The Iliad Of Homer: Translated Into English Blank Verse: Book XVIII.

A poem by William Cowper

Argument Of The Eighteenth Book.

Achilles, by command of Juno, shows himself to the Trojans, who fly at his appearance; Vulcan, at the insistence of Thetis, forges for him a suit of armor.

Thus burn'd the battle like devouring fire.
Meantime, Antilochus with rapid steps
Came to Achilles. Him he found before
His lofty barks, occupied, as he stood,
With boding fears of all that had befall'n.
He groan'd, and to his noble self he said.
Ah! wo is me--why falls Achaia's host,
With such disorder foul, back on the fleet?
I tremble lest the Gods my anxious thoughts
Accomplish and my mother's words, who erst
Hath warn'd me, that the bravest and the best
Of all my Myrmidons, while yet I live,
Slain under Troy, must view the sun no more.
Brave Menoetiades is, doubtless, slain.
Unhappy friend! I bade thee oft, our barks
Deliver'd once from hostile fires, not seek
To cope in arms with Hector, but return.
While musing thus he stood, the son approach'd
Of noble Nestor, and with tears his cheeks
Bedewing copious, his sad message told.
Oh son of warlike Peleus! thou shalt hear
Tidings of deeds which best had never been.
Patroclus is no more. The Grecians fight
For his bare corse, and Hector hath his arms.[1]
Then clouds of sorrow fell on Peleus' son,
And, grasping with both hands the ashes, down
He pour'd them on his head, his graceful brows
Dishonoring, and thick the sooty shower
Descending settled on his fragrant vest.
Then, stretch'd in ashes, at the vast extent
Of his whole length he lay, disordering wild
With his own hands, and rending off his hair.
The maidens, captived by himself in war
And by Patroclus, shrieking from the tent
Ran forth, and hemm'd the glorious Chief around.[2]
All smote their bosoms, and all, fainting, fell.
On the other side, Antilochus the hands
Held of Achilles, mourning and deep groans
Uttering from his noble heart, through fear
Lest Peleus' son should perish self-destroy'd.
Loud groan'd the hero, whose loud groans within
The gulfs of ocean, where she sat beside
Her ancient sire, his Goddess-mother heard,
And hearing shriek'd; around her at the voice
Assembled all the Nereids of the deep
Cymodoce, Thalia, Glauca came,
Nisæa, Spio, Thoa, and with eyes
Protuberant beauteous Halia; came with these
Cymothöe, and Actæa, and the nymph
Of marshes, Limnorea, nor delay'd
Agave, nor Amphithöe the swift,
Iæra, Doto, Melita, nor thence
Was absent Proto or Dynamene,
Callianira, Doris, Panope,
Pherusa or Amphinome, or fair
Dexamene, or Galatea praised
For matchless form divine; Nemertes pure
Came also, with Apseudes crystal-bright,
Callianassa, Mæra, Clymene,
Janeira and Janassa, sister pair,
And Orithya and with azure locks
Luxuriant, Amathea; nor alone
Came these, but every ocean-nymph beside,
The silver cave was fill'd; each smote her breast,
And Thetis, loud lamenting, thus began.
Ye sister Nereids, hear! that ye may all
From my own lips my boundless sorrow learn.
Ah me forlorn! ah me, parent in vain
Of an illustrious birth! who, having borne
A noble son magnanimous, the chief
Of heroes, saw him like a thriving plant
Shoot vigorous under my maternal care,
And sent him early in his gallant fleet
Embark'd, to combat with the sons of Troy.
But him from fight return'd I shall receive
Beneath the roof of Peleus, never more;
And while he lives, and on the sun his eyes
Opens, he mourns, nor, going, can I aught
Assist him; yet I go, that I may see
My darling son, and from his lips be taught
What grief hath now befallen him, who close
Abiding in his tent shares not the war.
So saying she left the cave, whom all her nymphs
Attended weeping, and where'er they pass'd
The breaking billows open'd wide a way.
At fruitful Troy arrived, in order fair
They climb'd the beach, where by his numerous barks
Encompass'd, swift Achilles sighing lay.
