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Book XIX

BOOK XIX

NOW when Dawn in robe of saffron was hasting from the streams of

Oceanus, to bring light to mortals and immortals, Thetis reached

the ships with the armour that the god had given her. She found

her son fallen about the body of Patroclus and weeping bitterly.

Many also of his followers were weeping round him, but when the

goddess came among them she clasped his hand in her own, saying,

"My son, grieve as we may we must let this man lie, for it is by

heaven's will that he has fallen; now, therefore, accept from

Vulcan this rich and goodly armour, which no man has ever yet

borne upon his shoulders."

As she spoke she set the armour before Achilles, and it rang out

bravely as she did so. The Myrmidons were struck with awe, and

none dared look full at it, for they were afraid; but Achilles

was roused to still greater fury, and his eyes gleamed with a

fierce light, for he was glad when he handled the splendid

present which the god had made him. Then, as soon as he had

satisfied himself with looking at it, he said to his mother,

"Mother, the god has given me armour, meet handiwork for an

immortal and such as no-one living could have fashioned; I will

now arm, but I much fear that flies will settle upon the son of

Menoetius and breed worms about his wounds, so that his body, now

he is dead, will be disfigured and the flesh will rot."

Silver-footed Thetis answered, "My son, be not disquieted about

this matter. I will find means to protect him from the swarms of

noisome flies that prey on the bodies of men who have been killed

in battle. He may lie for a whole year, and his flesh shall still

be as sound as ever, or even sounder. Call, therefore, the

Achaean heroes in assembly; unsay your anger against Agamemnon;

arm at once, and fight with might and main."

As she spoke she put strength and courage into his heart, and she

then dropped ambrosia and red nectar into the wounds of

Patroclus, that his body might suffer no change.

Then Achilles went out upon the seashore, and with a loud cry

called on the Achaean heroes. On this even those who as yet had

stayed always at the ships, the pilots and helmsmen, and even the

stewards who were about the ships and served out rations, all

came to the place of assembly because Achilles had shown himself

after having held aloof so long from fighting. Two sons of Mars,

Ulysses and the son of Tydeus, came limping, for their wounds

still pained them; nevertheless they came, and took their seats

in the front row of the assembly. Last of all came Agamemnon,

king of men, he too wounded, for Coon son of Antenor had struck

him with a spear in battle.

When the Achaeans were got together Achilles rose and said, "Son

of Atreus, surely it would have been better alike for both you

and me, when we two were in such high anger about Briseis, surely

it would have been better, had Diana's arrow slain her at the

ships on the day when I took her after having sacked Lyrnessus.

For so, many an Achaean the less would have bitten dust before

the foe in the days of my anger. It has been well for Hector and

the Trojans, but the Achaeans will long indeed remember our

quarrel. Now, however, let it be, for it is over. If we have been

angry, necessity has schooled our anger. I put it from me: I dare

not nurse it for ever; therefore, bid the Achaeans arm forthwith

that I may go out against the Trojans, and learn whether they

will be in a mind to sleep by the ships or no. Glad, I ween, will

he be to rest his knees who may fly my spear when I wield it."

Thus did he speak, and the Achaeans rejoiced in that he had put

away his anger.

Then Agamemnon spoke, rising in his place, and not going into the

middle of the assembly. "Danaan heroes," said he, "servants of

Mars, it is well to listen when a man stands up to speak, and it

is not seemly to interrupt him, or it will go hard even with a

practised speaker. Who can either hear or speak in an uproar?

Even the finest orator will be disconcerted by it. I will expound

to the son of Peleus, and do you other Achaeans heed me and mark

me well. Often have the Achaeans spoken to me of this matter and

upbraided me, but it was not I that did it: Jove, and Fate, and

Erinys that walks in darkness struck me mad when we were

assembled on the day that I took from Achilles the meed that had

been awarded to him. What could I do? All things are in the hand

of heaven, and Folly, eldest of Jove's daughters, shuts men's

eyes to their destruction. She walks delicately, not on the solid

earth, but hovers over the heads of men to make them stumble or

to ensnare them.

"Time was when she fooled Jove himself, who they say is greatest

whether of gods or men; for Juno, woman though she was, beguiled

him on the day when Alcmena was to bring forth mighty Hercules in

the fair city of Thebes. He told it out among the gods saying,

'Hear me, all gods and goddesses, that I may speak even as I am

minded; this day shall an Ilithuia, helper of women who are in

labour, bring a man child into the world who shall be lord over

all that dwell about him who are of my blood and lineage.' Then

said Juno all crafty and full of guile, 'You will play false, and

will not hold to your word. Swear me, O Olympian, swear me a

great oath, that he who shall this day fall between the feet of a

woman, shall be lord over all that dwell about him who are of

your blood and lineage.'

