And now to Xanthus' gliding stream they drove


And now to Xanthus' gliding stream they drove,
Xanthus, immortal progeny of Jove.
The river here divides the flying train.
Part to the town fly diverse o'er the plain,
Where late their troops triumphant bore the fight,
Now chas'd, and trembling in ignoble flight:
(These with a gather'd mist Saturnia shrouds,
And rolls behind the rout a heap of clouds)
Part plunge into the stream: Old Xanthus roars,
The flashing billows beat the whiten'd shores:
With cries promiscuous all the banks resound,
And here, and there, in eddies whirling round,
The flouncing steeds and shrieking warriours drown'd.
As the scorch'd locusts from their fields retire,
While fast behind them runs the blaze of fire;
Driv'n from the land before the smoky cloud,
The clust'ring legions rush into the flood:
So plung'd in Xanthus by Achilles' force,
Roars the resounding surge with men and horse.
His bloody lance the hero casts aside,
(Which spreading tam'risks on the margin hide)
Then, like a God, the rapid billows braves,
Arm'd with his sword, high-brandish'd o'er the waves:
Now down he plunges, now he whirls it round,
Deep groan'd the waters with the dying sound;
Repeated wounds the red'ning river dy'd,
And the warm purple circled on the tide.
Swift thro' the foamy flood the Trojans fly,
And close in rocks or winding caverns lie.
So the huge Dolphin tempesting the main,
In shoals before him fly the scaly train,
Confus'dly heap'd they seek their inmost caves,
Or pant and heave beneath the floating waves.
Now tir'd with slaughter, from the Trojan band
Twelve chosen youths he drags alive to land;
With their rich belts their captive arms constrains,
(Late their proud ornaments, but now their chains.)
These his attendants to the ships convey'd,
Sad Victims! destin'd to Patroclus' shade.
      Then, as once more he plung'd amid the flood,
The young Lycaon in his passage stood;
The son of Priam who the hero's hand
But late made captive in his father's land,
(As from a sycamore, his sounding steel
Lopp'd the green arms to spoke a chariot wheel)
To Lemnos' isle he sold the royal slave,
Where Jason's son the price demanded gave;
But kind Eetion touching on the shore,
The ransom'd Prince to fair Arisbe bore.
Ten Days were past, since in his father's reign
He felt the sweets of liberty again;
The next, that God whom men in vain withstand,
Gives the same youth to the same conqu'ring hand;
Now never to return! and doom'd to go
A sadder journey to the shades below.
His well-known face when great Achilles ey'd,
(The helm and visor he had cast aside
With wild affright, and dropt upon the field
His useless lance and unavailing shield.)
As trembling, panting, from the stream he fled,
And knock'd his fault'ring knees, the hero said.
      Ye mighty Gods! what Wonders strike my view!
Is it in vain our conqu'ring arms subdue?
Sure I shall see yon' heaps of Trojans kill'd
Rise from the shades, and brave me on the field:
As now the captive, whom so late I bound
And sold to Lemnos, stalks on the Trojan ground!
Not him the sea's unmeasur'd deeps detain,
That barr such numbers from their native plain:
Lo! he returns! Try then, my flying spear!
Try, if the grave can hold the wanderer;
If earth at length this active Prince can seize,
Earth, whose strong grasp has held down Hercules.
      Thus while he spake, the Trojan pale with fears
Approach'd, and sought his knees with suppliant tears;
Loth as he was to yield his youthful breath,
And his soul shiv'ring at th' approach of death.
Achilles rais'd his spear, prepar'd to wound;
He kiss'd his feet, extended on the ground:
And while above the spear suspended stood,
Longing to dip its thirsty point in blood,
One hand embrac'd them close, one stopt the Dart;
While thus these melting words attempt his heart.
      Thy well-known captive, great Achilles! see,
Once more Lycaon trembles at thy knee.
Some pity to a suppliant's name afford,
Who shar'd the gifts of Ceres at thy board;
Whom late thy conqu'ring arm to Lemnos bore,
Far from his father, friends, and native shore;
A hundred oxen were his price that day,
Now sums immense thy mercy shall repay.
Scarce respited from woes I yet appear,
And scarce twelve morning suns have seen me here;
Lo! Jove again submits me to thy hands,
Again, her victim cruel fate demands!
