Classical Texts Library >> Statius, Achilleid >> Book 1 Lines 560-960 & Book 2



[560] But far away Deidamia – and she alone – had learnt in stolen secrecy the manhood of Aeacides, that lay hid beneath the show of a feigned sex; conscious of guilt concealed there is nought she does not fear, and thinks that her sisters know, but hold their peace. For when Achilles, rough as he was, stood amid the maiden company, and the departure of his mother rid him of his artless bashfulness, straightway although the whole band gathers round him, he chose her as his comrade and assails with new and winning wiles her unsuspecting innocence; her he follows, and persistently besets, toward her he ever and again directs his gaze. Now too zealously he clings to her side, nor does she avoid him, now he pelts her with light garlands, now with baskets that let their burden fall, now with the thyrsus that harms her not, or again he shows her the sweet strings of the lyre he knows so well, and the gentle measures and songs of Chiron’s teaching, and guides her hand and makes her fingers strike the sounding harp, now as she sings he makes a conquest of her lips, and binds her in his embrace, and praises her amid a thousand kisses. With pleasure does she learn of Pelion’s summit and of Aeacides, and hearing the name and exploits of the youth is spellbound in constant wonder, and sings of Achilles in his very presence.

[580] She in her turn teaches him to move his strong limbs with more modest grace and to spin out the unwrought wool by rubbing with his thumb, and repairs the distaff and the skeins that his rough hand has damaged; she marvels at the deep tones of his voice, how he shuns all her fellows and pierces her with too-attentive gaze and at all times hangs breathless on her words; and now he prepares to reveal the fraud, but she like a fickle girl avoids him, and will not allow him to confess. Even so beneath his mother Rhea’s rule the young prince of Olympus gave treacherous kisses to his sister; he was still her brother and she thought no harm, until the reverence for their common blood gave way, and the sister feared a lover’s passion.54

[592] At length the timorous Nereid’s cunning was laid bare. There stood a lofty grove, scene of the rites of Agenorean55 Bacchus, a grove that reached to heaven; within its shade the pious matrons were wont to renew the recurrent three-yearly festival, and to bring torn animals of the herd and uprooted saplings, and to offer to the god the frenzy wherein he took delight. The law bade males keep far away; the reverend monarch repeats the command, and makes proclamation that no man may draw nigh the sacred haunt. Nor is that enough; a venerable priestess stands at the appointed limit and scans the approaches, lest any defiler come near in the train of women; Achilles laughed silently to himself. His comrades wonder at him as he leads the band of virgins and moves his mighty arms with awkward motion – his own sex and his mother’s counterfeit alike become him. No more is Deidamia the fairest of her company, and as she surpasses her own sisters, so does she herself own defeat compared with proud Aeacides. But when he let the fawn-skin hang from his shapely neck, and with ivy gathered up its flowing folds, and bound the purple fillet high upon his flaxen temples, and with powerful hand made the enwreathed missile56 quiver, the crowd stood awestruck, and leaving the sacred rites are fain to throng about him, uplifting their bowed heads to gaze. Even so Euhius, what time he has relaxed at Thebes his martial spirit and frowning brow, and sated his soul with the luxury of his native land, takes chaplet and mitre from his locks, and arms the green thyrsus for the fray, and in more martial guise sets out to meet his Indian foes.57

[619] The Moon in her rosy chariot was climging to the height of mid-heaven, when drowsy Sleep glided down with full sweep of his pinions to earth and gathered a silent world to his embrace: the choirs reposed, the stricken bronze awhile was mute, when Achilles, parted in solitude from the virgin train, thus spoke with himself: “How long wilt thou endure the precepts of thy anxious mother, and waste the first flower of thy manhood in this soft imprisonment? No weapons of war mayst thou brandish, no beasts mayst thou pursue. Oh! for the plains and valleys of Haemonia! Lookest thou in vain, Spercheus, for my swimming, and for my promised tresses? Or hast thou no regard for the foster-child that has deserted thee? Am I already spoken of as borne to the Stygian shades afar, and does Chiron in solitude bewail my death? Thou, O Patroclus, now does aim my darts, dost bend my bow and mount the team that was nourished for me; but I have learnt to fling wide my arms as I grasp the vine-wands, and to spin the distaff-thread – ah! shame and vexation to confess it! Nay more, night and day thou dost dissemble the love that holds thee, and thy passion for the maid of equal years. How long wilt thou conceal the wound that galls thy heart, nor even in love – for shame! – prove thy own manhood?”

