Agamemnon – furious, his dark heart filled to the brim,
blazing with anger now, his eyes like searing fire.
Agamemnon – furious, his dark heart filled to the brim,
blazing with anger now, his eyes like searing fire.
And now you threaten to strip me of my prize in person –
the one I fought for long and hard, and sons of Achaea
handed her to me.
My honors never equal yours,
whenever we sack some wealthy Trojan stronghold –
my arms bear the brunt of the raw, savage fighting,
true, but when it comes to dividing up the plunder
the lion’s share is yours, and back I go to my ships,
clutching some scrap, some pittance that I love,
when I have fought to exhaustion.
No more now –
back I go to Phthia. Better that way by far,
to journey home in the beaked ships of war.
I have no mind to linger here disgraced,
brimming your cup and piling up your plunder.
Staggering drunk, with your dog’s eyes, your fawn’s heart!
Never once did you arm with the troops and go to battle
or risk an ambush packed with Achaea’s picked men
you lack the courage, you can see death coming.
Safer by far, you find, to foray all through camp,
commandeering the prize of any man who speaks against you.
King who devours his people! Worthless husks, the men you rule.
Nestor rose between them,
the man of winning words, the dear speaker of Pylos…
Sweeter than honey from his tongue the voice flowed on and on.
Rank and file
streamed behind and rushed like swarms of bees
pouring out of a rocky hollow, burst on endless burst,
bunched in clusters seething over the first spring blooms,
dark hordes swirling into the air, this way, that way –
so the many armed platoons from the ships and tents
came marching on, close-file, along the deep wide beach
to crowd the meeting grounds.
Calchas swiftly revealed the will of Zeus:
"Why struck dumb now, my long-hatred Achaeans?
Zeus who rules the world has shown us an awesome sign,
an event long in the future, late to come to birth
but the fame of that great work will never die.
As the snake devoured the sparrow with her brood,
eight and the mother made the ninth, she’d borne them all,
so we will fight in Troy that many years and then,
then in the tenth we’ll take her broad streets."
So he commanded
and the armies gave a deep resounding roar like waves
crashing against a cliff when the South Wind whips it,
bearing down, some craggy headland jutting out to sea –
the waves will never leave it in peace, thrashed by gales
that hit from every quarter, breakers left and right.
As ravening fire rips through big stands of timber
high on a mountain ridge and the blaze flares miles away,
so from the marching troops the blaze of bronze armor,
splendid and superhuman, flared across the earth,
flashing into the air to hit the skies.
Armies gathering now
as the huge flocks on flocks of winging birds, geese or cranes
or swans with their long lancing necks – circling Asian marshes
round the Cayster outflow, wheeling in all directions,
glorying in their wings – keep on landing, advancing,
wave on shrieking wave and the tidal flats resound.
So tribe on tribe, pouring out of the ships and shelters,
marched across the Scamander plain and the earth shook,
tremendous thunder from under trampling men and horses
drawing into position down the Scamander meadow flats
breaking into flower – men by the thousands, numberless
as the leaves and spears that flower forth in spring.
The armies massing…crowding thick-and-fast
as the swarms of flies seething over the shepherds’ stalls
in the first spring days when the buckets flood with milk –
so many long-haired Achaeans swarmed across the plain
to confront the Trojans, fired to smash their lines.
The armies grouping now – as seasoned goatherds
split their wide-ranging flocks into packs with ease
when herds have mixed together down the pasture:
so the captains formed their tight platoons,
detaching right and left, moving up for action.
there in the midst strode powerful Agamemnon,
eyes and head like Zeus who loves the lightning,
great in the girth like Ares, god of battles,
broad through the chest like sea lord Poseidon.
Like a bull rising head and shoulders over the herds,
a royal bull rearing over his flocks of driven cattle –
so imposing was Atreus’ son, so Zeus made him that day,
towering over fighters, looming over armies.
Sing to me now, you Muses who hold the halls of Olympus!
You are goddesses, you are everywhere, you know all things –
all we hear is the distant ring of glory, we know nothing –
who were the captains of Achaea? Who were the kings?
The mass of troops I could never tally, never name,
not even if I had ten tongues and ten mouths,
a tireless voice and the heart inside me bronze,
never unless you Muses of Olympus, daughters of Zeus
whose shield is rolling thunder, sing, sing in memory
all who gathered under Troy. Now I can only tell
the lords of the ships, the ships in all their numbers!
and the ground thundered under them, deep as it does
for Zeus who loves the lightning, Zeus in all his rage
when he lashes the ground around Typhoeus in Arima,
there where they say the monster makes his bed of pain –
so the earth thundered under their feet, armies trampling,
sweeping through the plain at blazing speed.
Now with the squadrons marshaled, captains leading each,
the Trojans came with cries and the din of war like wildfowl
when the long hoarse cries of cranes sweep on against the sky
and the great formations flee from winter’s grim ungodly storms,
flying in force, shrieking south to the Ocean gulfs, speeding
blood and death to the Pygmy warriors, launching at daybreak
savage battle down upon their heads. But Achaea’s armies
came on strong in silence, breathing combat-fury,
hearts ablaze to defend each other to the death.
When the South Wind showers mist on the mountaintops,
no friend to shepherds, better than night to thieves –
you can see no farther than you can fling a stone –
so dust came clouding, swirling up from the feet of armies
marching at top speed, trampling through the plain.
