The Book of the Gods
Excerpt from Ilion by Sri Aurobindo
So on the earth the seed that was sown of the centuries ripened;
Europe and Asia, met on their borders, clashed in the Troad.
All over earth men wept and bled and laboured, world-wide
Sowing Fate with their deeds and had other fruit than they hoped for.
Out of desires and their passionate griefs and fleeting enjoyments
Weaving a tapestry fit for the gods to admire, who in silence
Joy, by the cloud and the sunbeam veiled, and men know not
They in the glens of Olympus, they by the waters of Ida
Or in their temples worshipped in vain or with heart-strings
Sated their vast desire and enjoying the world and each other
Sported free and unscourged; for the earth was their prey
and their playground.
But from his luminous deep domain, from his estate of azure
Zeus looked forth; he beheld the earth in its flowering
Spread like an emerald dream that the eyes have enthroned
in the sunlight,
Heard the symphonies old of the ocean recalling the ages
Lost and dead from its marches salt and unharvested furrows,
Felt in the pregnant hour the unborn hearts of the future.
Troubled kingdoms of men he beheld, the hind in the furrow,
Lords of the glebe and the serf subdued to the yoke of his fortunes,
Slave-girls tending the fire and herdsmen driving the cattle,
Artisans labouring long for a little hire in men's cities,
Labour long and the meagre reward for a toil that is priceless.
Kings in their seats august or marching swift with their armies
Founded ruthlessly brittle empires. Merchant and toiler
Patiently heaped up our transient wealth like the ants in their hillock.
And to preserve it all, to protect this dust that must perish,
Hurting the eternal soul and maiming heaven for some metal
Judges condemned their brothers to chains and to death and to torment,
Criminals scourgers of crime, - for so are these ant-heaps
Punishing sin by a worse affront to our crucified natures.
All the uncertainty, all the mistaking, all the delusion
Naked were to his gaze; in the moonlit orchards there wandered
Lovers dreaming of love that endures - till the moment of treason;
Helped by the anxious joy of their kindred supported their anguish
Women with travail racked for the child who shall rack them with sorrow.
Hopes that were confident, fates that sprang dire from the seed of a moment,
Yearning that claimed all time for its date and all life for its fuel,
All that we wonder at gazing back when the passion has fallen,
Labour blind and vain expense and sacrifice wasted,
These he beheld with a heart unshaken; to each side he studied
Seas of confused attempt and the strife and the din and the crying.
All things he pierced in us gazing down with his eyelids immortal,
Lids on which sleep dare not settle, the Father of men on his creatures;
Nor by the cloud and the mist was obscured which baffles our eyeballs,
But he distinguished our source and saw to the end of our labour.
He in the animal racked knew the god·that is slowly delivered;
Therefore his heart rejoiced. Not alone the mind in its trouble
God beholds, but the spirit behind that has joy of the torture.
Might not our human gaze on the smoke of a furnace, the burning
Red, intolerable, anguish of ore that is fused in the hell-heat,
Shrink and yearn for coolness and peace and condemn all the labour?
Rather look to the purity coming, the steel in its beauty,
Rather rejoice with the master who stands in his gladness accepting
Heat of the glorious god and the fruitful pain of the iron.
Last the eternal gaze was fixed on Troy and the armies
Marching swift to the shock. It beheld the might of Achilles
Helmed and armed, knew all the craft in the brain of O dysseus,
Saw Deiphobus stern in his car and the fates of Aeneas,
Greece of her heroes empty, Troy enringed by her slayers,
Paris a setting star and the beauty of Penthesilea.
These things he saw delighted; the heart that contains all our ages
Blessed our toil and grew full of its fruits, as the Artist eternal
Watched his vehement drama staged twixt the sea and the mountains,
Phrased in the clamour and glitter of arms and closed by the firebrand,
Act itself out in the blood and in passions fierce on the Troad.
Yet as a father his children, who sits in the peace of his study
Hearing the noise of his brood and pleased with their play
and their quarrels,
So he beheld our mortal race. Then, turned from the armies,
Into his mind he gazed where Time is reflected and, conscient,
Knew the iron knot of our human fates in their warfare.
Calm he arose and left our earth for his limitless kingdoms.
