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Book IX

THUS did the Trojans watch. But Panic, comrade of blood-stained
Rout, had taken fast hold of the Achaeans, and their princes were
all of them in despair. As when the two winds that blow from
Thrace—the north and the northwest—spring up of a sudden and
rouse the fury of the main—in a moment the dark waves uprear
their heads and scatter their sea-wrack in all directions—even
thus troubled were the hearts of the Achaeans.
The son of Atreus in dismay bade the heralds call the people to a
council man by man, but not to cry the matter aloud; he made
haste also himself to call them, and they sat sorry at heart in
their assembly. Agamemnon shed tears as it were a running stream
or cataract on the side of some sheer cliff; and thus, with many
a heavy sigh he spoke to the Achaeans. "My friends," said he,
"princes and councillors Of the Argives, the hand of heaven has
been laid heavily upon me. Cruel Jove gave me his solemn promise
that I should sack the city of Troy before returning, but he has
played me false, and is now bidding me go ingloriously back to
Argos with the loss of much people. Such is the will of Jove, who
has laid many a proud city in the dust as he will yet lay others,
for his power is above all. Now, therefore, let us all do as I
say and sail back to our own country, for we shall not take
Troy."
Thus he spoke, and the sons of the Achaeans for a long while sat
sorrowful there, but they all held their peace, till at last
Diomed of the loud battle-cry made answer saying, "Son of Atreus,
I will chide your folly, as is my right in council. Be not then
aggrieved that I should do so. In the first place you attacked me
before all the Danaans and said that I was a coward and no
soldier. The Argives young and old know that you did so. But the
son of scheming Saturn endowed you by halves only. He gave you
honour as the chief ruler over us, but valour, which is the
highest both right and might he did not give you. Sir, think you
that the sons of the Achaeans are indeed as unwarlike and
cowardly as you say they are? If your own mind is set upon going
home—go—the way is open to you; the many ships that followed
you from Mycene stand ranged upon the seashore; but the rest of
us stay here till we have sacked Troy. Nay though these too
should turn homeward with their ships, Sthenelus and myself will
still fight on till we reach the goal of Ilius, for heaven was
with us when we came."
The sons of the Achaeans shouted applause at the words of Diomed,
and presently Nestor rose to speak. "Son of Tydeus," said he, "in
war your prowess is beyond question, and in council you excel all
who are of your own years; no one of the Achaeans can make light
of what you say nor gainsay it, but you have not yet come to the
end of the whole matter. You are still young—you might be the
youngest of my own children—still you have spoken wisely and
have counselled the chief of the Achaeans not without discretion;
nevertheless I am older than you and I will tell you everything;
therefore let no man, not even King Agamemnon, disregard my
saying, for he that foments civil discord is a clanless,
hearthless outlaw.
"Now, however, let us obey the behests of night and get our
suppers, but let the sentinels every man of them camp by the
trench that is without the wall. I am giving these instructions
to the young men; when they have been attended to, do you, son of
Atreus, give your orders, for you are the most royal among us
all. Prepare a feast for your councillors; it is right and
reasonable that you should do so; there is abundance of wine in
your tents, which the ships of the Achaeans bring from Thrace
daily. You have everything at your disposal wherewith to
entertain guests, and you have many subjects. When many are got
together, you can be guided by him whose counsel is wisest—and
sorely do we need shrewd and prudent counsel, for the foe has lit
his watchfires hard by our ships. Who can be other than dismayed?
This night will either be the ruin of our host, or save it."
Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. The
sentinels went out in their armour under command of Nestor's son
Thrasymedes, a captain of the host, and of the bold warriors
Ascalaphus and Ialmenus: there were also Meriones, Aphareus and
Deipyrus, and the son of Creion, noble Lycomedes. There were
seven captains of the sentinels, and with each there went a
hundred youths armed with long spears: they took their places
midway between the trench and the wall, and when they had done so
they lit their fires and got every man his supper.
The son of Atreus then bade many councillors of the Achaeans to
his quarters prepared a great feast in their honour. They laid
their hands on the good things that were before them, and as soon
as they had enough to eat and drink, old Nestor, whose counsel
was ever truest, was the first to lay his mind before them. He,
therefore, with all sincerity and goodwill addressed them thus.
