Book XXI

The Battle in the River Scamander

Flight of the Trojans before Achilles, some toward Troy, and the rest toward the river Scamander⁠—Twelve Trojan youths made captive in the river, to be butchered at the funeral pile of Patroclus⁠—Insult offered by Achilles to the god of the river, who causes his waters to rush against him, and forces him to flee for his life⁠—Interference of Vulcan, who is summoned by Juno to the aid of Achilles, and who, by drying up the waters of the river, compels it to submit⁠—Combat of Mars and Minerva, and of the other gods⁠—Achilles decoyed away from the gates of Troy by Apollo disguised in the form of Agenor, while the Trojans enter the city.

Now when they reached the pleasant banks
The eddying Xanthus runs, the river sprung
From deathless Jove, Achilles drave his foes through which
Asunder. Part he chased across the plain
Townward, along the way by which the Greek
In terror fled the day before, pursued
By glorious Hector. Panic-struck they ran
Along that way, while, to restrain their flight,
Before them Juno hung a veil of cloud
And darkness. Meanwhile half the flying crowd
Leaped down to that deep stream and rolled among
Its silver eddies. With a mighty noise
They plunged; the torrent dashed; the banks around
Remurmured shrilly to the cries of those
Who floated struggling in the current’s whirl,
As when before the fierce, devouring flames
A swarm of locusts, springing into air,
Fly toward a river, while the fire behind
Crackles with sudden fierceness, and in fright
They fall into the waves, the roaring stream
Of the deep-eddied Xanthus thus was filled
Before Achilles with a mingled crowd
Of steeds and men. The Jove-descended man
Left leaning on the tamarisks his spear
Upon the river’s border, and leaped in,
Armed only with his sword, intent to deal
Death on the fugitives; on every side
He smote, and from the smitten by the sword
Rose lamentable cries; the waves around
Grew crimson with their blood. As when before
A dolphin of huge bulk the fishes flee
In fear, and crowd the creeks that lie around
The sheltered haven⁠—for their foe devours
All that he overtakes⁠—the Trojans thus
Hid from his sight among the hollow rocks
Beside the rushing river. When his hand
Was weary with the work of death, he took
Twelve youths alive, whose blood was yet to pay
The penalty for Menoetiades,
His slaughtered friend. He led them from the stream,
Passive with fear like fawns, and tied their hands
Behind them with the well-twined cords that bound
Their tunics. Then he gave them to his friends,
Who led the captives to the roomy ships.

Again Achilles rushed upon the foe
Intent on slaughter. One he met who climbed
The river’s bank, Dardanian Priam’s son,
Lycaon, whom in former days he made
His captive, by surprise, when in the night
He found him lopping with an axe the boughs
Of a wild fig-tree, that the trunk might form
The circle of a wheel. Achilles came,
An unexpected foe, and bore him off
To sea, and sold him in the populous isle
Of Lemnos. He was bought by Jason’s son,
The Imbrian prince, Eëtion, who had been
His host, and now redeemed him with large gifts,
And sent him to Arisba’s noble town.
Yet thence he stole, and reached his father’s house
Again, and there made merry with his friends
Eleven days, but on the twelfth a god
Delivered him again into the hands
Of Peleus’ son, who now would send his soul
Repining down to Hades. When the chief,
The swift of foot, beheld him stand unarmed,
With neither helm nor shield nor spear⁠—for these
He had thrown down⁠—faint with the sweaty toil
Of clambering up the bank, and every limb
Unstrung with weariness, then wrathfully
Thus said Achilles to his mighty soul:⁠—

“O strange! My eyes behold a miracle.
Sure, the brave sons of Troy whom I have slain
Will rise up from the nether darkness yet,
Since this man, whom I once reprieved from death
And sold in Lemnos the divine, comes back.
Nor could the ocean’s gray abyss of brine,
Beyond which many long in vain to pass,
Detain him in that isle. But he shall taste
The sharpness of my spear, that I may prove
Whether he after that will reappear,
And whether the kind earth, which holds so well
The valiant dead, can keep him in her womb.”

