The Illiad: The Battle in the River Scamander.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Battle in the River Scamander.

The Trojans fly before Achilles, some towards the town, others to the river Scamander; he falls upon the latter with great slaughter, takes twelve captives alive, to sacrifice to the shade of Patroclus; and kills Lycaon and Asteropaeus. Scamander attacks him with all his waves; Neptune and Pallas assist the hero; Simois joins Scamander; at length Vulcan, by the instigation of Juno, almost dries up the river. This combat ended, the other gods engage each other. Meanwhile Achilles continues the slaughter, and drives the rest into Troy; Agenor only makes a stand, and is conveyed away in a cloud by Apollo: who (to delude Achilles) takes upon him Agenor's shape, and while he pursues him in that disguise, gives the Trojans an opportunity of retiring into their city.

The same day continues. The scene is on the banks and in the stream of Scamander.

But when they came to eddying Xanthus' ford,
Fair-flowing stream, born of immortal Jove,
Achilles cut in twain the flying host;
Part driving tow'rd the city, o'er the plain,
Where on the former day the routed Greeks,
When Hector rag'd victorious, fled amain.
On, terror-struck, they rush'd; but Juno spread,
To baffle their retreat, before their path,
Clouds and thick darkness: half the fugitives
In the deep river's silv'ry eddies plung'd:
With clamour loud they fell: the torrent roar'd;
The banks around re-echoed; here and there,
They, with the eddies wildly struggling, swam.
As when, pursued by fire, a hov'ring swarm
Of locusts riverward direct their flight,
And, as th' insatiate flames advance, they cow'r
Amid the waters; so a mingled mass
Of men and horses, by Achilles driv'n,
The deeply-whirling stream, of Xanthus chok'd.
His spear amid the tamarisks on the bank
The hero left; on savage deeds intent,
Arm'd with his sword alone, a God in pow'r,
He sprang amid the torrent; right and left
He smote; then fearful rose the groans of men
Slain with the sword; the stream ran red with blood.
As fishes, flying from a dolphin, crowd
The shoal recesses of some open bay,
In fear, for whom he catches he devours;
So crouch'd the Trojans in the mighty stream
Beneath the banks; and when at length his hand
Wearied of slaughter, from the stream, alive,
He dragg'd twelve youths, whose forfeit lives should be
The bloody fine for slain Patroclus paid.
Helpless from fear, as fawns, he brought them forth;
Their hands secur'd behind them with the belts
Which o'er their shirts of twisted mail they wore,
And bade his comrades lead them to the ships.
Then on again he dash'd, athirst for blood;
And first encounter'd, flying from the stream,
Lycaon, Priam's son; him once before
He by a nightly onslaught had surpris'd,
And from his father's vineyard captive borne:
Where, as he cut, to form his chariot rail,
A fig-tree's tender shoots, unlook'd-for ill
O'ertook him in the form of Peleus' son.
Thence in his ship to Lemnos' thriving isle
He bore him, ransom'd there by Jason's son.
His Imbrian host, Eetion, set him free
With lib'ral gifts, and to Arisba sent:
Escaping thence, he reach'd his native home.
Twelve days save one, rejoicing, with his friends
He spent, return'd from Lemnos: fate, the twelfth,
Again consign'd him to Achilles' hands,
From him, reluctant, to receive his death.
Him when Achilles, swift of foot, beheld,
No spear in hand, of helm and shield bereft,
All flung in haste away, as from the stream,
Reeking with sweat, and faint with toil, he fled,
He commun'd, wrathful, with his mighty heart:
"Ye Gods, what marvel do mine eyes behold!
Methinks the valiant Trojans slain by me
Ere long will from the realms of darkness rise;
Since, death escaping, but to slav'ry sold
In Lemnos' isle, this fellow hath return'd,
Despite the hoary sea's impediment,
Which many a man against his will hath stay'd:
Now shall he taste my spear, that I may see
If thence too he return, or if the earth
May keep him safe, which e'en the strongest holds."
Thus, as he stood, he mus'd; but all aghast
Approach'd Lycaon; and would fain have clasp'd
The Hero's knees; for longingly he sought
Escape from bitter death and evil fate.
