The Illiad: The Grief of Achilles, and New Armour Made Him by Vulcan.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Grief of Achilles, and New Armour Made Him by Vulcan.

The news of the death of Patroclus is brought to Achilles by Antilochus. Thetis hearing his lamentations, comes with all her sea- nymphs to comfort him. The speeches of the mother and son on this occasion. Iris appears to Achilles by command of Juno, and orders him to show himself at the head of the intrenchments. The sight of him turns the fortune of the day, and the body of Patroclus is carried off by the Greeks. The Trojans call a council, where Hector and Polydamas disagree in their opinions; but the advice of the former prevails, to remain encamped in the field. The grief of Achilles over the body of Patroclus.

Thetis goes to the palace of Vulcan, to obtain new arms for her son. The description of the wonderful works of Vulcan; and, lastly, that noble one of the shield of Achilles.

The latter part of the nine-and-twentieth day, and the night ensuing, take up this book. The scene is at Achilles' tent on the seashore, from whence it changes to the palace of Vulcan.

Thus, furious as the rage of fire, they fought.
Meantime Antilochus to Peleus' son,
Swift-footed messenger, his tidings bore.
Him by the high-beak'd ships he found, his mind
Th' event presaging, fill'd with anxious thoughts,
As thus he commun'd with his mighty heart:
"Alas! what means it, that the long-hair'd Greeks,
Chas'd from the plain, are thronging round the ships?
Let me not now, ye Gods, endure the grief
My mother once foretold, that I should live
To see the bravest of the Myrmidons
Cut off by Trojans from the light of day.
Menoetius' noble son has surely fall'n;
Foolhardy! yet I warn'd him, and besought,
Soon as the ships from hostile fires were safe,
Back to return, nor Hector's onset meet."
While in his mind and spirit thus he mus'd,
Beside him stood the noble Nestor's son,
And weeping, thus his mournful message gave:
"Alas! great son of Peleus, woful news,
Which would to Heav'n I had not to impart,
To thee I bring; Patroclus lies in death;
And o'er his body now the war is wag'd;
His naked body, for his arms are now
The prize of Hector of the glancing helm."
He said; and darkest clouds of grief o'erspread
Achilles' brow; with both his hands he seiz'd
And pour'd upon his head the grimy dust,
Marring his graceful visage; and defil'd
With black'ning ashes all his costly robes.
Stretch'd in the dust his lofty stature lay,
As with his hands his flowing locks he tore;
Loud was the wailing of the female band,
Achilles' and Patroclus' prize of war,
As round Achilles, rushing out of doors,
Beating their breasts, with tott'ring limbs they press'd.
In tears beside him stood Antilochus,
And in his own Achilles' hand he held,
Groaning in spirit, fearful lest for grief
In his own bosom he should sheathe his sword.
Loud were his moans; his Goddess-mother heard,
Beside her aged father where she sat
In the deep ocean caves; she heard, and wept:
The Nereids all, in ocean's depths who dwell,
Encircled her around; Cymodoce,[1]
Nesaee, Spio, and Cymothoe,
The stag-ey'd Halia, and Amphithoe,
Actaea, Limnorea, Melite,
Doris, and Galatea, Panope;
There too were Oreithyia, Clymene,
And Amathea with the golden hair,
And all the denizens of ocean's depths.
Fill'd was the glassy cave; in unison
They beat their breasts, as Thetis led the wail:
"Give ear, my sister Nereids all, and learn
How deep the grief that in my breast I bear.
Me miserable! me, of noblest son
Unhappiest mother! me, a son who bore,
My brave, my beautiful, of heroes chief!
Like a young tree he throve: I tended him,
In a rich vineyard as the choicest plant;
Till in the beaked ships I sent him forth
To war with Troy; him ne'er shall I behold,
Returning home, in aged Peleus' house.
E'en while he lives, and sees the light of day,
He lives in sorrow; nor, to soothe his grief,
My presence can avail; yet will I go,
That I may see my dearest child, and learn
What grief hath reach'd him, from the war withdrawn."
