[pg 349]




Thetis brings to her son the armour made by Vulcan. She preserves the body of his friend from corruption, and commands him to assemble the army, to declare his resentment at an end. Agamemnon and Achilles are solemnly reconciled: the speeches, presents, and ceremonies on that occasion. Achilles is with great difficulty persuaded to refrain from the battle till the troops have refreshed themselves by the advice of Ulysses. The presents are conveyed to the tent of Achilles, where Briseis laments over the body of Patroclus. The hero obstinately refuses all repast, and gives himself up to lamentations for his friend. Minerva descends to strengthen him, by the order of Jupiter. He arms for the fight: his appearance described. He addresses himself to his horses, and reproaches them with the death of Patroclus. One of them is miraculously endued with voice, and inspired to prophesy his fate: but the hero, not astonished by that prodigy, rushes with fury to the combat.

The thirteenth day. The scene is on the sea-shore.

Soon as Aurora heaved her Orient head
Above the waves, that blush'd with early red,
(With new-born day to gladden mortal sight,
And gild the courts of heaven with sacred light,)
The immortal arms the goddess-mother bears
Swift to her son: her son she finds in tears
Stretch'd o'er Patroclus' corse; while all the rest
Their sovereign's sorrows in their own express'd.
A ray divine her heavenly presence shed,
And thus, his hand soft touching, Thetis said:
"Suppress, my son, this rage of grief, and know
It was not man, but heaven, that gave the blow;
Behold what arms by Vulcan are bestow'd,
Arms worthy thee, or fit to grace a god."
"Goddess! (he cried,) these glorious arms, that shine
With matchless art, confess the hand divine.
Now to the bloody battle let me bend:
But ah! the relics of my slaughter'd friend!
In those wide wounds through which his spirit fled,
Shall flies, and worms obscene, pollute the dead?"
"That unavailing care be laid aside,
(The azure goddess to her son replied,)
Whole years untouch'd, uninjured shall remain,
Fresh as in life, the carcase of the slain.
But go, Achilles, as affairs require,
Before the Grecian peers renounce thine ire:
Then uncontroll'd in boundless war engage,
And heaven with strength supply the mighty rage!"

"O monarch! better far had been the fate
Of thee, of me, of all the Grecian state,
If (ere the day when by mad passion sway'd,
Rash we contended for the black-eyed maid)
Preventing Dian had despatch'd her dart,
And shot the shining mischief to the heart!
Then many a hero had not press'd the shore,
Nor Troy's glad fields been fatten'd with our gore.
Long, long shall Greece the woes we caused bewail,
And sad posterity repeat the tale.
But this, no more the subject of debate,
Is past, forgotten, and resign'd to fate.
Why should, alas, a mortal man, as I,
Burn with a fury that can never die?
Here then my anger ends: let war succeed,
And even as Greece has bled, let Ilion bleed.
Now call the hosts, and try if in our sight
Troy yet shall dare to camp a second night!
I deem, their mightiest, when this arm he knows,
Shall 'scape with transport, and with joy repose."
He said: his finish'd wrath with loud acclaim
The Greeks accept, and shout Pelides' name.
When thus, not rising from his lofty throne,
In state unmoved, the king of men begun:
"Hear me, ye sons of Greece! with silence hear!
And grant your monarch an impartial ear:
Awhile your loud, untimely joy suspend,
And let your rash, injurious clamours end:
Unruly murmurs, or ill-timed applause,
Wrong the best speaker, and the justest cause.
Nor charge on me, ye Greeks, the dire debate:
Know, angry Jove, and all-compelling Fate,
With fell Erinnys, urged my wrath that day
When from Achilles' arms I forced the prey.
What then could I against the will of heaven?
Not by myself, but vengeful Ate driven;
She, Jove's dread daughter, fated to infest
The race of mortals, enter'd in my breast.
Not on the ground that haughty fury treads,
But prints her lofty footsteps on the heads
Of mighty men; inflicting as she goes
Long-festering wounds, inextricable woes!
Of old, she stalk'd amid the bright abodes;
And Jove himself, the sire of men and gods,
[pg 352]
The world's great ruler, felt her venom'd dart;
Deceived by Juno's wiles, and female art:
For when Alcmena's nine long months were run,
And Jove expected his immortal son,
To gods and goddesses the unruly joy
He show'd, and vaunted of his matchless boy:
'From us, (he said) this day an infant springs,
Fated to rule, and born a king of kings.'
Saturnia ask'd an oath, to vouch the truth,
And fix dominion on the favour'd youth.
The Thunderer, unsuspicious of the fraud,
Pronounced those solemn words that bind a god.
