The Battle of the Gods, and the Acts of Achilles.
Jupiter, upon Achilles' return to the battle, calls a council of the gods and permits them to assist either party. The terrors of the combat described when the deities are engaged. Apollo encourages AEneas to meet Achilles. After a long conversation, these two heroes encounter; but AEneas is preserved by the assistance of Neptune. Achilles falls upon the rest of the Trojans, and is upon the point of killing Hector, but Apollo conveys him away in a cloud. Achilles pursues the Trojans with a great slaughter.
The same day continues. The scene is in the field before Troy.
Round thee, Achilles, eager for the fray, Stood thus accoutred, by their beaked ships, The sons of Greece; the Trojan host, oppos'd, Stood on the sloping margin of the plain. Then Jove to Themis gave command to call The Gods to council from the lofty height Of many-ridg'd Olympus; to the house Of Jove she summon'd them from ev'ry side. Thence of the Rivers, save Oceanus, Not one was absent; nor of Nymphs, who haunt Clear fount, or shady grove, or grassy mead. They, at the Cloud-compeller's house arriv'd, Within the polish'd corridor reclin'd, Which Vulcan's cunning hand for Jove had built. There were they gather'd in th' abode of Jove: Nor did th' Earth-shaking Neptune slight the call, But came from ocean's depths, and in the midst He sat, and thus the will of Jove enquir'd:
"Why, Lord of lightning, hast thou summon'd here The Gods to council? dost thou aught devise Touching the Greeks and Trojans? who e'en now Kindle anew, it seems, the blaze of war."
To whom the Cloud-compeller, answ'ring, thus: "The purpose, Neptune, well thou know'st thyself For which I call'd ye; true, they needs must die, But still they claim my care; yet here will I Upon Olympus' lofty ridge remain, And view, serene, the combat; you, the rest, Go, as you list, to Trojans or to Greeks, And at your pleasure either party aid. For if we leave Achilles thus alone To fight against the Trojans, not an hour Will they before the son of Peleus stand. They dreaded him before; but now, I fear, Since rous'd to fury by his comrade's death, He e'en in fate's despite may storm the wall."
Thus Saturn's son, and quenchless battle rous'd: The Gods, divided, hasten'd to the war: Juno and Pallas to the ships of Greece, With them th' Earth-shaker, and the helpful God, Hermes, for cunning subtleties unmatch'd; And Vulcan too, exulting in his strength, Yet halting, and on feeble limbs sustain'd. Mars of the glancing helm took part with Troy, And golden Phoebus with his locks unshorn, Latona too, and Dian, Archer-Queen, Xanthus, and Venus, laughter-loving dame.
While from the fight of men the Gods abstain'd, High rose the Grecian vaunts, as, long withdrawn, Achilles on the field again appear'd: And ev'ry Trojan's limbs with terror quak'd, Trembling, as Peleus' godlike son they saw, In arms all-glitt'ring, fierce as blood-stain'd Mars. But when th' Immortals mingled in the throng, Then furious wax'd the spirit-stirring strife; Then Pallas rais'd her war-cry, standing now Beside the deep-dug trench, without the wall, Now shouting loud along the sounding beach. On th' other side, as with the tempest's roar, Mars to the Trojans shouted loud; one while From Ilium's topmost height; anon again From the fair hill, o'erhanging Simois' stream. Thus, either side exciting to the fray, Th' immortal Gods unchain'd the angry war. Thunder'd on high the Sire of Gods and men With awful din; while Neptune shook beneath The boundless earth, and lofty mountain tops. The spring-abounding Ida quak'd and rock'd From her firm basis to her loftiest peak, And Troy's proud city, and the ships of Greece. Pluto, th' infernal monarch, heard alarm'd, And, springing from his throne, cried out in fear, Lest Neptune, breaking through the solid earth, To mortals and Immortals should lay bare His dark and drear abode, of Gods abhorr'd. Such was the shock when Gods in battle met; For there to royal Neptune stood oppos'd Phoebus Apollo with his arrows keen; The blue-ey'd Pallas to the God of War; To Juno, Dian, heav'nly Archeress, Sister of Phoebus, golden-shafted Queen. Stout Hermes, helpful God, Latona fac'd; While Vulcan met the mighty rolling stream, Xanthus by Gods, by men Scamander call'd. Thus Gods encounter'd Gods: Achilles' soul Meantime was burning 'mid the throng to meet Hector, the son of Priam; with whose blood He long'd to glut th' insatiate Lord of War. Apollo then, the spirit-stirring God, AEneas mov'd Achilles to confront, And fill'd with courage high; and thus, the voice Assuming of Lycaon, Priam's son, Apollo, son of Jove, the chief address'd:
"AEneas, prince and councillor of Troy, Where are the vaunts, which o'er the wine-cup late Thou mad'st amid th' assembled chiefs of Troy, That hand to hand thou wouldst Achilles meet?"
