Tragedies of Euripides (Way)/Rhesus
When Hector and the Trojans, as Homer telleth in the Eighth book of his Iliad, had driven the Greeks from before Troy back to their camp beside the sea, the host of Troy lay for that night in the plain overagainst them. And the Trojans sent forth Dolon a spy to know what the Greeks were minded to do. But there went forth also two spies from the camp of the Greeks, even Odysseus and Diomedes, and these met Dolon and slew him, after that he had told them in his fear all that they would know of the array of the Trojans, and of the coming of their great ally, Rhesus the Thracian, the son of a Goddess. And herein is told of the coming of the Thracian king, and of all that befell that night in the camp of the Trojans.
Hector, captain of the host of Troy.
Aeneas, a Trojan chief.
Dolon, a Trojan.
Rhesus, king of Thrace, son of the Muse Terpsichorê.
Odysseus, a crafty Greek.
Diomedes, a valiant Greek.
Athena, a Goddess.
Paris, named also Alexander, a Trojan, son of Priam.
Charioteer of Rhesus.
The Muse Terpsichorê, mother of Rhesus.
Chorus, consisting of sentinels of the Trojan army.
Guards of Hector, Soldiers of the Thracian army.
Scene:—In the camp of Troy, before Hector's tent.
Enter Chorus marching to Hector's tent, before which stand guards.
Ho, pass to the couch of Hector your lord,
Ye watchful henchmen that guard his sleep,
If perchance he will hearken our tidings, the word
Of them through the night's fourth watch that keep
The wide war-host safe-fenced with the spear.
Ho! raise thine head on thine arm upstaying;
Unseal thine eyes, the battle-dismaying:
Leap from thine earth-strewn leaf-bed sere,
Hector: 'tis time to hear. 10
Enter Hector from the tent.
Who cometh?—the voice of a friend?—what wight?
The watchword give. Speak thou!
Who are ye that draw nigh in the hours of the night
To my couch? Ye must answer now.
Why then this affright?
Is an ambush of darkness on us?
Why then hast forsaken thus
Thy watch, and uprousest the host, if thou bring
No tidings? Knowest thou not how nigh 20
To the Argive spears lie slumbering
Our ranks in their battle-panoply?
Nay, but with armed hand, Hector, speed
Hence to thine allies' resting-place:
Rouse them from slumber, and bid upraise
Spears: let a friend to thy war-band run.
Bit ye and bridle the chariot-steed.
Who will go for us to Panthoüs' son,
Or Europa's, the chief of the Lycian array?
Where be the choosers of victims to bleed? 30
And the captains of dartmen, where be they?
Archers of Phrygia, let sinews be slipped
O'er the notches, to strain the bows horn-tipt!
In part dost thou bring to us tidings of dread,
In part of good cheer; nought plainly is said.
Hath Zeus' son Pan with the Scourge of Quaking
Struck thee, that thus thy watch forsaking
Thou startlest the host? What meaneth thy clamour?
What tidings are thine? In thy panic-stammer
Of thronging words is a riddle unread. 40
Argos' array is with balefires aglow,
Hector, enkindled the livelong night;
And the lines of their galleys with torches are bright.
And with tumult to king Agamemnon's tent
Streaming their warrior-thousands go:
"Thy behest!" they cry: they are vehement.
Never in such wise heretofore
Scared was the sea-borne host of the foe.
So—for I doubted what time hath in store—
Bearing my tidings to thee I came, 50
That with thee I be henceforth clear of blame.
Timely thou com'st, though thou dost herald fear.
Yon men are minded to flee forth the land
With darkling oar, escaping so my ken:
Their beacons of the night flash this to me. 55
Ah Fortune, that thou shouldst in triumph's hour
Rob of his prey the lion, ere my spear
With one swoop make an end of Argos' host!
For, had the sun's bright torches not been quenched,
I had not stayed the triumph of my spear 60
Ere I had burnt their ships, swept through their tents,
Slaying Achaians with this death-fraught hand.
Afire was I to press on with the spear
By night, take heaven-sent fortune at the flood;
But your wise seers, which know the mind of God, 65
Persuaded me to wait the dawn of day,
And leave then no Achaian on dry land.
But the foe—they for my soothsayers' rede
Wait not: in darkness runaways wax in might!
Swift must we speed our summons through the host 70
To grasp their ready arms, to shake off sleep,
That some—yea, as aboard their ships they spring,—
With backs spear-scored may stain their gangways red,
And others, bondmen snared in coiling cords,
May learn to till the glebe of Phrygian fields. 75
Hector, thy fiery haste outrunneth knowledge.
Whether they flee we know not certainly.
Why then should Argos' host set fires ablaze?
I know not: yet mine heart misgives me much.
If this thou dread, then know thyself all fears! 80
Such blaze our foes ne'er kindled heretofore.
Nor ever knew such shameful rout as this.
This thou achievedst: see thou to the rest.
'Gainst foes one watchword shall suffice—to arm.
Lo, where Aeneas comes in hot-foot haste, 85
As one that beareth tidings to his friends.
Enter Aeneas, Dolon, and others.
Hector, for what cause through the host have come
Darkling unto thy couch scared sentinels,
Startling the host, for nightly communing?
Aeneas, in war-harness case thy limbs. 90
What meaneth this? Is stealthy ambuscade
Of foes 'neath darkness' screen announced afoot?
Our enemies flee: even now they board their ships.
What certain proof hereof hast thou to tell?
All through the night they kindle flaming brands: 95
Yea, and methinks they will not wait the morn,
But, burning torches on the fair-benched ships,
In homeward flight will get them from this land.
And thou, with what intent dost arm thine hand?
Even as they flee, and leap upon their decks, 100
My spear shall stay them and mine onset crush.
Shameful it were, and dastardly withal,
When God to us gives unresisting foes,
After such mischiefs wrought to let them flee.
Would that thy prudence matched thy might of hand! 105
So is it: one man cannot be all-wise,
But diverse gifts to diverse men belong—
Prowess to thee, to others prudent counsel.