Achilles rais'd his spear, in act to strike;
He, stooping, ran beneath, and clasp'd his knees;
Above his back the murd'rous weapon pass'd,
And in the earth was fix'd: one suppliant hand
Achilles' knees embrac'd; the other held,
With unrelaxing grasp, the pointed spear;
As he with winged words, imploring, spoke:
"I clasp thy knees, Achilles! look then down
With pity on my woes; and recognize,
Illustrious chief, a suppliant's sacred claim:
For in thy tent I first broke bread, that day,
When, in my father's fruitful vineyard seiz'd,
Thy captive I became, to slav'ry sold,
Far from my sire and friends, in Lemnos' isle.
A hundred oxen were my ransom then;
At thrice so much I now would buy my life.
This day is but the twelfth, since, sorely tried
By lengthen'd suffering, back to Troy I came.
Now to thy hands once more my cruel fate
Consigns me; surely by the wrath of Jove
Pursued, who gives me to thy pow'r again.
Me, doom'd to early death, my mother bore,
Old Altes' daughter, fair Laothoe;
Altes, who rul'd the warlike Leleges,
In lofty Pedasus, by Satnois' stream.
His child of Priam's many wives was one;
Two sons she bore, and both by thee must die.
Already one, the godlike Polydore,
Amid the foremost ranks thy spear hath slain;
And now my doom hath found me; for from thee,
Since evil fate hath plac'd me in thy hands,
I may not hope to fly; yet hear but this,
And weigh it in thy mind, to spare my life:
I come not of that womb which Hector bore,
Who slew thy comrade, gentle, kind, and brave."
Thus Priam's noble son, imploring, spoke;
But stern the answer fell upon his ear:
"Thou fool! no more to me of ransom prate!
Before Patroclus met the doom of death,
To spare the Trojans still my soul inclin'd;
And many captives, ta'en alive, I sold;
But from henceforth, before the walls of Troy,
Not one of all the Trojans, whom the Gods
May to my hands deliver, least of all
A son of Priam, shall escape the death.
Thou too, my friend, must die: why vainly wail?
Dead is Patroclus too, thy better far.
Me too thou see'st, how stalwart, tall, and fair,
Of noble sire, and Goddess-mother born:
Yet must I yield to death and stubborn fate,
Whene'er, at morn, or noon, or eve, the spear
Or arrow from the bow may reach my life."
He said; and sank Lycaon's limbs and heart;
He loos'd the spear, and sat, with both his hands
Uprais'd, imploring; but Achilles drew,
And on his neck beside the collar-bone
Let fall his trenchant sword; the two-edg'd blade
Was buried deep; prone on the earth he lay;
Forth gush'd the crimson blood, and dyed the ground.
Him, dragging by the feet, Achilles threw
In the mid stream, and thus with vaunting speech:
"Lie there amid the fishes, who shall cleanse,
But not with kindly thought, thy gory wounds:
O'er thee, extended on thy bier, shall rise
No mother's wail; Scamander's eddying stream
Shall to the sea's broad bosom roll thee down;
And, springing through the darkly rippling wave,
Fishes shall rise, and banquet on thy flesh.
On now the work of death! till, flying ye,
And slaught'ring I, we reach the city wall.
Nor this fair-flowing, silver-eddying stream,
Shall aught avail ye, though to him ye pay
In sacrifice the blood of countless bulls,
And living horses in his waters sink.
Ye all shall perish, till Patroclus' death
Be fully aveng'd, and slaughter of the Greeks,
Whom, in my absence, by the ships ye slew."
He said: the mighty River at his words
Indignant chaf'd, and ponder'd in his mind
How best to check Achilles' warlike toil,
And from destruction guard the Trojan host.
Meantime Achilles with his pond'rous spear
Asteropaeus, son of Pelegon,
Assail'd with deadly purpose; Pelegon
To broadly-flowing Axius ow'd his birth,
The River-God commingling with the blood
Of Periboea, daughter eldest born
Of Acessamenus: on him he sprang;
He, from the river rising, stood oppos'd.
