Page images


[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]
[ocr errors]


The Contention of Achilles and Agamemnon

In the war of Troy, the Greeks, having facked fome of the neighbouring towns, and taken from thence two beautiful captives, Chryfeis and Brifeis, allotted the first to Agamemnon, and the last Achilles. Chryfes, the father of Chryfeïs, and priest of Apollo, comes to the Grecian camp to ranfom her; with which the action of the poem opens, in the tenth year of the fiege. The prieft being refused, and infolently difmiffed by Agamemnon, entreats for vengeance from his God, who inflects a peftilence on the Greeks. Achilles calls a counfel, and encourages Cholcas to declare the taufe of it, who attributes it to the refufal of Chryfeïs. The king being obliged to fend back his captive, enters into a furious conteft with Achilles, which Neftor pacifies; however, as he had the abfolute command of the army, he feizes on Brijeïs, in revenge. Achilles in difcontent withdraws himself and his forces from the rest of the Greeks; and complaining to Thetis, the fupplicates Jupiter to render them fenfible of the wrong done to her fon, by giving victory to the Trojans. Jupiter granting her fuit incenfes Juno, between whom the debate runs high, till they are reconciled by the addrefs of Vulcan.

The time of two and twenty days is taken up in this book; nine during the plague, one in the council and quarrel of the princes, and twelve for Jupiter's ftay with the Ethiopians, at whose return Thetis prefers her petition. The fcene lies in the Grecian camp, then changes to Chryfa, and laftly to Olympus.

ACHILLES' wrath, to Greece the direful spring

Uf woes unnumber'd, heavenly Goddess fing!

That wrath which hurl'd to Pluto's gloomy reign
The fouls of mighty chiefs untimely flain;
Whofe limbs unbury'd on the naked fhore,
Devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore;
Since great Achilles and Atrides strove, [Jove.
Such was the fovereign doom, and fuch the will of
Declare, O Mufe! in what ill-fated hour,
Sprung the fierce ftrife, from what offended power?
Latona's fon a dire contagion spread,
And heap'd the camp with mountains of the dead;
The king of men his reverend priest defy'd,
And for the king's offence the people dy'd.

For Chryfes fought with coftly gifts to gain
His captive daughter from the victor's chain.
Suppliant the venerable father itands,
Apollo's awful enfigns grace his hands:
By thefe he begs; and lowly bending down,
Extends the fceptre and the laurel crown.
He ned to all, but chief implor'd for grace
The brother kings of Atreus' royal race.
Ye kings and warriors may your vows be

And Troy's proud walls lie level with the ground;
May Jove restore you, when your toils are o'er,
Safe to the pleasures of your native shore.
But ab relieve a wretched parent's pain,
And gave Chryfels to thefe arms again;

If mercy fail, yet let my prefents move,
And dread avenging Phoebus, fon of Jove.

The Greeks in houts their joint affent declare,
The priest to reverence, and release the fair.
Not to Atrides: he, with kingly pride,
Repuls'd the facred fire, and thus reply'd:

Hence, on thy life, and fly thefe hoftile plains,
Nor atk, prefumptuous, what the king detains,
Hence, with thy laurel crown, and golden rod,
Nor truft too far thofe enfigns of thy God.
Mine is thy daughter, priest, and fhall remain ;
And prayers, and tears, and bribes, fhall plead in
Till time thall rifle every youthful grace, [vain;
And age difmifs her from my cold embrace,
In daily labours of the loom employ'd,
Or doom'd to deck the bed the once enjoy'd.
Hence then, to Argos thall the maid retire,
Far from her native foil, and weeping fire.

The trembling priest along the shore return'd,
And in the anguish of a father moura'd.
Difconfolate, not daring to complain,
Silent he wander'd by the founding main :
Till, fafe at diftance, to his God he prays,
The God who darts around the world his rays.

O $mintheus! fprung from fair Latona's line,
Thou guardian power of Cilla the divine,
Thou fource of light! whom Tenedos adores,
And whofe bright prefence gilds thy Chryfa's



If e'er with wreaths Í hung thy facred fane,
Or fed the flames with fat of oxen flain;
God of the filver bow thy fhafts employ,
Avenge thy fervant, and the Greeks deftroy.