"Thus she spoke, and Jove suspected her not, but swore the great

oath, to his much ruing thereafter. For Juno darted down from the

high summit of Olympus, and went in haste to Achaean Argos where

she knew that the noble wife of Sthenelus son of Perseus then

was. She being with child and in her seventh month, Juno brought

the child to birth though there was a month still wanting, but

she stayed the offspring of Alcmena, and kept back the Ilithuiae.

Then she went to tell Jove the son of Saturn, and said, 'Father

Jove, lord of the lightning--I have a word for your ear. There is

a fine child born this day, Eurystheus, son to Sthenelus the son

of Perseus; he is of your lineage; it is well, therefore, that he

should reign over the Argives.'

"On this Jove was stung to the very quick, and in his rage he

caught Folly by the hair, and swore a great oath that never

should she again invade starry heaven and Olympus, for she was

the bane of all. Then he whirled her round with a twist of his

hand, and flung her down from heaven so that she fell on to the

fields of mortal men; and he was ever angry with her when he saw

his son groaning under the cruel labours that Eurystheus laid

upon him. Even so did I grieve when mighty Hector was killing the

Argives at their ships, and all the time I kept thinking of Folly

who had so baned me. I was blind, and Jove robbed me of my

reason; I will now make atonement, and will add much treasure by

way of amends. Go, therefore, into battle, you and your people

with you. I will give you all that Ulysses offered you yesterday

in your tents: or if it so please you, wait, though you would

fain fight at once, and my squires shall bring the gifts from my

ship, that you may see whether what I give you is enough."

And Achilles answered, "Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, you

can give such gifts as you think proper, or you can withhold

them: it is in your own hands. Let us now set battle in array; it

is not well to tarry talking about trifles, for there is a deed

which is as yet to do. Achilles shall again be seen fighting

among the foremost, and laying low the ranks of the Trojans: bear

this in mind each one of you when he is fighting."

Then Ulysses said, "Achilles, godlike and brave, send not the

Achaeans thus against Ilius to fight the Trojans fasting, for the

battle will be no brief one, when it is once begun, and heaven

has filled both sides with fury; bid them first take food both

bread and wine by the ships, for in this there is strength and

stay. No man can do battle the livelong day to the going down of

the sun if he is without food; however much he may want to fight

his strength will fail him before he knows it; hunger and thirst

will find him out, and his limbs will grow weary under him. But a

man can fight all day if he is full fed with meat and wine; his

heart beats high, and his strength will stay till he has routed

all his foes; therefore, send the people away and bid them

prepare their meal; King Agamemnon will bring out the gifts in

presence of the assembly, that all may see them and you may be

satisfied. Moreover let him swear an oath before the Argives that

he has never gone up into the couch of Briseis, nor been with her

after the manner of men and women; and do you, too, show yourself

of a gracious mind; let Agamemnon entertain you in his tents with

a feast of reconciliation, that so you may have had your dues in

full. As for you, son of Atreus, treat people more righteously in

future; it is no disgrace even to a king that he should make

amends if he was wrong in the first instance."

And King Agamemnon answered, "Son of Laertes, your words please

me well, for throughout you have spoken wisely. I will swear as

you would have me do; I do so of my own free will, neither shall

I take the name of heaven in vain. Let, then, Achilles wait,

though he would fain fight at once, and do you others wait also,

till the gifts come from my tent and we ratify the oath with

sacrifice. Thus, then, do I charge you: take some noble young

Achaeans with you, and bring from my tents the gifts that I

promised yesterday to Achilles, and bring the women also;

furthermore let Talthybius find me a boar from those that are

with the host, and make it ready for sacrifice to Jove and to the

sun."

Then said Achilles, "Son of Atreus, king of men Agamemnon, see to

these matters at some other season, when there is breathing time

and when I am calmer. Would you have men eat while the bodies of

those whom Hector son of Priam slew are still lying mangled upon

the plain? Let the sons of the Achaeans, say I, fight fasting and

without food, till we have avenged them; afterwards at the going

down of the sun let them eat their fill. As for me, Patroclus is

lying dead in my tent, all hacked and hewn, with his feet to the

door, and his comrades are mourning round him. Therefore I can

take thought of nothing save only slaughter and blood and the

rattle in the throat of the dying."

Ulysses answered, "Achilles, son of Peleus, mightiest of all the

Achaeans, in battle you are better than I, and that more than a

little, but in counsel I am much before you, for I am older and

of greater knowledge. Therefore be patient under my words.

