I.—Of the Wrath of Achilles; and of Hector
Achilles' baneful wrath resound, O goddess, that impos'd
Infinite sorrows on the Greeks, and many brave souls loos'd.
From breasts heroic; sent them far to that invisible cave
That no light comforts; and their limbs to dogs and vultures gave;
To all which Jove's will gave effect; from whom strife first begun
Betwixt Atrides, king of men, and Thetis' god-like son.
To appease Phoebus, Agamemnon restored the captive daughter
of the sun-god's priest, allotted to him for spoil; but took
Briseis from Achilles to replace her. Achilles vowed to render
no more aid to the Greeks, telling his mother, the sea-nymph
Thetis, what had befallen, calling on Jove to aid his vengeance.
So Peleus' son, swift-foot Achilles, at his swift ship sate,
Burning in wrath, nor ever came to councils of estate
That make men honour'd, never trod the fierce embattled field,
But kept close, and his lov'd heart pined, what fight and cries could yield,
Thirsting at all parts to the host.
To satisfy Thetis, Jupiter sent a false dream to Agamemnon,
the king of men, persuading him that Troy should now fall to his
attack. Beguiled by the dream, Agamemnon set forth in battle
array the whole Greek host, save that Achilles and his followers
were absent. And the whole host of Troy came forth to meet
them. Then Menelaus challenged Paris to single combat; for
the twain were the cause of the war, seeing that Paris had stolen
away Helen, the wife of Menelaus. Truce was struck while the
combat should take place. Paris hurled his javelin, but did not
pierce his foe's shield; Menelaus, having called on Jove,
Shook and threw his lance; which struck through Paris' shield,
And with the strength he gave to it, it made the curets yield,
His coat of mail, his breast; yet he prevented sable death.
This taint he followed with his sword, drawn from a silver sheath,
Which lifting high, he struck his helm full where the plume did stand,
On which it piecemeal brake, and fell from his unhappy hand ...
"Lo, now my lance hath missed his end, my sword in shivers flew,
And he 'scapes all." With this again he rushed upon his guest,
And caught him by the horse-hair plume that dangled on his crest,
With thought to drag him to the Greeks; which he had surely done,
And so, besides the victory, had wondrous glory won.
But Cyprian Venus brake the string; and so the victor's palm
Was, for so full a man at arms, only an empty helm.
That then he swung about his head, and cast among his friends,
Who scrambled and took it up with shouts. Again then he intends
To force the life-blood of his foe, and ran on him amain,
With shaken jav'lin; when the queen that lovers love, again
Attended and now ravish'd him from that encounter quite,
With ease, and wondrous suddenly; for she, a goddess, might.
She hid him in a cloud of gold, and never made him known
Till in his chamber fresh and sweet she gently set him down.
Thereupon the truce was treacherously broken by Pandarus,
who, incited by Minerva, wounded Menelaus with an arrow; and
the armies closed with each other. Great deeds were done by
Diomedes on the Greek side. But Hector had gone back to
Troy to rouse Paris; on the walls his wife Andromache saw him.
She ran to Hector, and with her, tender of heart and hand,
Her son borne in his nurse's arms; when, like a heavenly sign
Compact of many golden stars, the princely child did shine.
Hector, though grief bereft his speech, yet smiled upon his joy.
Andromache cried out, mix'd hands, and to the strength of Troy
Thus wept forth her affection: "O noblest in desire!
Thy mind inflamed with other's good will set thyself on fire.
Nor pitiest thou my son, nor wife, that must thy widow be
If now thou issue; all the field will only run on thee."
"Nay," answered he; "but in this fire must Hector's trial shine;
Here must his country, father, friends, be made in him divine.
Yet such a stormy day shall come (in mind and soul I know),
When sacred Troy shall shed her towers for tears of overthrow;
When Priam, all his birth and power, shall in those tears be drown'd.
But neither Troy's posterity so much my soul doth wound,
Priam nor Hecuba herself, nor all my brother's woes,
(Who, though so many, and so good must all be food for foes),
As thy sad state; when some rude Greek shall lead thee weeping hence,
These free days clouded, and a night of captive violence
Loading thy temples, out of which thine eyes must never see,
But spin the Greek wives webs of task, and their fetch-water be."