Thus Chryfes pray'd: The favouring power
And from Olympus lofty tops defcends. [attends,
Bent was his bow, the Grecian hearts to wound;
Fierce as he mov'd, his filver fhafts refound;
Breathing revenge, a fudden night he spread,
And gloomy darkness roll'd about his head.
The fleet in view, he twang'd his deadly bow,
And hiffing fly the feather'd fates below.
On mules and dogs th' infection first began;
And last, the vengeful arrows fix'd in man.
For nine long nights through all the dusky air
The Pyres thick-flaming shot a dismal glare.
But ere the tenth revolving day was run,
Infpir'd by Juno, Thetis' god-like fon
Conven'd to council all the Grecian train;
For much the Goddess mourn'd her heroes flain.
Th' affembly feated, rifing o'er the reft,
Achilles thus the king of men addreft:

Why leave we not the fatal Trojan shore, And measure back the feas we croft before? The plague deftroying whom the fword would fpare, 'Tis time to fave the few remains of war. But let fome prophet, or fome facred fage, Explore the caufe of great Apollo's rage; Or learn the wafteful vengeance to remove, By myftic dreams, for dreams defcend from Jove. If broken vows this heavy curfe have laid, Let altars ímoke, and hecatombs be paid. So heaven aton'd fhall dying Greece restore, And Phoebus dart his burning fhafts no more.

He faid, and fat: when Chalcas thus reply'd:
Chalcas the wife, the Grecian priest and guide,
That facred feer, whofe comprehensive view
The paft, the prefent, and the future knew:
Uprifing flow, the venerable fage

Thus fpoke the prudence and the fears of age,
Belov'd of Jove, Achilles! would'st thou know
Why angry Phoebus bends his fatal bow?
Firft give thy faith, and plight a prince's word-
Offure protection, by thy power and sword.
For I must speak what witdom would conceal,
And truths, invidious to the great, reveal.
Bold is the task, when fubjects grown too wife,
Inftruct a monarch where his error lies;
For though we deem the short-liv'd fury paft,
'Tis fure, the Mighty will revenge at last.

To whom Pelides. From thy inmoft foul Speak what thou know'ft, and speak without controul.

Ev'n by that God I fwear, who rules the day,
To whom thy hands the vows of Greece convey,
And whofe bleft oracles thy lips declare;
Long as Achilles breathes this vital air,
No daring Greek of all the numerous band
Against his priest shall lift an impious hand:
Not ev'n the chief by whom our hofts are led,
The king of kings, fhall touch that facred head.
Encourag'd thus, the blameless man replies;
Nor vows unpaid, nor flighted facrifice,
But he, our chief, provok'd the raging pest,
Apollo's vengeance for his injur'd prieit;
Nor will the God's awaken'd fury ceafe,

But plagues shall spread, and funeral fires increase,

Till the great king, without a ransom paid,
To her own Chryfa fend the black-ey'd maid.
Perhaps, with added facrifice and prayer,
The priest may pardon, and the God may spare.
The prophet fpoke; when with a gloomy frowa
The monarch started from his fhining throne;
Black choler fill'd his breaft that boil'd with ire,
And from his eye-balls flath'd the living fire.
Auger accurft! denouncing mischief still,
Prophet of plagues, for ever boding ill! [bring,
Still muft that tongue fome wounding meffage
And ftill thy prieftly pride provoke thy king?
For this are Phoebus' oracles explor'd,

To teach the Greeks to murmur at their Lord?
For this with falfehoods is my honour ftain'd,
Is heaven offended, and a priest profan'd;
Because my prize, my beauteous maid I hold,
And heavenly charms prefer to proffer'd gold!
A maid, unmatch'd in manners as in face,
Skill'd in each art, and crown'd with every grace.
Not half fo dear were Clytemnestra's charms,
When firft her blooming beauties bleft my arms.
Yet if the Gods demand her, ler her fail;
Our cares are only for the public weal:
Let me be deem'd the hateful caufe of all,
And fuffer, rather than my people fall.
The prize, the beauteous prize, I will refign,
So dearly valued, and fo juítly mine.
But fince for common good I yield the fair,
My private lofs let grateful Greece repair;
Nor unrewarded let your prince complain,
That he alone has fought and bled in vain.

Infatiate king, (Achilles thus replies)

Fond of the power, but fonder of the prize! Would't thou the Greeks their lawful prey fhould yicid,

The due reward of many a well fought field?
The ipoils of cities raz'd, and warriors flain,
We share with justice, as with toil we gain:
But to relume whate'er thy avarice craves
(That trick of tyrants) may be borne by flaves.
Yet if our chief for plunder only fight,
The fpoils of Ilion fhall thy lots requite,
Whene'er by Jove's decree our conquering powers
Shall humble to the duft her lofty towers.

