Sing, Muse, the wrath of Peleus' son
Whence myriad griefs to Greeks were done;
Many brave souls to Hades slipped
Whose corpses dogs and preybirds ripped;
But thus accomplished and fulfilled
What Zeus above divinely willed.
Since Agamemnon, men's lordling,
And great Achilles quarreled, sing!
And who of gods, together threw,
To fight in strife, these noble two?
'Twas Zeus' and Leto's son in spite
That sent the host a sickly plight
When Agamemnon wronged his priest,
And death among the throng increased.
For he, the priest, Chryses by name
To Grecian ships imploring came
With ransoms rich, with gifts unfew,
To free his daughter from their crew.
And in his grip, on golden rod,
He showed the garland of his god.
Then urged them all, but most bespoke
The brother-leaders of their folk:
"Ye lords and Greeks wellgreaved and bold,
May they that homes Olympian hold,
Troy give you to destroy, indeed,
And send you safely home with speed!
Alas! But let my dear child be
By ransom now returned to me,
In reverence to Apollo, hark,
That shoots from far and finds his mark."
The other Greeks exclaim one mind
To honour him and gifts so kind,
But Agamemnon, thence displeased,
A hard commandment gave the priest:
"May I thee never find again
By Grecian vessels anywhen
To linger lest thy staff from strife
And garlands fail to save thy life.
This maiden I will not unbind
Ere hoary age around her wind
In Argos, in our house, she stand
Far from her native life and land
And by the loom a-pacing tread,
And share my bour and share my bed.
Hence old man, no more anger me
And safer may it fare for thee."
The old man fearful and dismayed
The king's contumelious words obeyed.
Then silently along the shore
He trode, and heard the billows roar.
When far enough apart he strayed,
To fair haired Leto's son he prayed:
"Hark me bearer of silver bow,
And these my words and prayer in woe;
Thou god whose guardships overstand
Chrysa and holy Cilla's land,
That rulest Tenedos with might,
O Smintheus, of celestial light,
If e'er thy temple fair I decked
In dedication and respect,
If e'er with bulls' or goats' fat thighs
I made the fires and fumes arise
Grant this to me, so old of years:
That arrows may avenge my tears!"
Phoebus Apollo heard his prayer
And hastened down Olympus fair.
The silver bow his shoulders graced
His quiver with its ends encased,
His arrows rattling with his wrath,
As like the night he made his path.
Then, from the ships, he sat apart,
And from afar dispatched a dart.
Therewith, the bow aloud and clear
Twanged ominously to the ear!
It struck swift dogs and mules at first,
And then the Grecian army cursed.
So many then were stricken sick
And e'er the pyres of dead burnt thick.
Nine days the fatal arrows flew
Stinging the army through and through;
Till on the tenth, Achilles strong,
To council called the Grecian throng,
By whitearmed Hera thus inclined,
Who mourned their loss, and moved his mind.
When gathered were the Grecian folk,
Achilles, swift of foot, upspoke:
"O Atreus' son, I think and say
We wandered far to turn away,
If now such death we would outrun
Subdued, by war and plague as one.
But come, and let us truly ask
Some prophet or some priest the task,
Or dreamteller, indeed, to tell,
- For dreams are sprung from Zeus, as well -
Why angry Phoebus deals such doom,
If for some vow or hecatomb,
If lambs' savour or pure goats' may
His wrath, our ruin, turn away."
Thus spoke Achilles to the men
And settled in his seat again.
Then, of all seers, Calchas, the best,
Arose, who knew all in his breast,
All things that were, in insight bore,
That yet to be and that before;
That, with his gift from Phoebus, led
The ships of Greeks to Ilios' stead.
With good intent the seer fullblest
The Greek assembly thus addressed:
"Achilles, wilt thou I reveal,
Phoebus' wrath, causes unconceal?
Therefore I will, but swear to stand,
By me, with words and helping hand.
For truly one, I ween, with sway
O'er Greeks shall loathe the sooth I say.