Two lances in his hand; his courage rous'd
By Xanthus, who, indignant, saw his stream
Polluted by the blood of slaughter'd youths,
By fierce Achilles' hand, unpitying, slain.
When near the warriors, each to other, came,
Achilles, swift of foot, took up the word:
"What man, and whence art thou, who dar'st to stand
Oppos'd to me? of most unhappy sires
The children they, who my encounter meet!"
To whom th' illustrious son of Pelegon:
"Great son of Peleus, why enquire my race?
From far Paeonia's fertile fields I come,
The leader of the long-spear'd Paeon host.
Ten days have pass'd since I to Ilium came.
From widely-flowing Axius my descent,
Axius, the purest stream on earth that flows.
He Pelegon begot, the spear-renown'd;
Of Pelegon I boast me sprung; and now
Address thee, brave Achilles, to the fight."
Threat'ning he spoke: Achilles rais'd on high
The Pelian spear; but, ambidexter, he
From either hand at once a jav'lin launch'd.
One struck, but pierc'd not through, the mighty shield,
Stay'd by the golden plate, the gift of Heav'n;
Achilles' right fore-arm the other graz'd:
Forth gush'd the crimson blood; but, glancing by
And vainly longing for the taste of flesh,
The point behind him in the earth was fix'd.
Then at Asteropaeus in his turn
With deadly intent the son of Peleus threw
His straight-directed spear; his mark he miss'd,
But struck the lofty bank, where, deep infix'd
To half its length, the Pelian ash remain'd.
Then from beside his thigh Achilles drew
His trenchant blade, and, furious, onward rush'd;
While from the cliff Asteropaeus strove
In vain, with stalwart hand, to wrench the spear.
Three times he shook it with impetuous force,
Three times relax'd his grasp; a fourth attempt
He made to bend and break the sturdy shaft;
But him, preventing, Peleus' godlike son
With deadly stroke across the belly smote,
And gush'd his bowels forth; upon the ground
Gasping he lay, and darkness seal'd his eyes.
Then on his breast Achilles sprang, and stripp'd
His armour off, and thus with vaunting speech:
"So lie thou there! 'tis hard for thee to fight,
Though river-born, against the progeny
Of mighty Jove; a widely-flowing stream
Thou claim'st as author of thy parentage;
My high descent from Jove himself I boast.
My father Peleus, son of AEacus,
Reigns o'er the num'rous race of Myrmidons;
The son of Jove himself was AEacus.
High o'er all rivers, that to th' ocean flow,
Is Jove exalted; and in like degree
Superior is his race in pow'r to theirs.
A mighty River hast thou here at hand,
If that might aught avail thee; but his pow'r
Is impotent to strive with Saturn's son.
With him, not Achelous, King of streams,
Presumes to vie; nor e'en the mighty strength
Of deeply-flowing, wide Oceanus;
From whom all rivers, all the boundless sea,
All fountains, all deep wells derive their source;
Yet him appals the lightning bolt of Jove,
And thunder, pealing from the vault of Heav'n."
He said, and from the cliff withdrew his spear.
Him left he lifeless there upon the sand
Extended; o'er him the dark waters wash'd,
And eels and fishes, thronging, gnaw'd his flesh.
Then 'mid the Paeons' plumed host he rush'd,
Who fled along the eddying stream, when him,
Their bravest in the stubborn fight, they saw
Slain by the sword and arm of Peleus' son.
Thersilochus and Mydon then he slew,
Mnesus and Thrasius and Astypylus,
AEnius and Ophelestes; and yet more
Had been the slaughter by Achilles wrought,
But from his eddying depths, in human form,
With wrathful tone the mighty River spoke:
"In strength, Achilles, and in deeds of arms,
All mortals thou surpassest; for the Gods
Themselves attend thee, and protect from harm;
If Saturn's son have given thee utterly
The Trojans to destroy, yet, ere thou slay,
Far from my waters drive them o'er the plain;
For now my lovely stream is fill'd with dead;
Nor can I pour my current to the sea,
With floating corpses chok'd, whilst thou pursuest
The work of death, insatiate: stay thy hand!
With horror I behold thee, mighty chief!"