To whom AEneas thus in answer spoke: "Why, son of Priam, urge me to contend, Against my will, with Peleus' mighty son? Not for the first time should I now engage Achilles swift of foot: I met him once, And fled before his spear, on Ida's hill, When on our herds he fell; Lyrnessus then He raz'd, and Pedasus; me Jove preserv'd, With strength, endowing, and with speed of foot. Else had I fall'n beneath Achilles' hand, By Pallas aided; who before him moves, Light of his life, and guides his brazen spear Trojans and Leleges alike to slay. 'Tis not in mortal man with him to fight, Whom still some God attends, and guards from harm; And, e'en unaided, to the mark his spear Unerring flies, uncheck'd until it pierce A warrior's breast; yet if the Gods the scale Impartial held, all brass-clad as he is, O'er me no easy triumph should he gain."
To whom the King Apollo, son of Jove: "Brave chief, do thou too to th' immortal Gods Address thy pray'r; men say that thou art sprung From Venus, child of Jove; his mother owns A humbler origin; one born to Jove, The other to the aged Ocean God. On then with dauntless spear, nor be dismay'd By his high tone and vaunting menaces."
His words with courage fill'd the hero's breast, And on he sprang, in dazzling arms arrayed; But not unmark'd of white-arm'd Juno pass'd, To meet Achilles, through the press of men, Who thus address'd the Gods, to council call'd:
"Neptune and Pallas both, bethink ye well What now should be our course; AEneas comes, In dazzling arms array'd, to meet in fight The son of Peleus; Phoebus sends him forth. Say, then, shall we, encount'ring, to retreat Perforce constrain him? or shall one of us Beside Achilles stand, and give him strength That he may nothing lack; and know himself By all the mightiest of th' immortal Gods Belov'd, and those how pow'rless, by whose aid The Trojans yet maintain defensive war? Therefore, to join the battle, came we all From high Olympus, that in this day's fight No ill befall him; though the time shall come For him to meet the doom, by fate decreed, When at his birth his thread of life was spun. But if Achilles from a voice divine Receive not this assurance, he may well Be struck with fear, if haply to some God He find himself oppos'd: 'tis hard for man To meet, in presence visible, a God."
To whom Earth-shaking Neptune thus replied: "Juno, thine anger carry not too far; It ill beseems thee. Not with my consent Shall we, the stronger far, provoke to arms The other Gods; but rather, from the field Retiring, let us from on high survey, To mortals left, the turmoil of the war. Should Mars or Phoebus then begin the fight, Or stay Achilles, and his arm restrain, Then in the contest we too may engage; And soon, methinks, will they be fain to join, Driv'n from the field, the Synod of the Gods, Subdued perforce by our victorious hands."
The dark-hair'd monarch spoke; and led the way To the high wall, by Trojans built of old, With Pallas' aid, for godlike Hercules; Within whose circle he might safety seek, When from the beach the monster of the deep Might chase him toward the plain; there Neptune sat, And with him, the other Gods, a veil of cloud Impenetrable around their shoulders spread. On th' other side, upon the fair hill's brow, Phoebus with Mars the fort-destroyer sat. On either side they sat, each facing each With hostile counsels; yet reluctant both To take th' initiative of ruthless war; Till Jove, enthron'd on high, the signal gave. Then all the plain, with men and horses throng'd, The brazen gleam illumin'd; rang the earth Beneath their feet, as to the battle-shock They rush'd; but in the midst, both hosts between, Eager for fight, stood forth two warriors bold, Proudly pre-eminent; Anchises' son AEneas, and Achilles' godlike might.
