Ajax and Ulysses
The chiefs were seated, and the soldiers form
a circle round them. Then Ajax, the approved
lord of the seven-fold shield, arose and spoke.
Impatient in his wrath, he looked with stern,
set features, out over Sigaean shores,
and over the fleet of ships upon the beach,
and, stretching out his hands, he said,
and, stretching out his hands, he said, "We plead,
O Jupiter, our cause before the ships, --
Ulysses vies with me! He did not shrink
from giving way before the flames of Hector,
when I withstood them and I saved the fleet.
'Tis safer then to fight with lying words
than with his hands. I am not prompt to speak,
nor he to act. I am as good in war
and deadly battle as he is in talk.
Pelasgians, I do not suppose my deeds
must here be mentioned: you have witnessed them
but let Ulysses tell of deeds which he
performed without a witness and which Night
alone is conscious of. I own the prize
we seek is great, but such a rival makes
it small. To Ajax there s no cause for pride
in having any prize, however great,
for which Ulysses hoped. But he has won
reward enough already. He can boast,
when vanquished, that he strove with me.
"I, even if my merit were in doubt
should still excell in birth. I am the son
of Telamon, who with great Hercules
brought low the power of Troy and in the ship
of Jason voyaged even to the Colchian shores.
His father, Aeacus, now is a judge
among the silent shades -- where Sisyphus
toils and is mocked forever with the stone.
Great Jove himself calls Aeacus his son.
Thus, Ajax is the third from Jupiter.
But, Greeks, let not this line of my descent
avail me, if I do not share it with
my cousin, great Achilles. I demand
these arms now due me as a cousin. Why
should this one, from the blood of Sisyphus,
and like him for his thefts and frauds, intrude
the names of that loathed family upon
honored descendants of brave Aeacus?
"Will you deny me arms because I took
arms earlier, no man prompting me,
and call this man the better, who last of all
took up arms, and, pretending he was mad,
declined war, till the son of Naplius
more shrewd than he (but to his future cost)
discovered the contrivance of the fraud
and had the coward dragged forth to the arms
he had avoided. And shall this man have
the world's best arms, who wanted none?
Shall I lack honor and my cousin's gift
because I faced the danger with the first?
"Would that his madness had been real, or
had been accepted as reality
and that he never had attended us,
as our companion to the Phrygian towers,
this counsellor of evil! Then, good son
of Poeas, Lemnos would not hold you now,
exposed through guilt of ours! You, as men say,
hidden in forest lairs, are moving with your groans
the very rocks and asking for Ulysses
what he so well deserves -- what, if indeed
there still are gods, you shall not ask in vain.
And now, one of our leaders, he that was
sworn to the same arms with ourselves! by whom
the arrows of great Hercules are used,
as his successor; broken by disease
and famine, clothed with feathers, now must feed
on birds and squander for his wretched fare
the arrows destined for the wreck of Troy.
"At least he lives, because he has not stayed
too near Ulysses. Hapless Palamedes
might wish that he too had been left behind,
then he would live or would have met a death
without dishonor. For this man, who well
remembered the unfortunate discovery
of his feigned madness, made a fraudulent
attack on Palamedes, who he said
betrayed the Grecian interest. He proved
his false charge to the Greeks by showing them
the gold which he himself hid in the ground.
By exile or by death he has decreased
the true strength of the Greeks. And so he fights,
for such things men have cause to fear Ulysses!
"Should he excel the faithful Nestor by
his eloquence, I'd yet be well convinced
the way he forsook Nestor was a crime,
old Nestor, who implored in vain his aid,
when he was hindered by his wounded steed
and wearied with the years of his old age,
was then deserted by that scheming man.
The charge that I have made is strictly true,
and the son of Tydeus knows it all too well;
for he at that time called him by his name,
rebuked him and upbraided his weak friend
for coward flight.
for coward flight. "The gods above behold
the affairs of men with justice. That same man
who would not help a friend now calls for help;
he who forsook a friend, should be forsaken,
the law he made returns upon himself.
He called aloud on his companions;
I came and saw him trembling, pale with fear,
and shuddering, at the thought of coming death.
I held my shield above him where he lay,
and that way saved the villain's dastard life,
and little praise I have deserved for that.
If you still wish to claim this armor, let
us both return to that place and restore
the enemy, your wound, and usual fear --
there hide behind my shield, and under that
contend with me! Yet, when I faced the foe,
he, whom his wound had left no power to stand,
forgot the wound and took to headlong flight.
"Hector approached, and brought the gods with him
to battle; and, wherever he rushed on,
not only this Ulysses was alarmed,
but even the valiant, for so great the fear
he caused them. Hector, proud in his success
in blood and slaughter, I then dared to meet
and with a huge: stone from a distance hurled
I laid him flat. When he demanded one
to fight with, I engaged him quite alone,
for you my Greek friends, prayed the lot
might fall upon me, and your prayers prevailed.
If you should ask me of this fight, I will
declare I was not vanquished there by him.
"Behold, the Trojans brought forth fire and sword
and Jove, as well, against the Grecian fleet,
where now has eloquent Ulysses gone?
Truly, I did protect a thousand ships
with my breast, saving the hopes of your return. --
for all these many ships, award me arms!
But, let me speak the truth, the arms will gain
more fame than I, for they will share my glory.
And they need Ajax, Ajax needs not them.
Let the Ithacan compare with deeds like mine
his sleeping Rhesus, his unwarlike Dolon,
Helenus taken, and Pallas gained by theft --
all done by night and all with Diomed.
If you must give these arms for deeds so mean,
then give the greater share to Diomed.
"Why give arms to Ulysses, who by stealth
and quite unarmed, has always done his work,
deceiving his unwary enemy
by stratagems? This brilliant helmet, rich
with sparkling gold, will certainly betray
his plans, and will discover him when hid.
His soft Dulichian head beneath the helm
of great Achilles will not bear the weight;
Achilles' heavy spear from Pelion must
be burdensome for his unwarlike hands:
nor will the shield, graven with the vasty world
beseem a dastard left hand, smooth for theft.
"Why caitiff, will you beg them for a gift,
which will but weaken you? If by mistake,
the Grecian people should award you this,
it would not fright the foe but offer spoils
and that swift flight (in which alone you have
excelled all others, dastard wretch!) would soon
grow laggard, dragging such a weight. And that
good shield of yours, which has but rarely felt
a conflict, is unhurt; for mine, agape
with wounds a thousand from swift-striking darts,
a new one must be found.
a new one must be found. "In short, what need
is there for words? Let us be tried in war.
Let all the arms of brave Achilles now
be thrown among the foe; order them all
to be retrieved; and decorate for war
whoever brings them back, a worthy prize."
