Early Modern Mythological Texts: Troia Britanica XII (1-50)

Thomas Heywood. Troia Britanica (1609)

CANTO XII (1-50)

Stanzas 1-10 — 11-20 — 21-30 — 31-40 — 41-50 — 51-112

Ed. Patricia DORVAL



Achilles’ transformation; Palamed’

Accused of treason and condemned to die.

After long battle, honour Hector led

The boldest Argive champion to defy;

The Grecians storm to be so challenged;

Hector and Ajax the fierce combat try.

   A truce, a banquet. At this pompous feast,

   Queen Helen is invited, a chief guest.


Argumentum 2

Deidamia’s love, Ulysses’ spleen,

Two princely husbands claim the Spartan queen.



ar be it, I so much on Hector dote,

To rob the adverse part of any right;

I am not to the Trojans so devout

Though thence derived―that the least Argive knight

Should me accuse, or any passage quote

Guilty of flattering love or partial spite.

   Lo, to both parts we neutral hate profess,

   But equal love, as we can evenly guess.



I cannot flatter with smooth Virgil’s pen,

Or give Augustus more than he should have,

With Ovid bestow deities on men,

And where he hates or loves, condemn or save.

Blind Homer, how shall I excuse thee then,

That all the glory to Achilles gave,

   For wit and strength? To whom hast thou done wrong?

   Ulysses was as wise, Ajax as strong.



If Hector with Achilles thou comparest,

Or rather wouldst prefer the valiant Greek

As he whose valour and esteem was rarest,

Needs must I cast a blush upon thy cheek:

Because great Hector was thy foe, thou sparest

To speak of him―his praise must be to seek―

   And all thy schedes Achilles’ fame display,

   Whom Hector hath unhorsed twice in one day.



I must confess Achilles’ highly blessed

To have a Homer in his country born.

Had Troy bred Homer, or had Greece possessed

Renownèd Hector, no prince should have worn

A wreath equal with his; Fame should invest

The Trojan highest, maugre Envy’s scorn.

   Show me the cause else why, to his disgrace,

   Hector’s the Worthy, he hath lost the place.



Or how can this through Grecia be digested,

A Trojan’s fame should with such lustre shine?

The general bench of judgements hath invested

The Trojan Hector one amongst the Nine,

Though Homer for Achilles hath protested,

Made his fame towerless, and his birth divine.

   Yet hath the world the Trojan so respected,

   Achilles is put by, Hector elected.



And reason too, for what Achilles wan,

Was by the valour of his armèd train;

When Hector fought, he buckled man to man,

And by his proper hand lie thousands slain.

But how Achilles’ fame at first began,

And who first brought him to Scamander plain,

   My Muse sings next; Jove-born my brain inspire,

   Whilst I the fate of Thetis’ son inquire.



Old Peleus’ issue by the sea’s fair queen,

Thetis, in Lycomedes’ court abides,

Clad like a girl, for such his youth was seen;

His warlike hand a womanish distaff guides;

A female shape obscures his martial spleen;

Instead of cuisses, a long kirtle hides

   His warlike limbs; those arms ’mongst virgins played,

   That were indeed for Vulcan’s armour made. 




Lycomedes, King of Scyros


Achilles and Deidamia



The careful mother that prescience had,

By oracle, her son ’fore Troy should fall,

Seeks to prevent his fate, and sends the lad

Unto the king of Scyros, being but small.

He passes for a girl, so was he clad,

Such was his shape, gait, gesture, look, and all;

   And through the court a general voice doth run

   Of Thetis’ daughter, not of Thetis’ son.



The king appoints him bedfellow to be

With fair Deidamia, his sole child.

So well the youthful pair in bed agree

That when Achilles laughed, the lady smiled,

And when he honoured, she would bend her knee.

With him she tasted joy or mirth exiled.

   His amorous gestures were to her a law,

   To keep her actions and her looks in awe.



Achilles grows, so doth the lady too,

And as their years increase, so their affection.

Custom and long continuance taught them do

Pleasures to youth unknown, without direction;

Without suspicion, he may freely woo.

The opportunous night friends her complexion:

   When in her arms the prince doth rudely rush,

   Night curtains her, and none can see her blush.



So long they use this dalliance, the young lass

Feels her breasts swell and her lank belly grow.

No marvel! By the prince with child she was

Of him that wrought Troy’s fatal overthrow,

Great Neoptolemus, who did surpass

In martial prowess and laid Ilium low.

   Whilst these things are in process, ’tis decreed

   By oracle Troy’s wars shall ill succeed.