Thou hear'st of these fire-beacons, leap'st to think
The Achaians flee, dost pant to lead thine host 110
Over the trenches in the hush of night.
Yet if, the foss's yawning chasm crossed,
Thou find the foemen not in act to flee
The land, but set to face thy spear, beware
Lest, vanquished, thou return not unto Troy. 115
How shall we pass in rout their palisades?
How shall thy charioteers the causeways cross
And shatter not the axles of the cars?
Though victor, thou must still meet Peleus' son,
Who will not suffer thee to fire the ships, 120
Nor take the Achaians captive, as thou hop'st—
That man of fire, in valour a very tower.
Nay, leave we sleeping under shield in peace
Our host, at rest from travail of the strife.
I counsel, send to spy upon the foe 125
Whoso will go, and, if they purpose flight,
Forth let us charge, and fall on Argos' host.
But if these beacons lure us to a snare,
We from the spy our foes' devices learn,
And so confer: this is my mind, O King. 130
Even such is my mind; be it thine, from thy mood be thou swayed;
For I love not behests of captains that bring but a snare.
Now what thing better than this shall our emprise aid
Than to send forth a scout who anigh to the galleys shall fare
Swift-footed, and learn why comes it that, where be arrayed 135
The prows of the galleys, the fires of the foemen glare?
So be it, since ye all be in one mind.
Go, still our allies: haply shall the host,
Hearing of our night-council, be aroused.
I will send one to spy upon the foe. 140
If aught we learn of any stratagem,
Thou shalt hear all, shalt know and share our counsel.
But if now flightward they be hastening,
Watch thou, expecting aye the trumpet's call.
I will not tarry, but with Argos' host 145
This night will clash beside their launching-ways.
Send with all speed: safe now is thine intent.
Me shalt thou find a strenuous help at need.
Who of you Trojans present at our speech
Consents to go, a spy on Argos' fleet? 150
Who will be benefactor of this land?
Who answers?—not in everything can I
My native city and her allies serve.
I for my land consent to dare the risk,
And go a spy unto the Argive ships; 155
And, all their counsels learnt, will I return.
On one condition will I face the task.
Well-named art thou, O lover of thy land,
Dolon: thy sire's house, glorious heretofore,
Is now of thee made doubly glorious. 160
Then must I toil—but for my toil receive
Fit guerdon; for each deed that hath reward
Assigned it, is with double pleasure done.
Yea, just thy claim is; I gainsay it not.
Fix any guerdon, save my royal power. 165
Thy burden of royalty I covet not.
A child of Priam wed, become my kinsman.
No bride for me of folk too high for me!
Ready lies gold, if thou wilt ask this meed.
That have I in mine halls: not wealth I lack. 170
What wouldst thou then of treasures Ilium hoards?
Pledge me my gift, if thou destroy the foe.
I will give. Ask aught save their chiefs for thralls.
Slay them: not Menelaus' life I ask.
Sure, thou wouldst ask not of me Oïleus' son? 175
Ill at field-toil be dainty-nurtured hands.
Whom of the Greeks wouldst hold to ransom then?
Erewhile I said it—gold my halls lack not.
Then come, and of the spoils make choice thyself.
These to the Gods hang thou on temple-walls. 180
What greater guerdon canst thou ask than these?
Achilles' horses. He for worthy meed
Must toil, who sets his life on fortune's hazard.
Ha! steeds I covet dost thou covet too,
For, foals immortal of immortal sires, 185
They bear the battle-eager Peleus' son.
These King Poseidon, even the Sea-god, tamed,
Men say, and gave them unto Peleus' seed.
Yet will I cheat not hopes I raised, but give
Achilles' team, a glory to thine house. 190
I thank thee: so I win them, goodliest prize
Mid Phrygia's thousands is my valour's guerdon.
Be thou not envious: countless things beside
Shall make thee glad, the ruler of the land.
Great thine emprise is, and great the reward thou dost claim;
So thou mayst but attain thereunto, high bliss shalt thou know.
Verily this thine adventure is fraught with fame.
Yet, to wed with a princess!—glory had this been, I trow.
For the Gods' part, even let Justice look to the same:
But for men—never guerdon more perfect may man bestow. 200
Now will I go: to mine own halls I pass,
To clothe me in such garb as best befits.
Thence will I speed my feet to Argos' ships.
Say, wilt thou don aught save the attire thou hast?
Yea, such as fits my work, my stealthy steps. 205
Behoves that from the crafty craft we learn.
Say, what shall be the vesture of thy limbs?
Over my back a wolfskin will I draw,
And the brute's gaping jaws shall frame mine head:
Its forefeet will I fasten to my hands, 210
Its legs to mine: the wolf's fourfooted gait
I'll mimic, baffling so our enemies,
While near the trench and pale of ships I am:
But whenso to a lone spot come my feet,
Two-footed will I walk: my ruse is this. 215
Now kindly speed thee Hermes, Maia's son,
Thither and back, prince of the guileful he!
Thou know'st thy work: thou needest but good speed.
Return I shall, with slain Odysseus' head
To show thee,—when thou hast this token sure, 220
"Dolon," shalt thou say, "reached the Argive ships,"—
Or Tydeus' son's head. Not with bloodless hand
Will I win home ere dawn rise o'er the earth.
O King Thymbræan, O Delian Lord, O haunter of Lycia's fane,
O sunlit brow, with thy bow do thou, Apollo, this night draw near:
To our hero's perilous mission be guide and saviour, and O maintain, 230
Almighty helper, our cause, who of old didst the ramparts of Troy uprear.
May he win to the galleys and enter the host of Hellas, and spy out their deeds,
And home return to the altars that burn in his father's halls unto thee:
And, when Hector hath harried Achaia's array, may he drive the Phthian steeds,
The steeds that on Peleus, Aiakus' son, were bestowed by the Lord of the Sea. 240
Forasmuch as for home and for fatherland alone he hath dared to go
Thither, and gaze on the fencèd place, on the camp of the Hellene ships,
His hardihood I extol,—of such heroes but few shall be found, I trow,
When the sun in the sea sinks stormily, and the state's prow heavily dips.