Ajax, the son of Telamon, stopped speech,
and murmuring among the multitude
followed his closing words, until Ulysses,
Laertian hero, stood up there and fixed
his eyes a short time on the ground; then raised
them towards the chiefs; and with his opening words,
which they awaited, the grace of his art
was not found wanting to his eloquence.
"If my desire and yours could have prevailed,
O noble Greeks, the man who should receive
a prize so valued, would not be in doubt,
and you would now enjoy your arms, and we
enjoy you, great Achilles. Since unjust
fate has denied him both to me and you,
(and here he wiped his eyes dry with his hands,
as though then shedding tears,) who could succeed
the great Achilles better than the one
through whom the great Achilles joined the Greeks?
Let Ajax win no votes because he seems
to be as stupid as the truth declares.
Let not my talents, which were always used
for service of the Greeks, increase my harm:
and let this eloquence of mine (if such
we call it) which is pleading now for me,
as it has pleaded many times for you,
awake no envy. Let each man show his best.
"Now as for ancestors and noble birth
and deeds we have not done ourselves, all these
I hardly call them ours. But, if he boasts
because he is the great grandson of Jove,
the founder of my family, you know,
is Jupiter; by birth I am just the same
degree removed from Jupiter as he.
Laertes is my father, my grandsire is
Arcesius; and my great grandsire is Jove,
and my line: has no banished criminal.
My mother's grandsire, Mercury, would give
me further claims of birth -- on either side a god.
"But not because my mother's line is better
and not because my father certainly,
is innocent of his own brother's blood,
have I advanced my claim to own those arms.
Let personal merit weigh the cause alone.
Let Ajax win no credit from the fact
that Telamon, was brother unto Peleus.
Let not his merit be that he is near by blood,
may honor of manhood weigh in your award!
"But, if you seek the heir and next of kin,
Peleus is father, and Pyrrhus is the son
of great Achilles. Where is Ajax then?
These arms might go to Phthia or to Scyros!
Teucer might claim the prize because he is
Achilles' cousin. Does he seek these arms?
And, if he did, would you allow his claim?
"Since then the contest lies in deeds alone,
though I have done more than may be well told,
I will recall them as they have occurred.
"Achilles' Nereid mother, who foresaw
his death, concealed her son by change of dress.
By that disguise Ajax, among the rest,
was well deceived. I showed with women's wares
arms that might win the spirit of a man.
The hero still wore clothing of a girl,
when, as he held a shield and spear, I said
'Son of a goddess! Pergama but waits
to fall by you, why do you hesitate
to assure the overthrow of mighty Troy?'
With these bold words, I laid my hand on him --
and to: brave actions I sent forth the brave:
his deeds of Bravery are therefore mine
it was my power that conquered Telephus,
as he fought with his lance; it was through me
that, vanquished and suppliant? he at last was healed.
I caused the fall of Thebes; believe me, I
took Lesbos, Tenedos, Chryse and Cilla --
the cities of Apollo; and I took
Scyros; think too, of the Lyrnesian wall
as shaken by my hand, destroyed, and thrown
down level with the ground. Let this suffice:
I found the man who caused fierce Hector's death,
through me the famous Hector now, lies low!
And for those arms which made Achilles known
I now demand these arms. To him alive
I gave them -- at his death they should be mine.
"After the grief of one had reached all Greece,
and ships a thousand, filled Euboean Aulis;
the breezes long expected would not blow
or adverse held the helpless fleet ashore.
Then ruthless oracles gave their command,
that Agamemnon should make sacrifice
of his loved daughter and so satisfy
Diana's cruel heart. The father stood
up resolute, enraged against the gods,
a parent even though a king. I turned,
by tactful! words, a father's tender heart
to the great issue of the public weal.
I will confess it, and when I have confessed,
may the son of Atreus pardon: I had to plead
a difficult case before a partial judge.
The people's good, his brother's, and stern duty,
that followed his great office, won his ear,
till royal honor outweighed claims of blood.
I sought the mother, who could not be won
by pleading but must be deceived by craft.
Had Ajax gone to her, our thousand sails
would still droop, waiting for the favoring breeze.
"As a bold envoy I was even sent
off to the towers of Ilium, and there
I saw the senate-house of lofty Troy,
and, fearless, entered it, while it was full
of heroes. There, undaunted, I spoke for
the cause which all the Greeks had given me.
Accusing Paris, I demanded back
the gold and stolen Helen, and I moved
both Priam and Antenor. All the while
Paris, his brothers, and their robber crew
could scarce withhold their wicked hands from me.
And all this, Menelaus, is well known to you:
that was the first danger I shared with you.
"I need not linger over the many things
which by my counsel and my bravery
I have accomplished through this long-drawn war.
"A long time, after the first battle clash,
the foe lay quiet within city walls,
giving no challenge for an open fight --
he stood nine years of siege before we fought
what were you doing all that tedious time,
what use were you, good only in a fight?
If you will make inquiry of my deeds:
I fashioned ambuscades for enemies;
and circled our defenses with a trench;
I cheered allies so they might all endure
with patient minds a long, protracted war;
I showed how our own army might subsist
and how it could be armed; and I was sent
wherever the necessity required.
"Then, at the wish of Jove, our king, deceive
by A false dream, bids us give up the war --
he could excuse his order by the cause.
Let Ajax tell him Troy must be laid low
or let him fight -- at least he can do that!
Why does he fail to stop the fugitives?
Why not take arms and tell the wavering crowd
to rally round him? Would that be too much
for one who never speaks except to boast?
But now words fail me: Ajax turns and flees!
I witnessed it and was ashamed to see
you turn disgraced, preparing sails for flight.
With exclamations and without delay,
I said, 'What are you doing? O my friends,
has madness seized you that you will quit Troy,
which is as good as taken? What can you
bear home, after ten years, but your disgrace?'
"With these commanding words, which grief itself
gave eloquence, I brought resisting Greeks
back from their purposed flight. Atrides called
together his allies, all terror struck.
Even then, Ajax the son of Telamon
dared not vouchsafe one word. But impudent
Thersites hurled vile words against the kings,
and, thanks to me, he did not miss reproof.
I rose and spoke to my disheartened friends,
reviving their lost courage with my words
from that time forth, whatever deeds this man,
my rival, may have done, belong to me.
'Twas I who stayed his flight and brought him back.
"Which of the noble Greeks has given you praise
or sought your company? Yet Diomed
has shared his deeds with me and praises me,
and, while Ulysses is with him, is brave
and confident. 'Tis worthy of regard,
when out of many thousands of the Greeks,
a man becomes the choice of Diomed!
