Book 24

Mercury conducts the souls of the suitors down to Ades. Ulysses discovers himself to Laertes, and quells, by the aid of Minerva, an insurrection of the people resenting the death of the suitors.

   And now Cyllenian Hermes summon’d forth
The spirits of the suitors; waving wide
The golden wand of pow’r to seal all eyes
In slumber, and to ope them wide again,
He drove them gibb’ring down into the shades,
As when the bats within some hallow’d cave
Flit squeaking all around, for if but one
Fall from the rock, the rest all follow him,
In such connexion mutual they adhere,
So, after bounteous Mercury, the ghosts,
Troop’d downward gibb’ring all the dreary way.
The Ocean’s flood and the Leucadian rock,
The Sun’s gate also and the land of Dreams
They pass’d, whence, next, into the meads they came
Of Asphodel, by shadowy forms possess’d,
Simulars of the dead. They found the souls
Of brave Pelides there, and of his friend
Patroclus, of Antilochus renown’d,
And of the mightier Ajax, for his form
And bulk (Achilles sole except) of all
The sons of the Achaians most admired.
These waited on Achilles. Then, appear’d
The mournful ghost of Agamemnon, son
Of Atreus, compass’d by the ghosts of all
Who shared his fate beneath Ægisthus’ roof,
And him the ghost of Peleus’ son bespake.

   Atrides! of all Heroes we esteem’d
Thee dearest to the Gods, for that thy sway
Extended over such a glorious host
At Ilium, scene of sorrow to the Greeks.
But Fate, whose ruthless force none may escape
Of all who breathe, pursued thee from the first.
Thou should’st have perish’d full of honour, full
Of royalty, at Troy; so all the Greeks
Had rais’d thy tomb, and thou hadst then bequeath’d
Great glory to thy son; but Fate ordain’d
A death, oh how deplorable! for thee.

   To whom Atrides’ spirit thus replied.
Blest son of Peleus, semblance of the Gods,
At Ilium, far from Argos, fall’n! for whom
Contending, many a Trojan, many a Chief
Of Greece died also, while in eddies whelm’d
Of dust thy vastness spread the plain, nor thee
The chariot aught or steed could int’rest more!
All day we waged the battle, nor at last
Desisted, but for tempests sent from Jove.
At length we bore into the Greecian fleet
Thy body from the field; there, first, we cleansed
With tepid baths and oil’d thy shapely corse,
Then placed thee on thy bier, while many a Greek
Around thee wept, and shore his locks for thee.
Thy mother, also, hearing of thy death
With her immortal nymphs from the abyss
Arose and came; terrible was the sound
On the salt flood; a panic seized the Greeks,
And ev’ry warrior had return’d on board
That moment, had not Nestor, ancient Chief,
Illumed by long experience, interposed,
His counsels, ever wisest, wisest proved
Then also, and he thus address’d the host.

   Sons of Achaia; fly not; stay, ye Greeks!
Thetis arrives with her immortal nymphs
From the abyss, to visit her dead son.

   So he; and, by his admonition stay’d,
The Greeks fled not. Then, all around thee stood
The daughters of the Ancient of the Deep,
Mourning disconsolate; with heav’nly robes
They clothed thy corse, and all the Muses nine
Deplored thee in full choir with sweetest tones

Responsive, nor one Greecian hadst thou seen
Dry-eyed, such grief the Muses moved in all.
Full sev’nteen days we, day and night, deplored
Thy death, both Gods in heav’n and men below,
But, on the eighteenth day, we gave thy corse
Its burning, and fat sheep around thee slew
Num’rous, with many a pastur’d ox moon-horn’d.
We burn’d thee clothed in vesture of the Gods,
With honey and with oil feeding the flames
Abundant, while Achaia’s Heroes arm’d,
Both horse and foot, encompassing thy pile,
Clash’d on their shields, and deaf’ning was the din.
But when the fires of Vulcan had at length
Consumed thee, at the dawn we stored thy bones
In unguent and in undiluted wine;
For Thetis gave to us a golden vase
Twin- ear’d, which she profess’d to have received
From Bacchus, work divine of Vulcan’s hand.
Within that vase, Achilles, treasured lie
Thine and the bones of thy departed friend
Patroclus, but a sep’rate urn we gave
To those of brave Antilochus, who most
Of all thy friends at Ilium shared thy love
And thy respect, thy friend Patroclus slain.
Around both urns we piled a noble tomb,
(We warriors of the sacred Argive host)
On a tall promontory shooting far
Into the spacious Hellespont, that all
Who live, and who shall yet be born, may view
Thy record, even from the distant waves.
Then, by permission from the Gods obtain’d,
To the Achaian Chiefs in circus met
Thetis appointed games. I have beheld
The burial rites of many an Hero bold,
When, on the death of some great Chief, the youths
Girding their loins anticipate the prize,
But sight of those

  By PanEris using Melati.

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