There is, there is mid the Phrygians found a hero!—our prowess shall glow 250
Mid the clash of the spears:—at our help who sneers, save the envious Mysian lips?
What chieftain Achaian shall he, as with death in his hand he prowls to and fro,
As in shape of a brute of fourfold foot e'er the darkling earth he steals,
Stab mid the tents?—may he slay Menelaus, and lay Agamemnon low,
Yea, bear the head of the war-king dead, and, loud as her shriek outpeals,
Lay it in Helen's hands—the head of her kinsman who worked us woe, 260
Who sailed to the strand of Troy's fair land with array of a thousand keels.
Re-enter Hector. Enter Shepherd as Messenger.
King, still through days to come be it mine to bear
Such tidings to my lords as now I bring! 265
Dull-witted oft the spirits are of clowns.
Thou com'st, meseems, to place that ill befits,
With tidings of thy flocks to warring lords.
Know'st not my mansion, or my father's throne?
Thither shouldst thou bear word of flocks' increase. 270
Dull-witted are we clowns, I gainsay not:
Yet none the less I bring thee welcome news.
Forbear to tell me how the sheep-pens thrive.
Battles have we in hand, and brandish spears.
Even such the tidings are wherewith I come. 275
A warrior captaining a countless host
Draws nigh,—thy friend, and this land's war-ally.
Leaving what country's plains untenanted?
Thrace: and he bears the name of Strymon's son.
Rhesus! Doth he set foot in Troy, say'st thou? 280
Even so: thou lightenest half my speech's load.
Why journeyeth he to Ida's pasture-lands,
Swerving from yon broad highway o'er the plain?
I know not certainly: one may divine.
Wise strategy was his to march by night, 285
Hearing how foeman-bands beset the plains.
Yet us, the hinds who dwell on Ida's slopes,
The immemorial cradle of your race,
His night-faring through woods beast-haunted scared.
For with loud shouts the on-surging Thracian host 290
Marched; and in panic-struck amaze we drove
Our flocks to ridges, lest of the Argives some
Were drawing nigh, to harry and to spoil
Thy folds, till accents fell upon our ears
Of no Greek tongue, and so we ceased from dread. 295
Then, drawing nigh, their chieftain's vanward scouts
I questioned in the Thracian speech, and asked
Who and whose son their captain was, that marched
Troyward, as war-ally to Priam's sons.
And, having heard whate'er I craved to know, 300
I stood still, and saw Rhesus, like a God,
Towering upon his Thracian battle-wain.
Golden the yoke-beam was that linked the necks
Of car-steeds gleaming whiter than the snow.
Upon his shoulders his gold-blazoned targe 305
Flashed: a bronze Gorgon, as on Pallas' shield,
Upon the frontlet of his horses bound,
Clanging with many a bell clashed forth dismay.
The number of his host thou couldst not sum
In strict account—eye could not measure it. 310
Many a knight, long lines of targeteers,
And archers multitudinous, and a swarm
Of dartmen passed, accoutred Thracian-wise.
Such warrior is at hand for Troy's ally
As Peleus' son shall not prevail to escape, 315
Fleeing or biding onset of the spear.
When to our burghers heaven lends present aid,
Down-gliding to success fleets Fortune's stream.
Ha, many a friend shall I find, now my spear
Is triumphing, and Zeus is on our side! 320
But need we have none of such as in days past
Shared not our toil, when Ares buffeting
With mighty blast was rending this land's sails.
Then Rhesus showed what friend he was to Troy.
To the feast he comes, who came not to the hunters 325
With help of spear, what time they took the prey.
Rightly dost thou contemn and blame such friends:
Yet welcome them that fain would help our Troy.
Enough are we, who warded Ilium long.
Art sure thou hast even now destroyed the foe? 330
Sure: this the splendour of coming dawn shall prove.
Beware the future: oft doth fortune veer.
I hate to come with help to friends o'erlate:—
Yet, since he hath come, not as our ally,
But guest, unto our table let him come. 335
The sons of Priam owe no thanks to him.
King, hate were bred of allies thrust away.
His mere appearing should dismay our foes.
Well counsellest thou—thou too dost see aright.
This golden-mailèd Rhesus then shall come, 340
According to thy word, our land's ally.
Nemesis, child of the Highest,
My lips from presumption refrain;
For the thoughts to mine heart that are nighest
Shall ring through my pæan-strain.
Thou hast come, O River-god's son, to our land!
Welcome to Phrygia's palace-gate,
Whom thy mother Pierian hath sent so late
From the river with goodly bridges spanned, 350
Even Strymon, whose waterbreaks eddied
'Twixt the breasts of the Queen of Song,
That the maid with the River-god wedded
Bare thee, young champion and strong.
Thou art come to me, manifest Zeus, borne high
O'er thy silver-flecked horses! O fatherland mine,
Lo, Phrygia, a saviour!—acclaim him for thine
By the Gods' grace:—"Zeus my deliverer!" cry.
Shall she ever again, our ancient Troy, 360
See the sun go down on the revel's joy,
While the songs that extol sweet love are pealing,
While feaster to feaster the wine-challenge crieth,
As circles the cup, and the brain is reeling,
While the Atreïds' sail o'er the dark sea flieth
From Troy low down in the offing that lieth?
O friend, mayest thou with thine arm and thy spear
To help me in this my need appear,
And return safe home from thy glory here!
Come thou, appear, thy buckler upraise: 370
Be its gold-sheen flashed in Achilles' face
As it gleameth athwart the chariot-railing,
As thou speedest thy steeds on thunderous-prancing
At the foe from thy spear's forked lightning quailing.
None, who hath braved thee in fury advancing,
Upon Argive lawn unto Hera dancing
Shall stand, but here shall the corpse of him slain
Lie, by the Thracians' doom of bane,
To cumber the soil of its load full fain.
Enter Rhesus in his chariot, with Thracian guard.
Hail, great King, hail!—O Thrace, of thy scions 380
The glory is this—true prince to behold!