She said, and left the cave; with her they went,
Weeping; before them parted th' ocean wave.
But when they reach'd the fertile shore of Troy,
In order due they landed on the beach,
Where frequent, round Achilles swift of foot,
Were moor'd the vessels of the Myrmidons.
There, as he groan'd aloud, beside him stood
His Goddess-mother; weeping, in her hands
She held his head, while pitying thus she spoke:
"Why weeps my son? and what his cause of grief?
Speak out, and nought conceal; for all thy pray'r
Which with uplifted hands thou mad'st to Jove,
He hath fulfill'd, that, flying to their ships,
The routed sons of Greece should feel how much
They need thine aid, and mourn their insult past."
To whom Achilles, deeply groaning, thus:
"Mother, all this indeed hath Jove fulfill'd;
Yet what avails it, since my dearest friend
Is slain, Patroclus? whom I honour'd most
Of all my comrades, lov'd him as my soul.
Him have I lost: and Hector from his corpse
Hath stripp'd those arms, those weighty, beauteous arms,
A marvel to behold, which from the Gods
Peleus receiv'd, a glorious gift, that day
When they consign'd thee to a mortal's bed.
How better were it, if thy lot had been
Still 'mid the Ocean deities to dwell,
And Peleus had espous'd a mortal bride!
For now is bitter grief for thee in store,
Mourning thy son; whom to his home return'd
Thou never more shalt see; nor would I wish
To live, and move amid my fellow-men,
Unless that Hector, vanquish'd by my spear,
May lose his forfeit life, and pay the price
Of foul dishonour to Patroclus done."
To whom, her tears o'erflowing, Thetis thus:
"E'en as thou sayst, my son, thy term is short;
Nor long shall Hector's fate precede thine own."
Achilles, answ'ring, spoke in passionate grief:
"Would I might die this hour, who fail'd to save
My comrade slain! far from his native land
He died, sore needing my protecting arm;
And I, who ne'er again must see my home,
Nor to Patroclus, nor the many Greeks
Whom Hector's hand hath slain, have render'd aid;
But idly here I sit, cumb'ring the ground:
I, who amid the Greeks no equal own
In fight; to others, in debate, I yield.
Accurs'd of Gods and men be hateful strife
And anger, which to violence provokes
E'en temp'rate souls: though sweeter be its taste
Than dropping honey, in the heart of man
Swelling, like smoke; such anger in my soul
Hath Agamemnon kindled, King of men.
But pass we that; though still my heart be sore,
Yet will I school my angry spirit down.
In search of Hector now, of him who slew
My friend, I go; prepar'd to meet my death,
When Jove shall will it, and th' Immortals all.
From death not e'en the might of Hercules,
Though best belov'd of Saturn's son, could fly,
By fate and Juno's bitter wrath subdued.
I too, since such my doom, must lie in death;
Yet, ere I die, immortal fame will win;
And from their delicate cheeks, deep-bosom'd dames,
Dardan and Trojan, bitter tears shall wipe,
And groan in anguish; then shall all men know
How long I have been absent from the field;
Then, though thou love me, seek not from the war
To stay my steps; for bootless were thy speech."
Whom answer'd thus the silver-footed Queen:
"True are thy words, my son; and good it is,
And commendable, from the stroke of death
To save a worsted comrade; but thine arms,
Thy brazen, flashing arms, the Trojans hold:
Them Hector of the glancing helm himself
Bears on his breast, exulting; yet not long
Shall be his triumph, for his doom is nigh.
But thou, engage not in the toils of war,
Until thine eyes again behold me here;
For with to-morrow's sun will I return
With arms of heav'nly mould, by Vulcan wrought."
Thus saying, from her son she turn'd away,
And turning, to her sister Nereids spoke:
"Back to the spacious bosom of the deep
Retire ye now; and to my father's house,
The aged Ocean God, your tidings bear;
While I to high Olympus speed, to crave
At Vulcan's hand, the skill'd artificer,
A boon of dazzling armour for my son."
She said; and they beneath the ocean wave
Descended, while to high Olympus sped
The silver-footed Goddess, thence in hope
To bear the dazzling armour to her son.