Far from this lower blue and high in the death-scorning spaces
Lifted above mortal mind where Time and Space are but
Lightly imagined by Thought divine in her luminous stillness,
Zeus has his palace high and there he has stabled his war-car.
Thence he descends to our mortal realms; where the heights
of our mountains
Meet with the divine air, he touches and enters our regions.
Now he ascended back to his natural realms and their rapture,
There where all life is bliss and each feeling an ecstasy
Thence his eagle Thought with its flashing pinions extended
Winged through the world to the gods, and they came at the
call, they ascended
Up from their play and their calm and their works through
the infinite azure.
Some from our mortal domains in grove or by far-flowing river
Cool from the winds of the earth or quivering with perishable
Came, or our laughter they bore and the song of the sea in
Some from the heavens above us arrived, our vital dominions
Whence we draw breath; for there all things have life, the
stone like the ilex,
Clay of those realms like the children of men and the brood
of the giants.
There Enceladus groans oppressed and draws strength from
Under a living Aetna and flames that have j oy of his entrails.
Fiercely he groans and rejoices expecting the end of his
Hastened by every pang and counts long Time by his
There in the champaigns unending battle the gods and the
There in eternal groves the lovers have pleasure for ever,
There are the faery climes and there afe the wonderful pastures.
Some from a marvellous Paradise hundred-realmed in its
Million-ecstasied, climbed like flames that in silence aspire
Windless, erect in a motionless dream, yet ascending for ever.
All grew aware of the will divine and grew near t0 their
Grandiose, calm in her gait, imperious, awing the regions,
Hera came in her pride, the spouse of Zeus and his sister.
As at her birth from the foam of the spaces white Aphrodite
Rose in the cloud of her golden hair like the moon in its halo.
Aegis-bearing Athene, shielded and helmeted, answered
Rushing the call and the heavens thrilled with the joy of her
Dumbly repeating her name, as insulted and trampled by
Thrill might the soul of a lover and cry out the name of its
Others there were as mighty; for Artemis, archeress ancient,
Came on her sandals lightning-tasselled. Up the vast incline
Shaking the world with the force of his advent thundered
Space grew full of his stride and his cry. Immortal Apollo
Shone and his silver clang was heard with alarm in our
Ares' impetuous eyes looked forth from a cloud-drift of
Themis' steps appeared and Ananke, the mystic Erinnys ;
Nor was Hephaestus' flaming strength from his father divided.
Even the ancient Dis to arrive dim-featured, eternal,
Seemed; but his rays are the shades and his voice is the call of
Into the courts divine they crowded, radiant, burning,
Perfect in utter grace and light. The joy of their spirits
Calls to eternal Time and the glories of Space are his answer:
Thence were these bright worlds born and persist by the
throb of their heart-beats .
Not in the forms that mortals have seen when assisted they
Mists of this earthly dust from their eyes in their moments
Shone those unaging Powers ; nor as in our centuries radiant
Mortal-seeming bodies they wore when they mixed with our
Then the long youth of the world had not faded still out of
Flowers and the sunlight were felt and the earth was glad
like a mother.
Then for a human delight they were masked in this denser
Earth desires for her bliss, - thin veils, for the god through
Quick were men's days with the throng of the brilliant
presences near them:
Gods from the wood and the valley, gods from the obvious
Gods on the secret hills leaped out from their light on the
Oft in the haunt and the grove they met with our kind and
Seized and subjected our clay to the greatness of passions
Grasping the earthly virgin and forcing heaven on this
Glorifying human beauty Apollo roamed in our regions
Clymene when he pursued or yearned in vain for Marpessa;
Glorifying earth with a human-seeming face of the beauty
Brought from her heavenly climes Aphrodite mixed with
Glimpsed in the wilds were the Satyrs, seen in the woodlands
D ryad and Naiad in river and forest, Oreads haunting
Glens and the mountain-glades where they played with the
manes of our lions
Glimmered on death-claimed eyes ; for the gods then were
near us and clasped us,
Heaven leaned down in love with our clay and yearned to its
But we have coarsened in heart and in mood; we have turned
m our natures
Nearer our poorer kindred; leaned to the ant and the ferret.