[640] So he speaks; and in the thick darkness of the night, rejoicing that the unstirring silence gives timely aid to his secret deeds, he gains by force his desire, and with all his vigour strains her in a real embrace; the whole choir of stars beheld from on high, and the horns of the young moon blushed red. She indeed filled the grove and mountain with her cries, but the train of Bacchus, dispelling slumber’s cloud, deemed it the signal for the dance; on every side the familiar shout arises, and Achilles once more brandishes the thyrsus; yet first with friendly speech he solaces the anxious maid: “I am he – why fearest thou? – whom my cerulean mother bore wellnigh to Jove,58 and sent to find my nurture in the woods and snows of Thessaly. Nor had I endured this dress and shameful garb, had I not seen thee on the seashore; ‘twas for thee I did submit, for thee I carry skeins and bear the womanly timbrel. Why dost thou weep who art made daughter-in-law of mighty ocean? Why does thou moan who shalt bear valiant grandsons to Olympus?59 But thy father – Scyros shall be destroyed by fire and sword and these walls shall be in ruins and the sport of wanton winds, ere thou pay by cruel death for my embraces: not so utterly am I subject to my mother.”

[662] Horror-struck was the princess at such dark happenings, albeit long since she had suspected his good faith, and shuddered at his presence, and his countenance was changed as he made confession. What is she to do? Shall she bear the tale of her misfortune to her father, and ruin both herself and her lover, who perchance would suffer untimely death? And still there abode within her breast the love so long deceived. Silent is she in her grief, and dissembles the crime that both now share alike; her nurse alone she resolves to make a partner in deceit, and she, yielding to the prayers of both, assents. With secret cunning she conceals the rape and the swelling womb and the burden of the months of ailing, till Lucina brought round by token the appointed season, her course now fully run, and gave deliverance of her child.

[675] And now the Laertian60 bark was threading the winding ways of the Aegean, while the breezes changed one for another the countless Cyclades; already Paros and Olearos are hid, now they skirt lofty Lemnos and behind them Bacchic Naxos is lost to view, while Samos grows before them; now Delos darkens the deep, and there from the tall stern they pour cups of libation, and pray that he oracle be true and Calchas undeceived. The Wielder of the Bow61 heard them, and from the top of Cynthus sent a zephyr flying and gave the doubting ones the good omen of a bellying sail. The ship sails o’er the sea untroubled; for the Thunderer’s high commands suffered not Thetis to overturn the sure decrees of Fate, faint as he was with tears, and foreboding much because she could not excite the main and straightway pursue the hated Ulysses with all her winds and waves.

[689] Already Phoebus, stooping low upon the verge of Olympus, was sending forth broken rays, and promising to his panting steeds the yielding shore of Ocean, when rocky Scyros rose aloft; the Laertian chieftain from the stern let out all sail to make it, and bade his crew resume the deep and with their oars supply the failing zephyrs. Nearer they draw, and more undoubtedly, more surely was it Scyros, and Tritonia62 above, the guardian of the tranquil shore. They disembark, and venerate the power of the friendly goddess, Aetolian and Ithacan alike. Then the prudent hero, lest they should frighten the hospitable walls with sudden throng, bids his crew remain upon the ship; he himself with trusty Diomede ascends the heights. But already Abas, keeper of the coastal tower, had gone before them and given tidings to the king, that unknown sails, though Greek, were drawing nigh to land. Forward they go, like two wolves leagued together on a winter’s night: though their cubs’ hunger and their own assails them, yet do they utterly dissemble ravening rage, and go slinking on their way, lest the alertness of dogs announce a foe and warn the anxious herdsmen to keep vigil.

