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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 140

Then, for his spoils, a new debate arose,
The neighbour nations thence commencing foes.
Strong as they were, the bold Curetes fail'd,
While Meleager's thundering arm prevail'd:
Till rage at length inflamed his lofty breast
(For rage invades the wisest and the best).
"Cursed by Althaea, to his wrath he yields,
And in his wife's embrace forgets the fields.
(She from Marpessa sprung, divinely fair,
And matchless Idas, more than man in war:
The god of day adored the mother's charms;
Against the god the father bent his arms:
The afflicted pair, their sorrows to proclaim,
From Cleopatra changed their daughter's name,
And call'd Alcyone; a name to show
The father's grief, the mourning mother's woe.)
To her the chief retired from stern debate,
But found no peace from fierce Althaea's hate:
Althaea's hate the unhappy warrior drew,
Whose luckless hand his royal uncle slew;
She beat the ground, and call'd the powers beneath
On her own son to wreak her brother's death;
Hell heard her curses from the realms profound,
And the red fiends that walk the nightly round.
In vain Ætolia her deliverer waits,
[pg 176]
War shakes her walls, and thunders at her gates.
She sent ambassadors, a chosen band,
Priests of the gods, and elders of the land;
Besought the chief to save the sinking state:
Their prayers were urgent, and their proffers great:
(Full fifty acres of the richest ground,
Half pasture green, and half with vineyards crown'd:)
His suppliant father, aged OEneus, came;
His sisters follow'd; even the vengeful dame,
Althaea, sues; his friends before him fall:
He stands relentless, and rejects them all.
Meanwhile the victor's shouts ascend the skies;
The walls are scaled; the rolling flames arise;
At length his wife (a form divine) appears,
With piercing cries, and supplicating tears;
She paints the horrors of a conquer'd town,
The heroes slain, the palaces o'erthrown,
The matrons ravish'd, the whole race enslaved:
The warrior heard, he vanquish'd, and he saved.
The Ætolians, long disdain'd, now took their turn,
And left the chief their broken faith to mourn.
Learn hence, betimes to curb pernicious ire,
Nor stay till yonder fleets ascend in fire;
Accept the presents; draw thy conquering sword;
And be amongst our guardian gods adored."
Thus he: the stern Achilles thus replied:
"My second father, and my reverend guide:
Thy friend, believe me, no such gifts demands,
And asks no honours from a mortal's hands;
Jove honours me, and favours my designs;
His pleasure guides me, and his will confines;
And here I stay (if such his high behest)
While life's warm spirit beats within my breast.
Yet hear one word, and lodge it in thy heart:
No more molest me on Atrides' part:
Is it for him these tears are taught to flow,
For him these sorrows? for my mortal foe?
A generous friendship no cold medium knows,
Burns with one love, with one resentment glows;
One should our interests and our passions be;
My friend must hate the man that injures me.

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