"It was not lot that ordered me to go;
and yet, despising dangers of the night,
despising dangers of the enemy,
I slew one, Dolon, of the Phrygian race,
who dared to do the very things we dared,
but not before I had prevailed on him
to tell me everything, by which I learned
perfidious actions which Troy had designed.
"Of such things now, I had discovered all
that should be found out, and I might have then
returned to enjoy the praise I had deserved.
But not content with that, I sought the tent
of Rhesus, and within his camp I slew
him and his proved attendants. Having thus
gained as a conqueror my own desires,
I drove back in a captured chariot, --
a joyous triumph. Well, deny me, then.
The arms of him whose steeds the enemy
demanded as the price of one night's aid.
Ajax himself has been more generous.
"Why should I name Sarpedon's Lycian troops
among whom I made havoc with my sword?
I left Coeranos dead and streaming blood,
with the sword I killed Alastor, Chromius,
Alcander, Prytanis, Halius, and Noemon,
Thoon and Charops with Chersidamas,
and Ennomus -- all driven by cruel fate,
not reckoning humbler men whom I laid low,
battling beneath the shadow of the city walls.
And fellow citizens, I have my wounds
honorable in the front. Do not believe
my word alone. Look for yourselves and see!"
Then with one hand, he drew his robe aside.
"Here is a breast," he cried, "that bled for you!
But Ajax never shed a drop of blood
to aid his friends, in all these many years,
and has a body free of any wound.
"What does it prove, if he declares that he
fought for our ships against both Troy and Jove?
I grant he did, for it is not my wont
with malice to belittle other's deeds.
But let him not claim for himself alone
an honor in which all may have a share,
let him concede some credit due to you.
Disguised within the fear inspiring arms
of great Achilles, Actor's son drove back
the host of Trojans from our threatened fleet
or ships and Ajax would have burned together.
"Unmindful of the king, the chiefs, and me,
he dreams that he alone dared to engage
in single fight with Hector -- he the ninth
to volunteer and chosen just by lot.
But yet, O brave chief! What availed the fight?
Hector returned, not injured by a wound.
"Ah, bitter fate, with how much grief I am
compelled to recollect the time, when brave
Achilles, bulwark of the Greeks, was slain.
Nor tears, nor grief, nor fear, could hinder me:
I carried his dead body from the ground,
uplifted on these shoulders, I repeat,
upon these shoulders from that ground
I bore off dead Achilles, and those arms
which now I want to bear away again.
I have the strength to walk beneath their weight,
I have a mind to understand their worth.
Did the hero's mother, goddess of the sea,
win for her son these arms, made by a god,
a work of wondrous art, to have them clothe
a rude soldier, who has no mind at all?
He never could be made to understand
the rich engravings, pictured on the shield --
the ocean, earth, and stars in lofty skies;
the Pleiades, and Hyades, the Bear,
which touches not the ocean, far beyond
the varied planets, and the fire-bright sword
of high Orion. He demands a prize,
which, if he had it, would be lost on him.
"What of his taunting me, because I shrank
from hardships of this war and I was slow
to join the expedition? Does he not see,
that he reviles the great Achilles too?
Was my pretense a crime? then so was his.
Was our delay a fault? mine was the less,
for I came sooner; me a loving wife
detained from war, a loving mother him.
Some hours we gave to them, the rest to you.
Why should I be alarmed, if now I am
unable to defend myself against
this accusation, which is just the same
as you have brought against so great a man?
Yet he was found by the dexterity
of me, Ulysses, and Ulysses was
not found by the dexterity of Ajax.
"It is no wonder that he pours on me
reproaches of his silly tongue, because
he charges you with what is worthy shame.
Am I depraved because this Palamedes has
improperly been charged with crime by me?
Then was it honorable for all of you,
if you condemned him? Only think, that he,
the son of Naplius, made no defence
against the crime, so great, so manifest:
nor did you only hear the charges brought
against him, but you saw the proof yourselves,
and in the gold his villainy was shown.
"Nor am I to be blamed, if Vulcan's isle
of Lemnos has become the residence
of Philoctetes. Greeks, defend yourselves,
for you agreed to it! Yes, I admit
I urged him to withdraw from toils of war
and those of travel and attempt by rest
to ease his cruel pain. He took my advice
and lives! The advice was not alone well meant
(that would have been enough) but it was wise.
Because our prophets have declared, he must
lead us, if we may still maintain our hope
for Troy's destruction -- therefore, you must not
intrust that work to me. Much better, send
the son of Telamon. His eloquence
will overcome the hero's rage, most fierce
from his disease and anger: or else his
invention of some wile will skilfully
deliver him to us. -- The Simois
will first flow backward, Ida stand without
its foliage, and Achaia promise aid
to Troy itself; ere, lacking aid from me,
the craft of stupid Ajax will avail.
"Though, Philoctetes, you should be enraged
against your friends, against the king and me;
although you curse and everlastingly
devote my head to harm; although you wish,
to ease your anguish, that I may be given
into your power, that you may shed my blood;
and though you wait your turn and chance at me;
still I will undertake the quest and will
try all my skill to bring you back with me.
If my good fortune then will favor me,
I shall obtain your arrows; as I made
the Trojan seer my captive, as I learned
the heavenly oracles and fate of Troy,
and as I brought back through a host of foes
Minerva's image from the citadel.
"And is it possible, Ajax may now
compare himself with me? Truly the Fates
will hold Troy from our capture, if we leave
the statue. Where is valiant Ajax now,
where are the boasts of that tremendous man?
Why are you trembling, while Ulysses dares
to go beyond our guards and brave the night?
In spite of hostile swords, he goes within
not only the strong walls of Troy but even
the citadel, lifts up the goddess from
her shrine, and takes her through the enemy!
If I had not done this, Telamon's son
would bear his shield of seven bull hides in vain.
That night I gained the victory over Troy --
'Twas then I won our war with Pergama,
because I made it possible to win.
"Stop hinting by your look and muttered words
that Diomed was my partner in the deed.
The praise he won is his. You, certainly
fought not alone, when you held up your shield
to save the allied fleet: a multitude
was with you, but a single man gave me
his valued help.
his valued help. "And if he did not know
a fighting man can not gain victory
so surely as the wise man, that the prize
is given to something rarer than a brave right hand,
he would himself be a contender now
for these illustrious arms. Ajax the less
would have come forward too, so would the fierce
Eurypylus, so would Andraemon's son.
Nor would Idomeneus withhold his claim,
nor would his countryman Meriones.
Yes, Menelaus too would seek the prize.
All these brave men, my equals in the field,
have yielded to my wisdom.
have yielded to my wisdom. "Your right hand
is valuable in war, your temper stands
in need of my direction. You have strength
without intelligence; I look out for
the future. You are able in the fight;
I help our king to find the proper time.