Whom answer'd thus Achilles, swift of foot:
"Be it as thou wilt, Scamander, Heav'n-born stream;
Yet cease I not to slay until I drive
These vaunting Trojans to their walls, and prove
The force of Hector, if, in single fight,
I be by him, or he by me, subdued."
He said, and fiercely on the Trojans rush'd,
A God in might! to Phoebus then his speech
The deeply-eddying River thus address'd:
"God of the silver bow, great son of Jove,
Obey'st thou thus the will of Saturn's son,
Who charg'd thee by the Trojans still to stand,
And aid their cause, till ev'ning's late approach
Should cast its shadows o'er the fertile earth?"
Thus as he spoke, from off the lofty bank
Achilles springing in mid current plung'd;
Then high the swelling stream, tumultuous, rose
In all its angry flood; and with a roar
As of a bellowing bull, cast forth to land
The num'rous corpses by Achilles slain;
And many living, in his cavern'd bed,
Conceal'd behind the whirling waters sav'd.
Fierce, round Achilles, rose the boiling wave,
And on his shield descending, drove him down;
Nor might he keep his foothold; but he grasp'd
A lofty elm, well-grown, which from the cliff
Uprooted, all the bank had torn away,
And with its tangled branches check'd the flow
Of the fair river, which with all its length
It bridg'd across; then, springing from the deep,
Swiftly he fled in terror o'er the plain.
Nor ceas'd the mighty River, but pursued,
With darkly-ruffling crest, intent to stay
Achilles' course, and save the Trojan host.
Far as a jav'lin's flight he rush'd, in speed
Like the dark hunter eagle, strongest deem'd,
And swiftest wing'd of all the feather'd race.
So on he sped; loud rattled on his breast
His brazen armour, as before the God,
Cow'ring, he fled; the God behind him still
With thund'ring sound pursued. As when a man
From some dark-water'd spring through trenches leads,
'Mid plants and gardens, th' irrigating stream,
And, spade in hand, th' appointed channel clears:
Down flows the stream anon, its pebbly bed
Disturbing; fast it flows with bubbling sound,
Down the steep slope, o'ertaking him who leads.
Achilles so th' advancing wave o'ertook,
Though great his speed; but man must yield to Gods,
Oft as Achilles, swift of foot, essay'd
To turn and stand, and know if all the Gods,
Who dwell in Heav'n, were leagued to daunt his soul
So oft the Heav'n-born River's mighty wave
Above his shoulders dash'd; in deep distress
He sprang on high; then rush'd the flood below,
And bore him off his legs, and wore away
The soil beneath his feet; then, groaning, thus,
As up to Heav'n he look'd, Achilles cried:
"O Father Jove, will none of all the Gods
In pity save me from this angry flood?
Content, thereafter, would I meet my fate.
Of all the pow'rs of Heav'n, my mother most
Hath wrong'd me, who hath buoy'd me up with hope
Delusive, that, before the walls of Troy,
I should by Phoebus' swift-wing'd arrows fall.
Would that by Hector's hand 'twere mine to die,
The bravest of their brave! a warrior so
Were by a warrior slain! now am I doom'd
Ignobly here to sink, the mighty flood
O'erwhelming me, like some poor shepherd lad,
Borne down in crossing by a wintry brook."
He said; and quickly, cloth'd in mortal form,
Neptune and Pallas at his side appear'd;
With cheering words they took him by the hand,
And thus th' Earth-shaking God his speech began:
"Achilles, fear not thou, nor be dismay'd;
Such pow'rful aid, by Jove's consent, we bring,
Pallas and I, from Heav'n; 'tis not decreed
That thou shouldst by the River be o'erwhelm'd;
He shall retire ere long, and thou shalt see;
And more, if thou wilt hear, we undertake
That from the war thine arm shall not be stay'd,
Till thou shalt drive beneath the walls of Troy
The crowd of flying Trojans; thou thyself
Shalt Hector slay, and safe regain the ships:
Such high renown we give thee to achieve."