So pondered he and stood. The Trojan drew
Close to him, with intent to clasp his knees,
Fear-struck, yet hoping to avoid the doom
Of bitter death. The great Achilles raised
His ponderous spear to strike. Lycaon stooped,
And, darting underneath the weapon, seized
The hero’s knees; behind him in the ground
The spear stood fixed, though eager yet for blood;
One arm was round his adversary’s knees,
The other held⁠—and would not let it go⁠—
The spear, while thus with wingèd words he prayed:⁠—

“I clasp thy knees, Achilles; look on me
Kindly and pity me, O foster-child
Of Jove. I am thy suppliant, and may claim
Thy mercy. I partook with thee the fruits
Of Ceres, when amid my fruitful fields
Thou madest me a captive, carrying me
From friends and kindred to the sacred isle
Of Lemnos. Thou didst sell me there⁠—my price
A hundred beeves⁠—and thou shalt now receive,
For ransom, thrice as many. It is yet
But the twelfth morning since I came to Troy
After much hardship, and a pitiless fate
Betrays me to thy hands. I must believe
That Father Jove in wrath delivers me
To thee again. Laothoe brought me forth
To a brief life; that mother was the child
Of aged Altes⁠—Altes ruling o’er
The warlike Leleges, by whom are tilled
The heights of Pedasus, where Satnio flows⁠—
And Priam wedded her with other maids.
She bore two children to be slain by thee;
One was the godlike Polydore, whom thou
Didst smite with thy keen spear, in the front rank
Of those who fought on foot. His evil fate
Must overtake me now, for, since a god
Has brought me near thee, there is no escape.
Yet let me tell thee this, and weigh it well,
And let it save my life. I came not forth
From the same womb with Hector, by whose hand
Thy brave and gentle friend, Patroclus, died.”

The illustrious son of Priam ended here
His prayer, and heard a merciless reply:⁠—

“Fool! Never talk of ransom⁠—not a word.
Before the evil day on which my friend
Was slain, it pleased me oftentimes to spare
The Trojans. Many a one I took alive
And sold; but now no man of all their race,
Whom any god may bring within my reach,
Shall leave the field alive, and least of all
The sons of Priam. Die thou, then; and why
Shouldst thou, my friend, lament? Patroclus died,
And greatly he excelled thee. Seest thou not
How eminent in stature and in form
Am I, whom to a prince renowned for worth
A goddess mother bore; yet will there come
To me a violent death at morn, at eve,
Or at the midday hour, whenever he
Whose weapon is to take my life shall cast
The spear or send an arrow from the string.”

He spake: the Trojan’s heart and knees grew faint;
His hand let go the spear; he sat and cowered
With outstretched arms. Achilles drew his sword,
And smote his neck just at the collar-bone;
The two-edged blade was buried deep. He fell
Prone on the earth; the black blood spouted forth
And steeped the soil. Achilles by the foot
Flung him to float among the river-waves,
And uttered, boastfully, these wingèd words:⁠—

“Lie there among the fishes, who shall feed
Upon thy blood unscared. No mother there
Shall weep thee lying on thy bier; thy corpse
Scamander shall bear down to the broad sea,
Where, as he sees thee darkening its face,
Some fish shall hasten, darting through the waves,
To feed upon Lycaon’s fair white limbs.
So perish ye, till sacred Troy be ours,
You fleeing, while I follow close and slay.
This river cannot aid you⁠—this fair stream
With silver eddies, to whose deity
Ye offer many beeves in sacrifice,
And fling into its gulfs your firm-paced steeds;
But thus ye all shall perish, till I take
Full vengeance for Patroclus of the Greeks,
Whom, while I stood aloof from war, ye slew.”

