The Iliad of Homer (Cowper)/Book I

The footnotes are present in Cowper's translation, unless otherwise marked.  


The book opens with an account of a pestilence that prevailed in the Grecian camp, and the cause of it is assigned. A council is called, in which fierce altercation takes place between Agamemnon and Achilles. The latter solemnly renounces the field. Agamemnon, by his heralds, demands Brisëis, and Achilles resigns her. He makes his complaint to Thetis, who undertakes to plead his cause with Jupiter. She pleads it, and prevails. The book concludes with an account of what passed in Heaven on that occasion.

[The reader will please observe, that by Achaians, Argives, Danaï, are signified Grecians. Homer himself having found these various appellatives both graceful and convenient, it seemed unreasonable that a Translator of him should be denied the same advantage.—Tr.]


Achilles sing, O Goddess! Peleus' son;
His wrath pernicious, who ten thousand woes
Caused to Achaia's host, sent many a soul
Illustrious into Ades premature,
And Heroes gave (so stood the will of Jove)
To dogs and to all ravening fowls a prey,
When fierce dispute had separated once
The noble Chief Achilles from the son
Of Atreus, Agamemnon, King of men.

   Who them to strife impell'd? What power divine?
Latona's son and Jove's.1 For he, incensed
Against the King, a foul contagion raised
In all the host, and multitudes destroy'd,
For that the son of Atreus had his priest
Dishonored, Chryses. To the fleet he came
Bearing rich ransom glorious to redeem
His daughter, and his hands charged with the wreath
And golden sceptre2 of the God shaft-arm'd.

   His supplication was at large to all
The host of Greece, but most of all to two,
The sons of Atreus, highest in command.

   Ye gallant Chiefs, and ye their gallant host,
(So may the Gods who in Olympus dwell
Give Priam's treasures to you for a spoil
And ye return in safety,) take my gifts 25
And loose my child, in honor of the son
Of Jove, Apollo, archer of the skies.3

   At once the voice of all was to respect
The priest, and to accept the bounteous price;
But so it pleased not Atreus' mighty son,
Who with rude threatenings stern him thence dismiss'd.

   Beware, old man! that at these hollow barks
I find thee not now lingering, or henceforth
Returning, lest the garland of thy God
And his bright sceptre should avail thee nought.
I will not loose thy daughter, till old age
Steal on her. From her native country far,
In Argos, in my palace, she shall ply
The loom, and shall be partner of my bed.
Move me no more. Begone; hence while thou may'st.

   He spake, the old priest trembled and obey'd.
Forlorn he roamed the ocean's sounding shore,
And, solitary, with much prayer his King
Bright-hair'd Latona's son, Phœbus, implored.4

   God of the silver bow, who with thy power
Encirclest Chrysa, and who reign'st supreme
In Tenedos and Cilla the divine,
Sminthian5 Apollo!6 If I e'er adorned
Thy beauteous fane, or on the altar burn'd
The fat acceptable of bulls or goats, 50
Grant my petition. With thy shafts avenge
On the Achaian host thy servant's tears.

   Such prayer he made, and it was heard.7 The God,
Down from Olympus with his radiant bow
And his full quiver o'er his shoulder slung,
Marched in his anger; shaken as he moved
His rattling arrows told of his approach.
Gloomy he came as night; sat from the ships
Apart, and sent an arrow. Clang'd the cord
8Dread-sounding, bounding on the silver bow.9
Mules first and dogs he struck,10 but at themselves
Dispatching soon his bitter arrows keen,
Smote them. Death-piles on all sides always blazed.
Nine days throughout the camp his arrows flew;
The tenth, Achilles from all parts convened
The host in council. Juno the white-armed
Moved at the sight of Grecians all around
Dying, imparted to his mind the thought.11
The full assembly, therefore, now convened,
Uprose Achilles ardent, and began.

   Atrides! Now, it seems, no course remains
For us, but that the seas roaming again,
We hence return; at least if we survive;
But haste, consult we quick some prophet here
Or priest, or even interpreter of dreams, 75
(For dreams are also of Jove,) that we may learn
By what crime we have thus incensed Apollo,
What broken vow, what hecatomb unpaid
He charges on us, and if soothed with steam
Of lambs or goats unblemish'd, he may yet
Be won to spare us, and avert the plague.

   He spake and sat, when Thestor's son arose
Calchas, an augur foremost in his art,
Who all things, present, past, and future knew,
And whom his skill in prophecy, a gift
Conferred by Phœbus on him, had advanced
To be conductor of the fleet to Troy;
He, prudent, them admonishing, replied.12

   Jove-loved Achilles! Wouldst thou learn from me
What cause hath moved Apollo to this wrath,
The shaft-arm'd King? I shall divulge the cause.
But thou, swear first and covenant on thy part
That speaking, acting, thou wilt stand prepared
To give me succor; for I judge amiss,
Or he who rules the Argives, the supreme
O'er all Achaia's host, will be incensed.
Wo to the man who shall provoke the King
For if, to-day, he smother close his wrath,
He harbors still the vengeance, and in time
Performs it. Answer, therefore, wilt thou save me? 100

   To whom Achilles, swiftest of the swift.
What thou hast learn'd in secret from the God
That speak, and boldly. By the son of Jove,
Apollo, whom thou, Calchas, seek'st in prayer
Made for the Danaï, and who thy soul
Fills with futurity, in all the host
The Grecian lives not, who while I shall breathe,
And see the light of day, shall in this camp
Oppress thee; no, not even if thou name
Him, Agamemnon, sovereign o'er us all.

   Then was the seer embolden'd, and he spake.
Nor vow nor hecatomb unpaid on us
He charges, but the wrong done to his priest
Whom Agamemnon slighted when he sought
His daughter's freedom, and his gifts refused.
He is the cause. Apollo for his sake
Afflicts and will afflict us, neither end
Nor intermission of his heavy scourge
Granting, 'till unredeem'd, no price required,
The black-eyed maid be to her father sent,
And a whole hecatomb in Chrysa bleed.
Then, not before, the God may be appeased.