Neoptolemus called Pyrrhus



For when th’invasive Greeks demand th’event

That in these expeditions shall betide,

Answer is them returned incontinent:

Without Achilles, Troy shall swell with pride.

And therefore was Ulysses forthwith sent

With Diomed to find the prince, denied

   By Thetis, unto whom was then revealed

   Her son’s short date―the cause she him concealed.



The crafty Greek the mother’s guile suspecting,

To Lycomedes’ court posts in disguise;

His weeds of state and princely robes rejecting,

He pedlar-like attempts the enterprise.

He bears along bright glasses, fair reflecting

Cauls, laces, tires to please young ladies’ eyes.

   Besides these women’s toys, he bears along

   A bright sword and a bow surpassing strong.



In the court-hall, he opens his fair pack,

And twenty several ladies come to buy;

The pedlar needs not ask them what they lack,

Not one but with some trifle gluts her eye.

Achilles, hanging at the pedlar’s back,

Spies a fair bow, and by his hamper lie

   A rich-carved sword; the strong steel bow he drew,

   And shook the sword, by which the prince he knew;



Then closing with Aeacides, persuades

The valiant youth to suit him to his kind.

His loose, effeminate habit he upbraids,

Tells him what honours are to him assigned,

With what disgrace he lives ’mongst wanton maids,

And what renown attends a valiant mind,

   Which in his noble thoughts takes such impression,

   The prince repents his former loose transgression.



He tears his feminine veils, rends off his tires,

His golden caul and fillet throws aside,

And for his head, a steel-wrought cask desires;

That hand, that did so late a spindle guide,

To brandish a bright lustered sword aspires,

A sword that must in Hector’s blood be dyed.

   His smooth rebato from his neck he falls,

   And to the Greek for a stiff gorget calls.



From his large limbs, th’embroidered robes he shakes,

And leaps out of his garments with proud scorn;

Instead of which, he a rich vantbrace takes,

Which buckling on, grows proud to see it worn.

The wanton girls first wonder what he makes

With sword and arms, his garments having torn.

   But when he frowned, the ladies grow afraid

   Of him so armed, with whom but late they played.



But now Ulysses, Diomed and he

Leave, without leave, both Scyros and the king,

Deidamia most bewailed of thee,

Whose issue in thy womb thou feelst to spring.

They pierce through Greece, whom when the princes see,

To their arrive, they odes and cantons sing,

   Praising their gods that have Achilles found,

   Whose hand must lay Troy level with the ground.



This Thetis hearing, that her royal son

Had left his secure habit of a woman,

And by Ulysses to the wars was won,

She for his safety doth her wits still summon.

To Lemnian Vulcan she doth post-haste run,

Whose art in forging arms she knew not common.

  At her behest, he for her son did yield

  A spear-proof armour and a globe-like shield.



What can a mother’s care ’gainst Fate prevail?

Not Vulcan’s armour can defend his life,

When th’unavoided Destinies assail;

Against the Sisters bootless we make strife.

Mortal prevention then of force must fail;

In vain then hast thou laboured, Peleus’ wife,

   To girt his body in a steely wall,

   Since thy Achilles must by Paris fall.



No sooner was he born, but the fair queen

Plunged him into the sea, all save the heel,

By which she held him fast; that which was seen

Beneath the waves was wound-free against steel.

Had she but drowned her hand, the prince had been

Sword-proof even there; her niceness would not feel

   The coldness of the waves, therefore that part

   Was left unarmed for Paris’ poisoned dart.



Who therefore would against the Fates contend,

By whom our elemental parts are swayed,

Since everything that’s born must have his end,

And nature still decays what she hath made?

’Tis heaven, not earth, that can our lives defend;

The high powers must in all things be obeyed.

   But leave the fair-foot Thetis, and proceed

   To what the camp hath against Troy decreed.



By this, great discords ’mongst the Grecians fall,

Twixt Duke Palamedes and Mycene’s king;

But no man knows the birth of this great brawl,

Or from what fountain these dissensions spring.

Achilles thinks his warlike meed too small,

He will not fight, nor Diomedes bring

   His men to battle while their sovereign head

   Is Naulus’ son, the general Palamed,



Whom some affirm, the amorous Paris slew,

In even encounter of opposèd hate.

But others say ’gainst him Ulysses drew

Such points of treason as concerned his fate:

About Palamedes strange rumours flew,

’Twixt whom and great Atrides fell debate

   About the sovereign sway; envy’s fire, nursed

   Long in their bosoms, into flashes burst.