Your body may give service, and my mind
must point the way: and just as much as he
who guides the ship must be superior
to him who rows it; and we all agree
the general is greater than the soldier; so,
do I excel you. In the body lives
an intellect much rarer than a hand,
by that we measure human excellence.
"O chieftains, recompense my vigilance!
For all these years of anxious care, award
this honor to my many services.
Our victory is in sight; I have removed
the opposing fates and, opening wide the way
to capture Pergama, have captured it.
Now by our common hopes, by Troy's high walls
already tottering and about to fall,
and by the gods that I won from the foe,
by what remains for wisdom to devise
or what may call for bold and fearless deeds --
if you think any hope is left for Troy,
remember me! Or, if you do not give
these arms to me, then give them all to her!"
And he pointed to Minerva's fateful head.
The assembled body of the chiefs was moved;
and then, appeared the power of eloquence:
the fluent man received, amid applause,
the arms of the brave man. His rival, who
so often when alone, stood firm against
great Hector and the sword, and flames and Jove,
stood not against a single passion, wrath.
The unconquerable was conquered by his grief.
He drew his sword, and said: -- "This is at least
my own; or will Ulysses also claim
this, for himself. I must use this against
myself -- the blade which often has been wet,
dripping with blood of Phrygians I have slain,.
Will drip with his own master's:blood,
lest any man but Ajax vanquish Ajax."
Saying this, he turned toward the vital spot
in his own breast, which never had felt a wound,
the fated sword and plunged it deeply in.
though many sought to aid, no hand had strength
to draw that steel -- deep driven. The blood itself
unaided drove it out. The ensanguined earth
sprouted from her green turf that purple flower
which grew of old from Hyacinthine blood.
Its petals now are charged with double freight --
the warrior's name, Apollo's cry of woe.
The conqueror, Ulysses, now set sail,
for Lemnos, country of Hypsipyle,
and for the land of Thoas, famed afar,
those regions infamous in olden days,
where women slew their husbands. So he went
that he might capture and bring back with him
the arrows of brave Hercules. When these
were given back to the Greeks, their lord with them,
a final hand at last prevailed to end
that long fought war. Both Troy and Priam fell,
and Priam's wretched wife lost all she had,
until at last she lost her human form.
Her savage barkings frightened foreign lands,
where the long Hellespont is narrowed down.
Great Troy was burning: while the fire still raged,
Jove's altar drank old Priam's scanty blood.
The priestess of Apollo then, alas!
Was dragged by her long hair, while up towards heaven
she lifted supplicating hands in vain.
The Trojan matrons, clinging while they could
to burning temples and ancestral gods,
victorious Greeks drag off as welcome spoil.
Astyanax was hurled down from the very tower
from which he often had looked forth and seen
his father, by his mother pointed out,
when Hector fought for honor and his country's weal.
Now Boreas counsels to depart. The sails,
moved by a prosperous breeze, resound and wave --
the Trojan women cry, -- "Farewell to Troy!
Ah, we are hurried off! " and, falling down,
they kiss the soil, and leave the smoking roofs
of their loved native land. The last to go
on board the fleet was Hecuba, a sight
most pitiful. She was found among the tombs
of her lost sons. While she embraced each urn
and fondly kissed their bones, Ulysses came
with ruthless hands and bore her off, his prize
she in her bosom took away the urn
of Hector only, and upon his grave
she left some white hair taken from her head,
a meager gift, her white hair and her tears.
Across the strait from Troy, there is a land
claimed by Bistonian men, and in that land
was a rich palace, built there by a king
named Polymnestor. To him the Phrygian king
in secret gave his youngest son to rear,
his Polydorus, safe from Troy and war,
a prudent course, if he had not sent gold
arousing greed, incitement to a crime.
Soon, when the fortunes of the Trojans fell,
that wicked king of Thrace took his own sword,
and pierced the throat of his poor foster son
and then, as if the deed could be concealed,
if he removed the body, hurled the boy
from a wild cliff into the waves below.
Until the sea might be more calm, and gales
of wind might be subdued, Atrides moored
his fleet of ships upon the Thracian shore;
there, from wide gaping earth, Achilles rose,
as large as when he lived, with look as fierce,
as when his sword once threatened Agamemnon.
"Forgetting me do you depart, O Greeks?"
He said, "And is your grateful! memory
of all my worth interred with my bones?
Do not do so. And that my sepulchre
may have due worship, let Polyxena
be immolated to appease the ghost:
of dead Achilles." Fiercely so he spoke.
The old friends of Achilles all obeyed
his unforgiving shade; and instantly
the noble and unhappy virgin -- brave,
more like a man than woman -- was torn from
her mother's bosom, cherished more by her,
since widowed and alone. And then they led
the virgin as a sacrifice from there
up to the cruel altar. When the maid
observed the savage rites prepared for her,
and when she noticed Neoptolemus
stand by her with his cruel sword in hand,
his fixed eyes on her countenance; she said: --
"Do not delay my generous gift of blood,
with no resistance thrust the ready steel
into my throat or breast!" And then she laid
both throat and bosom bare. "Polyxena
would never wish to live in slavery.
And such rites win no favor from a god.
Only I fondly wish my mother might
not know that I have died. My love of her
takes from my joy in death and gives me fear.
Not my death truly, but her own sad life
should be the most lamented in her tears.
Now let your men stand back, that I may go
with dignity down to the Stygian shades,
and, if my plea is just, let no man's hand
touch my pure virgin body. A nobler gift
to him, whoever he may be, whom you
desire to placate with my death today,
shall be a free maid's blood. But, if my words --
my parting wish, has power to touch your hearts,
(King Priam's daughter, not a captive, pleads)
freely return my body to my mother,
let her not pay with gold for the sad right
to bury me -- but only with her tears!
Yes, when she could, she also paid with gold."
After she said these words, the people could
no more restrain their tears; but no one saw
her shed one tear. Even the priest himself,
reluctantly and weeping, drove the steel
into her proffered breast. On failing knees
she sank down to the earth; but still maintained
a countenance undaunted to the last:
and, even unto death, it was her care
to cover all that ought to be concealed,
and save the value of chaste modesty.
The Trojan matrons took her and recalled,
lamenting, all the sons of Priam dead,
the wealth of blood one house had shed for all.
And they bewailed the chaste Polyxena
and you, her mother, only lately called
a royal mother and a royal wife, --
the soul of Asia's fair prosperity,;
now lowest fallen in all the wreck of Troy.
The conquering Ulysses only claimed
her his because she had brought Hector forth:
and Hector hardly found a master for
his mother. She continued to embrace
the body of a soul so brave, and shed
her tears, as she had shed them often before
for country lost, for sons, for royal mate.
She bathed her daughter's wounds with tears and kissed
them with her lips and once more beat her breast.
