The Grief of Achilles for the Death of Patroclus

Lamentation of Achilles over Patroclus⁠—A visit of condolence from Thetis and her nymphs⁠—Appearance of Achilles on the entrenchments, and consequent alarm of the Trojans⁠—A council of war held by the Trojan Chiefs⁠—Advice of Polydamas to withdraw from the field into Troy opposed by Hector, and rejected⁠—Vulcan, engaged by Thetis to forge a new suit of armor for Achilles.

As thus they fought with all the rage of fire,
Antilochus, the nimble-footed, came
With tidings to Achilles. Him he found
Before his lofty galleys, deep in thought
Of what he knew had happened. With a sigh
The hero to his mighty spirit said:⁠—

“Ah me! Why should the Grecians thus be driven
In utter disarray across the plain?
I tremble lest the gods should bring to pass
What most I dread. My mother told me once
That the most valiant of the Myrmidons,
While yet I live, cut off by Trojan hands,
Shall see the sun no more. It must be so:
The brave son of Menoetius has been slain.
Unhappy! ’Twas my bidding that, when once
The enemy with his firebrands was repulsed,
He should not think to combat gallantly
With Hector, but should hasten to the fleet.”

As thus he mused, illustrious Nestor’s son
Drew near Achilles, and with eyes that shed
Warm tears he gave his sorrowful message thus:⁠—

“Son of the warlike Peleus, woe is me!
For bitter are the tidings thou must hear
Of what should not have been. Patroclus lies
A naked corpse, and over it the hosts
Are fighting; crested Hector hath his arms.”

He spake, and a black cloud of sorrow came
Over the chieftain. Grasping in both hands
The ashes of the hearth, he showered them o’er
His head, and soiled with them his noble face.
They clung in dark lumps to his comely vest.
Prone in the dust of earth, at his full length,
And tearing his disordered hair, he lay.
Then wailed aloud the maidens whom in war
He and Patroclus captured. Forth they came,
And, thronging round him, smote their breasts and swooned.
Antilochus mourned also, and shed tears,
Holding Achilles by the hand, for much
His generous nature dreaded that the chief
Might aim at his own throat the sword he wore.

Loud were the hero’s cries, and in the deep
His gracious mother, where she sat beside
Her aged father, heard them. She too raised
A wail of sorrow. All the goddesses,
Daughters of Nereus, dwelling in the depths
Of ocean, gathered to her side. There came
Glaucè, Thaleia, and Cymodocè,
Nesaea, Speio, Halia with large eyes,
And Thoa, and Cymothoë; nor stayed
Actaea, Limnoreia, Melita,
Amphithoë, Iaera, Agavè,
Doto, and Proto, and Dynamenè.
There came Dexamene, Amphinomè,
Pherusa, Callianira, Panopè,
Doris, and Galateia, the renowned.
With these Nemertes and Apseudes came,
And Callianassa. Clymenè was there,
Janeira and Janassa, and with them
Maera, and Amatheia with bright hair,
And Orithya, and whoever else,
Children of Nereus, bide within the deep.
The concourse filled the glimmering cave; they beat
Their bosoms, while the sorrowing Thetis spake:⁠—

“Hear, sister Nereids, that ye all may know
The sharpness of my sorrows. Woe is me,
Unhappy! Woe is me! In evil hour,
The mother of a hero⁠—me who gave
Birth to so noble and so brave a son,
The first among the warriors, saw him grow
Like a green sapling, reared him like a plant
Within a fruitful field, and sent him forth
With his beaked ships to Ilium and the war
Against the Trojans. Never shall I see
That son returning to his home, the halls
Of Peleus. While he lives and sees the light
Of day his lot is sorrow, nor can I
Help him in aught, though at his side; and yet
I go to look on my beloved son,
And learn from him what grief, while he remains
Aloof from war, o’ertakes him in his tent.”