[[709] So with slow pace the heroes move, and with mutual converse tread the open plain that lies between the harbour and the high citadel; first keen Tydides speaks: “By what means now are we preparing to search out the truth? For in perplexity of mind have I long been pondering why thou didst buy those unwarlike wands and cymbals in the city marts, and didst bring hither Bacchic hides and turbans, and fawn-skins decked with patterns of gold. Is it with these thou wilt arm Achilles to be the doom of Priam and the Phrygians?”

[718] To him with a smile and somewhat less stern of look the Ithacan replied: “These things, I tell thee, if only he be lurking among the maidens in Lycomedes’ palace, shall draw the son of Peleus to the fight, ay, self-confessed! Remember thou to bring them all quickly from the ship, when it is time, and to join to these gifts a shield that is beautiful with carving and rough with work of gold; this spear will suffice; let the good trumpeter Agyrtes be with thee, and let him bring a hidden bugle for a secret purpose.”

[726] He spoke and spied the king in the very threshold of the gate, and displaying the olive first announced his peaceful purpose: “Loud report, I ween, hath long since reached thy ears, O gentle monarch, of that fierce war which now is shaking both Europe and Asia. If perchance the chieftains’ names have been borne hither, in whom the avenging son of Atreus trusts, here beholdest thou him whom great-hearted Tydeus begot, mightier even than so great a sire, and I am Ulysses the Ithacan chief. The cause of our voyage – for why should I fear to confess all to thee, who art a Greek and of all men most renowned by sure report? – is to spy out the approaches to Troy and her hated shores, and what their schemes may be.”

[737] Ere he had finished the other broke in upon him: “May Fortune assist thee, I pray, and propitious gods prosper that enterprise! Now honour my roof and pious home by being my guests.” Therewith he leads them within the gate. Straightway numerous attendants prepare the couches and the tables. Meanwhile Ulysses scans and searches the palace with his gaze, if anywhere he can find trace of a tall maiden or a face suspect for its doubtful features; uncertainly he wanders idly in the galleries and, as though in wonder, roams the whole house through; just as yon hunter, having come upon his prey’s undoubted haunts, scours the fields with his silent Molossian hound, till he behold his foe stretched out in slumber ‘neath the leaves and his jaws resting on the turf.

[750] Long since has a rumour been noised throughout the secret chamber where the maidens had their safe abode, that Pelasgian chiefs are come, and a Grecian ship and its mariners have been made welcome. With good reason are the rest affrighted; but Pelides scarce conceals his sudden joy, and eagerly desires even as he is to see the newly-arrived heroes and their arms. Already the noise of princely trains fills the palace, and the guests are reclining on gold-embroidered couches, when at their sire’s command his daughters and their chaste companions join the banquet; they approach, like unto Amazons on the Maeotid shore, when, having made plunder of Scythian homesteads and captured strongholds of the Getae, they lay aside their arms and feast. Then indeed does Ulysses with intent gaze ponder carefully both forms and features, but night and the lamps that are brought in deceive him, and their stature is hidden as soon as they recline. One nevertheless with head erect and wandering gaze, one who preserves no sign of virgin modesty, he marks, and with sidelong glance points out to his companion. But if Deidamia, to warn the hasty youth, had not clasped him to her soft bosom, and ever covered with her own robe his bare breast and naked arms and shoulders, and many a time forbidden him to start up from the couch and ask for wine, and replaced the golden hair-band on his brow, Achilles had even then been revealed to the Argive chieftains.

[773] When hunger was assuaged and the banquet had twice and three times been renewed, the monarch first addresses the Achaeans, and pledges them with the wine-cup: “Ye famous heroes of the Argolic race, I envy, I confess, your enterprise; would that I too were of more valiant years, as when I utterly subdued the Dolopes who attacked the shores of Scyros, and shattered on the sea those keels that ye beheld on the forefront of my lofty walls, tokens of my triumph! At least if I had offspring that I would send to war, - but now ye see for yourselves my feeble strength and my dear children: ah, when will these numerous daughters give me grandsons?”

