Sunday, January 15, 2017

Iliad I, lines 53-91

            Nine days long did the arrows of god rain down on the army;
            but on the tenth, Achilles called all of the ranks to a muster—
55        white-armed Hera had put the idea in his mind, for the goddess
            pitied the Danaans, after she saw that so many were dying.
            Once they had all been assembled, and all were together in one place,
            nimble-footed Achilles stood up among them to speak out:
            “Son of Atreus, now that we’ve lost our ground, I suppose that
            we should return to our homes, if at least we should ever escape death,
61        that is, if warfare and pestilence both are to vanquish Achaeans.
            No, but come on: let us ask some diviner, or some priest, or
            even a dream interpreter, since our dreams are from Zeus too—
            someone who’ll tell us why Phoebus Apollo is furious with us,
            whether he blames us because of a vow, or a sacrifice maybe;
            or, if the savory smoke of our lambs and billygoats reach him,
67        whether the god would be willing to possibly ward off our ruin.”

            Thus having spoken, he sat back down.  But arising among them,
            Calchas the son of Thestor, by far the best of the augurs,
            he who had known what is, what would be, and what had once been,
            he who had led the Achaeans to Ilium in their warships
            using the art of foresight which Phoebus Apollo had given—
73        keeping the good of the Argives in mind, he began to address them:
            “O Achilles, beloved of Zeus, you compel me to answer
            as to the wrath of the Lord Apollo, the far-shooting archer.
            So I shall tell you.  But listen—you have to swear to protect me,
            you must be ready to come to my aid with your words and your hands both,
            yes, for I fear I will anger a man with enormous power,
79        lord over all of the Argives, and all the Achaeans obey him.
            For, when a king is enraged at a subject, is he not stronger?
            Even if, somehow, he swallows his anger at least for the first day,
            still he will harbor resentment deep in his chest ’til it bursts out.
            Think it over, Achilles, and tell me if you will defend me.”

            Nimble-footed Achilles responded at once to the seer:
85        “Courage!  Whatever you know, you can say what the god has shown you.
            Now by Apollo, beloved of Zeus, to whom you, O Calchas,
            pray when the will of the gods is revealed to the Danaans through you:
            no one, as long as I live on the earth and my eyes see the daylight,
            no one will lay heavy hands on you by the hollow vessels,
            none of the Danaans, even if you were to name Agamemnon,
91        who can now claim that he is the greatest of all the Achaeans.”

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