They to the other Gods, this said, return'd;
He, greatly strengthen'd by the voice divine,
Press'd onwards to the plain; the plain he found
All flooded o'er; and, floating, armour fair,
And many a corpse of men in battle slain;
Yet onward, lifting high his feet, he press'd
Right tow'rd the stream; nor could the mighty stream
Check his advance, such vigour Pallas gave;
Nor did Scamander yet his fury stay,
But fiercer rose his rage; and rearing high
His crested wave, to Simois thus he cried:
"Dear brother, aid me with united force
This mortal's course to check; he, unrestrain'd,
Will royal Priam's city soon destroy,
Nor will the Trojans his assault endure.
Haste to the rescue then, and from their source
Fill all thy stream, and all thy channels swell;
Rouse thy big waves, and roll a torrent down
Of logs and stones, to whelm this man of might,
Who triumphs now, and bears him as a God.
Nought shall his strength or beauty then avail,
Or gallant arms, beneath the waters sunk,
Deep buried in the mud: himself will I
In sand imbed, and o'er his corpse a pile
Of shingly gravel heap; nor shall the Greeks
Be able to collect his bones, encas'd
By me so deep in slime. His monument
They here may raise; but when they celebrate
His fun'ral rites, no mound will he require."
He said; and on Achilles, from on high
Came boiling, rushing down, with thund'ring roar,
With foam and blood and corpses intermix'd.
High rose the Heav'n-born River's darkling wave,
And bore Achilles downward; then in fear
Lest the broad waters of the eddying stream
Should quite o'erwhelm him, Juno cried aloud,
And Vulcan thus, her son, in haste address'd:
"Up, Vulcan; up, my son; for we had deem'd
That eddying Xanthus stood to thee oppos'd:
Haste thee to aid; thy fiery strength display;
While from the sea I call the stormy blast
Of Zephyr and brisk Notus, who shall drive
The raging flames ahead, and burn alike
The Trojans and their arms: do thou the while
Burn down the trees on Xanthus' banks; himself
Assail with fire, nor by his honey'd words
Nor by his menaces be turn'd aside;
Nor, till thou hear my voice, restrain thy pow'r;
Then stay the raging flames' unwearied course."
Thus Juno spoke; and Vulcan straight prepar'd
The heav'nly fire; and first upon the plain
The flames he kindled, and the dead consum'd,
Who lay, promiscuous, by Achilles slain:
The plain was dried, and stay'd the wat'ry flood.
As when the breath of Boreas quickly dries
In Autumn-time a newly-water'd field,
The tiller's heart rejoicing: so was dried
The spacious plain; then he, the dead consum'd,
Against the river turn'd the fiery glare:
Burnt were the willows, elms, and tamarisk shrubs,
The lotus, and the reeds, and galingal,
Which by the lovely river grew profuse.
The eels and fishes, 'mid the eddying whirl,
'Mid the clear wave were hurrying here and there,
In dire distress from Vulcan's fiery breath:
Scorch'd by the flames, the mighty River spoke:
"Vulcan, no God against thy pow'r can stand,
Nor with thy fiery flames will I contend;
Restrain thy wrath; though Peleus' godlike son
Should from their city drive the Trojans straight,
With rival parties what concern have I?"
All scorch'd he spoke; his fair stream bubbling up,
As when a caldron on a blazing fire,
Fill'd with the melting fat of well-fed swine,
Boils up within, and bubbles all around,
With well-dried wood beneath, so bubbling up
The waters of the lovely River boil'd:
Nor onward would he flow, but check'd his course,
By the hot blast o'er-borne, and fiery strength
Of skilful Vulcan; and to Juno thus,
Imploring, he his winged words address'd:
"Juno, what cause impels thy son, my stream,
O'er all the rest, to visit with his wrath?
E'en less than others who the Trojans aid,
Have I offended; yet at thy command
Will I withdraw; but bid that he too cease;
And this I swear, no Trojan more to save,
Though to devouring flames a prey, all Troy
Were blazing, kindled by the valiant Greeks."
This when the white-arm'd Goddess Juno heard,
To Vulcan straight she thus address'd her speech:
"Vulcan, my glorious son, restrain thy hand:
In mortal men's behalf, it is not meet
To press thus hardly an Immortal God."