   He spake and sat; when Atreus' son arose,
The Hero Agamemnon, throned supreme.
Tempests of black resentment overcharged 125
His heart, and indignation fired his eyes.
On Calchas lowering, him he first address'd.

   Prophet of mischief! from whose tongue no note
Of grateful sound to me, was ever heard;
Ill tidings are thy joy, and tidings glad
Thou tell'st not, or thy words come not to pass.
And now among the Danaï thy dreams
Divulging, thou pretend'st the Archer-God
For his priest's sake, our enemy, because
I scorn'd his offer'd ransom of the maid
Chrysëis, more desirous far to bear
Her to my home, for that she charms me more
Than Clytemnestra, my own first espoused,
With whom, in disposition, feature, form,
Accomplishments, she may be well compared.
Yet, being such, I will return her hence
If that she go be best. Perish myself—
But let the people of my charge be saved
Prepare ye, therefore, a reward for me,
And seek it instant. It were much unmeet
That I alone of all the Argive host
Should want due recompense, whose former prize
Is elsewhere destined, as ye all perceive.

   To whom Achilles, matchless in the race.
Atrides, glorious above all in rank, 150
And as intent on gain as thou art great,
Whence shall the Grecians give a prize to thee?
The general stock is poor; the spoil of towns
Which we have taken, hath already passed
In distribution, and it were unjust
To gather it from all the Greeks again.
But send thou back this Virgin to her God,
And when Jove's favor shall have given us Troy,
A threefold, fourfold share shall then be thine.

   To whom the Sovereign of the host replied.
Godlike Achilles, valiant as thou art,
Wouldst thou be subtle too? But me no fraud
Shall overreach, or art persuade, of thine.
Wouldst thou, that thou be recompensed, and I
Sit meekly down, defrauded of my due?
And didst thou bid me yield her? Let the bold
Achaians give me competent amends,
Such as may please me, and it shall be well.
Else, if they give me none, I will command
Thy prize, the prize of Ajax, or the prize
It may be of Ulysses to my tent,
And let the loser chafe. But this concern
Shall be adjusted at convenient time.
Come—launch we now into the sacred deep
A bark with lusty rowers well supplied; 175
Then put on board Chrysëis, and with her
The sacrifice required. Go also one
High in authority, some counsellor,
Idomeneus, or Ajax, or thyself,
Thou most untractable of all mankind;
And seek by rites of sacrifice and prayer
To appease Apollo on our host's behalf.

   Achilles eyed him with a frown, and spake.
Ah! clothed with impudence as with a cloak,
And full of subtlety, who, thinkest thou—
What Grecian here will serve thee, or for thee
Wage covert war, or open? Me thou know'st,
Troy never wronged; I came not to avenge
Harm done to me; no Trojan ever drove
My pastures, steeds or oxen took of mine,
Or plunder'd of their fruits the golden fields
Of Phthia13 the deep-soil'd. She lies remote,
And obstacles are numerous interposed,
Vale-darkening mountains, and the dashing sea.
No,14 Shameless Wolf! For thy good pleasure's sake
We came, and,15 Face of flint! to avenge the wrongs
By Menelaus and thyself sustain'd,
On the offending Trojan—service kind,
But lost on thee, regardless of it all.
And now—What now? Thy threatening is to seize 200
Thyself, the just requital of my toils,
My prize hard-earn'd, by common suffrage mine.
I never gain, what Trojan town soe'er
We ransack, half thy booty. The swift march
And furious onset—these I largely reap,
But, distribution made, thy lot exceeds
Mine far; while I, with any pittance pleased,
Bear to my ships the little that I win
After long battle, and account it much.
But I am gone, I and my sable barks
(My wiser course) to Phthia, and I judge,
Scorn'd as I am, that thou shalt hardly glean
Without me, more than thou shalt soon consume.16

   He ceased, and Agamemnon thus replied
Fly, and fly now; if in thy soul thou feel
Such ardor of desire to go—begone!
I woo thee not to stay; stay not an hour
On my behalf, for I have others here
Who will respect me more, and above all
All-judging Jove. There is not in the host
King or commander whom I hate as thee,
For all thy pleasure is in strife and blood,
And at all times; yet valor is no ground
Whereon to boast, it is the gift of Heaven
Go, get ye back to Phthia, thou and thine! 225
There rule thy Myrmidons.17 I need not thee,
Nor heed thy wrath a jot. But this I say,
Sure as Apollo takes my lovely prize
Chrysëis, and I shall return her home
In mine own bark, and with my proper crew,
So sure the fair Brisëis shall be mine.
I shall demand her even at thy tent.
So shalt thou well be taught, how high in power
I soar above thy pitch, and none shall dare
Attempt, thenceforth, comparison with me.

   He ended, and the big, disdainful heart
Throbbed of Achilles; racking doubt ensued
And sore perplex'd him, whether forcing wide
A passage through them, with his blade unsheathed
To lay Atrides breathless at his foot,
Or to command his stormy spirit down.
So doubted he, and undecided yet
Stood drawing forth his falchion huge; when lo!
Down sent by Juno, to whom both alike
Were dear, and who alike watched over both,
Pallas descended. At his back she stood
To none apparent, save himself alone,
And seized his golden locks. Startled, he turned,
And instant knew Minerva. Flashed her eyes
Terrific;18 whom with accents on the wing 250
Of haste, incontinent he questioned thus.

   Daughter of Jove, why comest thou? that thyself
May'st witness these affronts which I endure
From Agamemnon? Surely as I speak,
This moment, for his arrogance, he dies.

   To whom the blue-eyed Deity. From heaven
Mine errand is, to sooth, if thou wilt hear,
Thine anger. Juno the white-arm'd alike
To him and thee propitious, bade me down:
Restrain thy wrath. Draw not thy falchion forth.
Retort, and sharply, and let that suffice.
For I foretell thee true. Thou shalt receive,
Some future day, thrice told, thy present loss
For this day's wrong. Cease, therefore, and be still.