She spake, and left the cavern. All the nymphs
Went with her weeping. Round their way the waves
Of ocean parted. When they reached the fields
Of fertile Troas, up the shore they went
In ordered files to where, a numerous fleet,
Drawn from the water, round Achilles lay
The swift ships of the Myrmidons. To him
His goddess mother came, and with a cry
Of grief embraced the head of her dear son,
And, mourning o’er him, spake these wingèd words:⁠—

“Why weepest thou, my son? What sorrow now
O’ercomes thy spirit? Speak, and hide it not.
All thou didst pray for once, with lifted hands,
Has been fulfilled by Jove; the sons of Greece,
Driven to their galleys, and with thy good help
Withdrawn from them, are routed and disgraced.”

The swift Achilles, sighing deeply, made
This answer: “O my mother! True it is
Olympian Jove hath done all this for me;
But how can that delight me, since my friend,
My well-beloved Patroclus, is no more?
He whom, of all my fellows in the war,
I prized the most, and loved as my own self,
Is lost to me, and Hector, by whose hand
He was cut off, has spoiled him of his arms⁠—
His dreaded arms, a wonder to the sight
And glorious, which the gods of heaven bestowed
On Peleus, sumptuous bridal gifts, when thou
Wert led by them to share a mortal’s bed.
Yet would that thou hadst evermore remained
Among the immortal dwellers of the deep,
And Peleus had espoused a mortal maid,
Since now thy heart must ache with infinite grief
For thy slain son, whom thou shalt never more
Welcome returning to his home. No wish
Have I to live or to concern myself
In men’s affairs, save this: that Hector first,
Pierced by my spear, shall yield his life, and pay
The debt of vengeance for Patroclus slain.”

And Thetis, weeping, answered: “O my son!
Soon must thou die; thou sayest true; that fate
Hangs over thee as soon as Hector dies.”

Again the swift Achilles, sighing, spake:
“Then quickly let me die, since fate denied
That I should aid my friend against the foes
That slew him. Far from his own land he fell,
And longed for me to rescue him. And now,
Since I am never more to see the land
I love, and since I went not to defend
Patroclus, nor the other Greeks, my friends,
Of whom so many have fallen by the hand
Of noble Hector, but beside the fleet
Am sitting here, a useless weight on earth,
Mighty in battle as I am beyond
The other Grecian warriors, though excelled
By other men in council⁠—would that Strife
Might perish among gods and men, with Wrath,
Which makes even wise men cruel, and, though sweet
At first as dropping honey, growing, fills
The heart with its foul smoke. Such was my rage,
Aroused by Agamemnon, king of men.
Yet now, though great my wrong, let things like these
Rest with the past, and, as the time requires,
Let us subdue the spirit in our breasts.
I go in quest of Hector, by whose hand
My friend was slain. My death will I accept
Whene’er to Jove and to the other gods
It shall seem good to send it. Hercules,
Though mighty and beloved of Jupiter,
The son of Saturn, could not shun his death,
For fate and Juno’s cruel wrath prevailed
Against him. I shall lie in death like him,
If a like fate be measured out for me.
Yet now shall I have glory; I shall do
What many a Trojan and Dardanian dame,
Deep-bosomed, wiping with both hands the tears
From their fair cheeks, shall bitterly lament;
And well shall they perceive that, till this hour,
I paused from war. Thou lov’st me; but seek not
To keep me from the field, for that were vain.”

The silver-footed Thetis thus rejoined:
“Truly, my son, thy purpose is not ill,
To rescue thy endangered friends from death.
But with the Trojans are thy beautiful arms,
Brazen and dazzling bright; their crested chief,
Hector, exults to wear them: no long space,
I think, will he exult; his death is near.
Yet go not to the battle-field until
Thine eyes shall look upon me yet again.
I come tomorrow with the sun, and bring
Bright arms, the work of Vulcan’s royal hand.”

So having said, and turning from her son,
She thus bespake her sisters of the sea:
“Return to the broad bosom of the deep,
To its gray Ancient and my father’s halls,
And tell him all. I hasten to ascend
The summits of Olympus, there to ask
Of Vulcan, the renowned artificer,
Armor of glorious beauty for my son.”