Then, drawing nigh to her afflicted son,
The Goddess-mother press'd between her palms
His temples, and in accents wing'd inquired.
Why weeps my son? what sorrow wrings thy soul?
Speak, hide it not. Jove hath fulfill'd the prayer
Which erst with lifted hands thou didst prefer,
That all Achaia's host, wanting thy aid,
Might be compell'd into the fleet, and foul
Disgrace incur, there prison'd for thy sake.
To whom Achilles, groaning deep, replied.
My mother! it is true; Olympian Jove
That prayer fulfils; but thence, what joy to me,
Patroclus slain? the friend of all my friends
Whom most I loved, dear to me as my life--
Him I have lost. Slain and despoil'd he lies
By Hector of his glorious armor bright,
The wonder of all eyes, a matchless gift
Given by the Gods to Peleus on that day
When thee they doom'd into a mortal's arms.
Oh that with these thy deathless ocean-nymphs
Dwelling content, thou hadst my father left
To espouse a mortal bride, so hadst thou 'scaped
Pangs numberless which thou must now endure
For thy son's death, whom thou shalt never meet
From Troy return'd, in Peleus' mansion more!
For life I covet not, nor longer wish
To mix with human kind, unless my spear
May find out Hector, and atonement take
By slaying him, for my Patroclus slain.
To whom, with streaming tears, Thetis replied.
Swift comes thy destiny as thou hast said,
For after Hector's death thine next ensues.
Then answer, thus, indignant he return'd.
Death, seize me now! since when my friend was slain,
My doom was, not to succor him. He died
From home remote, and wanting me to save him.
Now, therefore, since I neither visit more
My native land, nor, present here, have aught
Avail'd Patroclus or my many friends
Whom noble Hector hath in battle slain,
But here I sit unprofitable grown,
Earth's burden, though of such heroic note,
If not in council foremost (for I yield
That prize to others) yet in feats of arms,
Such as none other in Achaia's host,
May fierce contention from among the Gods
Perish, and from among the human race,
With wrath, which sets the wisest hearts on fire;
Sweeter than dropping honey to the taste,
But in the bosom of mankind, a smoke![3]
Such was my wrath which Agamemnon roused,
The king of men. But since the past is fled
Irrevocable, howsoe'er distress'd,
Renounce we now vain musings on the past,
Content through sad necessity. I go
In quest of noble Hector, who hath slain
My loved Patroclus, and such death will take
As Jove ordains me and the Powers of Heaven
At their own season, send it when they may.
For neither might the force of Hercules,
Although high-favored of Saturnian Jove,
From death escape, but Fate and the revenge
Restless of Juno vanquish'd even Him.
I also, if a destiny like his
Await me, shall, like him, find rest in death;
But glory calls me now; now will I make
Some Trojan wife or Dardan with both hands
Wipe her soft cheeks, and utter many a groan.
Long time have I been absent from the field,
And they shall know it. Love me as thou may'st,
Yet thwart me not, for I am fixt to go.
Whom Thetis answer'd, Goddess of the Deep.
Thou hast well said, my son! it is no blame
To save from threaten'd death our suffering friends.
But thy magnificent and dazzling arms
Are now in Trojan hands; them Hector wears
Exulting, but ordain'd not long to exult,
So habited; his death is also nigh.
But thou with yonder warring multitudes
Mix not till thou behold me here again;
For with the rising sun I will return
To-morrow, and will bring thee glorious arms,
By Vulcan forged himself, the King of fire.[4]
She said, and turning from her son aside,
The sisterhood of Ocean thus address'd.
Plunge ye again into the briny Deep,
And to the hoary Sovereign of the floods
Report as ye have heard. I to the heights
Olympian haste, that I may there obtain
From Vulcan, glorious artist of the skies,
Arms of excelling beauty for my son.
She said; they plunged into the waves again,
And silver-footed Thetis, to the heights
Olympian soaring swiftly to obtain
Arms for renown'd Achilles, disappear'd.