She to Olympus sped; the Greeks meanwhile
Before the warrior-slayer Hector fled
With wild, tumultuous uproar, till they reach'd
Their vessels and the shore of Hellespont.
Nor had the well-greav'd Greets Achilles' friend,
Patroclus, from amid the fray withdrawn;
For close upon him follow'd horse and man,
And Hector, son of Priam, fierce as flame;
Thrice noble Hector, seizing from behind,
Sought by the feet to drag away the dead,
Cheering his friends; thrice, clad in warlike might,
The two Ajaces drove him from his prey.
Yet, fearless in his strength, now rushing on
He dash'd amid the fray; now, shouting loud,
Stood firm; but backward not a step retir'd.
As from a carcase herdsmen strive in vain
To scare a tawny lion, hunger-pinch'd;
E'en so th' Ajaces, mail-clad warriors, fail'd
The son of Priam from the corpse to scare.
And now the body had he borne away,
With endless fame; but from Olympus' height
Came storm-swift Iris down to Peleus' son,
And bade him don his arms; by Juno sent,
Unknown to Jove, and to th' Immortals all.
She stood beside him, and address'd him thus:
"Up, son of Peleus! up, thou prince of men!
Haste to Patroclus' rescue; whom, around,
Before the ships, is wag'd a fearful war,
With mutual slaughter; these the dead defending,
And those to Ilium's breezy heights intent
To bear the body; noble Hector chief,
Who longs to sever from the tender neck,
And fix upon the spikes, thy comrade's head.
Up then! delay no longer; deem it shame
Patroclus' corpse should glut the dogs of Troy,
Dishon'ring thee, if aught dishonour him."
Whom answer'd thus Achilles, swift of foot:
"Say, heav'nly Iris, of th' immortal Gods
Who bade thee seek me, and this message bring?"
To whom swift Iris thus: "To thee I come
By Juno sent, th' imperial wife of Jove;
Unknown to Saturn's son, and all the Gods
Who on Olympus' snowy summit dwell."
To whom again Achilles, swift of foot:
"How in the battle toil can I engage?
My arms are with the Trojans; and to boot
My mother warn'd me not to arm for fight,
Till I again should see her; for she hop'd
To bring me heav'nly arms by Vulcan wrought:
Nor know I well whose armour I could wear,
Save the broad shield of Ajax Telamon
And he, methinks, amid the foremost ranks
Ev'n now is fighting o'er Patroclus' corpse."
Whom answer'd storm-swift Iris: "Well we know
Thy glorious arms are by the Trojans held;
But go thou forth, and from above the ditch
Appear before them; daunted at the sight,
Haply the Trojans may forsake the field,
And breathing-time afford the sons of Greece,
Toil-worn; for little pause has yet been theirs."
Swift Iris said, and vanish'd; then uprose
Achilles, dear to Jove; and Pallas threw
Her tassell'd aegis o'er his shoulders broad;
His head encircling with a coronet
Of golden cloud, whence fiery flashes gleam'd.
As from an island city up to Heav'n
The smoke ascends, which hostile forces round
Beleaguer, and all day with cruel war
From its own state cut off; but when the sun
Hath set, blaze frequent forth the beacon fires;
High rise the flames, and to the dwellers round
Their signal flash, if haply o'er the sea
May come the needful aid; so brightly flash'd
That fiery light around Achilles' head.
He left the wall, and stood above the ditch,
But from the Greeks apart, rememb'ring well
His mother's prudent counsel; there he stood,
And shouted loudly; Pallas join'd her voice,
And fill'd with terror all the Trojan host.
Clear as the trumpet's sound, which calls to arms
Some town, encompass'd round with hostile bands,
Rang out the voice of great AEacides.
But when Achilles' voice of brass they heard,
They quail'd in spirit; the sleek-skin'd steeds themselves,
Conscious of coming ill, bore back the cars:
Their charioteers, dismay'd, beheld the flame
Which, kindled by the blue-ey'd Goddess, blaz'd
Unquench'd around the head of Peleus' son.