   To whom Achilles. Goddess, although much
Exasperate, I dare not disregard
Thy word, which to obey is always best.19
Who hears the Gods, the Gods hear also him.

   He said; and on his silver hilt the force
Of his broad hand impressing, sent the blade
Home to its rest, nor would the counsel scorn
Of Pallas. She to heaven well-pleased return'd,
And in the mansion of Jove Ægis20-armed
Arriving, mingled with her kindred Gods.
But though from violence, yet not from words 275
Abstained Achilles, but with bitter taunt
Opprobrious, his antagonist reproached.

   Oh charged with wine, in steadfastness of face
Dog unabashed, and yet at heart a deer!
Thou never, when the troops have taken arms,
Hast dared to take thine also; never thou
Associate with Achaia's Chiefs, to form
The secret ambush.21 No. The sound of war
Is as the voice of destiny to thee.
Doubtless the course is safer far, to range
Our numerous host, and if a man have dared
Dispute thy will, to rob him of his prize.
King! over whom? Women and spiritless—
Whom therefore thou devourest; else themselves
Would stop that mouth that it should scoff no more.
But hearken. I shall swear a solemn oath.
By this same sceptre,22 which shall never bud,
Nor boughs bring forth as once, which having left
Its stock on the high mountains, at what time
The woodman's axe lopped off its foliage green,
And stript its bark, shall never grow again;
Which now the judges of Achaia bear,
Who under Jove, stand guardians of the laws,
By this I swear (mark thou the sacred oath)
Time shall be, when Achilles shall be missed; 300
When all shall want him, and thyself the power
To help the Achaians, whatsoe'er thy will;
When Hector at your heels shall mow you down:
The Hero-slaughtering Hector! Then thy soul,
Vexation-stung, shall tear thee with remorse,
That thou hast scorn'd, as he were nothing worth,
A Chief, the soul and bulwark of your cause.

   So saying, he cast his sceptre on the ground
Studded with gold, and sat. On the other side
The son of Atreus all impassion'd stood,
When the harmonious orator arose
Nestor, the Pylian oracle, whose lips
Dropped eloquence—the honey not so sweet.
Two generations past of mortals born
In Pylus, coëtaneous with himself,
He govern'd now the third—amid them all
He stood, and thus, benevolent, began.

   Ah! what calamity hath fall'n on Greece!
Now Priam and his sons may well exult,
Now all in Ilium shall have joy of heart
Abundant, hearing of this broil, the prime
Of Greece between, in council and in arms.
But be persuaded; ye are younger both
Than I, and I was conversant of old
With Princes your superiors, yet from them 325
No disrespect at any time received.
Their equals saw I never; never shall;
Exadius, Cœneus, and the Godlike son
Of Ægeus, mighty Theseus; men renown'd
For force superior to the race of man,
Brave Chiefs they were, and with brave foes they fought,
With the rude dwellers on the mountain-heights
The Centaurs,23 whom with havoc such as fame
Shall never cease to celebrate, they slew.
With these men I consorted erst, what time
From Pylus, though a land from theirs remote,
They called me forth, and such as was my strength,
With all that strength I served them. Who is he?
What Prince or Chief of the degenerate race
Now seen on earth who might with these compare?
Yet even these would listen and conform
To my advice in consultation given,
Which hear ye also; for compliance proves
Oft times the safer and the manlier course.
Thou, Agamemnon! valiant as thou art,
Seize not the maid, his portion from the Greeks,
But leave her his; nor thou, Achilles, strive
With our imperial Chief; for never King
Had equal honor at the hands of Jove
With Agamemnon, or was throned so high. 350
Say thou art stronger, and art Goddess-born,
How then? His territory passes thine,
And he is Lord of thousands more than thou.
Cease, therefore, Agamemnon; calm thy wrath;
And it shall be mine office to entreat
Achilles also to a calm, whose might
The chief munition is of all our host.

   To whom the sovereign of the Greeks replied,
The son of Atreus. Thou hast spoken well,
Old Chief, and wisely. But this wrangler here—
Nought will suffice him but the highest place:
He must control us all, reign over all,
Dictate to all; but he shall find at least
One here, disposed to question his commands.
If the eternal Gods have made him brave,
Derives he thence a privilege to rail?

   Whom thus Achilles interrupted fierce.
Could I be found so abject as to take
The measure of my doings at thy lips,
Well might they call me coward through the camp,
A vassal, and a fellow of no worth.
Give law to others. Think not to control
Me, subject to thy proud commands no more.
Hear yet again! And weigh what thou shalt hear.
I will not strive with thee in such a cause, 375
Nor yet with any man; I scorn to fight
For her, whom having given, ye take away.
But I have other precious things on board;
Of those take none away without my leave.
Or if it please thee, put me to the proof
Before this whole assembly, and my spear
Shall stream that moment, purpled with thy blood.

   Thus they long time in opposition fierce
Maintained the war of words; and now, at length,
(The grand consult dissolved,) Achilles walked
(Patroclus and the Myrmidons his steps
Attending) to his camp and to his fleet.
But Agamemnon order'd forth a bark,
A swift one, manned with twice ten lusty rowers;
He sent on board the Hecatomb:24 he placed
Chrysëis with the blooming cheeks, himself,
And to Ulysses gave the freight in charge.
So all embarked, and plow'd their watery way.
Atrides, next, bade purify the host;
The host was purified, as he enjoin'd,
And the ablution cast into the sea.

   Then to Apollo, on the shore they slew,
Of the untillable and barren deep,
Whole Hecatombs of bulls and goats, whose steam
Slowly in smoky volumes climbed the skies. 400

   Thus was the camp employed; nor ceased the while
The son of Atreus from his threats denounced
At first against Achilles, but command
Gave to Talthybius and Eurybates
His heralds, ever faithful to his will.