Ulysses and Palamedes 



The king of Ithaca, married but newly

Unto the chastest queen that hath been crowned,

When all the Grecian kings appointed duly

To make their meeting and assemble round,

Gave out he was turned frantic, but not truly,

Which craft of his, the son of Naulus found:

   For coming where Ulysses ploughed the sand,

   And steered the crooked rafter with his hand, 











Palamedes, just in the madman’s way,

Laid young Telemachus, his first-born son,

Which made the Greek his yokèd team to stay,

And where his issue lay, the place to shun.

Palamedes discovers his delay,

Finds that his lunacy by craft was done,

   That whilst the Grecians were with Troy at strife,

   He might at home sleep with his constant wife.



In ill time did the son of Naulus this;

The vengeful king roused from so fair a bride, 

Who by this means now quite abandoned is,

Doth in his bosom spleen and rancour hide,

And for the loss of every amorous kiss,

Threatens a wide wound in the prince’s side.

   O treacherous Greek! To want thy wife in bed

   Must at Troy’s siege cost the great general’s head.



Arnaea was sole daughter to the king

Icarius and fair Periboea his wife,

Who feels a young babe in her womb to spring.

The father, when he knew th’infant had life,

After conception, doubting some strange thing,

To Delphos hies, where answers then were rife,

   When th’oracle thus spake, the princely dame

   Shall child one full of honour, full of shame.


Periboea, daughter to Nais

Oracle: Femineum Periboea decus Periboea pudorem fert utero



A beauteous maid the troubled mother bears;

The father misinterprets Phoebus’ mind,

And, to avoid her shame―his future fears―,

Commits her to the rage of seas and wind.

The birds that bred of Meleager’s tears,

Called Meleagrides―by nature kind―

   With their broad wings about the cork boat hover,

   And from all storms the beauteous infant cover.






Herodorus, liber de Perseo et Andromeda



And having nourished her for a certain space,

Into the selfsame port her bark they drive,

Where the sad king, without paternal grace,

First launched it forth, and finding her alive,

Circled with birds of Meleager’s race,

Their melting hearts against their furies strive.

   They take the young Arnaea from the sea,

   And call her of those birds Penelope.






Penelopes Grece, sig. a brood of Indian hens



In beauty, stature, and in wit she grows,

But when her father finds her apt to marry,

Fearing the oracle, whom still he knows

Sooth in his words, persuades the dame to tarry,

A safer course to keep her chaste, he chose.

Virginity’s a heavy load to carry,

   And to devise to have her nobly sped,

   At a high rate he sets her maidenhead.



When all the Grecian princes sought her grace,

And lay their crowns and sceptres at her feet,

Icarius leads them to a martial race,

Where the young kings in hot encounter meet;

Above them all, Ulysses won chief place.

The shamefast queen must her new husband greet.

   The bashful modesty of this chaste dame,

   The careful father did misconster shame. 



For womanhood this lady had no peer,

Witness her many suitors in the time

Her husband absent was, some twice ten year,

Who though much wooed, and in her youthful prime,

Yet in their force or fair means could appear

Not the least taint of any amorous crime.

   Though many suitors through her doors intruded,

   They by her bow and web were all deluded.



Eubulus in Chrysilla



Whether Ulysses’ breast doth malice shroud,

And being at full growth, now out it must,

Whether his love to Agamemnon vowed

Bred in the Naulian prince some great distrust,

Or whether great Palamedes grew proud,

And in the balance of his awe unjust,

   But the great duke unto the bar he brings,

   And there arraigns him by a bench of kings.



Unto this royal session men are brought

That swear Palamedes would Greece betray,

And that King Priam had by factors wrought

To make the Argive camp the Trojans’ prey;

The general’s private tent is forthwith sought,

Where bags of Trojan coin concealèd lay.

   This evidence condemns the prince betrayed,

   For there that gold before Ulysses laid.



And Agamemnon is again restored,

With whose election the late truce expires;

The maimed are cured; the victors are adored;

The bodies slain receive the funeral fires;

The obits on both sides are full deplored,

And either party the fair field desires.

   The great Atrides marshals his fair host,

   Who shine in steel by the Sigean coast.








The third battle



Upon the adverse party, Hector leads

His men to battle, flanked with sleeves and wings,

His nimble horsemen forage round the meads,

The main well fenced with skirts of shafts and slings;

In forehead of the battle Hector treads,

This day the general over thirty kings.

   The charge is given, armed knights meet breast to breast,

   Striking bright stars out of each other’s crest.



The doughty Greeks, after their long-truced ease,

Are full of breath and vigour; they fight well;

The Trojans, that but late drove to the seas

The scattered camp, think likewise to excel.

Even-balanced is the field, as the scales please;

Who victors be, who vanquished, none can tell.