AEneas first with threat'ning mien advanc'd, Nodding his pond'rous helm; before his breast His shield he bore, and pois'd his brazen spear. Him met Achilles from th' opposing ranks; Fierce as a rav'ning lion, whom to slay Pour forth the stalwart youths, th' united strength Of the rous'd village; he unheeding moves At first; but wounded by a jav'lin thrown By some bold youth, he turns, with gaping jaws, And frothing fangs, collecting for the spring, His breast too narrow for his mighty heart; And with his tail he lashes both his flanks And sides, as though to rouse his utmost rage; Then on, in pride of strength, with glaring eyes He dashes, if some hunter he may slay, Or in the foremost rank himself be slain. So mov'd his dauntless spirit Peleus' son AEneas to confront; when near they came, Thus first Achilles, swift of foot, began:
"AEneas, why so far before the ranks Advanc'd? dost thou presume with me to fight? Perchance expecting that the throne of Troy And Priam's royal honours may be thine. E'en if thou slay me, deem not to obtain Such boon from Priam; valiant sons are his, And he not weak, but bears a constant mind. Or have the Trojans set apart for thee Some favour'd spot, the fairest of the land, Orchard or corn-land, shouldst thou work my death; Which thou shalt find, I trust, too hard a task? Already hast thou fled before my spear; Hast thou forgotten how amid thy herds Alone I found thee, and with flying foot Pursued thee down the steep of Ida's hill? Nor didst thou dare to turn, or pause in flight. Thou to Lyrnessus fledd'st; Lyrnessus I, With Pallas' aid and Jove's, assail'd and took: Their women thence, their days of freedom lost, I bore away, my captives; thee from death, Jove and the other Gods defended then; But will not now bestow, though such thy hope, Their succour; then I warn thee, while 'tis time, Ere ill betide thee, to the gen'ral throng That thou withdraw, nor stand to me oppos'd: After th' event may e'en a fool be wise."
To whom in answer thus AEneas spoke: "Achilles, think not me, as though a fool, To daunt with lofty speech; I too could well With cutting words, and insult, answer thee. Each other's race and parents well we know From tales of ancient days; although by sight Nor mine to thee, nor thine to me are known. To noble Peleus thou, 'tis said, wast born Of Thetis, fair-hair'd daughter of the sea; Of great Anchises, Heav'n-descended chief, I boast me sprung, to him by Venus borne. Of these shall one or other have this day To mourn their son; since not with empty words Shall thou and I from mortal combat part. But if thou farther wouldst enquire, and learn The race I spring from, not unknown to men, By Dardanus, of cloud-compelling Jove Begotten, was Dardania peopled first, Ere sacred Ilium, populous city of men, Was founded on the plain; as yet they dwelt On spring-abounding Ida's lowest spurs. To Dardanus was Erichthonius born, Great King, the wealthiest of the sons of men; For him were pastur'd in the marshy mead, Rejoicing with their foals, three thousand mares; Them Boreas, in the pasture where they fed, Beheld, enamour'd; and amid the herd In likeness of a coal-black steed appear'd; Twelve foals, by him conceiving, they produc'd. These, o'er the teeming corn-fields as they flew, Skimm'd o'er the standing ears, nor broke the haulm; And, o'er wide Ocean's bosom as they flew, Skimm'd o'er the topmost spray of th' hoary sea Again, to Erichthonius Tros was born, The King of Troy; three noble sons were his, Ilus, Assaracus, and Ganymede; The fairest he of all the sons of men; Him, for his beauty, bore the Gods away, To minister as cup-bearer to Jove, And dwell amid th' Immortals: Ilus next Begot a noble son, Laomedon; Tithonus he, and Priam; Clytius, Lampus and Icetaon, plant of Mars; Capys, begotten of Assaracus, Begot Anchises, and Anchises me: To Priam godlike Hector owes his birth. Such is my race, and such the blood I boast; But Jove, at will, to mortals valour gives Or minishes; for he is Lord of all. Then cease we now, like babbling fools, to prate Here in the centre of the coming fight. Terms of reproach we both might find, whose weight Would sink a galley of a hundred oars; For glibly runs the tongue, and can at will Give utt'rance to discourse in ev'ry vein; Wide is the range of language; and such words As one may speak, another may return. What need that we should insults interchange? Like women, who some paltry quarrel wage, Scolding and brawling in the public street, And in opprobrious terms their anger vent, Some true, some false; for so their rage suggests. With words thou shalt not turn me from the field, Till we have met in arms; then try we now Each other's prowess with our brazen spears."
