Argument Of The Twenty-First Book.
Achilles having separated the Trojans, and driven one part of them to the city and the other into the Scamander, takes twelve young men alive, his intended victims to the manes of Patroclus. The river overflowing his banks with purpose to overwhelm him, is opposed by Vulcan, and gladly relinquishes the attempt. The battle of the gods ensues. Apollo, in the form of Agenor, decoys Achilles from the town, which in the mean time the Trojans enter and shut the gates against him.
But when they came, at length, where Xanthus winds
His stream vortiginous from Jove derived,
There, separating Ilium's host, he drove
Part o'er the plain to Troy in the same road
By which the Grecians had so lately fled
The fury of illustrious Hector's arm.
That way they fled pouring themselves along
Flood-like, and Juno, to retard them, threw
Darkness as night before them. Other part,
Push'd down the sides of Xanthus, headlong plunged
With dashing sound into his dizzy stream,
And all his banks re-echoed loud the roar.
They, struggling, shriek'd in silver eddies whirl'd.
As when, by violence of fire expell'd,
Locusts uplifted on the wing escape
To some broad river, swift the sudden blaze
Pursues them, they, astonish'd, strew the flood,
So, by Achilles driven, a mingled throng
Of horses and of warriors overspread
Xanthus, and glutted all his sounding course
He, chief of heroes, leaving on the bank
His spear against a tamarisk reclined,
Plunged like a God, with falchion arm'd alone
But fill'd with thoughts of havoc. On all sides
Down came his edge; groans follow'd dread to hear
Of warriors smitten by the sword, and all
The waters as they ran redden'd with blood.
As smaller fishes, flying the pursuit
Of some huge dolphin, terrified, the creeks
And secret hollows of a haven fill,
For none of all that he can seize he spares,
So lurk'd the trembling Trojans in the caves
Of Xanthus' awful flood. But he (his hands
Wearied at length with slaughter) from the rest
Twelve youths selected whom to death he doom'd,
In vengeance for his loved Patroclus slain.
Them stupified with dread like fawns he drove
Forth from the river, manacling their hands
Behind them fast with their own tunic-strings,
And gave them to his warrior train in charge.
Then, ardent still for blood, rushing again
Toward the stream, Dardanian Priam's son
He met, Lycaon, as he climb'd the bank.
Him erst by night, in his own father's field
Finding him, he had led captive away.
Lycaon was employ'd cutting green shoots
Of the wild-fig for chariot-rings, when lo!
Terrible, unforeseen, Achilles came.
He seized and sent him in a ship afar
To Lemnos; there the son of Jason paid
His price, and, at great cost, Eëtion
The guest of Jason, thence redeeming him,
Sent him to fair Arisba; but he 'scaped
Thence also and regain'd his father's house.
Eleven days, at his return, he gave
To recreation joyous with his friends,
And on the twelfth his fate cast him again
Into Achilles' hands, who to the shades
Now doom'd him, howsoever loth to go.
Soon as Achilles swiftest of the swift
Him naked saw (for neither spear had he
Nor shield nor helmet, but, when he emerged,
Weary and faint had cast them all away)
Indignant to his mighty self he said.
Gods! I behold a miracle! Ere long
The valiant Trojans whom my self have slain
Shall rise from Erebus, for he is here,
The self-same warrior whom I lately sold
At Lemnos, free, and in the field again.
The hoary deep is prison strong enough
For most, but not for him. Now shall he taste
The point of this my spear, that I may learn
By sure experience, whether hell itself
That holds the strongest fast, can him detain,
Or whether he shall thence also escape.
While musing thus he stood, stunn'd with dismay
The youth approach'd, eager to clasp his knees,
For vehement he felt the dread of death
Working within him; with his Pelian ash
Uplifted high noble Achilles stood
Ardent to smite him; he with body bent
Ran under it, and to his knees adhered;
The weapon, missing him, implanted stood
Close at his back, when, seizing with one hand
Achilles' knees, he with the other grasp'd
The dreadful beam, resolute through despair,
And in wing'd accents suppliant thus began.