A king shall rage and mightier can
When lording o'er a lesser man.
And swallows rage one day, but next,
Still secretly his heart is vexed.
And, bitterness, his breast holds fast,
Until he wreaks revenge at last.
If thou wilt save me, give thy word,
To shield me if distaste be stirred."
Therewith, Achilles, swift of foot,
Thus to the Seer his answer put:
"In courage, by all means, impart
The oracles that fill thy heart.
As by Apollo thou wilt pray,
And now the sooth prophetic say,
So by Apollo, word I give
That while on earth I look and live
None by our hollow ships shall stand
To put on thee a heavy hand;
Nor e'en, of Atreus' son to speak,
He, that boasts him the greatest Greek!"
The blameless Seer, enhearted then,
Spoke and declared among the men:
"'Tis nor for vow nor hecatomb
That angry Phoebus deals such doom,
But for the insult lately done
To Phoebus' priest by Atreus' son,
When he the daughter ne'er released
Nor took the ransoms from the priest.
For this, Fardarter bent his bow
And sent upon the Greeks such woe.
Nor will he heavy hands of plight,
Withhold, until we act aright;
The brighteyed maid to Chrysa bear
Unransomed, to the father's care,
And holy hecatombs donate
To mend the wrong and end the hate."
This having spoken to the men
The Seer resumed his seat again.
Then Atreus' son the Grecian chief,
That held wide rule arose in grief.
His mood with melancholic ire,
His eyes on blaze as shining fire,
He first on Calchas evilly eyed
Then to the Seer he thus replied:
"O Seer of evils! Yet I ne'er
Heard thee foretell of something fair.
Inclined to speak the foul, though skilled,
Thy prophecies are unfulfilled.
And now to Greeks thou wilt impart
For this, Fardarter dealt his dart;
Since I would o'er the gifts and gold
Rather the beauteous daughter hold,
Whom I prefered, upon my life,
To Clytemnestra, my own wife.
For she in nothing proves the less
In beauty, mind or skillfulness.
E'en so, I will give back the maid,
If better for our common aid.
For I would rather Greeks be hale
Than see them fall and fate prevail.
But place anon another prize
To compensate my sacrafice,
That I should not be left as lord
The only Greek without reward.
That would be wrong when all ye see
My prize is bound away from me."
Divine Achilles, swift of foot,
Thus to the chief his answer put:
"Most glorious Atreus' son, indeed,
Most glorious and most full of greed!
How shall the greatheart Grecian crew
Provide for thee a prize anew?
We know not of a gathered hoard
Where yet a common wealth is stored,
But all we took from plundered lands
Is dealt among the Grecian bands.
And wrong would be and too unfair
To take back their alotted share.
But to the god and his decree
Send forth the maid and let her free.
And three and fourfold, Greeks indeed,
In recompense shall make thy meed
If Zeus e'er grant for us the joy
To sack the wellwalled town of Troy."
Lord Agamemnon, e'er with pride,
Then to Achilles thus replied:
"Dare not this way, though brave thou art,
To steal in mind and bend my heart.
For thou mayst not surpass my will
Nor thus persuade me with thy skill.
Intendest thou with prize to stand
While I should sit with empty hand
Bidden to send my prize away,
That mine should go, but thine should stay?
But let the Grecian greathearts bring
A recompense fit for a king,
Or I shall thine or Ajax' meed
Or else Odysseus' seize if need;
And whom I come upon in path,
Doubt not, shall rage with bitter wrath.
But, set aside, for now, this care.
Anon, a swarty ship prepare,
To draw on heav'nly sea with speed,
With rowers full as we may need.
A hecatomb therein conveyed,
Then let ascend the faircheek maid.
Let someone welladvised command,
Ajax, Idomeneus, o'erstand,
Divine Odysseus, thither draw,
Or thou Achilles, most of awe,
That having holy rites welldone,
Thou mayst appease Fardarting One."