Thrice shouted from the ditch the godlike chief;
Thrice terror struck both Trojans and Allies;
And there and then beside their chariots fell
Twelve of their bravest; while the Greeks, well pleas'd,
Patroclus' body from the fray withdrew,
And on a litter laid; around him stood
His comrades mourning; with them, Peleus' son,
Shedding hot tears, as on his friend he gaz'd,
Laid on the bier, and pierc'd with deadly wounds:
Him to the war with horses and with cars
He sent; but ne'er to welcome his return.
By stag-ey'd Juno sent, reluctant sank
Th' unwearied sun beneath the ocean wave;
The sun had set, and breath'd awhile the Greeks
From the fierce labours of the balanc'd field;
Nor less the Trojans, from the stubborn fight
Retiring, from the chariots loos'd their steeds:
But ere they shar'd the ev'ning meal, they met
In council; all stood up; none dar'd to sit;
For fear had fallen on all, when reappear'd
Achilles, from the battle long withdrawn.
First Panthous' son, the sage Polydamas,
Address'd th' assembly; his sagacious mind
Alone beheld the future and the past;
The friend of Hector, born the selfsame night;
One in debate, the other best in arms;
Who thus with prudent speech began, and said:
"Be well advis'd, my friends! my counsel is
That we regain the city, nor the morn
Here in the plain, beside the ships, await,
So far remov'd from our protecting walls.
While fiercely burn'd 'gainst Atreus' godlike son
That mighty warrior's wrath, 'twas easier far
With th' other Greeks to deal; and I rejoic'd
When by the ships we pass'd the night, in hopes
We soon might call them ours; but now, I own
Achilles, swift of foot, excites my fear.
His proud, impetuous spirit will spurn the plain,
Where Greeks and Trojans oft in warlike strife
Their balanc'd strength exert; if he come forth,
Our fight will be to guard our homes and wives.
Gain we the city; trust me, so 'twere best.
Now, for a while, ambrosial night detains
The son of Peleus; but at early morn
If issuing forth in arms he find us here,
His prowess we shall know; and happy he
Who, flying, shall in safety reach the walls
Of sacred Troy; for many a Trojan slain
Shall feed the vultures; Heav'n avert such fate!
But if, though loth, ye will by me be rul'd,
This night in council husband we our strength;
While tow'rs, and lofty gates, and folding doors
Close join'd, well-fitting, shall our city guard:
Then issuing forth in arms at early morn
Man we the tow'rs; so harder were his task
If, from the ships advancing, round the wall
He offer battle; bootless to return,
His strong-neck'd horses worn with labour vain
In coursing, purposeless, around the town.
To force an entrance, or the town destroy,
Is not his aim; and ere that end be gain'd,
The dogs of Troy upon his flesh shall feed."
To whom thus Hector of the glancing helm
With stern regard: "Polydamas, thy words
Are such as grate unkindly on mine ear,
Who fain wouldst have us to the walls retire.
What? have ye not already long enough
Been coop'd within the tow'rs? the wealth of Troy,
Its brass, its gold, were once the common theme
Of ev'ry tongue; our hoarded treasures now
Are gone, to Phrygian and Maeonian shores
For sale exported, costly merchandise,
Since on our city fell the wrath of Jove.
And now, when deep-designing Saturn's son
Such glory gives me as to gain the ships,
And, crowded by the sea, hem in the Greeks,
Fool! put not thou these timid counsels forth,
Which none will follow, nor will I allow.
But hear ye all, and do as I advise:
Share now the meal, by ranks, throughout the host;
Then set your watch, and each keep careful guard;
And whom his spoils o'erload, if such there be,
Let him divide them with the gen'ral crowd;
Better that they should hold them than the Greeks:
And with the morn, in arms, beside the ships,
Will we again awake the furious war.
But if indeed Achilles by the ships
Hath reappear'd, himself, if so he choose,
Shall be the suff'rer; from the perilous strife
I will not shrink, but his encounter meet:
So he, or I, shall gain immortal fame;
Impartial Mars hath oft the slayer slain."
