« AnteriorContinuar »
THE RECONCILIATION OF ACHILLES AND AGAMEMNON.
Thetis brings to her son the armor made by. Vulcan. She pres.rves the body of his
friend from corruption, and commands him to assemble the army, to declare his resentment at an end. Agamemnon and Achilles are solemnly reconciled: the speeches, presents, and ceremonies on that occasion. Achilles is with great life ficulty persuaded to refrain from the battle till the troops have refreshed them. selves by the advice of Ulysses. The presents are conveyed to the tent of Achilles, where Briseïs laments over the body of Patroclus. The hero obstinately refuses all repast, and gives himself up to lamentations for his friend. Minerva descends to strengthen him, by the order of Jupiter. He arms for the fight: his appearance described. He addresses himself to his horses, and reproaches them with the death of Patroclus. One of them is miraculously endued with voice, and inspired to prophesy his fate : but the hero, not astonished by that prodigy, rushes with fury to the combat.
The thirtieth day. The scene is on the sea-shore.
Soon as murora heaved her Orient head
Above the waves, that blush'd with early red
(With new-born day to gladden mortal sight,
And gild the courts of heaven with sacred light),
The immortal arms the goddess-mother bears
Swift to her son : her son she finds in tears
Stretch'd o'er Patroclus' corse ; while all the rest
Their sovereign's sorrows in their own express'd.
A ray divine her heavenly presence shed,
And thus, his hand soft tou, 'ing, Thetis said:
Suppress, my son, this rage of grief, and know
It was not man, but heaven, that gave the blow
Behold what arms by Vulcan are bestow'd,
Arms worthy thee, or fit to grace a god."
Then drops the radiant burden on the ground;
Clang the strong arms, and ring the shores around ;
Back shrink the Myrmidons with dread surprise,
And from the broad effulgence turn their eyes.
Unmoved the hero kindles at the show,
And feels with rage divine his bosom glow;
From his fierce eyeballs living flames expire,
And flash incessant like a stream of fire :
He turns the radiant gift : and feeds his mind
On all the immortal artist had design'd.
“Goddess ! (he cried), these glorious arms, that shine
With matchless art, confess the hand divine.
Now to the bloody battle let me bend :
But ah ! the relics of my slaughter'd friend !
In those wide wounds through which his spirit fled,
Shall flies, and worms obscene, pollute the dead ? ”
“That unavailing care be laid aside
(The azure goddess to her son replied),
Whole years untouch'd, uninjured shall remain,
Fresh as in life, the carcase of the slain.
But go, Achilles, as affairs require,
Before the Grecian peers renounce thine ire :
Then uncontroll'd in boundless war engage,
And heaven with strength supply the mighty rage !”
Then in the nostrils of the slain she pour'd
Nectareous drops, and rich ambrosia shower'd
O'er all the corse. The flies forbid their prey,
Untouch'd it rests, and sacred from decay.
Achilles to the strand obedient went:
The shores resounded with the voice he sent.
The heroes heard, and all the naval train
That tend the ships, or guide them o'er the main,
Alarm’d, transported, at the well-known sound,
Frequent and full, the great assembly crown'd;
Studious to see the terror of the plain,
Long lost to battle, shine in arms again.
Tydides and Ulysses first appear,
Lame with their wounds, and leaning on the spear;
These on the sacred seats of council placed,
The king of men, Atrides, came the last:
He too sore wounded by Agenor's son.
Achilles (rising in the midst) begun :
“O monarch! better far had been the fate
Of thee, of me, of all the Grecian state,
If (ere the day when by mad passion sway'd,
Rash we contended for the black-eyed maid)
Preventing Dian had despatch'd her dart,
And shot the shining mischief to the heart!
Then many a hero had not press’d the shore,
Nor Troy's glad fields been fatten’d with our gore.
Long, long shall Greece the woes we caused bewail,
And sad posterity repeat the tale.
But this, no more the subject of debate,
Is past, forgotten, and resign'd to fate.
Why should, alas, a mortal man, as I,
Burn with a fury that can never die ?
Here then my anger ends : let war succeed,
And even as Greece has bled, let Ilion bleed.
Now call the hosts, and try if in our sight
Troy yet shall dare to camp a second night!
I deem, their mightiest, when this arm he knows,
Shall 'scape with transport, and with joy repose.
He said : his finish'd wrath with loud acclaim
The Greeks accept, and shout Pelides' name.
When thus, not rising from his lofty throne,
In state unmoved, the king of men begun :
“ Hear me, you sons of Greece! with silence hear
And grant your monarch an impartial ear;
Awhile your loud, untimely joy suspend,
And let your rash, injurious clamors end :
Unruly murmurs, or ill-timed applause,
Wrong the best speaker, and the justest cause.
Nor charge on me, ye Greeks, the dire debate :
Know, angry Jove, and all-compelling Fate,
With fell Erinnys, urged my wrath that day
When from Achilles' arms Í forced the prey.
What then could I against the will of heaven?