Therewith Achilles, swift of foot,
With angry eye his answer put:
"O me! O thou in pride beseen
Greedy and wont to overween.
How should a Greek for thee be stirred
With ready heart upon thy word,
With whole intent and busy care
Journies to go or battles bear?
I never came to fight o'er sea
For wrongs Troy's spearmen did to me.
They never, stealthy with their forces,
Drove off my oxen or my horses,
In Phthia rich of soil and root,
Men's nourisher, ne'er harmed the fruit,
For many mountains and much sea
Stand in between their town and me.
We followed thee unto this place
For Menelaus and thee, dogface!
Seeking to win for your own joy
A recompense from men of Troy.
Thereof thou takest little heed
But threatest to usurp my meed,
For which I laboured hard and won,
Alotted by each Grecian son.
My meed is ne'er as thine such gain
When small rich Trojan towns are slain
And yet my hand, indeed, the more
Performs in feats of forceful war.
But if division come to be
The greater prize is given thee.
I carry back to ships dear less,
Though full forspent from battle's press.
Now, back to Phthia shall I stray,
For it is better not to stay
With my curved ships, dishonoured here,
To hoard up wealth for thee all year.
But Agamemnon, king of men
Thus to Achilles answered then:
"Flee! By all means, if so inclined,
Nor shall I try to change thy mind.
Others to honour me will choose
But most of all foresighty Zeus.
Of all the kings by Zeus increased
Thou hateful art to me unleast,
For ever strife is thy delight
Battles and wars thine appetite.
If thou full mighty proven be
Likely a god has gifted thee.
Begone! With all thy ships and hoard,
And rule thy Myrmidons, their lord.
Thy wrath to me is not a care
But wit right well and be full ware
Since Phoebus bids away my prize,
Chryses' fair daughter from mine eyes,
I send her with my ship and friends
Back home anon, and make amends.
But in return, I make as mine
Faircheek Briseis, prize of thine.
And I will nim her from thy tent,
Doubt not these words are fully meant,
To show thus plainly as I can
How far I am the mightier man,
And others shrink before my face
From claiming likeness to my grace!"
Then grief came over Peleus' son
And through his shaggy breast was run
His heart in counsel cut in two
Whereof he wondered what to do:
To draw his sword upon this thing
Break up the moot and kill the king,
Or such emotion sore in pain
And wrath endeavour to restrain.
But as he pondered o'er the part
From point to point in mind and heart
And gan to draw his sword in spite,
Athena came from heavens' height,
For whitearmed Hera sent her there
Holding for both much love and care.
She stood behind him unaware,
Then caught him by his yellow hair,
Making her presence be unknown
To everyone but him alone.
Therewith Achilles awe-begone
Turned round and recognized anon
Pallas Athena standing nigh
That terribly flashed forth her eye.
And with winged words he said in sum:
"Wherefore, O goddess, art thou come
Again, and catchest me unwares
Offspring of Zeus, that Aegus bears?
To see the hubris of this one,
Of Agamemnon, Atreus son
I tell thee for his pride shall fall
That he shall lose his life and all!"
Blueeye Athena thus bequath
"I came from high to quell thy wrath,
Indeed, if thou wilt lend thy ear,
For whitearmed Hera sent me here.
For in her heart her love is true
With equal care for both of you.
Come, stint from strife, the urge withstand,
Nor thus draw forth thy sword in hand.
With words reproach him as thou wilt.
And I declare to be fullfilled,
Betimes, to come as consequence
Thrice many as a recompense
For all his insolence and greed,
Shall be to thee a splendid meed."
Therewith Achilles, swift of foot
His answer to the goddess put:
"O goddess, It is only due
To heed the hest of both of you,
Better for all and every part,
Despite the raging of the heart.
For whosoe'er the gods obeys
They hear the more the pray'r he prays."
He then restrained his heavy hand
On silv'ry hilt, at her command,
Obeying thus Athena's word
And sheathed again his mighty sword.