The joyful goddess, from Olympus' height,
Swift to Achaian Argos bent her flight:
Scarce seven moons gone, lay Sthenelus's wife;
She push'd her lingering infant into life:
Her charms Alcmena's coming labours stay,
And stop the babe, just issuing to the day.
Then bids Saturnius bear his oath in mind;
'A youth (said she) of Jove's immortal kind
Is this day born: from Sthenelus he springs,
And claims thy promise to be king of kings.'
Grief seized the Thunderer, by his oath engaged;
Stung to the soul, he sorrow'd, and he raged.
From his ambrosial head, where perch'd she sate,
He snatch'd the fury-goddess of debate,
The dread, the irrevocable oath he swore,
The immortal seats should ne'er behold her more;
And whirl'd her headlong down, for ever driven
From bright Olympus and the starry heaven:
Thence on the nether world the fury fell;
Ordain'd with man's contentious race to dwell.
Full oft the god his son's hard toils bemoan'd,
Even thus, like Jove himself, was I misled,
While raging Hector heap'd our camps with dead.
What can the errors of my rage atone?
My martial troops, my treasures are thy own:
This instant from the navy shall be sent
Whate'er Ulysses promised at thy tent:
But thou! appeased, propitious to our prayer,
Resume thy arms, and shine again in war."
The son of Peleus thus; and thus replies
The great in councils, Ithacus the wise:
"Though, godlike, thou art by no toils oppress'd,
At least our armies claim repast and rest:
Long and laborious must the combat be,
When by the gods inspired, and led by thee.
Strength is derived from spirits and from blood,
And those augment by generous wine and food:
What boastful son of war, without that stay,
Can last a hero through a single day?
Courage may prompt; but, ebbing out his strength,
Mere unsupported man must yield at length;
Shrunk with dry famine, and with toils declined,
The drooping body will desert the mind:
But built anew with strength-conferring fare,
With limbs and soul untamed, he tires a war.
Dismiss the people, then, and give command.
With strong repast to hearten every band;
But let the presents to Achilles made,
In full assembly of all Greece be laid.
The king of men shall rise in public sight,
And solemn swear (observant of the rite)
That, spotless, as she came, the maid removes,
Pure from his arms, and guiltless of his loves.
That done, a sumptuous banquet shall be made,
And the full price of injured honour paid.
Stretch not henceforth, O prince.! thy sovereign might
Beyond the bounds of reason and of right;
'Tis the chief praise that e'er to kings belong'd,
To right with justice whom with power they wrong'd."
"For this (the stern Æacides replies)
Some less important season may suffice,
When the stern fury of the war is o'er,
And wrath, extinguish'd, burns my breast no more.
By Hector slain, their faces to the sky,
All grim with gaping wounds, our heroes lie:
Those call to war! and might my voice incite,
Now, now, this instant, shall commence the fight:
Then, when the day's complete, let generous bowls,
And copious banquets, glad your weary souls.
Let not my palate know the taste of food,
Till my insatiate rage be cloy'd with blood:
Pale lies my friend, with wounds disfigured o'er,
And his cold feet are pointed to the door.
Revenge is all my soul! no meaner care,
Interest, or thought, has room to harbour there;
Destruction be my feast, and mortal wounds,
And scenes of blood, and agonizing sounds."
"O first of Greeks, (Ulysses thus rejoin'd,)
The best and bravest of the warrior kind!
Thy praise it is in dreadful camps to shine,
But old experience and calm wisdom mine.
Then hear my counsel, and to reason yield,
The bravest soon are satiate of the field;
Though vast the heaps that strow the crimson plain,
The bloody harvest brings but little gain:
The scale of conquest ever wavering lies,
Great Jove but turns it, and the victor dies!
The great, the bold, by thousands daily fall,
And endless were the grief, to weep for all.
Eternal sorrows what avails to shed?
Greece honours not with solemn fasts the dead:
Enough, when death demands the brave, to pay
The tribute of a melancholy day.
One chief with patience to the grave resign'd,
Our care devolves on others left behind.
Let generous food supplies of strength produce,
Let rising spirits flow from sprightly juice,
Let their warm heads with scenes of battle glow,
And pour new furies on the feebler foe.
Yet a short interval, and none shall dare
Expect a second summons to the war;
Who waits for that, the dire effects shall find,
If trembling in the ships he lags behind.
Embodied, to the battle let us bend,
And all at once on haughty Troy descend."
"Witness thou first! thou greatest power above,
All-good, all-wise, and all-surveying Jove!
And mother-earth, and heaven's revolving light,
And ye, fell furies of the realms of night,
Who rule the dead, and horrid woes prepare
For perjured kings, and all who falsely swear!
The black-eyed maid inviolate removes,
Pure and unconscious of my manly loves.
If this be false, heaven all its vengeance shed,
And levell'd thunder strike my guilty head!"