"With yourself, most noble son of Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon,
will I both begin my speech and end it, for you are king over
much people. Jove, moreover, has vouchsafed you to wield the
sceptre and to uphold righteousness, that you may take thought
for your people under you; therefore it behooves you above all
others both to speak and to give ear, and to out the counsel of
another who shall have been minded to speak wisely. All turns on
you and on your commands, therefore I will say what I think will
be best. No man will be of a truer mind than that which has been
mine from the hour when you, sir, angered Achilles by taking the
girl Briseis from his tent against my judgment. I urged you not
to do so, but you yielded to your own pride, and dishonoured a
hero whom heaven itself had honoured—for you still hold the
prize that had been awarded to him. Now, however, let us think
how we may appease him, both with presents and fair speeches that
may conciliate him."
And King Agamemnon answered, "Sir, you have reproved my folly
justly. I was wrong. I own it. One whom heaven befriends is in
himself a host, and Jove has shown that he befriends this man by
destroying much people of the Achaeans. I was blinded with
passion and yielded to my worser mind; therefore I will make
amends, and will give him great gifts by way of atonement. I will
tell them in the presence of you all. I will give him seven
tripods that have never yet been on the fire, and ten talents of
gold. I will give him twenty iron cauldrons and twelve strong
horses that have won races and carried off prizes. Rich, indeed,
both in land and gold is he that has as many prizes as my horses
have won me. I will give him seven excellent workwomen, Lesbians,
whom I chose for myself when he took Lesbos—all of surpassing
beauty. I will give him these, and with them her whom I erewhile
took from him, the daughter of Briseus; and I swear a great oath
that I never went up into her couch, nor have been with her after
the manner of men and women.
"All these things will I give him now, and if hereafter the gods
vouchsafe me to sack the city of Priam, let him come when we
Achaeans are dividing the spoil, and load his ship with gold and
bronze to his liking; furthermore let him take twenty Trojan
women, the loveliest after Helen herself. Then, when we reach
Achaean Argos, wealthiest of all lands, he shall be my son-in-law
and I will show him like honour with my own dear son Orestes, who
is being nurtured in all abundance. I have three daughters,
Chrysothemis, Laodice, and lphianassa, let him take the one of
his choice, freely and without gifts of wooing, to the house of
Peleus; I will add such dower to boot as no man ever yet gave his
daughter, and will give him seven well established cities,
Cardamyle, Enope, and Hire, where there is grass; holy Pherae and
the rich meadows of Anthea; Aepea also, and the vine-clad slopes
of Pedasus, all near the sea, and on the borders of sandy Pylos.
The men that dwell there are rich in cattle and sheep; they will
honour him with gifts as though he were a god, and be obedient to
his comfortable ordinances. All this will I do if he will now
forgo his anger. Let him then yield; it is only Hades who is
utterly ruthless and unyielding—and hence he is of all gods the
one most hateful to mankind. Moreover I am older and more royal
than himself. Therefore, let him now obey me."
Then Nestor answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men,
Agamemnon. The gifts you offer are no small ones, let us then
send chosen messengers, who may go to the tent of Achilles son of
Peleus without delay. Let those go whom I shall name. Let
Phoenix, dear to Jove, lead the way; let Ajax and Ulysses follow,
and let the heralds Odius and Eurybates go with them. Now bring
water for our hands, and bid all keep silence while we pray to
Jove the son of Saturn, if so be that he may have mercy upon us."
Thus did he speak, and his saying pleased them well.
Men-servants poured water over the hands of the guests, while
pages filled the mixing-bowls with wine and water, and handed it
round after giving every man his drink-offering; then, when they
had made their offerings, and had drunk each as much as he was
minded, the envoys set out from the tent of Agamemnon son of
Atreus; and Nestor, looking first to one and then to another, but
most especially at Ulysses, was instant with them that they
should prevail with the noble son of Peleus.
They went their way by the shore of the sounding sea, and prayed
earnestly to earth-encircling Neptune that the high spirit of the
son of Aeacus might incline favourably towards them. When they
reached the ships and tents of the Myrmidons, they found Achilles
playing on a lyre, fair, of cunning workmanship, and its
cross-bar was of silver. It was part of the spoils which he had
taken when he sacked the city of Eetion, and he was now diverting
himself with it and singing the feats of heroes. He was alone
with Patroclus, who sat opposite to him and said nothing, waiting
till he should cease singing. Ulysses and Ajax now came in—
Ulysses leading the way—and stood before him. Achilles sprang
from his seat with the lyre still in his hand, and Patroclus,
when he saw the strangers, rose also. Achilles then greeted them
saying, "All hail and welcome—you must come upon some great
matter, you, who for all my anger are still dearest to me of the
Achaeans."