She spake: at once they plunged into the deep,
While Thetis, silver-footed goddess, sought
Olympus, whence it was her hope to bring
New armor for her son. As thus her feet
Bore her toward heaven, the Achaians, fleeing fast,
With infinite clamor, driven before the arm
Of the man-queller Hector, reached the ships
And Hellespont. Nor could the well-armed Greeks
Bear off Patroclus from the shower of darts;
For rushing on them came both foot and horse,
And Hector, son of Priam, like a flame
In fury. Thrice illustrious Hector seized
The body by the heels to drag it off,
And called his Trojans with a mighty shout.
Thrice did the chieftains Ajax, terrible
In resolute valor, drive him from the dead.
Yet kept he to his purpose, confident
In his own might, now charging through the crowd,
Now standing firm and shouting to his men,
And never losing ground. As when, at night,
Herdsmen that watch their cattle strive in vain
To drive a lion, fierce and famine-pinched,
From some slain beast, so the two Ajaxes,
With all their valor, vainly strove to keep
Hector, the son of Priam, from the corpse.
And now would he have dragged it thence, and won
Infinite glory, had not Iris come⁠—
The goddess whose swift feet are like the wind⁠—
To Peleus’ son, a messenger from heaven,
In haste, unknown to Jupiter and all
The other gods⁠—for Juno sent her down⁠—
To bid the hero arm. She came and stood
Beside him, speaking thus with wingèd words:⁠—

“Pelides, rise, most terrible of men,
In rescue of Patroclus, over whom
They struggle fiercely at the fleet; for there
They slay each other⁠—these who fight to keep
The dead, and those, the men of Troy, who charge
To drag him off to Ilium’s airy heights;
And chief, illustrious Hector longs to seize
The corpse, and from the delicate neck to hew
The head, and fix it on a stake. Arise,
Loiter no longer;⁠—rise, ashamed to leave
Patroclus to be torn by Trojan dogs.
For thine will be the infamy, if yet
The corpse be brought dishonored to thy tent.”

The swift Achilles listened and inquired:
“Which of the gods, O Iris, speaks by thee?”
And Iris, whose swift feet are like the wind,
Answered: “The glorious spouse of Jupiter,
Juno, hath sent me. Even Saturn’s son,
On his high throne, knows not that I am sent,
Nor any other of the gods who dwell
Upon Olympus overspread with snow.”

“But how,” the swift Achilles asked again,
“Shall I go forth to war? They have my arms,
And my beloved mother strictly bade
That I should put no armor on until
I saw her face again. She promised me
A suit of glorious mail from Vulcan’s hand.
Nor know I any warrior here whose arms
Might serve me, save, perhaps, it were the shield
Of Telamonian Ajax, who, I hope,
Is in the van, and dealing death among
The foe, in vengeance for Patroclus slain.”

Then the swift-footed Iris spake again:
“They have thy glorious armor; that we know
But go thou to the trench, and show thyself
To them of Troy, that, haply smit with fear,
They may desist from battle, and the host
Of Grecian warriors, overtoiled, may breathe
In a brief respite from the stress of war.”