With that, his weapon deep inflicts the wound;
The bleeding savage tumbles to the ground;
The sacred herald rolls the victim slain
(A feast for fish) into the foaming main.
Then thus Achilles: "Hear, ye Greeks! and know
Whate'er we feel, 'tis Jove inflicts the woe;
Not else Atrides could our rage inflame,
Nor from my arms, unwilling, force the dame.
'Twas Jove's high will alone, o'erruling all,
That doom'd our strife, and doom'd the Greeks to fall.
Go then, ye chiefs! indulge the genial rite;
Achilles waits ye, and expects the fight."
"Ah, youth for ever dear, for ever kind,
Once tender friend of my distracted mind!
I left thee fresh in life, in beauty gay;
Now find thee cold, inanimated clay!
What woes my wretched race of life attend!
Sorrows on sorrows, never doom'd to end!
The first loved consort of my virgin bed
Before these eyes in fatal battle bled:
My three brave brothers in one mournful day
All trod the dark, irremeable way:
Thy friendly hand uprear'd me from the plain,
And dried my sorrows for a husband slain;
Achilles' care you promised I should prove,
The first, the dearest partner of his love;
That rites divine should ratify the band,
And make me empress in his native land.
Accept these grateful tears! for thee they flow,
For thee, that ever felt another's woe!"
Her sister captives echoed groan for groan,
Nor mourn'd Patroclus' fortunes, but their own.
The leaders press'd the chief on every side;
Unmoved he heard them, and with sighs denied.
"If yet Achilles have a friend, whose care
Is bent to please him, this request forbear;
Till yonder sun descend, ah, let me pay
To grief and anguish one abstemious day."
He spoke, and from the warriors turn'd his face:
Yet still the brother-kings of Atreus' race,
Nestor, Idomeneus, Ulysses sage,
And Phoenix, strive to calm his grief and rage:
His rage they calm not, nor his grief control;
He groans, he raves, he sorrows from his soul.
Sighing he said: his grief the heroes join'd,
Each stole a tear for what he left behind.
Their mingled grief the sire of heaven survey'd,
And thus with pity to his blue-eyed maid:
"Is then Achilles now no more thy care,
And dost thou thus desert the great in war?
Lo, where yon sails their canvas wings extend,
All comfortless he sits, and wails his friend:
Ere thirst and want his forces have oppress'd,
Haste and infuse ambrosia in his breast."
Now issued from the ships the warrior-train,
And like a deluge pour'd upon the plain.
As when the piercing blasts of Boreas blow,
And scatter o'er the fields the driving snow;
From dusky clouds the fleecy winter flies,
Whose dazzling lustre whitens all the skies:
So helms succeeding helms, so shields from shields,
Catch the quick beams, and brighten all the fields;
Broad glittering breastplates, spears with pointed rays,
Mix in one stream, reflecting blaze on blaze;
Thick beats the centre as the coursers bound;
With splendour flame the skies, and laugh the fields around,
[pg 358]
Full in the midst, high-towering o'er the rest,
His limbs in arms divine Achilles dress'd;
Arms which the father of the fire bestow'd,
Forged on the eternal anvils of the god.
Grief and revenge his furious heart inspire,
His glowing eyeballs roll with living fire;
He grinds his teeth, and furious with delay
O'erlooks the embattled host, and hopes the bloody day.
The silver cuishes first his thighs infold;
Then o'er his breast was braced the hollow gold;
The brazen sword a various baldric tied,
That, starr'd with gems, hung glittering at his side;
And, like the moon, the broad refulgent shield
Blazed with long rays, and gleam'd athwart the field.
So to night-wandering sailors, pale with fears,
Wide o'er the watery waste, a light appears,
Which on the far-seen mountain blazing high,
Streams from some lonely watch-tower to the sky:
With mournful eyes they gaze, and gaze again;
Loud howls the storm, and drives them o'er the main.
Next, his high head the helmet graced; behind
The sweepy crest hung floating in the wind:
Like the red star, that from his flaming hair
Shakes down diseases, pestilence, and war;
So stream'd the golden honours from his head,
Trembled the sparkling plumes, and the loose glories shed.
The chief beholds himself with wondering eyes;
His arms he poises, and his motions tries;
Buoy'd by some inward force, he seems to swim,
And feels a pinion lifting every limb.
And now he shakes his great paternal spear,
Ponderous and huge, which not a Greek could rear,
From Pelion's cloudy top an ash entire
Old Chiron fell'd, and shaped it for his sire;
A spear which stern Achilles only wields,
The death of heroes, and the dread of fields.
Automedon and Alcimus prepare
The immortal coursers, and the radiant car;
(The silver traces sweeping at their side;)
Their fiery mouths resplendent bridles tied;
The ivory-studded reins, return'd behind,
Waved o'er their backs, and to the chariot join'd.
