Verse > Anthologies > Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. > Poems of Places > Asia
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed.  Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Asia: Vols. XXI–XXIII.  1876–79.
Asia Minor: Troy
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,        5
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        10
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        15
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:—        20
  “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.        25
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.        30
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,        35
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        40
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;        45
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        50
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        55
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        60
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        65
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        70
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:—        75
“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        80
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        85
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        90
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,        95
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        100
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.”        105
  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,        110
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        115
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,—        120
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,        125
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.

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