So the fleet Iris spake, and passed away,
And then arose Achilles, dear to Jove,
While o’er his ample shoulders Pallas held
Her fringèd aegis. The great goddess caused
A golden cloud to gather round his head
And kindled in the cloud a dazzling flame.
And as when smoke, ascending to the sky,
Hangs o’er some city in a distant isle,
Which enemies beleaguer, swarming forth
From their own city, and in hateful strife
Contend all day, but when the sun goes down
Forthwith blaze many bale-fires, sending up
A brightness which the neighboring realms may see,
That haply they may send their ships and drive
The war away⁠—so from the hero’s head
That flame streamed upward to the sky. He came
Without the wall and stood beside the trench,
Nor mingled with the Greeks, for he revered
His mother’s words. He stood and called aloud,
And Pallas, from the host, returned his shout⁠—
A shout that carried infinite dismay
Into the Trojan squadrons. As the sound
Of trumpet rises clear when deadly foes
Lay siege to a walled city, such was heard
The clear shout uttered by Aeacides.
The hearts of all who heard that brazen voice
Were troubled, and their steeds with flowing manes
Turned backward with the chariots⁠—such the dread
Of coming slaughter. When the charioteers
Beheld the terrible flame that played unquenched
Upon the brow of the magnanimous son
Of Peleus, lighted by the blue-eyed maid
Minerva, they were struck with panic fear.
Thrice o’er the trench Achilles shouted; thrice
The men of Troy and their renowned allies
Fell into wild disorder. Then there died,
Entangled midst their chariots, and transfixed
By their own spears, twelve of their bravest chiefs.
The Greeks bore off Patroclus from the field
With eager haste, and placed him on a bier,
And there the friends that loved him gathered round
Lamenting. With them swift Achilles came,
The hot tears on his cheeks, as he beheld
His faithful comrade lying on his bier,
Mangled with many wounds, whom he had sent
With steeds and car to battle, never more
To welcome him alive on his return.

Now Juno, large-eyed and august, bade set
The never-wearied sun; unwillingly
He sank into the ocean streams. Then paused
The noble Greeks from that ferocious strife,
Deadly in equal measure to both hosts.
The Trojans also paused, and from their cars
Unharnessed the fleet steeds, and ere they took
Their evening meal assembled to consult.
Standing they held the council; no man cared
To sit, for all were trembling from the hour
When, long a stranger to the bloody field,
Achilles showed himself again. And now
The son of Panthoüs, wise Polydamas,
Began to speak. Beyond the rest he saw
Things past and things to come, and he had been
Hector’s companion, born in the same night,
Mighty in speech as Hector with the spear.
With prudent admonitions thus he spake:⁠—

“Consider well, my friends. My counsel is
That we return, nor wait the holy morn
Here, by the fleet and in the open plain,
Far from our city ramparts. While this man
Was wroth with Agamemnon, we maintained
A strife of far less peril with the Greeks,
And I was ever ready to encamp
By night beside the galleys, which we hoped
To make our prize; but now I fear the might
Of swift Pelides. He will not remain
Content upon the space between the fleet
And town, where Greeks and Trojans wage a war
Of changeful fortune, but will strive to take
The city, and to carry off our wives.
March we then homeward. Let my words prevail⁠—
It must be so. The gentle Night now keeps
The nimble-footed hero from the war.
But if tomorrow, issuing forth in arms,
He find us here, there are among us those
Who will have cause to know him. Gladly then
Will he find refuge who escapes his arm
In sacred Troy, and many a Trojan corpse
Will feed the dogs and vultures. May mine ear
Hear of it never. But if ye will heed
My words, though sorrowful, ye shall be safe
Assembled in the city squares at night.
The lofty towers and gates, with massive beams
Polished and strongly fitted each to each,
Will keep the town. Tomorrow we shall take,
At dawn, our station on the towers, arrayed
In armor, and his difficult task will be,
Far from his ships, to fight us from below;
And after he has tired his high-necked steeds
With coursing round the ramparts to and fro,
Back to his galleys he must go; nor yet
With all his valor can he force his way
Into the town to lay its dwellings waste⁠—
The dogs will feed upon his carcass first.”

And crested Hector answered with a frown:
“The counsel thou hast given, Polydamas,
Pleases me not⁠—that we return to be
Pent up in Troy. Are ye not weary yet
Of lying long imprisoned within walls
And towers? The time has been that in all lands,
Wherever human speech is heard, the fame
Of Priam’s city, for its treasured gold
And brass, was in all mouths. Those treasures now
Have passed away; our dwellings have them not.
Much that we had was sold on Phrygia’s coast,
And in Maeonia’s pleasant land, for Jove
The mighty was displeased with us. But now,
When politic Saturn’s son hath granted me
To win great glory at the fleet, and hold
The Greeks imprisoned by the sea, refrain,
Idler, from laying counsels such as these
Before the people. Not a Trojan here
Will follow them, nor would I suffer it.
Now hearken all, and act as I advise:
First banquet, rank by rank, throughout the host,
And set your guards, and each of you keep watch;
And then, if any Trojan stands in fear
For his possessions, let him bring them all
Into the common stock, to be consumed;
Better that we enjoy them than the Greeks.
Tomorrow, with the dawn and all in arms,
We will do battle at the roomy ships
Valiantly. If in truth the noble son
Of Peleus choose to rise and to defend
The ships, so much the worse for him, since I
Shall not for him desert the field, but stand
Firmly against him, whether he obtain
The victory or I. The chance of war
Is equal, and the slayer oft is slain.”