The charioteer then whirl'd the lash around,
And swift ascended at one active bound.
All bright in heavenly arms, above his squire
Achilles mounts, and sets the field on fire;
Not brighter Phoebus in the ethereal way
Flames from his chariot, and restores the day.
High o'er the host, all terrible he stands,
And thunders to his steeds these dread commands:
[pg 359]
"Xanthus and Balius! of Podarges' strain,
(Unless ye boast that heavenly race in vain,)
Be swift, be mindful of the load ye bear,
And learn to make your master more your care:
Through falling squadrons bear my slaughtering sword,
Nor, as ye left Patroclus, leave your lord."
The generous Xanthus, as the words he said,
Seem'd sensible of woe, and droop'd his head:
Trembling he stood before the golden wain,
And bow'd to dust the honours of his mane.
When, strange to tell! (so Juno will'd) he broke
Eternal silence, and portentous spoke.
"Achilles! yes! this day at least we bear
Thy rage in safety through the files of war:
But come it will, the fatal time must come,
Not ours the fault, but God decrees thy doom.
Not through our crime, or slowness in the course,
Fell thy Patroclus, but by heavenly force;
The bright far-shooting god who gilds the day
(Confess'd we saw him) tore his arms way.
No—could our swiftness o'er the winds prevail,
Or beat the pinions of the western gale,
All were in vain—the Fates thy death demand,
Due to a mortal and immortal hand."
Then ceased for ever, by the Furies tied,
His fateful voice. The intrepid chief replied
With unabated rage—"So let it be!
Portents and prodigies are lost on me.
I know my fate: to die, to see no more
My much-loved parents, and my native shore—
Enough—when heaven ordains, I sink in night:
Now perish Troy!" He said, and rush'd to fight.

Illustration: HERCULES.

[pg 360]




Jupiter, upon Achilles' return to the battle, calls a council of the gods, and permits them to assist either party. The terrors of the combat described, when the deities are engaged. Apollo encourages Æneas to meet Achilles. After a long conversation, these two heroes encounter; but Æneas is preserved by the assistance of Neptune. Achilles falls upon the rest of the Trojans, and is upon the point of killing Hector, but Apollo conveys him away in a cloud. Achilles pursues the Trojans with a great slaughter.

The same day continues. The scene is in the field before Troy.

Thus round Pelides breathing war and blood
Greece, sheathed in arms, beside her vessels stood;
While near impending from a neighbouring height,
Troy's black battalions wait the shock of fight.
Then Jove to Themis gives command, to call
The gods to council in the starry hall:
Swift o'er Olympus' hundred hills she flies,
And summons all the senate of the skies.
These shining on, in long procession come
To Jove's eternal adamantine dome.
Not one was absent, not a rural power
That haunts the verdant gloom, or rosy bower;
Each fair-hair'd dryad of the shady wood,
Each azure sister of the silver flood;
All but old Ocean, hoary sire! who keeps
His ancient seat beneath the sacred deeps.
On marble thrones, with lucid columns crown'd,
(The work of Vulcan,) sat the powers around.
Even he whose trident sways the watery reign
Heard the loud summons, and forsook the main,
Assumed his throne amid the bright abodes,
And question'd thus the sire of men and gods:
"'Tis true (the cloud-compelling power replies)
This day we call the council of the skies
In care of human race; even Jove's own eye
Sees with regret unhappy mortals die.
Far on Olympus' top in secret state
Ourself will sit, and see the hand of fate
Work out our will. Celestial powers! descend,
And as your minds direct, your succour lend
To either host. Troy soon must lie o'erthrown,
If uncontroll'd Achilles fights alone:
Their troops but lately durst not meet his eyes;
What can they now, if in his rage he rise?
Assist them, gods! or Ilion's sacred wall
May fall this day, though fate forbids the fall."
He said, and fired their heavenly breasts with rage.
On adverse parts the warring gods engage:
Heaven's awful queen; and he whose azure round
Girds the vast globe; the maid in arms renown'd;
Hermes, of profitable arts the sire;
And Vulcan, the black sovereign of the fire:
These to the fleet repair with instant flight;
The vessels tremble as the gods alight.
In aid of Troy, Latona, Phoebus came,
Mars fiery-helm'd, the laughter-loving dame,
Xanthus, whose streams in golden currents flow,
And the chaste huntress of the silver bow.
Ere yet the gods their various aid employ,
Each Argive bosom swell'd with manly joy,
While great Achilles (terror of the plain),
Long lost to battle, shone in arms again.
Dreadful he stood in front of all his host;
Pale Troy beheld, and seem'd already lost;
Her bravest heroes pant with inward fear,
And trembling see another god of war.