Thus Hector spoke; the Trojans cheer'd aloud:
Fools, and by Pallas of their sense bereft,
Who all applauded Hector's ill advice,
None the sage counsel of Polydamas!
Then through the camp they shar'd the ev'ning meal.
Meantime the Greeks all night with tears and groans
Bewail'd Patroclus: on his comrade's breast
Achilles laid his murder-dealing hands,
And led with bitter groans the loud lament.
As when the hunters, in the forest's depth,
Have robb'd a bearded lion of his cubs;
Too late arriving, he with anger chafes;
Then follows, if perchance he may o'ertake,
Through many a mountain glen, the hunters' steps,
With grief and fury fill'd; so Peleus' son,
With bitter groans, the Myrmidons address'd:
"Vain was, alas! the promise which I gave,
Seeking the brave Menoetius to console,
To bring to Opus back his gallant son,
Rich with his share of spoil from Troy o'erthrown;
But Jove fulfils not all that man designs:
For us hath fate decreed, that here in Troy
We two one soil should redden with our blood;
Nor me, returning to my native land,
Shall aged Peleus in his halls receive,
Nor Thetis; here must earth retain my bones.
But since, Patroclus, I am doom'd on earth
Behind thee to remain, thy fun'ral rites
I will not celebrate, till Hector's arms,
And head, thy haughty slayer's, here I bring;
And on thy pyre twelve noble sons of Troy
Will sacrifice, in vengeance of thy death.
Thou by our beaked ships till then must lie;
And weeping o'er thee shall deep-bosom'd dames,
Trojan and Dardan, mourn both night and day;
The prizes of our toil, when wealthy towns
Before our valour and our spears have fall'n."
He said, and bade his comrades on the fire
An ample tripod place, without delay
To cleanse Patroclus from the bloody gore:
They on the burning fire the tripod plac'd,
With water fill'd, and kindled wood beneath.
Around the bellying tripod rose the flames,
Heating the bath; within the glitt'ring brass
Soon as the water boil'd, they wash'd the corpse,
With lissom oils anointing, and the wounds
With fragrant ointments fill'd, of nine years old;
Then in fine linen they the body wrapp'd
From head to feet, and laid it on a couch.
And cover'd over with a fair white sheet.
All night around Achilles swift of foot
The Myrmidons with tears Patroclus mourn'd.
To Juno then, his sister and his wife,
Thus Saturn's son: "At length thou hast thy will,
Imperial Juno, who hast stirr'd to war
Achilles swift of foot; well might one deem
These long-hair'd Greeks from thee deriv'd their birth."
To whom in answer thus the stag-ey'd Queen:
"What words, dread son of Saturn, dost thou speak?
E'en man, though mortal, and inferior far
To us in wisdom, might so much effect
Against his fellow-man; then how should I,
By double title chief of Goddesses,
First by my birth, and next because thy wife
I boast me, thine, o'er all the Gods supreme,
Not work my vengeance on the Trojan race?"
Such, converse while they held, to Vulcan's house,
Immortal, starlike bright, among the Gods
Unrivall'd, all of brass, by Vulcan's self
Constructed, sped the silver-footed Queen.
Him swelt'ring at his forge she found, intent
On forming twenty tripods, which should stand
The wall surrounding of his well-built house;
With golden wheels beneath he furnish'd each,
And to th' assembly of the Gods endued
With pow'r to move spontaneous, and return,
A marvel to behold! thus far his work
He had completed; but not yet had fix'd
The rich-wrought handles; these his labour now
Engag'd, to fit them, and to rivet fast.
While thus he exercis'd his practis'd skill,
The silver-footed Queen approach'd the house.
Charis, the skilful artist's wedded wife,
Beheld her coming, and advanc'd to meet;
And, as her hand she clasp'd, address'd her thus:
"Say, Thetis of the flowing robe, belov'd
And honour'd, whence this visit to our house,
An unaccustom'd guest? but come thou in,
That I may welcome thee with honour due."