Meantime, with infinite uproar the Greeks
From Hector's hero-slaying arm had fled
Home to their galleys station'd on the banks
Of Hellespont. Nor yet Achaia's sons
Had borne the body of Patroclus clear
From flight of darts away, but still again
The multitude of warriors and of steeds
Came on, by Priameian Hector led
Rapid as fire. Thrice noble Hector seized
His ancles from behind, ardent to drag
Patroclus, calling to his host the while;
But thrice, the two Ajaces, clothed with might,
Shock'd and repulsed him reeling. He with force
Fill'd indefatigable, through his ranks
Issuing, by turns assail'd them, and by turns
Stood clamoring, yet not a step retired;
But as the hinds deter not from his prey
A tawny lion by keen hunger urged,
So would not both Ajaces, warriors bold,
Intimidate and from the body drive
Hector; and he had dragg'd him thence and won
Immortal glory, but that Iris, sent
Unseen by Jove and by the powers of heaven,
From Juno, to Achilles brought command
That he should show himself. Full near she drew,
And in wing'd accents thus the Chief address'd.
Hero! most terrible of men, arise!
protect Patroclus, for whose sake the war
Stands at the fleet of Greece. Mutual prevails
The slaughter, these the dead defending, those
Resolute hence to drag him to the gates
Of wind-swept Ilium. But beyond them all
Illustrious Hector, obstinate is bent
To win him, purposing to lop his head,
And to exhibit it impaled on high.
Thou then arise, nor longer on the ground
Lie stretch'd inactive; let the thought with shame
Touch thee, of thy Patroclus made the sport
Of Trojan dogs, whose corse, if it return
Dishonored home, brings with it thy reproach.
To whom Achilles matchless in the race.
Iris divine! of all the Gods, who sent thee?
Then, thus, the swift ambassadress of heaven.
By Juno sent I come, consort of Jove.
Nor knows Saturnian Jove high-throned, himself,
My flight, nor any of the Immortal Powers,
Tenants of the Olympian heights snow-crown'd.
Her answer'd then Pelides, glorious Chief.
How shall I seek the fight? they have my arms.
My mother charged me also to abstain
From battle, till she bring me armor new
Which she hath promised me from Vulcan's hand.
Meantime, whose armor else might serve my need
I know not, save perhaps alone the shield
Of Telamonian Ajax, whom I deem
Himself now busied in the stormy van,
Slaying the Trojans in my friend's defence.
To whom the swift-wing'd messenger of heaven,
Full well we know thine armor Hector's prize
Yet, issuing to the margin of the foss,
Show thyself only. Panic-seized, perchance,
The Trojans shall from fight desist, and yield
To the o'ertoil'd though dauntless sons of Greece
Short respite; it is all that war allows.
So saying, the storm-wing'd Iris disappear'd.
Then rose at once Achilles dear to Jove,
Athwart whose shoulders broad Minerva cast
Her Ægis fringed terrific, and his brows
Encircled with a golden cloud that shot
Fires insupportable to sight abroad.
As when some island, situate afar
On the wide waves, invested all the day
By cruel foes from their own city pour'd,
Upsends a smoke to heaven, and torches shows
On all her turrets at the close of eve
Which flash against the clouds, kindled in hope
Of aid from neighbor maritime allies,
So from Achilles' head light flash'd to heaven.
Issuing through the wall, beside the foss
He stood, but mix'd not with Achaia's host,
Obedient to his mother's wise command.
He stood and shouted; Pallas also raised
A dreadful shout and tumult infinite
Excited throughout all the host of Troy.
Clear as the trumpet's note when it proclaims
A numerous host approaching to invest
Some city close around, so clear the voice
Rang of Æacides, and tumult-toss'd
Was every soul that heard the brazen tone.
With swift recoil the long-maned coursers thrust
The chariots back, all boding wo at hand,
And every charioteer astonish'd saw
Fires that fail'd not, illumining the brows
Of Peleus' son, by Pallas kindled there.
Thrice o'er the trench Achilles sent his voice
Sonorous, and confusion at the sound
Thrice seized the Trojans, and their famed allies.