Mark ye the strong limbs lapped in gold:
Heard ye the bells clash proud defiance,
As their tongues from his buckler-handles tolled?
'Tis a God, Troy! Ares' self is there,
This Strymon's son, whom the Song-queen bare!
Bringing times of refreshing to thee doth he fare.
Brave son of brave sire, prince of this land, hail,
Hector! I greet thee after many days.
I joy in thy good speed, who see thee camped 390
Nigh the foes' towers. I come to help thee raze
Their ramparts, and to fire their galleys' hulls.
Son of the Songful Mother, of the Muse,
And Thracian Strymon's flood, I love to speak
The truth: no man am I of double tongue. 395
Long, long since shouldest thou have come to aid
This land, nor suffered, for all help of thine,
That Troy should stoop 'neath spears of Argive foes.
Thou canst not say thou cam'st not to thy friends,
Nor visitedst for their help, for lack of bidding. 400
What Phrygian herald, or what ambassage,
Came not with instant prayer for help to Troy?
What splendour of gifts did we not send to thee?
Alien from Greece as we, our countryman,
To Greeks didst thou betray us, all thou couldst. 405
Yet thee from petty lordship made I great,
Yea, king of all the Thracians, with this arm,
When round Pangaius and Paionia's land
In battle-brunt on Thracian chiefs I fell,
Shattered their shield, and gave their folk to thee 410
In thrall. This grace thou hast trodden under foot,
And laggard com'st to help afflicted friends,
While they that are in no wise kin to us 
Have long been here; and some in grave-mounds lie
Slain,—no mean loyalty to our city this,— 415
Some yet in arms beside their battle-cars
Abide, enduring hardness—chilly blast
And the sun's glare throat-parching, not on beds,
Like thee, with pledge of many a long deep draught.
Thus, that thou mayst know Plector's plain blunt mood, 420
I blame thee, and I speak it to thy face.
Even such am I: no devious track of words
I follow: no man I of double tongue.
I for my absence from this land was vexed,
Chafing with grief of heart, far more thou. 425
But Scythia's folk, whose frontiers march with mine,
Even as I set forward, Troyward bound,
Made war on me; by this I had reached the shores
Of Euxine, with my Thracian host to cross.
There upon Scythia's soil great blood-gouts dripped 430
From spears, of Thracian slaughter blent with Scythian.
Such was the chance that barred my journeying
To Troyland's plains to be thy battle-aid.
I smote them, took their sons for hostages,
Set them a yearly tribute to mine house, 435
Straight sailed across the sea-gorge, and am here.
I passed afoot the borders of thy land,
Not, as thou proudly tauntest, with deep draughts
Of wine, nor lying soft in golden halls:
But what the icy storm-blasts are that sweep 440
Paionian steppes and Thracian sea, I learnt
By sleepless suffering, wrapped but in this cloak.
Late is my coming, timely none the less;
For ten full years hast thou been warring now,
Yet hast achieved nought, dost from day to day 445
Against the Argives cast the dice of war.
But for me one sun's dawning shall suffice
To storm their towers, to fall upon their fleet,
And slay the Achaians. So, thy toils cut short,
From Ilium on the morrow home I pass. 450
Of you let no man lift in hand a shield:
I ruining with my spear will still the vaunts
Of yon Achaians, howso late I come.
(Str. to Ant. 820—832).
Hail to thee! welcome thy shout is, our champion from Zeus and our friend!
Only may Zeus the most highest forgive thee thy vaunt, and defend
Thee from the malice of jealousy, her with whom none may contend!
Never the galleys of Argos, aforetime nor late, to our land 460
Brought mid the hosts of their heroes a champion so mighty of hand.
How shall Achilles or Aias thy battle-spear's lightning withstand?
O that I also may live to behold it, the on-coming day!
O to behold it, thy vengeance triumphant, when lifted to slay
Flasheth the lance in thine hand, spreading havoc through Hellas' array!
Such deeds will I, for my long absence' sake,
Perform for thee. So Nemesis say not nay,
When we have freed this city of foes, and thou
Hast chosen triumph's firstfruits for the Gods, 470
Then will I march with thee to Argive land,
Swoop down, and waste all Hellas with the spear,
That they in turn may learn what suffering means.
If I, delivered from this imminent curse,
Might sway a city as of old secure, 475
Then were my soul all thankfulness to heaven.
But, for thy talk of Argos and the meads
Of Hellas, these shall no spear lightly waste.
These that have come, are they not named her best?
Nor I misprize them, who can scarce repel. 480
Then is not all achieved when these are slain?
Gaze not afar, neglecting things at hand.
Thou seem'st content to suffer unavenged!
My realms be wide enow, though here I stay.
But thou—upon the left wing or the right, 485
Or centre of our allies, mayst thou plant
Thy buckler, and array thy battle-line.
Hector, alone I fain would fight the foe.
Yet, if thou think shame not to help to fire
The ship-sterns, after all thy toils o'erpast, 490
Post me to face Achilles and his host.
'Gainst him one cannot lift the eager spear.
Yet rumour ran that he too sailed to Troy.
He sailed, and he is here; but, being wroth
With fellow-chieftains, lifteth not the spear. 495
Who next him in their host hath high renown?
Aias I count no whit outdone by him,
And Tydeus' son; and that glib craftiest knave
Odysseus—yet, for courage, brave enow,
And chief of mischief-workers to this land, 500
Who came by night unto Athena's fane,
Her image stole, and bare to Argos' ships.
In vile attire but now, in beggar's guise,
He passed our gate-towers: loudly did he curse
The Argives, he, their spy to Ilium sent! 505
He slew the guards, the warders of the gates,
And stole forth. Aye in ambush is he found
By the Thymbræan altars nigh the town
Lurking—a foul pest he to wrestle with!
No man of knightly soul doth deign by stealth 510
To slay his foe; he meets him face to face.
This man who skulks, thou sayest, like a thief,
And weaves his plots, him will I take alive,
And at your gates' outgoings set him up
Impaled, a feast for vultures heavy-winged. 515
Robber and rifler of the shrines of Gods,
Meet is it that he die by such a doom!