He spake: and, deeply moved with inward wrath,
The River pondered how to render vain
The prowess of Achilles, and avert
Destruction from the Trojans. Now the son
Of Peleus rushed, his ponderous spear in hand,
To slay Asteropasus, who was sprung
From Pelegon, and Pelegon was born
To the broad river Axius, of a maid,
The eldest-born of Acessamenus,
Named Periboea; for the river-god
Was joined with her in love. Achilles sprang
To meet the youth, as, rising from the stream,
Armed with two spears, he stood, his heart made strong
And resolute by Xanthus, who had seen
Indignantly so many Trojans die⁠—
Youths whom Achilles slaughtered in his stream,
And had no pity on them. When the twain
Were near each other, standing face to face,
The swift Achilles was the first to speak:⁠—
“Who and whence art thou that dost venture thus
To meet me? They who seek to measure strength
With me are sons of most unhappy men.”

And thus the illustrious son of Pelegon
Made answer: “Brave Pelides, why inquire
My lineage? I am from a distant coast⁠—
Paeonia’s fertile fields; I lead to war
Paeonia’s warriors with long spears, and this
Is now the eleventh morning since I came
To join the war at Troy. I claim descent
From Axius, the broad Axius, who pours forth
The fairest river on the earth. His son
Was Pelegon, expert to wield the spear,
And I was born to Pelegon. And now,
Illustrious son of Peleus, let us fight.”

He spake: Achilles raised the Pelian ash
To smite; Asteropaeus aimed at him
Both lances, for he used both hands alike.
One struck the Grecian’s shield, yet passed not through,
Stopped by the god-given gold; the other gashed
Lightly the elbow of his dexter arm;
The black blood spouted forth, the spear passed on
Beyond him, and, still eager for its prey,
Stood fixed in earth. Achilles then, intent
To slay Asteropaeus, hurled at him
His trusty spear. The weapon missed its mark,
And, striking the high bank, was buried there
Up to the middle of its ashen staff.
Achilles drew the keen sword from his thigh,
And flew with fury toward his foe, who toiled
In vain with sinewy arm to pluck that spear
From out the bank; and thrice he shook the beam
Fiercely, and thrice desisted, lacking strength,
And last he sought, by bending it, to break
The ashen weapon of Aeacides.
But ere it snapped Achilles took his life,
Smiting him at the navel with the sword.
Forth gushed the entrails to the ground, and o’er
His dying eyes the darkness came; and then
Achilles, leaping on his breast, tore off
The armor, and exultingly exclaimed:⁠—

“Lie there! A perilous task it was for thee
To combat with a son of Jove, though born
Thyself to a great River. I can boast
Descent from sovereign Jove. I owe my birth
To Peleus, ruler of the Myrmidons.
His father was Aeacus, who was born
To Jupiter, a god more potent far
Than all the rivers flowing to the sea.
And mightier is the race of Jupiter
Than that of any stream. Here close at hand
Is a great river, if such aid can aught
Avail thee; but to strive with Jupiter
Is not permitted. Acheloüs, king
Of rivers, cannot vie with him, nor yet
The great and mighty deep from which proceed
All streams and seas and founts and watery depths.
He trembles at the bolt of mighty Jove
And his hoarse thunder crashing in the sky.”

As thus he spake he plucked from out the bank
His brazen spear, and left the lifeless chief
Stretched in the sand, where the dark water steeped
His limbs, and eels and fishes came and gnawed
The warrior’s reins. Achilles hastened on,
Pursuing the Pseonian knights, who now,
When they beheld their bravest overthrown
In desperate battle by the mighty arm
And falchion of Pelides, took to flight
Along the eddying river. There he slew
Mydon, Thersilochus, Astypylus,
Mnesus, and Thrasius, and struck down in death
Aenius and Ophelestes. Many more
Of the Pseonians the swift-footed Greek
Had slain, had not the eddying River, roused
To anger, put a human semblance on,
And uttered from its whirling deeps a voice:⁠—

“O son of Peleus! Thou who dost excel
All other men in might and dreadful deeds⁠—
For the gods aid thee ever⁠—if the son
Of Saturn gives thee to destroy the race
Of Trojans, drive them from me to the plain,
And there perform thy terrible exploits.
For now my pleasant waters, in their flow,
Are choked with heaps of dead, and I no more
Can pour them into the great deep, so thick
The corpses clog my bed, while thou dost slay
And sparest not. Now then, withhold thy hand,
Prince of the people! I am horror-struck.”