This said, he reached to take his son; who of his arms afraid,
And then the horse-hair plume, with which he was so overlaid,
Nodded so horribly, he cling'd back to his nurse and cried.
Laughter affected his great sire, who doff'd and laid aside
His fearful helm, that on the earth cast round about its light;
Then took and kiss'd his loving son. "Afflict me not, dear wife,
With these vain griefs. He doth not live that can disjoin my life
And this firm bosom, but my fate; and fate whose wings can fly?
Noble, ignoble, fate controls. Once born, the best must die."
II.—Of the Battle by the Ships
After this, Hector fought with Ajax, and neither had the
better. And after that the Greeks set a rampart and a ditch
about their ships. Also, Agamemnon would have bidden the
Greeks depart altogether, but Diomedes withstood him. And in
the fighting that followed, Agamemnon showed himself the best
man among the Greeks, seeing that neither Achilles nor Diomedes
joined the fray; and the Trojans had the better, driving the
Greeks back to the rampart, and bursting through, so that they
were like to have burnt the Greek ships where they lay, led on
by Hector. To and fro swayed the tide of battle; for while Jove
slept, Neptune and Juno gave force and courage to the Greeks,
and the Trojans were borne back; Hector being sore hurt with
a stone cast by Ajax. But Jove, awaking, restored Hector's
strength, sending Apollo to him. Then Apollo and Hector led
The Trojan forces. The Greeks stood. A fervent clamour spread
The air on both sides as they joined. Out flew the shafts and darts,
Some falling short, but other some found butts in breasts and hearts.
As long as Phoebus held but out his horrid shield, so long
The darts flew raging either way, and death grew both ways strong.
But when the Greeks had seen his face, and who it was that shook
The bristled targe, known by his voice, then all their strength forsook
Their nerves and minds. And then look how a goodly herd of neat,
Or wealthy flock of sheep, being close, and dreadless at their meat,
In some black midnight, suddenly, and not a keeper near,
A brace of horrid bears rush in, and then fly here and there.
The poor affrighted flocks or herds, so every way dispersed
The heartless Grecians, so the Sun their headlong chase reversed
To headlong flight, and that day rais'd with all grace Hector's head.
... When Hector saw his sister's son lie slaughtered in the sand,
He called to all his friends, and prayed they would not in that strait
Forsake his nephew, but maintain about his corse the fight,
And save it from the spoil of Greece.
The archery of Teucer, brother of Ajax, was dealing destruction
among the Trojans, when Jove broke the bow-string; and
thereafter the god stirred
With such addition of his spirit the spirit Hector bore
To burn the fleet, that of itself was hot enough before.
But now he fared like Mars himself, so brandishing his lance
As through the deep shades of a wood a raging fire should glance,
Held up to all eyes by a hill; about his lips a foam
Stood, as when th' ocean is enraged; his eyes were overcome
With fervour, and resembled flames, set off by his dark brows,
And from his temples his bright helm abhorred lightnings throws.
He, girt in fire borne for the fleet, still rushed at every troop,
And fell upon it like a wave, high raised, that then doth stoop
Out from the clouds, grows as it stoops with storms, then down doth come
And cuff a ship, when all her sides are hid in brackish foam,
Strong gales still raging in her sails, her sailors' minds dismay'd,
Death being but little from their lives; so Jovelike Hector fray'd
And plied the Greeks, who knew not what would chance, for all their guards.
And as the baneful king of beasts, leapt in to oxen herds
Fed in the meadows of a fen exceeding great, the beasts
In number infinite, 'mongst whom (their herdsmen wanting breasts
To fight with lions for the price of a black ox's life)
He here and there jumps first and last, in his bloodthirsty strife;
Chased and assaulted, and at length down in the midst goes one,
And all the rest 'sperst through the fen; so now all Greece was gone.
On the Grecian side Ajax
Stalked here and there, and in his hand a huge great bead-hook held,
Twelve cubits long, and full of iron. And then again there grew
A bitter conflict at the fleet. You would have said none drew
A weary breath, nor ever did, they laid so freshly on.