Encamp ye now and rest, for it is night.
A spot myself will show thee, where thine host
Must pass the night, apart from our array. 520
"Phœbus" the watchword is, if need arise:
Remember it, and tell thy Thracian host.
(To the Chorus.) Ye must go forth in front of all our lines:
Watch keenly, and our spy upon the ships,
Dolon, receive; for, if he be unharmed, 525
By this he draweth nigh the camp of Troy.
(Exeunt Hector and Rhesus.)
Ho, warders, to whom is the next watch given?
Whose warding followeth mine?
For the stars that were high in the evening sky are setting: uprisen ye see
The Pleiads seven: in the midst of heaven the Eagle's broad wings shine. 530
Ho, comrades, awake from your slumber! Why do ye linger? Hither to me!
Ho ye, ho ye, from your couches leap, for the sentinel-tramp appear!
Do ye see not afar where the silver car of the moon o'er the sea hangs low?
The dayspring cometh—break off your sleep, for the dawning is near, is near.
Lo there in the east where gleameth a star—'tis her harbinger: rouse ye, ho!
For whom was the night's first watch proclaimed?
.. . . . . . . .
For the scion of Mygdon, Korœbus named.
The Paionians roused the folk 540
Of Cilicia: us the Mysians woke.
High time is it then that we hasted to call
The Lycians; to them did the fifth watch fall,
When the lot to our stations assigned us all.
I hear, I hear—'tis the nightingale! The mother that slew her child—
As broodeth her wing o'er the fearful thing, the eternal murder-stain—
By Simoïs chanteth her heart-stricken wail ; the voice of her woe rings wild,
As passions a lute of many a string,—winged poet of hopeless pain! 550
Hark! flocks to the pasture are going: they bleat as they stray down Ida's brow.
And I hear it float through the night, the note of the pipe's ethereal cry.
And drowsihead with her witchery sweet is lulling mine eyelids now;
For to weary eyes she cometh, I wot, most dear when the dawn is nigh.
Why draweth not near unto us that scout
Whom Hector to spy on the fleet sent out?
Long stays he: there haunts me a fearful doubt.
Is he slain, think ye, in an ambuscade? 560
Manifest soon shall his fate be made.
I rede ye then that we haste to call
The Lycians: to them did the fifth watch fall
When the lot to our stations assigned us all.
Enter Odysseus and Diomedes.
Diomedes, heard'st thou not—or through mine ears 565
Thrills but an empty sound?—a clash of arms?
Nay, 'tis steel harness hung o'er chariot-rails
That rings. Through me too passed a shiver of fear,
Till I discerned the clank of horses' chains.
Beware thou light not darkling on their guards. 570
Even in darkness will I step with heed.
But, shouldst thou rouse them, knowest thou the watchword?
"Phœbus"—from Dolon's mouth I heard the word.
Ha! void of foes this bivouac I see!
Yet surely Dolon told us that here lay 575
Hector, against whom this my spear is trailed.
What means this? Is his troop elsewhither gone?
Perchance he frames 'gainst us a stratagem.
Ay, bold is Hector, now triumphant—bold!
What then, Odysseus, shall we do? The man 580
We find not on his couch: our hopes are foiled.
Return we to the ships' array in haste.
Some God, whoever giveth him good speed,
Shields him. 'Tis not for us to strive with fate.
Nay, on Aeneas fall we, or on Paris— 585
Of foes most hated,—and smite off their heads.
How in the dark, amidst a host of foes,
Unperilled wilt thou search, and slay these twain?
Yet base it were to hie to Argos' ships
With nought of mischief to the foe achieved. 590
Nothing achieved? Have we not slain the spy
Upon the galleys, Dolon? Have we not
His spoils? Look'st thou to ravage all their camp?
Hear me—return we; so good speed be ours.
Athena appears above the stage.
Ho! whither go ye, from the lines of Troy 595
Fleeing, with sorrow rankling in your hearts
That Fortune grants you not the life of Hector,
Nor Paris? Know ye not of this ally,
Rhesus, to Troy magnificently come?
If he live through this night until the dawn, 600
Him neither Aias' nor Achilles' spear
Shall stay from wasting all the Argive fleet,
Razing your ramparts, and within your gates
Making broad havoc of onslaught with his lance.
Slay him, and all is thine. But Hector's couch 605
Let be: spare thou to smite his head from him.
To him shall death come from another hand.
O Queen Athena—for I know the sound
Of thy familiar voice, since evermore
Beside me in my toils thou wardest me,— 610
Tell to us where this hero sleeping lies,
Where he is stationed in the alien host.
Here is he, nigh, not quartered with the host:
Hector to him assigned a resting-place
Without his lines, till night give place to day. 615
Hard by, his white steeds to his Thracian car
Are tethered: clear they gleam athwart the dark
As gleams the white wing of a river-swan.
These lead ye hence when ye have slain their lord,
Proud trophy for your halls: there is no land 620
That holdeth such a team of chariot-steeds.
Diomedes, either slay thou Thracia's folk,
Or leave to me, and thou the horses heed.
I will be slayer. Manage thou the steeds;
For versed art thou in craft, and keen of wit. 625
Best set each man where best his help avails.
Lo, yonder Alexander I discern
Draw nigh us. From some watchman hath he heard
A doubtful rumour of the approach of foes.
Or cometh he with others, or alone? 630
Alone. To Hector's couch, meseems, he fares,
To tell how spies upon the host be here.
Ought he not then to be the first to die?
Thou canst not overpass the doom of fate.
It may not be that by thine hand he die. 635
Haste thou against the man for whom thou bring'st
The slaughter-doom. To Paris will I seem
Kypris his friend, present to aid his toils,
And with false words will answer him I hate.
This have I told you: nought the doomed man knows, 640
Nor aught hath heard, for all he is so near.
[Exeunt Od. and Diom.
War-chief and brother, ho, to thee I call,
Hector! Dost sleep? Behoves thee not to watch?