Oh spare me! pity me! Behold I clasp
Thy knees, Achilles! Ah, illustrious Chief!
Reject not with disdain a suppliant's prayer.
I am thy guest also, who at thy own board
Have eaten bread, and did partake the gift
Of Ceres with thee on the very day
When thou didst send me in yon field surprised
For sale to sacred Lemnos, far remote,
And for my price receiv'dst a hundred beeves.
Loose me, and I will yield thee now that sum
Thrice told. Alas! this morn is but the twelfth
Since, after numerous hardships, I arrived
Once more in Troy, and now my ruthless lot
Hath given me into thy hands again.
Jove cannot less than hate me, who hath twice
Made me thy prisoner, and my doom was death,
Death in my prime, the day when I was born
Son of Laothöe from Alta sprung,
From Alta, whom the Leleges obey
On Satnio's banks in lofty Pedasus.
His daughter to his other numerous wives
King Priam added, and two sons she bore
Only to be deprived by thee of both.
My brother hath already died, in front
Of Ilium's infantry, by thy bright spear,
The godlike Polydorus; and like doom
Shall now be mine, for I despair to escape
Thine hands, to which the Gods yield me again.
But hear and mark me well. My birth was not
From the same womb as Hector's, who hath slain
Thy valiant friend for clemency renown'd.
Such supplication the illustrious son
Of Priam made, but answer harsh received.
Fool! speak'st of ransom? Name it not to me.
For till my friend his miserable fate
Accomplish'd, I was somewhat given to spare,
And numerous, whom I seized alive, I sold.
But now, of all the Trojans whom the Gods
Deliver to me, none shall death escape,
'Specially of the house of Priam, none.
Die therefore, even thou, my friend! What mean
Thy tears unreasonably shed and vain?
Died not Patroclus. braver far than thou?
And look on me--see'st not to what a height
My stature towers, and what a bulk I boast?
A King begat me, and a Goddess bore.
What then! A death by violence awaits
Me also, and at morn, or eve, or noon,
I perish, whensoe'er the destined spear
Shall reach me, or the arrow from the nerve.
He ceased, and where the suppliant kneel'd, he died.
Quitting the spear, with both hands spread abroad
He sat, but swift Achilles with his sword
'Twixt neck and key-bone smote him, and his blade
Of double edge sank all into the wound.
He prone extended on the champain lay
Bedewing with his sable blood the glebe,
Till, by the foot, Achilles cast him far
Into the stream, and, as he floated down,
Thus in wing'd accents, glorying, exclaim'd.
Lie there, and feed the fishes, which shall lick
Thy blood secure. Thy mother ne'er shall place
Thee on thy bier, nor on thy body weep,
But swift Scamander on his giddy tide
Shall bear thee to the bosom of the sea.
There, many a fish shall through the crystal flood
Ascending to the rippled surface, find
Lycaon's pamper'd flesh delicious fare.
Die Trojans! till we reach your city, you
Fleeing, and slaughtering, I. This pleasant stream
Of dimpling silver which ye worship oft
With victim bulls, and sate with living steeds
His rapid whirlpools, shall avail you nought,
But ye shall die, die terribly, till all
Shall have requited me with just amends
For my Patroclus, and for other Greeks
Slain at the ships while I declined the war.
He ended, at those words still more incensed
Scamander means devised, thenceforth to check
Achilles, and avert the doom of Troy.
Meantime the son of Peleus, his huge spear
Grasping, assail'd Asteropæus son
Of Pelegon, on fire to take his life.
Fair Periboea, daughter eldest-born
Of Acessamenus, his father bore
To broad-stream'd Axius, who had clasp'd the nymph
In his embrace. On him Achilles sprang.
