Homer's Iliads in English

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O goddess sing what woe the discontent
Of Thetis’ son brought to the Greeks; what souls
Of heroes down to Erebus it sent,
Leaving their bodies unto dogs and fowls;
       5Whilst the two princes of the army strove,
King Agamemnon and Achilles stout.
That so it should be was the will of Jove,
But who was he that made them first fall out?
Apollo; who incensed by the wrong
       10To his priest Chryses by Atrides done,
Sent a great pestilence the Greeks among;
Apace they died, and remedy was none.
For Chryses came unto the Argive fleet,
With treasure great his daughter to redeem;
       15And having in his hands the ensigns meet,
That did the priestly dignity beseem,
A golden sceptre and a crown of bays,
Unto the princes all made his request;
But to the two Atrides chiefly prays,
       20Who of the Argive army were the best.
O sons of Atreus, may the Gods grant you
A safe return from Troy with victory;
And you on me compassion may shew,
Receive these gifts and set my daughter free;
       25And have respect to Jove’s and Leto’s son.
To this the princes all gave their consent,
Except King Agamemnon. He alone,
And with sharp language from the fleet him sent;
Old man, said he, let me not see you here
       30Now staying, or returning back again,
For fear the golden sceptre which you bear,
And chaplet hanging on it, prove but vain.
Your daughter shall to Argos go far hence,
And make my bed, and labour at the loom,
       35And take heed you no farther me incense,
Lest you return not safely to your home.
Frighted with this, away the old man went;
And often as he walked on the sand,
His prayers to Apollo up he sent.
       40Hear me, Apollo, with thy bow in hand,
That honour’d art in Tenedos and Chryse,
And unto whom Cylla great honour bears,
If thou accepted hast my sacrifice,
Pay th’ Argives with thy arrows for my tears.
       45His prayer was granted by the deity;
Who with his silver bow and arrows keen,
Descended from Olympus silently
In likeness of the sable night unseen.
His bow and quiver both behind him hang,
       50The arrows chink as often as he jogs,
And as he shot the bow was heard to twang,
And first his arrows flew at mules and dogs.
But when the plague into the army came,
Perpetual was the fire of funerals;
       55And so nine days continued the same.
Achilles on the tenth for counsel calls;
And Juno ’twas that put it in his head,
Who for the Argive army was afraid:
The lords to counsel being gathered,
       60Up stood Achilles, and thus to them said,
We must, I think, Atrides, run from hence,
Since war and plague consume us both at once,
Let’s think on how to stay the pestilence,
Or else at Troy resolve to leave our bones.
       65Let’s with some priest or prophet here advise,
That knows the pleasure of the gods above,
Or some that at expounding dreams are wise,
For also dreams descend on men from Jove:
That we may from him know Apollo’s mind,
       70If we for sacrifice be in arrear,
Or if he will for lambs and goats be kind,
And to destroy us from henceforth forbear.
Achilles then sat down, and Chalchas rose,
That was of great renown for augury,
       75And any thing was able to disclose,
That had been, is, or should hereafter be;
And guided had the Greeks to Ilium;
Achilles, said he, since you me command
To tell you why this plague is on us come,
       80Swear you will save me both with word and hand.
Of all the Greeks it will offend the best;
Who though his anger for awhile he smother,
Will not, I fear, long time contented rest,
But will revenged be some time or other.
       85Chalchas, replied Achilles, do not fear,
But what the god has told you bring to light:
By Phœbus, not a man shall hurt you here,
As long as I enjoy my life and sight;
Though Agamemnon be the man you dread,
       90Who is of all the army most obeyed.
The prophet by these words encouraged,
Said what before to say he was afraid.
’Tis not neglect of vow or sacrifice
That doth the God Apollo thus displease;
       95But that we do his priest so much despise,
As not his child for ransom to release.