She said, and Vulcan stay'd his fiery strength,
And, back returning, in his wonted bed
Flow'd the fair River. Xanthus thus subdued,
These two their warfare ceas'd, by Juno check'd,
Despite her wrath; but 'mid the other Gods
Arose contention fierce, and discord dire,
Their warring passions rous'd on either side.
With fearful crash they met: the broad Earth groan'd;
Loud rang the Heav'n as with a trumpet's sound:
Jove, on Olympus' height, the tumult heard,
And in his heart he laugh'd a joyous laugh,
To see the Gods in angry battle met.
Not long they stood aloof, led on by Mars
The buckler-breaker, who to Pallas first,
Poising his spear, his bitter speech address'd:
"What dost thou here, thou saucy jade, to war
The Gods exciting, overbold of mood,
Led by thy haughty spirit? dost thou forget
How thou the son of Tydeus, Diomed,
Didst urge against me, and with visible spear
Direct his aim, and aid to wound my flesh?
For all I suffer'd then, thou now shalt pay."
Thus as he spoke, he struck the tassell'd shield,
Awful to view, which not the lightning bolt
Of Jove himself could pierce: the blood-stain'd Mars
Against it thrust in vain his pond'rous spear.
The Goddess stoop'd, and in her ample hand
Took up a stone, that lay upon the plain,
Dark, rugged, vast, which men of elder days
Had set to mark the limits of their land.
Full on the neck of Mars she hurl'd the mass,
His limbs relaxing: o'er sev'n hundred feet
Prostrate he lay, his hair defil'd with dust:
Loud rang his armour; and with scornful smile
Pallas address'd him thus with vaunting speech:
"Fool, hast thou yet to learn how mightier far
My strength than thine, that me thou dar'st to meet?
Bear thus the burthen of thy mother's curse,
Who works thee harm, in wrath that thou the Greeks
Deserting, aid'st the haughty Trojans' cause."
She said, and turn'd away her piercing glance:
Him, deeply groaning, scarce to life restor'd,
Jove's daughter Venus taking by the hand,
Led from the field; which when the white-arm'd Queen
Beheld, in haste to Pallas thus she cried:
"O Heav'n, brave child of aegis-bearing Jove,
Undaunted! lo again this saucy jade
Amid the press, the bane of mortals, Mars
Leads from the field; but haste thee in pursuit."
Thus Juno: Pallas hasten'd in pursuit
Well pleas'd; and Venus with her pow'rful hand
Assailing, struck upon the breast; at once
The Goddess' courage and her limbs gave way.
There on the ground the two together lay,
While Pallas o'er them thus with vaunting speech:
"Would all were such, who aid the Trojan cause,
Whene'er they meet in fight the warlike Greeks,
As valiant and as stout as Venus proves,
Who brings her aid to Mars, confronting me;
Then had our warlike labours long been o'er,
And Ilium's strong-built citadel overthrown."
Thus Pallas spoke: the white-arm'd Goddess smil'd,
And to Apollo thus th' Earth-shaker spoke:
"Phoebus, why stand we idly thus aloof?
The war begun by others, 'tis not meet;
And shame it were, that to Olympus' height
And to the brazen-floor'd abode of Jove
We two without a contest should return.
Thou then begin, as younger: 'twere not well
For me, in age and practice more advanc'd.
Feeble of soul, how senseless is thy heart!
Hast thou forgotten all the cruel wrongs
We two, alone of all th' Immortals, bore,
When here, in Ilium, for a year, we serv'd,
By Jove's command, the proud Laomedon,
For promis'd hire; and he our tasks assign'd?
His fortress, and a wall both broad and fair
I built, the town's impregnable defence;
While thou didst on his plodding herds attend,
In many-crested Ida's woody glens.
But when the joyous seasons, in their course,
Had brought our labour's term, the haughty King
Denied our guerdon, and with threats dismiss'd.
Bound hand and foot, he threaten'd thee to send
And sell to slav'ry in the distant isles,
And with the sword cut off the ears of both.
So in indignant sorrow we return'd,
Robb'd of the hire he promis'd, but denied.
For this thy favour dost thou show to Troy;
And dost not rather join thy force to ours,
That down upon their knees the Trojans all
Should perish, with their babes and matrons chaste."
