to cross the
trench. The eagle let go her hold; she did not succeed in taking it
home to her little ones, and so will it be- with ourselves; even
though by a mighty effort we break through the gates and wall of the
Achaeans, and they give way before us, still we shall not return in
good order by the way we came, but shall leave many a man behind us
whom the Achaeans will do to death in defence of their ships. Thus
would any seer who was expert in these matters, and was trusted by the
people, read the portent."
Hector looked fiercely at him and said, "Polydamas, I like not of
your reading. You can find a better saying than this if you will.
If, however, you have spoken in good earnest, then indeed has heaven
robbed you of your reason. You would have me pay no heed to the
counsels of Jove, nor to the promises he made me- and he bowed his
head in confirmation; you bid me be ruled rather by the flight of
wild-fowl. What care I whether they fly towards dawn or dark, and
whether they be on my right hand or on my left? Let us put our trust
rather in the counsel of great Jove, king of mortals and immortals.
There is one omen, and one only- that a man should fight for his
country. Why are you so fearful? Though we be all of us slain at the
ships of the Argives you are not likely to be killed yourself, for you
are not steadfast nor courageous. If you will. not fight, or would
talk others over from doing so, you shall fall forthwith before my
With these words he led the way, and the others followed after
with a cry that rent the air. Then Jove the lord of thunder sent the
blast of a mighty wind from the mountains of Ida, that bore the dust
down towards the ships; he thus lulled the Achaeans into security, and
gave victory to Hector and to the Trojans, who, trusting to their
own might and to the signs he had shown them, essayed to break through
the great wall of the Achaeans. They tore down the breastworks from
the walls, and overthrew the battlements; they upheaved the
buttresses, which the Achaeans had set in front of the wall in order
to support it; when they had pulled these down they made sure of
breaking through the wall, but the Danaans still showed no sign of
giving ground; they still fenced the battlements with their shields of
ox-hide, and hurled their missiles down upon the foe as soon as any
came below the wall.
The two Ajaxes went about everywhere on the walls cheering on the
Achaeans, giving fair words to some while they spoke sharply to any
one whom they saw to be remiss. "My friends," they cried, "Argives one
and all- good bad and indifferent, for there was never fight yet, in
which all were of equal prowess- there is now work enough, as you very
well know, for all of you. See that you none of you turn in flight
towards the ships, daunted by the shouting of the foe, but press
forward and keep one another in heart, if it may so be that Olympian
Jove the lord of lightning will vouchsafe us to repel our foes, and
drive them back towards the city."
Thus did the two go about shouting and cheering the Achaeans on.
As the flakes that fall thick upon a winter's day, when Jove is minded
to snow and to display these his arrows to mankind- he lulls the
wind to rest, and snows hour after hour till he has buried the tops of
the high mountains, the headlands that jut into the sea, the grassy
plains, and the tilled fields of men; the snow lies deep upon the
forelands, and havens of the grey sea, but the waves as they come
rolling in stay it that it can come no further, though all else is
wrapped as with a mantle so heavy are the heavens with snow- even thus
thickly did the stones fall on one side and on the other, some
thrown at the Trojans, and some by the Trojans at the Achaeans; and
the whole wall was in an uproar.
Still the Trojans and brave Hector would not yet have broken down
the gates and the great bar, had not Jove turned his son Sarpedon
against the Argives as a lion against a herd of horned cattle.
Before him he held his shield of hammered bronze, that the smith had
beaten so fair and round, and had lined with ox hides which he had
made fast with rivets of gold all round the shield; this he held in
front of him, and brandishing his two spears came on like some lion of
the wilderness, who has been long famished for want of meat and will
dare break even into a well-fenced homestead to try and get at the
sheep. He may find the shepherds keeping watch over their flocks
with dogs and spears, but he is in no mind to be driven from the
fold till he has had a try for it; he will either spring on a sheep
and carry it off, or be hit by a spear from strong hand- even so was
Sarpedon fain to attack the wall and break down its battlements.
Then he said to Glaucus son of Hippolochus, "Glaucus, why in Lycia
do we receive especial honour as regards our place at table? Why are
the choicest portions served us and our cups kept brimming, and why do
men look up to us as though we were gods? Moreover we hold a large
estate by the banks of the river Xanthus, fair with orchard lawns
and wheat-growing land; it becomes us, therefore, to take our stand at
the head of all the Lycians and bear the brunt of the fight, that
one may say to another, Our princes in Lycia eat the fat of the land
and drink best of wine, but they are fine fellows; they fight well and
are ever at the front in battle.' My good friend, if, when we were
once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death
thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself
nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over
our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and
either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another."
Glaucus heeded his saying, and the pair forthwith led on the host of
Lycians. Menestheus son of Peteos was dismayed when he saw them, for
it was against his part of the wall that they came- bringing
destruction with them; he looked along the wall for some chieftain
to support his comrades and saw the two Ajaxes, men ever eager for the
fray, and Teucer, who had just come from his tent, standing near them;
but he could not make his voice heard by shouting to them, so great an
uproar was there from crashing shields and helmets and the battering
of gates with a din which reached the skies. For all the gates had
been closed, and the Trojans were hammering at them to try and break
their way through them. Menestheus, therefore, sent Thootes with a
message to Ajax. "Run, good Thootes," said and call Ajax, or better
still bid both come, for it will be all over with us here directly;
the leaders of the Lycians are upon us, men who have ever fought
desperately heretofore. But if the have too much on their hands to let
them come, at any rate let Ajax son of Telamon do so, and let Teucer
the famous bowman come with him."
The messenger did as he was told, and set off running along the wall
of the Achaeans. When he reached the Ajaxes he said to them, "Sirs,
princes of the Argives, the son of noble Peteos bids you come to him
for a while and help him. You had better both come if you can, or it
will be all over with him directly; the leaders of the Lycians are
upon him, men who have ever fought desperately heretofore; if you have
too much on your hands to let both come, at any rate let Ajax son of
Telamon do so, and let Teucer the famous bowman come with him."
Great Ajax, son of Telamon, heeded the message, and at once spoke to
the son of Oileus. "Ajax," said he, "do you two, yourself and brave
Lycomedes, stay here and keep the Danaans in heart to fight their
hardest. I will go over yonder, and bear my part in the fray, but I
will come back here at once as soon as I have given them the help they
With this, Ajax son of Telamon set off, and Teucer his brother by
the same father went also, with Pandion to carry Teucer's bow. They
went along inside the wall, and when they came to the tower where
Menestheus was (and hard pressed indeed did they find him) the brave
captains and leaders of the Lycians were storming the battlements as
it were a thick dark cloud, fighting in close quarters, and raising
the battle-cry aloud.
First, Ajax son of Telamon killed brave Epicles, a comrade of
Sarpedon, hitting him with a jagged stone that lay by the
battlements at the very top of the wall. As men now are, even one
who is in the bloom of youth could hardly lift it with his two
hands, but Ajax raised it high aloft and flung it down, smashing
Epicles' four-crested helmet so that the bones of his head were
crushed to pieces, and he fell from the high wall as though he were
diving, with no more life left in him. Then Teucer wounded Glaucus the
brave son of Hippolochus as he was coming on to attack the wall. He
saw his shoulder bare and aimed an arrow at it, which made Glaucus
leave off fighting. Thereon he sprang covertly down for fear some of
the Achaeans might see that he was wounded and taunt him. Sarpedon was
stung with grief when he saw Glaucus leave him, still he did not leave
off fighting, but aimed his spear at Alcmaon the son of Thestor and
hit him. He drew his spear back again Alcmaon came down headlong after
it with his bronzed armour rattling round him. Then Sarpedon seized
the battlement in his strong hands, and tugged at it till it an gave
way together, and a breach was made through which many might pass.
Ajax and Teucer then both of them attacked him. Teucer hit him
with an arrow on the band that bore the shield which covered his body,
but Jove saved his son from destruction that he might not fall by
the ships' sterns. Meanwhile Ajax sprang on him and pierced his
shield, but the spear did not go clean through, though it hustled
him back that he could come on no further. He therefore retired a
little space from the battlement, yet without losing all his ground,
for he still thought to cover himself with glory. Then he turned round
and shouted to the brave Lycians saying, "Lycians, why do you thus
fail me? For all my prowess I cannot break through the wall and open a
way to the ships single-handed. Come close on behind me, for the
more there are of us the better."
The Lycians, shamed by his rebuke, pressed closer round him who
was their counsellor their king. The Argives on their part got their
men in fighting order within the wall, and there was a deadly struggle
between them. The Lycians could not break through the wall and force
their way to the ships, nor could the Danaans drive the Lycians from
the wall now that they had once reached it. As two men, measuring-rods
in hand, quarrel about their boundaries in a field that they own in
common, and stickle for their rights though they be but in a mere
strip, even so did the battlements now serve as a bone of
contention, and they beat one another's round shields for their
possession. Many a man's body was wounded with the pitiless bronze, as
he turned round and bared his back to the foe, and many were struck
clean through their shields; the wall and battlements were
everywhere deluged with the blood alike of Trojans and of Achaeans.
But even so the Trojans could not rout the Achaeans, who still held
on; and as some honest hard-working woman weighs wool in her balance
and sees that the scales be true, for she would gain some pitiful
earnings for her little ones, even so was the fight balanced evenly
between them till the time came when Jove gave the greater glory to
Hector son of Priam, who was first to spring towards the wall of the
Achaeans. As he did so, he cried aloud to the Trojans, "Up, Trojans,
break the wall of the Argives, and fling fire upon their ships."
