The Death of Achilles

by John Dryden

John Dryden

The Sire of Cygnus , Monarch of the Main,
Mean time, laments his Son, in Battel slain,
And vows the Victor's Death; nor vows in vain.
For nine long Years the smother'd Pain he bore;
( Achilles was not ripe for Fate, before:)
Then when he saw the promis'd Hour was near,
He thus bespoke the God, that guides the Year.
Immortal Offspring of my Brother Jove ;
My brightest Nephew, and whom best I love,
Whose Hands were join'd with mine, to raise the Wall
Of tottring Troy , now nodding to her Fall,
Dost thou not mourn our Pow'r employ'd in vain;
And the Defenders of our City slain?
To pass the rest, cou'd noble Hector lie
Unpity'd, drag'd around his Native Troy ?
And yet the Murd'rer lives: Himself by far
A greater Plague, than all the wasteful War:
He lives; the proud Pelides lives, to boast
Our Town destroy'd, our common Labour lost.
O, could I meet him! But I wish too late:
To prove my Trident is not in his Fate!
But let him try (for that's allow'd) thy Dart,
And pierce his only penetrable Part.
Apollo bows to the superior Throne;
And to his Uncle's Anger, adds his own.
Then in a Cloud involv'd, he takes his Flight,
Where Greeks and Trojans mix'd in mortal Fight;
And found out Paris , lurking where he stood,
And stain'd his Arrows with Plebeian Blood:
Phaebus to him alone the God confess'd,
Then to the recreant Knight, he thus address'd.
Dost thou not blush, to spend thy Shafts in vain
On a degenerate and ignoble Train?
If Fame, or better Vengeance, be thy Care,
There aim: And, with one Arrow, end the War.
He said; and shew'd from far the blazing Shield
And Sword, which, but Achilles , none cou'd wield;
And how he mov'd a God, and mow'd the standing Field.
The Deity himself directs aright
Th' invenom'd Shaft; and wings the fatal Flight.
Thus fell the foremost of the Grecian Name;
And He, the base Adult'rer, boasts the Fame.
A Spectacle to glad the Trojan Train;
And please old Priam , after Hector slain.
If by a Female Hand he had foreseen
He was to die, his Wish had rather been
The Lance and double Ax of the fair Warriour Queen.
And now the Terror of the Trojan Field,
The Grecian Honour, Ornament, and Shield,
High on a Pile, th' Unconquer'd Chief is plac'd,
The God that arm'd him first, consum'd at last.
Of all the mighty Man, the small Remains
A little Urn, and scarcely fill'd, contains.
Yet great in Homer , still Achilles lives;
And equal to himself, himself survives.
His Buckler owns its former Lord; and brings
New cause of Strife, betwixt contending Kings;
Who Worthiest after him, his Sword to wield,
Or wear his Armour, or sustain his Shield.
Ev'n Diomede sate mute, with down-cast Eyes;
Conscious of wanted Worth to win the Prize:
Nor Menelaus presum'd these Arms to claim,
Nor He the King of Men, a greater Name.
Two Rivals only rose: Laertes ' Son,
And the vast Bulk of Ajax Telamon :
The King, who cherish'd each, with equal Love,
And from himself all Envy wou'd remove,
Left both to be determin'd by the Laws;
And to the Grecian Chiefs transferr'd the Cause.

Last updated November 20, 2022