With this he led them forward, and bade them sit on seats covered
with purple rugs; then he said to Patroclus who was close by him,
"Son of Menoetius, set a larger bowl upon the table, mix less
water with the wine, and give every man his cup, for these are
very dear friends, who are now under my roof."
Patroclus did as his comrade bade him; he set the chopping-block
in front of the fire, and on it he laid the loin of a sheep, the
loin also of a goat, and the chine of a fat hog. Automedon held
the meat while Achilles chopped it; he then sliced the pieces and
put them on spits while the son of Menoetius made the fire burn
high. When the flame had died down, he spread the embers, laid
the spits on top of them, lifting them up and setting them upon
the spit-racks; and he sprinkled them with salt. When the meat
was roasted, he set it on platters, and handed bread round the
table in fair baskets, while Achilles dealt them their portions.
Then Achilles took his seat facing Ulysses against the opposite
wall, and bade his comrade Patroclus offer sacrifice to the gods;
so he cast the offerings into the fire, and they laid their hands
upon the good things that were before them. As soon as they had
had enough to eat and drink, Ajax made a sign to Phoenix, and
when he saw this, Ulysses filled his cup with wine and pledged
Achilles.
"Hail," said he, "Achilles, we have had no scant of good cheer,
neither in the tent of Agamemnon, nor yet here; there has been
plenty to eat and drink, but our thought turns upon no such
matter. Sir, we are in the face of great disaster, and without
your help know not whether we shall save our fleet or lose it.
The Trojans and their allies have camped hard by our ships and by
the wall; they have lit watchfires throughout their host and deem
that nothing can now prevent them from falling on our fleet.
Jove, moreover, has sent his lightnings on their right; Hector,
in all his glory, rages like a maniac; confident that Jove is
with him he fears neither god nor man, but is gone raving mad,
and prays for the approach of day. He vows that he will hew the
high sterns of our ships in pieces, set fire to their hulls, and
make havoc of the Achaeans while they are dazed and smothered in
smoke; I much fear that heaven will make good his boasting, and
it will prove our lot to perish at Troy far from our home in
Argos. Up, then, and late though it be, save the sons of the
Achaeans who faint before the fury of the Trojans. You will
repent bitterly hereafter if you do not, for when the harm is
done there will be no curing it; consider ere it be too late, and
save the Danaans from destruction.
"My good friend, when your father Peleus sent you from Phthia to
Agamemnon, did he not charge you saying, 'Son, Minerva and Juno
will make you strong if they choose, but check your high temper,
for the better part is in goodwill. Eschew vain quarrelling, and
the Achaeans old and young will respect you more for doing so.'
These were his words, but you have forgotten them. Even now,
however, be appeased, and put away your anger from you. Agamemnon
will make you great amends if you will forgive him; listen, and I
will tell you what he has said in his tent that he will give you.
He will give you seven tripods that have never yet been on the
fire, and ten talents of gold; twenty iron cauldrons, and twelve
strong horses that have won races and carried off prizes. Rich
indeed both in land and gold is he who has as many prizes as
these horses have won for Agamemnon. Moreover he will give you
seven excellent workwomen, Lesbians, whom he chose for himself,
when you took Lesbos—all of surpassing beauty. He will give you
these, and with them her whom he erewhile took from you, the
daughter of Briseus, and he will swear a great oath, he has never
gone up into her couch nor been with her after the manner of men
and women. All these things will he give you now down, and if
hereafter the gods vouchsafe him to sack the city of Priam, you
can come when we Achaeans are dividing the spoil, and load your
ship with gold and bronze to your liking. You can take twenty
Trojan women, the loveliest after Helen herself. Then, when we
reach Achaean Argos, wealthiest of all lands, you shall be his
son-in-law, and he will show you like honour with his own dear
son Orestes, who is being nurtured in all abundance. Agamemnon
has three daughters, Chrysothemis, Laodice, and Iphianassa; you
may take the one of your choice, freely and without gifts of
wooing, to the house of Peleus; he will add such dower to boot as
no man ever yet gave his daughter, and will give you seven
well-established cities, Cardamyle, Enope, and Hire where there
is grass; holy Pheras and the rich meadows of Anthea; Aepea also,
and the vine-clad slopes of Pedasus, all near the sea, and on the
borders of sandy Pylos. The men that dwell there are rich in
cattle and sheep; they will honour you with gifts as though were
a god, and be obedient to your comfortable ordinances. All this
will he do if you will now forgo your anger. Moreover, though you
hate both him and his gifts with all your heart, yet pity the
rest of the Achaeans who are being harassed in all their host;
they will honour you as a god, and you will earn great glory at
their hands. You might even kill Hector; he will come within your
reach, for he is infatuated, and declares that not a Danaan whom
the ships have brought can hold his own against him."