He newly risen from the river, stood
Arm'd with two lances opposite, for him
Xanthus embolden'd, at the deaths incensed
Of many a youth, whom, mercy none vouchsafed,
Achilles had in all his current slain.
And now small distance interposed, they faced
Each other, when Achilles thus began.
Who art and whence, who dar'st encounter me?
Hapless the sires whose sons my force defy.
To whom the noble son of Pelegon.
Pelides, mighty Chief? Why hast thou ask'd
My derivation? From the land I come
Of mellow-soil'd Poeonia far remote,
Chief leader of Poenia's host spear-arm'd;
This day hath also the eleventh risen
Since I at Troy arrived. For my descent,
It is from Axius river wide-diffused,
From Axius, fairest stream that waters earth,
Sire of bold Pelegon whom men report
My sire. Let this suffice. Now fight, Achilles!
So spake he threatening, and Achilles raised
Dauntless the Pelian ash. At once two spears
The hero bold, Asteropæus threw,
With both hands apt for battle. One his shield
Struck but pierced not, impeded by the gold,
Gift of a God; the other as it flew
Grazed at his right elbow; sprang the sable blood;
But, overflying him, the spear in earth
Stood planted deep, still hungering for the prey.
Then, full at the Poeonian Peleus' son
Hurl'd forth his weapon with unsparing force
But vain; he struck the sloping river bank,
And mid-length deep stood plunged the ashen beam.
Then, with his falchion drawn, Achilles flew
To smite him; he in vain, meantime, essay'd
To pluck the rooted spear forth from the bank;
Thrice with full force he shook the beam, and thrice,
Although reluctant, left it; at his fourth
Last effort, bending it he sought to break
The ashen spear-beam of Æacides,
But perish'd by his keen-edged falchion first;
For on the belly at his navel's side
He smote him; to the ground effused fell all
His bowels, death's dim shadows veil'd his eyes.
Achilles ardent on his bosom fix'd
His foot, despoil'd him, and exulting cried.
Lie there; though River-sprung, thou find'st it hard
To cope with sons of Jove omnipotent.
Thou said'st, a mighty River is my sire--
But my descent from mightier Jove I boast;
My father, whom the Myrmidons obey,
Is son of Æacus, and he of Jove.
As Jove all streams excels that seek the sea,
So, Jove's descendants nobler are than theirs.
Behold a River at thy side--let him
Afford thee, if he can, some succor--No--
He may not fight against Saturnian Jove.
Therefore, not kingly Acheloïus,
Nor yet the strength of Ocean's vast profound,
Although from him all rivers and all seas,
All fountains and all wells proceed, may boast
Comparison with Jove, but even he
Astonish'd trembles at his fiery bolt,
And his dread thunders rattling in the sky.
He said, and drawing from the bank his spear
Asteropæus left stretch'd on the sands,
Where, while the clear wave dash'd him, eels his flanks
And ravening fishes numerous nibbled bare.
The horsed Poeonians next he fierce assail'd,
Who seeing their brave Chief slain by the sword
And forceful arm of Peleus' son, beside
The eddy-whirling stream fled all dispersed.
Thersilochus and Mydon then he slew,
Thrasius, Astypylus and Ophelestes,
Ænius and Mnesus; nor had these sufficed
Achilles, but Poeonians more had fallen,
Had not the angry River from within
His circling gulfs in semblance, of a man
Call'd to him, interrupting thus his rage.
Oh both in courage and injurious deeds
Unmatch'd, Achilles! whom themselves the Gods
Cease not to aid, if Saturn's son have doom'd
All Ilium's race to perish by thine arm,
Expel them, first, from me, ere thou achieve
That dread exploit; for, cumber'd as I am
With bodies, I can pour my pleasant stream
No longer down into the sacred deep;
All vanish where thou comest. But oh desist
Dread Chief! Amazement fills me at thy deeds.
To whom Achilles, matchless in the race.
River divine! hereafter be it so.