Thus did he hound them on, and in one body they rushed straight at
the wall as he had bidden them, and scaled the battlements with
sharp spears in their hands. Hector laid hold of a stone that lay just
outside the gates and was thick at one end but pointed at the other;
two of the best men in a town, as men now are, could hardly raise it
from the ground and put it on to a waggon, but Hector lifted it
quite easily by himself, for the son of scheming Saturn made it
light for him. As a shepherd picks up a ram's fleece with one hand and
finds it no burden, so easily did Hector lift the great stone and
drive it right at the doors that closed the gates so strong and so
firmly set. These doors were double and high, and were kept closed
by two cross-bars to which there was but one key. When he had got
close up to them, Hector strode towards them that his blow might
gain in force and struck them in the middle, leaning his whole
weight against them. He broke both hinges, and the stone fell inside
by reason of its great weight. The portals re-echoed with the sound,
the bars held no longer, and the doors flew open, one one way, and the
other the other, through the force of the blow. Then brave Hector
leaped inside with a face as dark as that of flying night. The
gleaming bronze flashed fiercely about his body and he had tow
spears in his hand. None but a god could have withstood him as he
flung himself into the gateway, and his eyes glared like fire. Then he
turned round towards the Trojans and called on them to scale the wall,
and they did as he bade them- some of them at once climbing over the
wall, while others passed through the gates. The Danaans then fled
panic-stricken towards their ships, and all was uproar and confusion.
The Iliad: Book 20
Thus, then, did the Achaeans arm by their ships round you, O son
of Peleus, who were hungering for battle; while the Trojans over
against them armed upon the rise of the plain.
Meanwhile Jove from the top of many-delled Olympus, bade Themis
gather the gods in council, whereon she went about and called them
to the house of Jove. There was not a river absent except Oceanus, nor
a single one of the nymphs that haunt fair groves, or springs of
rivers and meadows of green grass. When they reached the house of
cloud-compelling Jove, they took their seats in the arcades of
polished marble which Vulcan with his consummate skill had made for
In such wise, therefore, did they gather in the house of Jove.
Neptune also, lord of the earthquake, obeyed the call of the
goddess, and came up out of the sea to join them. There, sitting in
the midst of them, he asked what Jove's purpose might be. "Why,"
said he, "wielder of the lightning, have you called the gods in
council? Are you considering some matter that concerns the Trojans and
Achaeans- for the blaze of battle is on the point of being kindled
And Jove answered, "You know my purpose, shaker of earth, and
wherefore I have called you hither. I take thought for them even in
their destruction. For my own part I shall stay here seated on Mt.
Olympus and look on in peace, but do you others go about among Trojans
and Achaeans, and help either side as you may be severally disposed.
If Achilles fights the Trojans without hindrance they will make no
stand against him; they have ever trembled at the sight of him, and
now that he is roused to such fury about his comrade, he will override
fate itself and storm their city."
Thus spoke Jove and gave the word for war, whereon the gods took
their several sides and went into battle. Juno, Pallas Minerva,
earth-encircling Neptune, Mercury bringer of good luck and excellent
in all cunning- all these joined the host that came from the ships;
with them also came Vulcan in all his glory, limping, but yet with his
thin legs plying lustily under him. Mars of gleaming helmet joined the
Trojans, and with him Apollo of locks unshorn, and the archer
goddess Diana, Leto, Xanthus, and laughter-loving Venus.
So long as the gods held themselves aloof from mortal warriors the
Achaeans were triumphant, for Achilles who had long refused to fight
was now with them. There was not a Trojan but his limbs failed him for
fear as he beheld the fleet son of Peleus all glorious in his
armour, and looking like Mars himself. When, however, the Olympians
came to take their part among men, forthwith uprose strong Strife,
rouser of hosts, and Minerva raised her loud voice, now standing by
the deep trench that ran outside the wall, and now shouting with all
her might upon the shore of the sounding sea. Mars also bellowed out
upon the other side, dark as some black thunder-cloud, and called on
the Trojans at the top of his voice, now from the acropolis, and now
speeding up the side of the river Simois till he came to the hill
Thus did the gods spur on both hosts to fight, and rouse fierce
contention also among themselves. The sire of gods and men thundered
from heaven above, while from beneath Neptune shook the vast earth,
and bade the high hills tremble. The spurs and crests of
many-fountained Ida quaked, as also the city of the Trojans and the
ships of the Achaeans. Hades, king of the realms below, was struck
with fear; he sprang panic-stricken from his throne and cried aloud in
terror lest Neptune, lord of the earthquake, should crack the ground
over his head, and lay bare his mouldy mansions to the sight of
mortals and immortals- mansions so ghastly grim that even the gods
shudder to think of them. Such was the uproar as the gods came
together in battle. Apollo with his arrows took his stand to face King
Neptune, while Minerva took hers against the god of war; the
archer-goddess Diana with her golden arrows, sister of far-darting
Apollo, stood to face Juno; Mercury the lusty bringer of good luck
faced Leto, while the mighty eddying river whom men can Scamander, but
gods Xanthus, matched himself against Vulcan.
The gods, then, were thus ranged against one another. But the
heart of Achilles was set on meeting Hector son of Priam, for it was
with his blood that he longed above all things else to glut the
stubborn lord of battle. Meanwhile Apollo set Aeneas on to attack
the son of Peleus, and put courage into his heart, speaking with the
voice of Lycaon son of Priam. In his likeness therefore, he said to
Aeneas, "Aeneas, counsellor of the Trojans, where are now the brave
words with which you vaunted over your wine before the Trojan princes,
saying that you would fight Achilles son of Peleus in single combat?"
And Aeneas answered, "Why do you thus bid me fight the proud son
of Peleus, when I am in no mind to do so? Were I to face him now, it
would not be for the first time. His spear has already put me to Right
from Ida, when he attacked our cattle and sacked Lyrnessus and
Pedasus; Jove indeed saved me in that he vouchsafed me strength to
fly, else had the fallen by the hands of Achilles and Minerva, who
went before him to protect him and urged him to fall upon the
Lelegae and Trojans. No man may fight Achilles, for one of the gods is
always with him as his guardian angel, and even were it not so, his
weapon flies ever straight, and fails not to pierce the flesh of him
who is against him; if heaven would let me fight him on even terms
he should not soon overcome me, though he boasts that he is made of
Then said King Apollo, son to Jove, "Nay, hero, pray to the
ever-living gods, for men say that you were born of Jove's daughter
Venus, whereas Achilles is son to a goddess of inferior rank. Venus is
child to Jove, while Thetis is but daughter to the old man of the sea.
Bring, therefore, your spear to bear upon him, and let him not scare
you with his taunts and menaces."
As he spoke he put courage into the heart of the shepherd of his
people, and he strode in full armour among the ranks of the foremost
fighters. Nor did the son of Anchises escape the notice of white-armed
Juno, as he went forth into the throng to meet Achilles. She called
the gods about her, and said, "Look to it, you two, Neptune and
Minerva, and consider how this shall be; Phoebus Apollo has been
sending Aeneas clad in full armour to fight Achilles. Shall we turn
him back at once, or shall one of us stand by Achilles and endow him
with strength so that his heart fail not, and he may learn that the
chiefs of the immortals are on his side, while the others who have all
along been defending the Trojans are but vain helpers? Let us all come
down from Olympus and join in the fight, that this day he may take
no hurt at the hands of the Trojans. Hereafter let him suffer whatever
fate may have spun out for him when he was begotten and his mother
bore him. If Achilles be not thus assured by the voice of a god, he
may come to fear presently when one of us meets him in battle, for the
gods are terrible if they are seen face to face."
Neptune lord of the earthquake answered her saying, "Juno,
restrain your fury; it is not well; I am not in favour of forcing
the other gods to fight us, for the advantage is too greatly on our
own side; let us take our places on some hill out of the beaten track,
and let mortals fight it out among themselves. If Mars or Phoebus
Apollo begin fighting, or keep Achilles in check so that he cannot
fight, we too, will at once raise the cry of battle, and in that
case they will soon leave the field and go back vanquished to
Olympus among the other gods."
With these words the dark-haired god led the way to the high
earth-barrow of Hercules, built round solid masonry, and made by the
Trojans and Pallas Minerva for him fly to when the sea-monster was
chasing him from the shore on to the plain. Here Neptune and those
that were with him took their seats, wrapped in a thick cloud of
darkness; but the other gods seated themselves on the brow of
Callicolone round you, O Phoebus, and Mars the waster of cities.
Thus did the gods sit apart and form their plans, but neither side
was willing to begin battle with the other, and Jove from his seat
on high was in command over them all. Meanwhile the whole plain was
alive with men and horses, and blazing with the gleam of armour. The
earth rang again under the tramp of their feet as they rushed
towards each other, and two champions, by far the foremost of them
all, met between the hosts to fight- to wit, Aeneas son of Anchises,
and noble Achilles.
Aeneas was first to stride forward in attack, his doughty helmet
tossing defiance as he came on. He held his strong shield before his
breast, and brandished his bronze spear. The son of Peleus from the
other side sprang forth to meet him, fike some fierce lion that the
whole country-side has met to hunt and kill- at first he bodes no ill,
but when some daring youth has struck him with a spear, he crouches
openmouthed, his jaws foam, he roars with fury, he lashes his tail
from side to side about his ribs and loins, and glares as he springs
straight before him, to find out whether he is to slay, or be slain
among the foremost of his foes- even with such fury did Achilles
burn to spring upon Aeneas.
When they were now close up with one another Achilles was first to
speak. "Aeneas," said he, "why do you stand thus out before the host
to fight me? Is it that you hope to reign over the Trojans in the seat
of Priam? Nay, though you kill me Priam will not hand his kingdom over
to you. He is a man of sound judgement, and he has sons of his own. Or
have the Trojans been allotting you a demesne of passing richness,
fair with orchard lawns and corn lands, if you should slay me? This
you shall hardly do. I have discomfited you once already. Have you
forgotten how when you were alone I chased you from your herds
helter-skelter down the slopes of Ida? You did not turn round to
look behind you; you took refuge in Lyrnessus, but I attacked the
city, and with the help of Minerva and father Jove I sacked it and
carried its women into captivity, though Jove and the other gods
rescued you. You think they will protect you now, but they will not do
so; therefore I say go back into the host, and do not face me, or
you will rue it. Even a fool may be wise after the event."