Achilles answered, "Ulysses, noble son of Laertes, I should give
you formal notice plainly and in all fixity of purpose that there
be no more of this cajoling, from whatsoever quarter it may come.
Him do I hate even as the gates of hell who says one thing while
he hides another in his heart; therefore I will say what I mean.
I will be appeased neither by Agamemnon son of Atreus nor by any
other of the Danaans, for I see that I have no thanks for all my
fighting. He that fights fares no better than he that does not;
coward and hero are held in equal honour, and death deals like
measure to him who works and him who is idle. I have taken
nothing by all my hardships—with my life ever in my hand; as a
bird when she has found a morsel takes it to her nestlings, and
herself fares hardly, even so many a long night have I been
wakeful, and many a bloody battle have I waged by day against
those who were fighting for their women. With my ships I have
taken twelve cities, and eleven round about Troy have I stormed
with my men by land; I took great store of wealth from every one
of them, but I gave all up to Agamemnon son of Atreus. He stayed
where he was by his ships, yet of what came to him he gave
little, and kept much himself.
"Nevertheless he did distribute some meeds of honour among the
chieftains and kings, and these have them still; from me alone of
the Achaeans did he take the woman in whom I delighted—let him
keep her and sleep with her. Why, pray, must the Argives needs
fight the Trojans? What made the son of Atreus gather the host
and bring them? Was it not for the sake of Helen? Are the sons of
Atreus the only men in the world who love their wives? Any man of
common right feeling will love and cherish her who is his own, as
I this woman, with my whole heart, though she was but a fruitling
of my spear. Agamemnon has taken her from me; he has played me
false; I know him; let him tempt me no further, for he shall not
move me. Let him look to you, Ulysses, and to the other princes
to save his ships from burning. He has done much without me
already. He has built a wall; he has dug a trench deep and wide
all round it, and he has planted it within with stakes; but even
so he stays not the murderous might of Hector. So long as I
fought the Achaeans Hector suffered not the battle range far from
the city walls; he would come to the Scaean gates and to the oak
tree, but no further. Once he stayed to meet me and hardly did he
escape my onset: now, however, since I am in no mood to fight
him, I will to-morrow offer sacrifice to Jove and to all the
gods; I will draw my ships into the water and then victual them
duly; to-morrow morning, if you care to look, you will see my
ships on the Hellespont, and my men rowing out to sea with might
and main. If great Neptune vouchsafes me a fair passage, in three
days I shall be in Phthia. I have much there that I left behind
me when I came here to my sorrow, and I shall bring back still
further store of gold, of red copper, of fair women, and of iron,
my share of the spoils that we have taken; but one prize, he who
gave has insolently taken away. Tell him all as I now bid you,
and tell him in public that the Achaeans may hate him and beware
of him should he think that he can yet dupe others for his
effrontery never fails him.
"As for me, hound that he is, he dares not look me in the face.
I will take no counsel with him, and will undertake nothing in
common with him. He has wronged me and deceived me enough, he
shall not cozen me further; let him go his own way, for Jove has
robbed him of his reason. I loathe his presents, and for himself
care not one straw. He may offer me ten or even twenty times what
he has now done, nay—not though it be all that he has in the
world, both now or ever shall have; he may promise me the wealth
of Orchomenus or of Egyptian Thebes, which is the richest city in
the whole world, for it has a hundred gates through each of which
two hundred men may drive at once with their chariots and horses;
he may offer me gifts as the sands of the sea or the dust of the
plain in multitude, but even so he shall not move me till I have
been revenged in full for the bitter wrong he has done me. I will
not marry his daughter; she may be fair as Venus, and skilful as
Minerva, but I will have none of her: let another take her, who
may be a good match for her and who rules a larger kingdom. If
the gods spare me to return home, Peleus will find me a wife;
there are Achaean women in Hellas and Phthia, daughters of kings
that have cities under them; of these I can take whom I will and
marry her. Many a time was I minded when at home in Phthia to woo
and wed a woman who would make me a suitable wife, and to enjoy
the riches of my old father Peleus. My life is more to me than
all the wealth of Ilius while it was yet at peace before the
Achaeans went there, or than all the treasure that lies on the
stone floor of Apollo's temple beneath the cliffs of Pytho.
