Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII. 1876–79.

Asia Minor: Troy


By Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)

(From The Iliad, Book III)
Translated by W. C. Bryant

SHE said, and in the heart of Helen woke

Dear recollections of her former spouse

And of her home and kindred. Instantly

She left her chamber, robed and veiled in white,

And shedding tender tears; yet not alone,

For with her went two maidens,—Æthra, child

Of Pitheus, and the large-eyed Clymene.

Straight to the Scæan gates they walked, by which

Panthoüs, Priam, and Thymœtes sat,

Lampus and Clytius, Hicetaon sprung

From Mars, Antenor and Ucalegon,

Two sages,—elders of the people all.

Beside the gates they sat, unapt, through age,

For tasks of war, but men of fluent speech,

Like the cicades that within the wood

Sit on the trees and utter delicate sounds.

Such were the nobles of the Trojan race

Who sat upon the tower. But when they marked

The approach of Helen, to each other thus

With winged words, but in low tones, they said:—

“Small blame is theirs, if both the Trojan knights

And brazen-mailed Achaians have endured

So long so many evils for the sake

Of that one woman. She is wholly like

In feature to the deathless goddesses.

So be it: let her, peerless as she is,

Return on board the fleet, nor stay to bring

Disaster upon us and all our race.”

So spake the elders. Priam meantime called

To Helen: “Come, dear daughter, sit by me.

Thou canst behold thy former husband hence,

Thy kindred and thy friends. I blame thee not;

The blame is with the immortals who have sent

These pestilent Greeks against me. Sit and name

For me this mighty man, the Grecian chief,

Gallant and tall. True, there are taller men;

But of such noble form and dignity

I never saw: in truth, a kingly man.”

And Helen, fairest among women, thus

Answered: “Dear second father, whom at once

I fear and honor, would that cruel death

Had overtaken me before I left,

To wander with thy son, my marriage-bed,

And my dear daughter, and the company

Of friends I loved. But that was not to be;

And now I pine and weep. Yet will I tell

What thou dost ask. The hero whom thou seest

Is the wide-ruling Agamemnon, son

Of Atreus, and is both a gracious king

And a most dreaded warrior. He was once

Brother-in-law to me, if I may speak,—

Lost as I am to shame,—of such a tie.”

She said, the aged man admired, and then

He spake again: “O son of Atreus, born

Under a happy fate, and fortunate

Among the sons of men! A mighty host

Of Grecian youths obey thy rule. I went

To Phrygia once,—that land of vines,—and there

Saw many Phrygians, heroes on fleet steeds,

The troops of Otreus, and of Mygdon, shaped

Like one of the immortals. They encamped

By the Sangarius. I was an ally;

My troops were ranked with theirs upon the day

When came the unsexed Amazons to war.

Yet even there I saw not such a host

As this of black-eyed Greeks who muster here.”

Then Priam saw Ulysses, and inquired:—

“Dear daughter, tell me also who is that,

Less tall than Agamemnon, yet more broad

In chest and shoulders. On the teeming earth

His armor lies, but he, from place to place,

Walks round among the ranks of soldiery,

As when the thick-fleeced father of the flocks

Moves through the multitude of his white sheep.”

And Jove-descended Helen answered thus:—

“That is Ulysses, man of many arts,

Son of Laertes, reared in Ithaca,

That rugged isle, and skilled in every form

Of shrewd device and action wisely planned.”

Then spake the sage Antenor: “Thou hast said

The truth, O lady. This Ulysses once

Came on an embassy, concerning thee,

To Troy with Menelaus, great in war;

And I received them as my guests, and they

Were lodged within my palace, and I learned

The temper and the qualities of both.

When both were standing mid the men of Troy,

I marked that Menelaus’s broad chest

Made him the more conspicuous, but when both

Were seated, greater was the dignity

Seen in Ulysses. When they both addressed

The council, Menelaus briefly spake

In pleasing tones, though with few words,—as one

Not given to loose and wandering speech,—although

The younger. When the wise Ulysses rose,

He stood with eyes cast down, and fixed on earth,

And neither swayed his sceptre to the right

Nor to the left, but held it motionless,

Like one unused to public speech. He seemed

An idiot out of humor. But when forth

He sent from his full lungs his mighty voice,

And words came like a fall of winter snow,

No mortal then would dare to strive with him

For mastery in speech. We less admired

The aspect of Ulysses than his words.”

Beholding Ajax then, the aged king

Asked yet again: “Who is that other chief

Of the Achaians, tall, and large of limb,—

Taller and broader-chested than the rest?”

Helen, the beautiful and richly-robed,

Answered: “Thou seest the mighty Ajax there,

The bulwark of the Greeks. On the other side,

Among his Cretans, stands Idomeneus,

Of godlike aspect, near to whom are grouped

The leaders of the Cretans. Oftentimes

The warlike Menelaus welcomed him

Within our palace, when he came from Crete.

I could point out and name the other chiefs

Of the dark-eyed Achaians. Two alone,

Princes among their people, are not seen,—

Castor, the fearless horseman, and the skilled

In boxing, Pollux,—twins; one mother bore

Both at one birth with me. Did they not come

From pleasant Lacedæmon to the war?

Or, having crossed the deep in their good ships,

Shun they to fight among the valiant ones

Of Greece, because of my reproach and shame?”

She spake; but they already lay in earth

In Lacedæmon, their dear native land.