Sight we have darkened with sense and power we have stifled
Likened in mood to the things we gaze at and are in our
Therefore we toil unhelped; we are left to our weakness and
Not in those veils now they rose to their skies, but like
D ropped in the vestibules huge of their vigorous realms that
b esiege us
All that reminded of earth; then clothed with raiment of
Straight they went quivering up in a glory like fire or the
Even those natural vestures of puissance they leave when
Mind's more subtle fields and agree with its limitless regions
Peopled by creatures of bliss and forms more true than
earth's shadows, -
Mind that pure from this density, throned in her splendours
Looks up at Light and suffers bliss from ineffable kingdoms
Where beyond Mind and its rays is the gleam of a glory
There our sun cannot shine and our moon has no place for
There our lightnings flash not, nor fire of these spaces is
They with bodies impalpable here to our touch and our seeing,
But for a higher delight, to a brighter sense, with more
Palpable there and visible, thrilled with a lordlier joyance,
Came to the courts of Zeus and his heavens sang to their
Harmonies flowed through the blissful coils of the kingdoms
Then by his mighty equals surrounded the Thunderer regnant
Veiled his thought in sound that was heard in their souls as
Veiled are the high gods always lest there should dawn on
Light too great from the skies and men to their destiny
Walk unsustained like the gods; then Night and D awn were
And of their masks the deities robbed would be slaves to
"Children of Immortality, gods who are joyous for ever,
Rapture is ours and eternity measure our lives by his aeons.
For we desireless toil who have joy in the fall as the triumph,
Knowledge eternal possessing we work for an end that is
Long already beyond by the Will of which Time is the courser.
Therefore death cannot alter our lives nor pain our enjoyment.
But in the world of mortals twilight is lord of its creatures.
Nothing they perfectly see, but all things seek and imagine,
Out of the clod who have come and would climb from their
mire to our heavens
Blindly mistaking the throb of their mortal desires for our
Yet are the heavenly seats not easy even for the chosen:
Rough and remote is that path; that ascent is too hard for
Hard are God's terms and few can meet them of men who
Mind resists; their breath is a clog; by their tools they are
How shall they win in their earth to our skies who are clay
and a life-wind,
But that their hearts we invade? Our shocks on their lives
Ease discourage and penetrate coarseness; sternness celestial
Forces their souls towards the skies and their bodies by
anguish are sifted.
We in the mortal wake an immortal strength by our tortures
And by the flame of our lightnings choose out the vessels of
This is the nature of earth that to blows she responds and by
Travails excited; pain is the bed of her blossoms of pleasure.
Earth that was wakened by pain to life and by hunger to
Left to her joys rests inert and content with her gains and
But for the unbearable whips of the gods back soon to her
She would go glad and the goal would be missed and the
aeons be wasted.
But for the god in their breasts unsatisfied, but for his
Soon would the hero turn beas t and the sage reel back to the
Man from his difficult heights would recoil and be mud in the
This by pain we prevent; we compel his feet to the journey.
But in their minds to impression made subject, by forms of
Blind is the thought and presumptuous the hope and they
swerve from our goading;
Blinded are human hearts by desire and fear and possession,
Darkened is knowledge on earth by hope the helper of
Now too from earth and her children voices of anger and
Beat at our thrones; 'tis the grief and the wrath of fate-stricken
Mortals struggling with destiny, hearts that are slaves to
We unmoved by the cry will fulfil our unvarying purpose.
Troy shall fall at last and the ancient ages shall perish.
You who are lovers of !lion turn from the moans of her
Chase from your hearts their prayers, blow back from your
nostrils the incense.
Let not one nation resist by its glory the good of the ages.
Twilight thickens over man and he moves to his winter of
Troy that displaced with her force and her arms the luminous
Sinks in her turn by the ruder strength of the half-savage
They to the Hellene shall yield and the Hellene fall by the
Rome too shall not endure, but by strengths ill-shaped shall
Nations formed in the ice and mist, confused and
So shall the darker and ruder always prevail o'er the brilliant
Till in its turn to a ruder and darker it falls and is shattered.
So shall mankind make speed to destroy what 'twas mighty
Ever since knowledge failed and the ancient ecstasy
Light has been helper to death and darkness increases the
So shall it last till the fallen ages return to their greatness.