Then thus the king. Shall I my prize refign
With tame content, and thou poffent of thine ?
Great as thou art, and like a God in fight,
Think not to rob me of a foldier's right.
At thy demand thall I restore the maid?
First let the juft equivalent be paid;
Such as a king might afk; and let it be
A treature worthy her, and worthy me.
Or grant me this, or with a monarch's claim,
This hand fhall feize fome other captive dame;
The mighty Ajax fhall his prize refign,
Ulyffes' poils, or ev'n thy own be mine.
The man who fuffers, loudly may complain;
And rage he may, but he fhall rage in vain.
But thus when time requires-It now remains
We launch a bark to plow the watery plains,
And waft the facrifice to Chryfa's thores,
With chofen pilots, and with labouring oars.
Soon fhall the fair the fable ship afcend,
And fome deputed prince the charge attend:
This Creta's king, or Ajax fhall fulfil,

| Or wife Ulyffes fee perform'd our will

[ocr errors]

Or, if our royal pleasure shall ordain,
Achilles' felf conduct her o'er the main;
Let fierce Achilles, dreadful in his rage,
The God propitiate, and the peit affuage,

At this Pelides, frowning ftern, reply'd:
O tyrant, arm'd with infolence and pride!
Inglorious dave to intereft, ever join'd
With fraud, unworthy of a royal mind!.
What generous Greek, obedient to thy word,
Shall form an ambush, or shall lift the fword?
What caufe have I to war at thy decree?
The diftant Trojans never injur'd me:
To Phthia's realms no hoftile troops they led,
Safe in her vales my warlike courfers fed;
Far hence remov'd, the hoarse-refounding main.
And walls of rocks, fecure my native reign,
Whofe fruitful foil luxuriant harvests grace,
Rich in her fruits, and in her martial race.
Hither we fail'd, a voluntary throng,
T' avenge a private, not a public wrong:
What elfe to Troy th' affembled nations draws,
But thine, ungrateful, and thy brother's caufe?
Is this the pay our blood and toils deferve;
Difgrac'd and injur'd by the man we ferve?
And dar'it thou threat to fnatch my prize away,
Due to the deeds of many a dreadful day?
A prize as imali, O tyrant! match'd with thine,
As thy own actions if compar'd to mine.
Thine in each conquest is the wealthy prey,
Though mine the fweat and danger of the day.
Some trivial prefents to my fhips I bear,
Or barren praifes pay the wounds of war.
But know, proud monarch, I'm thy flave no more;
My fleet fhall waft me to Theffalia's fhore.
Left by Achilles on the Trojan plain,
What fpoils, what conquefts, fhall Atrides gain?
To this the king: Fly, mighty warrior! fly;
Thy aid we need not, and thy threats defy.
There want not chiefs in fuch a cause to fight,
And Jove himself thall guard a monarch's right.
Of all the kings (the Gods diftinguifh'd care)
To power fuperior none fuch hatred bear:
Strife and debate thy reftiefs foul employ,
And wars and horrors are thy favage joy;

If thou haft frength, 'twas heaven that ftrength

For know, vain man! thy valour is from God.
Hafte, launch thy veffels, fly with speed away,
Rule thy own realms with arbitrary sway:
I heed thee not, but prize at equal rate
Thy fhort liv'd friendship, and thy groundless hate.
Go, threat the earth-born myrmidons; but here
'Tis mine to threaten, prince, and thine to fear.
Know, if the God the beauteous dame demand,
My bark fhall waft her to her native land;
But then prepare, imperious prince! prepare,
Fierce as thou art, to yield thy captive fair;
Ev's in thy tent I'll feize the blooming prize,
Thy lov'd Brifeis with the radiant eyes.
Heuce fhalt thou prove my might, and curfe the
Thou food'st a rival of imperial power;
And hence to all our hoft it shall be known,
That kings are fubject to the Gods alone.
Achilles beard, with grief and rage oppreft,
His heart (well'd high, and laboured in his breast.
Distracting thoughts by turns his bofom rul'd,
How fir'd by wrath, and now by reason cool'd :


That prompts his hand to draw the deadly fword,
Force through the Greeks, and pierce their laugh-

ty lord;