So Hector spake: the Trojans shouted forth
Applause, the madmen! Pallas took away
Their reason; all approved the fatal plan
Of Hector; no one ventured to commend
The sober counsel of Polydamas.
And then they banqueted throughout the host;
But all night long the Achaians mourned with tears
Patroclus, while Pelides in the midst,
Leading the ceaseless lamentation, placed
His slaughter-dealing hands upon the breast
Of his companion with continual sighs.
As a maned lion, from whose haunt within
The thick, dark wood a hunter has borne off
The whelps, returning finds them gone, and grieves,
And roams the valleys, tracking as he goes
The robber, bent to find him, for his rage
Is fierce⁠—with such fierce sorrow Peleus’ son
Spake, deeply sighing, to his Myrmidons:⁠—

“O, idle were the words which once I spake,
When in our palace-halls I bade the chief
Menoetius bear a cheerful heart. I said
That I would bring to Opus yet again,
Laden with spoil from Ilium overthrown,
His valiant son. But Jove doth not fulfil
The plans of men. That both of us should stain
Earth with our blood in Troy was the decree
Of fate, and never will the aged knight
Peleus receive me in his palace-halls,
Returning from the war, nor Thetis, she
Who gave me birth; the earth will hold me here.
And now, since after thee I take my place
In earth, Patroclus, I will not perform
Thy funeral rites before I bring to thee
The arms and head of the magnanimous chief
Hector, who slew thee. By thy funeral pile
I will strike off in vengeance for thy death
The heads of twelve illustrious Trojan youths.
Thou meanwhile, lying at the beaked ships,
Shalt be lamented night and day, with tears,
By many a Trojan and Dardanian maid,
Deep-bosomed, won by our victorious spears
After hard wars and opulent cities sacked.”

Thus having said, the great Achilles bade
Place a huge tripod on the fire in haste,
To cleanse Patroclus from the clotted blood.
They brought and set upon the glowing hearth
A tripod for the bath, and in it poured
Water, and piled the wood beneath. The flame
Crept up the vessel’s rounded sides and warmed
The water. When within the murmuring brass
It boiled, they washed the dead, and with rich oil
Anointed him, and filled the open wounds
With ointment nine years old; and laying him
Upon a couch, they spread from head to foot
Fine linen over him, and covered all
With a white mantle. Through the hours of night
The Myrmidons, lamenting their dead chief,
Wept round the swift Achilles. Then did Jove
Thus to his wife and sister Juno speak:⁠—

“Large-eyed, imperial Juno, thou hast now
Accomplished thy desire, for thou hast roused
The swift Achilles. There is not a doubt
The long-haired Argives owe their birth to thee.”

And large-eyed Juno answered: “What strange words,
Austere Saturnius, hast thou said? A man,
A mortal far less skilled in shaping means
To compass ends, might do what I have done
Against his fellow-man. Then should not I⁠—
Who boast to be the chief of goddesses
By birthright, and because I bear the name
Of wife to thee who rulest o’er the gods⁠—
Plan evil to the Trojans, whom I hate?”