Cattle and sheep are to be had for harrying, and a man buy both
tripods and horses if he wants them, but when his life has once
left him it can neither be bought nor harried back again.
"My mother Thetis tells me that there are two ways in which I may
meet my end. If I stay here and fight, I shall not return alive
but my name will live for ever: whereas if I go home my name will
die, but it will be long ere death shall take me. To the rest of
you, then, I say, 'Go home, for you will not take Ilius.' Jove
has held his hand over her to protect her, and her people have
taken heart. Go, therefore, as in duty bound, and tell the
princes of the Achaeans the message that I have sent them; tell
them to find some other plan for the saving of their ships and
people, for so long as my displeasure lasts the one that they
have now hit upon may not be. As for Phoenix, let him sleep here
that he may sail with me in the morning if he so will. But I
will not take him by force."
They all held their peace, dismayed at the sternness with which
he had denied them, till presently the old knight Phoenix in his
great fear for the ships of the Achaeans, burst into tears and
said, "Noble Achilles, if you are now minded to return, and in
the fierceness of your anger will do nothing to save the ships
from burning, how, my son, can I remain here without you? Your
father Peleus bade me go with you when he sent you as a mere lad
from Phthia to Agamemnon. You knew nothing neither of war nor of
the arts whereby men make their mark in council, and he sent me
with you to train you in all excellence of speech and action.
Therefore, my son, I will not stay here without you—no, not
though heaven itself vouchsafe to strip my years from off me, and
make me young as I was when I first left Hellas the land of fair
women. I was then flying the anger of father Amyntor, son of
Ormenus, who was furious with me in the matter of his concubine,
of whom he was enamoured to the wronging of his wife my mother.
My mother, therefore, prayed me without ceasing to lie with the
woman myself, that so she hate my father, and in the course of
time I yielded. But my father soon came to know, and cursed me
bitterly, calling the dread Erinyes to witness. He prayed that no
son of mine might ever sit upon knees—and the gods, Jove of the
world below and awful Proserpine, fulfilled his curse. I took
counsel to kill him, but some god stayed my rashness and bade me
think on men's evil tongues and how I should be branded as the
murderer of my father; nevertheless I could not bear to stay in
my father's house with him so bitter a against me. My cousins and
clansmen came about me, and pressed me sorely to remain; many a
sheep and many an ox did they slaughter, and many a fat hog did
they set down to roast before the fire; many a jar, too, did they
broach of my father's wine. Nine whole nights did they set a
guard over me taking it in turns to watch, and they kept a fire
always burning, both in the cloister of the outer court and in
the inner court at the doors of the room wherein I lay; but when
the darkness of the tenth night came, I broke through the closed
doors of my room, and climbed the wall of the outer court after
passing quickly and unperceived through the men on guard and the
women servants. I then fled through Hellas till I came to fertile
Phthia, mother of sheep, and to King Peleus, who made me welcome
and treated me as a father treats an only son who will be heir to
all his wealth. He made me rich and set me over much people,
establishing me on the borders of Phthia where I was chief ruler
over the Dolopians.