Twelve in that moment of their noblest died
By their own spears and chariots, and with joy
The Grecians from beneath a hill of darts
Dragging Patroclus, placed him on his bier.
Around him throng'd his fellow-warriors bold,
All weeping, after whom Achilles went
Fast-weeping also at the doleful sight
Of his true friend on his funereal bed
Extended, gash'd with many a mortal wound,
Whom he had sent into the fight with steeds
And chariot, but received him thence no more.
And now majestic Juno sent the sun,
Unwearied minister of light, although
Reluctant, down into the Ocean stream.[5]
So the sun sank, and the Achaians ceased
From the all-wasting labors of the war.
On the other side, the Trojans, from the fight
Retiring, loosed their steeds, but ere they took
Thought of refreshment, in full council met.
It was a council at which no man sat,
Or dared; all stood; such terror had on all
Fallen, for that Achilles had appear'd,
After long pause from battle's arduous toil.
First rose Polydamas the prudent son
Of Panthus, above all the Trojans skill'd
Both in futurity and in the past.
He was the friend of Hector, and one night
Gave birth to both. In council one excell'd
And one still more in feats of high renown.
Thus then, admonishing them, he began.
My friends! weigh well the occasion. Back to Troy
By my advice, nor wait the sacred morn
Here, on the plain, from Ilium's walls remote
So long as yet the anger of this Chief
'Gainst noble Agamemnon burn'd, so long
We found the Greeks less formidable foes,
And I rejoiced, myself, spending the night
Beside their oary barks, for that I hoped
To seize them; but I now tremble at thought
Of Peleus' rapid son again in arms.
A spirit proud as his will scorn to fight
Here, on the plain, where Greeks and Trojans take
Their common share of danger and of toil,
And will at once strike at your citadel,
Impatient till he make your wives his prey.
Haste--let us home--else thus shall it befall;
Night's balmy influence in his tent detains
Achilles now, but rushing arm'd abroad
To-morrow, should he find us lingering here,
None shall mistake him then; happy the man
Who soonest, then, shall 'scape to sacred Troy!
Then, dogs shall make and vultures on our flesh
Plenteous repast. Oh spare mine ears the tale!
But if, though troubled, ye can yet receive
My counsel, thus assembled we will keep
Strict guard to-night; meantime, her gates and towers
With all their mass of solid timbers, smooth
And cramp'd with bolts of steel, will keep the town.
But early on the morrow we will stand
All arm'd on Ilium's towers. Then, if he choose,
His galleys left, to compass Troy about,
He shall be task'd enough; his lofty steeds
Shall have their fill of coursing to and fro
Beneath, and gladly shall to camp return.
But waste the town he shall not, nor attempt
With all the utmost valor that he boasts
To force a pass; dogs shall devour him first.
To whom brave Hector louring, and in wrath.
Polydamas, I like not thy advice
Who bidd'st us in our city skulk, again
Imprison'd there. Are ye not yet content?
Wish ye for durance still in your own towers?
Time was, when in all regions under heaven
Men praised the wealth of Priam's city stored
With gold and brass; but all our houses now
Stand emptied of their hidden treasures rare.
Jove in his wrath hath scatter'd them; our wealth
Is marketed, and Phrygia hath a part
Purchased, and part Mæonia's lovely land.
But since the son of wily Saturn old
Hath given me glory now, and to inclose
The Grecians in their fleet hemm'd by the sea,
Fool! taint not with such talk the public mind.
For not a Trojan here will thy advice
Follow, or shall; it hath not my consent.
But thus I counsel. Let us, band by band,
Throughout the host take supper, and let each,
Guarded against nocturnal danger, watch.
And if a Trojan here be rack'd in mind
Lest his possessions perish, let him cast
His golden heaps into the public maw,[6]
Far better so consumed than by the Greeks.
Then, with the morrow's dawn, all fair array'd
In battle, we will give them at their fleet
Sharp onset, and if Peleus' noble son
Have risen indeed to conflict for the ships,
The worse for him. I shall not for his sake
Avoid the deep-toned battle, but will firm
Oppose his utmost. Either he shall gain
Or I, great glory. Mars his favors deals
Impartial, and the slayer oft is slain.