And more, till she be to her father sent,
And with a hecatomb, and ransomless,
The anger of the god will not relent,
       100Nor will the sickness ’mongst the people cease.
This said, he sat. The king look’d furiously,
And anger flaming stood upon his eyes,
While many black thoughts on his heart did lie;
And to the prophet Chalchas thus replies:
       105Unlucky prophet, that didst never yet
Good fortune prophecy to me, but ill,
And ever with a mind against me set
Inventest prophecies to cross my will;
And now again you fain would have it thought,
       110Because I would not let Chryseis go,
The gifts refusing which her father brought,
Therefore this plague was sent amongst us now.
With Clytemnestra she may well contend,
For person, or for beauty, or for art;
       115Yet so, to send her home I do intend,
For of our loss I bear the greatest part.
But you must then some prize for me provide;
Shall no man unrewarded go but I?
This said, Achilles to the king replied,
       120Atrides, that on booty have your eye,
You know divided is, or sold the prey
Which never can resumed be again.
But send her home. When we shall have sack’d Troy,
Your loss shall be repaid with triple gain.
       125No, said Atrides, that I never meant;
D’ye think ’tis fit that you your shares retain?
And only mine unto the God be sent,
That unrewarded none but I remain?
I thought it reason th’ Argives should collect
       130Amongst themselves the value (how they list)
And give it me before they did expect
This prize of mine should be by me dismist.
If they’ll do that, ’tis well. If not, I’ll go
To your, or Ajax, or Ulysses’ tent,
       135And take his prize, and right myself will so,
Wherewith I think he will not be content.
But since there’s time enough to speak of this,
Let’s ready make a ship with able rowers,
And th’ hecatomb, to go with fair Chryseis,
       140And, to direct, one of the counsellors;
Ajax, Idomeneus, Ulysses, or
Yourself may go, Achilles, if you please,
And do the business you are pleading for,
And, if you can, th’ offended God appease.
       145O impudence! Achilles then replied,
What other of th’ Achæans willingly,
Will, when you only for yourself provide,
Go where you bid, or fight with th’ enemy?
Against the Trojans I no quarrel have.
       150In Pthia plund’ring they were never seen,
Nor ever thence my kine or horses drave,
Nor could; the sea and great hills are between.
Only for yours and Menelaus’ sake,
To honour gain for you we came to Troy,
       155Whereof no notice, dogs-head, now you take,
But threaten me my prize to take away;
Which by my labour I have dearly bought,
And by th’ Achæans given me has been.
And when the city Troy we shall have got,
       160Your share will great, mine little be therein.
For though my part be greatest in the pain,
Yet when unto division we come,
You will expect the greatest part o’ th’ gain,
And that with little I go weary home.
       165Then farewell Troy. To sea I’ll go again,
And back to Pthia. Then it will be seen
When you without me shall at Troy remain,
What honour and what riches you shall win.
Go when you will, said Agamemnon, fly,
       170I’ll not entreat you for my sake to stay.
When you are gone more honour’d shall be I,
Nor Jove, I hope, will with you go away.
In you I shall but lose an enemy
That only loves to quarrel and to fight.
       175The Gods have given you strength I not deny.
Go ’mongst your myrmidons and use your might.
I care not for you, nor your anger fear,
For after I have sent away Chryseis,
And satisfi’d the God, I’ll not forbear
       180To fetch away from you the fair Briseis,
And that by force. For I would have you see
How much to mine inferior is your might,
And others fear t’ oppose themselves to me.
This swell’d Achilles’ choler to the height,
       185And made him study what to do were best,
To draw his sword and Agamemnon kill,
Or take some time his anger to digest.
His sword was drawn, yet doubtful was his will.
But Juno, that of both of them took care,
       190Sent Pallas down, who coming stood behind
Achilles, and laid hold upon his hair.
Whereat Achilles wond’ring in his mind,
Turn’d back, and by the terror of her eyes
Knew her; but by none else perceiv’d was she.