[784] He spoke, and seizing the moment crafty Ulysses made reply: “Worthy indeed is the object of thy desire; for who would not burn to see the countless peoples of the world and various chieftains and princes with their trains? All the might and glory of powerful Europe hath sworn together willing allegiance to our righteous arms. Cities and fields alike are empty, we have spoiled the lofty mountains, the whole sea lies hidden beneath the far-spread shadow of our sails; fathers give weapons, youths snatch them and are gone beyond recall. Never was offered to the brave such an opportunity for high renown, never had valour so wide a field of exercise.”

[794] He sees him all attentive and drinking in his words with vigilant ear, though the rest are alarmed and turn aside their downcast eyes, and he repeats: “Whoever hath pride of race and ancestry, whoever hath sure javelin and valiant steed, or skill of bow, all honour there awaits him, there is the strife of mighty names: scarce do timorous mothers hold back or troops of maids; ah! doomed to barren years and hated of the gods is he whom this new chance of glory passes by in idle sloth.”

[802] Up from the couches had he sprung, had not Deidamia, watchfully giving the sign to summon all her sisters, left the banquet clasping him in her arms; yet still he lingers looking back at the Ithacan, and goes out from the company the last of all. Ulysses indeed leaves unsaid somewhat of his purposed speech, yet adds a few words: “But do thou abide in deep and tranquil peace, and find husbands for thy beloved daughters, whom fortune has given thee, goddess-like in their starry countenances. What awe touched me anon and holds me silent? Such charm and beauty joined to manliness of form!”

[812] The sire replies: “What if thou couldst see them performing the rites of Bacchus, or about the altars of Pallas? Ay, and thou shalt, if perchance the rising south wind prove a laggard.” They eagerly accept his promise, and hope inspires their silent prayers. All else in Lycomedes’ palace are at rest in peaceful quiet, their troubles laid aside, but to the cunning Ithacan the night is long; he yearns for the day and brooks not slumber.

[819] Scarce had day dawned, and already the son of Tydeus accompanied by Agyrtes was present bringing the appointed gifts. The maids of Scyros too went forth from their chamber and advanced to display their dances and promised rites to the honoured strangers. Brilliant before the rest is the princess with Pelides her companion: even as beneath the rocks of Aetna in Sicily Diana and bold Pallas and the consort of the Elysian monarch shine forth among the nymphs of Enna. Already they begin to move, and the Ismenian63 pipe gives signal to the dancers; four times they beat the cymbals of Rhea,64 four times the maddening drums, four times they trace their manifold windings. Then together they raise and lower their wands, and complicate their steps, now in such fashion as the Curetes and devout Samothracians use,65 now turning to face each other in the Amazonian comb,66 now in the ring wherein the Delian sets the Laconian girls a-dancing, and whirls them shouting her praises into her own Amyclae. Then indeed, then above all is Achilles manifest, caring neither to keep his turn nor to join arms; then more than ever does he scorn the delicate step, the womanly attire, and breaks the dance and mightily disturbs the scene. Even so did Thebes already sorrowing behold Pentheus spurning the wands and the timbrels that his mother welcomed.67

[841] The troop disperses amid applause, and they seek again their father’s threshold, where in the central chamber of the palace the son of Tydeus hd long since set out gifts that should attract maidens’ eyes, the mark of kindly welcome and the guerdon of their toil; he bids them choose, nor does the peaceful monarch say them nay. Alas! how simple and untaught, who knew not the cunning of the gifts nor Grecian fraud nor Ulysses’ many wiles! Thereupon the others, prompted by nature and their ease-loving sex, try the shapely wands or the timbrels that answer to the blow, and fasten jewelled band around their temples; the weapons they behold, but think them a gift to their mighty sire. But the bold son of Aeacus no sooner saw before him the gleaming shield enchased with battle-scenes – by chance too it shone red with the fierce stains of war – and leaning against he spear, than he shouted loud and rolled his eyes, and his hair rose up form his brow; forgotten were his mother’s words, forgotten his secret love, and Troy fills all his breast. As a lion, torn from his mother’s dugs, submits to be tamed and lets his mane be combed, and learns to have awe of man and not to fly into a rage save when bidden, yet if but once the steel has glittered in his sight, his fealty is forsworn, and his tamer becomes his foe: against him he first ravens, and feels shame to have served a timid lord. But when he came nearer, and the emulous brightness gave back his features and he saw himself mirrored in the reflecting gold, he thrilled and blushed together.