So counsell'd Hector, whom with shouts of praise
The Trojans answer'd:--fools, and by the power
Of Pallas of all sober thought bereft!
For all applauded Hector, who had given
Advice pernicious, and Polydamas,
Whose counsel was discreet and wholesome none.
So then they took repast. But all night long
The Grecians o'er Patroclus wept aloud,
While, standing in the midst, Pelides led
The lamentation, heaving many a groan,
And on the bosom of his breathless friend
Imposing, sad, his homicidal hands.
As the grim lion, from whose gloomy lair
Among thick trees the hunter hath his whelps
Purloin'd, too late returning mourns his loss,
Then, up and down, the length of many a vale
Courses, exploring fierce the robber's foot,
Incensed as he, and with a sigh deep-drawn
Thus to his Myrmidons Achilles spake.
How vain, alas! my word spoken that day
At random, when to soothe the hero's fears
Menoetius, then our guest, I promised him
His noble son at Opoeis again,
Living and laden with the spoils of Troy!
But Jove performs not all the thoughts of man,
For we were both destined to tinge the soil
Of Ilium with our blood, nor I shall see,
Myself, my father in his mansion more
Or Thetis, but must find my burial here.
Yet, my Patroclus! since the earth expects
Me next, I will not thy funereal rites
Finish, till I shall bring both head and arms
Of that bold Chief who slew thee, to my tent.
I also will smite off, before thy pile,
The heads of twelve illustrious sons of Troy,
Resentful of thy death. Meantime, among
My lofty galleys thou shalt lie, with tears
Mourn'd day and night by Trojan captives fair
And Dardan compassing thy bier around,
Whom we, at price of labor hard, ourselves
With massy spears toiling in battle took
From many an opulent city, now no more.
So saying, he bade his train surround with fire
A tripod huge, that they might quickly cleanse
Patroclus from all stain of clotted gore.
They on the blazing hearth a tripod placed
Capacious, fill'd with water its wide womb,
And thrust dry wood beneath, till, fierce, the flames
Embraced it round, and warm'd the flood within.
Soon as the water in the singing brass
Simmer'd, they bathed him, and with limpid oil
Anointed; filling, next, his ruddy wounds
With unguent mellow'd by nine circling years,
They stretch'd him on his bed, then cover'd him
From head to feet with linen texture light,
And with a wide unsullied mantle, last.[7]
All night the Myrmidons around the swift
Achilles stood, deploring loud his friend,
And Jove his spouse and sister thus bespake.
So then, Imperial Juno! not in vain
Thou hast the swift Achilles sought to rouse
Again to battle; the Achaians, sure,
Are thy own children, thou hast borne them all.
To whom the awful Goddess ample-eyed.
What word hath pass'd thy lips, Jove, most severe?
A man, though mortal merely, and to me
Inferior in device, might have achieved
That labor easily. Can I who boast
Myself the chief of Goddesses, and such
Not by birth only, but as thine espoused,
Who art thyself sovereign of all the Gods,
Can I with anger burn against the house
Of Priam, and want means of just revenge?
Thus they in heaven their mutual conference
Meantime, the silver-footed Thetis reach'd
The starr'd abode eternal, brazen wall'd
Of Vulcan, by the builder lame himself
Uprear'd, a wonder even in eyes divine.
She found him sweating, at his bellows huge
Toiling industrious; tripods bright he form'd
Twenty at once, his palace-wall to grace
Ranged in harmonious order. Under each
Two golden wheels he set, on which (a sight
Marvellous!) into council they should roll
Self-moved, and to his house, self-moved, return.
Thus far the work was finish'd, but not yet
Their ears of exquisite design affixt,
For them he stood fashioning, and prepared
The rivets. While he thus his matchless skill
Employ'd laborious, to his palace-gate
The silver-footed Thetis now advanced,
Whom Charis, Vulcan's well-attired spouse,
Beholding from the palace portal, flew
To seize the Goddess' hand, and thus inquired.