   Haste—Seek ye both the tent of Peleus' son
Achilles. Thence lead hither by the hand
Blooming Brisëis, whom if he withhold,
Not her alone, but other spoil myself
Will take in person—He shall rue the hour.

   With such harsh message charged he them dismissed
They, sad and slow, beside the barren waste
Of Ocean, to the galleys and the tents
Moved of the Myrmidons. Him there they found
Beneath the shadow of his bark reclined,
Nor glad at their approach. Trembling they stood,
In presence of the royal Chief, awe-struck,
Nor questioned him or spake. He not the less
Knew well their embassy, and thus began.

   Ye heralds, messengers of Gods and men,
Hail, and draw near! I bid you welcome both.
I blame not you; the fault is his alone
Who sends you to conduct the damsel hence
Brisëis. Go, Patroclus, generous friend!
Lead forth, and to their guidance give the maid. 425
But be themselves my witnesses before
The blessed Gods, before mankind, before
The ruthless king, should want of me be felt
To save the host from havoc25—Oh, his thoughts
Are madness all; intelligence or skill,
Forecast or retrospect, how best the camp
May be secured from inroad, none hath he.

   He ended, nor Patroclus disobey'd,
But leading beautiful Brisëis forth
Into their guidance gave her; loth she went
From whom she loved, and looking oft behind.
Then wept Achilles, and apart from all,
With eyes directed to the gloomy Deep
And arms outstretch'd, his mother suppliant sought.

   Since, mother, though ordain'd so soon to die,
I am thy son, I might with cause expect
Some honor at the Thunderer's hands, but none
To me he shows, whom Agamemnon, Chief
Of the Achaians, hath himself disgraced,
Seizing by violence my just reward.

   So prayed he weeping, whom his mother heard
Within the gulfs of Ocean where she sat
Beside her ancient sire. From the gray flood
Ascending sudden, like a mist she came,
Sat down before him, stroked his face, and said. 450

   Why weeps my son? and what is thy distress?
Hide not a sorrow that I wish to share.

   To whom Achilles, sighing deep, replied.
Why tell thee woes to thee already known?
At Thebes, Eëtion's city we arrived,
Smote, sack'd it, and brought all the spoil away.
Just distribution made among the Greeks,
The son of Atreus for his lot received
Blooming Chrysëis. Her, Apollo's priest
Old Chryses followed to Achaia's camp,
That he might loose his daughter. Ransom rich
He brought, and in his hands the hallow'd wreath
And golden sceptre of the Archer God
Apollo, bore; to the whole Grecian host,
But chiefly to the foremost in command
He sued, the sons of Atreus; then, the rest
All recommended reverence of the Seer,
And prompt acceptance of his costly gifts.
But Agamemnon might not so be pleased,
Who gave him rude dismission; he in wrath
Returning, prayed, whose prayer Apollo heard,
For much he loved him. A pestiferous shaft
He instant shot into the Grecian host,
And heap'd the people died. His arrows swept
The whole wide camp of Greece, 'till at the last 475
A Seer, by Phœbus taught, explain'd the cause.
I first advised propitiation. Rage
Fired Agamemnon. Rising, he denounced
Vengeance, and hath fulfilled it. She, in truth,
Is gone to Chrysa, and with her we send
Propitiation also to the King
Shaft-arm'd Apollo. But my beauteous prize
Brisëis, mine by the award of all,
His heralds, at this moment, lead away.
But thou, wherein thou canst, aid thy own son!
Haste hence to Heaven, and if thy word or deed
Hath ever gratified the heart of Jove,
With earnest suit press him on my behalf.
For I, not seldom, in my father's hall
Have heard thee boasting, how when once the Gods,
With Juno, Neptune, Pallas at their head,
Conspired to bind the Thunderer, thou didst loose
His bands, O Goddess! calling to his aid
The Hundred-handed warrior, by the Gods
Briareus, but by men, Ægeon named.26
For he in prowess and in might surpassed
His father Neptune, who, enthroned sublime,
Sits second only to Saturnian Jove,
Elate with glory and joy. Him all the Gods
Fearing from that bold enterprise abstained. 500
Now, therefore, of these things reminding Jove,
Embrace his knees; entreat him that he give
The host of Troy his succor, and shut fast
The routed Grecians, prisoners in the fleet,
That all may find much solace27 in their King,
And that the mighty sovereign o'er them all,
Their Agamemnon, may himself be taught
His rashness, who hath thus dishonor'd foul
The life itself, and bulwark of his cause.

   To him, with streaming eyes, Thetis replied.
Born as thou wast to sorrow, ah, my son!
Why have I rear'd thee! Would that without tears,
Or cause for tears (transient as is thy life,
A little span) thy days might pass at Troy!
But short and sorrowful the fates ordain
Thy life, peculiar trouble must be thine,
Whom, therefore, oh that I had never borne!
But seeking the Olympian hill snow-crown'd,
I will myself plead for thee in the ear
Of Jove, the Thunderer. Meantime at thy fleet
Abiding, let thy wrath against the Greeks
Still burn, and altogether cease from war.
For to the banks of the Oceanus,28
Where Æthiopia holds a feast to Jove,29
He journey'd yesterday, with whom the Gods 525
Went also, and the twelfth day brings them home.
Then will I to his brazen-floor'd abode,
That I may clasp his knees, and much misdeem
Of my endeavor, or my prayer shall speed.

   So saying, she went; but him she left enraged
For fair Brisëis' sake, forced from his arms
By stress of power. Meantime Ulysses came
To Chrysa with the Hecatomb in charge.
Arrived within the haven30 deep, their sails
Furling, they stowed them in the bark below.
Then by its tackle lowering swift the mast
Into its crutch, they briskly push'd to land,
Heaved anchors out, and moor'd the vessel fast.
Forth came the mariners, and trod the beach;
Forth came the victims of Apollo next,
And, last, Chrysëis. Her Ulysses led
Toward the altar, gave her to the arms
Of her own father, and him thus address'd.