So talked they. Silver-footed Thetis came
Meanwhile to Vulcan’s halls, eternal, gemmed
With stars, a wonder to the immortals, wrought
Of brass by the lame god. She found him there
Sweating and toiling, and with busy hand
Plying the bellows. He was fashioning
Tripods, a score, to stand beside the wall
Of his fair palace. All of these he placed
On wheels of gold, that, of their own accord,
They might roll in among the assembled gods,
And then roll back, a marvel to behold.
So far they all were finished; but not yet
Were added the neat handles, and for these
The god was forging rivets busily.
While thus he labored, with a mind intent
Upon his skilful task, on silver feet
Came Thetis. Charis, of the snowy veil,
The beautiful, whom the great god of fire,
Vulcan, had made his wife, beheld, and came
Forward to meet her, seized her hand, and said:⁠—

“O Thetis of the flowing robe, beloved
And honored, what has brought thee to our home
Thou dost not often visit us. Come in,
That I may pay the honors due a guest.”

So the bright goddess spake, and led the way,
And seated Thetis on a sumptuous throne,
With silver studs divinely wrought, and placed
A footstool, and called out to Vulcan thus:
“Come, Vulcan; Thetis here hath need of thee.”

And the great artist, Vulcan, thus replied:
“Then of a truth a goddess is within
Whom I must ever honor and revere;
Who from the danger of my terrible fall
Saved me, what time my shameless mother sought
To cast me from her sight, for I was lame.
Then great had been my misery, had not
Eurynomè and Thetis in their laps
Received me as I fell⁠—Eurynomè,
Daughter of billowy Ocean. There I dwelt
Nine years, and many ornaments I wrought
Of brass⁠—clasps, buckles, bracelets, necklaces⁠—
Within a vaulted cave, round which the tides
Of the vast ocean murmured and flung up
Their foam; nor any of the gods or men
Knew of my hiding-place, save only they
Who saved me, Thetis and Eurynomè.
And now, as she is with us, I must make
To fair-haired Thetis some thank-offering
For having rescued me. Haste, spread the board
Amply with generous fare, while I shall lay
Aside my bellows and my implements.”

He spake, and from his anvil-block arose,
A mighty bulk; his weak legs under him,
Halting, moved painfully. He laid apart
His bellows from the fire, and gathered up
The scattered implements with which he wrought,
And locked them in a silver chest, and wiped
With a moist sponge his face and both his hands,
Stout neck and hairy chest. He then put on
His tunic, took his massive regal wand
Into his hand, and, tottering, sallied forth.
Two golden statues, like in form and look
To living maidens, aided with firm gait
The monarch’s steps. And mind was in their breasts,
And they had speech and strength, and from the gods
Had learned becoming arts. Beside their lord
They walked and tended him. As he drew near,
Halting, to Thetis on the shining throne,
He took the goddess by the hand and said:⁠—

“What cause, O Thetis of the flowing robe,
Honored and dear, has brought thee to our home?
Not often com’st thou hither. Freely say
Whatever lies upon thy mind. My heart
Commands me to obey, if it be aught
That can be done and may be done by me.”

And Thetis answered, with a gush of tears:
“O Vulcan! Of the goddesses who dwell
Upon Olympus, is there one who bears
Such bitter sorrows as Saturnian Jove
Inflicts on me, distressed above them all?
Me, of the ocean deities, he forced
To take a mortal husband⁠—Peleus, son
Of Aeacus⁠—and to his bed I came
Unwillingly. Within his palace-halls,
Worn with a late old age, my husband lies.
Now I have other woes; for when a son
Was granted me, and I had brought him forth
And reared him, flourishing like a young plant,
A sapling in a fertile field, and great
Among the heroes⁠—thus maturely trained,
I sent him with his beaked ships to Troy,
To combat with her sons; but never more
Will it be mine to welcome him returned
Home to the halls of Peleus. While to me
He lives, and sees the sunshine, he endures
Affliction, nor can I, though at his side,
Aid him in aught. The maiden whom the Greeks
Decreed him as his prize, the king of men,
Atrides, took away, and grief for her
Consumes his heart. The Trojans keep the Greeks
Beleaguered by their ships, nor suffer them
To pass beyond their gates. The elder chiefs
Implored him to relent, and offered him
Large presents; he refused to avert the doom
That threatened them himself, but sent instead
Patroclus to the war with his own arms,
And with him sent much people. All the day
They fought before the Scaean gates; and then
Had Ilium fallen, but that Apollo slew
The brave son of Menoetius, who had caused
Vast slaughter⁠—slew him fighting in the van
Of war, and gave the glory of his death
To Hector. Therefore I approach thy knees,
And ask for him, my son, so soon to die,
Buckler and helm, and beautiful greaves, shut close
With clasps, and all the other arms complete,
Which in the war my son’s companion lost.
For now Achilles lies upon the ground
Bitterly grieving in his inmost soul.”