But when the powers descending swell'd the fight,
Then tumult rose: fierce rage and pale affright
Varied each face: then Discord sounds alarms,
Earth echoes, and the nations rush to arms.
Now through the trembling shores Minerva calls,
And now she thunders from the Grecian walls.
Mars hovering o'er his Troy, his terror shrouds
In gloomy tempests, and a night of clouds:
Now through each Trojan heart he fury pours
With voice divine, from Ilion's topmost towers:
Now shouts to Simois, from her beauteous hill;
The mountain shook, the rapid stream stood still.
[pg 362]

While thus the gods in various league engage,
Achilles glow'd with more than mortal rage:
Hector he sought; in search of Hector turn'd
His eyes around, for Hector only burn'd;
And burst like lightning through the ranks, and vow'd
To glut the god of battles with his blood.
Æneas was the first who dared to stay;
Apollo wedged him in the warrior's way,
But swell'd his bosom with undaunted might,
Half-forced and half-persuaded to the fight.
Like young Lycaon, of the royal line,
In voice and aspect, seem'd the power divine;
And bade the chief reflect, how late with scorn
In distant threats he braved the goddess-born.
Then thus the hero of Anchises' strain:
"To meet Pelides you persuade in vain:
Already have I met, nor void of fear
Observed the fury of his flying spear;
From Ida's woods he chased us to the field,
Our force he scattered, and our herds he kill'd;
Lyrnessus, Pedasus in ashes lay;
But (Jove assisting) I survived the day:
Else had I sunk oppress'd in fatal fight
By fierce Achilles and Minerva's might.
Where'er he moved, the goddess shone before,
And bathed his brazen lance in hostile gore.
What mortal man Achilles can sustain?
The immortals guard him through the dreadful plain,
And suffer not his dart to fall in vain.
Were God my aid, this arm should check his power,
Though strong in battle as a brazen tower."
To whom the son of Jove: "That god implore,
And be what great Achilles was before.
From heavenly Venus thou deriv'st thy strain,
And he but from a sister of the main;
An aged sea-god father of his line;
But Jove himself the sacred source of thine.
Then lift thy weapon for a noble blow,
Nor fear the vaunting of a mortal foe."
This said, and spirit breathed into his breast,
Through the thick troops the embolden'd hero press'd:
His venturous act the white-arm'd queen survey'd,
And thus, assembling all the powers, she said:
Thus she; and thus the god whose force can make
The solid globe's eternal basis shake:
"Against the might of man, so feeble known,
Why should celestial powers exert their own?
Suffice from yonder mount to view the scene,
And leave to war the fates of mortal men.
But if the armipotent, or god of light,
Obstruct Achilles, or commence the fight.
Thence on the gods of Troy we swift descend:
Full soon, I doubt not, shall the conflict end;
And these, in ruin and confusion hurl'd,
Yield to our conquering arms the lower world."
Thus having said, the tyrant of the sea,
Coerulean Neptune, rose, and led the way.
Advanced upon the field there stood a mound
Of earth congested, wall'd, and trench'd around;
In elder times to guard Alcides made,
(The work of Trojans, with Minerva's aid,)
What time a vengeful monster of the main
Swept the wide shore, and drove him to the plain.
Here Neptune and the gods of Greece repair,
With clouds encompass'd, and a veil of air:
The adverse powers, around Apollo laid,
Crown the fair hills that silver Simois shade.
In circle close each heavenly party sat,
Intent to form the future scheme of fate;
But mix not yet in fight, though Jove on high
Gives the loud signal, and the heavens reply.
"Why comes Æneas through the ranks so far?
Seeks he to meet Achilles' arm in war,
In hope the realms of Priam to enjoy,
And prove his merits to the throne of Troy?
Grant that beneath thy lance Achilles dies,
The partial monarch may refuse the prize;
Sons he has many; those thy pride may quell:
And 'tis his fault to love those sons too well,
Or, in reward of thy victorious hand,
Has Troy proposed some spacious tract of land
An ample forest, or a fair domain,
Of hills for vines, and arable for grain?
Even this, perhaps, will hardly prove thy lot.
But can Achilles be so soon forgot?
Once (as I think) you saw this brandish'd spear
And then the great Æneas seem'd to fear:
With hearty haste from Ida's mount he fled,
Nor, till he reach'd Lyrnessus, turn'd his head.
Her lofty walls not long our progress stay'd;
Those, Pallas, Jove, and we, in ruins laid:
In Grecian chains her captive race were cast;
'Tis true, the great Aeneas fled too fast.
Defrauded of my conquest once before,
What then I lost, the gods this day restore.
Go; while thou may'st, avoid the threaten'd fate;
Fools stay to feel it, and are wise too late."