Some foe to us is nigh unto the host—
Marauders they, or peradventure spies. 645
Fear not. I, Kypris, ward thee graciously.
I take thought for thy warfare, nor forget
Thine honour done me, and thy service thank.
And now, when triumpheth the host of Troy,
Leading to thee a mighty friend I come, 650
The Thracian scion of the Muse, the Queen
Of Song: he bears the name of Strymon's son.
Gracious art thou unto my city still,
And unto me. I trow I won for Troy
Life's goodliest treasure, judging thee most fair. 655
Vague rumour brought me hither: some report
Amongst the guard had risen of Argive spies
Even now at hand. One saith it that saw nought:
One saw them come, yet nothing more can tell.
Wherefore to Hector's resting-place I came. 660
Fear nothing: in the host no peril is.
Hector to quarter Thracia's host is gone.
Thou dost assure me: lo, I trust thy words.
And free of fear I go to guard my post.
Go: be thou sure that all thy care is mine, 665
That so triumphant I may see my friends.
Yea, and thou too shalt prove my zeal for thee.
Ho ye! I bid you, over-eager twain—
Laertes' son!—let sleep the whetted swords;
For at our feet dead lies the Thracian chief; 670
Our prize his steeds are. But the foe have heard,
And close on you. Now must ye with all speed
To yon ship-channels flee. Why linger ye,
When bursts the storm of foes, to save your lives?
Enter Odysseus followed by Chorus, tumultuously.
Ha, smite!—ha, smite!—ha, smite!—ha, smite!
Stab thou!—stab thou!—who is this wight?
Look ye on him—this fellow, I say!—
Marauders who under night's dark pall
Are startling our array!—
Hitherward, hitherward, all! 680
I have them caught in the grasp of mine hand!
(To Od.) What is thy troop?—whence art thou?—a man of what land?
Nought to thee is this!
For thou shalt die for evil wrought this day!
Tell the watchword, ere the spear unto thine heart have found the way!
Ha! and hast thou murdered Rhesus? 685
Nay, his would-be murderer, thee,
Odysseus (beckoning them off the stage).
Fear not, come hither.
Strike him! strike him! strike him, ye!
Hold, each man!
Nay, hold we will not!
Ho! let not a friend be slain!
What then is the watchword?
Right: his spear let each refrain.
Know'st thou whither went the men?
Sooth, somewhere we beheld them nigh.
Press, each man, upon their track! 690
Or shall we raise the 'larum cry?
[Odysseus slips away into the darkness.
Nay, 'twere perilous to scare with night-alarms a war-ally.
(They perceive Odysseus' absence.)
He is gone from us!—who was the man
Who shall vaunt of his aweless might?
Out of mine hands, lo, he ran—
Where on him now shall I light?
Unto whom shall I liken him—him, who with foot unafraid through the night
Passed ranks, passed many a sentinel-post?
A Thessalian is he?
Doth he dwell in a town that from Locris' coast
Looketh over the sea? 700
Liveth he mid the isles far-scattered that lie?
Who?—whence?—what fatherland-home doth he boast?
Of the Gods whom doth he confess most high?
Whose deed is this?—Odysseus' dark design?
Yea, if from his past deeds we may divine.
Ha, thinkest thou so?
Yea, how should I not?
A daring foe unto us, I wot!
Whose courage, what man, dost thou praise?
Odysseus the chief.
Praise not the prowess thou of a knavish thief!
He came in the days overpast 710
Unto Troy:—from his eyes rheum poured:
Rags round his body were cast:
'Neath his cloak was a hidden sword:
Like a vagabond varlet he prowled, begging crumbs from the feastful board,
With head overgrimed with foulness, and hair
As though the war-chiefs' foe he were,
The house he reviled—
The house of the Atreïd kings:—O meet,
O just should it be that he perish, ere 720
He trample Phrygia beneath his feet.
Whether Odysseus or another came,
I fear me: us the guards shall Hector blame,—
How blame us?
Shall speak his suspicion out,—
Of what deed? What is thy fearful doub ?
That even by us passed in—
What men?—say who!
They that this night to the Phrygian array won through.
Cry of Charioteer behind the scenes.
O heavy chance of fate! Woe's me! Woe's me!
Ha! Now hush ye all! Crouch low! Perchance one cometh to the snare. 730
Charioteer (behind scenes).
O the sore mischance to Thrace!
'Tis some ally that waileth there.
Enter Charioteer, wounded.
Woe's me! O King of Thracians, woe for thee!
O bitter sight of Troy to thee this day!
What end of life hath snatched thee hence away!
Who art thou?—what ally?—mine eyes the night
Makes dim: thee cannot I discern aright.
Where shall I light on a Trojan chief?
O where shall Hector be found of my quest
Slumbering yet in shield-fenced rest? 740
Unto whom of your chiefs shall I tell our grief?
Ah our calamities!—ah for the deeds in the night
Unto Thracia wrought of the felon who vanished from sight,
Who hath knit up a skein of misery manifest!
Some ill, meseems, to Thracia's company
Befalls—if this man's words mean aught for me.
Undone is our host, laid low is our king
By a deadly stab, by a stroke of guile!
Alas and alas! woe worth the while!
Ah, how am I inly racked by the sting 750
Of my gory wound! Would God I might straightway die!
Was it meet that so soon as he came, your Troy's ally,
Rhesus and I should perish by end so vile?
Lo, not in riddles doth he publish this:
Nay, plainly of allies destroyed he tells. 755
Ill hath been wrought us—shame, to crown that "ill,"
The foulest shame! Yea, double ill is this!
To die with fame, if one must die, I trow,
Is bitterness to him who dies—how not?
Yet fame and honour crown his living kin. 760
But, as a fool dies, fameless we have died.
For, soon as Hector pointed us our quarters,
And told the watchword, couched on earth we slept,
Outworn with toil: our host no watchmen set
For nightlong guard, nor rank by rank were laid 765
Our arms, nor from the horses' yokes were hung
The car-whips, since our king had word that ye
Were camped triumphant nigh the galley-sterns:
So, careless all, we flung us down and slept.