[866] Then quickly went Ulysses to his side and whispered: “Why dost thou hesitate? We know thee, thou art the pupil of the half-beast Chiron, thou art the grandson of the sky and sea; thee the Dorian fleet, thee thy own Greece awaits with standards uplifted for the march, and the very walls of Pergamum totter and sway for thee to overturn. Up! delay no more! Let perfidious Ida grow pale, let they father delight to hear these tidings, and guileful Thetis feel shame to have so feared for thee.”

[874] Already was he stripping his body of the robes, when Agyrtes, so commanded, blew a great blast upon the trumpet: the gifts are scattered, and they flee and fall with prayers before their sire and believe that battle is joined. But from his breast the raiment fell without his touching, already the shield and puny spear are lost in the grasp of his hand68 – marvellous to believe! – and he seemed to surpass by head and shoulders the Ithacan and the Aetolian chief: with a sheen so awful does the sudden blaze of arms and the martial fire dazzle the palace-hall. Mighty of limb, as though forthwith summoning Hector to the fray, he stand in the midst of the panic-stricken house: and the daughter of Peleus is sought in vain.

[885] But Deidamia in another chamber bewailed the discovery of the fraud, and as soon as he heard her loud lament and recognized the voice that he knew so well, he quailed and his spirit was broken by his hidden passion. He dropped the shield, and turning to the monarch’s face, while Lycomedes is dazed by the scene and distraught by the strange portent, just as he was, in naked panoply of arms, he thus bespeaks him: “’Twas I, dear father, I whom bounteous Thetis gave thee – dismiss thy anxious fears! – long since did this high renown await thee; ‘tis thou who wilt send Achilles, long sought for, to the Greeks, more welcome to me than my might sire – if it is right so to speak – and than beloved Chiron. But, if thou wilt, give me thy mind awhile, and of thy favour hear these words: Peleus and Thetis thy guest make thee the father-in-law of their son, and recount their kindred deities on either side; they demand one of thy train of virgin daughters: doest thou give her? or seem we a mean and coward race? Thou dost not refuse. Join then our hands, and make the treaty, and pardon thy own kin. Already hath Deidamia been known to me in stolen secrecy; for how could she have resisted these arms of mine, how once in my embrace repel my might? Bid me atone that deed: I lay down these weapons and restore them to the Pelasgians, and I remain here. Why these angry cries? Why is thy aspect changed? Already art thou my father-in-law” – he placed the child before his feet, and added: “and already a grandsire! How often shall the pitiless sword be plied! We are a multitude!” 69

[910] Then the Greeks too and Ulysses with his persuasive prayer entreat by the holy rites and the sworn word of hospitality. He, though moved by the discovery of his dear daughter’s wrong and the command of Thetis, though seeming to betray the goddess and so grave a trust, yet fears to oppose so many destinies and delay the Argive war – even were he fain, Achilles had spurned even his mother then. Nor is he unwilling to take unto himself so great a son-in-law: he is won. Deidamia comes shamefast from her dark privacy, nor in her despair believes at first his pardon, and puts forward Achilles to appease her sire.

[921] A messenger is sent to Haemonia to give Peleus full tidings of these great events, and to demand ships and comrades for the war. Moreover, the Scyrian prince launches two vessels for his son-in-law, and makes excuse to the Achaeans for so poor a show of strength. Then the day was brought to its end with feasting, and at last the bond was made known to all, and conscious night joined the now fearless lovers.