"It was I, Achilles, who had the making of you; I loved you with
all my heart: for you would eat neither at home nor when you had
gone out elsewhere, till I had first set you upon my knees, cut
up the dainty morsel that you were to eat, and held the wine-cup
to your lips. Many a time have you slobbered your wine in baby
helplessness over my shirt; I had infinite trouble with you, but
I knew that heaven had vouchsafed me no offspring of my own, and
I made a son of you, Achilles, that in my hour of need you might
protect me. Now, therefore, I say battle with your pride and beat
it; cherish not your anger for ever; the might and majesty of
heaven are more than ours, but even heaven may be appeased; and
if a man has sinned he prays the gods, and reconciles them to
himself by his piteous cries and by frankincense, with
drink-offerings and the savour of burnt sacrifice. For prayers
are as daughters to great Jove; halt, wrinkled, with eyes
askance, they follow in the footsteps of sin, who, being fierce
and fleet of foot, leaves them far behind him, and ever baneful
to mankind outstrips them even to the ends of the world; but
nevertheless the prayers come hobbling and healing after. If a
man has pity upon these daughters of Jove when they draw near
him, they will bless him and hear him too when he is praying; but
if he deny them and will not listen to them, they go to Jove the
son of Saturn and pray that he may presently fall into sin—to
his ruing bitterly hereafter. Therefore, Achilles, give these
daughters of Jove due reverence, and bow before them as all good
men will bow. Were not the son of Atreus offering you gifts and
promising others later—if he were still furious and implacable—
I am not he that would bid you throw off your anger and help the
Achaeans, no matter how great their need; but he is giving much
now, and more hereafter; he has sent his captains to urge his
suit, and has chosen those who of all the Argives are most
acceptable to you; make not then their words and their coming to
be of none effect. Your anger has been righteous so far. We have
heard in song how heroes of old time quarrelled when they were
roused to fury, but still they could be won by gifts, and fair
words could soothe them.
"I have an old story in my mind—a very old one—but you are all
friends and I will tell it. The Curetes and the Aetolians were
fighting and killing one another round Calydon—the Aetolians
defending the city and the Curetes trying to destroy it. For
Diana of the golden throne was angry and did them hurt because
Oeneus had not offered her his harvest first-fruits. The other
gods had all been feasted with hecatombs, but to the daughter of
great Jove alone he had made no sacrifice. He had forgotten her,
or somehow or other it had escaped him, and this was a grievous
sin. Thereon the archer goddess in her displeasure sent a
prodigious creature against him—a savage wild boar with great
white tusks that did much harm to his orchard lands, uprooting
apple-trees in full bloom and throwing them to the ground. But
Meleager son of Oeneus got huntsmen and hounds from many cities
and killed it—for it was so monstrous that not a few were
needed, and many a man did it stretch upon his funeral pyre. On
this the goddess set the Curetes and the Aetolians fighting
furiously about the head and skin of the boar.
"So long as Meleager was in the field things went badly with the
Curetes, and for all their numbers they could not hold their
ground under the city walls; but in the course of time Meleager
was angered as even a wise man will sometimes be. He was incensed
with his mother Althaea, and therefore stayed at home with his
wedded wife fair Cleopatra, who was daughter of Marpessa daughter
of Euenus, and of Ides the man then living. He it was who took
his bow and faced King Apollo himself for fair Marpessa's sake;
her father and mother then named her Alcyone, because her mother
had mourned with the plaintive strains of the halcyon-bird when
Phoebus Apollo had carried her off. Meleager, then, stayed at
home with Cleopatra, nursing the anger which he felt by reason of
his mother's curses. His mother, grieving for the death of her
brother, prayed the gods, and beat the earth with her hands,
calling upon Hades and on awful Proserpine; she went down upon
her knees and her bosom was wet with tears as she prayed that
they would kill her son—and Erinys that walks in darkness and
knows no ruth heard her from Erebus.
"Then was heard the din of battle about the gates of Calydon, and
the dull thump of the battering against their walls. Thereon the
elders of the Aetolians besought Meleager; they sent the chiefest
of their priests, and begged him to come out and help them,
promising him a great reward. They bade him choose fifty
plough-gates, the most fertile in the plain of Calydon, the
one-half vineyard and the other open plough-land. The old warrior
Oeneus implored him, standing at the threshold of his room and
beating the doors in supplication. His sisters and his mother
herself besought him sore, but he the more refused them; those of
his comrades who were nearest and dearest to him also prayed him,
but they could not move him till the foe was battering at the
very doors of his chamber, and the Curetes had scaled the walls
and were setting fire to the city. Then at last his sorrowing
wife detailed the horrors that befall those whose city is taken;
she reminded him how the men are slain, and the city is given
over to the flames, while the women and children are carried into
captivity; when he heard all this, his heart was touched, and he
donned his armour to go forth. Thus of his own inward motion he
saved the city of the Aetolians; but they now gave him nothing of
those rich rewards that they had offered earlier, and though he
saved the city he took nothing by it. Be not then, my son, thus
minded; let not heaven lure you into any such course. When the
ships are burning it will be a harder matter to save them. Take
the gifts, and go, for the Achaeans will then honour you as a
god; whereas if you fight without taking them, you may beat the
battle back, but you will not be held in like honour."