Then Aeneas answered, "Son of Peleus, think not that your words
can scare me as though I were a child. I too, if I will, can brag
and talk unseemly. We know one another's race and parentage as matters
of common fame, though neither have you ever seen my parents nor I
yours. Men say that you are son to noble Peleus, and that your
mother is Thetis, fair-haired daughter of the sea. I have noble
Anchises for my father, and Venus for my mother; the parents of one or
other of us shall this day mourn a son, for it will be more than silly
talk that shall part us when the fight is over. Learn, then, my
lineage if you will- and it is known to many.
"In the beginning Dardanus was the son of Jove, and founded
Dardania, for Ilius was not yet stablished on the plain for men to
dwell in, and her people still abode on the spurs of many-fountained
Ida. Dardanus had a son, king Erichthonius, who was wealthiest of
all men living; he had three thousand mares that fed by the
water-meadows, they and their foals with them. Boreas was enamoured of
them as they were feeding, and covered them in the semblance of a
dark-maned stallion. Twelve filly foals did they conceive and bear
him, and these, as they sped over the rich plain, would go bounding on
over the ripe ears of corn and not break them; or again when they
would disport themselves on the broad back of Ocean they could
gallop on the crest of a breaker. Erichthonius begat Tros, king of the
Trojans, and Tros had three noble sons, Ilus, Assaracus, and
Ganymede who was comeliest of mortal men; wherefore the gods carried
him off to be Jove's cupbearer, for his beauty's sake, that he might
dwell among the immortals. Ilus begat Laomedon, and Laomedon begat
Tithonus, Priam, Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon of the stock of Mars.
But Assaracus was father to Capys, and Capys to Anchises, who was my
father, while Hector is son to Priam.
"Such do I declare my blood and lineage, but as for valour, Jove
gives it or takes it as he will, for he is lord of all. And now let
there be no more of this prating in mid-battle as though we were
children. We could fling taunts without end at one another; a
hundred-oared galley would not hold them. The tongue can run all
whithers and talk all wise; it can go here and there, and as a man
says, so shall he be gainsaid. What is the use of our bandying hard
like women who when they fall foul of one another go out and wrangle
in the streets, one half true and the other lies, as rage inspires
them? No words of yours shall turn me now that I am fain to fight-
therefore let us make trial of one another with our spears."
As he spoke he drove his spear at the great and terrible shield of
Achilles, which rang out as the point struck it. The son of Peleus
held the shield before him with his strong hand, and he was afraid,
for he deemed that Aeneas's spear would go through it quite easily,
not reflecting that the god's glorious gifts were little likely to
yield before the blows of mortal men; and indeed Aeneas's spear did
not pierce the shield, for the layer of gold, gift of the god,
stayed the point. It went through two layers, but the god had made the
shield in five, two of bronze, the two innermost ones of tin, and
one of gold; it was in this that the spear was stayed.
Achilles in his turn threw, and struck the round shield of Aeneas at
the very edge, where the bronze was thinnest; the spear of Pelian
ash went clean through, and the shield rang under the blow; Aeneas was
afraid, and crouched backwards, holding the shield away from him;
the spear, however, flew over his back, and stuck quivering in the
ground, after having gone through both circles of the sheltering
shield. Aeneas though he had avoided the spear, stood still, blinded
with fear and grief because the weapon had gone so near him; then
Achilles sprang furiously upon him, with a cry as of death and with
his keen blade drawn, and Aeneas seized a great stone, so huge that
two men, as men now are, would be unable to lift it, but Aeneas
wielded it quite easily.
Aeneas would then have struck Achilles as he was springing towards
him, either on the helmet, or on the shield that covered him, and
Achilles would have closed with him and despatched him with his sword,
had not Neptune lord of the earthquake been quick to mark, and said
forthwith to the immortals, "Alas, I am sorry for great Aeneas, who
will now go down to the house of Hades, vanquished by the son of
Peleus. Fool that he was to give ear to the counsel of Apollo.
Apollo will never save him from destruction. Why should this man
suffer when he is guiltless, to no purpose, and in another's
quarrel? Has he not at all times offered acceptable sacrifice to the
gods that dwell in heaven? Let us then snatch him from death's jaws,
lest the son of Saturn be angry should Achilles slay him. It is fated,
moreover, that he should escape, and that the race of Dardanus, whom
Jove loved above all the sons born to him of mortal women, shall not
perish utterly without seed or sign. For now indeed has Jove hated the
blood of Priam, while Aeneas shall reign over the Trojans, he and
his children's children that shall be born hereafter."
Then answered Juno, "Earth-shaker, look to this matter yourself, and
consider concerning Aeneas, whether you will save him, or suffer
him, brave though he be, to fall by the hand of Achilles son of
Peleus. For of a truth we two, I and Pallas Minerva, have sworn full
many a time before all the immortals, that never would we shield
Trojans from destruction, not even when all Troy is burning in the
flames that the Achaeans shall kindle."
When earth-encircling Neptune heard this he went into the battle
amid the clash of spears, and came to the place where Achilles and
Aeneas were. Forthwith he shed a darkness before the eyes of the son
of Peleus, drew the bronze-headed ashen spear from the shield of
Aeneas, and laid it at the feet of Achilles. Then he lifted Aeneas
on high from off the earth and hurried him away. Over the heads of
many a band of warriors both horse and foot did he soar as the god's
hand sped him, till he came to the very fringe of the battle where the
Cauconians were arming themselves for fight. Neptune, shaker of the
earth, then came near to him and said, Aeneas, what god has egged
you on to this folly in fighting the son of Peleus, who is both a
mightier man of valour and more beloved of heaven than you are? Give
way before him whensoever you meet him, lest you go down to the
house of Hades even though fate would have it otherwise. When Achilles
is dead you may then fight among the foremost undaunted, for none
other of the Achaeans shall slay you."
The god left him when he had given him these instructions, and at
once removed the darkness from before the eyes of Achilles, who opened
them wide indeed and said in great anger, "Alas! what marvel am I
now beholding? Here is my spear upon the ground, but I see not him
whom I meant to kill when I hurled it. Of a truth Aeneas also must
be under heaven's protection, although I had thought his boasting
was idle. Let him go hang; he will be in no mood to fight me
further, seeing how narrowly he has missed being killed. I will now
give my orders to the Danaans and attack some other of the Trojans."
He sprang forward along the line and cheered his men on as he did
so. "Let not the Trojans," he cried, "keep you at arm's length,
Achaeans, but go for them and fight them man for man. However
valiant I may be, I cannot give chase to so many and fight all of
them. Even Mars, who is an immortal, or Minerva, would shrink from
flinging himself into the jaws of such a fight and laying about him;
nevertheless, so far as in me lies I will show no slackness of hand or
foot nor want of endurance, not even for a moment; I will utterly
break their ranks, and woe to the Trojan who shall venture within
reach of my spear."
Thus did he exhort them. Meanwhile Hector called upon the Trojans
and declared that he would fight Achilles. "Be not afraid, proud
Trojans," said he, "to face the son of Peleus; I could fight gods
myself if the battle were one of words only, but they would be more
than a match for me, if we had to use our spears. Even so the deed
of Achilles will fall somewhat short of his word; he will do in
part, and the other part he will clip short. I will go up against
him though his hands be as fire- though his hands be fire and his
Thus urged the Trojans lifted up their spears against the
Achaeans, and raised the cry of battle as they flung themselves into
the midst of their ranks. But Phoebus Apollo came up to Hector and
said, "Hector, on no account must you challenge Achilles to single
combat; keep a lookout for him while you are under cover of the others
and away from the thick of the fight, otherwise he will either hit you
with a spear or cut you down at close quarters."
Thus he spoke, and Hector drew back within the crowd, for he was
afraid when he heard what the god had said to him. Achilles then
sprang upon the Trojans with a terrible cry, clothed in valour as with
a garment. First he killed Iphition son of Otrynteus, a leader of much
people whom a naiad nymph had borne to Otrynteus waster of cities,
in the land of Hyde under the snowy heights of Mt. Tmolus. Achilles
struck him full on the head as he was coming on towards him, and split
it clean in two; whereon he fell heavily to the ground and Achilles
vaunted over him saying, "You he low, son of Otrynteus, mighty hero;
your death is here, but your lineage is on the Gygaean lake where your
father's estate lies, by Hyllus, rich in fish, and the eddying
waters of Hermus."
Thus did he vaunt, but darkness closed the eyes of the other. The
chariots of the Achaeans cut him up as their wheels passed over him in
the front of the battle, and after him Achilles killed Demoleon, a
valiant man of war and son to Antenor. He struck him on the temple
through his bronze-cheeked helmet. The helmet did not stay the
spear, but it went right on, crushing the bone so that the brain
inside was shed in all directions, and his lust of fighting was ended.
Then he struck Hippodamas in the midriff as he was springing down from
his chariot in front of him, and trying to escape. He breathed his
last, bellowing like a bull bellows when young men are dragging him to
offer him in sacrifice to the King of Helice, and the heart of the
earth-shaker is glad; even so did he bellow as he lay dying.
Achilles then went in pursuit of Polydorus son of Priam, whom his
father had always forbidden to fight because he was the youngest of
his sons, the one he loved best, and the fastest runner. He, in his
folly and showing off the fleetness of his feet, was rushing about
among front ranks until he lost his life, for Achilles struck him in
the middle of the back as he was darting past him: he struck him
just at the golden fastenings of his belt and where the two pieces
of the double breastplate overlapped. The point of the spear pierced
him through and came out by the navel, whereon he fell groaning on
to his knees and a cloud of darkness overshadowed him as he sank
holding his entrails in his hands.
When Hector saw his brother Polydorus with his entrails in his hands
and sinking down upon the ground, a mist came over his eyes, and he
could not bear to keep longer at a distance; he therefore poised his
spear and darted towards Achilles like a flame of fire. When
Achilles saw him he bounded forward and vaunted saying, "This is he
that has wounded my heart most deeply and has slain my beloved
comrade. Not for long shall we two quail before one another on the
highways of war."
