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Achilles Refuses to Aid the Greeks

By Homer (fl. 850 B.C.)

From the Iliad, ix. 307–347: Translation of Edward Stanley, Lord Derby

WHOM answered thus Achilles, swift of foot:—

“Heaven-born Ulysses, sage in council, son

Of great Laertes, I must frankly speak

My mind at once, my fixed resolve declare:

That from henceforth I may not by the Greeks,

By this man and by that, be importuned.

Him as the gates of hell my soul abhors,

Whose outward words his inmost thoughts conceal.

Hear then what seems to me the wisest course.

On me nor Agamemnon, Atreus’s son,

Nor others shall prevail, since naught is gained

By toil unceasing in the battle-field.

Who nobly fight, but share with those who skulk;

Like honors gain the coward and the brave;

Alike the idlers and the active die:

And naught it profits me, though day by day

In constant toil I set my life at stake;

But as a bird, though ill she fare herself,

Brings to her callow brood the food she takes,

So I through many a sleepless night have lain,

And many a bloody day have labored through,

Engaged in battle on your wives’ behalf.

Twelve cities have I taken with my ships:

Eleven more by land on Trojan soil.

From all of these abundant stores of wealth

I took, and all to Agamemnon gave;

He, safe on board his ships, my spoils received,

A few divided, but the most retained.

To other chiefs and kings he meted out

Their sev’ral portions, and they hold them still;

From me, from me alone of all the Greeks,

He bore away, and keeps, my cherished wife.

But say then, why do Greeks with Trojans fight?

Why hath Atrides brought this mighty host

To Troy, if not in fair-haired Helen’s cause?

Of mortals are there none that love their wives,

Save Atreus’s sons alone? or do not all,

Who boast the praise of sense and virtue, love

And cherish each his own? as her I loved

Ev’n from my soul, though captive of my spear.

Now, since he once hath robbed me, and deceived,

Let him not seek my aid; I know him now,

And am not to be won; let him devise,

With thee, Ulysses, and the other kings,

How best from hostile fires to save his ships.”