   O Chryses! Agamemnon, King of men,
Hath sent thy daughter home, with whom we bring
A Hecatomb on all our host's behalf
To Phœbus, hoping to appease the God
By whose dread shafts the Argives now expire.

   So saying, he gave her to him, who with joy
Received his daughter. Then, before the shrine 550
Magnificent in order due they ranged
The noble Hecatomb.31 Each laved his hands
And took the salted meal, and Chryses made
His fervent prayer with hands upraised on high.

   God of the silver bow, who with thy power
Encirclest Chrysa, and who reign'st supreme
In Tenedos, and Cilla the divine!
Thou prov'dst propitious to my first request,
Hast honor'd me, and punish'd sore the Greeks;
Hear yet thy servant's prayer; take from their host
At once the loathsome pestilence away!

   So Chryses prayed, whom Phœbus heard well-pleased;
Then prayed the Grecians also, and with meal
Sprinkling the victims, their retracted necks
First pierced, then flay'd them; the disjointed thighs
They, next, invested with the double caul,
Which with crude slices thin they overspread.
The priest burned incense, and libation poured
Large on the hissing brands, while, him beside,
Busy with spit and prong, stood many a youth
Trained to the task. The thighs with fire consumed,
They gave to each his portion of the maw,
Then slashed the remnant, pierced it with the spits,
And managing with culinary skill
The roast, withdrew it from the spits again. 575
Their whole task thus accomplish'd, and the board
Set forth, they feasted, and were all sufficed.
When neither hunger more nor thirst remained
Unsatisfied, boys crown'd the beakers high
With wine delicious, and from right to left
Distributing the cups, served every guest.
Thenceforth the youths of the Achaian race
To song propitiatory gave the day,
Pæans32 to Phœbus, Archer of the skies,
Chaunting melodious. Pleased, Apollo heard.
But, when, the sun descending, darkness fell,
They on the beach beside their hawsers slept;
And, when the day-spring's daughter rosy-palm'd
Aurora look'd abroad, then back they steer'd
To the vast camp. Fair wind, and blowing fresh,
Apollo sent them; quick they rear'd the mast,
Then spread the unsullied canvas to the gale,
And the wind filled it. Roared the sable flood
Around the bark, that ever as she went
Dash'd wide the brine, and scudded swift away.
Thus reaching soon the spacious camp of Greece,
Their galley they updrew sheer o'er the sands
From the rude surge remote, then propp'd her sides
With scantlings long,33 and sought their several tents.

   But Peleus' noble son, the speed-renown'd 600
Achilles, he, his well-built bark beside,
Consumed his hours, nor would in council more,
Where wise men win distinction, or in fight
Appear, to sorrow and heart-withering wo
Abandon'd; though for battle, ardent, still
He panted, and the shout-resounding field.
But when the twelfth fair morrow streak'd the East,
Then all the everlasting Gods to Heaven
Resorted, with the Thunderer at their head,
And Thetis, not unmindful of her son,
Prom the salt flood emerged, seeking betimes
Olympus and the boundless fields of heaven.
High, on the topmost eminence sublime
Of the deep-fork'd Olympian she perceived
The Thunderer seated, from the Gods apart.
She sat before him, clasp'd with her left hand
His knees, her right beneath his chin she placed,
And thus the King, Saturnian Jove, implored.

   Father of all, by all that I have done
Or said that ever pleased thee, grant my suit.
Exalt my son, by destiny short-lived
Beyond the lot of others. Him with shame
The King of men hath overwhelm'd, by force
Usurping his just meed; thou, therefore, Jove,
Supreme in wisdom, honor him, and give 625
Success to Troy, till all Achaia's sons
Shall yield him honor more than he hath lost!

   She spake, to whom the Thunderer nought replied,
But silent sat long time. She, as her hand
Had grown there, still importunate, his knees
Clasp'd as at first, and thus her suit renew'd.34

   Or grant my prayer, and ratify the grant,
Or send me hence (for thou hast none to fear)
Plainly refused; that I may know and feel
By how much I am least of all in heaven.

   To whom the cloud-assembler at the last
Spake, deep-distress'd. Hard task and full of strife
Thou hast enjoined me; Juno will not spare
For gibe and taunt injurious, whose complaint
Sounds daily in the ears of all the Gods,
That I assist the Trojans; but depart,
Lest she observe thee; my concern shall be
How best I may perform thy full desire.
And to assure thee more, I give the sign
Indubitable, which all fear expels
At once from heavenly minds. Nought, so confirmed,
May, after, be reversed or render'd vain.

   He ceased, and under his dark brows the nod
Vouchsafed of confirmation. All around
The Sovereign's everlasting head his curls 650
Ambrosial shook,35 and the huge mountain reeled.

   Their conference closed, they parted. She, at once,
From bright Olympus plunged into the flood
Profound, and Jove to his own courts withdrew.
Together all the Gods, at his approach,
Uprose; none sat expectant till he came,
But all advanced to meet the Eternal Sire.
So on his throne he sat. Nor Juno him
Not understood; she, watchful, had observed,
In consultation close with Jove engaged
Thetis, bright-footed daughter of the deep,
And keen the son of Saturn thus reproved.

   Shrewd as thou art, who now hath had thine ear?
Thy joy is ever such, from me apart
To plan and plot clandestine, and thy thoughts,
Think what thou may'st, are always barred to me.

   To whom the father, thus, of heaven and earth.
Expect not, Juno, that thou shalt partake
My counsels at all times, which oft in height
And depth, thy comprehension far exceed,
Jove's consort as thou art. When aught occurs
Meet for thine ear, to none will I impart
Of Gods or men more free than to thyself.
But for my secret thoughts, which I withhold
From all in heaven beside, them search not thou 675
With irksome curiosity and vain.