And Vulcan, the great artist, answered her:
“Be comforted, and take no further thought
Of this; for would I could as certainly
Shield him from death’s dread summons when his hour
Is come at last, as I shall have for him
Beautiful armor ready to put on,
And such as every man, of multitudes
Who look on it hereafter, shall admire.”

So speaking he withdrew, and went where lay
The bellows, turned them toward the fire, and bade
The work begin. From twenty bellows came
Their breath into the furnaces⁠—a blast
Varied in strength as need might be; for now
They blew with violence for a hasty task,
And then with gentler breath, as Vulcan pleased
And as the work required. Upon the fire
He laid impenetrable brass, and tin,
And precious gold and silver; on its block
Placed the huge anvil, took the ponderous sledge,
And held the pincers in the other hand.

And first he forged the huge and massive shield,
Divinely wrought in every part⁠—its edge
Clasped with a triple border, white and bright.
A silver belt hung from it, and its folds
Were five; a crowd of figures on its disk
Were fashioned by the artist’s passing skill,
For here he placed the earth and heaven, and here
The great deep and the never-resting sun
And the full moon, and here he set the stars
That shine in the round heaven⁠—the Pleiades,
The Hyades, Orion in his strength, And the
Bear near him, called by some the Wain,
That, wheeling, keeps Orion still in sight,
Yet bathes not in the waters of the sea.

There placed he two fair cities full of men.
In one were marriages and feasts; they led
The brides with flaming torches from their bowers,
Along the streets, with many a nuptial song.
There the young dancers whirled, and flutes and lyres
Gave forth their sounds, and women at the doors
Stood and admired. Meanwhile a multitude
Was in the forum, where a strife went on⁠—
Two men contending for a fine, the price
Of one who had been slain. Before the crowd
One claimed that he had paid the fine, and one
Denied that aught had been received, and both
Called for the sentence which should end the strife.
The people clamored for both sides, for both
Had eager friends; the heralds held the crowd
In check; the elders, upon polished stones,
Sat in a sacred circle. Each one took,
In turn, a herald’s sceptre in his hand,
And, rising, gave his sentence. In the midst
Two talents lay in gold, to be the meed
Of him whose juster judgment should prevail.

Around the other city sat two hosts
In shining armor, bent to lay it waste,
Unless the dwellers would divide their wealth⁠—
All that their pleasant homes contained⁠—and yield
The assailants half. As yet the citizens
Had not complied, but secretly had planned
An ambush. Their beloved wives meanwhile,
And their young children, stood and watched the walls,
With aged men among them, while the youths
Marched on, with Mars and Pallas at their head,
Both wrought in gold, with golden garments on,
Stately and large in form, and over all
Conspicuous, in bright armor, as became
The gods; the rest were of an humbler size.
And when they reached the spot where they should lie
In ambush, by a river’s side, a place
For watering herds, they sat them down, all armed
In shining brass. Apart from all the rest
They placed two sentries, on the watch to spy
The approach of sheep and horned kine. Soon came
The herds in sight; two shepherds walked with them,
Who, all unweeting of the evil nigh,
Solaced their task with music from their reeds.
The warriors saw and rushed on them, and took
And drave away large prey of beeves, and flocks
Of fair white sheep, whose keepers they had slain.
When the besiegers in their council heard
The sound of tumult at the watering-place,
They sprang upon their nimble-footed steeds,
And overtook the pillagers. Both bands
Arrayed their ranks and fought beside the stream,
And smote each other. There did Discord rage,
And Tumult, and the great Destroyer, Fate.
One wounded warrior she had seized alive,
And one unbounded yet, and through the field
Dragged by the foot another, dead. Her robe
Was reddened o’er the shoulders with the blood
From human veins. Like living men they ranged
The battle-field, and dragged by turns the slain.