       195Come you, said he, to see the injuries
That are by Agamemnon done to me?
So great, O Goddess Pallas, is his pride,
As I believe it cost him will his life.
I hither came, Athena then reply’d,
       200To put an end to this unlucky strife.
From heaven I hither was by Juno sent,
That loves you both, and of you both takes care,
Drawing of swords and bloodshed to prevent.
But as for evil words you need not spare.
       205For the wrong done you he shall trebly pay
Another time. Hold then. Your sword forbear.
I must then, said Achilles, you obey,
Tho’ wrong’d. Who hears not Gods, the Gods not hear.
This said, his mighty sword again he sheath’d,
       210And Pallas up unto Olympus flew.
Achilles still nothing but choler breath’d,
And Agamemnon thus revil’d anew.
Dog’s-face, and drunkard, coward that thou art,
That hat’st to lead the people out to fight;
       215Nor yet to lie in ambush hast the heart,
And painfully watch in the field all night.
But thou to take from other men their due,
Safe lying in the camp, more pleasure hast.
But fools they are that ruled are by you,
       220Or else this injury had been your last.
But this I’ll say, and with an oath make good.
(Now by this sceptre, which hath left behind
The stock whereon it once grew in the wood,
And never more shall have nor leaf nor rind,
       225And by Achæan princes now is borne
By whom Jove’s laws to th’ people carried be.)
You hear now what a great oath I have sworn:
If ere the Acheans shall have need of me,
And Agamemnon cannot them relieve,
       230When Hector fills the field with bodies slain,
And Agamemnon only for them grieve,
They my assistance wish for shall in vain.
This said, Achilles threw the sceptre down
That stuck all over was with nails of gold;
       325And Nestor rose, of Pyle that wore the crown,
Wise and sweet orator and captain old.
His words like honey dropped from his tongue.
Two ages he in battle honour gain’d.
For all that while he youthful was and strong,
       240And with the third age now in Pyle he reign’d.
What grief t’ Achæa coming is, said he,
O Gods, what joy to Priam and his seed,
How glad will all the Trojans be to see
You two, that all the rest in pow’r exceed,
       245With your own hands shed one another’s blood!
I elder am, do then as I advise.
For I conversed have with men as good,
That yet my counsel never did despise.
Perithous and Dryas were great men,
       250And Polyphemus and Exadius,
Such as for strength I ne’er shall see again;
And so were Cæneus, and Theseus,
The strongest of mankind were these, and slew
The strongest of wild beasts that haunt the wood.
       255These strong men I convers’d withal and knew;
And with them also I did what I could.
With these no other could contend in fight.
Yet they from Pyle thought fit to call me forth
Far off; nor ever did my counsel slight.
       260Think not therefore my counsel nothing worth.
Atrides take not from him, though you can,
The damsel which the Greeks have given him.
Forbear the king, Pelides. For the man
Whom Jove hath crown’d is made of Jove a limb.
       265Though you be strong, and on a Goddess got,
Atrides is before you in command.
Atrides, be but you to peace once brought,
T’ appease Achilles I will take in hand,
Who is (while we are lying here) our wall.
       270To this Atrides answered again,
I nothing can deny of this at all.
But he amongst us thinks he ought to reign,
And give the law to all as he thinks fit.
But I am certain that shall never be.
       275He well can fight; the Gods have granted it,
But they ne’er taught him words of infamy.
Then interrupting him, Achilles said,
I were a wretch and nothing worth indeed,
If I whatever you command obey’d.
       280I will no more to what you say take heed.
But this I tell you, if you take away
The damsel which is mine by your own gift,
I do not mean for that to make a fray
Amongst the Greeks, or once my hand to lift.
       285Fetch her yourself, Atrides, but take heed
Against my will you nothing else take there.
Try; that th’ Achæans may see how you speed,
And how your black blood shall run down my spear.