Soon as the warrior Menelaus marked him,
Paris parading there with his big loping strides,
flaunting before the troops, Atrides thrilled
like a lion lighting on some handsome carcass,
lucky to find an antlered stag or wild goat
just as hunger strikes – he rips it, bolts it down,
even with running dogs and lusty hunters rushing him.
So Menelaus thrilled at heart – princely Paris there,
right before his eyes.
But soon as magnificent Paris marked Atrides
shining among the champions, Paris’ spirit shook.
Backing into his friendly ranks, he cringed from death
as one who trips on a snake in a hilltop hollow
recoils, suddenly, trembling grips his knees
and pallor takes his cheeks and back he shrinks.
So he dissolved again in the proud Trojan lines,
dreading Atrides – magnificent, brave Paris.
The heart inside you is always tempered hard.
like an ax that goes through wood when a shipwright
cuts out ship timbers with every ounce of skill
and the blade’s weight drives the man’s stroke.
So the heart inside your chest is never daunted.
the man keeps ranging the ranks of fighters like a ram –
yes, he looks to me like a thick-fleeced bellwether ram
making his way through a big mass of sheep-flocks,
But when Odysseus sprang up, the famed tactician
would just stand there, staring down, hard,
his eyes fixed on the ground,
never shifting his scepter back and forth,
clutching it stiff and still like a mindless man.
You’d think him a sullen fellow or just plain fool.
But when he let loose that great voice from his chest
and the words came piling on like a driving winter blizzard –
then no man alive could rival Odysseus! Odysseus…
we no longer gazed in wonder at his looks.
Down the goddess swept from Olympus’ craggy peaks
and dove like a star the son of Cronus flings.
Cronus with all his turning, twisting ways –
a sign to men at sea or a massive army marching,
blazing on with a stream of sparks showering in its wake.
Like a shooting star Athena flashed across the earth,
plunging down in the midst of both camped forces.
Picture a woman dyeing ivory blood red…
a Carian or Maeonian staining a horse’s cheekpiece,
and it’s stored away in a vault and troops of riders
long to sport the ornament, true, but there it lies
as a king’s splendor, kept and prized twice over –
his team’s adornment, his driver’s pride and glory.
So now, Menelaus, the fresh blood went staining down
your sturdy thighs, your shins and well-turned ankles.
Disgraces – have you no shame?
Just standing there, dumbstruck like fawns
done in from hightailing over some big meadow,
winded and teetering, heart inside them spent.
Standing there dazed, your fighting spirit dead –
what are you waiting for?
Think how a goatherd off on a mountain lookout
spots a storm cloud moving down the sea…
bearing down beneath the rush of the West Wind
and miles away he sees it building black as pitch,
blacker, whipping the whitecaps, full hurricane fury –
the herdsman shudders to see it, drives his flocks to a cave –
so dense the battalions grouped behind the two Aeantes,
packed, massed with hardy fighters dear to the gods,
battalions black and bristling shields and spears,
fighters sweeping into the breaking storm of war.
As a heavy surf assaults some roaring coast,
piling breaker on breaker whipped by the West Wind,
and out on the open sea a crest first rears its head
then pounds down on the shore with hoarse, rumbling thunder
and in come more shouldering crests, arching up and breaking
against some rocky spit, exploding salt foam to the skies –
so wave on wave they came, Achaean battalions ceaseless,
surging on to war.
But not the Trojans, no…
like flocks of sheep in a wealthy rancher’s steadings,
thousands crowding to have their white milk drained,
bleating nonstop when they hear their crying lambs –
so the shouts rose up from the long Trojan lines
and not one cry, no common voice to bind them
all together, their tongues mixed and clashed,
their men hailed from so many far-flung countries.
At last the armies clashed at one strategic point,
they slammed their shields together, pike scraped pike
with the grappling strength of fighters armed in bronze
and their round shields pounded, boss on welded boss,
and the sound of struggle roared and rocked the earth.
Screams of men and cries of triumph breaking in one breath,
fighters killing, fighters killed, and the ground streamed blood.
Wildly as two winter torrents raging down from the mountains,
swirling into a valley, hurl their great waters together,
flash floods from the wellsprings plunging down in a gorge
and miles away in the hills a shepherd hears the thunder –
so from the grinding armies broke the cries and clash of war.
Antilochus was the first to kill a Trojan captain,
tough on the front lines, Thalysias’ son Echepolus.
Antilochus thrust first, speared the horsehair helmet
right at the ridge, and the bronze spearpoint lodged
in the man’s forehead, smashing through his skull
and the dark came whirling down across his eyes –
he toppled down like a tower in the rough assault.
and down in the dust he fell like a lithe black poplar
shot up tall and strong in the spreading marshy flats,
the trunk trimmed but its head a shock of branches.
A chariot-maker fells it with shining iron ax
as timber to bend for handsome chariot wheels
and there it lies, seasoning by the river…
So lay Anthemion’s son Simoisius, cut down
by the giant royal Ajax.
Then Pallas Athena granted Tydeus’ son Diomedes
strength and daring – so the fighter would shine forth
and tower over the Argives and win himself great glory.
She set the man ablaze, his shield and helmet flaming
with tireless fire like the star that flames at harvest.
bathed in the Ocean, rising up to outshine all other stars.