To this Anchises' son: "Such words employ
To one that fears thee, some unwarlike boy;
Such we disdain; the best may be defied
With mean reproaches, and unmanly pride;
[pg 366]
Unworthy the high race from which we came
Proclaim'd so loudly by the voice of fame:
Each from illustrious fathers draws his line;
Each goddess-born; half human, half divine.
Thetis' this day, or Venus' offspring dies,
And tears shall trickle from celestial eyes:
For when two heroes, thus derived, contend,
'Tis not in words the glorious strife can end.
If yet thou further seek to learn my birth
(A tale resounded through the spacious earth)
Hear how the glorious origin we prove
From ancient Dardanus, the first from Jove:
Dardania's walls he raised; for Ilion, then,
(The city since of many-languaged men,)
Was not. The natives were content to till
From Dardanus great Erichthonius springs,
The richest, once, of Asia's wealthy kings;
Three thousand mares his spacious pastures bred,
Three thousand foals beside their mothers fed.
Boreas, enamour'd of the sprightly train,
Conceal'd his godhead in a flowing mane,
With voice dissembled to his loves he neigh'd,
And coursed the dappled beauties o'er the mead:
Hence sprung twelve others of unrivall'd kind,
Swift as their mother mares, and father wind.
These lightly skimming, when they swept the plain,
Nor plied the grass, nor bent the tender grain;
And when along the level seas they flew,265
Scarce on the surface curl'd the briny dew.
Such Erichthonius was: from him there came
The sacred Tros, of whom the Trojan name.
Three sons renown'd adorn'd his nuptial bed,
Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymed:
The matchless Ganymed, divinely fair,
Whom heaven, enamour'd, snatch'd to upper air,
To bear the cup of Jove (ethereal guest,
The grace and glory of the ambrosial feast).
The two remaining sons the line divide:
First rose Laomedon from Ilus' side;
From him Tithonus, now in cares grown old,
And Priam, bless'd with Hector, brave and bold;
Clytius and Lampus, ever-honour'd pair;
[pg 367]
And Hicetaon, thunderbolt of war.
From great Assaracus sprang Capys, he
Begat Anchises, and Anchises me.
Such is our race: 'tis fortune gives us birth,
But Jove alone endues the soul with worth:
He, source of power and might! with boundless sway,
All human courage gives, or takes away.
Long in the field of words we may contend,
Reproach is infinite, and knows no end,
Arm'd or with truth or falsehood, right or wrong;
So voluble a weapon is the tongue;
Wounded, we wound; and neither side can fail,
For every man has equal strength to rail:
Women alone, when in the streets they jar,
Perhaps excel us in this wordy war;
Like us they stand, encompass'd with the crowd,
And vent their anger impotent and loud.
Cease then—Our business in the field of fight
Is not to question, but to prove our might.
To all those insults thou hast offer'd here,
Receive this answer: 'tis my flying spear."
He spoke. With all his force the javelin flung,
Fix'd deep, and loudly in the buckler rung.
Far on his outstretch'd arm, Pelides held
(To meet the thundering lance) his dreadful shield,
That trembled as it stuck; nor void of fear
Saw, ere it fell, the immeasurable spear.
His fears were vain; impenetrable charms
Secured the temper of the ethereal arms.
Through two strong plates the point its passage held,
But stopp'd, and rested, by the third repell'd.
Five plates of various metal, various mould,
Composed the shield; of brass each outward fold,
Of tin each inward, and the middle gold:
There stuck the lance. Then rising ere he threw,
The forceful spear of great Achilles flew,
And pierced the Dardan shield's extremest bound,
Where the shrill brass return'd a sharper sound:
Through the thin verge the Pelean weapon glides,
And the slight covering of expanded hides.
Æneas his contracted body bends,
And o'er him high the riven targe extends,
Sees, through its parting plates, the upper air,
And at his back perceives the quivering spear:
A fate so near him, chills his soul with fright;
And swims before his eyes the many-colour'd light.
Achilles, rushing in with dreadful cries,
Draws his broad blade, and at Æneas flies:
Æneas rousing as the foe came on,
With force collected, heaves a mighty stone:
[pg 368]
A mass enormous! which in modern days
No two of earth's degenerate sons could raise.
But ocean's god, whose earthquakes rock the ground.
Saw the distress, and moved the powers around:
The great earth-shaker thus: to whom replies
The imperial goddess with the radiant eyes:
"Good as he is, to immolate or spare
The Dardan prince, O Neptune! be thy care;
Pallas and I, by all that gods can bind,
Have sworn destruction to the Trojan kind;
Not even an instant to protract their fate,
Or save one member of the sinking state;
Till her last flame be quench'd with her last gore,
And even her crumbling ruins are no more."