He said, and hurl'd against the mighty shield His brazen spear; loud rang the weapon's point; And at arm's length Achilles held the shield With his broad hand, in fear that through its folds AEneas' spear would easy passage find; Blind fool! forgetful that the glorious gifts Bestow'd by Gods, are not with ease o'ercome, Nor yield before th' assaults of mortal men.
So broke not through AEneas' sturdy spear, Stay'd by the golden plate, the gift of Heav'n; Yet through two plates it pass'd, but three remain'd, For five were in the shield by Vulcan wrought; Two were of brass, the inner two of tin, And one of gold, which stay'd the brazen spear.
Achilles threw in turn his pond'rous spear. And struck the circle of AEneas' shield Near the first rim, where thinnest lay the brass, And thinnest too th' o'erlying hide; right through The Pelian shaft was driv'n; wide gap'd the shield. AEneas crouch'd, in fear, as o'er his head He held his shield; the eager weapon pass'd Through both the circles of his ample shield, And in the ground, behind him, quiv'ring, stood. Escap'd the pond'rous weapon, sharpest pain Flashing across his eyes, in fear he stood, So close the spear had pass'd him; onward then, Drawing his trenchant blade, Achilles rush'd, With fearful shout; a rocky fragment then AEneas lifted up, a mighty mass, Which scarce two men, as men are now, could bear, But he, unaided, lifted it with ease. Then had AEneas, with the massive stone, Or on the helmet, or the shield, his death Averting, struck Achilles; and himself Had by the sword of Peleus' son been slain, Had not th' Earth-shaking God his peril seen, And to th' Immortals thus address'd his speech: "Oh, woe is me for great AEneas' sake, Who, by Achilles slain, must visit soon The viewless shades; insensate, who relied On Phoebus' words; yet nought shall he avail From death to save him. Yet oh why should he, Blameless himself, the guilt of others rue? Who still his grateful sacrifice hath paid To all the Gods in wide-spread Heav'n who dwell. Let us then interpose to guard his life; Lest, if Achilles slay him, Saturn's son Be mov'd to anger; for his destiny Would have him live; lest, heirless, from the earth Should perish quite the race of Dardanus; By Saturn's son the best-belov'd of all His sons, to him by mortal women born. For Jove the race of Priam hath abhorr'd; But o'er the Trojans shall AEneas reign, And his sons' sons, through ages yet unborn."
Whom answer'd thus the stag-ey'd Queen of Heav'n: "Neptune, do thou determine for thyself AEneas to withdraw, or leave to fall, Good as he is, beneath Achilles' sword; But we before th' immortal Gods are bound, Both I and Pallas, by repeated oaths, Ne'er from his doom one Trojan life to save, Though to devouring flames a prey, all Troy Were blazing, kindled by the valiant Greeks."
Th' Earth-shaker heard; and thro' the fight he pass'd, And through the throng of spears, until he came Where great Achilles and AEneas stood. Around the eyes of Peleus' son he spread A veil of mist; then from AEneas' shield The brass-tipp'd spear withdrawing, laid it down Before Achilles' feet; and lifting up AEneas, bore him high above the ground. O'er many a rank of warriors and of cars AEneas flew, supported by the God; Till to the field's extremest verge he came, Where stood the Caucons, arming for the war. There to AEneas, standing by his side, Th' Earth-shaker thus his winged words address'd: "AEneas, say what God has mov'd thee thus Against Achilles, reckless, to contend, Thy stronger far, and dearer to the Gods? If e'er he cross thy path, do thou retire, Lest, e'en despite of fate, thou find thy death. But when Achilles hath to fate succumb'd, Then, fearless, with the foremost join the fray: No other Greek shall bear away thy spoils."