Now I with heedful heart from slumber rose, 770
And dealt the steeds their corn with stintless hand,
Looking to yoke them with the dawn for fight.
Then spied I twain that prowled around our host
Through the thick gloom; but, soon as I bestirred me,
They cowered low, and straight drew back again. 775
I cried to them to come not near our host,—
Deeming some thieves from our allies drew nigh:—
Nought said they; neither added I thereto,
But to my couch went back and slept again.
And in my sleep a vision nightmared me:— 780
The steeds I tended, and at Rhesus' side
Drave in the car, I saw as in a dream
Mounted of wolves that rode upon their backs;
And with their tails these lashed the horses' flanks,
Scourging them on. They snorted, and outbreathed 785
Rage from their nostrils, tossing high their manes.
I, even in act to save from those fierce things
The steeds, woke: the night-horror smote me awake.
Then death-moans, as I raised my head, I heard;
And new-shed blood hot-welling plashed on me 790
As by my murdered lord's death-throes I lay.
Upright I leapt, with never a spear in hand.
Then, as I peered and groped to find my lance,
From hard by 'neath my ribs a sword-thrust came
From some strong man—strong, for I felt the blade 795
Strike home, felt that deep furrow of the gash.
Face-down I fell: the chariot and the steeds
The robbers took, and fled into the night.
Ah me! Ah me!
Pain racketh me—O wretch! I cannot stand.
What ill befell I know—I saw it. How 800
The slain men perished, this I cannot tell,
Nor by what hand: but this do I divine—
Foully have they been dealt with by allies.
O charioteer of Thracia's lord ill-starred,
Never suspect of this deed thine allies. 805
Lo, Hector's self, who hath heard of your mischance,
Comes : in thine ills he sorroweth, as beseems.
How passed the men who wrought this direst scathe—
Spies from the foemen—passed unmarked of you,
For your shame, and for slaughter of the host, 810
Nor ye withstood them entering the camp,
Nor going forth? Shall any smart for this
Save thee?—for thou wast warder of the host.
They are gone, unsmitten!—gone, with many a scoff
At Phrygian cowardice and me, your chief! 815
Now know this well—by father Zeus 'tis sworn—
Surely the scourge, or doom of headsman's axe
Awaits thee for this work: else reckon thou
Hector a thing of nought, a craven wretch.
(Ant. to Str. 454—466).
Woe for me! terrible evil, ah terrible, lighted on me 820
When with my tidings I came, O thou warder of Troy, unto thee,—
Tidings of beacon-fires lit through the Argive array by the sea.
Yet have I suffered the night not to drop from her slumberous wing
Sleep on mine eyelids—I swear it by holiest Simoïs' spring!
Let not thine anger against me be hot, who am guiltless, O King!
Then, if hereafter, as time runneth on, or in word or in deed 830
Ever thou find me transgressing, O then to the grave do thou speed
Me,—yea, alive to go down to the pit; nor for mercy I plead.
Why threaten these, and strive, barbarian thou,
To cozen barbarian wit with glozing speech?
Thine was the deed! None other shall the dead, 835
Or wounded living, hold to be thereof
Guilty! Long speech and subtle shalt thou need
To make me think thou murderedst not thy friends,
As coveting the steeds, for which thou slayest
Allies whose coming was so straitly urged. 840
They came—they are dead! More seemly Paris shamed
Guest-faith, than thou, who murderest thine allies!
Nay, never tell me 'twas some Argive came
And slew us! Who could through the Trojan lines
Have passed, and won to us, unmarked of them? 845
Before us camped were thou and Phrygia's host:—
Of thy friends who was wounded then, who slain,
When came the foes whereof thou tellest us?
We—some are wounded, some have suffered scathe
More deadly, and the sun's light see no more. 850
In plain words, no Achaian we accuse.
Who of the foe had come, and in the night
Found Rhesus' couch—except a very God
Guided the slayers? They not even knew
That he had come! Now nay, this plot is thine. 855
Long time have I had dealings with allies,
Long as Achaian folk have trod my land;
Nor ever bare I ill report of them.
With thee should I begin? May no such lust
For steeds take me, that I should slay my friends! 860
This is Odysseus' work—for who beside
Of Argives had devised or wrought such deed?
I fear him, and my mind misgives me sore
Lest he have met our Dolon too, and slain.
Long time hath he been gone, nor yet appears. 865
I know not thine Odysseus, whom thou nam'st.
I have been smitten by no alien foe.
Then think thou so, if this to thee seem good.
Land of my fathers, O to die in thee!
Die not: suffice this multitude of dead. 870
Ah, whither turn me, of my lord bereft?
Shelter and healing shall mine own house give thee.
How shall the hands of murderers tend mine hurts?
This man will cease not telling the same tale.
Perish the doer! Not at thee my tongue 875
Hurls this, as plains thy pride:—but Justice knows.
Hector (to attendants).
Ye, take him up and bear him to mine house.
So tend him that he shall not slander us.
And ye must go to those upon the wall,
To Priam and our elders, bidding them 880
Bury the slain beside the public way.
[Exeunt bearers with Charioteer.
Wherefore from heights of victory
Doth fortune drag down Troy unto woe—
Fortune estranged? What purposeth she?
(The Muse appears above the stage with Rhesus in her arms).
Ho ye!—lo there!—what ho!
What God overhead, O King, doth appear,
In whose hands is the corpse of the newly dead
Borne as it were on a bier?
I quail as I look on the vision of dread.
Trojans, fear not to look: the Muse am I, 890
One of the Song-queens, honoured of the wise.
My dear son I behold in piteous sort
Slain by his foes. One day shall he who slew,
Guileful Odysseus, pay fit penalty.
(Raises the death-dirge).
In moans that of no strange lips I borrow,
O son, my sorrow,
I wail for thee.
What woefullest journey was thine, thy faring
Of ill-starred daring
To Troy oversea, 900
Despite my warning, thy father's pleading!
Dear head!—O bleeding
Heart of me!