The king of ocean to the fight descends,
Through all the whistling darts his course he bends,
Swift interposed between the warrior flies,
And casts thick darkness o'er Achilles' eyes.267
From great Æneas' shield the spear he drew,
And at his master's feet the weapon threw.
That done, with force divine he snatch'd on high
The Dardan prince, and bore him through the sky,
Smooth-gliding without step, above the heads
Of warring heroes, and of bounding steeds:
[pg 369]
Till at the battle's utmost verge they light,
Where the slow Caucans close the rear of fight.
The godhead there (his heavenly form confess'd)
With words like these the panting chief address'd:
"What power, O prince! with force inferior far,
Urged thee to meet Achilles' arm in war?
Henceforth beware, nor antedate thy doom,
Defrauding fate of all thy fame to come.
But when the day decreed (for come it must)
Shall lay this dreadful hero in the dust,
Let then the furies of that arm be known,
Secure no Grecian force transcends thy own."
With that, he left him wondering as he lay,
Then from Achilles chased the mist away:
Sudden, returning with a stream of light,
The scene of war came rushing on his sight.
Then thus, amazed; "What wonders strike my mind!
My spear, that parted on the wings of wind,
Laid here before me! and the Dardan lord,
That fell this instant, vanish'd from my sword!
I thought alone with mortals to contend,
But powers celestial sure this foe defend.
Great as he is, our arms he scarce will try,
Content for once, with all his gods, to fly.
Now then let others bleed." This said, aloud
He vents his fury and inflames the crowd:
"O Greeks! (he cries, and every rank alarms)
Join battle, man to man, and arms to arms!
'Tis not in me, though favour'd by the sky,
To mow whole troops, and make whole armies fly:
No god can singly such a host engage,
Not Mars himself, nor great Minerva's rage.
But whatsoe'er Achilles can inspire,
Whate'er of active force, or acting fire;
Whate'er this heart can prompt, or hand obey;
All, all Achilles, Greeks! is yours to-day.
Through yon wide host this arm shall scatter fear,
And thin the squadrons with my single spear."
He said: nor less elate with martial joy,
The godlike Hector warm'd the troops of Troy:
"Trojans, to war! Think, Hector leads you on;
Nor dread the vaunts of Peleus' haughty son.
Deeds must decide our fate. E'en these with words
Insult the brave, who tremble at their swords:
The weakest atheist-wretch all heaven defies,
But shrinks and shudders when the thunder flies.
Nor from yon boaster shall your chief retire,
Not though his heart were steel, his hands were fire;
That fire, that steel, your Hector should withstand,
And brave that vengeful heart, that dreadful hand."
[pg 370]
Thus (breathing rage through all) the hero said;
A wood of lances rises round his head,
Clamours on clamours tempest all the air,
They join, they throng, they thicken to the war.
But Phoebus warns him from high heaven to shun
The single fight with Thetis' godlike son;
More safe to combat in the mingled band,
Nor tempt too near the terrors of his hand.
He hears, obedient to the god of light,
And, plunged within the ranks, awaits the fight.
Then fierce Achilles, shouting to the skies,
On Troy's whole force with boundless fury flies.
First falls Iphytion, at his army's head;
Brave was the chief, and brave the host he led;
From great Otrynteus he derived his blood,
His mother was a Nais, of the flood;
Beneath the shades of Tmolus, crown'd with snow,
From Hyde's walls he ruled the lands below.
Fierce as he springs, the sword his head divides:
The parted visage falls on equal sides:
With loud-resounding arms he strikes the plain;
While thus Achilles glories o'er the slain:
"Lie there, Otryntides! the Trojan earth
Receives thee dead, though Gygae boast thy birth;
Those beauteous fields where Hyllus' waves are roll'd,
And plenteous Hermus swells with tides of gold,
Are thine no more."—The insulting hero said,
And left him sleeping in eternal shade.
The rolling wheels of Greece the body tore,
And dash'd their axles with no vulgar gore.
Demoleon next, Antenor's offspring, laid
Breathless in dust, the price of rashness paid.
The impatient steel with full-descending sway
Forced through his brazen helm its furious way,
Resistless drove the batter'd skull before,
And dash'd and mingled all the brains with gore.
This sees Hippodamas, and seized with fright,
Deserts his chariot for a swifter flight:
The lance arrests him: an ignoble wound
The panting Trojan rivets to the ground.
He groans away his soul: not louder roars,
At Neptune's shrine on Helice's high shores,
The victim bull; the rocks re-bellow round,
And ocean listens to the grateful sound.
The youngest hope of Priam's stooping age:
(Whose feet for swiftness in the race surpass'd:)
[pg 371]
Of all his sons, the dearest, and the last.