Achilles the swift-footed made reply:
“Be it as thou commandest, foster-child
Of Jove, Scamander! Yet I shall not cease
To slay these treaty-breakers till at length
I shut them up within their town, and force
Hector to meet me, that we may decide
Which shall o’ercome the other⁠—he or I.”

He spake, and rushed upon the men of Troy,
Terrible as a god, while from his bed
The eddying River called to Phoebus thus:⁠—

“Why this, thou bearer of the silver bow,
Thou son of Jove? Thou heedest not the will
Of Saturn’s son, who strictly bade that thou
Shouldst aid the Trojans till the latest gleam
Of sunset, and till night is on the fields.”

And then Achilles, mighty with the spear,
From the steep bank leaped into the mid-stream,
While, foul with ooze, the angry River raised
His waves, and pushed along the heaps of dead
Slain by Achilles. These, with mighty roar
As of a bellowing ox, Scamander cast
Aground; the living with his whirling gulfs
He hid, and saved them in his friendly streams.
In tumult terribly the surges rose
Around Achilles, beating on his shield,
And made his feet to stagger, till he grasped
A tall, fair-growing elm upon the bank.
Down came the tree, and in its loosened roots
Brought the earth with it; the fair stream was checked
By the thick branches, and the prostrate trunk
Bridged it from side to side. Achilles sprang
From the deep pool, and fled with rapid feet
Across the plain in terror. Nor did then
The mighty river-god refrain, but rose
Against him with a darker crest, to drive
The noble son of Peleus from the field,
And so deliver Troy. Pelides sprang
A spear’s cast backward⁠—sprang with all the speed
Of the black eagle’s wing, the hunter-bird,
Fleetest and strongest of the fowls of air.
Like him he darted; clashing round his breast,
The brazen mail rang fearfully. Askance
He fled; the water with a mighty roar
Followed him close. As, when a husbandman
Leads forth, from some dark spring of earth, a rill
Among his planted garden-beds, and clears
Its channel, spade in hand, the pebbles there
Move with the current, which runs murmuring down
The sloping surface and outstrips its guide⁠—
So rushed the waves where’er Achilles ran,
Swift as he was; for mightier are the gods
Than men. As often as the noble son
Of Peleus made a stand in hope to know
Whether the deathless gods of the great heaven
Conspired to make him flee, so often came
A mighty billow of the Jove-born stream
And drenched his shoulders. Then again he sprang
Away; the rapid torrent made his knees
To tremble, while it swept, where’er he trod,
The earth from underneath his feet. He looked
To the broad heaven above him, and complained:⁠—

“Will not some god, O Father Jove, put forth
His power to save me in my hour of need
From this fierce river? Any fate but this
I am resigned to suffer. None of all
The immortal ones is more in fault than she
To whom I owe my birth; her treacherous words
Deluded me to think that I should fall
Beneath the walls of Troy by the swift shafts
Of Phoebus. Would that Hector, the most brave
Of warriors reared upon the Trojan soil,
Had slain me; he had slain a brave man then,
And a brave man had stripped me of my arms.
But now it is my fate to perish, caught
In this great river, like a swineherd’s boy,
Who in the time of rains attempts to pass
A torrent, and is overwhelmed and drowned.”

He spake, and Neptune and Minerva came
Quickly and stood beside him. In the form
Of men they came, and took his hand, and cheered
His spirit with their words. And thus the god
Neptune, who makes the earth to tremble, said:⁠—

“Fear not, Pelides, neither let thy heart
Be troubled, since thou hast among the gods,
By Jove’s consent, auxiliars such as I
And Pallas. It is not thy doom to be
Thus vanquished by a river. Soon its rage
Will cease, as thou shalt see. Meantime we give
This counsel; heed it well: let not thy hand
Refrain from slaughter till the Trojan host
Are all shut up⁠—all that escape thy arm⁠—
Within the lofty walls of Troy. Then take
The life of Hector, and return on board
Thy galleys; we will make that glory thine.”