For if the twilight be helped not, night o'er the world cannot
Night forbidden how shall a greater dawn be effected?
Gods of the light who know and resist that the doomed may
Always then shall desire and passion strive with Ananke?
Conquer the cry of your heart-strings that man too may
conquer his sorrow
Stilled in his yearnings. Cease, 0 ye gods, from the joy of
Open the eye of the soul, admit the voice of the Silence."
So in the courts of Heaven august the Thunderer puissant
Spoke to his sons in their souls and they heard him,
mighty in silence.
Then to her brother divine the white-armed passionless Hera:
"Zeus, we remember; thy sons forget, Apollo and Ares."
"Hera, queen of the heavens, they forget not, but choose to
This is the greatness of gods that they know and can put
back the knowledge;
D oing the work they have chosen they turn not for fruit nor
Griefless they walk to their goal and strain not their eyes
towards the ending.
Light that they have they can lose with a smile, not as souls
in the darkness
Clutch at every beam and mistake their one ray for all splendour.
All things are by Time and the Will eternal that moves us,
And for each birth its hour is set in the night or the dawning.
There is an hour for knowledge, an hour to forget and to
Great Cronion ceased and high in the heavenly silence
Rose in their midst the voice of the loud impetuous Ares
Sounding far in the luminous fields of his soul as with thunder.
"Father, we know and we have not forgotten. This is our
Still to strive and never to yield to the evil that conquers .
I will not dwell with the Greeks nor aid them save forced by
And because lives of the great and the blood of the strong
are my port10n.
This too thou knowest, our nature enjoys in mankind its
War is my nature and greatness and hardness, the necks of
Force is my soul and strength is my bosom; I shout in the
Breaking cities like toys and the nations are playthings of Ares :
Hither and thither I shove them and throw down or range
on my table.
Cons tancy most I love, nobility, virtue and courage;
Fugitive hearts I abhor and the nature fickle as sea-foam.
Now if the ancient spirit of Titan battle is over, - ,
Tros fights no more on the earth, n.or now Heracles tramples
Bane of the hydra or slaying the Centaurs o'er Pelion driven,
Now if the earth no more must be shaken by Titan
Since to a pettier framework all things are fitted consenting,
Yet will I dwell not in Greece nor favour the nurslings of Pallas.
I will await the sons of my loins and the teats of the she-wolf,
Consuls browed like the cliffs and plebeians stern of the
Senates of kings and armies of granite that grow by disaster;
Such be the nation august that is fit for the favour of Ares !
They shall fulfil me and honour my mother, imperial Hera.
Then with an iron march they shall move to their world-wide
Through the long centuries rule and at last b ecause earth is
Slowly with haughtiness perish compelled by mortality's
Leaving a Roman memory stamped on the ages of weakness."
But to his son farsounding the Father high of the Immortals:
"So let it be since such is the will in thee, mightiest Ares:
Thou shalt till sunset prevail, 0 war-god, fighting for Troya."
So he decreed and the soul of the Warrior sternly consented.
He from his seats arose and down on the summits of I da
Flaming through Space in his cloud in a headlong glory
Prone like a thunderbolt flaming down from the hand of the
Thence in his chariot drawn by living fire and by swiftness.
Thundered down to earth's plains the mighty impetuous
Far where D eiphobus stern was labouring stark and
Srniting the Achaian myriads back on the right of the
Over the hosts in his car he stood and darkened the Argives .
But i n the courts divine the Thunderer spoke t o his children:
"Ares resisting a present Fate for the hope of the future
Gods, has gone forth from us. Choose thou thy paths, 0 my
More than thy brother assailed by the night that darkens
Choose the silence in heaven or choose the struggle mid
Golden joy of the worlds, 0 thou roseate white Aphrodite."
Then with her starry eyes and bosom of bliss from the
Glowing and rosy-limbed cried the wonderful white
Drawing her fingers like flower_s through the flowing gold of
Calm, discontented, her perfect mouth like a rose of
Chidingly budded gainst Fate, a charm to their senses
"Well do I know thou hast given my world to Hera and
What though my temples shall stand in Paphos and island
And though the Greek be a priest for my thoughts and a lyre
for my singing,
Beauty pursuing and light through the figures of grace and
of rhythm, -
Forms shall he mould for men's eyes that the earth has
forgotten and mourns for.