Not by myself, but vengeful Atè driven;
She, Jove's dread daughter, fated to infest
The race of mortals, enter'd in
breast. Not on the ground that haughty fury treads, But prints her lofty footsteps on the heads Of mighty men; inflicting as she goes Long-festering wounds, inextricable woes ! Of old, she stalk'd amid the bright abodes : And Jove himself, the sire of men and gods, The world's great ruler, felt her venom'd dart; Deceived by Juno's wiles, and female art : For when Alcmena's nine long months were run, And Jove expected his immortal son, To gods and goddesses the unruly joy He show'd, and vaunted of his matchless boy: "From us (he said) this day an infant springs, Fated to rule, and born a king of kings.' Saturnia ask'd an oath, to vouch the truth, And fix dominion on the favor'd youth. The Thunderer, unsuspicious of the fraud, Pronounced those solemn words that bind a god. The joyful goddess, som Olympus' height, Swift to Achaian Argos, bent her flight: Scarce seven moons gone, lay Sthenelus's wife ; She push'd her lingering infant into life : Her charms Alcmena's coming labors stay, And stop the babe, just issuing to the day.
Then bids Saturnius bear his oath in mind;
A youth (said she) of Jove's immortal kind
Is this day born; from Sthenelus he springs,
And claims thy promise to be king of kings.'
Grief seized the Thunderer, by his oath engaged;
Stung to the soul, he sorrow'd, and he raged.
From his ambrosial head, where perch'd she sate,
He snatch'd the fury-goddess of debate,
The dread, the irrevocable oath he swore.
The immortal seats should ne'er behold her more ;
And whirld her headlong down, for ever driven
From bright Olympus and the starry heaven:
Thence on the nether world the fury fell ;
Ordain'd with man's contentious race to dwell.
Full oft the god his son's hard toils bemoan’d,
Cursed the dire fury, and in secret groan’d. *
Even thus, like Jove himself, was I misled,
While raging Hector heap'd our camps with dead.
What can the errors of my rage atone ?
My martial troops, my treasures are thy own :
This instant from the navy shall be sent
What’er Ulysses promised at thy tent:
But thou! appeased, propitious to our prayer,
Resume thy arms, and shine again in war.”
“O king of nations ! whose superior sway
(Returns Achilles) all our hosts obey !
To keep or send the presents, be thy care ;
To us, 'tis equal : all we ask is war.
While yet we talk, or but an instant shun
The fight, our glorious work remains undone.
Let every Greek, who sees my spear confound
The Trojan ranks, and deal destruction wound,
With emulation, what I act survey,
And learn from thence the business of the day.”
The son of Peleus thus; and thus replies
The great in councils, Ithacus the wise;
“ Though, godlike, thou art by no toils oppress’d,
At least our armies claim repast and rest :
Long and laborious must the combat be,
When by the gods inspired, and led by thee.
“ This legend is one of the most pregnant and characteristic in the Grecian Mythology. It explains, according to the religious ideas familiar to the old epic poets, both the distinguishing attributes and the endless toil and endurance of Héracles, the most renowned subjugator of all the semi-divine personages worshipped by the Hellénes,-a being of irresistible force, and especially beloved by Zeus, yet condemned constantly to labor for others and to obey the commands of a worthless and cowardly persecutor. His recompense is reserved to the close of his career, when his afflicting trials are brought to a close : lie is then admitted to the godhead, and receives in marriage Hébé.”—Grote, vol. i. p. 128.
Strength is derived from spirits and from blood,
And those augment by generous wine and food :
What boastful son of war, without that stay,
Can last a hero through a single day?
Courage may prompt; but, ebbing out his strength,
Mere unsupported man must yield at length;
Shrunk with dry famine, and with toils declined,
The drooping body will desert the mind :
But built anew with strength-conferring fare,
With limbs and soul untamed, he tires a war.
Dismiss the people, then, and give command,
With strong repast to hearten every band;
But let the presents to Achilles made,
In full assembly of all Greece be laid.
The king of men shall rise in public sight,
And solemn swear (observant of the rite)
That, spotless, as she came, the maid removes,
Pure from his arms, and guiltless of his loves,
That done, a sumptuous banquet shall be made,
And the full price of injured honor paid.
Stretch not henceforth, O prince! thy sovereign might
Beyond the bounds of reason and of right;
'Tis the chief praise that e'er to kings belong'd,
To right with justice whom with power they wrong’d."
To him the monarch : “ Just is thy decree,
Thy words give joy, and wisdom breathes in thee.
Each due atonement gladly I prepare ;
And heaven regard me as I justly swear !
Here then awhile let Greece assembled stay,
Nor great Achilles grudge this short delay:
Till from the fleet our presents be convey'd,
And Jove attesting, the firm compact made.
A train of noble youths the charge shall bear ;
These to select, Úlysses, be thy care :
In order rank'd let all our gifts appear,
And the fair train of captives close the rear :
Talthybius shall the victim boar convey,
Sacred to Jove, and yon bright orb of day.”
“ For this (the stern Æacides replies
Some less important season may suffice,
When the stern fury of the war is o’er,
And wrath, extinguish’d, burns my breast no more.
By Hector slain, their faces to the sky,
All grim with gaping wounds, our heroes lie :
Those call to war! and might my voice incite,
Now, now, this instant, shall commence the fight :
Then, when the day's complete, let generous bowls,