This whispers foft, his vengeance to controul,
And calm the rifing tempeft of his foul.
Juft as in anguish of fufpence he stay'd,
While halfunheath'd appear'd the glittering blade,
Minerva fwift defcended from above,

Sent by the fifter and the wife of Jove
(For both the princes claim'd her equal care);
Behind the ftood, and by the golden hair
Achilles feized; to him alone confest;
A fable cloud conceal'd her from the reft.
He fees, and fudden to the Goddess cries,
Known by the flames that sparkle from her eyes:
Defcends Minerva in her guardian care,

A heavenly witnets of the wrongs I bear
From Atreus' fon: then let thofe eyes that view
The daring crime, behold the vengeance too.
Forbear! (the progeny of Jove replies)
To calm thy fury I forfake the fkies:
Let great Achilles, to the Gods refign'd,
To reafon yield the empire o'er his mind.
By awful Juno this command is given;
The king and you are both the care of heaven.
The force of keen reproaches let him feel,
But fheath, obedient, thy revenging feel.
For I pronounce (and truft a heavenly power)
Thy injur'd honour has its fated hour,
When the proud monarch fhall thy arms implore,
And bribe thy friendship with a boundlets store.
Then let revenge no longer bear the sway,
Command thy paffions, and the Gods obey.

To her Pelides. With regardiul ear
'Tis juft, O Goddefs! I thy dictates hear.
Hard as it is, my vengeance I fupprefs:
Those who revere the Gods, the Gods will blefs.
He faid, obfervant of the blue-ey'd maid;
Then in the fheath return'd the shining blade.
The Goddefs fwift to high Olympus flies,
And joins the facred fenate of the skies.

Nor yet the rage his boiling breast forfook,
Which thus redoubling on Atrides broke.
O moniter! mix'd of infolence and fear,
Thou dog in forehead, but in heart a deer!
When wert thou known in ambush'd fights to dare,
Or nobly face the horrid front of war?
'Tis ours, the chance of fighting fields to try,
Thine to look on, and bid the valiant die.
So much 'tis fafer through the camp to go,
And rob a subject, than defpoil a foe.
Scourge of thy people, violent and base!
Sent in Jeve's anger on a flavish race,
Who, loft to fenfe of generous freedom paft,
Are tam'd to wrongs, or this had been thy laft.
Now by this facred fceptre hear me fwear,
Which never more fhall leaves or bloffoms bear,
Which fever'd from the trunk (as I from thee)
On the bare mountains left its parent tree;
This fceptre, form'd by temper'd steel to prove
An enfign of the delegates of Jove,
From whom the power of laws and juftice springs
(Tremenduous oath inviolate to kings)<
By this I fwear, when bleeding Greece again
Shall call Achilles, the fhall call in vain.
When, flufh'd with flaughter, Hector comes to
The purpled thore with mountains, of the dead,



Then fhalt thou mourn th' affront thy madness gave
Forc'd to deplore, when impotent to fave:
Then rage in bitterness of foul, to know
This aft has made the bravest Greek thy foe.
He fpoke: and furious hurl'd against the ground
His fceptre ftarr'd with golden ftuds around.
Then fternly filent fat. With like difdain,
The raging king return'd his frowns again.

To calm their paffions with the words of age,
Slow from his feat arofe the Pylian fage,
Experienc'd Neftor, in perfuafion skill'd,
Words tweet as honey from his lips diftill'd;
Tw generations now had pais'd away,
Wife by his rules, and happy by his sway;
Two ages o'er his native realm he reign'd.
And now th' example of the third remain'd.
All view'd with awe the venerable man;
Who thus with mild benevolence began:

What fhame, what woe is this to Greece! what
To Troy's proud monarch, and the friends of Troy!
That adverfe Gods commit to ftern debate
The best, the braveft of the Grecian ftate.
Young as ye are, this youthful head restrain,
Nor think your Neftor's years and wildom vain.
A Godlike race of heroes once I knew,
Such, as no more thefe aged eyes fhall view!
Lives there a chief to match Pirithous' fame,
Dryas the bold, or Ceneus' deathless name;
Thefeus, endued with more than mortal might,
Or Polyphemus, like the Gods in fight?
With thefe of old to toils of battle bred,
In early youth my hardy days I led :
Fir'd with the thirst which virtuous envy breeds,
And fmit with love of honourable deeds.
Strongest of men, they pierc'd the mountain boar,
Rang'd the wild deferts red with monsters gore,
And from their hills the flaggy Centaurs tore.
Yet thefe with soft, perfuafive arts I sway'd;
When Neftor fpoke, they liften'd and obey'd.
If in my youth, ev'n these esteem'd me wife;
Do you, young warriors, hear my age advife.
Atrides, feize not on the beauteous flave;
That prize the Greeks by commor. fuffrage gave:
Nor thou Achilles, treat our prince with pride;
Let kings be juft, and fovereign power preside;
Thee, the firit honours of the war adorn,
Like Gods in ftrength, and of a goddess born;
Him, awful majefty exalts above

