The first book contains the preliminaries to the commencement of serious action. First, the visit of the priest of Apollo to ransom his captive daughter, the refusal of Agamemnon to yield her up, and the pestilence sent by the god upon the Grecian army in consequence. Secondly, the restoration, the propitiation of Apollo, the quarrel of Agamemnon and Achilles, and the withdrawing of the latter from the Grecian army. Thirdly, the intercession of Thetis with Jupiter; his promise, unwillingly given, to avenge Achilles; and the assembly of the gods, in which the promise is angrily alluded to by Juno, and the discussion peremptorily checked by Jupiter. The poet, throughout this book, maintains a simple, unadorned style, but highly descriptive, and happily adapted to the nature of the subject.—FELTON.
ARGUMENT OF THE SECOND BOOK.
Jupiter, in pursuance of his purpose to distress the Grecians in answer to the prayer of Thetis, deceives Agamemnon by a dream. He, in consequence of it, calls a council, the result of which is that the army shall go forth to battle. Thersites is mutinous, and is chastised by Ulysses. Ulysses, Nestor, and Agamemnon, harangue the people; and preparation is made for battle. An exact account follows of the forces on both sides.
All night both Gods and Chiefs
But not the Sire of all. He, waking soon,
Mused how to exalt Achilles, and destroy
No few in battle at the Grecian fleet.
This counsel, at the last, as best he chose 5
And likeliest; to dispatch an evil Dream
To Agamemnon’s tent, and to his side
The phantom summoning, him thus addressed.
Haste, evil Dream! Fly to the Grecian fleet,
And, entering royal Agamemnon’s tent, 10
His ear possess thou thus, omitting nought
Of all that I enjoin thee. Bid him arm
His universal host, for that the time
When the Achaians shall at length possess
Wide Ilium, hath arrived. The Gods above 15
No longer dwell at variance. The request
Of Juno hath prevail’d; now, wo to Troy!
So charged, the Dream departed. At the ships
Well-built arriving of Achaia’s host,
He Agamemnon, son of Atreus, sought. 20
Him sleeping in his tent he found, immersed
In soft repose ambrosial. At his head
The shadow stood, similitude exact
Of Nestor, son of Neleus; sage, with whom
In Agamemnon’s thought might none compare. 25
His form assumed, the sacred Dream began.
Oh son of Atreus the renown’d in arms
And in the race! Sleep’st thou? It ill behoves
To sleep all night the man of high employ,
And charged, as thou art, with a people’s care. 30