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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.
“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.
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