He looked fiercely on Hector and said, "Draw near, that you may meet
your doom the sooner." Hector feared him not and answered, "Son of
Peleus, think not that your words can scare me as though I were a
child; I too if I will can brag and talk unseemly; I know that you are
a mighty warrior, mightier by far than I, nevertheless the issue
lies in the the lap of heaven whether I, worse man though I be, may
not slay you with my spear, for this too has been found keen ere now."
He hurled his spear as he spoke, but Minerva breathed upon it, and
though she breathed but very lightly she turned it back from going
towards Achilles, so that it returned to Hector and lay at his feet in
front of him. Achilles then sprang furiously on him with a loud cry,
bent on killing him, but Apollo caught him up easily as a god can, and
hid him in a thick darkness. Thrice did Achilles spring towards him
spear in hand, and thrice did he waste his blow upon the air. When
he rushed forward for the fourth time as though he were a god, he
shouted aloud saying, "Hound, this time too you have escaped death-
but of a truth it came exceedingly near you. Phoebus Apollo, to whom
it seems you pray before you go into battle, has again saved you;
but if I too have any friend among the gods I will surely make an
end of you when I come across you at some other time. Now, however,
I will pursue and overtake other Trojans."
On this he struck Dryops with his spear, about the middle of his
neck, and he fell headlong at his feet. There he let him lie and
stayed Demouchus son of Philetor, a man both brave and of great
stature, by hitting him on the knee with a spear; then he smote him
with his sword and killed him. After this he sprang on Laogonus and
Dardanus, sons of Bias, and threw them from their chariot, the one
with a blow from a thrown spear, while the other he cut down in
hand-to-hand fight. There was also Tros the son of Alastor- he came up
to Achilles and clasped his knees in the hope that he would spare
him and not kill him but let him go, because they were both of the
same age. Fool, he might have known that he should not prevail with
him, for the man was in no mood for pity or forbearance but was in
grim earnest. Therefore when Tros laid hold of his knees and sought
a hearing for his prayers, Achilles drove his sword into his liver,
and the liver came rolling out, while his bosom was all covered with
the black blood that welled from the wound. Thus did death close his
eyes as he lay lifeless.
Achilles then went up to Mulius and struck him on the ear with a
spear, and the bronze spear-head came right out at the other ear. He
also struck Echeclus son of Agenor on the head with his sword, which
became warm with the blood, while death and stern fate closed the eyes
of Echeclus. Next in order the bronze point of his spear wounded
Deucalion in the fore-arm where the sinews of the elbow are united,
whereon he waited Achilles' onset with his arm hanging down and
death staring him in the face. Achilles cut his head off with a blow
from his sword and flung it helmet and all away from him, and the
marrow came oozing out of his backbone as he lay. He then went in
pursuit of Rhigmus, noble son of Peires, who had come from fertile
Thrace, and struck him through the middle with a spear which fixed
itself in his belly, so that he fell headlong from his chariot. He
also speared Areithous squire to Rhigmus in the back as he was turning
his horses in flight, and thrust him from his chariot, while the
horses were struck with panic.
As a fire raging in some mountain glen after long drought- and the
dense forest is in a blaze, while the wind carries great tongues of
fire in every direction- even so furiously did Achilles rage, wielding
his spear as though he were a god, and giving chase to those whom he
would slay, till the dark earth ran with blood. Or as one who yokes
broad-browed oxen that they may tread barley in a threshing-floor- and
it is soon bruised small under the feet of the lowing cattle- even
so did the horses of Achilles trample on the shields and bodies of the
slain. The axle underneath and the railing that ran round the car were
bespattered with clots of blood thrown up by the horses' hoofs, and
from the tyres of the wheels; but the son of Peleus pressed on to
win still further glory, and his hands were bedrabbled with gore.
The Iliad: Book 4
Now the gods were sitting with Jove in council upon the golden floor
while Hebe went round pouring out nectar for them to drink, and as
they pledged one another in their cups of gold they looked down upon
the town of Troy. The son of Saturn then began to tease Juno,
talking at her so as to provoke her. "Menelaus," said he, "has two
good friends among the goddesses, Juno of Argos, and Minerva of
Alalcomene, but they only sit still and look on, while Venus keeps
ever by Alexandrus' side to defend him in any danger; indeed she has
just rescued him when he made sure that it was all over with him-
for the victory really did lie with Menelaus. We must consider what we
shall do about all this; shall we set them fighting anew or make peace
between them? If you will agree to this last Menelaus can take back
Helen and the city of Priam may remain still inhabited."
Minerva and Juno muttered their discontent as they sat side by
side hatching mischief for the Trojans. Minerva scowled at her father,
for she was in a furious passion with him, and said nothing, but
Juno could not contain herself. "Dread son of Saturn," said she,
"what, pray, is the meaning of all this? Is my trouble, then, to go
for nothing, and the sweat that I have sweated, to say nothing of my
horses, while getting the people together against Priam and his
children? Do as you will, but we other gods shall not all of us
approve your counsel."
Jove was angry and answered, "My dear, what harm have Priam and
his sons done you that you are so hotly bent on sacking the city of
Ilius? Will nothing do for you but you must within their walls and eat
Priam raw, with his sons and all the other Trojans to boot? Have it
your own way then; for I would not have this matter become a bone of
contention between us. I say further, and lay my saying to your heart,
if ever I want to sack a city belonging to friends of yours, you
must not try to stop me; you will have to let me do it, for I am
giving in to you sorely against my will. Of all inhabited cities under
the sun and stars of heaven, there was none that I so much respected
as Ilius with Priam and his whole people. Equitable feasts were
never wanting about my altar, nor the savour of burning fat, which
is honour due to ourselves."
"My own three favourite cities," answered Juno, "are Argos,
Sparta, and Mycenae. Sack them whenever you may be displeased with
them. I shall not defend them and I shall not care. Even if I did, and
tried to stay you, I should take nothing by it, for you are much
stronger than I am, but I will not have my own work wasted. I too am a
god and of the same race with yourself. I am Saturn's eldest daughter,
and am honourable not on this ground only, but also because I am
your wife, and you are king over the gods. Let it be a case, then,
of give-and-take between us, and the rest of the gods will follow
our lead. Tell Minerva to go and take part in the fight at once, and
let her contrive that the Trojans shall be the first to break their
oaths and set upon the Achaeans."
The sire of gods and men heeded her words, and said to Minerva,
"Go at once into the Trojan and Achaean hosts, and contrive that the
Trojans shall be the first to break their oaths and set upon the
This was what Minerva was already eager to do, so down she darted
from the topmost summits of Olympus. She shot through the sky as
some brilliant meteor which the son of scheming Saturn has sent as a
sign to mariners or to some great army, and a fiery train of light
follows in its wake. The Trojans and Achaeans were struck with awe
as they beheld, and one would turn to his neighbour, saying, "Either
we shall again have war and din of combat, or Jove the lord of
battle will now make peace between us."
Thus did they converse. Then Minerva took the form of Laodocus,
son of Antenor, and went through the ranks of the Trojans to find
Pandarus, the redoubtable son of Lycaon. She found him standing
among the stalwart heroes who had followed him from the banks of the
Aesopus, so she went close up to him and said, "Brave son of Lycaon,
will you do as I tell you? If you dare send an arrow at Menelaus you
will win honour and thanks from all the Trojans, and especially from
prince Alexandrus- he would be the first to requite you very
handsomely if he could see Menelaus mount his funeral pyre, slain by
an arrow from your hand. Take your home aim then, and pray to Lycian
Apollo, the famous archer; vow that when you get home to your strong
city of Zelea you will offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his
His fool's heart was persuaded, and he took his bow from its case.
This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he had killed as
it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and it had fallen as
the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were sixteen palms long,
and a worker in horn had made them into a bow, smoothing them well
down, and giving them tips of gold. When Pandarus had strung his bow
he laid it carefully on the ground, and his brave followers held their
shields before him lest the Achaeans should set upon him before he had
shot Menelaus. Then he opened the lid of his quiver and took out a
winged arrow that had yet been shot, fraught with the pangs of
death. He laid the arrow on the string and prayed to Lycian Apollo,
the famous archer, vowing that when he got home to his strong city
of Zelea he would offer a hecatomb of firstling lambs in his honour.
He laid the notch of the arrow on the oxhide bowstring, and drew
both notch and string to his breast till the arrow-head was near the
bow; then when the bow was arched into a half-circle he let fly, and
the bow twanged, and the string sang as the arrow flew gladly on
over the heads of the throng.
But the blessed gods did not forget thee, O Menelaus, and Jove's
daughter, driver of the spoil, was the first to stand before thee
and ward off the piercing arrow. She turned it from his skin as a
mother whisks a fly from off her child when it is sleeping sweetly;
she guided it to the part where the golden buckles of the belt that
passed over his double cuirass were fastened, so the arrow struck
the belt that went tightly round him. It went right through this and
through the cuirass of cunning workmanship; it also pierced the belt
beneath it, which he wore next his skin to keep out darts or arrows;
it was this that served him in the best stead, nevertheless the
arrow went through it and grazed the top of the skin, so that blood
began flowing from the wound.
As when some woman of Meonia or Caria strains purple dye on to a
piece of ivory that is to be the cheek-piece of a horse, and is to
be laid up in a treasure house- many a knight is fain to bear it,
but the king keeps it as an ornament of which both horse and driver
may be proud- even so, O Menelaus, were your shapely thighs and your
legs down to your fair ancles stained with blood.