Thus having spoken, they withdrew and joined
The immortals, while Achilles hastened on,
Encouraged by the mandate of the gods,
Across the plain. The plain was overflowed
With water; sumptuous arms were floating round,
And bodies of slain youths. Achilles leaped,
And stemmed with powerful limbs the stream, and still
Went forward; for Minerva mightily
Had strengthened him. Nor did Scamander fail
To put forth all his power, enraged the more
Against the son of Peleus; higher still
His torrent swelled and tossed with all its waves,
And thus he called to Simoïs with a shout:⁠—

“O brother, join with me to hold in check
This man, who threatens soon to overthrow
King Priam’s noble city; for no more
The Trojan host resist him. Come at once
And aid me; fill thy channel from its springs,
And summon all thy brooks, and lift on high
A mighty wave, and roll along thy bed,
Mingled in one great torrent, trees and stones,
That we may tame this savage man, who now
In triumph walks the field, and bears himself
As if he were a god. His strength, I deem,
Will not avail him, nor his noble form,
Nor those resplendent arms, which yet shall lie
Scattered along the bottom of my gulfs,
And foul with ooze. Himself too I shall wrap
In sand, and pile the rubbish of my bed
In heaps around him. Never shall the Greeks
Know where to gather up his bones, o’erspread
By me with river-slime, for there shall be
His burial-place; no other tomb the Greeks
Will need when they perform his funeral rites.”

He spake, and wrathfully he rose against
Achilles⁠—rose with turbid waves, and noise,
And foam, and blood and bodies of the dead.
One purple billow of the Jove-born stream
Swelled high and whelmed Achilles. Juno saw,
And trembled lest the hero should be whirled
Downward by the great river, and in haste
She called to Vulcan, her beloved son:⁠—

“Vulcan, my son, arise! We deemed that thou
And eddying Xanthus were of equal might
In battle. Come with instant aid, and bring
Thy vast array of flames, while from the deep
I call a tempest of the winds⁠—the West
And the swift South⁠—and they shall sweep along
A fiery torrent to consume the foe,
Warriors and weapons. Thou meantime lay waste
The groves along the Xanthus; hurl at him
Thy fires, nor let him with soft words or threats
Avert thy fury. Pause not from the work
Of ruin till I shout and give the sign,
And then shalt thou restrain thy restless fires.”

She spake, and Vulcan at her word sent forth
His fierce, devouring flames. Upon the plain
They first were kindled, and consumed the dead
That strewed it, where Achilles struck them down.
The ground was dried; the glimmering flood was stayed.
As when the autumnal north-wind, breathing
A newly watered garden, quickly dries
The clammy mould, and makes the tiller glad,
So did the spacious plain grow dry on which
The dead were turned to ashes. Then the god
Seized on the river with his glittering fires.
The elms, the willows, and the tamarisks
Fell, scorched to cinders, and the lotus-herbs,
Rushes, and reeds that richly fringed the banks
Of that fair-flowing current were consumed.
The eels and fishes, that were wont to glide
Hither and thither through the pleasant depths
And eddies, languished in the fiery breath
Of Vulcan, mighty artisan. The strength
Of the great River withered, and he spake:⁠—

“O Vulcan, there is none of all the gods
Who may contend with thee. I combat not
With fires like thine. Cease then. With my consent
The noble son of Peleus may drive out
The Trojans from their city. What have I
To do with war⁠—the attack or the defence?”

Thus in that fiery glow he spake, while seethed
His pleasant streams. As over a strong fire
A cauldron filled with fat of pampered swine
Glows bubbling on all sides, while underneath
Burns the dry fuel, thus were his fair streams
Scorched by the heat, and simmered, while the blast
Sent forth by Vulcan, the great artisan,
Tormented him, and he besought the aid
Of Juno with these supplicating words:⁠—

“Why should thy son, O Juno, wreak on me
His fury, more than on the other gods?
My fault is less than theirs who give their aid
To Troy; and I will cease, if thou command.
Bid him desist, and here I pledge my oath
Not to attempt to save the Trojan race
From ruin, though their city sink in flames
Before the torches of the warlike Greeks.”