And Achilles answered, "Phoenix, old friend and father, I have no
need of such honour. I have honour from Jove himself, which will
abide with me at my ships while I have breath in my body, and my
limbs are strong. I say further—and lay my saying to your
heart—vex me no more with this weeping and lamentation, all in
the cause of the son of Atreus. Love him so well, and you may
lose the love I bear you. You ought to help me rather in
troubling those that trouble me; be king as much as I am, and
share like honour with myself; the others shall take my answer;
stay here yourself and sleep comfortably in your bed; at daybreak
we will consider whether to remain or go."
On this she nodded quietly to Patroclus as a sign that he was to
prepare a bed for Phoenix, and that the others should take their
leave. Ajax son of Telamon then said, "Ulysses, noble son of
Laertes, let us be gone, for I see that our journey is vain. We
must now take our answer, unwelcome though it be, to the Danaans
who are waiting to receive it. Achilles is savage and
remorseless; he is cruel, and cares nothing for the love his
comrades lavished upon him more than on all the others. He is
implacable—and yet if a man's brother or son has been slain he
will accept a fine by way of amends from him that killed him, and
the wrong-doer having paid in full remains in peace among his own
people; but as for you, Achilles, the gods have put a wicked
unforgiving spirit in your heart, and this, all about one single
girl, whereas we now offer you the seven best we have, and much
else into the bargain. Be then of a more gracious mind, respect
the hospitality of your own roof. We are with you as messengers
from the host of the Danaans, and would fain he held nearest and
dearest to yourself of all the Achaeans."
"Ajax," replied Achilles, "noble son of Telamon, you have spoken
much to my liking, but my blood boils when I think it all over,
and remember how the son of Atreus treated me with contumely as
though I were some vile tramp, and that too in the presence of
the Argives. Go, then, and deliver your message; say that I will
have no concern with fighting till Hector, son of noble Priam,
reaches the tents of the Myrmidons in his murderous course, and
flings fire upon their ships. For all his lust of battle, I take
it he will be held in check when he is at my own tent and ship."
On this they took every man his double cup, made their
drink-offerings, and went back to the ships, Ulysses leading the
way. But Patroclus told his men and the maid-servants to make
ready a comfortable bed for Phoenix; they therefore did so with
sheepskins, a rug, and a sheet of fine linen. The old man then
laid himself down and waited till morning came. But Achilles
slept in an inner room, and beside him the daughter of Phorbas
lovely Diomede, whom he had carried off from Lesbos. Patroclus
lay on the other side of the room, and with him fair Iphis whom
Achilles had given him when he took Scyros the city of Enyeus.
When the envoys reached the tents of the son of Atreus, the
Achaeans rose, pledged them in cups of gold, and began to
question them. King Agamemnon was the first to do so. "Tell me,
Ulysses," said he, "will he save the ships from burning, or did
be refuse, and is he still furious?"
Ulysses answered, "Most noble son of Atreus, king of men,
Agamemnon, Achilles will not be calmed, but is more fiercely
angry than ever, and spurns both you and your gifts. He bids you
take counsel with the Achaeans to save the ships and host as you
best may; as for himself, he said that at daybreak he should draw
his ships into the water. He said further that he should advise
every one to sail home likewise, for that you will not reach the
goal of Ilius. 'Jove,' he said, 'has laid his hand over the city
to protect it, and the people have taken heart.' This is what he
said, and the others who were with me can tell you the same
story—Ajax and the two heralds, men, both of them, who may be
trusted. The old man Phoenix stayed where he was to sleep, for so
Achilles would have it, that he might go home with him in the
morning if he so would; but he will not take him by force."
They all held their peace, sitting for a long time silent and
dejected, by reason of the sternness with which Achilles had
refused them, till presently Diomed said, "Most noble son of
Atreus, king of men, Agamemnon, you ought not to have sued the
son of Peleus nor offered him gifts. He is proud enough as it is,
and you have encouraged him in his pride still further. Let him
stay or go as he will. He will fight later when he is in the
humour, and heaven puts it in his mind to do so. Now, therefore,
let us all do as I say; we have eaten and drunk our fill, let us
then take our rest, for in rest there is both strength and stay.
But when fair rosy-fingered morn appears, forthwith bring out
your host and your horsemen in front of the ships, urging them
on, and yourself fighting among the foremost."
Thus he spoke, and the other chieftains approved his words. They
then made their drink-offerings and went every man to his own
tent, where they laid down to rest and enjoyed the boon of sleep.
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