Book I -- The Rage of Achilles
Scream and holler for every man who died
when two uncompromising men defied
a father's offer, and the way of kings,
by baring egos over trivial things.
Nine years they've wasted on this blood-soaked shore.
There seems no end to this unending war.
With hordes of soldiers that the Greeks deploy,
they still can't batter down the walls of Troy.
But then a cleric from a nearby land
comes trudging eastward on the reddened sand,
to offer gifts for Agamemnon's tent
in hope the king's ardor has now been spent.
This priest now enters on the royal track,
to try and barter for his daughter back.
This daughter, though, is Agamemnon's prize,
a treasure given by his staunch allies
for recent battles Agamemnon's led.
This maid's now sharing his imperial bed.
The men all canvass their unbending king
to have a heart and do the generous thing.
His fame and stature will be much increased
if he shows some mercy to this kindly priest.
To his men's persuasion Agamemnon's blind.
The king won't alter his unruly mind.
Her city's conquest happened fair and square;
the priest's entreaties hardly stand a prayer.
So the priest now calls upon Apollo's might:
"Punish this insult to a father's right!
Listen, Apollo, as I firmly beg:
Grant to the Greeks an everlasting plague."
For nine long days Apollo's arrows fly.
For nine long days so many Grecians die
that the men now gather to decide what's best.
What godly mandate have they now transgressed?
The prophet Chalcas is the one who knows.
His word is gospel everywhere he goes.
He's frightened knowing he is now the one
who's forced to tell what Agamemnon's done.
But now they know that Agamemnon needs
to release his girl before the war proceeds.
Achilles' mettle is the Greek ideal.
(His only weakness is his fragile heel.)
This near immortal is the one they've sent
to confront their leader in his lavish tent.
He tells his leader to release his maid,
but stubborn leaders just cannot be swayed.
The king addresses the assembled crowd:
"Demands like this one shouldn't be allowed.
Why must the king renounce his just reward?
Why should I yield and leave my needs ignored?
Why should I listen to your pack of lies?
That lovely maiden is my well-earned prize.
But bold Achilles wouldn't understand.
I'd sooner kill him than release her hand.
Just try to take her from my regal bed
and watch me take Achilles' girl instead."
Achilles relishes his maiden's kiss.
That son-of-a-goddess won't stand for this.
He reaches backward for his veteran blade
to bring some closure to the king's tirade.
Now Achilles' mother, from Olympian air,
comes swooping down to grab his flowing hair
and whisper something for his ear alone,
of the missing patience that he should have shown.
"You can't continue with this fruitless dance.
Just wait a while and then you'll get your chance.
It's no occasion to retaliate;
it's now the time to just relax and wait."
He slides his weapon in its sheath again.
His head is cooler when he counts to ten.
He's still as angry as he ever was.
There's more to say, and say it now he does.
"What right have you, who in your chambers lie,
standing and scheming while your soldiers die,
what right have you, whose craven hide you save,
to steal the prize for whom I fought so brave?
I'm a king myself, with many men to lead,
a valiant group I'm pretty sure you'll need.
Just find a way to fall asleep alone,
or we're going home, and then you're on your own.
This war with Troy is no concern of ours.
The more it lasts, the more our spirit sours.
You're trying hard to capture Helen back,
but I wish you luck, because our spears you'll lack."
The king's opinion is by now well known.
His answer's clear in his dismissive tone.
"Farewell, Achilles, if you're so inclined.
Remember, though, to leave your girl behind.
I'll steal from under your ignoble nose.
You'll rue the moment that you dared suppose
that a man like you could ever stoop to threat.
I've never lost to an immortal yet."
Apollo's shafts continue raining down;
in blood and arrows all the Grecians drown.
The men can't stand it for another week
so wise old Nestor rises up to speak.
"My brash young friends, please let me have a say
before too many mutinous thoughts give way.
My ancient counsel might seem quite absurd
but better than you two have marked my word.
"Great leader, do not let your girl remain;
your nightly comfort isn't worth the pain.
Apollo's arrows say she mustn't stay.
Our men can't stand it for another day.
Release her quickly to her father's care.
The praise you'll garner is beyond compare.
"And commit no plunder to Achilles' bed.
His girl's enamored of the man she's wed.
Just leave Achilles to enjoy his prize
or she'll keep us up with her incessant cries.
You do deserve a great reward, that's true,
but great Achilles needs rewarding too.
"And Achilles, valiant and immortal lord,
be still a moment and withhold your sword.
You shouldn't treat our mighty king this way.
His right to govern, you must not betray.
Return at once to your congenial tent
and thank the gods that no more blood was spent."
Agamemnon yields to Nestor's wise demand
and returns his woman to her father's land.
The priest sends blessings to his royal foe
and he asks Apollo to retire his bow.
Agamemnon's brooding in his empty bed
and calls two heralds for a job they'll dread.
He hasn't spoken to Achilles yet,
and he hasn't offered to withdraw his threat.
Achilles sulks beside his smallish tent
and wonders loudly where his fortune went.
He'll lose the maiden that his battles won;
by the king's big ego he's again outdone.
His turgid temper's in a mighty whirl
as the king's two heralds come to take his girl.
The men aren't anxious to perform this task.
To rob Achilles is a lot to ask.
If they cause an insult to this man's renown,
his angry temper just might cut them down.
They see him scowling and they stop and freeze,
but the morbid general puts their minds at ease.
He quickly senses that the men aren't thrilled.
If he tries to stop them then they'll both be killed.
"This way, my friends, and come collect your prey,
but I mustn't see her as she's led away."
Now brash Achilles won't give in to fate.
His things you shouldn't misappropriate.
Revenge has now become his main pursuit
but the man's exhausted every mortal route.
With no more here to take advantage of
he'll look for comfort in the skies above.
He lifts his head to get his mother's ear,
so she'll say to Zeus just what he needs to hear.
His call to heaven meets with great success,
and his mother flies to hear her son's distress.
She tells Achilles that he must abstain.
"Don't help your leader in his grim campaign.
Avoid a skirmish or a rash attack
and I'll speak to Zeus when he has gotten back."
In twelve days time the mighty Zeus returns.
He hasn't bothered with his Greek concerns.
And when he finally reassumes his throne,
Achilles' mother gets him on his own
and grabs his knees and holds his dimpled chin
and speaks the trouble that her son is in.
She pleads all morning right in Zeus's face
for intervention in Achilles' case.
What supple words the wily goddess uses!
What unctuous charm Achilles' mother oozes!
"Immortal Jove, why don't you rest your feet?
And look! I've brought you something sweet to eat.
You seem exhausted from your recent trip.
These lengthy journeys you should really skip.
The scene at Troy has gotten out of hand;
Agamemnon's manner isn't helping much.
Achilles' prospects need your royal touch.
Please help the Trojans to defend their girth
so all discover my Achilles' worth."
As Zeus considers what the goddess wants
and tries ignoring all the charm she flaunts,
he knows what goddess Hera always thinks.
She screams "blue murder" every time he blinks.
He knows as usual he will soon succumb;
he has a soft spot for Achilles' mum.
He's now expecting tricky times ahead,
but he seals the deal and bows his mighty head.