GODDESS, the anger sing of the Pelean Achilles,
Fatal beginning of griefs unnumbered to the Achæans;
Many valiant souls untimely it hurried to Hades,
And the heroes left themselves of dogs to be eaten
And of ravenous birds—till Zeus’s plan was accomplished—
From the day when first contention arose to dissever
Atrides the King and the godlike hero Achilles.
What divinity thus incited them to contention?—
Zeus and Leto’s son; who, in anger with Agamemnon,
Sent a deadly disease on the host, destroying the people,
On account of the wrong the King to his worshipper offered,
Chryses, who had come to the hollow ships of Achaia,
To recover his daughter, with gifts of costly redemption,
Carrying in his hands the wreaths of the archer Apollo
Set on a golden staff—beseeching all the Achæans,
And the Atridæ in chief, the two in command of the nations:
‘Ye, Atreus’ sons, and other well-greaved Achaïan heroes,
May the gods, who live in Olympian houses, accord you
Capture of Priam’s town and safe to return to Achaia,
But liberate to me my child and take the redemption—
Fearing Zeus’s son, the far-death-dealing Apollo.’
Then the Achæans all with acclamation assented,
Honour to show to the priest, and take the costly redemption;
Only to Atrides Agamemnon it was unpleasing,
Sternly who dismissed him with contumelious answer:
‘Old man, let me not, by the hollow ships of Achaia
Lingering find you now, or henceforth ever appearing,
Lest to defend you fail the staff and wreaths of Apollo.
Her do I not release until old age come upon her,
In my house in the land of Argos, far from her country,
Stepping at the loom and in the chamber attending.
Go, and trouble me not, that your return be the safer.’
And replying, said godlike, swift-footed Achilles
‘Atrides, our chief, as in rank, so in love of possessions,
Say, in what way shall the noble Achæans find you a present?
Little we yet have gained the general stock to replenish,
Distributed were all the spoils we took from the cities,
And to recal our gifts and reapportion befits not—
Yield you the maiden to-day to the god, and we, the Achæans,
Three or four times over will compensate it, if ever
Zeus the capture accord of the well-walled Ilian city.’
And with words of reply the King Agamemnon addressed him:
‘Think not, great as you are, O god-resembling Achilles,
Thus to dissimulate and evade me with a profession;
Is it that you desire to enjoy your prize, and to let me
Sit empty-handed here, and mine you bid me surrender—
Doubtless, if the noble Achæans find me another
Suitable to my wants and answerable in value;
But, if they do not give, myself will make my election—
Yours, or that, if I please, of Ajax or of Ulysses,
I for my own will take, and leave the loser lamenting.
At a suitable time this, after, will we determine;
Now proceed we to haul a swift ship into the water,
Choose the rowers to take her, and send the cattle aboard her
For sacrifice, and bring the beautiful daughter of Chryses
Also onboard, and appoint some prudent chief to convey her—
Ajax shall it be, or Idomeneus, or Ulysses
Or will Pelides, incomparable of heroes,
Go, and with holy rite appease the wrath of Apollo?
And with a frown swift-footed Achilles eyed him, and answered
‘O me! clothed-upon with impudence, greedy-hearted,
How shall any Achaean again be willing to serve you,
Make any expedition, or fight in battle to help you?
Certainly not upon any account of the Troïan horsemen
Came I hither to fight; they never gave me occasion,
Never carried away any cattle of mine, any horses,
Nor in Phthia ever, the rich land, feeder of people,
Devastated the fruit; since numerous, to divide them,
Mountains shadowy lie, and a sea’s tumultuous water:
To’ attend thee we came, on thy effrontery waiting,
Reparation to take of the Trojans for Menelaus,
And thy unblushing self. All which you little remember,
And can threaten to-day of my reward to deprive me,
Dearly with labour earned, and given me by the Achæans.
Do I ever receive any gift your gifts to compare with,
When the Achæans sack any wealthy town of the Trojans?
Truly the larger part of the busy, hurrying warfare
My hands have to discharge; but, in the day of division,
Yours is the ample share, and I, content with a little,
Thankfully turn to my ships, well wearied out with the fighting.
Now to Phthia I go—far wiser for me to do so,
Home with my hollow ships to travel, than for another
Accumulate riches to be requited with insult.’
And replying, said the king of men, Agamemnon:
‘Go, if to go be your wish; I keep you not—do not ask you
For my honour to stay; I have others here to support it,
Who—and Zeus above all, the Counsellor—will uphold me.
You are the hatefullest to me of the Zeus-fed princes,
Lover for evermore of brawl and battle and discord.
Strong if you are, your strength was by some deity given.
Home with your hollow ships, and with your people returning
Order the Myrmidonans: expect not me to regard you,
Or to observe your wrath. I advertise you beforehand—
As Chryseïda Phœbus Apollo hath bid me surrender,
I in a ship of my own will with my people remit her
Home, and the beautiful-checked Briseida then to replace her
Out of your tent, your prize, will carry; an argument to you
How much greater I am than yourself, and a warning to others
Not to oppose my will and talk with me as an equal.’
So said he, and pain seized Pelides, and in the bosom
Under his hairy breast two purposes he divided,
Either, from by his thigh the glittering blade unsheathing,
To put aside the rest and straightway kill Agamemnon,
Or to repress his wrath and check himself in his anger.
With the purposes yet conflicting thus in his bosom,
From the sheath the’ huge sword was issuing out, when Athena
Came from heaven: the goddess, the white-armed Hera, desired it,
Solicitous for the good of the one alike and the other.
Standing behind, by the yellow hair she drew back Achilles,
Visible only to him, of the rest to no one apparent;
And with wonder seized he turned, and knew in a moment
Pallas Athenæa, with dreadful eyes looking at him
And he opened his lips with wingèd words and addressed her:
‘Wherefore art thou come, O child of the ægis-bearer;
Was it the fury to see of Atrides Agamemnon’
Lo, I declare it now, and you will see it accomplished,
His injurious acts will bring his death-blow upon him.’
And replying, said the blue-eyed goddess, Athena:
‘To repress I came, if practicable, your anger,
Out of heaven,—the goddess, the white-armed Hera, desired me,
Solicitous for the good of the one alike and the other.
Abstain from violence, put back the sword in the scabbard,
Let opprobrious words, if necessary, requite him;
For I declare it now, and you will see it accomplished,
Three times as many gifts will soon, as costly, be sent you
In reparation of this; be ruled by us to be patient.’
And replying, spoke and said swift-footed Achilles:
‘Unto admonition of you two given, O goddess,
Even the greatly incensed should yield; ’tis well to obey you;
Who to the voice of the gods is obedient, they will assist him.’