Thus in disorder the assembly ends.
       290Achilles to his own ships took his way,
Patroclus with him and his other friends.
And Agamemnon then without delay
Launched a bark, and in go row’rs twice ten.
Aboard the maid and th’ hecatomb they lay.
       295Ulysses went commander of the men.
And swiftly then the ship cuts out her way.
And then Atrides th’ army purifi’d,
And threw into the sea the purgament.
Then sacrific’d o’ th’ sands by the sea side
       300A hecatomb. To heaven up went the scent,
And busy were the people. But the king
Still on his quarrel with Achilles thought,
And how Briseis from his tent to bring.
For what he threaten’d he had not forgot.
       305But sent Talthybius and Eurybates
T’ Achilles’ tent to fetch Briseis thence.
(Two public servants of the king were these,
Ordained to carry his commandments.)
If he refuse, said he, to let her go,
       310I’ll thither go myself with greater force
And take her thence, whether he will or no.
Which, angry as he is, will vex him worse.
The messengers, though not well pleased, went
Unto the fleet o’ th’ Myrmidons, and there
       315They found Achilles sitting by his tent.
Well pleas’d he was not. And they silent were,
And stood still, struck with fear and reverence.
Achilles seeing that, spake first, and said,
Come near. To me you have done no offence.
       320Go you, Patroclus, and lead forth the maid,
And give her to these men, that they may be
To Gods and men, and to th’ unbridled man,
My witnesses, when they have need of me
To save th’ Achæans, which he never can.
       325For what can he devise of any worth?
Or how can he the Greeks in battle save?
This said, Patroclus led Briseis forth,
And to Atrides’ messengers her gave.
She with them went, though much against her heart.
       330Achilles from his friends went off and pray’d.
And sitting with his face to the sea apart
Weeping, unto his mother Thetis said,
Mother, though Jove have given me so small
A time of life, I could contented be,
       335Had I not been dishonoured withal,
And forc’d to bear such open injury.
Thetis in the inmost closets of the deep,
Sat with the old God Nereus, and heard.
And not enduring long to hear him weep,
       340Above the sea like to a mist appear’d,
And by him sat, and strok’d his head, and said,
Why weep you, child? What is’t that grieves you so?
Tell me, speak out. Of what are you afraid?
Come, whatsoever ’tis let me it know.
       345Mother, said he, ’tis not to you unknown,
When we took Thebe, and had brought away
The captives and the riches of the town,
Chryseis fell t’ Atrides for his prey.
And how her father Chryses came to th’ fleet
       350With ransom great his daughter to redeem,
And having in his hands the ensigns meet
Which did his priestly dignity beseem,
A golden sceptre and a crown of bays,
Unto the princes all made his request.
       355But to the two Atrides chiefly prays,
Who of the Argive army were the best.
O sons of Atreus, may the Gods grant you
A safe return from Troy with victory;
And you on me compassion may shew,
       360Receive these gifts, and set my daughter free;
And have respect to Jove’s and Leto’s son.
To this the princes all gave their consent,
Except King Agamemnon. He alone,
And with sharp language from the fleet him sent.
       365Away the old man goes, and as he went,
Against the Greeks he to Apollo pray’d;
Who heard him, and the plague amongst them sent,
Which daily multitudes of them destroy’d.
Of which the prophet, being ask’d the cause,
       370Said, ’twas for th’ injury to Chryses done.
I mov’d to send her back. Then angry was
Atrides, though beside Atrides, none.
And though he too has sent her now away,
Yet what he threaten’d he has brought to pass.
       375His officers from me have forc’d my prey,
And Agamemnon now Briseis has.
And now, if ever, let me have your aid,
If you have holpen Jove with word or deed;
(For in my father’s house you oft have said,
       380That heretofore you stood him in great stead,
When other Gods to bind him had decreed,
Juno and Neptune, Pallas and the rest,
You to him came and from his bonds him freed.