   Him answer'd then the Goddess ample-eyed.36
What word hath passed thy lips, Saturnian Jove,
Thou most severe! I never search thy thoughts,
Nor the serenity of thy profound
Intentions trouble; they are safe from me:
But now there seems a cause. Deeply I dread
Lest Thetis, silver-footed daughter fair
Of Ocean's hoary Sovereign, here arrived
At early dawn to practise on thee, Jove!
I noticed her a suitress at thy knees,
And much misdeem or promise-bound thou stand'st
To Thetis past recall, to exalt her son,
And Greeks to slaughter thousands at the ships.

   To whom the cloud-assembler God, incensed.
Ah subtle! ever teeming with surmise,
And fathomer of my concealed designs,
Thy toil is vain, or (which is worse for thee,)
Shall but estrange thee from mine heart the more.
And be it as thou sayest,—I am well pleased
That so it should be. Be advised, desist,
Hold thou thy peace. Else, if my glorious hands
Once reach thee, the Olympian Powers combined
To rescue thee, shall interfere in vain.

   He said,—whom Juno, awful Goddess, heard 700
Appall'd, and mute submitted to his will.
But through the courts of Jove the heavenly Powers
All felt displeasure; when to them arose
Vulcan, illustrious artist, who with speech
Conciliatory interposed to sooth
His white-armed mother Juno, Goddess dread.

   Hard doom is ours, and not to be endured,
If feast and merriment must pause in heaven
While ye such clamor raise tumultuous here
For man's unworthy sake: yet thus we speed
Ever, when evil overpoises good.
But I exhort my mother, though herself
Already warn'd, that meekly she submit
To Jove our father, lest our father chide
More roughly, and confusion mar the feast.
For the Olympian Thunderer could with ease
Us from our thrones precipitate, so far
He reigns to all superior. Seek to assuage
His anger therefore; so shall he with smiles
Cheer thee, nor thee alone, but all in heaven.

   So Vulcan, and, upstarting, placed a cup
Full-charged between his mother's hands, and said,

   My mother, be advised, and, though aggrieved,
Yet patient; lest I see thee whom I love
So dear, with stripes chastised before my face, 725
Willing, but impotent to give thee aid.37
Who can resist the Thunderer? Me, when once
I flew to save thee, by the foot he seized
And hurl'd me through the portal of the skies.
"From morn to eve I fell, a summer's day,"
And dropped, at last, in Lemnos. There half-dead
The Sintians found me, and with succor prompt
And hospitable, entertained me fallen.

   So He; then Juno smiled, Goddess white-arm'd,
And smiling still, from his unwonted hand38
Received the goblet. He from right to left
Rich nectar from the beaker drawn, alert
Distributed to all the powers divine.
Heaven rang with laughter inextinguishable
Peal after peal, such pleasure all conceived
At sight of Vulcan in his new employ.

   So spent they in festivity the day,
And all were cheered; nor was Apollo's harp
Silent, nor did the Muses spare to add
Responsive melody of vocal sweets.
But when the sun's bright orb had now declined,
Each to his mansion, wheresoever built
By the lame matchless Architect, withdrew.39
Jove also, kindler of the fires of heaven,
His couch ascending as at other times 750
When gentle sleep approach'd him, slept serene,
With golden-sceptred Juno at his side.

The first book contains the preliminaries to the commencement of serious action. First, the visit of the priest of Apollo to ransom his captive daughter, the refusal of Agamemnon to yield her up, and the pestilence sent by the god upon the Grecian army in consequence. Secondly, the restoration, the propitiation of Apollo, the quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilles, and the withdrawing of the latter from the Grecian army. Thirdly, the intercession of Thetis with Jupiter; his promise, unwillingly given, to avenge Achilles; and the assembly of the gods, in which the promise is angrily alluded to by Juno, and the discussion peremptorily checked by Jupiter. The poet, throughout this book, maintains a simple, unadorned style, but highly descriptive, and happily adapted to the nature of the subject.—Felton.

  1. ^  "Latona's son and Jove's," was Apollo, the tutelary deity of the Dorians. The Dorians had not, however, at this early age, become the predominant race in Greece proper. They had spread along the eastern shores of the Archipelago into the islands, especially Crete, and had every where signalized themselves by the Temples of Apollo, of which there seems to have been many in and about Troy. These temples were schools of art, and prove the Dorians to have been both intellectual and powerful. Homer was an Ionian, and therefore not deeply acquainted with the nature of the Dorian god. But to a mind like his, the god of a people so cultivated, and associated with what was most grand in art, must have been an imposing being, and we find him so represented. Throughout the Iliad, he appears and acts with splendor and effect, but always against the Greeks from mere partiality to Hector. It would perhaps be too much to say, that in this partiality to Hector, we detect the spirit of the Dorian worship, the only Paganism of antiquity that tended to perfect the individual—Apollo being the expression of the moral harmony of the universe, and the great spirit of the Dorian culture being to make a perfect man, an incarnation of the κοσμος. This Homer could only have known intuitively.