But not from slaughter of this faithless host
I cease, till I shall shut them fast in Troy
And trial make of Hector, if his arm
In single fight shall strongest prove, or mine
He said, and like a God, furious, again
Assail'd the Trojans; then the circling flood
To Phoebus thus his loud complaint address'd.
Ah son of Jove, God of the silver bow!
The mandate of the son of Saturn ill
Hast thou perform'd, who, earnest, bade thee aid
The Trojans, till (the sun sunk in the West)
Night's shadow dim should veil the fruitful field.
He ended, and Achilles spear-renown'd
Plunged from the bank into the middle stream.
Then, turbulent, the River all his tide
Stirr'd from the bottom, landward heaving off
The numerous bodies that his current chok'd
Slain by Achilles; them, as with the roar
Of bulls, he cast aground, but deep within
His oozy gulfs the living safe conceal'd.
Terrible all around Achilles stood
The curling wave, then, falling on his shield
Dash'd him, nor found his footsteps where to rest.
An elm of massy trunk he seized and branch
Luxuriant, but it fell torn from the root
And drew the whole bank after it; immersed
It damm'd the current with its ample boughs,
And join'd as with a bridge the distant shores,
Upsprang Achilles from the gulf and turn'd
His feet, now wing'd for flight, into the plain
Astonish'd; but the God, not so appeased,
Arose against him with a darker curl,
That he might quell him and deliver Troy.
Back flew Achilles with a bound, the length
Of a spear's cast, for such a spring he own'd
As bears the black-plumed eagle on her prey
Strongest and swiftest of the fowls of air.
Like her he sprang, and dreadful on his chest
Clang'd his bright armor. Then, with course oblique
He fled his fierce pursuer, but the flood,
Fly where he might, came thundering in his rear.
As when the peasant with his spade a rill
Conducts from some pure fountain through his grove
Or garden, clearing the obstructed course,
The pebbles, as it runs, all ring beneath,
And, as the slope still deepens, swifter still
It runs, and, murmuring, outstrips the guide,
So him, though swift, the river always reach'd
Still swifter; who can cope with power divine?
Oft as the noble Chief, turning, essay'd
Resistance, and to learn if all the Gods
Alike rush'd after him, so oft the flood,
Jove's offspring, laved his shoulders. Upward then
He sprang distress'd, but with a sidelong sweep
Assailing him, and from beneath his steps
Wasting the soil, the Stream his force subdued.
Then looking to the skies, aloud he mourn'd.
Eternal Sire! forsaken by the Gods
I sink, none deigns to save me from the flood,
From which once saved, I would no death decline.
Yet blame I none of all the Powers of heaven
As Thetis; she with falsehood sooth'd my soul,
She promised me a death by Phoebus' shafts
Swift-wing'd, beneath the battlements of Troy.
I would that Hector, noblest of his race,
Had slain me, I had then bravely expired
And a brave man had stripp'd me of my arms.
But fate now dooms me to a death abhorr'd
Whelm'd in deep waters, like a swine-herd's boy
Drown'd in wet weather while he fords a brook.
So spake Achilles; then, in human form,
Minerva stood and Neptune at his side;
Each seized his hand confirming him, and thus
The mighty Shaker of the shores began.
Achilles! moderate thy dismay, fear nought.
In us behold, in Pallas and in me,
Effectual aids, and with consent of Jove;
For to be vanquish'd by a River's force
Is not thy doom. This foe shall soon be quell'd;
Thine eyes shall see it. Let our counsel rule
Thy deed, and all is well. Cease not from war
Till fast within proud Ilium's walls her host
Again be prison'd, all who shall escape;
Then (Hector slain) to the Achaian fleet
Return; we make the glorious victory thine.
So they, and both departing sought the skies.
Then, animated by the voice divine,
He moved toward the plain now all o'erspread
By the vast flood on which the bodies swam
And shields of many a youth in battle slain.
