The Iliad of Homer
Page: 35Or, if our royal pleasure shall ordain,
Achilles' self conduct her o'er the main;
Let fierce Achilles, dreadful in his rage,
The god propitiate, and the pest assuage."
At this, Pelides, frowning stern, replied:
"O tyrant, arm'd with insolence and pride!
Inglorious slave to interest, ever join'd
With fraud, unworthy of a royal mind!
What generous Greek, obedient to thy word,
Shall form an ambush, or shall lift the sword?
What cause have I to war at thy decree?
The distant Trojans never injured me;
To Phthia's realms no hostile troops they led:
Safe in her vales my warlike coursers fed;
Far hence removed, the hoarse-resounding main,
And walls of rocks, secure my native reign,
Whose fruitful soil luxuriant harvests grace,
Rich in her fruits, and in her martial race.
Hither we sail'd, a voluntary throng,
To avenge a private, not a public wrong:
What else to Troy the assembled nations draws,
But thine, ungrateful, and thy brother's cause?
Is this the pay our blood and toils deserve;
Disgraced and injured by the man we serve?
And darest thou threat to snatch my prize away,
Due to the deeds of many a dreadful day?
A prize as small, O tyrant! match'd with thine,
As thy own actions if compared to mine.
Thine in each conquest is the wealthy prey,
Though mine the sweat and danger of the day.
Some trivial present to my ships I bear:
Or barren praises pay the wounds of war.[pg 008]
But know, proud monarch, I'm thy slave no more;
My fleet shall waft me to Thessalia's shore:
Left by Achilles on the Trojan plain,
What spoils, what conquests, shall Atrides gain?"
To this the king: "Fly, mighty warrior! fly;
Thy aid we need not, and thy threats defy.
There want not chiefs in such a cause to fight,
And Jove himself shall guard a monarch's right.
Of all the kings (the god's distinguish'd care)
To power superior none such hatred bear:
Strife and debate thy restless soul employ,
And wars and horrors are thy savage joy,
If thou hast strength, 'twas Heaven that strength bestow'd;
For know, vain man! thy valour is from God.
Haste, launch thy vessels, fly with speed away;
Rule thy own realms with arbitrary sway;
I heed thee not, but prize at equal rate
Thy short-lived friendship, and thy groundless hate.
Go, threat thy earth-born Myrmidons:—but here56
'Tis mine to threaten, prince, and thine to fear.
Know, if the god the beauteous dame demand,
My bark shall waft her to her native land;
But then prepare, imperious prince! prepare,
Fierce as thou art, to yield thy captive fair:
Even in thy tent I'll seize the blooming prize,
Thy loved Briseis with the radiant eyes.
Hence shalt thou prove my might, and curse the hour
Thou stood'st a rival of imperial power;
And hence, to all our hosts it shall be known,
That kings are subject to the gods alone."
Achilles heard, with grief and rage oppress'd,
His heart swell'd high, and labour'd in his breast;