The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 20



Meanwhile in the camp of the Greeks they mourned for Patroclus. And Achilles stood among his Myrmidons and said:—

"Vain was the promise that I made to Menœtius that I would bring back his son with his portion of the spoils of Troy. But Zeus fulfils not the thoughts of man. For he lies dead, nor shall I return to the house of Peleus, my father, for I, too, must die in this land. But thee, O Patroclus, I will not bury till I bring hither the head and the arms of Hector, and twelve men of Troy to slay at thy funeral pile."

So they washed the body of Patroclus and anointed it, putting ointment nine years old into the wounds, and laid it on a bed, and covered it with a linen cloth from the head to the feet, and laid a white robe over it. All night the Myrmidons mourned for Patroclus dead; and Zeus spake to Hera, saying:—

"So thou hast had thy will, and hast roused Achilles, the swift of foot. Truly thou art as a mother to the Greeks!"

And Hera answered: "Will not a man make good his word to his fellow, though he be but a man? Then how should I, who am chief among the goddesses, not send trouble on the Trojans, against whom I have great wrath?"

But Thetis went to the house of Hephæstus. She found him busy at his work, making twenty cauldrons with three feet, that were to stand about the house of the gods. Golden wheels had they beneath, that they might go of their own motion into the chambers of the gods, and of their own motion return. But Charis, which is by interpretation Grace, that was wife to Hephæstus, espied Thetis, and caught her by the hands, and said, "Why, goddess, whom we love and honour, comest thou to our house, though thou art not wont so to do?"

So spake she, and led her in, and set her on a silver-studded chair, and put a chair beneath her feet. Then she called to her husband, saying:—

"Come quick. Thetis would have somewhat of thee."

And he said: "Verily, there is one in my house that was my saviour in the day of trouble; for my mother cast me out because I was lame, but Thetis and her sister received me in the sea. Nine years I dwelt with them, and hammered many a trinket in a hollow cave. Verily, I would pay the price of my life for Thetis."

Then he put away his tools, and washed himself, and took a staff in his hand, and came into the house, and sat upon a chair, and said: "Speak all thy mind. I will do thy pleasure, if it can be done."

Then did Thetis tell him of her son Achilles, and of the wrong that had been done to him, and of his wrath, and of how Patroclus was dead, and that the arms that he had had were lost.

"Make me now," she said, "for him a shield and a helmet, and greaves, and a corselet."

And Hephæstus answered: "Be of good cheer. Would that I could keep from him the doom of death as easily as I can make him such arms that a man will wonder when he looks upon them."

Then he went to his smithy, and turned the bellows to the fire, and bade them work. Also he put bronze and tin and gold and silver into the fire, to melt them, and set the anvil, and took the hammer in one hand, and the tongs in the other.

First he made a shield, great and strong, and fastened thereto a belt of silver. On it he wrought the earth, and the sky, and the sea, and the sun, and the moon, and all the stars. He wrought also two cities. In the one there was peace, and about the other there was war. For in the first they led a bride to her home with music and dancing, and the women stood in the doors to see the show, and in the marketplace the judges judged about one that had been slain, and one man said that he had paid the price of blood, and the other denied. But about the other city there sat an army besieging it, and the men of the city stood upon the wall defending it. These had also set an ambush by a river where the herds were wont to drink. And when the herds came down, they rose up and took them and slew the herdsmen. But the army of the besiegers heard the cry, and came swiftly on horses, and fought by the bank of the river. Also he wrought one field where many men drove the plough, and another where reapers reaped the corn, and boys gathered it in their arms to bind into sheaves, while the lord stood glad at heart, beholding them. Also he wrought a vineyard, wherein was a path, and youths and maidens bearing baskets of grapes, and in the midst a boy played on a harp of gold and sang a pleasant song. Also he made a herd of oxen going from the stables to the pastures, and herdsmen and dogs, and in the front two lions had caught a mighty bull and were devouring it, while the dogs stood far off and barked. Also he made a sheepfold; also a marvellous dance of men and maidens, and these had coronets of gold, and those daggers of gold hanging from belts of silver. And round about the shield he wrought the great river of ocean.

Besides the shield, he also made a corselet brighter than fire, and a great helmet with a ridge of gold for the crest, and greaves of tin.

Thetis bringing the Armour to Achilles.jpg

Thetis bringing the Armour to Achilles.

And when he had finished all the armour, he set them before the mother of Achilles. Like to a hawk did she leap from Olympus, carrying them to her son. And when she came to the ships, she found him lying on the earth with his arms about the body of Patroclus, weeping aloud, and his men stood about lamenting.

The goddess stood in the midst, and clasped her son by the hand, and spake: "Come, now, let us leave the dead man; for he hath been slain according to the ordering of the gods. And do thou receive from Hephæstus this armour, exceeding beautiful, such as man never yet wore upon his shoulders."

So she spake, and cast the armour before Achilles. Loud did it rattle as it fell, and the Myrmidons feared to look upon the sight. But Achilles took the splendid armour into his hand, and was glad, and spake, saying: "Mother, the gods have given me arms, such as it is fitting should be made in heaven, and I vow I will arm me for the fight. Yet much I fear that decay will mar the body of Patroclus, now that the life hath gone from out of it."

But Thetis made answer: "Let not this trouble thee; I will keep decay from his flesh, yea, though he should lie here till the year come round again. Go, then, and call the people to the assembly, and put away thy wrath against King Agamemnon, and arm thyself for the battle."

So she spake, putting trust and valour into his soul; and into the nostrils of the dead man she poured ambrosia and ruddy nectar, that his flesh might be sweet.