He leap'd, he waded, and the current stemm'd
Right onward, by the flood in vain opposed,
With such might Pallas fill'd him. Nor his rage
Scamander aught repress'd, but still the more
Incensed against Achilles, curl'd aloft
His waters, and on Simoïs call'd aloud.
Brother! oh let us with united force
Check, if we may, this warrior; he shall else
Soon lay the lofty towers of Priam low,
Whose host appall'd, defend them now no more.
Haste--succor me--thy channel fill with streams
From all thy fountains; call thy torrents down;
Lift high the waters; mingle trees and stones
With uproar wild, that we may quell the force
Of this dread Chief triumphant now, and fill'd
With projects that might more beseem a God.
But vain shall be his strength, his beauty nought
Shall profit him or his resplendent arms,
For I will bury them in slime and ooze,
And I will overwhelm himself with soil,
Sands heaping o'er him and around him sands
Infinite, that no Greek shall find his bones
For ever, in my bottom deep immersed.
There shall his tomb be piled, nor other earth,
At his last rites, his friends shall need for him.
He said, and lifting high his angry tide
Vortiginous, against Achilles hurl'd,
Roaring, the foam, the bodies, and the blood;
Then all his sable waves divine again
Accumulating, bore him swift along.
Shriek'd Juno at that sight, terrified lest
Achilles in the whirling deluge sunk
Should perish, and to Vulcan quick exclaim'd.
Vulcan, my son, arise; for we account
Xanthus well able to contend with thee.
Give instant succor; show forth all thy fires.
Myself will haste to call the rapid South
And Zephyrus, that tempests from the sea
Blowing, thou may'st both arms and dead consume
With hideous conflagration. Burn along
The banks of Xanthus, fire his trees and him
Seize also. Let him by no specious guile
Of flattery soothe thee, or by threats appall,
Nor slack thy furious fires 'till with a shout
I give command, then bid them cease to blaze.
She spake, and Vulcan at her word his fires
Shot dreadful forth; first, kindling on the field,
He burn'd the bodies strew'd numerous around
Slain by Achilles; arid grew the earth
And the flood ceased. As when a sprightly breeze
Autumnal blowing from the North, at once
Dries the new-water'd garden, gladdening him
Who tills the soil, so was the champain dried;
The dead consumed, against the River, next,
He turn'd the fierceness of his glittering fires.
Willows and tamarisks and elms he burn'd,
Burn'd lotus, rushes, reeds; all plants and herbs
That clothed profuse the margin of his flood.
His eels and fishes, whether wont to dwell
In gulfs beneath, or tumble in the stream,
All languish'd while the artist of the skies
Breath'd on them; even Xanthus lost, himself,
All force, and, suppliant, Vulcan thus address'd.
Oh Vulcan! none in heaven itself may cope
With thee. I yield to thy consuming fires.
Cease, cease. I reck not if Achilles drive
Her citizens, this moment, forth from Troy,
For what are war and war's concerns to me?
So spake he scorch'd, and all his waters boil'd.
As some huge caldron hisses urged by force
Of circling fires and fill'd with melted lard,
The unctuous fluid overbubbling streams
On all sides, while the dry wood flames beneath,
So Xanthus bubbled and his pleasant flood
Hiss'd in the fire, nor could he longer flow
But check'd his current, with hot steams annoy'd
By Vulcan raised. His supplication, then,
Importunate to Juno thus he turn'd.
Ah Juno! why assails thy son my streams,
Hostile to me alone? Of all who aid
The Trojans I am surely least to blame,
Yet even I desist if thou command;
And let thy son cease also; for I swear
That never will I from the Trojans turn
Their evil day, not even when the host
Of Greece shall set all Ilium in a blaze.
He said, and by his oath pacified, thus
The white-arm'd Deity to Vulcan spake.
Peace, glorious son! we may not in behalf
Of mortal man thus longer vex a God.