When King Agamemnon saw the blood flowing from the wound he was
afraid, and so was brave Menelaus himself till he saw that the barbs
of the arrow and the thread that bound the arrow-head to the shaft
were still outside the wound. Then he took heart, but Agamemnon heaved
a deep sigh as he held Menelaus's hand in his own, and his comrades
made moan in concert. "Dear brother, "he cried, "I have been the death
of you in pledging this covenant and letting you come forward as our
champion. The Trojans have trampled on their oaths and have wounded
you; nevertheless the oath, the blood of lambs, the drink-offerings
and the right hands of fellowship in which have put our trust shall
not be vain. If he that rules Olympus fulfil it not here and now,
he. will yet fulfil it hereafter, and they shall pay dearly with their
lives and with their wives and children. The day will surely come when
mighty Ilius shall be laid low, with Priam and Priam's people, when
the son of Saturn from his high throne shall overshadow them with
his awful aegis in punishment of their present treachery. This shall
surely be; but how, Menelaus, shall I mourn you, if it be your lot now
to die? I should return to Argos as a by-word, for the Achaeans will
at once go home. We shall leave Priam and the Trojans the glory of
still keeping Helen, and the earth will rot your bones as you lie here
at Troy with your purpose not fulfilled. Then shall some braggart
Trojan leap upon your tomb and say, 'Ever thus may Agamemnon wreak his
vengeance; he brought his army in vain; he is gone home to his own
land with empty ships, and has left Menelaus behind him.' Thus will
one of them say, and may the earth then swallow me."
But Menelaus reassured him and said, "Take heart, and do not alarm
the people; the arrow has not struck me in a mortal part, for my outer
belt of burnished metal first stayed it, and under this my cuirass and
the belt of mail which the bronze-smiths made me."
And Agamemnon answered, "I trust, dear Menelaus, that it may be even
so, but the surgeon shall examine your wound and lay herbs upon it
to relieve your pain."
He then said to Talthybius, "Talthybius, tell Machaon, son to the
great physician, Aesculapius, to come and see Menelaus immediately.
Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him with an arrow to our
dismay, and to his own great glory."
Talthybius did as he was told, and went about the host trying to
find Machaon. Presently he found standing amid the brave warriors
who had followed him from Tricca; thereon he went up to him and
said, "Son of Aesculapius, King Agamemnon says you are to come and see
Menelaus immediately. Some Trojan or Lycian archer has wounded him
with an arrow to our dismay and to his own great glory."
Thus did he speak, and Machaon was moved to go. They passed
through the spreading host of the Achaeans and went on till they
came to the place where Menelaus had been wounded and was lying with
the chieftains gathered in a circle round him. Machaon passed into the
middle of the ring and at once drew the arrow from the belt, bending
its barbs back through the force with which he pulled it out. He undid
the burnished belt, and beneath this the cuirass and the belt of
mail which the bronze-smiths had made; then, when he had seen the
wound, he wiped away the blood and applied some soothing drugs which
Chiron had given to Aesculapius out of the good will he bore him.
While they were thus busy about Menelaus, the Trojans came forward
against them, for they had put on their armour, and now renewed the
You would not have then found Agamemnon asleep nor cowardly and
unwilling to fight, but eager rather for the fray. He left his chariot
rich with bronze and his panting steeds in charge of Eurymedon, son of
Ptolemaeus the son of Peiraeus, and bade him hold them in readiness
against the time his limbs should weary of going about and giving
orders to so many, for he went among the ranks on foot. When he saw
men hasting to the front he stood by them and cheered them on.
"Argives," said he, "slacken not one whit in your onset; father Jove
will be no helper of liars; the Trojans have been the first to break
their oaths and to attack us; therefore they shall be devoured of
vultures; we shall take their city and carry off their wives and
children in our ships."
But he angrily rebuked those whom he saw shirking and disinclined to
fight. "Argives," he cried, "cowardly miserable creatures, have you no
shame to stand here like frightened fawns who, when they can no longer
scud over the plain, huddle together, but show no fight? You are as
dazed and spiritless as deer. Would you wait till the Trojans reach
the sterns of our ships as they lie on the shore, to see, whether
the son of Saturn will hold his hand over you to protect you?"
Thus did he go about giving his orders among the ranks. Passing
through the crowd, he came presently on the Cretans, arming round
Idomeneus, who was at their head, fierce as a wild boar, while
Meriones was bringing up the battalions that were in the rear.
Agamemnon was glad when he saw him, and spoke him fairly. "Idomeneus,"
said he, "I treat you with greater distinction than I do any others of
the Achaeans, whether in war or in other things, or at table. When the
princes are mixing my choicest wines in the mixing-bowls, they have
each of them a fixed allowance, but your cup is kept always full
like my own, that you may drink whenever you are minded. Go,
therefore, into battle, and show yourself the man you have been always
proud to be."
Idomeneus answered, "I will be a trusty comrade, as I promised you
from the first I would be. Urge on the other Achaeans, that we may
join battle at once, for the Trojans have trampled upon their
covenants. Death and destruction shall be theirs, seeing they have
been the first to break their oaths and to attack us."
The son of Atreus went on, glad at heart, till he came upon the
two Ajaxes arming themselves amid a host of foot-soldiers. As when a
goat-herd from some high post watches a storm drive over the deep
before the west wind- black as pitch is the offing and a mighty
whirlwind draws towards him, so that he is afraid and drives his flock
into a cave- even thus did the ranks of stalwart youths move in a dark
mass to battle under the Ajaxes, horrid with shield and spear. Glad
was King Agamemnon when he saw them. "No need," he cried, "to give
orders to such leaders of the Argives as you are, for of your own
selves you spur your men on to fight with might and main. Would, by
father Jove, Minerva, and Apollo that all were so minded as you are,
for the city of Priam would then soon fall beneath our hands, and we
should sack it."
With this he left them and went onward to Nestor, the facile speaker
of the Pylians, who was marshalling his men and urging them on, in
company with Pelagon, Alastor, Chromius, Haemon, and Bias shepherd
of his people. He placed his knights with their chariots and horses in
the front rank, while the foot-soldiers, brave men and many, whom he
could trust, were in the rear. The cowards he drove into the middle,
that they might fight whether they would or no. He gave his orders
to the knights first, bidding them hold their horses well in hand,
so as to avoid confusion. "Let no man," he said, "relying on his
strength or horsemanship, get before the others and engage singly with
the Trojans, nor yet let him lag behind or you will weaken your
attack; but let each when he meets an enemy's chariot throw his
spear from his own; this be much the best; this is how the men of
old took towns and strongholds; in this wise were they minded."
Thus did the old man charge them, for he had been in many a fight,
and King Agamemnon was glad. "I wish," he said to him, that your limbs
were as supple and your strength as sure as your judgment is; but age,
the common enemy of mankind, has laid his hand upon you; would that it
had fallen upon some other, and that you were still young."
And Nestor, knight of Gerene, answered, "Son of Atreus, I too
would gladly be the man I was when I slew mighty Ereuthalion; but
the gods will not give us everything at one and the same time. I was
then young, and now I am old; still I can go with my knights and
give them that counsel which old men have a right to give. The
wielding of the spear I leave to those who are younger and stronger
Agamemnon went his way rejoicing, and presently found Menestheus,
son of Peteos, tarrying in his place, and with him were the
Athenians loud of tongue in battle. Near him also tarried cunning
Ulysses, with his sturdy Cephallenians round him; they had not yet
heard the battle-cry, for the ranks of Trojans and Achaeans had only
just begun to move, so they were standing still, waiting for some
other columns of the Achaeans to attack the Trojans and begin the
fighting. When he saw this Agamemnon rebuked them and said, "Son of
Peteos, and you other, steeped in cunning, heart of guile, why stand
you here cowering and waiting on others? You two should be of all
men foremost when there is hard fighting to be done, for you are
ever foremost to accept my invitation when we councillors of the
Achaeans are holding feast. You are glad enough then to take your fill
of roast meats and to drink wine as long as you please, whereas now
you would not care though you saw ten columns of Achaeans engage the
enemy in front of you."
Ulysses glared at him and answered, "Son of Atreus, what are you
talking about? How can you say that we are slack? When the Achaeans
are in full fight with the Trojans, you shall see, if you care to do
so, that the father of Telemachus will join battle with the foremost
of them. You are talking idly."
When Agamemnon saw that Ulysses was angry, he smiled pleasantly at
him and withdrew his words. "Ulysses," said he, "noble son of Laertes,
excellent in all good counsel, I have neither fault to find nor orders
to give you, for I know your heart is right, and that you and I are of
a mind. Enough; I will make you amends for what I have said, and if
any ill has now been spoken may the gods bring it to nothing."
He then left them and went on to others. Presently he saw the son of
Tydeus, noble Diomed, standing by his chariot and horses, with
Sthenelus the son of Capaneus beside him; whereon he began to
upbraid him. "Son of Tydeus," he said, "why stand you cowering here
upon the brink of battle? Tydeus did not shrink thus, but was ever
ahead of his men when leading them on against the foe- so, at least,
say they that saw him in battle, for I never set eyes upon him myself.
They say that there was no man like him. He came once to Mycenae,
not as an enemy but as a guest, in company with Polynices to recruit
his forces, for they were levying war against the strong city of
Thebes, and prayed our people for a body of picked men to help them.
The men of Mycenae were willing to let them have one, but Jove
dissuaded them by showing them unfavourable omens. Tydeus,
therefore, and Polynices went their way. When they had got as far
the deep-meadowed and rush-grown banks of the Aesopus, the Achaeans
sent Tydeus as their envoy, and he found the Cadmeans gathered in
great numbers to a banquet in the house of Eteocles. Stranger though
he was, he knew no fear on finding himself single-handed among so
many, but challenged them to contests of all kinds, and in each one of
them was at once victorious, so mightily did Minerva help him. The
Cadmeans were incensed at his success, and set a force of fifty youths
with two captains- the godlike hero Maeon, son of Haemon, and
Polyphontes, son of Autophonus- at their head, to lie in wait for
him on his return journey; but Tydeus slew every man of them, save
only Maeon, whom he let go in obedience to heaven's omens. Such was
Tydeus of Aetolia. His son can talk more glibly, but he cannot fight
as his father did."