Her white hair streamed down in the clotting blood,
she tore her breast, and this and more she said:
"My daughter, what further sorrow can be mine?
My daughter you lie dead, I see your wounds --
they are indeed my own. Lest I should lose
one child of mine without a cruel sword,
you have your wound. I thought, because
you were a woman, you were safe from swords.
But you, a woman, felt the deadly steel.
That same Achilles, who has given to death
so many of your brothers, caused your death,
the bane of Troy and the serpent by my nest!
When Paris and when Phoebus with their shafts
had laid him low, 'Ah, now at least,' I said,
'Achilles will no longer cause me dread.'
Yet even then he still was to be feared.
For him I have been fertile! Mighty Troy
now lies in ruin, and the public woe
is ended in one vast calamity.
For me alone the woe of Troy still lives.
"But lately on the pinnacle of fame,
surrounded by my powerful sons-in-law,
daughters, and daughters-in-law, and strong
in my great husband, I am exiled now,
and destitute, and forced from the sad tombs
of those I love, to wretched slavery,
serving Penelope: who showing me
to curious dames of Ithaca, will point
and say, while I am bending to my task,
'Look at that woman who was widely known,
the mother of great Hector, once the wife
of Priam!' After so many have been lost,
now you, last comfort of a mother's grief,
must make atonement on the foeman's tomb.
I bore a victim for my enemy.
"Why do I live -- an iron witted wretch?
Why do I linger? Why does cruel age
detain me? Why, pernicious deities,
thus hold me to this earth, unless you will
that I may weep at future funerals?
After the fall of Troy, who would suppose
King Priam could be happy? Blest in death,
he has not seen my daughter's dreadful fate.
He lost at once his kingdom and his life.
"Can I imagine you, a royal maid,
will soon be honored with due funeral rites,
and will be buried in our family tomb?
Such fortune comes no more to your sad house.
A drift of foreign sand will be your grave,
the parting gift will be your mother's tears.
We have lost everything! But no, there is
one reason why I should endure a while.
His mother's dearest, now her only child,
once youngest of that company of sons,
my Polydorus lives here on these shores
protected by the friendly Thracian king.
Then why delay to bathe these cruel wounds,
her dear face spattered with the dreadful blood?"
So Hecuba went wailing towards the shore
with aged step and tearing her gray hair.
At last the unhappy mother said, "Give me
an urn; O, Trojan women!" for, she wished
to dip up salt sea water. But just then,
she saw the corpse of her last son, thrown out
upon the shore; her Polydorus, killed,
disfigured with deep wounds of Thracian swords.
The Trojan women cried aloud, and she
was struck dumb with her agony, which quite
consumed both voice and tears within her heart --
rigid and still she seemed as a hard rock.
And now she gazes at the earth in front
now lifts her haggard face up toward the skies,
now scans that body lying stark and dead,
now scans his wounds and most of all the wounds.
She arms herself and draws up all her wrath.
It burned as if she still held regal power
she gave up all life to the single thought
of quick revenge. Just as a lioness
rages when plundered of her suckling cub
and follows on his trail the unseen foe,
so, Hecuba with rage mixed in her grief
forgetful of her years, not her intent,
went hastily to Polymnestor, who
contrived this dreadful murder, and desired
an interview, pretending it was her wish
to show him hidden gold, for her lost son.
The Odrysian king believed it all:
accustomed to the love of gain, he went
with her, in secret, to the spot she chose.
Then craftily he said in his bland way:
"Oh, Hecuba, you need not wait, give now,
munificently to your son -- and all
you give, and all that you have given,
by the good gods, I swear, shall be his own."
She eyed him sternly as he spoke
and swore so falsely. -- Then her rage boiled over,
and, seconded by all her captive train,
she flew at him and drove her fingers deep
in his perfidious eyes; and tore them from
his face -- and plunged her hands into the raw
and bleeding sockets (passion made her strong),
defiled with his bad blood. How could she tear
his eyes, gone from their seats? She wildly gouged
the sightless sockets of his bleeding face!
The Thracians, angered by such violence done
upon their king, immediately attacked
the Trojan matron with their stones and darts
but she with hoarse growling and snapping jaws
sprang at the stones, and, when she tried to speak,
she barked like a fierce dog. The place still bears
a name suggested by her hideous change.
And she, long mindful! of her old time woe,
ran howling dismally in Thracian fields.
Her sad fate moved the Trojans and the Greeks,
her friends and foes, and all the heavenly gods.
Yes all, for even the sister-wife of Jove
denied that Hecuba deserved such fate.
The birds of Memnon
Although Aurora had given aid to Troy,
she had no heart nor leisure to be moved
by fall of Troy or fate of Hecuba.
At home she bore a greater grief and care;
her loss of Memnon is afflicting her.
Aurora, his rose-tinted mother, saw
him perish by Achilles' deadly spear,
upon the Phrygian plain. She saw his death,
and the loved rose that lights the dawning hour
turned death-pale, and the sky was veiled in clouds.
The parent could not bear to see his limbs
laid on the final flames. Just as she was,
with loose hair streaming round her, she did not
disdain to crouch down at the knees of Jove,
and said these sad words added to her tears:
"Beneath all those whom golden heaven sustains;
(inferior, for see, through all the world
my temples are so few) I have come now
a goddess, to you; not with any hope
that you may grant me temples, festivals,
and altars, heated with devoted fires:
but if you will consider the good deeds,
which I, a woman, may yet do for you,
when at the dawn I mark the edge of night;
then you may think of some reward for me.
But that is not my care; nor is it now
Aurora's purpose here, that she should plead
for honors, though deserved. I come bereaved,
of my son Memnon, who in vain bore arms
to aid his uncle and in prime of life
(0, thus you willed it!) fell stricken by the sword
of great Achilles. Give my son, I pray,
O highest ruler of the gods, some honor,
some comfort for his death, a little ease
his mother's grief." Jove nodded his assent.
Immediately the high-wrought funeral-pile
of Memnon fell down with its lofty fire,
and volumes of black smoke obscured the day,
as streams exhaling their dense rising fogs,
exclude the bright sun from the land below.
Black ashes fly and, rolling up a shape,
retain a form and gather heat and life
out of the fire. Their lightness gave them wings,
first like a bird and then in fact a bird.
The wings move whirring. In the neighboring air
uncounted sisters, of one birth and growth
together make one noise. Three times they flew
around the funeral pile; and thrice the sound
accordant of their fluttering wings went swift
upon the soft breeze. When they turned about,
their fourth flight in the skies divided them.
As two fierce races from two hostile camps,
clash in their warfare, these bird-sisters with
their beaks and crooked claws clashed, passionate,
until their tired wings and opposing breasts
could not sustain them. And those kindred-foes
fell down a sacrifice, memorial,
to Memnon's ashes buried in that place.