Thus plainly warn'd, AEneas there he left. Then from Achilles' eyes he purg'd the film: Astonish'd, he with eyes wide open gaz'd, As thus he commun'd with his mighty heart:
"O Heav'n, what marvel do mine eyes behold? My spear before me laid, and vanish'd he At whom I hurl'd it with intent to slay! Then is AEneas of th' immortal Gods In truth belov'd, though vain I deem'd his boast. A curse go with him! yet methinks not soon Will he again presume to prove my might, Who gladly now in flight escapes from death. Then, to the valiant Greeks my orders giv'n. Let me some other Trojan's mettle prove." Then tow'rd the ranks he sprang, each sev'ral man Exhorting: "From the Trojans, valiant Greeks, No longer stand aloof; but man to man Confront the foe, and nobly dare the fight. 'Twere hard for me, brave warrior though I be, To face such numbers, and to fight with all: Not Mars, nor Pallas, though immortal Gods, Could face, and vanquish, such a mighty mass. But what my single arm, and feet, and strength May profit, not a jot will I relax; Right through the ranks I mean to force my way; And small shall be that Trojan's cause for joy, Who comes within the compass of my spear."
Thus he, exhorting; Hector cheering on Meanwhile the Trojans, with assurance giv'n That he himself Achilles would confront.
"Ye valiant Trojans, fear not Peleus' son; I too in words could with the Gods contend, Though not in arms; so much the stronger they. Not all his words Achilles shall make good; Fulfilling some, in others he shall fail, His course midway arrested. Him will I Encounter, though his hands were hands of fire, Of fire his hands, his strength as burnish'd steel."
Thus he, exhorting; with uplifted spears Advanc'd the Trojans; from the mingling hosts Loud rose the clamour; then at Hector's side Apollo stood, and thus address'd the chief: "Hector, forbear Achilles to defy; And 'mid the crowd withdraw thee from the fray; Lest with the spear he slay thee, thrown from far, Or with the sword in combat hand to hand."
He said; and troubled by the heav'nly voice, Hector amid the throng of men withdrew.
Then, girt with might, amid the Trojans sprang, With fearful shouts, Achilles; first he slew Otryntes' son, Iphition, valiant chief Of num'rous warriors; him a Naiad nymph, In Hyde's fertile vale, beneath the feet Of snow-clad Tmolus, to Otryntes bore; At him, as on he rush'd, Achilles hurl'd, And through his forehead drove his glitt'ring spear; The head was cleft in twain; thund'ring he fell, And o'er him thus Achilles made his boast:
"Son of Otryntes, lie thou there, of men The most vain-glorious; here thou find'st thy death, Far from thy place of birth, beside the lake Gygaean; there hadst thou thine heritage Of old, beside the fish-abounding stream Of Hyllus, and by Hermus' eddying flood."
Thus he, exulting: o'er Iphition's eyes Were spread the shades of death; his mangled corpse Was crush'd beneath the Grecian chariot wheels, In the first shock. Demoleon next he smote, A helpful aid in war, Antenor's son, Pierc'd thro' the temples, thro' the brass-bound helm; Nor check'd the brazen helm the spear, whose point Went crashing through the bone, that all the brain Was shatter'd; onward as he rush'd, he fell. Then through the neck Hippodamas he smote, Flying before him, mounted on his car. Deep groan'd he, breathing out his soul, as groans A bull, by sturdy youths to th' altar dragg'd Of Neptune, King divine of Helice; Th' Earth-shaking God, well pleas'd, the gift receives; E'en with such groans his noble spirit fled. The godlike Polydore he next assail'd, The son of Priam; him his aged sire Would fain have kept at home, of all his sons At once the youngest and the best-belov'd; Among them all for speed of foot unmatch'd; Whose youthful folly, in the foremost ranks His speed displaying, cost him now his life. Him, as he darted by, Achilles' spear Struck through the centre of the back, where met The golden clasps that held the glitt'ring belt, And where the breastplate form'd a double guard: Right through his body pass'd the weapon's point; Groaning, he fell upon his knees; dark clouds O'erspread his eyes; supporting with his hand His wounded bowels, on the ground he writh'd. When Hector saw his brother Polydore Writhing in death, a mist o'erspread his eyes Nor longer could he bear to stand aloof, But sprang to meet Achilles, flashing fire, His keen spear brandishing; at sight of him Up leap'd Achilles, and exulting cried:
"Lo, here the man who most hath wrung my soul, Who slew my lov'd companion: now, methinks, Upon the pass of war not long shall we Stand separate, nor each the other shun."
