THE MESSAGE TO ACHILLES
 While the Trojans sat by their watch-fires,
sorely troubled were the hearts of the Greeks
and of Agamemnon their overlord.
Hurriedly did Agamemnon send his heralds
to call an assembly, bidding each man
separately and with no loud shouting.
Sorrowfully did they sit them down; and
when Agamemnon rose up to speak, the
bitter tears ran down his face as flows the
wan water of a mountain stream down the
dark gulleys where the sunbeams never
'My friends,' he said, 'leaders and captains
of the Greeks, hard of heart is Zeus, and
ill hath he dealt with me. Victory did he
promise, but shame hath he brought.
No-  thing now is left for us but to flee with our
ships to our own land, for never shall Troy
So spake he, and long did the Greek
warriors sit in silent grief.
Then spoke Diomedes:
'A coward hast thou called me, Agamemnon;
whether I am a coward the Greeks,
young and old, know well. To thee hath Zeus
given power above all other men, but courage,
which is the highest power of all, hath he
kept from thee. Thinkest thou that we
Greeks are cowards and weaklings such as
thou? If it is thy will to flee, flee then! Thy
ships wait for thee by the sea. But as for
us, here will we stay till Troy lies in ruins
before us. And if it even be the will of
every Greek here to flee with thee, here still
will I and my friend Sthenelus abide and
fight until Troy is ours. The gods sent us
hither! To us will the gods give the victory!'
Then spoke old Nestor:
'Mighty in battle art thou, Diomedes, and
well hast thou spoken. But thou art yet
 young—full well mightest thou be my
youngest son. So let all who hear, yea, even
Agamemnon, hearken to my words and not
gainsay me, who am so old a man. For
without clan, without laws, without a home must
be he who loveth strife. Hasten then, and
let us all take food, and see that the
sentinels be watchful along the deep trench
without the wall. For to us this night
cometh victory or death.'
Then did Agamemnon speedily have a
feast prepared, and when the feast was
ended, Nestor again uprose and spoke.
'King over all nations hath Zeus made
thee, great Agamemnon,' he said. 'Therefore
is it thy part to listen to all the counsel
that is given to thee that may aid thee to
govern thy folk. Right heartily did I try to
prevent thee from taking fair Briseis from
the tent of Achilles on that day when thou
didst anger the bravest of all warriors. Let
us now try if we may not persuade him by
gifts of friendship and with kindly words to
come back and fight for Greece once again.
Then answered Agamemnon:
 'Yea, truly, a fool was I in that I gave way
to my wrath. But gladly will I now make
amends to Achilles, the beloved of Zeus.
Rich and goodly gifts will I send to him;
priceless gifts of gold, horses of wondrous
speed, and seven fair slaves skilled in
needle-work. Fair Briseis, also, shall again be his,
and if he will come to our aid and Troy is
ours, the richest of all the spoils shall be the
spoils of Achilles. One of my daughters
shall he have for his wife, and lands and cities
and a people to rule as king shall be my gift
Speedily then did they choose messengers
to go with the gifts to Achilles.
And the messengers were Phoenix, a
warrior dear to Zeus, and giant Ajax, and
Odysseus of the many Devices. Two heralds
went with them that they might tell Achilles
of the noble Greeks who came to seek for
Along the shore of the sounding sea they
went, making prayer to Zeus that he would
grant them success in what they sought.
When they came to the ships and huts of
 Achilles they found him sitting with a lyre in
his hand. Of beautiful workmanship it was,
with a silver cross-bar upon it, and as the
hands of Achilles drew from it wondrous
melody, he sang of the glorious deeds of the
heroes of old.
Beside him sat Patroclus, listening silently
to the song of the friend that he loved.
Then did Odysseus step forward, and
Achilles, amazed, sprang to his feet, his lyre
in his hand, and Patroclus also arose.
'Welcome ye are,' said Achilles; 'truly ye
are friends that are come. Even in my
anger are ye the dearest of all the Greeks
Then he led them forward and made them
sit on seats covered with lordly purple.
To Patroclus he said:
'Bring forth the biggest bowl and the finest
of my wines, for I have no dearer friends
than those who are here with me now.'
So did Achilles have a rich feast of precious
wines and of dainties of all sorts made ready
for those who brought him the message of
Agamemnon the king.
 And when the feast was ended, Odysseus
did tell him of the dire woes of the Greeks
and of the royal gifts of Agamemnon, and of
the pleadings of the Greeks and of their
overlord, that their hero, Achilles, would
come and fight for them once again.
Then did Achilles make answer:
'Hateful to me as are the gates of death,
O great Odysseus, is the man who hideth
in his heart one thing and sayeth another.
So will I speak to thee as seemeth me best.
Hard have I laboured, fiercely have I fought
for Agamemnon, yet what is my gain after it
all? Hateful tome are the gifts of Agamem
non. Wealth and power can be mine
without aid from him, yet know I well, for my
mother, Thetis the silver-footed, hath told
me, that death swiftly draweth nigh. Let
the Greeks seek help elsewhere, for fierce
is my anger, and no help shall ye gain
Then said Ajax:
Let us go hence, Odysseus. Our
embassy is vain. Yet evil though the news we
carry with speed must we bear it back to
 the Greek host. Merciless art thou,
Achilles! Anger hath made thee set at
naught thy comrades' love and the love of
thine own dear land.'
And to Ajax did Achilles make answer:
'Take ye, then, my message, brave Ajax!
Tell Agamemnon that until the day that the
men of Troy come even to my ships and my
huts and smirch them with fire, no finger
will I raise for Greece. But on that day,
then, surely, will the power of the Trojans
Then did Odysseus and Ajax and the
others return in sorrow to the host of the
Greeks, and gave to them the message of
In silence did the warriors listen.
Then said Diomedes
'Achilles, then, must bide his time. When
his heart is aroused again within him, he
will fight. But let us now take meat and
drink and sleep, and when rosy-fingered
Dawn doth come, strength shall be ours for
the battle, and with courage shall we fight
for the cause of Agamemnon our king!'
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