It seemed that even Ajax would be overborne. But Patroclus,
the loved friend of Achilles, saw this destruction coming upon
the Greeks, and he earnestly besought Achilles, if he would
not be moved to sally forth to the rescue himself, to suffer him
to go out against the Trojans, bearing the arms of Achilles and
leading his Myrmidons into the fray. Which leave Achilles
III.—Of Patroclus, and the Rousing of Achilles
Bearing the armour of Achilles, save the spear which none
other could wield, Patroclus sped forth, leading the Myrmidons.
And when ye see upon a mountain bred
A den of wolves about whose hearts unmeasured strengths are fed,
New come from currie of a stag, their jaws all blood-besmeared,
And when from some black-water fount they all together herd,
There having plentifully lapped with thin and thrust-out tongues
The top and clearest of the spring, go, belching from their lungs
The clottered gore, look dreadfully, and entertain no dread,
Their bellies gaunt, all taken up with being so rawly fed;
Then say that such in strength and look, were great Achilles' men
Now ordered for the dreadful fight.
The Trojans, taking Patroclus for Achilles, were now driven
before him and the other Grecian chiefs. Patroclus slew Sarpedon,
king of Lycia, and the fight raged furiously about the
corse. The Trojans fled, Patroclus pursued. At last Phoebus
Apollo smote his armour from him; Euphorbus thrust him
through from behind, and Hector slew him. Ajax and Menelaus
came to rescue Patroclus' body; Hector fled, but had already
stripped off the armour of Achilles, which he now put on in
place of his own. Again the battle waxed furious about the
dead Patroclus until Menelaus and Meriones bore the corpse
while the two Ajaces stood guard.
Now, when the ill news was brought to Achilles, he fell into
a great passion of grief; which lamentation Thetis, his mother,
heard from the sea-deeps; and came to him, bidding him not go
forth to the war till she had brought him new armour from
Vulcan. Nevertheless, at the bidding of Iris, he arose:
And forth the wall he stepped and stood, and sent abroad his voice;
Which Pallas far-off echoed, who did betwixt them noise
Shrill tumult to a topless height. His brazen voice once heard,
The minds of all were startled, so they yielded. Thrice he spake,
And thrice, in heat of all the charge, the Trojans started back.
In this wise was the dead Patroclus brought back to Achilles.
But Thetis went to Vulcan and besought him, and he wrought
new armour for Achilles—a shield most marvellous, and a cuirass
and helmet—which she bore to her son. And the wrath of
Achilles against Agamemnon was assuaged; and they two were
reconciled at a gathering of the chiefs. And when by the counsel
of Ulysses they had all well broken their fast, the Greeks
went forth to the battle, Achilles leading. Now, in this contest,
by Jove's decree, all the Olympian gods were suffered to take
And thus the bless'd gods both sides urged; they all stood in the midst
And brake contention to their hosts. And over all their heads
The gods' king in abhorred claps his thunder rattled out.
Beneath them, Neptune tossed the earth; the mountains round about
Bowed with affright and shook their heads, Jove's hill the earthquake felt,
Steep Ida trembling at her roots, and all her fountains spilt,
With crannied brows; the infernal king, that all things frays, was fray'd
When this black battle of the gods was joining. Thus array'd
'Gainst Neptune Phoebus with winged shafts, 'gainst Mars the blue-eyed maid,
'Gainst Juno Phoebe, whose white hands bore stinging darts of gold,
Her side armed with a sheaf of shafts, and (by the birth two-fold
Of bright Latona) sister-twin to him that shoots so far.
Against Latona, Hermes stood, grave guard in peace and war
Of human beings. Against the god whose empire is on fire,
The wat'ry godhead, that great flood, to show whose pow'r entire
In spoil as th' other, all his streams on lurking whirlpits trod,
Xanthus by gods, by men Scamander called. Thus god 'gainst god
Entered the field.
IV.—Of Achilles and Hector
Now Achilles fell upon the Trojan host, slaying one after
another of their mighty men; but Æneas and Hector the gods
shielded from him. Twelve he took captive, to sacrifice at the
funeral of Patroclus. And he would have stormed into Troy
itself but that Phoebus deceived him, and all the Trojans fled
within the walls save Hector. But when he saw Achilles coming,
cold fear shook Hector from his stand.