Then Vulcan his tremendous fires repress'd,
And down into his gulfy channel rush'd
The refluent flood; for when the force was once
Subdued of Xanthus, Juno interposed,
Although incensed, herself to quell the strife.
But contest vehement the other Gods
Now waged, each breathing discord; loud they rush'd
And fierce to battle, while the boundless earth
Quaked under them, and, all around, the heavens
Sang them together with a trumpet's voice.
Jove listening, on the Olympian summit sat
Well-pleased, and, in his heart laughing for joy,
Beheld the Powers of heaven in battle join'd.
Not long aloof they stood. Shield-piercer Mars,
His brazen spear grasp'd, and began the fight
Rushing on Pallas, whom he thus reproach'd.
Wasp! front of impudence, and past all bounds
Audacious! Why impellest thou the Gods
To fight? Thy own proud spirit is the cause.
Remember'st not, how, urged by thee, the son
Of Tydeus, Diomede, myself assail'd,
When thou, the radiant spear with thy own hand
Guiding, didst rend my body? Now, I ween,
The hour is come in which I shall exact
Vengeance for all thy malice shown to me.
So saying, her shield he smote tassell'd around
Terrific, proof against the bolts of Jove;
That shield gore-tainted Mars with fury smote.
But she, retiring, with strong grasp upheaved
A rugged stone, black, ponderous, from the plain,
A land-mark fixt by men of ancient times,
Which hurling at the neck of stormy Mars
She smote him. Down he fell. Seven acres, stretch'd,
He overspread, his ringlets in the dust
Polluted lay, and dreadful rang his arms.
The Goddess laugh'd, and thus in accents wing'd
With exultation, as he lay, exclaim'd.
Fool! Art thou still to learn how far my force
Surpasses thine, and darest thou cope with me?
Now feel the furies of thy mother's ire
Who hates thee for thy treachery to the Greeks,
And for thy succor given to faithless Troy.
She said, and turn'd from Mars her glorious eyes.
But him deep-groaning and his torpid powers
Recovering slow, Venus conducted thence
Daughter of Jove, whom soon as Juno mark'd,
In accents wing'd to Pallas thus she spake.
Daughter invincible of glorious Jove!
Haste--follow her--Ah shameless! how she leads
Gore-tainted Mars through all the host of heaven.
So she, whom Pallas with delight obey'd;
To Venus swift she flew, and on the breast
With such force smote her that of sense bereft
The fainting Goddess fell. There Venus lay
And Mars extended on the fruitful glebe,
And Pallas thus in accents wing'd exclaim'd.
I would that all who on the part of Troy
Oppose in fight Achaia's valiant sons,
Were firm and bold as Venus in defence
Of Mars, for whom she dared my power defy!
So had dissension (Ilium overthrown
And desolated) ceased long since in heaven.
So Pallas, and approving Juno smiled.
Then the imperial Shaker of the shores
Thus to Apollo. Phoebus! wherefore stand
We thus aloof? Since others have begun,
Begin we also; shame it were to both
Should we, no combat waged, ascend again
Olympus and the brass-built hall of Jove.
Begin, for thou art younger; me, whose years
Alike and knowledge thine surpass so far,
It suits not. Oh stupidity! how gross
Art thou and senseless! Are no traces left
In thy remembrance of our numerous wrongs
Sustain'd at Ilium, when, of all the Gods
Ourselves alone, by Jove's commandment, served
For stipulated hire, a year complete,
Our task-master the proud Laomedon?
Myself a bulwark'd town, spacious, secure
Against assault, and beautiful as strong
Built for the Trojans, and thine office was
To feed for King Laomedon his herds
Among the groves of Ida many-valed.
But when the gladsome hours the season brought
Of payment, then the unjust King of Troy
Dismiss'd us of our whole reward amerced
By violence, and added threats beside.
Thee into distant isles, bound hand and foot,
To sell he threatened, and to amputate
The ears of both; we, therefore, hasted thence
Resenting deep our promised hire withheld.