The powers of earth, and fcepter'd fons of Jove.
Let both unite, with well confenting mind,
So fhall authority with ftrength be join'd.
Leave me, O king! to calm Achilles' rage;
Rule thou thyfelf, as more advanc'd in age.
Forbid it Gods! Achilles fhould be loft,
The pride of Greece, and bulwark of our host.
This faid, he ceas'd: the king of men replies:
Thy years are awful, and thy words are wife.
But that imperious, that unconquer'd foul,
No laws can limit, no refpect control.
Before his pride muft his fuperiors fall,
His word the law, and he the lord of all?
Him muft our hofts, our chiefs, ourselves obey?
What king can bear a rival in his way?
Grant that the Gods his matchlefs force hath given;
Has foul reproach a privilege from Heaven?

Here on the monarch's fpeech Achilles broke,
And furious, thus, and interrupting, fpoke:


Tyrant, I well deferv'd thy galling chain,
To live thy flave, and still to ferve in vain;
Should I fubmit to each unjust decree:
Command thy vaffals, but command not me.
Seize on Brifeis, whom the Grecians doom'd
My prize of war, yet tamely fee refum'd;
And feize fecure; no more Achilles draws
His conquering fword in any woman's caufe.
The Gods command me to forgive the paft;
But let this firit invafion be the last:
For know, thy blood, when next thou dar't invade,
Shall ftream in vengeance on my reeking blade.
At this they ceas'd; the stern debate expir'd:
The chiefs in fullen majefty, retir'd.

Achilles with Patroclus took his way,
Where near his tents his hollow veffels lay.
Mean time Atrides launch'd with numerous oars
High on the deck was fair Chrifeis plac'd,
A well-rigg'd fhip for Cryfa's facred shores:
And fage Ulyffes with the conduct grac'd;
Safe in her fides the hecatomb they ftow'd,
Then, fwiftly failing, cut the liquid road.

The hoft to expiate, next the king prepares,
With pure luftrations, and with folemn prayers.
Wash'd by the briny wave, the pious train
Are cleans'd, and caft th' ablutions in the main.
Along the fhore whole hecatombs were laid,
And bulls and goats to Phoebus' altars paid,
The fable fumes in curling (pires arife,
And waft their grateful odours to the skies.

The armies thus in facred rites engag'd,
Atrides ftill with deep refentment rag'd.
To wait his will, two facred heralds stood,
Talthybius and Eurybates the good.
Hafte to the fierce Achilles' tent (he cries)
Thence bear Brifeis as our royal prize:
Submit he muft; or, if they will not part,
Ourfelf in arms fhall tear her from his heart.

Th' unwilling heralds act their lord's commands:
Penfive they walk along the barren fands:
Arriv'd, the hero in his tent they find,
With gloomy afpect, on his arm reclin'd.
At awful diftance long they filent stand,
Loth to advance, or fpeak their hard command;
Decent confufion! This the godlike man
Perceiv'd, and thus with accent mild began:

With leave and honour enter our abodes,

Ye facred minifters of men and Gods!

I know your meffage; by constraint you came;
Not you, but your imperious lord I blame.
Patroclus hatte, the fair Brifeis bring;
Conduct my captive to the haughty king.
But witness, heralds, and proclaim my vow,
Witness to Gods above, and men below!
But first, and loudeft, to your prince declare,
That lawless tyrant whofe commands you bear;
Unmov'd as death Achilles fhall remain,
Though proftrate Greece fhould bleed at ev'


The raging chief in frantic paffion loft,
Blind to himfelf, and ufelefs to his hoft,
Unfkill'd to judge the future by the past,
In blood and flaughter fhall repent at last.

Patroclus now th' unwilling beauty brought =
She, in foft forrow, and in penfive thought,
Paft filent, as the heralds held her hand,
And oft look'd back, flow moving o'er the strand.

« PreviousContinue »