No more stay now, all posts we've left, he fled in fear the hand
Of that Fear-Master, who, hawk-like, air's swiftest passenger,
That holds a timorous dove in chase, and with command doth bear
His fiery onset, the dove hastes, the hawk comes whizzing on.
This way and that he turns and winds and cuffs the pigeon:
So urged Achilles Hector's flight.
They ran thrice about the walls, until Hector, beguiled by
Athene in the form of his brother Deiphobus, stayed to fight
Achilles. Having cast his lance in vain,
Then forth his sword flew, sharp and broad, and bore a deadly weight,
With which he rushed in. And look how an eagle from her height
Stoops to the rapture of a lamb, or cuffs a timorous hare;
So fell in Hector; and at him Achilles.
Achilles smote Hector through with his javelin, and thus death
closed his eyes. Then, in his wrath for the death of Patroclus,
Achilles bound the dead Hector by his feet to his chariot,
And scourged on his horse that freely flew;
A whirlwind made of startled dust drave with them as they drew,
With which were all his black-brown curls knotted in heaps and fill'd.
Which piteous sight was seen from the walls by Priam and
Hecuba; but Andromache did not know that Hector had stayed
without, until the clamour flew
Up to her turret; then she shook; her work fell from her hand,
And up she started, called her maids; she needs must understand
That ominous outcry. "Come," said she; then fury-like she went,
Two women, as she willed, at hand, and made her quick ascent
Up to the tower and press of men, her spirit in uproar. Round
She cast her greedy eye, and saw her Hector slain, and bound
T'Achilles' chariot, manlessly dragged to the Grecian fleet.
Black night struck through her, under her trance took away her feet.
Thus all Troy mourned; but Achilles dragged the slain Hector
to the slain Patroclus, and did despite to his body in his
wrath; and made ready to hold high obsequies for his friend.
And on the morrow
They raised a huge pile, and to arms went every Myrmidon,
Charged by Achilles; chariots and horse were harnessed,
Fighters and charioteers got up, and they the sad march led,
A cloud of infinite foot behind. In midst of all was borne
Patroclus' person by his peers.
Fit feastings were held, and games with rich prizes, racings
and wrestlings, wherein the might of Ajax could not overcome
the skill of Ulysses, nor his skill the might of Ajax. Then
Thetis by the will of the gods bade Achilles cease from his
wrath against Hector; and suffer the Trojans to redeem his
body for a ransom. And Iris came to Priam where the old
king sate: the princesses his seed, the princesses his sons' fair
wives, all mourning by. She bade him offer ransom to Achilles;
and then, guided by Hermes, Priam came to the tent of Achilles,
bearing rich gifts, and he kneeled before him, clasping his knees,
and besought him, saying:
"Pity an old man like thy sire, different in only this,
That I am wretcheder, and bear that weight of miseries
That never man did, my cursed lips enforced to kiss that hand
That slew my children." At his feet he laid his reverend head.
Achilles' thoughts now with his sire, now with his friend were fed.
Moved by compassion, and by the message which Thetis had
brought him, Achilles accepted the ransom, and suffered Priam
to bear away the body, granting a twelve days' truce. And
Troy mourned for him, Andromache lamenting and Hecuba, his
mother. And on this wise spake Helen herself.
"O Hector, all my brothers more were not so loved of me
As thy most virtues. Not my lord I held so dear as thee,
That brought me hither; before which I would I had been brought
To ruin; for what breeds that wish, which is the mischief wrought
By my access, yet never found one harsh taunt, one word's ill
From thy sweet carriage. Twenty years do now their circles fill
Since my arrival; all which time thou didst not only bear
Thyself without check, but all else that my lord's brothers were.
Their sisters' lords, sisters themselves, the queen, my mother-in-law
(The king being never but most mild) when thy man's spirit saw
Sour and reproachful, it would still reprove their bitterness
With sweet words and thy gentle soul."
So the body of Hector was laid upon the fire, and was burnt;
and his ashes were gathered into an urn of gold and laid in a grave.