Achillis mors.But Neptune, who commands the ocean waves,
lamented with a father's grief his son,
whose person he had changed into a bird—
the swan of Phaethon, and towards Achilles,
grim victor in the fight, his lasting hate
made him pursue resentment far beyond
the ordinary manner of the gods.
After nine years of war he spoke these words,
addressing long haired Sminthean Apollo:
“O nephew the most dear to me of all
my brother's sons, with me you built in vain
the walls of Troy: you must be lost in grief,
when you look on those towers so soon to fall?
Or do you not lament the multitudes
slain in defence of them—To name but one:
“Does not the ghost of Hector, dragged around
his Pergama, appear to you? And yet
the fierce Achilles, who is bloodstained more
than slaughtering war, lives on this earth,
for the destruction of our toil. Let him
once get into my power, and I will make
him feel the action of my triple spear.
But, since I may not meet him face to face,
do you with sudden arrow give him death.”
The Delian god, Apollo, gave assent,
both for his own hate and his uncle's rage.
Veiled in a cloud, he found the Trojan host
and, there, while bloody strife went on, he saw
the hero Paris shoot at intervals
his arrows at the nameless host of Greeks.
Revealing his divinity, he said:
“Why spend your arrows on the common men
if you would serve your people, take good aim
at great Achilles and at last avenge
your hapless brothers whom he gave to death.”
He pointed out Achilles—laying low
the Trojan warriors with his mighty spear.
On him he turned the Trojan's willing bow
and guided with his hand the fatal shaft.
It was the first joy that old Priam knew
since Hector's death. So then Achilles you,
who overcame the mighty, were subdued
by a coward who seduced a Grecian wife!
Ah, if you could not die by manly hands,
your choice had been the axe.
Now that great terror of the Trojan race,
the glory and defence of the Pelasgians,
Achilles, first in war, lay on the pyre.
The god of Fire first armed, then burned, his limbs.
And now he is but ashes; and of him, so great,
renowned and mighty, but a pitiful
handful of small dust insufficient for
a little urn! But all his glory lives
enough to fill the world—a great reward.
And in that glory is his real life:
in a true sense he will never know the void
But soon his very shield—
that men might know to whom it had belonged—
brings war, and arms are taken for his arms.
Neither Diomed nor Ajax called the less
ventured to claim the hero's mighty shield.
Menelaus and other warlike chiefs,
even Agamemnon, all withdrew their claims.
Only the greater Ajax and Ulysses
had such assurance that they dared contest
for that great prize. Then Agamemnon chose
to avoid the odium of preferring one.
He bade the Argolic chieftains take their seats
within the camp and left to all of them
the hearing and decision of the cause.