I sprung from Priam, and Laothoe fair,
(Old Alte's daughter, and Lelegia's heir;
Who held in Pedasus his fam'd abode,
And rul'd the fields where silver Satnio flow'd)
Two sons (alas, unhappy sons) she bore;
For ah! one spear shall drink each brother's gore,
And I succeed to slaughter'd Polydore.
How from that arm of terrour shall I fly?
Some Daemon urges! 'tis my doom to die!
If ever yet soft pity touch'd thy mind,
Ah! think not me too much of Hector's kind!
Not the same mother gave thy suppliant breath,
With his, who wrought thy lov'd Patroclus' death.
      These words, attended with a show'r of tears,
The youth addrest to unrelenting ears:
Talk not of life, or ransom, (he replies)
Patroclus dead, whoever meets me, dies:
In vain a single Trojan sues for grace:
But least, the sons of Priam's hateful race.
Die then, my friend! what boots it to deplore?
The great, the good Patroclus is no more!
He, far thy better, was foredoom'd to die,
And thou, dost thou, bewail mortality?
See'st thou not me, whom nature's gifts adorn,
Sprung from a hero, from a Goddess born;
The day shall come (which nothing can avert)
When by the spear, the arrow, or the dart,
By night, or day, by force or by design,
Impending death and certain fate are mine.
Die then–he said; and as the word he spoke
The fainting stripling sunk, before the stroke;
His hand forgot its grasp, and left the spear:
While all his trembling frame confest his fear.
Sudden, Achilles his broad sword display'd,
And buried in his neck the reeking blade.
Prone fell the youth; and panting on the land,
The gushing purple dy'd the thirsty sand:
The victor to the stream the carcass gave,
And thus insults him, floating on the wave.
      Lie there, Lycaon! let the fish surround
Thy bloated corse, and such thy goary wound:
There no sad mother shall thy fun'rals weep,
But swift Scamander roll thee to the deep,
Whose ev'ry wave some wat'ry monster brings,
To feast unpunish'd on the fat of kings.
So perish Troy, and all the Trojan line!
Such ruin theirs, and such compassion mine.
What boots ye now Scamander's worship'd stream,
His earthly honours, and immortal name;
In vain your immolated bulls are slain,
Your living coursers glut his gulphs in vain:
Thus he rewards you, with this bitter fate;
Thus, till the Grecian vengeance is compleat;
Thus is aton'd Patroclus' honour'd shade,
And the short absence of Achilles paid.

            *                  *                  *

But from the bottom of his gulphs profound,
Scamander spoke; the shores return'd the sound.
      O first of mortals! (for the Gods are thine)
In valour matchless, and in force divine!
If Jove have giv'n thee every Trojan head,
'Tis not on me thy rage should heap the dead.
See! my choak'd streams no more their course can keep,
Nor roll their wonted tribute to the deep.
Turn then, impetuous! from our injur'd flood;
Content, thy slaughters could amaze a God.
      In human form confess'd before his eyes
The river thus; and thus the Chief replies.
O sacred stream! thy word we shall obey;
But not till Troy the destin'd vegeance pay,
Not till within her tow'rs the perjur'd train
Shall pant, and tremble at our arms again;
Not till proud Hector, guardian of her wall,
Or stain this lance, or see Achilles fall.
      He said; and drove with fury on the foe.
Then to the Godhead of the silver bow
The yellow Flood began: O son of Jove!
Was not the mandate of the Sire above
Full and express? that Phoebus should employ
His sacred arrows in defence of Troy,
And make her conquer, till Hyperion's fall
In the awful darkness hide the face of all?
      He spoke in vain–the chief without dismay
Ploughs thro' the boiling surge his desp'rate way.
Then rising in his rage above the shores,
From all his deep the bellowing river roars,
Huge heaps of slain disgorges on the coast,
And round the banks the ghastly dead are tost.
While all before, the billows rang'd on high
(A wat'ry bulwark) screen the bands who fly.