[927] Before her70 eyes new wars and Xanthus and Ida pass, and the Argolis fleet, and she imagines the very waves and fears the coming of the dawn; she flings herself about her new lord’s beloved neck, and at last clasping his limbs gives way to tears: “Shall I see thee again, and lay myself on this breast of thine, O son of Aeacus? Wilt thou deign once more to look upon thy offspring? Or wilt thou proudly bring back spoils of captured Pergamum and Teucrian homes and wish to forget where thou didst hide thee as a maid? What should I entreat, or alas! what rather fear? How can I in my anxiety lay a behest on thee, who have scarce time to weep? One single night has given and grudged thee to me! Is this the season for our espousals? Is this free wedlock? Ah! those stolen sweets! that cunning fraud! Ah! how I fear! Achilles is given to me only to be torn away. Go! for I would not dare to stay such mighty preparations; go, and be cautious, and remember that the fears of Thetis were not vain; go, and good luck be with thee, and come back mine!

[944] “Yes too bold is my request: soon the fair Trojan dames will sigh for thee with tears and beat their breasts, and pray that they may offer their necks to thy fetters, and weigh thy couch against their homes, or Tyndaris71 herself will please thee, too much belauded for her incestuous rape. But I shall be a story to thy henchmen, the tale of a lad’s first fault, or I shall be disowned and forgotten. Nay, come, take me as thy comrade; why should I not carry the standards of Mars with thee? Thou dist carry with me the wands and holy things of Bacchus, though ill-fated Troy believe it not. Yet this babe, whom thou dost leave as my sad solace – keep him at least within thy heart, and grant this one request, that no foreign wife bear thee a child, that no captive woman give unworthy grandsons to Thetis.”

[956] As thus she speaks, Achilles, moved to compassion himself, comforts her, and gives her his sworn oath, and pledges it with tears, and promises her on his return tall handmaidens and spoils of Ilium and gifts of Phrygian treasure. The fickle breezes swept his words unfulfilled away.


[1] Day arising from Ocean set free the world from dank enfolding shades, and the father of the flashing light upraised his torch still dimmed by the neighbouring gloom and moist with sea-water not yet shaken off. And now all behold Aeacides, his shoulders stripped of the scarlet robe, and glorious in those very arms he first had seized – for the wind is calling and his kindred seas are urging him – and quake before the youthful chieftain, not daring to remember aught; so wholly changed to the sight hath he come back, as though he had ne’er experiences the shores of Scyros, but were embarking from the Pelian cave. Then duly – for so Ulysses counselled – he does sacrifice to the gods and the waters and south winds, and venerates with a bull the cerulean king below the waves and Nereus his grandsire: his mother is appeased with garlanded heifer. Thereupon casting the swollen entrails on the salt foam he addresses her: “Mother, I have obeyed thee, though thy commands were hard to bear; too obedient have I been: now they demand me, and I go to the Trojan war and the Argolic fleet.” So speaking he leapt into the bark, and was swept away far from the neighbourhood of land by the whistling south wind; already lofty Scyros beings to gather mist about her, and to fade from sight over the long expanse of sea.

[23] Far away on the summit of a tower with weeping sisters round her his wife leaned forth, holding her precious charge, who bore the name of Pyrrhus, and with her eyes fixed on the canvas sailed herself upon the sea, and all alone still saw the vessel. He too turned his gaze aside to the walls he held dear, he thinks upon the widowed home and the sobs of her he had left: the hidden passion glows again within his heart, and martial ire gives place. The Laertian hero perceives him sorrowing, and draws nigh to influence him with gentle words: “Was it thou, O destined destroyer of great Troy, whom Danaan fleets and divine oracles are demanding, and War aroused is awaiting with unbarred portals – was it thou whom a crafty mother profaned with feminine robes, and trusted yonder hiding-place with so great a secret, and hoped the trust was sure? O too anxious, O too true a mother! Could such valour lie inert and hidden, that scarce hearing the trumpet-blast fled from Thetis and companions and the heart’s unspoken passion? Nor is it due to us that thou comest to the war, and compliest with our prayers; thou wouldst have come – ,”

[42] He spoke, and thus the Aeacian hero takes up the word: “’Twere long to set forth the causes of my tarrying and my mother’s crime; this sword shall make excuse for Scyros and my dishonourable garb, the reproach of destiny. Do thou rather, while the sea is peaceful and the sails enjoy the zephyr, tell how the Danaans began so great a war: I would fain draw straightway from thy words a righteous anger.”