Brave Memnon, author of their birth, has given
his name to those birds, marvellously formed, --
and from him they are called Memnonides. --
now, always when the Sun has passed the twelve
signs of the Zodiac, they war again,
to perish as a sacrifice for him.
So others grieved, while Dymas' royal daughter
was barking: but Aurora overcome
with lasting sorrows, could not think of her:
and even now, she sheds affectionate tears:
and sprinkles them as dew on all the world.
Daughters of Anius transformed
The Fates did not allow the hope of Troy
to be destroyed entirely with her walls.
Aeneas, the heroic son of Venus,
bore on his shoulders holy images
and still another holy weight, his sire,
a venerable burden. From all his wealth
the pious hero chose this for his care
together with his child, Ascanius.
Then with a fleet of exiles he sails forth,
he leaves Antandrus, leaves the wicked realm
and shore of Thrace now dripping with the blood
of Polydorus. With fair winds and tide
he and his comrades reach Apollo's isle.
Good Anius, king of Delos, vigilant
for all his subjects' welfare, and as priest
devoted to Apollo, took him there
into his temple and his home, and showed
the city, the famed shrines, and the two trees
which once Latona, while in labor, held.
They burned sweet incense, adding to it wine,
and laid the flesh of cattle in the flames,
an offering marked by custom for the god.
Then in the palace and its kingly hall,
reclining on luxurious couches, they
drank flowing wine with Ceres' gifts of food.
But old Anchises asked: "O chosen priest
of Phoebus, can I be deceived? When first
I saw these walls, did you not have a son,
and twice two daughters? Is it possible
I am mistaken?" Anius replied, --
shaking his temples wreathed with fillets white, --
"It can be no mistake, great hero, you
did see the father of five children then,
(so much the risk of fortune may affect
the best of men). You see me now, almost
bereft of all. For what assistance can
my absent son afford, while he is king,
the ruler over Andros -- that land named
for his name -- over which he rules for me?
"The Delian god gave to my son the art
of augury; and likewise, Liber gave
my daughters precious gifts exceeding all
my wishes and belief: since, every thing
my daughters touched assumed the forms of corn,
of sparkling wine, or gray-green olive oil.
Most surely, wonderful advantages.
"Soon as Atrides, he who conquered Troy
had heard of this (for you should not suppose
that we, too, did not suffer from your storms)
he dragged my daughters there with savage force,
from my loved bosom to his hostile camp,
and ordered them to feed the Argive fleet,
by their divinely given power of touch.
"Whichever way they could, they made escape
two hastened to Euboea, and two sought
their brother's island, Andros. Quickly then
an Argive squadron, following, threatened war,
unless they were surrendered. The brother's love
gave way to fear. And there is reason why
you should forgive a timid brother's fear:
he had no warrior like Aeneas, none
like Hector, by whose prowess you held Troy
from its destruction through ten years of war.
"Strong chains were brought to hold my daughters' arms.
Both lifted suppliant hands, which still were free,
to heaven and cried, '0, Father Bacchus! give
us needed aid!' And he who had before
given them the power of touch, did give them aid --
if giving freedom without human shape
can be called giving aid. -- I never knew
by what means they lost shape, and cannot tell;
but their calamity is surely known:
my daughters were transformed to snow-white doves,
white birds of Venus, guardian of your days."
With this and other talk they shared the feast,
then left the table and retired to sleep.
They rose up with the day, and went at once
to hear the oracle of Phoebus speak.
He counselled them to leave that land and find
their ancient mother and their kindred shores.
The king attended them, and gave them gifts
when ready to depart; a sceptre to
Anchises, and a robe and quiver to
his grandson, and he gave a goblet to
Aeneas, that which formerly was sent
to him by Therses, once his Theban guest.
Therses had sent it from Aonian shores;
but Alcon the Hylean should be named,
for he had made the goblet and inscribed
a pictured story on the polished side.
There was a city shown with seven gates,
from which the name could be derived by all.
Outside the walls was a sad funeral,
and tombs and fires and funeral pyres were shown,
and many matrons with dishevelled hair
and naked breasts, expressive of their grief,
and many nymphs too, weeping mournfully
because their streams were dry. Without a leaf
the bare trees stood straight up and the she goats
were nibbling in dry, stony fields. And there he carved
Orion's daughters in the Theban square,
one giving her bare throat a cruel cut,
one with her shuttle making clumsy wounds;
both dying for their people. Next they were borne
out through the city with doe funeral pomp,
and mourning crowds were gathered round their pyre.
Then from the virgin ashes, lest the race
should die. twin youths arose, whom fame
has named Coroni and they shared
in all the rites becoming for their mothers' dust.
Even so in shining figures all was shown
inscribed on ancient bronze. The top rim, made
quite rough, was gilded with acanthus leaves.
Presents of equal worth the Trojans gave:
a maple incense casket for the priest,
a bowl, a crown adorned with gold and gems.
Galatea and Polyphemus
Then, recollecting how the Trojans had
derived their origin from Teucer's race,
they sailed to Crete but there could not endure
ills sent by Jove, and, having left behind
the hundred cities, they desired to reach
the western harbors of the Ausonian land.
Wintry seas then tossed the heroic band,
and in a treacherous harbor of those isles,
called Strophades, Aello frightened them.
They passed Dulichium's port, and Ithaca,
Samos, and all the homes of Neritos, --
the kingdom of the shrewd deceitful man,
Ulysses; and they reached Ambracia,
contended for by those disputing gods;
which is today renowned abroad, because
of Actian Apollo, and the stone
seen there conspicuous as a transformed judge;
they saw Dodona, vocal with its oaks;
and also, the well known Chaonian bays,
where sons of the Molossian king escaped
with wings attached, from unavailing flames.
They set their sails then for the neighboring land
of the Phaeacians, rich with luscious fruit:
then for Epirus and to Buthrotos,
and came then to a mimic town of Troy,
ruled by the Phrygian seer. With prophecies
which Helenus, the son of Priam, gave,
they came to Sicily, whose three high capes
jut outward in the sea. Of these three points
Pachynos faces towards the showery south;
and Lilybaeum is exposed to soft
delicious zephyrs; but Peloros looks
out towards the Bears which never touch the sea.
The Trojans came there. Favored by the tide,
and active oars, by nightfall all the fleet
arrived together on Zanclaean sands.
Scylla upon the right infests the shore,
Charybdis, restless on the left, destroys.
Charybdis swallows and then vomits forth
misfortuned ships that she has taken down;
Scylla's dark waist is girt with savage dogs.