Why, Thetis! worthy of all reverence
And of all love, comest thou to our abode,
Unfrequent here? But enter, and accept
Such welcome as to such a guest is due.
So saying, she introduced and to a seat
Led her with argent studs border'd around
And foot-stool'd sumptuously;[8] then, calling forth
Her spouse, the glorious artist, thus she said.
Haste, Vulcan! Thetis wants thee; linger not.
To whom the artist of the skies replied.
A Goddess then, whom with much cause I love
And venerate is here, who when I fell
Saved me, what time my shameless mother sought
To cast me, because lame, out of all sight;
Then had I been indeed forlorn, had not
Eurynome the daughter of the Deep
And Thetis in their laps received me fallen.
Nine years with them residing, for their use
I form'd nice trinkets, clasps, rings, pipes, and chains,
While loud around our hollow cavern roar'd
The surge of the vast deep, nor God nor man,
Save Thetis and Eurynome, my life's
Preservers, knew where I was kept conceal'd.
Since, therefore, she is come, I cannot less
Than recompense to Thetis amber-hair'd
With readiness the boon of life preserved.
Haste, then, and hospitably spread the board
For her regale, while with my best dispatch
I lay my bellows and my tools aside.
He spake, and vast in bulk and hot with toil
Rose limping from beside his anvil-stock
Upborne, with pain on legs tortuous and weak.
First, from the forge dislodged he thrust apart
His bellows, and his tools collecting all
Bestow'd them, careful, in a silver chest,
Then all around with a wet sponge he wiped
His visage, and his arms and brawny neck
Purified, and his shaggy breast from smutch;
Last, putting on his vest, he took in hand
His sturdy staff, and shuffled through the door.
Beside the King of fire two golden forms
Majestic moved, that served him in the place
Of handmaids; young they seem'd, and seem'd alive,
Nor want they intellect, or speech, or force,
Or prompt dexterity by the Gods inspired.
These his supporters were, and at his side
Attendant diligent, while he, with gait
Uncouth, approaching Thetis where she sat
On a bright throne, seized fast her hand and said,
Why, Thetis! worthy as thou art of love
And of all reverence, hast thou arrived,
Unfrequent here? Speak--tell me thy desire,
Nor doubt my services, if thou demand
Things possible, and possible to me.
Then Thetis, weeping plenteously, replied.
Oh Vulcan! Is there on Olympius' heights
A Goddess with such load of sorrow press'd
As, in peculiar, Jove assigns to me?
Me only, of all ocean-nymphs, he made
Spouse to a man, Peleus Æacides,
Whose bed, although reluctant and perforce,
I yet endured to share. He now, the prey
Of cheerless age, decrepid lies, and Jove
Still other woes heaps on my wretched head.
He gave me to bring forth, gave me to rear
A son illustrious, valiant, and the chief
Of heroes; he, like a luxuriant plant
Upran[9] to manhood, while his lusty growth
I nourish'd as the husbandman his vine
Set in a fruitful field, and being grown
I sent him early in his gallant fleet
Embark'd, to combat with the sons of Troy;
But him from fight return'd I shall receive,
Beneath the roof of Peleus, never more,
And while he lives and on the sun his eyes
Opens, affliction is his certain doom,
Nor aid resides or remedy in me.
The virgin, his own portion of the spoils,
Allotted to him by the Grecians--her
Atrides, King of men, resumed, and grief
Devour'd Achilles' spirit for her sake.
Meantime, the Trojans shutting close within
Their camp the Grecians, have forbidden them
All egress, and the senators of Greece
Have sought with splendid gifts to soothe my son.
He, indisposed to rescue them himself
From ruin, sent, instead, Patroclus forth,
Clad in his own resplendent armor, Chief
Of the whole host of Myrmidons. Before
The Scæan gate from morn to eve they fought,
And on that self-same day had Ilium fallen,
But that Apollo, to advance the fame
Of Hector, slew Menoetius' noble son
Full-flush'd with victory. Therefore at thy knees
Suppliant I fall, imploring from thine art
A shield and helmet, greaves of shapely form
With clasps secured, and corselet for my son.