For up you fetch’d Briareus, the best
       385Of Titans all, whom men Ægæon call,
The gods Briareus, with a hundred hands,
And set him next to Jove. No God at all
Then durst to Jupiter approach with bonds);
Put Jove in mind of this, and him intreat
       390The Trojan hands to fortify in fight,
And to repel the Greeks with slaughter great,
That in their goodly king they may delight,
And Agamemnon count what he hath won
By doing such dishonour to the best
       395Of th’ Argives, and that has such service done.
Ay me, said Thetis, would you could here rest
Unhurt, ungriev’d. For I have born you to
Short life. And not far from you is your fate.
And grievous ’tis to be dishonour’d too.
       400But I to Jove will all you say relate
When I go to Olympus. Till then stay,
And angry though you are, from war forbear.
To blackmoor-land the Gods went yesterday,
And twelve days hence again they will be there.
       405This said, the Goddess went away, and left
Her son Achilles with his anger striving,
For that he had been of his prize bereft.
And then Ulysses at the port arriving
Of Chryse, first his sails he furl’d, and stow’d
       410Them on the deck together with the mast;
And with their oars their ship ashore they row’d,
And out their anchors threw; and ty’d her fast.
And on the beach the men descending laid
The victims in good order on the sand.
       415When this was done, they disembark’d the maid.
And then Ulysses took her by the hand,
And brought her to the altar, where the priest
Her father stood, and to him spake, and said,
O Chryses, see, Atrides hath dismiss’d
       420Your daughter, and this hecatomb hath paid.
By Agamemnon we are hither sent
The same to offer, and t’ Apollo pray,
That he accept it will, and be content
The sickness from the Greeks to take away.
       425This said, he put Chryseis to his hand,
And he with great contentment her receiv’d.
Then all with salt and barley ready stand,
And Chryses pray’d with hands to heaven upheav’d.
Hear me, Apollo, with the silver bow,
       430That dost in Tenedos and Cylla reign,
And heardst my pray’r against the Greeks; hear now,
And from them send the pestilence again.
When Chryses had thus to Apollo pray’d,
Then pray’d they all; and salt and barley threw
       435Upon the victims; which they kill’d and flay’d.
But from the altar first they them withdrew.
And then the thighs cut off they alit in twain,
And round about they cover them with fat,
And one part on the other laid again.
       440The priest himself came when they had done that,
And burnt them on a fire of cloven wood;
And as they burning were pour’d on black wine.
Young men with spits five-branched by them stood.
When burnt the thighs were for the pow’r divine,
       445And entrails eaten, the rest cut in joints
Before the fire they roasted skilfully,
Pierced through with the spits that had five points;
And took it up when roasted thoroughly.
When ended was their work, began the feast;
       450Where nothing wanting was of what was good.
And having thirst and hunger dispossest,
And filled with sweet wine the temp’rers stood.
Then round the cups were borne; and all day long
Sitting they celebrated Phœbus’ might,
       455And magnifi’d his goodness in sweet song,
And he in his own praises took delight.
But when the sun had borne away his light,
Upon the sands they laid them down to sleep.
And when again Aurora came in sight,
       460Again they launch their ship into the deep.
A good fore-wind Apollo with them sent.
Then with her breast the ship the water tore
(Which by her down on both sides roaring went)
And soon arrived at the Trojan shore.
       465And there they drew her up again to land,
And ev’ry man went which way he thought best.
Achilles yet not able to command
The anger that still boiled in his breast,
No longer would the Greeks at council meet,
       470Nor with them any more to battle come;
But sullen sat before his tent and fleet,
Wishing to see the Argives beaten home.
Twelve times the sun had risen now and set,
The Gods t’ Olympus all returned were;
       475Thetis her son’s complaints did not forget,
But up she carried them to Jupiter.
Upon the highest top alone sat he
Of the great many-headed hill, and laid
One hand on’s breast, th’ other on his knee.