She has a maiden's face, and, if we may believe
what poets tell, she was in olden time
a maiden. Many suitors courted her,
but she repulsed them; and, because she was
so much beloved by all the Nereids,
she sought these nymphs and used to tell
how she escaped from the love-stricken youths.
But Galatea, while her loosened locks
were being combed, said to her visitor, --
"Truly, O maiden, a gentle race of men
courts you, and so you can, and do, refuse
all with impunity. But I, whose sire
is Nereus, whom the azure Doris bore,
though guarded by so many sister nymphs,
escaped the Cyclops' love with tragic loss."
And, sobbing, she was choked with tears.
When with her fingers, marble white and smooth,
Scylla had wiped away the rising tears
of sorrow and had comforted the nymph,
she said, "Tell me, dear goddess, and do not
conceal from me (for I am true to you)
the cause of your great sorrows." And the nymph,
daughter of Nereus, thus replied to her: --
"Acis, the son of Faunus and the nymph
Symaethis, was a great delight to his
dear father and his mother, but even more
to me, for he alone had won my love.
Eight birthdays having passed a second time,
his tender cheeks were marked with softest down.
"While I pursued him with a constant love,
the Cyclops followed me as constantly.
And, should you ask me, I could not declare
whether my hatred of him, or my love
of Acis was the stronger. -- They were equal.
"O gentle Venus! what power equals yours!
That savage, dreaded by the forest trees,
feared by the stranger who beholds his face
contemner of Olympus and the gods,
now he can feel what love is. He is filled
with passion for me. He burns hot for me,
forgetful of his cattle and his caves.
"Now, Polyphemus, wretched Cyclops, you
are careful of appearance, and you try
the art of pleasing. You have even combed
your stiffened hair with rakes: it pleases you
to trim your shaggy beard with sickles, while
you gaze at your fierce features in a pool
so earnest to compose them. Love of flesh,
ferocity and your keen thirst for blood
have ceased. The ships may safely come and go!
"While all this happened, Telemus arrived
at the Sicilian Aetna -- Telemus,
the son of Eurymus, who never could
mistake an omen, met the dreadful fierce,
huge Cyclops, Polyphemus, and he said,
'That single eye now midmost in your brow
Ulysses will take from you.' In reply,
the Cyclops only laughed at him and said,
'Most silly of the prophets! you are wrong,
a maiden has already taken it!'
So he made fun of Telemus, who warned
him vainly of the truth -- and after that,
he either burdened with his bulk the shore,
by stalking back and forth with lengthy strides,
or came back weary to his shaded cave.
"A wedge-formed hill projects far in the sea
and either side there flow the salty waves.
To this the giant savage climbed and sat
upon the highest point. The wooly flock,
no longer guided by him, followed after.
There, after he had laid his pine tree down,
which served him for a staff, although so tall
it seemed best fitted for a ship's high mast,
he played his shepherd pipes -- in them I saw
a hundred reeds. The very mountains felt
the pipings of that shepherd, and the waves
beneath him shook respondent to each note.
All this time I was hidden by a rock,
reclining on the bosom of my own
dear Acis; and, although afar, I heard
such words as these, which I can not forget: --
'O Galatea, fairer than the flower
of snow-white privet, and more blooming than
the meadows, and more slender than the tall
delightful alder, brighter than smooth glass,
more wanton than the tender skipping kid,
smoother than shells worn by continual floods,
more pleasing than the winter sun, or than
the summer shade, more beautiful than fruit
of apple trees, more pleasing to the sight
than lofty plane tree, clearer than pure ice,
and sweeter than the ripe grape, softer than
soft swan-down and the softest curdled milk;
alas, and if you did not fly from me,
I would declare you are more beautiful
than any watered garden of this world.
'And yet, O Galatea; I must say,
that you are wilder than all untrained bullocks,
harder than seasoned oak, more treacherous
than tumbled waters, tougher than the twigs
of osier and the white vine, harder to move
than cliffs which front these waves, more violent
than any torrent, you are prouder than
the flattered peacock, fiercer than hot fire,
rougher than thistles, and more cruel than
the pregnant she-bear, deafer than the waves
of stormy seas, more deadly savage than
the trodden water-snake: and, (what I would
endeavor surely to deprive you of)
your speed is fleeter than the deer
pursued by frightful barkings, and more swift
than rapid storm-winds and the flitting air.
'But Galatea, if you knew me well
you would regret your hasty flight from me,
and you would even blame your own delay,
and strive for my affection. I now hold
the choice part of this mountain for my cave,
roofed over with the native rock. The sun
is not felt in the heat of middle day,
nor is the winter felt there: apples load
the bending boughs and luscious grapes
hang on the lengthened vines, resembling gold,
and purple grapes as rich -- I keep for you
those two delicious fruits. With your own hands,
you shall yourself uncover strawberries,
growing so soft beneath the woodland shade;
you shall pluck corners in the autumn ripe,
and plums, not only darkened with black juice
but larger kinds as yellow as new wax.
If I may be your mate, you shall have chestnuts,
fruits of the arbute shall be always near,
and every tree shall yield at your desire.
'The ewes here all are mine, and many more
are wandering in the valleys; and the woods
conceal a multitude -- and many more
are penned within my caves. If you perchance
should ask me, I could never even guess
or count the number; it is for the poor
to count their cattle. Do not trust my word,
but go yourself and see with your own eyes,
how they can hardly stand up on their legs
because of their distended udders' weight.
'I have lambs also, as a future flock,
kept in warm folds, and kids of their same age
in other folds. I always have supplies
of snow-white milk for drinking, and much more
is hardened with good rennet liquefied.
'The common joys of ordinary things
will not be all you should expect of me --
tame does and hares and she-goats or a pair
of doves, or even a nest from a tall tree --
for I have found upon a mountain top,
the twin cubs of a shaggy wild she-bear,
of such appearance you can hardly know
the one from other. They will play with you.
The very day I found them I declared,
these I will keep for my dear loved one's joy.
'Do now but raise your shining head above
the azure sea: come Galatea come,
and do not scorn my presents. Certainly,
I know myself, for only recently
I saw my own reflection pictured clear
in limpid water, and my features pleased
and charmed me when I saw it. See how huge
I am. Not even Jove in his high heaven
is larger than my body: this I say
because you tell me how imperial Jove
surpasses. -- Who is he? I never knew.
'My long hair plentifully hangs to hide
unpleasant features; as a grove of trees
overshadowing my shoulders. Never think
my body is uncomely, although rough,
thick set with wiry bristles. Every tree
without leaves is unseemly; every horse,
unless a mane hangs on his tawny neck;
feathers must cover birds; and their soft wool
is ornamental on the best formed sheep:
therefore a beard, and rough hair spread upon
the body is becoming to all men.