Diomed made no answer, for he was shamed by the rebuke of Agamemnon;
but the son of Capaneus took up his words and said, "Son of Atreus,
tell no lies, for you can speak truth if you will. We boast
ourselves as even better men than our fathers; we took seven-gated
Thebes, though the wall was stronger and our men were fewer in number,
for we trusted in the omens of the gods and in the help of Jove,
whereas they perished through their own sheer folly; hold not, then,
our fathers in like honour with us."
Diomed looked sternly at him and said, "Hold your peace, my
friend, as I bid you. It is not amiss that Agamemnon should urge the
Achaeans forward, for the glory will be his if we take the city, and
his the shame if we are vanquished. Therefore let us acquit
ourselves with valour."
As he spoke he sprang from his chariot, and his armour rang so
fiercely about his body that even a brave man might well have been
scared to hear it.
As when some mighty wave that thunders on the beach when the west
wind has lashed it into fury- it has reared its head afar and now
comes crashing down on the shore; it bows its arching crest high
over the jagged rocks and spews its salt foam in all directions-
even so did the serried phalanxes of the Danaans march steadfastly
to battle. The chiefs gave orders each to his own people, but the
men said never a word; no man would think it, for huge as the host
was, it seemed as though there was not a tongue among them, so
silent were they in their obedience; and as they marched the armour
about their bodies glistened in the sun. But the clamour of the Trojan
ranks was as that of many thousand ewes that stand waiting to be
milked in the yards of some rich flockmaster, and bleat incessantly in
answer to the bleating of their lambs; for they had not one speech nor
language, but their tongues were diverse, and they came from many
different places. These were inspired of Mars, but the others by
Minerva- and with them came Panic, Rout, and Strife whose fury never
tires, sister and friend of murderous Mars, who, from being at first
but low in stature, grows till she uprears her head to heaven,
though her feet are still on earth. She it was that went about among
them and flung down discord to the waxing of sorrow with even hand
When they were got together in one place shield clashed with
shield and spear with spear in the rage of battle. The bossed
shields beat one upon another, and there was a tramp as of a great
multitude- death-cry and shout of triumph of slain and slayers, and
the earth ran red with blood. As torrents swollen with rain course
madly down their deep channels till the angry floods meet in some
gorge, and the shepherd the hillside hears their roaring from afar-
even such was the toil and uproar of the hosts as they joined in
First Antilochus slew an armed warrior of the Trojans, Echepolus,
son of Thalysius, fighting in the foremost ranks. He struck at the
projecting part of his helmet and drove the spear into his brow; the
point of bronze pierced the bone, and darkness veiled his eyes;
headlong as a tower he fell amid the press of the fight, and as he
dropped King Elephenor, son of Chalcodon and captain of the proud
Abantes began dragging him out of reach of the darts that were falling
around him, in haste to strip him of his armour. But his purpose was
not for long; Agenor saw him haling the body away, and smote him in
the side with his bronze-shod spear- for as he stooped his side was
left unprotected by his shield- and thus he perished. Then the fight
between Trojans and Achaeans grew furious over his body, and they flew
upon each other like wolves, man and man crushing one upon the other.
Forthwith Ajax, son of Telamon, slew the fair youth Simoeisius,
son of Anthemion, whom his mother bore by the banks of the Simois,
as she was coming down from Mt. Ida, where she had been with her
parents to see their flocks. Therefore he was named Simoeisius, but he
did not live to pay his parents for his rearing, for he was cut off
untimely by the spear of mighty Ajax, who struck him in the breast
by the right nipple as he was coming on among the foremost fighters;
the spear went right through his shoulder, and he fell as a poplar
that has grown straight and tall in a meadow by some mere, and its top
is thick with branches. Then the wheelwright lays his axe to its roots
that he may fashion a felloe for the wheel of some goodly chariot, and
it lies seasoning by the waterside. In such wise did Ajax fell to
earth Simoeisius, son of Anthemion. Thereon Antiphus of the gleaming
corslet, son of Priam, hurled a spear at Ajax from amid the crowd
and missed him, but he hit Leucus, the brave comrade of Ulysses, in
the groin, as he was dragging the body of Simoeisius over to the other
side; so he fell upon the body and loosed his hold upon it. Ulysses
was furious when he saw Leucus slain, and strode in full armour
through the front ranks till he was quite close; then he glared
round about him and took aim, and the Trojans fell back as he did
so. His dart was not sped in vain, for it struck Democoon, the bastard
son of Priam, who had come to him from Abydos, where he had charge
of his father's mares. Ulysses, infuriated by the death of his
comrade, hit him with his spear on one temple, and the bronze point
came through on the other side of his forehead. Thereon darkness
veiled his eyes, and his armour rang rattling round him as he fell
heavily to the ground. Hector, and they that were in front, then
gave round while the Argives raised a shout and drew off the dead,
pressing further forward as they did so. But Apollo looked down from
Pergamus and called aloud to the Trojans, for he was displeased.
"Trojans," he cried, "rush on the foe, and do not let yourselves be
thus beaten by the Argives. Their skins are not stone nor iron that
when hit them you do them no harm. Moreover, Achilles, the son of
lovely Thetis, is not fighting, but is nursing his anger at the
Thus spoke the mighty god, crying to them from the city, while
Jove's redoubtable daughter, the Trito-born, went about among the host
of the Achaeans, and urged them forward whenever she beheld them
Then fate fell upon Diores, son of Amarynceus, for he was struck
by a jagged stone near the ancle of his right leg. He that hurled it
was Peirous, son of Imbrasus, captain of the Thracians, who had come
from Aenus; the bones and both the tendons were crushed by the
pitiless stone. He fell to the ground on his back, and in his death
throes stretched out his hands towards his comrades. But Peirous,
who had wounded him, sprang on him and thrust a spear into his
belly, so that his bowels came gushing out upon the ground, and
darkness veiled his eyes. As he was leaving the body, Thoas of Aetolia
struck him in the chest near the nipple, and the point fixed itself in
his lungs. Thoas came close up to him, pulled the spear out of his
chest, and then drawing his sword, smote him in the middle of the
belly so that he died; but he did not strip him of his armour, for his
Thracian comrades, men who wear their hair in a tuft at the top of
their heads, stood round the body and kept him off with their long
spears for all his great stature and valour; so he was driven back.
Thus the two corpses lay stretched on earth near to one another, the
one captain of the Thracians and the other of the Epeans; and many
another fell round them.
And now no man would have made light of the fighting if he could
have gone about among it scatheless and unwounded, with Minerva
leading him by the hand, and protecting him from the storm of spears
and arrows. For many Trojans and Achaeans on that day lay stretched
side by side face downwards upon the earth.
The Iliad: Book 14
Nestor was sitting over his wine, but the cry of battle did not
escape him, and he said to the son of Aesculapius, "What, noble
Machaon, is the meaning of all this? The shouts of men fighting by our
ships grow stronger and stronger; stay here, therefore, and sit over
your wine, while fair Hecamede heats you a bath and washes the clotted
blood from off you. I will go at once to the look-out station and
see what it is all about."
As he spoke he took up the shield of his son Thrasymedes that was
lying in his tent, all gleaming with bronze, for Thrasymedes had taken
his father's shield; he grasped his redoubtable bronze-shod spear, and
as soon as he was outside saw the disastrous rout of the Achaeans who,
now that their wall was overthrown, were flying pell-mell before the
Trojans. As when there is a heavy swell upon the sea, but the waves
are dumb- they keep their eyes on the watch for the quarter whence the
fierce winds may spring upon them, but they stay where they are and
set neither this way nor that, till some particular wind sweeps down
from heaven to determine them- even so did the old man ponder
whether to make for the crowd of Danaans, or go in search of
Agamemnon. In the end he deemed it best to go to the son of Atreus;
but meanwhile the hosts were fighting and killing one another, and the
hard bronze rattled on their bodies, as they thrust at one another
with their swords and spears.
The wounded kings, the son of Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon son
of Atreus, fell in Nestor as they were coming up from their ships- for
theirs were drawn up some way from where the fighting was going on,
being on the shore itself inasmuch as they had been beached first,
while the wall had been built behind the hindermost. The stretch of
the shore, wide though it was, did not afford room for all the
ships, and the host was cramped for space, therefore they had placed
the ships in rows one behind the other, and had filled the whole
opening of the bay between the two points that formed it. The kings,
leaning on their spears, were coming out to survey the fight, being in
great anxiety, and when old Nestor met them they were filled with
dismay. Then King Agamemnon said to him, "Nestor son of Neleus, honour
to the Achaean name, why have you left the battle to come hither? I
fear that what dread Hector said will come true, when he vaunted among
the Trojans saying that he would not return to Ilius till he had fired
our ships and killed us; this is what he said, and now it is all
coming true. Alas! others of the Achaeans, like Achilles, are in anger
with me that they refuse to fight by the sterns of our ships."
Then Nestor knight of Gerene answered, "It is indeed as you say;
it is all coming true at this moment, and even Jove who thunders
from on high cannot prevent it. Fallen is the wall on which we
relied as an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet. The
Trojans are fighting stubbornly and without ceasing at the ships; look
where you may you cannot see from what quarter the rout of the
Achaeans is coming; they are being killed in a confused mass and the
battle-cry ascends to heaven; let us think, if counsel can be of any
use, what we had better do; but I do not advise our going into
battle ourselves, for a man cannot fight when he is wounded."
And King Agamemnon answered, "Nestor, if the Trojans are indeed
fighting at the rear of our ships, and neither the wall nor the trench
has served us- over which the Danaans toiled so hard, and which they
deemed would be an impregnable bulwark both for us and our fleet- I
see it must be the will of Jove that the Achaeans should perish
ingloriously here, far from Argos. I knew when Jove was willing to
defend us, and I know now that he is raising the Trojans to like
honour with the gods, while us, on the other hand, he bas bound hand
and foot. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say; let us bring down
the ships that are on the beach and draw them into the water; let us
make them fast to their mooring-stones a little way out, against the
fall of night- if even by night the Trojans will desist from fighting;
we may then draw down the rest of the fleet. There is nothing wrong in
flying ruin even by night. It is better for a man that he should fly
and be saved than be caught and killed."