Whom answer'd thus the far-destroying King:
"Earth-shaking God, I should not gain with thee
The esteem of wise, if I with thee should fight
For mortal men; poor wretches, who like leaves
Flourish awhile, and eat the fruits of earth,
But, sapless, soon decay: from combat then
Refrain we, and to others leave the strife."
He turn'd, thus saying: for he deem'd it shame
His father's brother to assail in arms;
But him his sister, Goddess of the chase,
Rebuk'd, and thus with scornful speech address'd:
"Fliest thou, Apollo? and to Neptune leav'st
The easy victory and baseless fame?
Why o'er thy shoulder hangs thine idle bow?
Ne'er in our father's halls again, as erst
Among th' Immortals, let me hear thee boast
How thou with Neptune wouldst in arms contend."
Thus she; Apollo answer'd not a word;
But Jove's imperial consort, fill'd with wrath,
Assail'd with bitter words the Archer-Queen.
"How canst thou dare, thou saucy minx, to stand[1]
Oppos'd to me, too great for thine assault,
Despite thy bow? though Jove hath giv'n thee pow'r
O'er feeble women, whom thou wilt, to slay,
E'en as a lion; better were't for thee
To chase the mountain beasts and flying hinds,
Than thy superiors thus to meet in arms,
But since thou dar'st confront me, thou shalt know
And feel how far my might surpasses thine."
She said; and with the left hand both the wrists
Of Dian grasping, with her ample right
The bow and quiver from her shoulders tore;
And with them, as she turn'd away her head,
With scornful laughter buffeted her ears:
The arrows keen were scatter'd on the ground:
Weeping, the Goddess fled; as flies a dove
The hawk's pursuit, and in a hollow rock
Finds refuge, doom'd not yet to fall a prey;
So, weeping, Dian fled, and left her bow.
Them Hermes to Latona thus: "With thee
I strive not; shame it were to meet in fight
A consort of the cloud-compelling Jove.
Freely amid th' Immortals make thy boast,
That by thy prowess thou hast vanquish'd me."
Thus he: Latona gather'd up the bow,
And fallen arrows, scatter'd here and there
Amid the whirling dust; then, these regain'd,
Following her daughter, from the field withdrew.
Meanwhile to high Olympus fled the Maid,
And to the brazen-floor'd abode of Jove.
There, weeping, on her father's knees she sat,
While quiver'd round her form th' ambrosial robe.
The son of Saturn tow'rds him drew his child,
And thus, with gracious smile, enquiry made:
"Which of the heav'nly pow'rs hath wrong'd thee thus
My child, as guilty of some open shame?"
To whom the bright-crown'd Goddess of the chase:
"Thy wife, my father, white-arm'd Juno; she
Hath dealt thus rudely with me; she, from whom
All jars and strife among the Gods proceed."
Such converse while they held, the gates of Troy
Apollo enter'd, for the well-built wall
Alarm'd, lest e'en against the will of fate
The Greeks that day should raze it to the ground.
The other Gods were to Olympus gone,
Triumphant these, and those in angry mood,
And took their seats before the cloud-girt Sire.
But on the Trojans pressing, Peleus' son
Horses and men alike, promiscuous, slew.
As in a city, which the Gods in wrath
Have fir'd, whose volleying smoke ascends to Heav'n,
On all her people grievous toil is cast,
On many, harm and loss; such toil, such loss
Achilles wrought amid the Trojan host.
Upon a lofty tow'r, the work of Gods,
The aged Priam stood, and thence beheld
By fierce Achilles driven in flight confused,
Their courage quite subdued, the Trojan host:
Then, groaning, from the tow'r he hasten'd down,
And to the warders cried along the wall:
"Stand to the gates, and hold them open'd wide,
That in the crowd of fugitives may pour,
And refuge find; for close upon their flight
Achilles hangs; disaster now is near.
But while our friends, receiv'd within the walls,
Find time to breathe again, replace in haste
The closely-fitting portals; for I fear
That man of blood may e'en the city storm."
He said; the gates they open'd, and drew back
The solid bars; the portals, op'ning wide,
Let in the light; but in the vacant space
Apollo stood, the Trojan host to save.