I have but one eye centered perfectly
within my forehead, so it seems most like
a mighty buckler. Ha! does not the Sun
see everything from heaven? Yet it has
but one eye. --
but one eye. -- 'Galatea, you must know,
my father is chief ruler in your sea,
and therefor I now offer him to you
as your own father-in-law -- But oh, do take
some pity on a suppliant, -- and hear his prayer,
for only unto you my heart is given.
'I, who despise the power of Jove, his heavens
and piercing lightnings, am afraid of you --
your wrath more fearful than the lightning's flash --
but I should be more patient under slights,
if you avoided all men: why reject
the Cyclops for the love that Acis gives?
And why prefer his smiles to my embraces,
but let him please himself, and let him please
you, Galatea, though against my will.
'If I am given an opportunity
he will be shown that I have every strength
proportioned to a body vast as mine:
I will pull out his palpitating entrails,
and scatter his torn limbs about the fields
and over and throughout your salty waves;
and then let him unite himself to you. --
I burn so, and my slighted passion raves
with greater fury and I seem to hold
and carry Aetna in my breast -- transferred
there with its flames -- Oh Galatea! can
you listen to my passion thus unmoved!'
"I saw all this; and, after he in vain
had uttered such complaints, he stood up like
a raging bull whose heifer has been lost,
that cannot stand still, but must wander on
through brush and forests, that he knows so well:
when that fierce monster saw me and my Acis --
we neither knew nor guessed our fate -- he roared:
'I see you and you never will again
parade your love before me!' In such a voice
as matched his giant size. All Aetna shook
and trembled at the noise; and I amazed
with horror, plunged into the adjoining sea.
"My loved one, Acis turned his back and fled
and cried out, 'Help me Galatea, help!
0, let your parents help me, and admit
me safe within their realm; for I am now
near my destruction!' But the Cyclops rushed
at him and hurled a fragment, he had torn
out from the mountain, and although the extreme
edge only of the rock could reach him there.
It buried him entirely.
It buried him entirely. "Then I did
the only thing the Fates permitted me:
I let my Acis take ancestral power
of river deities. The purple blood
flowed from beneath the rock, but soon
the sanguine richness faded and became
at first the color of a stream, disturbed
and muddied by a shower. And presently
it clarified. -- The rock that had been thrown
then split in two, and through the cleft a reed,
stately and vigorous, arose to life.
And soon the hollow mouth in the great rock,
resounded with the waters gushing forth.
And wonderful to tell, a youth emerged,
the water flowing clear about his waist,
his new horns circled with entwining reeds,
and the youth certainly was Acis, though
he was of larger stature and his face
and features all were azure. Acis changed
into a stream which ever since that time
has flowed there and retained its former name.
Glaucus transformed into a sea god
So Galatea, after she had told
her sorrow, ceased; and, when the company
had gone from there, the Nereids swam again
in the calm and quiet waves. But Scylla soon
returned (because she did not trust herself
in deep salt waters) and she wandered there
naked of garments on the thirsty sand;
but, tired, by chance she found a lonely bay,
and cooled her limbs with its enclosing waves.
Then suddenly appeared a newly made
inhabitant of that deep sea, whose name
was Glaucus. Cleaving through the blue sea waves,
he swam towards her. His shape had been transformed
but lately for this watery life, while he
was living at Anthedon in Euboea. --
now he is lingering from desire for her
he saw there and speaks whatever words
he thought might stop her as she fled from him.
Yet still she fled from him, and swift through fear,
climbed to a mountain top above the sea.
Facing the waves, it rose in one huge peak,
parting the waters with a forest crown.
She stood on that high summit quite secure:
and, doubtful whether he might be a god
or monster, wondered at his flowing hair
which covered his broad shoulders and his back, --
and marvelled at the color of his skin
and at his waist merged into a twisted fish.
All this he noticed, and while leaning there
against a rock that stood near by, he said: --
"I am no monster, maiden, I am not
a savage beast; I am in truth a god
of waters, with such power upon the seas
as that of Proteus, Triton, or Palaemon --
reared on land the son of Athamas.
"Not long ago I was a mortal man,
yet even then my thought turned to the sea
and all my living came from waters deep,
for I would drag the nets that swept up fish,
or, seated on a rock, I flung the line
forth from the rod. The shore I loved was near
a verdant meadow. One side were the waves,
the other grass, which never had been touched
by horned, grazing cattle. Harmless sheep
and shaggy goats had never cropped it -- no
industrious bee came there to harvest flowers;
no festive garlands had been gathered there,
adornments of the head; no mower's hands
had ever cut it. I was certainly
the first who ever sat upon that turf, --
while I was drying there the dripping nets.
And so that I might in due order count
the fish that I had caught, I laid out those
which by good chance were driven into my nets,
or credulous, were caught on my barbed hooks.
"It all seems like a fiction (but what good
can I derive from fictions?) just as soon
as any of my fish-prey touched the grass,
they instantly began to move and skip
as usual in sea water. While I paused
and wondered, all of them slid to the waves,
and left me, their late captor, and the shore.
"I was amazed and doubtful, a long time;
while I considered what could be the cause.
What god had done this? Or perhaps the juice
of some herb caused it? 'But,' I said, 'what herb
can have such properties?' and with my hand
I plucked the grass and chewed it with my teeth.
My throat had hardly time to swallow those
unheard of juices, when I suddenly
felt all my entrails throbbing inwardly,
and my entire mind also, felt possessed
by passions foreign to my life before.
"I could not stay in that place, and I said
with shouting, 'Farewell! dry land! never more
shall I revisit you;' and with those words
upon my lips, I plunged beneath the waves.
The gods of that deep water gave to me,
when they received me, kindred honors, while
they prayed Oceanus and Tethys both
to take from me such mortal essence as
might yet remain. So I was purified
by them and after a good charm had been
nine times repeated over me, which washed
away all guilt, I was commanded then
to put my breast beneath a hundred streams.
"So far I can relate to you all things
most worthy to be told; for all so far
I can remember; but from that time on
I was unconscious of the many things
that followed. When my mind returned to me,
I found myself entirely different
from what I was before; and my changed mind
was not the same as it had always been.
Then, for the first time I beheld this beard
so green in its deep color, and I saw
my flowing hair which now I sweep along
the spacious seas, and my huge shoulders with
their azure colored arms, and I observed
my leg extremities hung tapering
exactly perfect as a finny fish.
"But what avail is this new form to me.
Although it pleased the Ocean deities?
What benefit, although I am a god,
if you are not persuaded by these things?"
While he was telling wonders such as these --
quite ready to say more -- Scylla arose
and left the god. Provoked at his repulse --
enraged, he hastened to the marvellous court
of Circe, well known daughter of the Sun.