This when the white-armed goddess Juno heard,
She said to Vulcan, her beloved son:⁠—

“Dear son, refrain; it is not well that thus
A god should suffer for the sake of men.”

She spake, and Vulcan quenched his dreadful fires,
And back the pleasant waters to their bed
Went gliding. Xanthus had been made to yield,
And the two combatants no longer strove
Since Juno, though offended, bade them cease,

Yet was the conflict terrible among
The other gods, as zeal for different sides
Impelled them. With a loud uproar they met
Each other in the field; the spacious earth
Rebellowed to the noise, and the great heaven
Returned it. To the ear of Jove it rose,
Who, sitting on Olympus, laughed within
His secret heart as he beheld the gods
Contending, for not long they stood apart.
Shield-breaking Mars began the assault; he rushed
Toward Pallas, brandishing his brazen spear,
And thus accosted her with insolent words:⁠—

“Thou shameless one, thou whose effrontery
Is boundless, why wilt thou provoke the gods
To strife? Thy temper is most arrogant.
Rememberest thou the time when thou didst prompt
Tydides Diomed to strike at me?
It was thy hand that held his shining spear,
And aimed it well, and gave the wound; but now
Will I take vengeance on thee for that wrong.”

He spake, and smote Minerva’s fringèd shield,
The dreadful aegis, which not even Jove
Could pierce with thunderbolts. The murderous Mars
Smote it with his huge spear. She only stepped
Backward a space, and with her powerful hand
Lifted a stone that lay upon the plain,
Black, huge, and jagged, which the men of old
Had placed there for a landmark. This she hurled
At Mars, and struck him on the neck; he fell
With nerveless limbs, and covered, as he lay,
Seven acres of the field: his armor clashed
Around him in his fall; his locks all soiled
Lay in the trodden dust. The goddess stood
O’er him, and boasted thus with wingèd words:⁠—

“Fool that thou art, hast thou not learned how much
The might I boast excels thine own, that thus
Thou measurest strength with me? Now dost thou feel
Thy mother’s curse fulfilled, who meditates
Thy chastisement, since thou hast left the Greeks
And joined the treaty-breaking sons of Troy.”

She spake, and turned away her glorious eyes.
Jove’s daughter, Venus, took the hand of Mars,
And led him groaning thence, while hardly yet
His strength came back. The white-armed Juno saw,
And spake to Pallas thus, with wingèd words:⁠—

“See, daughter of the Aegis-bearer, Jove,
Unconquerable maid! That shameless one,
Through all the tumult, from the thick of fight,
Leads hence the murderous Mars; but follow her.”

She spake, and Pallas gladly hastened forth,
And, overtaking Venus, dealt at her
A mighty buffet on the breast; her heart
Fainted, her knees gave way; and, as she lay
Prostrate with Mars upon the fruitful earth,
Exulting Pallas spake these wingèd words:⁠—

“Would that all those who aid the cause of Troy
And combat with the mailèd Greeks were thus!
Would that they were as hardy and as brave
As Venus here, who ventured to the help
Of Mars, and met the force of my right arm!
Then had the stately Ilium been o’erthrown
Long since, and we had rested from the war.”

She spake: the white-armed Juno gently smiled.
And then King Neptune to Apollo said:⁠—

“Why, Phoebus, stand we thus aloof? it ill
Becomes us, while the other gods engage
In conflict. ’Twere a shame should we return
Up to Olympus and the brazen halls
Of Jove with no blow struck. Begin, for thou
Art younger born, and I, who both in years
And knowledge am before thee, must not make
The assault. O silly god, and slow of thought!
Hast thou indeed forgotten all the wrongs
We suffered once in Troy, and only we
Of all the gods, when, sent to earth by Jove,
We served a twelvemonth for a certain hire
The proud Laomedon, by whom our tasks
Were set? I built a city and a wall
Of broad extent, and beautiful, and strong
To stand assault; and, Phoebus, thou didst feed
His stamping oxen, with curved horns, among
The lawns of woody Ida seamed with glens.
But when the welcome hours had brought the day
Of our reward, the ruffian king refused
The promised wages, and dismissed us both
With menaces; to bind thee hand and foot
He threatened, and to sell thee as a slave
In distant isles, and to cut off the ears
Of both of us. So we returned to heaven,
Incensed at him who thus withheld the hire
He promised. Dost thou favor Troy for this?
Wilt thou not rather act with us until
These treaty-breakers, with their children all
And their chaste matrons, perish utterly?”