   On both sides, some are conquered, some subdue,

    And as the day increased, the conflict grew.



Broad-breasted Diomed ’gainst Paris rides,

And lifts him from his saddle with his spear;

The prince, the buttocks of his horse bestrides,

And hardly can the Trojan keep him there,

Whilst Diomed his quick remove derides;

Unshaken, from the prince he passes clear,

   Spurring from troop to troop, making intrusion

   Where the hot fight was grown to most confusion.



Now in his chariot stands Achilles high,

And with his spear before him, squadrons strows.

Great Hector’s puissance he longs to try,

Or some that’s able to withstand his blows,

And whilst whole troops before his chariot fly,

The reins upon his steed’s white neck he throws,

   Calling for Hector. Hector ’fore him stood,

   His chariot steeds caparisoned in blood.



To whom Aeacides: “What e’er thou be

That thus confronst me like the god of war?

Know ’tis Achilles must thy life set free,

And tumble thee from thy triumphant car.”

This said, a pointed javelin he lets flee,

Which Hector, at his loose, perceived to jar,

   And took upon his targe; the dart he cast,

   Pierced nine steel folds, and in the tenth stuck fast. 



Helm-gracèd Hector started at this blow,

And emulous of great Achilles’ fame,

Charged in his hand another dart to throw,

But first he says: “Inquir’st thou Hector’s name?

Behold him here, see thy eternal foe;

Hector thou seekst, and lo I am the same.”

   His active arm his language doth pursue,

   For with his latest word his javelin flew.



Well was it his orbicular targe was strong,

Which Vulcan by divine composure made,

Else had it stretched the warlike Greek along.

It hit against the boss, and there it stayed,

But with the force it broke the mighty thong,

In which his massy shield about him played.

   The affrighted palfreys with so great a stroke

   Startle aside, and the proud curb revoke.



Now when Achilles roused himself, and saw

Illustrate Hector in his chariot stand,

Himself so basely, his hot steeds withdraw,

As if he meant to charge some other band,

Thinks in himself it is too great a flaw

To his clear-mettled fame, and with his hand

   Wafts to imperious Hector from afar,

   T’abide a second deadly shock of war.



Th’undaunted hero, who already wonders

The braving Greek so quickly should retire,

And what strange fate their brass-barred chariots sunders,

Since both so ardently the fight desire,

Expects Achilles, who against him thunders,

Whilst from the flints his armèd wheels beat fire.

   Now the two chariot-drivers prove their might,

   The prince with prince, horses with horses fight.



This sixfold combat hath not lasted long,

When Archeptolemus that guides the reins

Of Hector’s coach-steeds, thinking them more strong

Than those whom rough Automedon constrains,

Lashes his fiery palfreys, hot and young.

Expert Automedon his skill disdains,

   Yerks his proud horse, whose fierceness he dares trust,

   Till their white foaming mouths snowed all the dust.



Archeptolemus, Hector’s charioteer

Automedon, Achilles’ charioteer



The two stern champions, mounted in their cars,

Confront each other with their armèd staves,

Whose points on either’s vantbrace print deep scars.

Sometimes they flourish them, with idle braves,

Dart them sometimes―like knights well seen in war―,

But when they join, they combat with their glaives.

   Sometimes they grapple, sometimes they retire,

   And at their meeting make their helms all fire.



The grim Aeacides, mad in his mind

The warlike Trojan should against him stand,

Enraged, his teeth against his teeth doth grind,

And beats his armed breast with his gauntlet hand.

About him through the field doth Hector wind;

His fair-maned coursers have so well been manned,

   That to retreat, or to assault the foe,

   He at his will can check, or make them go.



Automedon hath taught his steeds like skill,

For traversing, he likewise takes the field.

His jades are countermanded by his will,

For with the curb they both rebel and yield;

Their milky foam upon their breasts they spill.

Being parted thus, great Hector vaunts his shield,

   Achilles his. Again their coursers meet,

   And from the earth beat thunder with their feet.



In this rude justle is Achilles bruised,

His high-plumed helm close to his skull is battered,

And he within his chariot sits diffused,

His sword, his shield, his darts about him scattered.

Automedon retreats to have excused

His second shock, and o’er the plains he clattered;

   His barbèd team o’er thousand corses flies,

   In whose red blood, his chariot naves he dyes.


Back to Canto XI

Notes to Canto XII 

On to Canto XII (51-112)

How to cite

Patricia Dorval, ed., 2016.  Troia Britanica Canto XII (1609).  In A Dictionary of Shakespeare's Classical Mythology: A Textual Companion, ed. Yves Peyré (2009-).


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