Aid'st thou for this the Trojans? Canst thou less
Than seek, with us, to exterminate the whole
Perfidious race, wives, children, husbands, all?
To whom the King of radiant shafts Apollo.
Me, Neptune, thou wouldst deem, thyself, unwise
Contending for the sake of mortal men
With thee; a wretched race, who like the leaves
Now flourish rank, by fruits of earth sustain'd,
Now sapless fall. Here, therefore, us between
Let all strife cease, far better left to them.
He said, and turn'd away, fearing to lift
His hand against the brother of his sire.
But him Diana of the woods with sharp
Rebuke, his huntress sister, thus reproved.
Fly'st thou, Apollo! and to Neptune yield'st
An unearn'd victory, the prize of fame
Resigning patient and with no dispute?
Fool! wherefore bearest thou the bow in vain?
Ah, let me never in my father's courts
Hear thee among the immortals vaunting more
That thou wouldst Neptune's self confront in arms.
So she, to whom Apollo nought replied.
But thus the consort of the Thunderer, fired
With wrath, reproved the Archeress of heaven.
How hast thou dared, impudent, to oppose
My will? Bow-practised as thou art, the task
To match my force were difficult to thee.
Is it, because by ordinance of Jove
Thou art a lioness to womankind,
Killing them at thy pleasure? Ah beware--
Far easier is it, on the mountain-heights
To slay wild beasts and chase the roving hind,
Than to conflict with mightier than ourselves.
But, if thou wish a lesson on that theme,
Approach--thou shalt be taught with good effect
How far my force in combat passes thine.
She said, and with her left hand seizing both
Diana's wrists, snatch'd suddenly the bow
Suspended on her shoulder with the right,
And, smiling, smote her with it on the ears.
She, writhing oft and struggling, to the ground
Shook forth her rapid shafts, then, weeping, fled
As to her cavern in some hollow rock
The dove, not destined to his talons, flies
The hawk's pursuit, and left her arms behind.
Then, messenger of heaven, the Argicide
Address'd Latona. Combat none with thee,
Latona, will I wage. Unsafe it were
To cope in battle with a spouse of Jove.
Go, therefore, loudly as thou wilt, proclaim
To all the Gods that thou hast vanquish'd me.
Collecting, then, the bow and arrows fallen
In wild disorder on the dusty plain,
Latona with the sacred charge withdrew
Following her daughter; she, in the abode
Brass-built arriving of Olympian Jove,
Sat on his knees, weeping till all her robe
Ambrosial shook. The mighty Father smiled,
And to his bosom straining her, inquired.
Daughter beloved! who, which of all the Gods
Hath raised his hand, presumptuous, against thee,
As if convicted of some open wrong?
To whom the clear-voiced Huntress crescent-crown'd.
My Father! Juno, thy own consort fair
My sorrow caused, from whom dispute and strife
Perpetual, threaten the immortal Powers.
Thus they in heaven mutual conferr'd. Meantime
Apollo into sacred Troy return'd
Mindful to guard her bulwarks, lest the Greeks
Too soon for Fate should desolate the town.
The other Gods, some angry, some elate
With victory, the Olympian heights regain'd,
And sat beside the Thunderer. But the son
Of Peleus--He both Trojans slew and steeds.
As when in volumes slow smoke climbs the skies
From some great city which the Gods have fired
Vindictive, sorrow thence to many ensues
With mischief, and to all labor severe,
So caused Achilles labor on that day,
Severe, and mischief to the men of Troy.
But ancient Priam from a sacred tower
Stood looking forth, whence soon he noticed vast
Achilles, before whom the Trojans fled
All courage lost. Descending from the tower
With mournful cries and hasting to the wall
He thus enjoin'd the keepers of the gates.
Hold wide the portals till the flying host
Re-enter, for himself is nigh, himself
Achilles drives them home. Now, wo to Troy!
But soon as safe within the walls received
They breathe again, shut fast the ponderous gates
At once, lest that destroyer also pass.