The flyers, parch'd with thirst and dust-begrim'd,
Straight for the city and the lofty wall
Made from the plain; Achilles, spear in hand,
Press'd hotly on the rearmost; for his soul
With rage was fill'd, and madd'ning lust of fame.
And now the lofty-gated city of Troy
The sons of Greece had won; but Phoebus rous'd
Agenor's spirit, a valiant youth and strong,
Son of Antenor; he his bosom fill'd
With dauntless courage, and beside him stood
To turn aside the heavy hand of death,
As, veil'd in cloud, against the oak he lean'd.
He, when Achilles' awful form he knew,
Yet firmly stood, though much perplex'd in mind,
As thus he commun'd with his mighty heart:
"Oh woe is me! should I attempt to fly
Before Achilles' might, where fly the rest
Across the plain, disorder'd, he would soon
O'ertake me, and in flight ignoble slay.
Or should I leave the others to their fate,
Scatter'd by Peleus' son; and from the wall
And o'er the plain of Troy direct my flight,
Far as the foot of Ida's hill, and there
Lie hid in thickest covert; and at eve,
Refresh'd by bathing in the cooling stream,
And purg'd the sweat, retrace my steps to Troy?
Yet why, my soul, admit such thoughts as these?
For should he mark me flying from the town,
And overtake me by his speed of foot,
No hope were left me of escape from death.
So far his strength exceeds the strength of man.
But how if boldly I await him here
Before the wall? his flesh is not to wounds
Impervious: but a single life is his,
Nor is he more, they say, than mortal man,
Though Jove assists him, and his triumph wills."
He said, and stood collected, to await
Achilles' onset; and his manly heart,
With courage fill'd, was eager for the fray.
As when a panther from the thicket's depth
Comes forth to meet the hunter, undismay'd,
Nor turn'd to flight by baying of the hounds;
Nor, wounded or by jav'lin or by sword,
Or by the spear transfix'd, remits her rage,
But fights, until she reach her foe, or die;
Agenor so, Antenor's godlike son,
Disdain'd to fly, ere prove Achilles' might.
Before his breast his shield's broad orb he bore,
And pois'd his spear, as thus he call'd aloud:
"Thy hope, renown'd Achilles, was this day
The valiant Trojans' city to destroy;
Unconscious of the toils, the woes, that ye
Around her walls await ye! for within
Are warriors brave and num'rous, who will fight
In her defence, for parents, children, wives.
Thou too, Achilles, here shalt meet thy doom,
All-pow'rful as thou art, and warrior bold."
He said, and threw with stalwart hand the spear;
Achilles' leg he struck, below the knee,
Nor miss'd his aim; and loudly rang the greaves
Of new-wrought tin; but back the brazen point
Rebounded, nor the heav'nly armour pierc'd.
In turn Achilles on Agenor sprang:
But Phoebus robb'd him of his hop'd-for prize,
Who, veil'd in thickest cloud, convey'd away
Antenor's son, and from the battle bore
To rest in peace; while he by guile withdrew
The son of Peleus from the flying crowd:
For in Agenor's very likeness clad,
Before him stood the far-destroying King:
Then fled, Achilles hast'ning in pursuit.
He o'er the fertile plain with flying foot
Pursu'd; beside Scamander's eddying stream
Apollo turn'd, and still but little space
Before him flying, subtly lur'd him on,
Each moment hoping to attain his prize.
Meantime the gen'ral crowd, in panic flight,
With eager haste the city's refuge sought,
And all the town with fugitives was fill'd.
Nor did they dare without the walls to stand
For mutual aid; nor halt to know what friends
Were safe, who left upon the battle-field;
But through the gates pour'd in the hurrying mass
Who to their active limbs their safety ow'd.

L. 547. The terms made use of in this line, and in 481, may appear somewhat coarse, as addressed by one Goddess to another: but I assure the English reader that in this passage especially I have greatly softened down the expression of the original; a literal translation of which, however forcible, would shock even the least fastidious critic. It must, indeed, be admitted that the mode in which "the white-armed Goddess" proceeds to execute her threat is hardly more dignified than the language, in which it is conveyed, is refined.

Sources +