There too he sculptured a broad fallow field
Of soft rich mould, thrice ploughed, and over which
Walked many a ploughman, guiding to and fro
His steers, and when on their return they reached
The border of the field the master came
To meet them, placing in the hands of each
A goblet of rich wine. Then turned they back
Along the furrows, diligent to reach
Their distant end. All dark behind the plough
The ridges lay, a marvel to the sight,
Like real furrows, though engraved in gold.

There, too, the artist placed a field which lay
Deep in ripe wheat. With sickles in their hands
The laborers reaped it. Here the handfuls fell
Upon the ground; there binders tied them fast
With bands, and made them sheaves. Three binders went
Close to the reapers, and behind them boys,
Bringing the gathered handfuls in their arms.
Ministered to the binders. Staff in hand,
The master stood among them by the side
Of the ranged sheaves and silently rejoiced.
Meanwhile the servants underneath an oak
Prepared a feast apart; they sacrificed
A fatling ox and dressed it, while the maids
Were kneading for the reapers the white meal.

A vineyard also on the shield he graved,
Beautiful, all of gold, and heavily
Laden with grapes. Black were the clusters all;
The vines were stayed on rows of silver stakes.
He drew a blue trench round it, and a hedge
Of tin. One only path there was by which
The vintagers could go to gather grapes.
Young maids and striplings of a tender age
Bore the sweet fruit in baskets. Midst them all,
A youth from his shrill harp drew pleasant sounds,
And sang with soft voice to the murmuring strings.
They danced around him, beating with quick feet
The ground, and sang and shouted joyously.

And there the artist wrought a herd of beeves,
High-horned, and sculptured all in gold and tin.
They issued lowing from their stalls to seek
Their pasture, by a murmuring stream, that ran
Rapidly through its reeds. Four herdsmen, graved
In gold, were with the beeves, and nine fleet dogs
Followed. Two lions, seizing on a bull
Among the foremost cattle, dragged him off
Fearfully bellowing; hounds and herdsmen rushed
To rescue him. The lions tore their prey,
And lapped the entrails and the crimson blood.
Vainly the shepherds pressed around and urged
Their dogs, that shrank from fastening with their teeth
Upon the lions, but stood near and bayed.

There also did illustrious Vulcan grave
A fair, broad pasture, in a pleasant glade,
Full of white sheep, and stalls, and cottages,
And many a shepherd’s fold with sheltering roof.

And there illustrious Vulcan also wrought
A dance⁠—a maze like that which Daedalus,
In the broad realm of Gnossus once contrived
For fair-haired Ariadne. Blooming youths
And lovely virgins, tripping to light airs,
Held fast each other’s wrists. The maidens wore
Fine linen robes; the youths had tunics on
Lustrous as oil, and woven daintily.
The maids wore wreaths of flowers; the young men swords
Of gold in silver belts. They bounded now
In a swift circle⁠—as a potter whirls
With both his hands a wheel to try its speed,
Sitting before it⁠—then again they crossed
Each other, darting to their former place.
A multitude around that joyous dance
Gathered, and were amused, while from the crowd
Two tumblers raised their song, and flung themselves
About among the band that trod the dance.

Last on the border of that glorious shield
He graved in all its strength the ocean-stream.

And when that huge and massive shield was done,
He forged a corselet brighter than the blaze
Of fire; he forged a solid helm to fit
The hero’s temples, shapely and enchased
With rare designs, and with a crest of gold.
And last he forged him greaves of ductile tin.

When the great artist Vulcan saw his task
Complete, he lifted all that armor up
And laid it at the feet of her who bore
Achilles. Like a falcon in her flight,
Down plunging from Olympus capped with snow,
She bore the shining armor Vulcan gave.