Sunday, July 26, 2015

Iliad, Book XV - Alexander Pope translation

Zeus/Jove sends Iris to tell Poseidon/Neptune to stop helping the Greeks. Poseidon/Neptune refuses at first, then relents, thanks to Iris's prudent counsel. Harold Bloom's suggestion that one should not read poetry but rather declaim it, or, his words, chant it, seems highly appropriate here.

And to blue Neptune thus the Goddess calls:        195
  ‘Attend the mandate of the Sire above,
In me behold the Messenger of Jove:
He bids thee from forbidden wars repair
To thy own deeps, or to the fields of air.
This if refused, he bids thee timely weigh        200
His elder birthright, and superior sway.
How shall thy rashness stand the dire alarms,
If Heav’n’s omnipotence descend in arms?
Strivest thou with him, by whom all power is giv’n?
And art thou equal to the lord of Heav’n?’        205
  ‘What means the haughty Sov’reign of the Skies?’
(The King of Ocean thus, incens’d, replies):
‘Rule as he will his portion’d realms on high,
No vassal God, nor of his train, am I.
Three brother deities from Saturn came,        210
And ancient Rhea, earth’s immortal dame:
Assign’d by lot, our triple rule we know:
Infernal Pluto sways the shades below;
O’er the wide clouds, and o’er the starry plain,
Ethereal Jove extends his high domain;        215
My court beneath the hoary waves I keep,
And hush the roarings of the sacred deep:
Olympus, and this earth, in common lie;
What claim has here the Tyrant of the Sky?
Far in the distant clouds let him control,        220
And awe the younger brothers of the pole;
There to his children his commands be giv’n,
The trembling, servile, second race of Heav’n.’
  ‘And must I then’ (said she), ‘O Sire of floods!
Bear this fierce answer to the King of Gods?        225
Correct it yet, and change thy rash intent;
A noble mind disdains not to repent.
To elder brothers guardian fiends are giv’n,
To scourge the wretch insulting them and Heav’n.’
  ‘Great is the profit’ (thus the God rejoin’d),        230
‘When ministers are bless’d with prudent mind:
Warn’d by thy words, to powerful Jove I yield,
And quit, tho’ angry, the contended field.
Not but his threats with justice I disclaim,
The same our honours, and our birth the same.        235
If yet, forgetful of his promise giv’n
To Hermes, Pallas, and the queen of Heav’n,
To favour Ilion, that perfidious place,
He breaks his faith with half th’ ethereal race;
Give him to know, unless the Grecian train        240
Lay yon proud structures level with the plain,
Howe’er th’ offence by other Gods be pass’d,
The wrath of Neptune shall for ever last.’
  Thus speaking, furious from the field he strode,
And plunged into the bosom of the flood.        245

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