Now bursting on his head with thund'ring sound,
The falling deluge whelms the hero round:
His loaded shield bends to the rushing tide;
His feet, upborn, scarce the strong flood divide,
Slidd'ring, and stagg'ring. On the border stood
A spreading elm, that overhung the flood;
He seiz'd a bending bough, his steps to stay;
The plant uprooted to his weight gave way,
Heaving the bank, and undermining all;
Loud flash the waters to the rushing fall
Of the thick foliage. The large trunk display'd
Bridg'd the rough flood across: The hero stay'd
On this his weight, and rais'd upon his hand,
Leap'd from the chanel, and regain'd the land.
Then blacken'd the wild waves; the murmur rose;
The God pursues, a huger billow throws,
And bursts the bank, ambitious to destroy
The man whose fury is the fate of Troy.
He, like the warlike eagle speeds his pace,
(Swiftest and strongest of th'aerial race)
Far as a spear can fly, Achilles springs
At ev'ry bound; his clanging armour rings:
Now here, now there, he turns on ev'ry side,
And winds his course before the following tide;
The waves flow after, wheresoe'er he wheels,
And gather fast, and murmur at his heels.
So when a peasant to his garden brings
Soft rills of water from the bubbling springs,
And feed with pregnant streams the plants and flow'rs;
Soon as he clears whate'er their passage staid,
And marks the future current with his spade,
Swift o'er the rolling pebbles, down the hills
Louder and louder purl the falling rills,
Before him scatt'ring, they prevent his pains,
And shine in mazy wand'rings o'er the plains.
      Still flies Achilles, but before his eyes
Still swift Scamander rolls where'er he flies:
Not all his speed escapes the rapid floods;
The first of men, but not a match for Gods.
Oft' as he turn'd the torrent to oppose,
And bravely try if all the pow'rs were foes;
So oft' the surge, in wat'ry mountains spread,
Beats on his back, or bursts upon his head.
Yet dauntless still the adverse flood he braves,
And still indignant bounds above the waves.
Tir'd by the tides, his knees relax with toil;
Wash'd from beneath him, slides the slimy Soil;
When thus (his eyes on heav'n's expansion thrown)
Forth bursts the hero with an angry groan.
      Is there no God Achilles to befriend,
No pow'r t'avert this miserable end?
Prevent, oh Jove! this ignominious date,
And make my future life the sport of Fate.
Of all heav'ns oracles believ'd in vain,
But most of Thetis, must her son complain;
By Phoebus' darts she prophesy'd my fall,
In glorious arms before the Trojan wall.
Oh! had I dy'd in fields of battel warm,
Stretch'd like a hero, by a hero's arm!
Might Hector's spear this dauntless bosom rend,
And my swift soul o'ertake my slaughter'd friend!
Ah no! Achilles meets a shameful fate,
Oh how unworthy of the brave and great!
Like some vile swain, shom on a rainy day,
Crossing a ford, the torrent sweeps away,
An unregarded carcase to the sea.
      Neptune and Pallas hasten to his relief,
And thus in human form address the chief:
The pow'r of Ocean first. Forbear thy fear,
O son of Peleus! Lo thy Gods appear!
Behold! from Jove descending to thy aid,
Propitious Neptune, and the blue-ey'd maid.
Stay, and the furious flood shall cease to rave:
'Tis not thy fate to glut his angry wave.
But thou, the counsel heav'n suggests, attend!
Nor breathe from combate, nor thy sword suspend,
Till Troy receive her flying sons, till all
Her routed squadrons pant behind their wall:
Hector alone shall stand his fatal chance,
And Hector's blood shall smoke upon thy lance.
Thine is the glory doom'd. Thus spake the Gods;
Then swift ascended to the bright abodes.
      Stung with new ardour, thus by heav'n impell'd,
He springs impetuous, and invades the field:
O'er all th'expanded plain the waters spread;
Heav'd on the bounding billows danc'd the dead,
Floating midst scatter'd arms; while casques of gold
And turn'd up bucklers glitter'd as they roll'd.
High o'er the surging tide, by leaps and bounds,
He wades, and mounts; the parted wave resounds.
Not a whole river stops the hero's course,
While Pallas fills him with immortal force.
With equal rage, indignant Xanthus roars,
And lifts his billows, and o'erwhelms his shores.
      Then thus to Simois: Haste, my brother flood!