So far as one may take on him who hath
No tie of kinship, I too wail thy son. 905
Curse ye, Odysseus and Oineus' scion,
Through whom I cry on
My noble dead!
Curse her, who voyaged from Hellas over
To a Phrygian lover, 910
A wanton's bed,
Who of sons made desolate towns without number,
And bowed thee in slumber
Of death, dear head!
Sore hast thou wrung mine heart, Philammon's son, 915
In life, and since to Hades thou hast passed.
Thine overweening, ruinous rivalry
With Muses, made me bear this hapless child.
For, as I waded through the river's flow,
Lo, I was clasped in Strymon's fruitful couch, 920
What time we came unto Pangaios' ridge,
Whose dust is gold, with flute and lyre arrayed,
We Muses, for great strife of minstrelsy
With Thracia's cunning bard ; and we made blind
Thamyris, who full oft had mocked our skill. 925
And, when I bare thee, shamed before my sisters,
And for my maidenhead, down thy sire's fair swirls
I cast thee; and to nurse thee Strymon chose
Arms of no mortal, but the Fountain-maids.
There reared in glorious fashion by the Nymphs, 930
Thou ruledst Thrace, a king of men, my child.
While through thy native land thou didst achieve
Great deeds of war, I feared not for thy life;
But still I warned thee never to fare to Troy,
Knowing thy doom: but Hector's embassies, 935
And messages untold that elders bare,
Wrought on thee to set forth to aid thy friends.
Athena, thou art cause of all this doom!
Nought did Odysseus, neither Tydeus' son,
With all their doings:—think not I am blind! 940
And yet thine Athens we with honour crown:
My sister Song-queens chiefly haunt thy land;
And the torch-march of those veiled Mysteries
Did Orpheus teach her, cousin of the dead—
This dead, whom thou hast slain! Musaius too, 945
Thy citizen revered, the chiefest bard
Of men, him Phœbus and the Muses trained:—
And this my meed!—with arms clasped round my son
I wail! No new sage will I bring to thee.
Falsely then Thracia's charioteer reviled 950
Us, Hector, as the plotters of his death.
I knew it: need was none of seers to tell
That this man perished by Odysseus' craft.
And how could I, beholding Hellas' host
Camped on this soil, but send mine heralds forth 955
To friends, to bid them come and help our land?
I sent them; and he came, who owed me aid.
Ah, little joy have I to see him dead!
Ready am I to rear him now a tomb,
And to burn with him splendour of countless robes. 960
A friend he came, in sorrow goeth hence.
He shall not into earth's dark lap go down;
With such strong crying will I pray Hell's Queen,
Child of Demeter Lady of Earth's increase,
To grant his soul release. My debtor is she 965
To show that yet she honours Orpheus' friends.
Yet to me as one dead, that sees not light,
Henceforth shall he be: never shall he come
To meet me more, nor see his mother's form.
In caverns of the silver-veinèd land 970
A god-man shall he lie, beholding light,
As Bacchus' prophet 'neath Pangaios' rock
Dwelt, god revered of them that knew the truth.
More lightly now the grief of that Sea-queen
Shall fall on me: for her son too must die. 975
Thee first we Sisters will with dirges hymn,
Achilles then, in Thetis' hour of grief.
Not him shall Pallas save, who murdered thee,
Such shaft doth Loxias' quiver keep for him.
Ah, woes of mothers! Miseries of men! 980
Yea, whoso taketh true account of you
Childless will live, nor bear sons for the grave. [Exit.
Now are the King's death-rites his mother's care.
But if thou wilt do work that lies to hand,
Hector, 'tis time; for yonder dawns the day. 985
Depart ye: bid our comrades straightway arm,
And lay the yokes upon the car-steeds' necks.
Then torch in hand must ye await the blast
Of Tuscan clarion; for I trust to press
Over their trench, their walls, and fire the ships 990
Achaian, and to bring in freedom's day
For Troy with yonder sun's uprising beams.
Give heed to the King: now march we in war's array,
And tell unto them that with Troy be allied
These things. May the God give triumph to us straightway 200
Who fights on our side.
- Reading dubious: ξυνέσχον gives no indisputable sense.
- Dolon, "the crafty," from dolos, craft.
- Or, "The land's hearth nestling at the mountain's feet," according to the interpretation of αὐτόρριζον preferred by Paley.
- Since the corpse of an enemy is a welcome burden to the soil of our country.
- Reading ἐν γένει (Paley).
- As Rhesus, starting, we may suppose, at the beginning of spring for Troy, had had to turn back and undertake a spring campaign in Scythia, the time of his actual arrival at Troy could not well be before the summer. Now Aquila is high in the southern heavens, and the Pleiades are well above the eastern horizon, at about 3 a.m. in the middle of June. The star referred to as just rising in the east might be Mira Ceti.
- A line is lost here, which should correspond to l. 558.
- The reference is to the legend of Philomela, according to one version of which the stain of the blood of Itys always clung to the nightingale's nest.
- The dialogue which follows is differently arranged by various editors.
- Reading ἱστορῶ.
- Reading φόβην.
- Others, "the team of chariot-steeds;" the Homeric account.
- Nauck's reading. The MSS. πῶς ὦ, "How passed—O ye who have wrought, etc."
- Adopting Dindorf's reading.
- See Iliad iii, 145—244.
- He specifies for the slain Thracians the most honourable place of sepulture: cf. Alcestis, ll. 835–6.
- So MSS.; but "Perform: thou didst it," is Paley's suggestion.
"And thy mother came up from the waves with the deathless Maids of the Sea;
And the sound of the cry of them rang o'er the sea-flood awfully . . . .
And the hoar Sea-ancient's daughters gathered around thee then
Mourning with wails heart-piercing, and wrapped thee in raiment divine;
And there moaned an answering dirge from the sweet-voiced Muses nine;
And there hadst thou seen no face of an Argive but streamed with tears,
So enthralling the clear-ringing voice of the Muses thrilled through our ears."
Odyssey, xxiv, 47–8, 58–62.