Thus, as she spoke, the Goddess led her in,
And on a seat with silver studs adorn'd,
Fair, richly wrought, a footstool at her feet,
She bade her sit; then thus to Vulcan call'd:
"Haste hither, Vulcan; Thetis asks thine aid."
Whom answer'd thus the skill'd artificer:
"An honour'd and a venerated guest
Our house contains; who sav'd me once from woe,
When by my mother's act from Heav'n I fell,
Who, for that I was crippled in my feet,
Deem'd it not shame to hide me: hard had then
My fortune been, had not Eurynome
And Thetis in their bosoms shelter'd me;
Eurynome, from old Oceanus
Who drew her birth, the ever-circling flood.
Nine years with them I dwelt, and many a work
I fashion'd there of metal, clasps, and chains
Of spiral coil, rich cups, and collars fair,
Hid in a cave profound; where th' ocean stream
With ceaseless murmur foam'd and moan'd around;
Unknown to God or man, but to those two
Who sav'd me, Thetis and Eurynome.
Now to my house hath fair-hair'd Thetis come;
To her, my life preserv'd its tribute owes:
Then thou the hospitable rites perform.
While I my bellows and my tools lay by."
He said, and from the anvil rear'd upright
His massive strength; and as he limp'd along,
His tottering knees were bow'd beneath his weight.
The bellows from the fire he next withdrew,
And in a silver casket plac'd his tools;
Then with a sponge his brows and lusty arms
He wip'd, and sturdy neck and hairy chest.
He donn'd his robe, and took his weighty staff;
Then through the door with halting step he pass'd;
There waited on their King the attendant maids;
In form as living maids, but wrought in gold;
Instinct with consciousness, with voice endued,
And strength, and skill from heav'nly teachers drawn.
These waited, duteous, at the Monarch's side,
His steps supporting; he, with halting gait,
Pass'd to a gorgeous chair by Thetis' side,
And, as her hand he clasp'd, address'd her thus:
"Say, Thetis of the flowing robe, belov'd
And honour'd, whence this visit to our house.
An unaccustom'd guest? say what thy will,
And, if within my pow'r, esteem it done."
To whom in answer Thetis, weeping, thus:
"Vulcan, of all the Goddesses who dwell
On high Olympus, lives there one whose soul
Hath borne such weight of woe, so many griefs,
As Saturn's son hath heap'd on me alone?
Me, whom he chose from all the sea-born nymphs,
And gave to Peleus, son of AEacus,
His subject; I endur'd a mortal's bed,
Though sore against my will; he now, bent down
By feeble age, lies helpless in his house.
Now adds he farther grief; he granted me
To bear, and rear, a son, of heroes chief;
Like a young tree he throve; I tended him,
In a rich vineyard as the choicest plant:
Till in the beaked ships I sent him forth
To war with Troy; him ne'er shall I receive,
Returning home, in aged Peleus' house.
E'en while he lives, and sees the light of day,
He lives in sorrow; nor, to soothe his grief,
My presence can avail; a girl, his prize,
Selected for him by the sons of Greece,
Great Agamemnon wrested from his arms:
In grief and rage he pin'd his soul away;
Then by the Trojans were the Greeks hemm'd in
Beside their ships, and from within their camp
No outlet found; the Grecian Elders then
Implor'd his aid, and promis'd costly gifts.
With his own hand to save them he refus'd;
But, in his armour clad, to battle sent
His friend Patroclus, with a num'rous band.
All day they fought before the Scaean* gates;
And in that day had Ilium been destroy'd,
But in the van, Menoetius' noble son.
After great deeds achiev'd, Apollo slew,
And crown'd with glory Hector, Priam's son.
Therefore a suppliant to thy knees I come,
If to my son, to early death condemn'd,
Thou wilt accord the boon of shield and helm,
And well-wrought greaves with silver clasps secur'd,
And breastplate; for his own, his faithful friend,
By Trojan hands subdued, hath lost; and he,
O'erwhelm'd with grief, lies prostrate on the earth."
Whom answer'd thus the skill'd artificer:
"Take comfort, nor let this disturb thy mind;
Would that as surely, when his hour shall come,
I could defend him from the stroke of death,
As I can undertake that his shall be
Such arms as they shall marvel who behold."
