Invia

James Barry, The education of Achilles, ca. 1772
James Barry, The education of Achilles (ca. 1772)

This is part 1 of 3. Part 2 is here. Part 3 is here.

Excipit Oenides: “Quin, o dignissima caeli
progenies, ritusque tuos elementaque primae
indolis et, valida mox accedente iuventa,
quae solitus laudum tibi semina pandere Chiron
virtutisque aditus, quas membra augere per artes,
quas animum, sociis multumque faventibus edis?
sit pretium longas penitus quaesisse per undas
Scyron et his primum me arma ostendisse lacertis.”
quem pigeat sua facta loqui? tamen ille modeste
incohat, ambiguus paulum propiorque coacto:
“dicor et in teneris et adhuc reptantibus annis,
Thessalus ut rigido senior me monte recepit,
non ullos ex more cibos hausisse nec almis
uberibus satiasse famem, sed spissa leonum
viscera semianimisque lupae traxisse medullas.
haec mihi prima Ceres, haec laeti munera Bacchi,
sic dabat ille pater. mox ire per invia secum
lustra gradu maiore trahens visisque docebat
adridere feris nec fracta ruentibus undis
saxa nec ad vastae trepidare silentia silvae.
iam tunc arma manu, iam tunc cervice pharetrae,
et ferri properatus amor durataque multo
sole geluque cutis; tenero nec fluxa cubili
membra, sed ingenti saxum commune magistro.”
(Statius, Ach. 86-109)

Oeneus’ son takes over: ‘Nay, most worthy scion of heaven, why not tell your right favouring comrades of your ways, the rudiments of earliest anture and what Chrion showed you as presently strong manhood came on; the seeds of glory, the path to valour, the arts to make your body grow and your mind. Let it be worth while that I have sought Scyros over the length of waves and been the first to show weapons to these arms of yours.’
Whom would it irk to tell of his own deeds? Yet he begins modestly, a little hesitant, rather as if constrained: ‘They say that in my tender years, still crawling, when the old man of Thessaly received me on his stark mountain, I took no ordinary food nor satisfied hunger from nurturing breasts, but tore at the tough flesh of lions and offal of a she-wolf still half alive. This was my first bread, this the gift of happy Bacchus*, thus that father of mine used to feed me. Presently he taught me to go with him through the trackless wilderness, drawing me on with his wider stride, and to laugh when I saw wild beasts and not to fear rocks shattered by rushing torrents and the silences of the vast forest. Even then arms were in my hand, even then a quiver at my neck, precocious love of steel, skin hardened by sun and frost in plenty, limbs not loosened by soft bedding, but a rock shared with my huge master.’

* But nothing has been said about what Achilles had to drink – unless a line has fallen out after 100.

(tr. David Roy Shackleton-Bailey, with his note)

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