Ulysses looked fiercely at him and said, "Son of Atreus, what are
you talking about? Wretch, you should have commanded some other and
baser army, and not been ruler over us to whom Jove has allotted a
life of hard fighting from youth to old age, till we every one of us
perish. Is it thus that you would quit the city of Troy, to win
which we have suffered so much hardship? Hold your peace, lest some
other of the Achaeans hear you say what no man who knows how to give
good counsel, no king over so great a host as that of the Argives
should ever have let fall from his lips. I despise your judgement
utterly for what you have been saying. Would you, then, have us draw
down our ships into the water while the battle is raging, and thus
play further into the hands of the conquering Trojans? It would be
ruin; the Achaeans will not go on fighting when they see the ships
being drawn into the water, but will cease attacking and keep
turning their eyes towards them; your counsel, therefore, Sir captain,
would be our destruction."
Agamemnon answered, "Ulysses, your rebuke has stung me to the heart.
I am not, however, ordering the Achaeans to draw their ships into
the sea whether they will or no. Some one, it may be, old or young,
can offer us better counsel which I shall rejoice to hear."
Then said Diomed, "Such an one is at hand; he is not far to seek, if
you will listen to me and not resent my speaking though I am younger
than any of you. I am by lineage son to a noble sire, Tydeus, who lies
buried at Thebes. For Portheus had three noble sons, two of whom,
Agrius and Melas, abode in Pleuron and rocky Calydon. The third was
the knight Oeneus, my father's father, and he was the most valiant
of them all. Oeeneus remained in his own country, but my father (as
Jove and the other gods ordained it) migrated to Argos. He married
into the family of Adrastus, and his house was one of great abundance,
for he had large estates of rich corn-growing land, with much
orchard ground as well, and he had many sheep; moreover he excelled
all the Argives in the use of the spear. You must yourselves have
heard whether these things are true or no; therefore when I say well
despise not my words as though I were a coward or of ignoble birth.
I say, then, let us go to the fight as we needs must, wounded though
we be. When there, we may keep out of the battle and beyond the
range of the spears lest we get fresh wounds in addition to what we
have already, but we can spur on others, who have been indulging their
spleen and holding aloof from battle hitherto."
Thus did he speak; whereon they did even as he had said and set out,
King Agamemnon leading the way.
Meanwhile Neptune had kept no blind look-out, and came up to them in
the semblance of an old man. He took Agamemnon's right hand in his own
and said, "Son of Atreus, I take it Achilles is glad now that he
sees the Achaeans routed and slain, for he is utterly without remorse-
may he come to a bad end and heaven confound him. As for yourself, the
blessed gods are not yet so bitterly angry with you but that the
princes and counsellors of the Trojans shall again raise the dust upon
the plain, and you shall see them flying from the ships and tents
towards their city."
With this he raised a mighty cry of battle, and sped forward to
the plain. The voice that came from his deep chest was as that of nine
or ten thousand men when they are shouting in the thick of a fight,
and it put fresh courage into the hearts of the Achaeans to wage war
and do battle without ceasing.
Juno of the golden throne looked down as she stood upon a peak of
Olympus and her heart was gladdened at the sight of him who was at
once her brother and her brother-in-law, hurrying hither and thither
amid the fighting. Then she turned her eyes to Jove as he sat on the
topmost crests of many-fountained Ida, and loathed him. She set
herself to think how she might hoodwink him, and in the end she deemed
that it would be best for her to go to Ida and array herself in rich
attire, in the hope that Jove might become enamoured of her, and
wish to embrace her. While he was thus engaged a sweet and careless
sleep might be made to steal over his eyes and senses.
She went, therefore, to the room which her son Vulcan had made
her, and the doors of which he had cunningly fastened by means of a
secret key so that no other god could open them. Here she entered
and closed the doors behind her. She cleansed all the dirt from her
fair body with ambrosia, then she anointed herself with olive oil,
ambrosial, very soft, and scented specially for herself- if it were so
much as shaken in the bronze-floored house of Jove, the scent pervaded
the universe of heaven and earth. With this she anointed her
delicate skin, and then she plaited the fair ambrosial locks that
flowed in a stream of golden tresses from her immortal head. She put
on the wondrous robe which Minerva had worked for her with
consummate art, and had embroidered with manifold devices; she
fastened it about her bosom with golden clasps, and she girded herself
with a girdle that had a hundred tassels: then she fastened her
earrings, three brilliant pendants that glistened most beautifully,
through the pierced lobes of her ears, and threw a lovely new veil
over her head. She bound her sandals on to her feet, and when she
had arrayed herself perfectly to her satisfaction, she left her room
and called Venus to come aside and speak to her. "My dear child," said
she, "will you do what I am going to ask of you, or will refuse me
because you are angry at my being on the Danaan side, while you are on
Jove's daughter Venus answered, "Juno, august queen of goddesses,
daughter of mighty Saturn, say what you want, and I will do it for
at once, if I can, and if it can be done at all."
Then Juno told her a lying tale and said, "I want you to endow me
with some of those fascinating charms, the spells of which bring all
things mortal and immortal to your feet. I am going to the world's end
to visit Oceanus (from whom all we gods proceed) and mother Tethys:
they received me in their house, took care of me, and brought me up,
having taken me over from Rhaea when Jove imprisoned great Saturn in
the depths that are under earth and sea. I must go and see them that I
may make peace between them; they have been quarrelling, and are so
angry that they have not slept with one another this long while; if
I can bring them round and restore them to one another's embraces,
they will be grateful to me and love me for ever afterwards."
Thereon laughter-loving Venus said, "I cannot and must not refuse
you, for you sleep in the arms of Jove who is our king."
As she spoke she loosed from her bosom the curiously embroidered
girdle into which all her charms had been wrought- love, desire, and
that sweet flattery which steals the judgement even of the most
prudent. She gave the girdle to Juno and said, "Take this girdle
wherein all my charms reside and lay it in your bosom. If you will
wear it I promise you that your errand, be it what it may, will not be
When she heard this Juno smiled, and still smiling she laid the
girdle in her bosom.
Venus now went back into the house of Jove, while Juno darted down
from the summits of Olympus. She passed over Pieria and fair
Emathia, and went on and on till she came to the snowy ranges of the
Thracian horsemen, over whose topmost crests she sped without ever
setting foot to ground. When she came to Athos she went on over the,
waves of the sea till she reached Lemnos, the city of noble Thoas.
There she met Sleep, own brother to Death, and caught him by the hand,
saying, "Sleep, you who lord it alike over mortals and immortals, if
you ever did me a service in times past, do one for me now, and I
shall be grateful to you ever after. Close Jove's keen eyes for me
in slumber while I hold him clasped in my embrace, and I will give you
a beautiful golden seat, that can never fall to pieces; my
clubfooted son Vulcan shall make it for you, and he shall give it a
footstool for you to rest your fair feet upon when you are at table."
Then Sleep answered, "Juno, great queen of goddesses, daughter of
mighty Saturn, I would lull any other of the gods to sleep without
compunction, not even excepting the waters of Oceanus from whom all of
them proceed, but I dare not go near Jove, nor send him to sleep
unless he bids me. I have had one lesson already through doing what
you asked me, on the day when Jove's mighty son Hercules set sail from
Ilius after having sacked the city of the Trojans. At your bidding I
suffused my sweet self over the mind of aegis-bearing Jove, and laid
him to rest; meanwhile you hatched a plot against Hercules, and set
the blasts of the angry winds beating upon the sea, till you took
him to the goodly city of Cos away from all his friends. Jove was
furious when he awoke, and began hurling the gods about all over the
house; he was looking more particularly for myself, and would have
flung me down through space into the sea where I should never have
been heard of any more, had not Night who cows both men and gods
protected me. I fled to her and Jove left off looking for me in
spite of his being so angry, for he did not dare do anything to
displease Night. And now you are again asking me to do something on
which I cannot venture."
And Juno said, "Sleep, why do you take such notions as those into
your head? Do you think Jove will be as anxious to help the Trojans,
as he was about his own son? Come, I will marry you to one of the
youngest of the Graces, and she shall be your own- Pasithea, whom
you have always wanted to marry."
Sleep was pleased when he heard this, and answered, "Then swear it
to me by the dread waters of the river Styx; lay one hand on the
bounteous earth, and the other on the sheen of the sea, so that all
the gods who dwell down below with Saturn may be our witnesses, and
see that you really do give me one of the youngest of the Graces-
Pasithea, whom I have always wanted to marry."
Juno did as he had said. She swore, and invoked all the gods of
the nether world, who are called Titans, to witness. When she had
completed her oath, the two enshrouded themselves in a thick mist
and sped lightly forward, leaving Lemnos and Imbrus behind them.
Presently they reached many-fountained Ida, mother of wild beasts, and
Lectum where they left the sea to go on by land, and the tops of the
trees of the forest soughed under the going of their feet. Here
Sleep halted, and ere Jove caught sight of him he climbed a lofty
pine-tree- the tallest that reared its head towards heaven on all Ida.
He hid himself behind the branches and sat there in the semblance of
the sweet-singing bird that haunts the mountains and is called Chalcis
by the gods, but men call it Cymindis. Juno then went to Gargarus, the
topmost peak of Ida, and Jove, driver of the clouds, set eyes upon
her. As soon as he did so he became inflamed with the same
passionate desire for her that he had felt when they had first enjoyed
each other's embraces, and slept with one another without their dear
parents knowing anything about it. He went up to her and said, "What
do you want that you have come hither from Olympus- and that too
with neither chariot nor horses to convey you?"