The Goddess thencewards then upyode
To Aegis-holding Zeus' abode
Amidst the others of the sky
That dwell upon Olympus high.
But Peleus' son upheld his wrath
With mighty words, and thus bequath:
"Wineheavy, dog-eyed, it is clear
Thou hast the heart of but a deer!
Ne'er thou breastplatest thee to dare
With folk the battle's weight to bear,
Nor thou art one that ever sneaks
In ambush with the greatest Greeks,
For that, indeed, should seem to be
But plain destruction unto thee.
It is much better fitting pride,
Among the Grecian army wide
To seize the gifts of whiche'er Greek
Against thyself may dare to speak!
O folk-devouring king! alas!
That thou shouldst rule a worthless mass!
For otherwise, O Atreus son,
Thou hadst thy final outrage done.
But truly I will utter now
Upon this thing a mighty vow,
Yes, by this sceptre, this that ne'er
Nor leaves nor boughs again shall bear
Since in the mountains it was found
And from its native stub unbound,
Nor grow again with greenhood's mark,
For bronze has stripped its leaves and bark,
That now Greek sons as judges use
To keep the laws that come from Zeus,
A mighty oath is this for you:
Truly a longing, through and through,
Need for Achilles shall befall
The Grecian sons both one and all.
Engrossed in grief, unmighty then,
Ye shall be helpless to the men,
When many dying fall on land
By human-slaughterous Hector's hand.
Then shall ye rue within your breast
Of Greeks ye honoured not the best."
Thus did Achilles words resound
And then the sceptre hit the ground,
That gold-nailed, he had sorely cast,
And sat back down himself at last.
Yet Agamemnon, e'er with pride
Showed anger from the other side.
But sweet-voiced, clear-voiced, Nestor, then,
Among them rose, of Pylian men,
And from whose tongue were speeches dear,
Sweeter than honey to the ear.
Two generations had run by
That he had seen both live and die,
Of mortals with him yore toforn
In holy Pylos bred and born.
And now among the third, indeed,
He had his kingdom's care to lead.
He then spoke up with good intent,
And thus to them his wordhoard went:
"O shame! A great unmirth at hand
Arrives unto the Grecian land.
And truly Priam would enjoy,
His sons and all the rest of Troy,
To hear of you in strife e'ermore
The greatest Greeks of wit and war!
But listen now, for 'tis no lie,
Ye both are younger men than I.
Among the warriors I once knew
Were better men than both of you.
And they would not make light of me.
I have not seen nor shall I see
Warriors as Pirithous, again,
As Dryas, shepherd unto men,
As Caeneus or Exadius keen
As Polyphemus godlike seen,
As Aegeus' son, that Theseus hight,
A likeness to immortal might.
Mightiest of earthling men upbrought
Mightiest were they, and mightiest fought-
With mountainbeasts: halfman-halfhorse,
And conquored them with aweful force.
I came among their company,
For they themselves had summoned me,
From Pylos, from a distant part,
And fought according to my heart.
But none of nowdays' mortals might
Ever with them uphold a fight.
And they obediently had heard
My counsel and my careful word.
So may ye listen to me too,
For 'tis the better thing to do.
Though noble being, thou, indeed,
Nim not from him the maid, the meed,
Alotted first by Grecian sons,
But rightly let her be, at once.
And thou, Achilles, end this thing,
No longer strive against a king,
A sceptred king has higher place,
Given by Zeus a glorious grace.
Though strong, though thee a Goddess bore,
Stronger is he for ruling more.
And stint, O Atreus' son thy mood,
I beg, no longer with him feud
That great to Greeks, may none ignore,
Is bulwark 'gainst the evil war.
Lord Agamemnon then replied:
"Truly, old man, thou hast not lied,
And spokest all these things aright,
And yet this man, in mood and might,
All others thinks to overstand,
O'er all to rule with higher hand,
O'er all as king and all command.
Yet one, I think, will not obey.
And if the gods that be for aye,
Made him a spearman, hence upspring
Insults to utter at a king?"