He left her thus, and to his forge return'd;
The bellows then directing to the fire,
He bade them work; through twenty pipes at once
Forthwith they pour'd their diverse-temper'd blasts;
Now briskly seconding his eager haste,
Now at his will, and as the work requir'd.
The stubborn brass, and tin, and precious gold,
And silver, first he melted in the fire,
Then on its stand his weighty anvil plac'd;
And with one hand the hammer's pond'rous weight
He wielded, while the other grasp'd the tongs.
And first a shield he fashion'd, vast and strong,
With rich adornment; circled with a rim,
Threefold, bright-gleaming, whence a silver belt
Depended; of five folds the shield was form'd;
And on its surface many a rare design
Of curious art his practis'd skill had wrought.
Thereon were figur'd earth, and sky, and sea,
The ever-circling sun, and full-orb'd moon,
And all the signs that crown the vault of Heav'n;
Pleiads and Hyads, and Orion's might,
And Arctos, call'd the Wain, who wheels on high
His circling course, and on Orion waits;
Sole star that never bathes in th' ocean wave.
And two fair populous towns were sculptur'd there;
In one were marriage pomp and revelry.
And brides, in gay procession, through the streets
With blazing torches from their chambers borne,
While frequent rose the hymeneal song.
Youths whirl'd around in joyous dance, with sound
Of flute and harp; and, standing at their doors,
Admiring women on the pageant gaz'd.
Meanwhile a busy throng the forum fill'd:
There between two a fierce contention rose,
About a death-fine; to the public one
Appeal'd, asserting to have paid the whole;
While one denied that he had aught receiv'd.
Both were desirous that before the Judge
The issue should be tried; with noisy shouts
Their several partisans encourag'd each.
The heralds still'd the tumult of the crowd:
On polish'd chairs, in solemn circle, sat
The rev'rend Elders; in their hands they held
The loud-voic'd heralds' sceptres; waving these,
They heard th' alternate pleadings; in the midst
Two talents lay of gold, which he should take
Who should before them prove his righteous cause.
Before the second town two armies lay,
In arms refulgent; to destroy the town
Th' assailants threaten'd, or among themselves
Of all the wealth within the city stor'd
An equal half, as ransom, to divide.
The terms rejecting, the defenders mann'd
A secret ambush; on the walls they plac'd
Women and children muster'd for defence,
And men by age enfeebled; forth they went,
By Mars and Pallas led; these, wrought in gold,
In golden arms array'd, above the crowd
For beauty and stature, as befitting Gods,
Conspicuous shone; of lesser height the rest.
But when the destin'd ambuscade was reach'd,
Beside the river, where the shepherds drove
Their flocks and herds to water, down they lay,
In glitt'ring arms accoutred; and apart
They plac'd two spies, to notify betimes
Th' approach of flocks of sheep and lowing herds.
These, in two shepherds' charge, ere long appear'd,
Who, unsuspecting as they mov'd along,
Enjoy'd the music of their past'ral pipes.
They on the booty, from afar discern'd,
Sprang from their ambuscade; and cutting off
The herds, and fleecy flocks, their guardians slew.
Their comrades heard the tumult, where they sat
Before their sacred altars, and forthwith
Sprang on their cars, and with fast-stepping steeds
Pursued the plund'rers, and o'ertook them soon.
There on the river's bank they met in arms,
And each at other hurl'd their brazen spears.
And there were figur'd Strife, and Tumult wild,
And deadly Fate, who in her iron grasp
One newly-wounded, one unwounded bore,
While by the feet from out the press she dragg'd
Another slain: about her shoulders hung
A garment crimson'd with the blood of men.
Like living men they seem'd to move, to fight,
To drag away the bodies of the slain.
And there was grav'n a wide-extended plain
Of fallow land, rich, fertile, mellow soil,
Thrice plough'd; where many ploughmen up and down
Their teams were driving; and as each attain'd
The limit of the field, would one advance,
And tender him a cup of gen'rous wine:
Then would he turn, and to the end again
Along the furrow cheerly drive his plough.
