The Iliad of Homer
Page: 34Perhaps, with added sacrifice and prayer,
The priest may pardon, and the god may spare."
The prophet spoke: when with a gloomy frown
The monarch started from his shining throne;
Black choler fill'd his breast that boil'd with ire,
And from his eye-balls flash'd the living fire:
"Augur accursed! denouncing mischief still,
Prophet of plagues, for ever boding ill!
Still must that tongue some wounding message bring,
And still thy priestly pride provoke thy king?[pg 006]
For this are Phoebus' oracles explored,
To teach the Greeks to murmur at their lord?
For this with falsehood is my honour stain'd,
Is heaven offended, and a priest profaned;
Because my prize, my beauteous maid, I hold,
And heavenly charms prefer to proffer'd gold?
A maid, unmatch'd in manners as in face,
Skill'd in each art, and crown'd with every grace;
Not half so dear were Clytaemnestra's charms,
When first her blooming beauties bless'd my arms.
Yet, if the gods demand her, let her sail;
Our cares are only for the public weal:
Let me be deem'd the hateful cause of all,
And suffer, rather than my people fall.
The prize, the beauteous prize, I will resign,
So dearly valued, and so justly mine.
But since for common good I yield the fair,
My private loss let grateful Greece repair;
Nor unrewarded let your prince complain,
That he alone has fought and bled in vain."
"Insatiate king (Achilles thus replies),
Fond of the power, but fonder of the prize!
Would'st thou the Greeks their lawful prey should yield,
The due reward of many a well-fought field?
The spoils of cities razed and warriors slain,
We share with justice, as with toil we gain;
But to resume whate'er thy avarice craves
(That trick of tyrants) may be borne by slaves.
Yet if our chief for plunder only fight,
The spoils of Ilion shall thy loss requite,
Whene'er, by Jove's decree, our conquering powers
Shall humble to the dust her lofty towers."
Then thus the king: "Shall I my prize resign
With tame content, and thou possess'd of thine?
Great as thou art, and like a god in fight,
Think not to rob me of a soldier's right.
At thy demand shall I restore the maid?
First let the just equivalent be paid;
Such as a king might ask; and let it be
A treasure worthy her, and worthy me.
Or grant me this, or with a monarch's claim
This hand shall seize some other captive dame.
Ulysses' spoils, or even thy own, be mine.
The man who suffers, loudly may complain;
And rage he may, but he shall rage in vain.
But this when time requires.—It now remains
We launch a bark to plough the watery plains,[pg 007]
And waft the sacrifice to Chrysa's shores,
With chosen pilots, and with labouring oars.
Soon shall the fair the sable ship ascend,
And some deputed prince the charge attend:
This Creta's king, or Ajax shall fulfil,
Or wise Ulysses see perform'd our will;