Then Juno told him a lying tale and said, "I am going to the world's
end, to visit Oceanus, from whom all we gods proceed, and mother
Tethys; they received me into their house, took care of me, and
brought me up. I must go and see them that I may make peace between
them: they have been quarrelling, and are so angry that they have
not slept with one another this long time. The horses that will take
me over land and sea are stationed on the lowermost spurs of
many-fountained Ida, and I have come here from Olympus on purpose to
consult you. I was afraid you might be angry with me later on, if I
went to the house of Oceanus without letting you know."
And Jove said, "Juno, you can choose some other time for paying your
visit to Oceanus- for the present let us devote ourselves to love
and to the enjoyment of one another. Never yet have I been so
overpowered by passion neither for goddess nor mortal woman as I am at
this moment for yourself- not even when I was in love with the wife of
Ixion who bore me Pirithous, peer of gods in counsel, nor yet with
Danae the daintily-ancled daughter of Acrisius, who bore me the
famed hero Perseus. Then there was the daughter of Phoenix, who bore
me Minos and Rhadamanthus: there was Semele, and Alcmena in Thebes
by whom I begot my lion-hearted son Hercules, while Semele became
mother to Bacchus the comforter of mankind. There was queen Ceres
again, and lovely Leto, and yourself- but with none of these was I
ever so much enamoured as I now am with you."
Juno again answered him with a lying tale. "Most dread son of
Saturn," she exclaimed, "what are you talking about? Would you have us
enjoy one another here on the top of Mount Ida, where everything can
be seen? What if one of the ever-living gods should see us sleeping
together, and tell the others? It would be such a scandal that when
I had risen from your embraces I could never show myself inside your
house again; but if you are so minded, there is a room which your
son Vulcan has made me, and he has given it good strong doors; if
you would so have it, let us go thither and lie down."
And Jove answered, "Juno, you need not be afraid that either god
or man will see you, for I will enshroud both of us in such a dense
golden cloud, that the very sun for all his bright piercing beams
shall not see through it."
With this the son of Saturn caught his wife in his embrace;
whereon the earth sprouted them a cushion of young grass, with
dew-bespangled lotus, crocus, and hyacinth, so soft and thick that
it raised them well above the ground. Here they laid themselves down
and overhead they were covered by a fair cloud of gold, from which
there fell glittering dew-drops.
Thus, then, did the sire of all things repose peacefully on the
crest of Ida, overcome at once by sleep and love, and he held his
spouse in his arms. Meanwhile Sleep made off to the ships of the
Achaeans, to tell earth-encircling Neptune, lord of the earthquake.
When he had found him he said, "Now, Neptune, you can help the Danaans
with a will, and give them victory though it be only for a short
time while Jove is still sleeping. I have sent him into a sweet
slumber, and Juno has beguiled him into going to bed with her."
Sleep now departed and went his ways to and fro among mankind,
leaving Neptune more eager than ever to help the Danaans. He darted
forward among the first ranks and shouted saying, "Argives, shall we
let Hector son of Priam have the triumph of taking our ships and
covering himself with glory? This is what he says that he shall now
do, seeing that Achilles is still in dudgeon at his ship; We shall get
on very well without him if we keep each other in heart and stand by
one another. Now, therefore, let us all do as I say. Let us each
take the best and largest shield we can lay hold of, put on our
helmets, and sally forth with our longest spears in our hands; will
lead you on, and Hector son of Priam, rage as he may, will not dare to
hold out against us. If any good staunch soldier has only a small
shield, let him hand it over to a worse man, and take a larger one for
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. The son of
Tydeus, Ulysses, and Agamemnon, wounded though they were, set the
others in array, and went about everywhere effecting the exchanges
of armour; the most valiant took the best armour, and gave the worse
to the worse man. When they had donned their bronze armour they
marched on with Neptune at their head. In his strong hand he grasped
his terrible sword, keen of edge and flashing like lightning; woe to
him who comes across it in the day of battle; all men quake for fear
and keep away from it.
Hector on the other side set the Trojans in array. Thereon Neptune
and Hector waged fierce war on one another- Hector on the Trojan and
Neptune on the Argive side. Mighty was the uproar as the two forces
met; the sea came rolling in towards the ships and tents of the
Achaeans, but waves do not thunder on the shore more loudly when
driven before the blast of Boreas, nor do the flames of a forest
fire roar more fiercely when it is well alight upon the mountains, nor
does the wind bellow with ruder music as it tears on through the
tops of when it is blowing its hardest, than the terrible shout
which the Trojans and Achaeans raised as they sprang upon one another.
Hector first aimed his spear at Ajax, who was turned full towards
him, nor did he miss his aim. The spear struck him where two bands
passed over his chest- the band of his shield and that of his
silver-studded sword- and these protected his body. Hector was angry
that his spear should have been hurled in vain, and withdrew under
cover of his men. As he was thus retreating, Ajax son of Telamon
struck him with a stone, of which there were many lying about under
the men's feet as they fought- brought there to give support to the
ships' sides as they lay on the shore. Ajax caught up one of them
and struck Hector above the rim of his shield close to his neck; the
blow made him spin round like a top and reel in all directions. As
an oak falls headlong when uprooted by the lightning flash of father
Jove, and there is a terrible smell of brimstone- no man can help
being dismayed if he is standing near it, for a thunderbolt is a
very awful thing- even so did Hector fall to earth and bite the
dust. His spear fell from his hand, but his shield and helmet were
made fast about his body, and his bronze armour rang about him.
The sons of the Achaeans came running with a loud cry towards him,
hoping to drag him away, and they showered their darts on the Trojans,
but none of them could wound him before he was surrounded and
covered by the princes Polydamas, Aeneas, Agenor, Sarpedon captain
of the Lycians, and noble Glaucus: of the others, too, there was not
one who was unmindful of him, and they held their round shields over
him to cover him. His comrades then lifted him off the ground and bore
him away from the battle to the place where his horses stood waiting
for him at the rear of the fight with their driver and the chariot;
these then took him towards the city groaning and in great pain.
When they reached the ford of the air stream of Xanthus, begotten of
Immortal Jove, they took him from off his chariot and laid him down on
the ground; they poured water over him, and as they did so he breathed
again and opened his eyes. Then kneeling on his knees he vomited
blood, but soon fell back on to the ground, and his eyes were again
closed in darkness for he was still sturined by the blow.
When the Argives saw Hector leaving the field, they took heart and
set upon the Trojans yet more furiously. Ajax fleet son of Oileus
began by springing on Satnius son of Enops and wounding him with his
spear: a fair naiad nymph had borne him to Enops as he was herding
cattle by the banks of the river Satnioeis. The son of Oileus came
up to him and struck him in the flank so that he fell, and a fierce
fight between Trojans and Danaans raged round his body. Polydamas
son of Panthous drew near to avenge him, and wounded Prothoenor son of
Areilycus on the right shoulder; the terrible spear went right through
his shoulder, and he clutched the earth as he fell in the dust.
Polydamas vaunted loudly over him saying, "Again I take it that the
spear has not sped in vain from the strong hand of the son of
Panthous; an Argive has caught it in his body, and it will serve him
for a staff as he goes down into the house of Hades."
The Argives were maddened by this boasting. Ajax son of Telamon
was more angry than any, for the man had fallen close be, him; so he
aimed at Polydamas as he was retreating, but Polydamas saved himself
by swerving aside and the spear struck Archelochus son of Antenor, for
heaven counselled his destruction; it struck him where the head
springs from the neck at the top joint of the spine, and severed
both the tendons at the back of the head. His head, mouth, and
nostrils reached the ground long before his legs and knees could do
so, and Ajax shouted to Polydamas saying, "Think, Polydamas, and
tell me truly whether this man is not as well worth killing as
Prothoenor was: he seems rich, and of rich family, a brother, it may
be, or son of the knight Antenor, for he is very like him."
But he knew well who it was, and the Trojans were greatly angered.
Acamas then bestrode his brother's body and wounded Promachus the
Boeotian with his spear, for he was trying to drag his brother's
body away. Acamas vaunted loudly over him saying, "Argive archers,
braggarts that you are, toil and suffering shall not be for us only,
but some of you too shall fall here as well as ourselves. See how
Promachus now sleeps, vanquished by my spear; payment for my brother's
blood has not long delayed; a man, therefore, may well be thankful
if he leaves a kinsman in his house behind him to avenge his fall."
His taunts infuriated the Argives, and Peneleos was more enraged
than any of them. He sprang towards Acamas, but Acamas did not stand
his ground, and he killed Ilioneus son of the rich flock-master
Phorbas, whom Mercury had favoured and endowed with greater wealth
than any other of the Trojans. Ilioneus was his only son, and Peneleos
now wounded him in the eye under his eyebrows, tearing the eye-ball
from its socket: the spear went right through the eye into the nape of
the neck, and he fell, stretching out both hands before him.
Peneleos then drew his sword and smote him on the neck, so that both
head and helmet came tumbling down to the ground with the spear
still sticking in the eye; he then held up the head, as though it
had been a poppy-head, and showed it to the Trojans, vaunting over
them as he did so. "Trojans," he cried, "bid the father and mother
of noble Ilioneus make moan for him in their house, for the wife
also of Promachus son of Alegenor will never be gladdened by the
coming of her dear husband- when we Argives return with our ships from
As he spoke fear fell upon them, and every man looked round about to
see whither he might fly for safety.
Tell me now, O Muses that dwell on Olympus, who was the first of the
Argives to bear away blood-stained spoils after Neptune lord of the
earthquake had turned the fortune of war. Ajax son of Telamon was
first to wound Hyrtius son of Gyrtius, captain of the staunch Mysians.
Antilochus killed Phalces and Mermerus, while Meriones slew Morys
and Hippotion, Teucer also killed Prothoon and Periphetes. The son
of Atreus then wounded Hyperenor shepherd of his people, in the flank,
and the bronze point made his entrails gush out as it tore in among
them; on this his life came hurrying out of him at the place where
he had been wounded, and his eyes were closed in darkness. Ajax son of
Oileus killed more than any other, for there was no man so fleet as he
to pursue flying foes when Jove had spread panic among them.
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
"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
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
"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
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
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
"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