Then, with stern glance, to godlike Hector thus: "Draw near, and quickly meet thy doom of death."
To whom thus Hector of the glancing helm, Unterrified: "Achilles, think not me, As though a fool and ignorant of war, To daunt with lofty speech; I too could well With cutting words and insult answer thee. I know thee strong and valiant; and I know Myself to thee inferior; but th' event Is with the Gods; and I, if such their will, The weaker, with my spear may reach thy life: My point too hath, ere now, its sharpness prov'd."
He said, and, poising, hurl'd his pond'rous spear, Which from Achilles Pallas turn'd aside With lightest breath; and back to Hector sent, And laid before his feet; intent to slay, Onward Achilles rush'd, with fearful shout; But Phoebus Hector from the field convey'd, (As Gods can only,) veil'd in thickest cloud. Thrice Peleus' godlike son, with brazen spear, His onset made; thrice struck the misty cloud; But when, with pow'r as of a God, he made His fourth essay, in fury thus he cried:
"Yet once again, vile hound, hast thou escap'd; Thy doom was nigh, but thee thy God hath sav'd, Phoebus, to whom, amid the clash of spears, Well mayst thou pray! We yet shall meet again; When I shall end thee, if a guardian God I too may claim; meanwhile, from thee I turn, And others seek on whom my hap may light."
He said, and drove through Dryops' neck his spear, And stretch'd him at his feet, and pass'd him by. Next with his spear he struck below the knee Philetor's son, Demuchus, stout and tall, And check'd his forward course; then rushing on Dealt with his mighty sword the mortal blow. The sons of Bias next, Laogonus And Dardanus, he hurl'd from off their car, One with the spear, and one by sword-stroke slain. Tros too he slew, Alastor's son, who came To meet him, and embrace his knees, and pray To spare his life, in pity of his youth: Little he knew how vain would be his pray'r; For not of temper soft, nor mild of mood Was he, but sternly fierce; and as he knelt And clasp'd his knees, and would his pray'r prefer, Achilles clove him with his mighty sword, Gash'd through the liver; as from out the wound His liver dropp'd, the dark blood gushing forth His bosom fill'd, and darkness clos'd his eyes, As ebb'd his life away. Then through the ear Mulius he thrust; at th' other ear came forth The brazen point. Echeclus next he met, Son of Agenor, and his hilted sword Full on the centre of his head let fall. The hot blood dy'd the blade; the darkling shades Of death, and rig'rous fate, his eyes o'erspread. Next, where the tendons bind the elbow-joint, The brazen spear transfix'd Deucalion's arm; With death in prospect, and disabled arm He stood, till on his neck Achilles' sword Descending, shar'd, and flung afar, both head And helmet; from the spine's dissever'd joints The marrow flow'd, as stretch'd in dust he lay. The noble son of Peireus next he slew, Rigmus, who came from Thracia's fertile plains; Him through the waist he struck, the brazen spear Plung'd in his bowels; from the car he fell; And as Areithous, his charioteer, His horses turn'd, Achilles through the neck His sharp spear thrusting, hurl'd him to the ground, The startled steeds in wild confusion thrown.
As rage the fires amid the wooded glen Of some parch'd mountain's side, and fiercely burns The copse-wood dry, while eddying here and there The flames are whirl'd before the gusty wind; So fierce Achilles raged, on ev'ry side Pursuing, slaught'ring; reek'd the earth with blood. As when upon a well-roll'd threshing-floor, Two sturdy-fronted steers, together yok'd, Tread the white barley out; beneath their feet Fast flies the grain out-trodden from the husk; So by Achilles driv'n, his flying steeds His chariot bore, o'er bodies of the slain And broken bucklers trampling; all beneath Was plash'd with blood the axle, and the rails Around the car, as from the horses' feet And from the felloes of the wheels were thrown The bloody gouts; and onward still he press'd, Panting for added triumphs, deeply dyed With gore and carnage his unconquer'd hands.