But interrupting with ado
Divine Achilles voiced thereto:
"A coward clept and deemed to be,
Truly I were a nobody,
If by all things thou sayst, I bent,
Yielding to thee and thine intent.
Lay these commands on other men,
But lay them not on me again,
For I no longer, from this day,
Will bend for thee nor thee obey,
Another thing to thee I tell:
-And cast it in thy heart full well-
Nor will my hands to fight be laid
On thee nor others for the maid,
That thou away from me wilt lift,
What thou hadst given as a gift.
But of the other things I own
By swift black vessels, leave alone,
For there is nothing thou shalt bear
Away, against my will and care.
Come try, and men shall see it here-
Thy dark blood spilling on my spear!"
Having thus spoken and thus fought
With hostile words, with anger hot,
They rose and broke the gathering then
Beside the ships of Grecian men.
Achilles to his ships and tents
Went with Patroclus and his friends,
But Atreus' son sent forth a ship
With twenty rowers great of grip
A hecatomb therein conveyed,
And brought aboard the brightcheek maid.
Crafty Odysseus came thereto
As captain to command the crew.
With these on board and these in place
They sailed upon the watery ways.
But Agamemnon bade the crew
To purify themselves as due.
At once, they cleansed their company,
And flung their filth into the sea.
They then forthbore out of their boat
Many a spotless bull and goat
To offer Phoebus hecatombs.
Whereof the smoke and savory fumes
Ascended heaven windingly
Above the shore of stirring sea.
Thus was the army occupied,
But Agamemnon, e'er with pride,
Nothing forlet the strife begun
With which he threatened Peleus' son.
He called Talthybius to him then,
Eke Eurybates, trusty men,
His heralds twain, attendants true,
And thus bebidding spoke thereto:
"Go now unto Achilles tent,
By hand the faircheek Briseis hent
And if he nill give up the fair
Doubt not, that I myself shall dare,
And going there with more in all
Shall make the worse upon him fall!"
Therewith, they went upon their way
His stark bebidding to obey,
Mauger their wishing inwardly,
Along the shore of silvery sea,
Until Myrmidons' ships they found
And many tents thereby around.
Achilles sitting they could mark
Beside his tent and vessel dark.
He found no reason to rejoice,
Nor they the might to move their voice
For awe and honour of the king
Nor spoke a word nor asked a thing.
But in his heart Achilles knew
And speaking thus addressed these two:
"Welcome you both! Come nearer then
Heralds of Zeus and mortal men!
Nothing to me are ye to blame
But only he that has the name
Of Agamemnon, e'er with pride,
That sent you plainly for my bride!
Zeus-sprung Patroclus, come, convey
The maid to them, to take away.
Before the gods' divinity
And mortal men, these martyrs be,
Before, as well, that shameless king,
If e'er among the others spring,
A need for me, for which they call,
To ward off woes from one and all.
He rages in a ruinous mind,
Nor looks both forward and behind,
That Greeks beside the ships with life
May safely fight for him in strife."
Patroclus then his friend obeyed,
The faircheek Briseis outconveyed,
Mauger her heart, into their grips
To bear away beside the ships.
Achilles, then, burst into tears.
He took his presence from his peers,
Sat down at shore, by waves of gray,
And looking o'er the winedark way,
With outstraight hands, his mother dear
He bade with earnest prayer to hear:
"O mother since thou kindledst me
To life too full of brevity,
Olympus' thund'rer ought to give
Honour to me the while I live!
But now no worthing has he done
For widecommanding Atreus' son
Dishonours me with haughty deed,
That hent away and holds my meed"
His mother by her old man's side
Harkened his prayer and upwards hied,
From the gray sea like mist uplept,
And sitting down whereas he wept
Her son with softly hand caressed,
And called his name and him addressed:
"Wherefore, in weeping so, my son,
What sore is come in heart, what done?
Declare, and nothing hide thy woe
Speak out, that both of us may know"