    In making Apollo author of the plague, he was confounded with Helios, which was frequent afterwards, but is not seen elsewhere in Homer. The arrows of Apollo were "silent as light," and their emblem the sun's rays. The analogies are multitudinous between the natural and intellectual sun; but Helios and Apollo were two.—E.P.P.
  2. ^  There is something exceedingly venerable in this appearance of the priest. He comes with the ensigns of the gods to whom he belongs, with the laurel wreath, to show that he was a suppliant, and a golden sceptre, which the ancients gave in particular to Apollo, as they did one of silver to Diana.
  3. ^  The art of this speech is remarkable. Chryses considers the army of Greeks, as made up of troops, partly from the kingdoms and partly from democracies, and therefore begins with a distinction that includes all. Then, as priest of Apollo, he prays that they may obtain the two blessings they most desire—the conquest of Troy and a safe return. As he names his petition, he offers an extraordinary ransom, and concludes with bidding them fear the god if they refuse it; like one who from his office seems to foretell their misery, and exhorts them to shun it. Thus he endeavors to work by the art of a general application, by religion, by interest, and the insinuation of danger.
  4. ^  Homer is frequently eloquent in his silence. Chryses says not a word in answer to the insults of Agamemnon, but walks pensively along the shore. The melancholy flowing of the verse admirably expresses the condition of the mournful and deserted father.
  5. ^  [So called on account of his having saved the people of Troas from a plague of mice, sminthos in their language meaning a mouse.—Tr.]
  6. ^  Apollo had temples at Chrysa, Tenedos, and Cilla, all of which lay round the bay of Troas. Müller remarks, that "the temple actually stood in the situation referred to, and that the appellation of Smintheus was still preserved in the district. Thus far actual circumstances are embodied in the mythus. On the other hand, the action of the deity as such, is purely ideal, and can have no other foundation than the belief that Apollo sternly resents ill usage of his priests, and that too in the way here represented, viz., by sending plagues. This belief is in perfect harmony with the idea generally entertained of the power and agency of Apollo; and it is manifest that the idea placed in combination with certain events, gave birth to the story so far as relates to the god. We have not yet the means of ascertaining whether it is to be regarded as a historical tradition, or an invention, and must therefore leave that question for the present undecided."
  7. ^  The poet is careful to leave no prayer unanswered that has justice on its side. He who prays either kills his enemy, or has signs given him that he has been heard.
  8. ^  [For this singular line the Translator begs to apologize, by pleading the strong desire he felt to produce an English line, if possible, somewhat resembling in its effect the famous original one.
              Δεινη δε κλαγγη γενετ αργυρεοιο βιοιο.Tr.]
  9. ^  The plague in the Grecian camp was occasioned perhaps by immoderate heats and gross exhalations. Homer takes occasion from it, to open the scene with a beautiful allegory. He supposes that such afflictions are sent from Heaven for the punishment of evil actions; and because the sun was the principal agent, he says it was sent to punish Agamemnon for despising that god, and injuring his priest.
  10. ^  Hippocrates observes two things of plagues; that their cause is in the air, and that different animals are differently affected by them, according to their nature and nourishment. This philosophy is referred to the plagues here mentioned. First, the cause is in the air by means of the darts or beams of Apollo; second, the mules and dogs are said to die sooner than the men, partly from their natural quickness of smell, and partly from their feeding so near the earth whence the exhalations arise.
  11. ^  Juno, queen of Olympus, sides with the Grecians. Mr. Coleridge (in his disquisition upon the Prometheus of Æschylus, published in his Remains) shows very clearly by historical criticism, that Juno, in the Grecian religion, expressed the spirit of conservatism. Without going over his argument we assume it here, for Homer always attributes to Juno every thing that may be predicated of this principle. She is persistent, obstinate, acts from no idea, but often uses a superficial reasoning, and refers to Fate, with which she upbraids Jupiter. Jupiter is the intellectual power or Free Will, and by their union, or rather from their antagonism, the course of things proceeds with perpetual vicissitude, but with a great deal of life.—E.P.P.
  12. ^  Observe this Grecian priest. He has no political power, and commands little reverence. In Agamemnon's treatment of him, as well as Chryses, is seen the relation of the religion to the government. It was neither master nor slave.—E.P.P.
  13. ^  A district of Thessaly forming a part of the larger district of Phthiotis. Phthiotis, according to Strabo, included all the southern portion of that country as far as Mount Œta and the Maliac Gulf. To the west it bordered on Dolopia, and on the east reached the confines of Magnesia. Homer comprised within this extent of territory the districts of Phthia and Hellas properly so called, and, generally speaking, the dominions of Achilles, together with those of Protesilaus and Eurypylus.
  14. ^  Κυνωπα.
  15. ^  μεγαναιδες.
  16. ^  Agamemnon's anger is that of a lover, and Achilles' that of a warrior. Agamemnon speaks of Chrysëis as a beauty whom he values too much to resign. Achilles treats Brisëis as a slave, whom he is anxious to preserve in point of honor, and as a testimony of his glory. Hence he mentions her only as "his spoil," "the reward of war," etc.; accordingly he relinquishes her not in grief for a favorite whom he loses, but in sullenness for the injury done him.—Dacier.
  17. ^  Jupiter, in the disguise of an ant, deceived Eurymedusa, the daughter of Cleitos. Her son was for this reason called Myrmidon (from μυρμηξ, an ant), and was regarded as the ancestor of the Myrmidons in Thessaly.—Smith.
  18. ^  According to the belief of the ancients, the gods were supposed to have a peculiar light in their eyes. That Homer was not ignorant of this opinion appears from his use of it in other places.
  19. ^  Minerva is the goddess of the art of war rather than of war itself. And this fable of her descent is an allegory of Achilles restraining his wrath through his consideration of martial law and order. This law in that age, prescribed that a subordinate should not draw his sword upon the commander of all, but allowed a liberty of speech which appears to us moderns rather out of order.—E.P.P.
  20. ^  [The shield of Jupiter, made by Vulcan, and so called from its covering, which was the skin of the goat that suckled him.—Tr.]
  21. ^  Homer magnifies the ambush as the boldest enterprise of war. They went upon those parties with a few only, and generally the most daring of the army, and on occasions of the greatest hazard, when the exposure was greater than in a regular battle. Idomeneus, in the 13th book, tells Meriones that the greatest courage appears in this way of service, each man being in a manner singled out to the proof of it.
  22. ^  In the earlier ages of the world, the sceptre of a king was nothing more than his walking-staff, and thence had the name of sceptre. Ovid, in speaking of Jupiter, describes him as resting on his sceptre.—Spence.