He said; they, shooting back the bars, threw wide
The gates and saved the people, whom to aid
Apollo also sprang into the field,
They, parch'd with drought and whiten'd all with dust,
Flew right toward the town, while, spear in hand,
Achilles press'd them, vengeance in his heart
And all on fire for glory. Then, full sure,
Ilium, the city of lofty gates, had fallen
Won by the Grecians, had not Phoebus roused
Antenor's valiant son, the noble Chief
Agenor; him with dauntless might he fill'd,
And shielding him against the stroke of fate
Beside him stood himself, by the broad beech
Cover'd and wrapt in clouds. Agenor then,
Seeing the city-waster hero nigh
Achilles, stood, but standing, felt his mind
Troubled with doubts; he groan'd, and thus he mused.
Alas! if following the tumultuous flight
Of these, I shun Achilles, swifter far
He soon will lop my ignominious head.
But if, these leaving to be thus dispersed
Before him, from the city-wall I fly
Across the plain of Troy into the groves
Of Ida, and in Ida's thickets lurk,
I may, at evening, to the town return
Bathed and refresh'd. But whither tend my thoughts?
Should he my flight into the plain observe
And swift pursuing seize me, then, farewell
All hope to scape a miserable death,
For he hath strength passing the strength of man.
How then--shall I withstand him here before
The city? He hath also flesh to steel
Pervious, within it but a single life,
And men report him mortal, howsoe'er
Saturnian Jove lift him to glory now.
So saying, he turn'd and stood, his dauntless heart
Beating for battle. As the pard springs forth
To meet the hunter from her gloomy lair,
Nor, hearing loud the hounds, fears or retires,
But whether from afar or nigh at hand
He pierce her first, although transfixt, the fight
Still tries, and combats desperate till she fall,
So, brave Antenor's son fled not, or shrank,
Till he had proved Achilles, but his breast
O'ershadowing with his buckler and his spear
Aiming well-poised against him, loud exclaim'd.
Renown'd Achilles! Thou art high in hope
Doubtless, that thou shalt this day overthrow
The city of the glorious sons of Troy.
Fool! ye must labor yet ere she be won,
For numerous are her citizens and bold,
And we will guard her for our parents' sake
Our wives and little ones. But here thou diest
Terrible Chief and dauntless as thou art.
He said, and with full force hurling his lance
Smote, and err'd not, his greave beneath his knee
The glittering tin, forged newly, at the stroke
Tremendous rang, but quick recoil'd and vain
The weapon, weak against that guard divine.
Then sprang Achilles in his turn to assail
Godlike Agenor, but Apollo took
That glory from him, snatching wrapt in clouds
Agenor thence, whom calm he sent away.
Then Phoebus from pursuit of Ilium's host
By art averted Peleus' son; the form
Assuming of Agenor, swift he fled
Before him, and Achilles swift pursued.
While him Apollo thus lured to the chase
Wide o'er the fruitful plain, inclining still
Toward Scamander's dizzy stream his course
Nor flying far before, but with false hope
Always beguiling him, the scatter'd host
Meantime, in joyful throngs, regain'd the town.
They fill'd and shut it fast, nor dared to wait
Each other in the field, or to inquire
Who lived and who had fallen, but all, whom flight
Had rescued, like a flood pour'd into Troy.
* * * * *
The Trojans being now within the city, excepting Hector, the field is cleared for the most important and decisive action in the poem; that is, the battle between Achilles and Hector, and the death of the latter. This part of the story is managed with singular skill. It seems as if the poet, feeling the importance of the catastrophe, wished to withdraw from view the personages of less consequence, and to concentrate our attention upon those two alone. The poetic action and description are narrowed in extent, but deepened in interest. The fate of Troy is impending; the irreversible decree of Jupiter is about to be executed; the heroes, whose bravery is to be the instrument of bringing about this consummation, are left together on the plain.--FELTON.