For those, once his, his faithful friend hath lost,
Slain by the Trojans, and Achilles lies,
Himself, extended mournful on the ground.
Her answer'd then the artist of the skies.
Courage! Perplex not with these cares thy soul.
I would that when his fatal hour shall come,
I could as sure secrete him from the stroke
Of destiny, as he shall soon have arms
Illustrious, such as each particular man
Of thousands, seeing them, shall wish his own.
He said, and to his bellows quick repair'd,
Which turning to the fire he bade them heave.
Full twenty bellows working all at once
Breathed on the furnace, blowing easy and free
The managed winds, now forcible, as best
Suited dispatch, now gentle, if the will
Of Vulcan and his labor so required.
Impenetrable brass, tin, silver, gold,
He cast into the forge, then, settling firm
His ponderous anvil on the block, one hand
With his huge hammer fill'd, one with the tongs.
[10]He fashion'd first a shield massy and broad
Of labor exquisite, for which he form'd
A triple border beauteous, dazzling bright,
And loop'd it with a silver brace behind.
The shield itself with five strong folds he forged,
And with devices multiform the disk
Capacious charged, toiling with skill divine.
There he described the earth, the heaven, the sea,
The sun that rests not, and the moon full-orb'd.
There also, all the stars which round about
As with a radiant frontlet bind the skies,
The Pleiads and the Hyads, and the might
Of huge Orion, with him Ursa call'd,
Known also by his popular name, the Wain,
That spins around the pole looking toward
Orion, only star of these denied
To slake his beams in ocean's briny baths.
Two splendid cities also there he form'd
Such as men build. In one were to be seen
Rites matrimonial solemnized with pomp
Of sumptuous banquets; from their chambers forth
Leading the brides they usher'd them along
With torches through the streets, and sweet was heard
The voice around of Hymenæal song.
Here striplings danced in circles to the sound
Of pipe and harp, while in the portals stood
Women, admiring, all, the gallant show.
Elsewhere was to be seen in council met
The close-throng'd multitude. There strife arose.
Two citizens contended for a mulct
The price of blood. This man affirm'd the fine
All paid,[11] haranguing vehement the crowd,
That man denied that he had aught received,
And to the judges each made his appeal
Eager for their award. Meantime the people,
As favor sway'd them, clamor'd loud for each.
The heralds quell'd the tumult; reverend sat
On polish'd stones the elders in a ring,
Each with a herald's sceptre in his hand,
Which holding they arose, and all in turn
Gave sentence. In the midst two talents lay
Of gold, his destined recompense whose voice
Decisive should pronounce the best award.
The other city by two glittering hosts
Invested stood, and a dispute arose
Between the hosts, whether to burn the town
And lay all waste, or to divide the spoil.
Meantime, the citizens, still undismay'd,
Surrender'd not the town, but taking arms
Secretly, set the ambush in array,
And on the walls their wives and children kept
Vigilant guard, with all the ancient men.
They sallied; at their head Pallas and Mars
Both golden and in golden vests attired
Advanced, proportion each showing divine,
Large, prominent, and such as Gods beseem'd.
Not such the people, but of humbler size.
Arriving at the spot for ambush chosen,
A river's side, where cattle of each kind
Drank, down they sat, all arm'd in dazzling brass.
Apart from all the rest sat also down
Two spies, both looking for the flocks and herds.
Soon they appear'd, and at their side were seen
Two shepherd swains, each playing on his pipe
Careless, and of the danger nought apprized,
Swift ran the spies, perceiving their approach,
And intercepting suddenly the herds
And flocks of silver fleece, slew also those
Who fed them. The besiegers, at that time
In council, by the sound alarm'd, their steeds
Mounted, and hasted, instant, to the place;
Then, standing on the river's brink they fought
And push'd each other with the brazen lance.
There Discord raged, there Tumult, and the force
Of ruthless Destiny; she now a Chief
Seized newly wounded, and now captive held
Another yet unhurt, and now a third
Dragg'd breathless through the battle by his feet
And all her garb was dappled thick with blood
Like living men they traversed and they strove,
And dragg'd by turns the bodies of the slain.
