The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 22

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

CHAPTER XXII.

THE BATTLE AT THE RIVER.

Thus did Achilles go again into the battle, eager above all things to meet with Hector and to slay him.

But Apollo stood by Æneas, and spake to him, "Æneas, where are now thy boastings that thou wouldst meet Achilles face to face?"

Then Æneas answered: "Nay, I have stood up against him in the day when he took the town of Lyrnessus. But I fled before him, and only my nimble feet saved me from falling by his spear. Surely a god is ever with him, making his spear to fly aright."

Him Apollo answered again: "Thou, too, art the son of a goddess, and thy mother is greater than his, for she is but a daughter of the Sea. Drive straight at him with thy spear, and let not his threats dismay thee."

Then Æneas stood out from the press to meet Achilles, and Achilles said: "Fightest thou with me because thou hopest to reign over the men of Troy, or have they given thee a choice portion of ground, ploughland and orchard, to be thine when thou hast slain me? Thou wilt not find it easy. Dost thou not remember how thou fleddest before me in the day that I took Lyrnessus?"

Then Æneas answered: "Think not to terrify me with words, son of Peleus, for I, too, am the son of a goddess. Let us make trial one of the other."

Then he cast his spear, and it struck the shield of Achilles with so dreadful a sound that the hero feared lest it should pierce it through, knowing not that the gifts of the gods are not easy for mortal man to vanquish. Two folds, indeed, it pierced, that were of bronze, but in the gold it was stayed, and there were yet two of tin within. Then Achilles cast his spear. Through the shield of Æneas it passed, and though it wounded him not, yet was he sore dismayed, so near it came. Then Achilles drew his sword, and rushed on Æneas, and Æneas caught up a great stone to cast at him. But it was not the will of the gods that Æneas should perish, seeing that he and his sons after him should rule over the men of Troy in the ages to come. Therefore Poseidon lifted him up, and bore him over the ranks of men to the left of the battle, but first he drew the spear out of the shield, and laid it at the feet of Achilles. Much the hero marvelled to see it, crying: "This is a great wonder that I behold with mine eyes. For I see my spear before me, but the man whom I sought to slay I see not. Of a truth Æneas spake truth, saying that he was dear to the immortal gods."

Then he rushed into the battle, slaying as he went. And Hector would have met him, but Apollo stood by him, and said, "Fight not with Achilles, lest he slay thee." Therefore he went back among the men of Troy. Many did Achilles slay, and among them Polydorus, son of Priam, who, because he was the youngest and very dear, his father suffered not to go to the battle. Yet he went, in his folly, and being very swift of foot, he trusted in his speed, running through the foremost of the fighters. But as he ran, Achilles smote him, and wounded him to the death. When Hector saw it, he could not bear any more to stand apart. Therefore he rushed at Achilles, and Achilles rejoiced to see him, saying, "This is the man who slew my comrade." And to Hector he cried, "Come hither, and taste of death."

And Hector made answer: "Son of Peleus, seek not to make me afraid with words. For though I be weaker than thou, yet victory lieth on the knees of the gods, and I, too, bear a spear."

Then he cast his spear; but Athené turned it aside with her breath, and laid it again at his feet. And when Achilles leapt upon Hector with a shout, Apollo snatched him away. Three times did Achilles leap upon him, and three times he struck only the mist. But the fourth time he cried with a terrible voice, "Dog, thou hast escaped from death, Apollo helping thee; but I shall meet thee again, and make an end of thee."

Then Achilles turned to the others, and slew multitudes of them, so that they fled, some across the plain, and some to the river, the eddying Xanthus. And these leapt into the water as locusts leap into a river when a fire which men light drives them from the fields. And all the river was full of horses and men. Then Achilles leapt into the stream, leaving his spear on the bank, resting on the tamarisk trees. Only his sword had he, and with this he slew many; and they were as fishes which fly from some great dolphin in the sea. In all the bays of a harbour they hide themselves, for the great beast devours them apace. So did the Trojans hide themselves under the banks of the river. And when Achilles was weary of slaying, he took twelve alive, whom he would slay on the tomb of Patroclus.

Then met he with a son of Priam, Lycaon by name, whom he had taken captive before. He had found him in his father's vineyard, making the rims of a chariot from a wild fig-tree trunk, and sold him across the sea to Lemnos. There a friend ransomed him for a goodly price; so he came again to his father's house. For eleven days he feasted with his comrades, and on the twelfth went forth to the battle. Thus did Fate put him again into the hands of Achilles.

Then Achilles said: "This is a wonder that I see. The Trojans whom I sold across the sea come back. Now shall this man taste of my spear, and I will mark whether he shall return again from below the earth, from the place that holdeth the mighty fast."

But when he lifted his spear, Lycaon ran beneath it, and caught him by the knees, and prayed, saying, "Slay me not, I beseech thee, but take ransom for my life, for though I be Priam's son, I am not own brother to Hector that slew thy friend."

But Achilles would have no pity, but slew him, and taking the body by the foot, cast it into the river, saying, "Lie there and feed the fishes; no mother shall lay thee on a bed, and make lamentation over thee."

Then next there met him Asteropæus, who was the grandson of the river-god Axius, and led the men of Pæonia. And Achilles wondered to see him, and said, "Who art thou, that standest against me?"

And he said, "I am the grandson of the river-god Axius, fairest of all the streams on the earth, and I lead the men of Pæonia."

And as he spake he cast two spears, one with each hand, for he could use either alike; and the one struck the shield, nor pierced it through, for the gold stayed it, and the other grazed the right hand so that the blood spurted forth. Then did Achilles cast his spear, but missed his aim, and the great spear stood fast in the bank. And thrice Asteropæus strove to draw it forth. Thrice he strove in vain, and the fourth time he strove to break the spear. But as he strove Achilles smote him that he died. Yet had he some glory, for that he wounded the great Achilles.