Then thus the archer-king, Apollo, spake:
“Thou wouldst not deem me wise, should I contend
With thee, O Neptune, for the sake of men,
Who flourish like the forest-leaves awhile,
And feed upon the fruits of earth and then
Decay and perish. Let us quit the field,
And leave the combat to the warring hosts.”

He spake, and turned, afraid to meet in arms
His uncle; but the sylvan Dian heard⁠—
His sister, mistress of the beasts that range
The wilds⁠—and harshly thus upbraided him:⁠—

“O mighty Archer, dost thou flee and yield
The victory to Neptune, who bears off
A glory cheaply earned? Why dost thou bear
That idle bow, thou coxcomb? I shall hope
No more to hear thee in our father’s halls.
And in the presence of the immortals, boast
That thou wilt fight with Neptune hand to bard.”

The archer-god, Apollo, answered not;
But thus the imperial wife of Jupiter,
Indignantly and with reproachful words,
Rebuked the quivered goddess of the chase:⁠—

“How is it that thou darest, shameless one,
Resist me? Thou wilt find it hard, though trained
In archery, to match thy strength with mine,
Though Jove has made thee among womankind
A lioness, and though he gives thee power
To slay whomever of thy sex thou wilt;
Yet wilt thou find it easier to strike down
The mountain beasts of prey, and forest deer,
Than combat with thy betters. If thou choose
To try the event of battle, then put forth
Thy strength against me, and thou shalt be taught
How greatly I excel in might of arm.”

Thus Juno spake, and grasped in her left hand
Both Dian’s wrists, and, plucking with her right
The quiver from her shoulders, beat with it
Her ears, and smiled as under her quick blows
The sufferer writhed. To earth the arrows fell,
And Dian weeping fled. As when a dove,
Not fated to be overtaken yet,
Flees from a hawk to find her hiding-place,
The hollow rock, so Dian fled in tears,
And left her arrows. To Latona, then,
Heaven’s messenger, the Argus-queller, spake:⁠—

“Far be it from me to contend with thee,
Latona; perilous it were to meet
A consort of the Cloud-compeller, Jove,
In combat. Go and freely make thy boast
Among the gods that thou hast vanquished me.”

He spake: Latona gathered from the ground
The bow and shafts which in that whirl of dust
Had fallen here and there, and, bearing them,
Followed her daughter, who meantime had reached
Olympus and the brazen halls of Jove.
And there, a daughter at her father’s knees,
She sat her down, while, as she wept, her robe
Of heavenly texture trembled. Graciously
Jove smiled, and drew her toward him and inquired:
“What dweller of the sky has dared do this,
Dear child, as though some flagrant guilt were thine?”

And thus replied the mistress of the chase
Crowned with the crescent: “Father, ’twas thy queen,
The white-armed Juno; she who causes strife
And wrath among the gods has done me wrong.”

So talked they, while to sacred Ilium came
Phoebus Apollo; ’twas his charge to watch
The well-built city’s ramparts, lest the Greeks
That day should lay it waste against the will
Of fate. The other gods went back to heaven,
Some angry, some exulting. They sat down
Beside the All-Father, him who darkens heaven
With gathered clouds. Meantime Achilles chased
And slew the Trojans and their firm-paced steeds.
As, when the smoke rolls heavenward from a town
Given by the angry gods a prey to fire,
Toil is the lot of all, and bitter woe
The fate of many, such the woe and toil
Caused by Achilles to the sons of Troy.