       480And in that posture thus unto him said,
O father Jove, if for you I have done
Service at any time by word or deed,
Repay it now I pray you to my son,
Whom Agamemnon hath dishonoured.
       485Short time the Fates have given him to life.
Atrides taken from him hath his prey.
Now victory unto the Trojans give
Till Agamemnon for his fault shall pay.
Thus prayed she. But Jove made no reply.
       490Nor took she off her hands; but pray’d anew;
O Jove, my prayer grant me, or deny,
That I may know what power I have in you.
Then Jove much grieved, spake to her, and said,
’Twixt me and Juno ’twill a quarrel make.
       495For she before the Gods will me upbraid,
When she shall know the Trojans’ part I take.
But go, lest she observe what you do here.
I’ll give a nod to all that you have spoken,
That you may safely trust to and not fear.
       500A nod from me is an unfailing token.
This said, with his black brows he to her nodded,
Wherewith displayed were his locks divine;
Olympus shook at stirring of his Godhead;
And Thetis from it jump’d into the brine,
       505And Jupiter unto his house went down.
The Gods arose and waited on him thither:
But unto Juno it was not unknown
That he and Thetis had conferr’d together,
Who presently to Jove her husband went,
       510And angry him rebuk’d with language keen.
You that still in my absence tricks invent,
What God hath with you now in counsel been?
Though unto me you hate to tell your mind.
Juno, said Jove, you must not hope to hear
       515All whatsoe’er it be, I have design’d.
But what I mean shall come unto the ear
Of all the Gods, you first of all shall know.
But what from all together I shall hide
Ask me no more, I will not tell you, though
       520My wife you be. Juno then thus repli’d.
Harsh Chronides, what words of yours are these!
To ask you questions I’ll henceforth forbear,
And quietly let you do what you please.
But one thing I must tell you that I fear.
       525Thetis, I fear, has gotten your consent,
For her son’s sake the Argives to oppress.
Suspect you can, said Jove, but not prevent,
Which doth but give me cause to love you less.
Though it be true, ’twas I would have it so.
       530Therefore sit still and do as I would have you.
Lest when my mighty hands about you go,
Nor all the other Gods in heav’n shall save you.
Then Juno silent sat with grief and fear;
And all the Gods i’ th’ house of Jove did grieve.
       535But Vulcan, the renoun’d artificer,
Stood up his mother Juno to relieve.
O what will this come to at last, said he,
If you for mortals thus shall be at odds!
The tumult than the cheer will greater be.
       540What pleasure can this be unto the Gods?
And though my mother wiser be than I,
Yet thus much I’ll not doubt her to advise,
That with my father’s will she would comply,
That no such quarrel may hereafter rise.
       545For by the roots he can the world pluck up.
Therefore I pray you mother speak him fair;
He’ll soon be pleas’d. Then filled he a cup
Of nectar sweet, and bore it to her chair;
And to her said, mother, I pray you hold,
       550And do no more my father’s choler move.
If you be beaten I shall but behold,
And grieve I am not strong enough for Jove.
I would have helpt you once, when by the foot
He threw me down to Lemnos from the sky.
       555All the day long I was a falling to’t,
Where more than half dead taken up was I.
And there by th’ Sincians I was taken up.
When Vulcan had his history told out,
His mother on him smil’d, and took the cup,
       560 And to the Gods he nectar bore about.
And then the Gods laught all at once outright
To see the lame and sooty Vulcan skink.
And all the day from morning unto night
Ambrosia they eat, and nectar drink.
       565 Apollo played, and alternately
The Muses to him sung. When night was come,
Then gently Sleep solicited each eye,
And to his house each God departed home.
And Jupiter went up unto the bed
       570 Where he at other times was wont to lie
When sleep came on him, and laid down his head
To take repose; and Juno lay him by.

This work was published before January 1, 1923, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.