[49] Then the Ithacan, tracing far back the beginning of the tale: “A shepherd, they say – if we believe such things – was chosen in Hector’s domain of Ida to end a strife of beauty, and while he kept the goddesses anxious doubt looked not with friendly eye upon Minerva’s frowning countenance nor on the consort of the heavenly ruler, but gazed overmuch on Dione alone. And verily that quarrel arose in thy own glades, at a gathering of the gods, when pleasant Pelion made marriage-feast for Peleus, and thou even then wert promised to our armament. Wrath thrills the vanquished ones: the judge demands his fateful reward, and compliant Amyclae is shown to the ravisher. He cuts down the Phrygian groves, the secret haunts of the turret-crowned mother, and flings down pines that fear to fall to earth, and borne o’er the sea to Achaean lands he plunders the marriage-chamber of his host the son of Atreus – ah! shame and pity on proud Europe! – and exulting in Helen puts to sea and brings home to Pergamum the spoils of Argos. Then, as the rumours spread far and wide through the cities, of our own will, none urging us, we gather, who could endure the unlawful, crafty breaking of the marriage-bond, or a consort carried off in unresisted rape, as though a beast of the flock or herd, would shake even a valiant heart. Masterful Agenor endured not the treachery of the gods, but went in quest of sacred lowings and Europa riding on a mighty god, and scorned the Thunderer as a son-in-law; Aeëtes endured not the rape of his daughter72 from the Scythian shore, but with ships and steel pursued the princes and the vessel fated to join the stars: shall we endure a Phrygian eunuch hovering about the coasts and harbours of Argos with his incestuous bark? Are our horses and men so utterly vanished? Are the seas so impassable to Greeks? What if someone now were to carry of Deidamia from her native shores, and tear her from her lonely chamber in dire dismay and crying on the name of great Achilles?”

[84] His hand flew to the sword-hilt, and a dark flush surged over his face: Ulysses was silent and content.

[86] Then spoke Oenides: “Nay, O thou worthiest progeny of heaven, tell us, thy admiring friends, of the ways in which thy spirit first was trained, and as the vigour of thy youth increased what stirring themes of glory Chiron was wont to recount to thee, and how thy valour grew, by what arts he made strong thy limbs or fired thy courage; let it be worthy while to have sought Scyros over long leagues of sea, and to have first shown weapons to those arms of thine.”

[94] Who would find it hard to tell of his own deeds? Yet he begins modestly, somewhat uncertain and more like one compelled: “Even in my years of crawling infancy, when the Thessalian sage received me on his stark mountain-side, I am said to have devoured no wonted food, nor to have sated my hunger at the nourishing breast, but to have gnawed the tough entrails of lions and the bowels of a half-slain she-wolf. That was my first bread, that the bounty of joyous Bacchus, in such wise did that father of mine73 feed me. Then he taught me to go with him through pathless deserts, dragging me on with mighty stride, and to laugh at sight of the wild beasts, nor tremble at the shattering rocks by rushing torrents or at the silence of the lonely forest. Already at that time weapons were in my hand and quivers on my shoulders, the love of steel grew apace within me, and my skin was hardened by much sun and frost; nor were my limbs weakened by soft couches, but I shared the hard rock with my master’s mighty frame.

[110]”Scarce had my raw youth turned the wheel of twice six years, when already he made me outpace swift hinds and Lapith steeds and running overtake the flung dart; often Chiron himself, while yet he was swift of foot, chased me at full gallop74 with headlong speed o’er all the plains, and when I was exhausted by roaming over the meads he praised my joyously and hoisted me upon his back. Often too in the first freezing of the streams he would bid me go upon them with light step nor break the ice. These were my boyhood glories. Why now should I tell thee of the woodland battles and of the glades that know my fierce shout no more? Never would he suffer me to follow unwarlike does through the pathless glens of Ossa, or lay low timid lynxes with my spear, but only to drive angry bears from their resting-places, and boars with lightning thrust; or if anywhere a mighty tiger lurked or a lioness with her cubs in some secret lair upon the mountain-side, he himself, seated in his vast cave, awaited my exploits, if perchance I should return bespattered with dark blood; nor did he admit me to his embrace before he had scanned my weapons.