    From the description here given, it would appear to have been a young tree cut from the root and stripped of its branches. It was the custom of Kings to swear by their sceptres.
  23. ^  For an account of the contest between the Centaurs and Lapiths here referred to, see Grecian and Roman Mythology.
  24. ^  In antiquity, a sacrifice of a hundred oxen, or beasts of the same kind; hence sometimes indefinitely, any sacrifice of a large number of victims.
  25. ^  [The original is here abrupt, and expresses the precipitancy of the speaker by a most beautiful aposiopesis.—Tr.]
  26. ^  The Iliad, in its connection, is, we all know, a glorification of Achilles by Zeus; for the Trojans only prevail because Zeus wishes to show that the reposing hero who sits in solitude, can alone conquer them. But to leave him this glorification entirely unmixed with sorrow, the Grecian sense of moderation forbids. The deepest anguish must mingle with his consciousness of fame, and punish his insolence. That glorification is the will of Zeus; and in the spirit of the ancient mythus, a motive for it is assigned in a divine legend. The sea-goddess Thetis, who was, according to the Phthiotic mythus, wedded to the mortal Peleus, saved Zeus, by calling up the giant Briareus or Ægæon to his rescue. Why it was Ægæon, is explained by the fact that this was a great sea-demon, who formed the subject of fables at Poseidonian Corinth, where even the sea-god himself was called Ægæon; who, moreover, was worshipped at several places in Eubœa, the seat of Poseidon Ægæus; and whom the Theogony calls the son-in-law of Poseidon, and most of the genealogists, especially Eumelus in the Titanomachy, brought into relation with the sea. There is therefore good reason to be found in ancient belief, why Thetis called up Ægæon of all others to Jove's assistance. The whole of the story, however, is not detailed—it is not much more than indicated—and therefore it would be difficult even now to interpret it in a perfectly satisfactory manner. It bears the same relation to the Iliad, that the northern fables of the gods, which serve as a back-ground to the legend of Nibelungen, bear to our German ballad, only that here the separation is much greater still—Muller.

    Homer makes use of this fable, without reference to its meaning as an allegory. Briareus seems to symbolize a navy, and the fable refers to some event in remote history, when the reigning power was threatened in his autocracy, and strengthened by means of his association with the people against some intermediate class.—E.P.P.
  27. ^  επαυρωνται.
  28. ^  [A name by which we are frequently to understand the Nile in Homer.—Tr.]
  29. ^  Around the sources of the Nile, and thence south-west into the very heart of Africa, stretching away indefinitely over its mountain plains, lies the country which the ancients called Ethiopia, rumors of whose wonderful people found their way early into Greece, and are scattered over the pages of her poets and historians.

    Homer wrote at least eight hundred years before Christ, and his poems are well ascertained to be a most faithful mirror of the manners of his times and the knowledge of his age.
    * * * * * *

    Homer never wastes an epithet. He often alludes to the Ethiopians elsewhere, and always in terms of admiration and praise, as being the most just of men, and the favorites of the gods. The same allusions glimmer through the Greek mythology, and appear in the verses of almost all the Greek poets, ere yet the countries of Italy and Sicily were even discovered. The Jewish Scriptures and Jewish literature abound in allusions to this distant and mysterious people, the annals of the Egyptian priests are full of them, and uniformly, the Ethiopians are there lauded as among the best, the most religious, and most civilized of men.—Christian Examiner.

    The Ethiopians, says Diodorus, are said to be the inventors of pomps, sacrifices, solemn meetings, and other honors paid to the gods. From hence arose their character of piety, which is here celebrated by Homer. Among these there was an annual feast at Diospolis, which Eustathius mentions, when they carried about the statues of Jupiter and other gods, for twelve days, according to their number; to which, if we add the ancient custom of setting meat before statues, it will appear to be a rite from which this fable might easily have arisen.
  30. ^  [The original word (πολυβενθεος) seems to express variety of soundings, an idea probably not to be conveyed in an English epithet.—Tr.]
  31. ^  The following passage gives the most exact account of the ancient sacrifices that we have left us. There is first, the purification by the washing of hands; second, the offering up of prayers; third, the barley-cakes thrown upon the victim; fourth, the manner of killing it, with the head turned upwards; fifth, selecting the thighs and fat for their gods, as the best of the sacrifice, and disposing about them pieces cut from every part for a representation of the whole (hence the thighs are frequently spoken of in Homer and the Greek poets as the whole victim); sixth, the libation of wine; seventh, consuming the thighs in the fire of the altar; eighth, the sacrificers dressing and feasting on the rest, with joy and hymns to the gods.
  32. ^  The Pæan (originally sung in honor of Apollo) was a hymn to propitiate the god, and also a song of thanksgiving, when freed from danger. It was always of a joyous nature. Both tune and sound expressed hope and confidence. It was sung by several persons, one of whom probably led the others, and the singers either marched onward, or sat together at table.
  33. ^  It was the custom to draw the ships entirely upon the shore, and to secure them by long props.—Felton
  34. ^  Suppliants threw themselves at the feet of the person to whom the supplication was addressed, and embraced his knees.—Felton.
  35. ^  Ambrosia, the food of the gods, conferred upon them eternal youth and immortality, and was brought to Jupiter by pigeons. It was also used by the gods for anointing the body and hair. Hence the expression, ambrosial locks.
  36. ^  The original says, "the ox-eyed goddess," which furnishes Coleridge with one of the hints on which he proceeds in historically identifying the Argive Juno with Io and Isis, &c. There is real wit in Homer's making her say to Jupiter, "I never search thy thoughts," &c. The principle of conservatism asks nothing of the intellectual power, but blindly contends, reposing upon the instinct of a common sense, which leads her always to surmise that something is intended by the intellectual power that she shall not like.—E.P.P.
  37. ^  This refers to an old fable of Jupiter's hanging up Juno and whipping her. Homer introduces it without reference to its meaning, which was undoubtedly some physical truth connected with the ether and the atmosphere.—E.P.P.
  38. ^  [The reader, in order that he may partake with the gods in the drollery of this scene, should observe that the crippled and distorted Vulcan had thrust himself into an office at all other times administered either by Hebe or Ganymede.—Tr.]
  39. ^  As Minerva or Wisdom was among the company, the poet's making Vulcan act the part of peace-maker, would appear to have been from choice, knowing that a mirthful person may often stop a quarrel, by making himself the subject of merriment.