And check this mortal that controuls a God:
Our bravest heroes else shall quit the fight,
And Ilion tumble from her tow'ry height.
Call then thy subject streams, and bid them roar,
From all thy fountains swell thy wat'ry store,
With broken rocks, and with a load of dead,
Charge the black surge, and pour it on his head.
Mark how resistless thro' the floods he goes,
And boldly bids the warring Gods be foes!
But nor that force, nor form divine to sight
Shall ought avail him, if our rage unite:
Whelm'd under our dark gulphs those arms shall lie,
That blaze so dreadful in each Trojan eye;
And deep beneath a sandy mountain hurl'd,
Immers'd remain this terrour of the world.
Such pond'rous ruin shall confound the place,
No Greek shall e'er his perish'd relicks grace,
No hand his bones shall gather, or inhume;
These his cold rites, and his wat'ry tomb.
      He said; and on the chief descends amain,
Increas'd with gore, and swelling with the slain.
Then murm'ring from his beds, he boils, he raves,
And a foam whitens on the purple waves.
At ev'ry step, before Achilles stood
The crimson surge, and delug'd him with blood.
Fear touch'd the Queen of heav'n: She saw dismay'd,
She call'd aloud, and summon'd Vulcan's aid.
      Rise to the war! th'insulting flood requires
Thy wasteful arm: Assemble all thy fires!
While to their aid, by our command enjoin'd,
Rush the swift Eastern and the western wind:
These from old Ocean at my word shall blow,
Pour the red torrent on the wat'ry foe,
Corses and arms to one bright ruin turn,
And hissing rivers to their bottoms burn.
Go, mighty in thy rage! display thy pow'r,
Drink the whole flood, the crackling trees devour,
Scorch all the banks! and (till our voice reclaim)
Exert th'unweary'd furies of the flame!
      The Pow'r Ignipotent her word obeys:
Wide o'er the plain he pours the boundless blaze;
At once consumes the dead, and dries the soil;
And the shrunk waters in their chanel boil:
As when autumnal Boreas sweeps the sky,
And instant blows the water'd gardens dry:
So look'd the field, so whiten'd was the ground,
While Vulcan breath'd the fiery blast around.
Swift on the sedgey reeds the ruin preys;
Along the margin winds the running blaze:
The trees in flaming rows to ashes turn,
The flow'ry Lotos, and the tam'risk burn,
Broad elm, and cypress rising in a spire;
The wat'ry willows hiss before the fire.
Now glow the waves, the fishes pant for breath,
The eels lie twisting in the pangs of death:
Now flounce aloft, now dive the scaly fry,
Or gasping, turn their bellies to the sky.
At length the river rear'd his languid head,
And thus, short-panting, to the God he said.
      O Vulcan, oh! what pow'r resists thy might?
I faint, I sink, unequal to the fight–
I yield–Let Ilion fall; if Fate decree–
Ah–bend no more thy fiery arms on me!
      He ceas'd; wide conflagration blazing round;
The bubbling waters yield a hissing sound.
As when the flames beneath a caldron rise,
To melt the fat of some rich sacrifice,
Amid the fierce embrace of circling fires
The waters foam, the heavy smoak aspires:
So boils th' imprison'd flood, forbid to flow,
And choak'd with vapours, feels his bottom glow.
To Juno then, imperial Queen of Air,
The burning river sends his earnest pray'r.
      Ah why, Saturnia! must thy son engage
Me, only me, with all his wastfull rage?
On other Gods his dreadful arm employ,
For mightier Gods assert the cause of Troy.
Submissive I desist, if thou command,
But ah! withdraw this all-destroying hand.
Hear then my solemn oath, to yield to Fate
Unaided Ilion, and her destin'd state,
Till Greece shall gird her with destructive flame,
And in one ruin sink the Trojan name.
      His warm intreaty touch'd Saturnia's ear:
She bade th' Ignipotent his rage forbear,
Recall the flame, nor in a mortal cause
Infest a God: Th'obedient flame withdraws:
Again, the branching streams begin to spread,
And soft re-murmur in their wonted bed.


                     –The Iliad, XXI, 1-150 & 229-447
                     Greek; trans. Alexander Pope


Homer, Greek,trans. Alexander Pope, The Iliad, Penguin Books, 1996.