Fighting is a thing of which men soon surfeit, and when Jove, who

is war's steward, weighs the upshot, it may well prove that the

straw which our sickles have reaped is far heavier than the

grain. It may not be that the Achaeans should mourn the dead with

their bellies; day by day men fall thick and threefold

continually; when should we have respite from our sorrow? Let us

mourn our dead for a day and bury them out of sight and mind, but

let those of us who are left eat and drink that we may arm and

fight our foes more fiercely. In that hour let no man hold back,

waiting for a second summons; such summons shall bode ill for him

who is found lagging behind at our ships; let us rather sally as

one man and loose the fury of war upon the Trojans."

When he had thus spoken he took with him the sons of Nestor, with

Meges son of Phyleus, Thoas, Meriones, Lycomedes son of Creontes,

and Melanippus, and went to the tent of Agamemnon son of Atreus.

The word was not sooner said than the deed was done: they

brought out the seven tripods which Agamemnon had promised, with

the twenty metal cauldrons and the twelve horses; they also

brought the women skilled in useful arts, seven in number, with

Briseis, which made eight. Ulysses weighed out the ten talents of

gold and then led the way back, while the young Achaeans brought

the rest of the gifts, and laid them in the middle of the

assembly.

Agamemnon then rose, and Talthybius whose voice was like that of

a god came to him with the boar. The son of Atreus drew the knife

which he wore by the scabbard of his mighty sword, and began by

cutting off some bristles from the boar, lifting up his hands in

prayer as he did so. The other Achaeans sat where they were all

silent and orderly to hear the king, and Agamemnon looked into

the vault of heaven and prayed saying, "I call Jove the first and

mightiest of all gods to witness, I call also Earth and Sun and

the Erinyes who dwell below and take vengeance on him who shall

swear falsely, that I have laid no hand upon the girl Briseis,

neither to take her to my bed nor otherwise, but that she has

remained in my tents inviolate. If I swear falsely may heaven

visit me with all the penalties which it metes out to those who

perjure themselves."

He cut the boar's throat as he spoke, whereon Talthybius whirled

it round his head, and flung it into the wide sea to feed the

fishes. Then Achilles also rose and said to the Argives, "Father

Jove, of a truth you blind men's eyes and bane them. The son of

Atreus had not else stirred me to so fierce an anger, nor so

stubbornly taken Briseis from me against my will. Surely Jove

must have counselled the destruction of many an Argive. Go, now,

and take your food that we may begin fighting."

On this he broke up the assembly, and every man went back to his

own ship. The Myrmidons attended to the presents and took them

away to the ship of Achilles. They placed them in his tents,

while the stable-men drove the horses in among the others.

Briseis, fair as Venus, when she saw the mangled body of

Patroclus, flung herself upon it and cried aloud, tearing her

breast, her neck, and her lovely face with both her hands.

Beautiful as a goddess she wept and said, "Patroclus, dearest

friend, when I went hence I left you living; I return, O prince,

to find you dead; thus do fresh sorrows multiply upon me one

after the other. I saw him to whom my father and mother married

me, cut down before our city, and my three own dear brothers

perished with him on the self-same day; but you, Patroclus, even

when Achilles slew my husband and sacked the city of noble Mynes,

told me that I was not to weep, for you said you would make

Achilles marry me, and take me back with him to Phthia, we should

have a wedding feast among the Myrmidons. You were always kind to

me and I shall never cease to grieve for you."

She wept as she spoke, and the women joined in her lament-making

as though their tears were for Patroclus, but in truth each was

weeping for her own sorrows. The elders of the Achaeans gathered

round Achilles and prayed him to take food, but he groaned and

would not do so. "I pray you," said he, "if any comrade will hear

me, bid me neither eat nor drink, for I am in great heaviness,

and will stay fasting even to the going down of the sun."

On this he sent the other princes away, save only the two sons of

Atreus and Ulysses, Nestor, Idomeneus, and the knight Phoenix,

who stayed behind and tried to comfort him in the bitterness of

his sorrow: but he would not be comforted till he should have

flung himself into the jaws of battle, and he fetched sigh on

sigh, thinking ever of Patroclus. Then he said--

"Hapless and dearest comrade, you it was who would get a good

dinner ready for me at once and without delay when the Achaeans

were hasting to fight the Trojans; now, therefore, though I have

meat and drink in my tents, yet will I fast for sorrow. Grief

greater than this I could not know, not even though I were to

hear of the death of my father, who is now in Phthia weeping for

the loss of me his son, who am here fighting the Trojans in a

strange land for the accursed sake of Helen, nor yet though I

should hear that my son is no more--he who is being brought up in

Scyros--if indeed Neoptolemus is still living. Till now I made

sure that I alone was to fall here at Troy away from Argos, while

you were to return to Phthia, bring back my son with you in your

own ship, and show him all my property, my bondsmen, and the

greatness of my house--for Peleus must surely be either dead, or

what little life remains to him is oppressed alike with the

infirmities of age and ever present fear lest he should hear the

sad tidings of my death."

