The Iliad of Homer
On heaven's broad marble roof were fixed his eyes.
The solemn words a deep attention draw,
And Greece around sat thrill'd with sacred awe.
"Witness thou first! thou greatest power above,
All-good, all-wise, and all-surveying Jove!
And mother-earth, and heaven's revolving light,
And ye, fell furies of the realms of night,
Who rule the dead, and horrid woes prepare
For perjured kings, and all who falsely swear!
The black-eyed maid inviolate removes,
Pure and unconscious of my manly loves.
If this be false, heaven all its vengeance shed,
And levell'd thunder strike my guilty head!"
With that, his weapon deep inflicts the wound;
The bleeding savage tumbles to the ground;
The sacred herald rolls the victim slain
(A feast for fish) into the foaming main.
Then thus Achilles: "Hear, ye Greeks! and know
Whate'er we feel, 'tis Jove inflicts the woe;
Not else Atrides could our rage inflame,
Nor from my arms, unwilling, force the dame.
'Twas Jove's high will alone, o'erruling all,
That doom'd our strife, and doom'd the Greeks to fall.
Go then, ye chiefs! indulge the genial rite;
Achilles waits ye, and expects the fight."
The speedy council at his word adjourn'd:
To their black vessels all the Greeks return'd.
Achilles sought his tent. His train before
March'd onward, bending with the gifts they bore.
Those in the tents the squires industrious spread:[pg 356]
The foaming coursers to the stalls they led;
To their new seats the female captives move
Briseis, radiant as the queen of love,
Slow as she pass'd, beheld with sad survey
Where, gash'd with cruel wounds, Patroclus lay.
Prone on the body fell the heavenly fair,
Beat her sad breast, and tore her golden hair;
All beautiful in grief, her humid eyes
Shining with tears she lifts, and thus she cries:
"Ah, youth for ever dear, for ever kind,
Once tender friend of my distracted mind!
I left thee fresh in life, in beauty gay;
Now find thee cold, inanimated clay!
What woes my wretched race of life attend!
Sorrows on sorrows, never doom'd to end!
The first loved consort of my virgin bed
Before these eyes in fatal battle bled:
My three brave brothers in one mournful day
All trod the dark, irremeable way:
Thy friendly hand uprear'd me from the plain,
And dried my sorrows for a husband slain;
Achilles' care you promised I should prove,
The first, the dearest partner of his love;
That rites divine should ratify the band,
And make me empress in his native land.
Accept these grateful tears! for thee they flow,
For thee, that ever felt another's woe!"
Her sister captives echoed groan for groan,
Nor mourn'd Patroclus' fortunes, but their own.
The leaders press'd the chief on every side;
Unmoved he heard them, and with sighs denied.
"If yet Achilles have a friend, whose care
Is bent to please him, this request forbear;
Till yonder sun descend, ah, let me pay
To grief and anguish one abstemious day."
He spoke, and from the warriors turn'd his face:
Yet still the brother-kings of Atreus' race,
Nestor, Idomeneus, Ulysses sage,
And Phoenix, strive to calm his grief and rage:
His rage they calm not, nor his grief control;
He groans, he raves, he sorrows from his soul.
"Thou too, Patroclus! (thus his heart he vents)
Once spread the inviting banquet in our tents:
Thy sweet society, thy winning care,
Once stay'd Achilles, rushing to the war.
But now, alas! to death's cold arms resign'd,
What banquet but revenge can glad my mind?
What greater sorrow could afflict my breast,
What more if hoary Peleus were deceased?
Who now, perhaps, in Phthia dreads to hear[pg 357]
His son's sad fate, and drops a tender tear.
What more, should Neoptolemus the brave,
My only offspring, sink into the grave?
If yet that offspring lives; (I distant far,
Of all neglectful, wage a hateful war.)
I could not this, this cruel stroke attend;
Fate claim'd Achilles, but might spare his friend.
I hoped Patroclus might survive, to rear
My tender orphan with a parent's care,
From Scyros' isle conduct him o'er the main,
And glad his eyes with his paternal reign,
The lofty palace, and the large domain.
For Peleus breathes no more the vital air;
Or drags a wretched life of age and care,
But till the news of my sad fate invades
His hastening soul, and sinks him to the shades."
Sighing he said: his grief the heroes join'd,
Each stole a tear for what he left behind.
Their mingled grief the sire of heaven survey'd,
And thus with pity to his blue-eyed maid:
"Is then Achilles now no more thy care,
And dost thou thus desert the great in war?
Lo, where yon sails their canvas wings extend,
All comfortless he sits, and wails his friend:
Ere thirst and want his forces have oppress'd,
Haste and infuse ambrosia in his breast."
He spoke; and sudden, at the word of Jove,
Shot the descending goddess from above.
So swift through ether the shrill harpy springs,
The wide air floating to her ample wings,
To great Achilles she her flight address'd,
With nectar sweet, (refection of the gods!)
Then, swift ascending, sought the bright abodes.
Now issued from the ships the warrior-train,
And like a deluge pour'd upon the plain.
As when the piercing blasts of Boreas blow,
And scatter o'er the fields the driving snow;
From dusky clouds the fleecy winter flies,
Whose dazzling lustre whitens all the skies:
So helms succeeding helms, so shields from shields,
Catch the quick beams, and brighten all the fields;
Broad glittering breastplates, spears with pointed rays,
Mix in one stream, reflecting blaze on blaze;
Thick beats the centre as the coursers bound;
With splendour flame the skies, and laugh the fields around,
Full in the midst, high-towering o'er the rest,
His limbs in arms divine Achilles dress'd;
Arms which the father of the fire bestow'd,
Forged on the eternal anvils of the god.