[129] “And already I was being prepared for the armed tumults of the neighbouring folk, and no fashion of savage warfare passed me by. I learnt how the Paeonians whirl and fling their darts and the Macetae their javelins, with how fierce a rush the Sarmatian plies his pike and the Getan his falchion, how the Gelonian draws his bow, and how the Balearic wielder of the pliant thong keeps the missile swinging round with balanced motion, and as he swings it marks out a circle in the air.75 Scarce could I recount all my doings, successful though they were; now he instructs me to span huge dykes by leaping, now to climb and grasp the airy mountain-peak, with what stride to run upon the level, how to catch flung stones in mimic battle on my shielded arm, to pass through burning houses, and to check flying four-horse teams on foot.

[145] “Spercheus, I remember was flowing with rapid current, fed full with constant rains and melted snows and carrying on its flood boulders and living trees, when he sent me in, there were the waves rolled fiercest, and bade me stand against them and hurl back the swelling billows that he himself could scarce have borne, though he stood to face them with so many a limb.76 I strove to stand, but the violence of the stream and the dizzy panic of the broad spate forced me to give ground; he loomed o’er me from above and fiercely threatened, and flung taunts to shame me. Nor did I depart till he gave me word, so far did the lofty love of fame constrain me, and my toils were not too hard with such a witness. For to fling the Oebalian77 quoit far out of sight into the clouds, or to practise the holds of the sleek wrestling-bout, and to scatter blows with the boxing-gloves were sport and rest to me: nor laboured I more therein that when I struck with my quill the sounding strings, or told the wondrous fame of heroes of old.

[159] “Also did he teach me of juices and the grasses that succour disease, what remedy will staunch too fast a flow of blood, what will lull to sleep, what will close gaping wounds; what plague should be checked by the knife, what will yield to herbs; and he implanted deep within my heart the precepts of divine justice, whereby he was wont to give revered laws to the tribes that dwelt on Pelion, and tame his own twy-formed folk. So much do I remember, friends, of the training of my earliest years, and sweet is their remembrance; the rest my mother knows.”


54. The courting of Juno by the youthful Jupiter is also mentioned Theb. x. 61 sq.
55. From Agenor, king of Tyre, from whom Semele, his mother, was descended.
56. i.e., the thyrsus.
57. There is a sort of inverted comparison here: the warlike Achilles putting on Bacchic garb is compared to effeminate Bacchus making ready for war.
58. Thetis nearly became the wife of Jove, so that Achilles was “nearly” his son. An oracle warned Jove that the son thus born would destroy him. Wilamowitz’s conjecture “Paeoniis” is attractive.
59. Peleus was descended from Zeus; cf. 869, 899.
60. Because Ulysses was son of Laertes.

61. Apollo.
62. Cf. l. 285.
63. i.e. Theban (from the river Ismenos), i.e. Bacchic.
64. Here = Cybele, worshipped by the Corybantes with very noisy rites.
65. The Curetes were priests of Jupiter (Zeus) in Crete; the Samothracians celebrated mysteries in honour of the Cabiri.
66. “pectin” was the name of a dance in which, one may gather, two opposing lines met and passed through each other.
67. Pentheus, king of Thebes, tried to put down the Bacchus-worship of which his mother Agave was a votary. “tristes,” as though with apprehension of his fate (he was torn in pieces by his own mother in her frenzy).
68. “consumitur,” a vivid use of the word; “is consumed, or used up by “his hand, which is too mighty for it.
69. i.e., there was not only Achilles for Lycomedes to slay, but his daughter and his grandson also.
70. i.e., Deidamia’s.

71. Helen, daughter of Tyndareus.
72. Medea. The Argo was set in heaven as a constellation by Pallas.
73. i.e., Chiron.
74. “admissus,” cf. The common phrase "admisso equo."
75. cf. Theb. iv. 67.
76. i.e., he had four legs to withstand the torrent.
77. See note on Silv. v. 3. 53; but it may simply mean Spartan, as being a sport much practised in Sparta.