The aged Priam from a lofty tower
Beheld the large-limbed son of Peleus range
The field, and all the Trojans helplessly
Fleeing in tumult. With a cry of grief
He came from that high station to the ground,
And gave commandment to the sturdy men
Who stood to watch the gates along the wall:⁠—

“Hold the gates open while the flying host
Enter the city; for Achilles comes,
Routing them, near at hand, and we may see
Terrible havoc. But when all our troops
Are once within the walls, and breathe again,
Shut the close-fitting portals; for I dread
Lest that fierce warrior rush into our streets.”

He spake: they drew the bolts and opened wide
The gates, and gave a refuge to the host.
Then leaped Apollo forth to meet their flight
And rescue them. All faint with burning thirst,
And grimed with dust, they hurried o’er the plain,
And toward the city and its lofty walls,
While eagerly Achilles on their track
Pressed with his spear; his heart was full of rage,
And all on fire his spirit with desire
For glory. Then the Greeks had overthrown
The towery Troy, if Phoebus had not moved
Agenor, a young hero, nobly born,
Blameless, and brave, Antenor’s son, to meet
Achilles. Phoebus breathed into his heart
Courage, as, standing by the youth, he leaned
Against a beechen tree, and, wrapped from sight
In darkness, watched to rescue him from death.
Agenor stood as he beheld approach
The mighty spoiler, and, perplexed in mind,
Sighed heavily, and said to his great soul:⁠—

“Ah me! If with the routed troops I flee
From fierce Achilles, he will overtake
And slay me; I shall die as cowards die.
But if I leave the host to be pursued
By Peleus’ son, and by another way
Flee from the wall across the plain, until
I reach the lawns of Ida, and am hid
Among its thickets, then I may at eve
Bathe in the river and return refreshed
To Troy. But why give way to thoughts like these?
For he may yet observe me as I haste
From Ilium o’er the plain, and his swift feet
May follow; there will then be no escape
From death and fate, since he in might of arm
Excels all other men. If now I here
Confront him before Troy, I cannot think
That he is weapon-proof; one life alone
Dwells in him, though Saturnian Jupiter
Bestows on him the glory of the day.”

He spake, and firmly waited for the son
Of Peleus; eagerly his fearless heart
Longed for the combat. As a panther leaves
The covert of the wood and comes to meet
A huntsman, nor is scared nor put to flight
By noise of baying hounds, not even though
A spear’s thrust or a javelin flung from far
Have wounded him, yet, wounded, he fights on,
Until he grapples with his enemy
Or perishes⁠—thus did the noble son
Of the renowned Antenor press to try
His prowess with Achilles, and disdained
To flee before him. Holding his round shield
Before his face, and with his lifted spear
Aimed at the Greek, he shouted thus aloud:⁠—

“Renowned Achilles! Thou dost fondly know
That thou today wilt overthrow the town
Of the magnanimous Trojans. Many toils,
Thou fool! must be endured ere that can be;
For we are many and are brave who dwell
Within it, and shall well defend the town
For our beloved parents and our wives
And little ones. Here shall thou meet thy doom,
Brave as thou art, and terrible in war.”

As thus he spake, his powerful hand dismissed
The keen-edged spear, nor missed his aim; it struck
The son of Peleus just below the knee.
The tin of which the greave was newly forged
Rang shrilly, and sent back the brazen point;
It could not pierce the armor which a god
Had given. And then the son of Peleus aimed
His weapon at Agenor. Phoebus came
And snatched away his triumph, bearing off
The godlike youth, Agenor, in a veil
Of darkness from the perils of the war.
Then he decoyed Achilles from the host
Of Troy; the archer of the skies put on
Agenor’s perfect semblance, and appeared
Before the Greek, and fled; his hasty flight
Was followed close. Achilles chased the god
Ever before him, yet still near, across
The fruitful fields, to the deep-eddied stream
Of Xanthus; for Apollo artfully
Made it to seem that he should soon o’ertake
His flying foe, and thus beguiled him on.
Meantime the routed Trojans gladly thronged
Into the city, filled the streets, and closed
The portals. None now dared without the walls
To wait for others, or remain to know
Who had escaped with life, and who were slain
In battle; eagerly they flung themselves
Into the city⁠—everyone whose feet
And knees had borne him from the field alive.