He also graved on it a fallow field
Rich, spacious, and well-till'd. Plowers not few,
There driving to and fro their sturdy teams,
Labor'd the land; and oft as in their course
They came to the field's bourn, so oft a man
Met them, who in their hands a goblet placed
Charged with delicious wine. They, turning, wrought
Each his own furrow, and impatient seem'd
To reach the border of the tilth, which black
Appear'd behind them as a glebe new-turn'd,
Though golden. Sight to be admired by all!
There too he form'd the likeness of a field
Crowded with corn, in which the reapers toil'd
Each with a sharp-tooth'd sickle in his hand.
Along the furrow here, the harvest fell
In frequent handfuls, there, they bound the sheaves.
Three binders of the sheaves their sultry task
All plied industrious, and behind them boys
Attended, filling with the corn their arms
And offering still their bundles to be bound.
Amid them, staff in hand, the master stood
Silent exulting, while beneath an oak
Apart, his heralds busily prepared
The banquet, dressing a well-thriven ox
New slain, and the attendant maidens mix'd
Large supper for the hinds of whitest flour.
There also, laden with its fruit he form'd
A vineyard all of gold; purple he made
The clusters, and the vines supported stood
By poles of silver set in even rows.
The trench he color'd sable, and around
Fenced it with tin. One only path it show'd
By which the gatherers when they stripp'd the vines
Pass'd and repass'd. There, youths and maidens blithe
In frails of wicker bore the luscious fruit,
While, in the midst, a boy on his shrill harp
Harmonious play'd, still as he struck the chord
Carolling to it with a slender voice.
They smote the ground together, and with song
And sprightly reed came dancing on behind.[12]
There too a herd he fashion'd of tall beeves
Part gold, part tin. They, lowing, from the stalls
Rush'd forth to pasture by a river-side
Rapid, sonorous, fringed with whispering reeds.
Four golden herdsmen drove the kine a-field
By nine swift dogs attended. Dreadful sprang
Two lions forth, and of the foremost herd
Seized fast a bull. Him bellowing they dragg'd,
While dogs and peasants all flew to his aid.
The lions tore the hide of the huge prey
And lapp'd his entrails and his blood. Meantime
The herdsmen, troubling them in vain, their hounds
Encouraged; but no tooth for lions' flesh
Found they, and therefore stood aside and bark'd.
There also, the illustrious smith divine
Amidst a pleasant grove a pasture form'd
Spacious, and sprinkled o'er with silver sheep
Numerous, and stalls and huts and shepherds' tents.
To these the glorious artist added next,
With various skill delineated exact,
A labyrinth for the dance, such as of old
In Crete's broad island Dædalus composed
For bright-hair'd Ariadne.[13] There the youths
And youth-alluring maidens, hand in hand,
Danced jocund, every maiden neat-attired
In finest linen, and the youths in vests
Well-woven, glossy as the glaze of oil.
These all wore garlands, and bright falchions, those,
Of burnish'd gold in silver trappings hung:--[14]
They with well-tutor'd step, now nimbly ran
The circle, swift, as when, before his wheel
Seated, the potter twirls it with both hands
For trial of its speed,[15] now, crossing quick
They pass'd at once into each other's place.
On either side spectators numerous stood
Delighted, and two tumblers roll'd themselves
Between the dancers, singing as they roll'd.
Last, with the might of ocean's boundless flood
He fill'd the border of the wondrous shield.
When thus the massy shield magnificent
He had accomplish'd, for the hero next
He forged, more ardent than the blaze of fire,
A corselet; then, a ponderous helmet bright
Well fitted to his brows, crested with gold,
And with laborious art divine adorn'd.
He also made him greaves of molten tin.
The armor finish'd, bearing in his hand
The whole, he set it down at Thetis' feet.
She, like a falcon from the snowy top
Stoop'd of Olympus, bearing to the earth
The dazzling wonder, fresh from Vulcan's hand.

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