He wept as he spoke, and the elders sighed in concert as each

thought on what he had left at home behind him. The son of Saturn

looked down with pity upon them, and said presently to Minerva,

"My child, you have quite deserted your hero; is he then gone so

clean out of your recollection? There he sits by the ships all

desolate for the loss of his dear comrade, and though the others

are gone to their dinner he will neither eat nor drink. Go then

and drop nectar and ambrosia into his breast, that he may know no

hunger."

With these words he urged Minerva, who was already of the same

mind. She darted down from heaven into the air like some falcon

sailing on his broad wings and screaming. Meanwhile the Achaeans

were arming throughout the host, and when Minerva had dropped

nectar and ambrosia into Achilles so that no cruel hunger should

cause his limbs to fail him, she went back to the house of her

mighty father. Thick as the chill snow-flakes shed from the hand

of Jove and borne on the keen blasts of the north wind, even so

thick did the gleaming helmets, the bossed shields, the strongly

plated breastplates, and the ashen spears stream from the ships.

The sheen pierced the sky, the whole land was radiant with their

flashing armour, and the sound of the tramp of their treading

rose from under their feet. In the midst of them all Achilles put

on his armour; he gnashed his teeth, his eyes gleamed like fire,

for his grief was greater than he could bear. Thus, then, full of

fury against the Trojans, did he don the gift of the god, the

armour that Vulcan had made him.

First he put on the goodly greaves fitted with ancle-clasps, and

next he did on the breastplate about his chest. He slung the

silver-studded sword of bronze about his shoulders, and then took

up the shield so great and strong that shone afar with a

splendour as of the moon. As the light seen by sailors from out

at sea, when men have lit a fire in their homestead high up among

the mountains, but the sailors are carried out to sea by wind and

storm far from the haven where they would be--even so did the

gleam of Achilles' wondrous shield strike up into the heavens. He

lifted the redoubtable helmet, and set it upon his head, from

whence it shone like a star, and the golden plumes which Vulcan

had set thick about the ridge of the helmet, waved all around it.

Then Achilles made trial of himself in his armour to see whether

it fitted him, so that his limbs could play freely under it, and

it seemed to buoy him up as though it had been wings.

He also drew his father's spear out of the spear-stand, a spear

so great and heavy and strong that none of the Achaeans save only

Achilles had strength to wield it; this was the spear of Pelian

ash from the topmost ridges of Mt. Pelion, which Chiron had once

given to Peleus, fraught with the death of heroes. Automedon and

Alcimus busied themselves with the harnessing of his horses; they

made the bands fast about them, and put the bit in their mouths,

drawing the reins back towards the chariot. Automedon, whip in

hand, sprang up behind the horses, and after him Achilles mounted

in full armour, resplendent as the sun-god Hyperion. Then with a

loud voice he chided with his father's horses saying, "Xanthus

and Balius, famed offspring of Podarge--this time when we have

done fighting be sure and bring your driver safely back to the

host of the Achaeans, and do not leave him dead on the plain as

you did Patroclus."

Then fleet Xanthus answered under the yoke--for white-armed Juno

had endowed him with human speech--and he bowed his head till his

mane touched the ground as it hung down from under the yoke-band.

"Dread Achilles," said he, "we will indeed save you now, but the

day of your death is near, and the blame will not be ours, for it

will be heaven and stern fate that will destroy you. Neither was

it through any sloth or slackness on our part that the Trojans

stripped Patroclus of his armour; it was the mighty god whom

lovely Leto bore that slew him as he fought among the foremost,

and vouchsafed a triumph to Hector. We two can fly as swiftly as

Zephyrus who they say is fleetest of all winds; nevertheless it

is your doom to fall by the hand of a man and of a god."

When he had thus said the Erinyes stayed his speech, and Achilles

answered him in great sadness, saying, "Why, O Xanthus, do you

thus foretell my death? You need not do so, for I well know that

I am to fall here, far from my dear father and mother; none the

more, however, shall I stay my hand till I have given the Trojans

their fill of fighting."

So saying, with a loud cry he drove his horses to the front.

 Homer

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