And still behind them darker show'd the soil,
The true presentment of a new-plough'd field,
Though wrought in gold; a miracle of art.
There too was grav'n a corn-field, rich in grain,
Where with sharp sickles reapers plied their task,
And thick, in even swathe, the trusses fell;
The binders, following close, the bundles tied:
Three were the binders; and behind them boys
In close attendance waiting, in their arms
Gather'd the bundles, and in order pil'd.
Amid them, staff in hand, in silence stood
The King, rejoicing in the plenteous swathe.
A little way remov'd, the heralds slew
A sturdy ox, and now beneath an oak
Prepar'd the feast; while women mix'd, hard by,
White barley porridge for the lab'rers' meal.
And, with rich clusters laden, there was grav'n
A vineyard fair, all gold; of glossy black
The bunches were, on silver poles sustain'd;
Around, a darksome trench; beyond, a fence
Was wrought, of shining tin; and through it led
One only path, by which the bearers pass'd,
Who gather'd in the vineyard's bounteous store.
There maids and youths, in joyous spirits bright,
In woven baskets bore the luscious fruit.
A boy, amid them, from a clear-ton'd harp
Drew lovely music; well his liquid voice
The strings accompanied; they all with dance
And song harmonious join'd, and joyous shouts,
As the gay bevy lightly tripp'd along.
Of straight-horn'd cattle too a herd was grav'n;
Of gold and tin the heifers all were wrought:
They to the pasture, from the cattle-yard,
With gentle lowings, by a babbling stream,
Where quiv'ring reed-beds rustled, slowly mov'd.
Four golden shepherds walk'd beside the herd,
By nine swift dogs attended; then amid
The foremost heifers sprang two lions fierce
Upon the lordly bull: he, bellowing loud,
Was dragg'd along, by dogs and youths pursued.
The tough bull's-hide they tore, and gorging lapp'd
Th' intestines and dark blood; with vain attempt
The herdsmen following closely, to the attack
Cheer'd their swift dogs; these shunn'd the lions' jaws,
And close around them baying, held aloof.
And there the skilful artist's hand had trac'd
A pastaro broad, with fleecy flocks o'erspread,
In a fair glade, with fold, and tents, and pens.
There, too, the skilful artist's hand had wrought
With curious workmanship, a mazy dance,
Like that which Daedalus in Cnossus erst
At fair-hair'd Ariadne's bidding fram'd.
There, laying each on other's wrists their hand,
Bright youths and many-suitor'd maidens danc'd:
In fair white linen these; in tunics those,
Well woven, shining soft with fragrant oils;
These with fair coronets were crown'd, while those
With golden swords from silver belts were girt.
Now whirl'd they round with nimble practis'd feet,
Easy, as when a potter, seated, turns
A wheel, new fashion'd by his skilful hand,
And spins it round, to prove if true it run;
Now featly mov'd in well-beseeming ranks.
A num'rous crowd, around, the lovely dance
Survey'd, delighted; while an honour'd Bard
Sang, as he struck the lyre, and to the strain
Two tumblers, in the midst, were whirling round.
About the margin of the massive shield
Was wrought the mighty strength of th' ocean stream.
The shield completed, vast and strong, he forg'd
A breastplate, dazzling bright as flame of fire;
And next, a weighty helmet for his head,
Fair, richly wrought, with crest of gold above;
Then last, well-fitting greaves of pliant tin.
The skill'd artificer his works complete
Before Achilles' Goddess-mother laid:
She, like a falcon, from the snow-clad heights
Of huge Olympus, darted swiftly down,
Charg'd with the glitt'ring arms by Vulcan wrought.

Line 45 et seqq. I hope I may be pardoned for having somewhat curtailed the list of these ladies, which in the original extends over ten lines of names only. In doing so, I have followed the example of Virgil, who represents the same ladies [G. 4. 336] in attendance on Cyrene; and has not only reduced the list, but added some slight touches illustrating their occupations and private history: a liberty permissible to an imitator, but not to a translator.

Sources +