To the forbidden field he takes his flight,
In the first folly of a youthful knight,
To vaunt his swiftness wheels around the plain,
But vaunts not long, with all his swiftness slain:
Struck where the crossing belts unite behind,
And golden rings the double back-plate join'd
Forth through the navel burst the thrilling steel;
And on his knees with piercing shrieks he fell;
The rushing entrails pour'd upon the ground
His hands collect; and darkness wraps him round.
When Hector view'd, all ghastly in his gore,
Thus sadly slain the unhappy Polydore,
A cloud of sorrow overcast his sight,
His soul no longer brook'd the distant fight:
Full in Achilles' dreadful front he came,
And shook his javelin like a waving flame.
The son of Peleus sees, with joy possess'd,
His heart high-bounding in his rising breast.
"And, lo! the man on whom black fates attend;
The man, that slew Achilles, is his friend!
No more shall Hector's and Pelides' spear
Turn from each other in the walks of war."—
Then with revengeful eyes he scann'd him o'er:
"Come, and receive thy fate!" He spake no more.
Hector, undaunted, thus: "Such words employ
To one that dreads thee, some unwarlike boy:
Such we could give, defying and defied,
Mean intercourse of obloquy and pride!
I know thy force to mine superior far;
But heaven alone confers success in war:
Mean as I am, the gods may guide my dart,
And give it entrance in a braver heart."
Then parts the lance: but Pallas' heavenly breath
Far from Achilles wafts the winged death:
The bidden dart again to Hector flies,
And at the feet of its great master lies.
Achilles closes with his hated foe,
His heart and eyes with flaming fury glow:
But present to his aid, Apollo shrouds
The favour'd hero in a veil of clouds.
Thrice struck Pelides with indignant heart,
Thrice in impassive air he plunged the dart;
The spear a fourth time buried in the cloud.
He foams with fury, and exclaims aloud:
With that, he gluts his rage on numbers slain:
Then Dryops tumbled to the ensanguined plain,
Pierced through the neck: he left him panting there,
And stopp'd Demuchus, great Philetor's heir.
Gigantic chief! deep gash'd the enormous blade,
And for the soul an ample passage made.
Laoganus and Dardanus expire,
The valiant sons of an unhappy sire;
Both in one instant from the chariot hurl'd,
Sunk in one instant to the nether world:
This difference only their sad fates afford
That one the spear destroy'd, and one the sword.
Nor less unpitied, young Alastor bleeds;
In vain his youth, in vain his beauty pleads;
In vain he begs thee, with a suppliant's moan,
To spare a form, an age so like thy own!
Unhappy boy! no prayer, no moving art,
E'er bent that fierce, inexorable heart!
While yet he trembled at his knees, and cried,
The ruthless falchion oped his tender side;
The panting liver pours a flood of gore
That drowns his bosom till he pants no more.
Through Mulius' head then drove the impetuous spear:
The warrior falls, transfix'd from ear to ear.
Thy life, Echeclus! next the sword bereaves,
Deep though the front the ponderous falchion cleaves;
Warm'd in the brain the smoking weapon lies,
The purple death comes floating o'er his eyes.
Then brave Deucalion died: the dart was flung
Where the knit nerves the pliant elbow strung;
He dropp'd his arm, an unassisting weight,
And stood all impotent, expecting fate:
Full on his neck the falling falchion sped,
From his broad shoulders hew'd his crested head:
Forth from the bone the spinal marrow flies,
And, sunk in dust, the corpse extended lies.
Rhigmas, whose race from fruitful Thracia came,
(The son of Pierus, an illustrious name,)
Succeeds to fate: the spear his belly rends;
Prone from his car the thundering chief descends.
The squire, who saw expiring on the ground
His prostrate master, rein'd the steeds around;
His back, scarce turn'd, the Pelian javelin gored,
And stretch'd the servant o'er his dying lord.
As when a flame the winding valley fills,
And runs on crackling shrubs between the hills;
Then o'er the stubble up the mountain flies,
Fires the high woods, and blazes to the skies,
This way and that, the spreading torrent roars:
[pg 373]
So sweeps the hero through the wasted shores;
Around him wide, immense destruction pours
And earth is deluged with the sanguine showers
As with autumnal harvests cover'd o'er,
And thick bestrewn, lies Ceres' sacred floor;
When round and round, with never-wearied pain,
The trampling steers beat out the unnumber'd grain:
So the fierce coursers, as the chariot rolls,
Tread down whole ranks, and crush out heroes' souls,
Dash'd from their hoofs while o'er the dead they fly,
Black, bloody drops the smoking chariot dye:
The spiky wheels through heaps of carnage tore;
And thick the groaning axles dropp'd with gore.
High o'er the scene of death Achilles stood,
All grim with dust, all horrible in blood:
Yet still insatiate, still with rage on flame;
Such is the lust of never-dying fame!

Illustration: CENTAUR.