Mould even the workings of Pallas to commune with
Mould Hephaestus' craft in the gaze of the gold Aphrodite,Only
my form he pursues that I wear for a mortal
He to whom now thou givest the world, the Ionian, the Hellene,
But for my might is unfit which Babylon worshipped and
Palely received from the past in images faint of the gladness
Once that was known by the children of men when the thrill
of their members
Was but the immortal joy of the spirit overflowing their
Wine-cups of God's desire; but their clay from my natural
Falters betrayed to pain, their delight they have turned into
Nor to my peaks shall he rise and the perfect fruit of my
There where the senses swoon but the heart is delivered by
Never my touch can cling to his soul nor reply from his
Once could my godhead surprise all the stars with the seas
of its rapture;
Once the world in its orbit danced to a marvellous rhythm.
Men in their limits, gods in their amplitudes answered my
Life was moved by a chant of delight that sang from the
Sang from the Soul of the Vast, its rapture clasping its creatures.
Sweetly agreed my fire with their soil and their hearts were
Pure were its crests; 'twas not dulled with earth, 'twas not
lost in the hazes
Then when the sons of earth and the daughters of heaven
Met on lone mountain peaks or, linked on wild beach and
Twining embraced. For I danced on Taygetus' peaks and o'er
Naked and loosing my golden hair like a nimbus of glory
O'er a deep-ecstasied earth that was drunk with my roses
There was no shrinking nor veil in our old Saturnian
Equals were heaven and earth, twin gods on the lap of Dione.
Now shall my waning greatness perish and pass out of
For though the Romans, my children, shall grasp at the
strength of their mother,
They shall not hold the god, but lose in unsatisfied orgies
Ye t what the earth has kept of my joy, my glory, my puissance,
Who shall but drink for a troubled hour in the dusk of the
Dregs of my wine Pandemian missing the U ranian sweetness.
So shall the night descend on the greatness and rapture of
Creeds that refus e shall persuade the world to revolt from its
Pallas' adorers shall loathe me and Hera's scorn me for
Beauty shall pass from men's work and delight from, their
play and their labour;
Earth restored to the Cyclops shall shrink from the gold
So shall I live diminished, owned but by beasts in the forest,
Birds of the air and the gods in their heavens, but disgraced
in the mortal."
Then to the discontented rosy-mouthed Aphrodite
Zeus replied, the Father divine: "O goddess Astarte,
What are these thoughts thou has t suffered to wing from
thy rose-mouth immortal?
Bees that sting and delight are the words from thy lips,
Art thou not womb of the world and from thee are the
.t hronging of creature s?
And didst thou cease the worlds too would cease and the
aeons be ended.
Suffer my Greeks; accept who accept thee. 0 gold Dionaean.
They in the works of their craft and their dreams shall
enthrone thee for ever,
Building thee temples in Paphos and Eryx and island Cythera,
Building the fane more enduring and bright of thy golden
Even if natures of men could renounce thee and God do
Rose of love and sea of delight, 0 my child Aphrodite,
Still wouldst thou live in the worship. · they gave thee
protected from fading,
Splendidly statued and shrined in men's works and men's
Pleased and blushing with bliss of her praise and the thought
of her empire
Answered, as cries a harp in heaven, the gold Aphrodite:
"Father. I know and I spoke but to hear from another my
I am the womb of the world and the cause of this teeming of
And if discouraged I ceased, God's world would lose heart
and would perish.
H ow will you do then without me your works of wisdom
Hera, queen of heaven, and thou, 0 my sister Athene?
Yes, I shall reign and endure though the pride of my
workings be conquered.
What though no second Helen find a second Paris,
Lost though their glories of form to the earth, though their
Pass from a race misled and forgetting the sap that it sprang
They are eternal in man in the worship of beauty and rapture.
Ever while earth is embraced by the sun and hot with his kisses
And while a Will supernal works through the passions of
Me shall men seek with my light or their darkness, sweetly
Cold on the ice of the north or warm in the heats of the
Slowly enduring my touch or with violence rapidly burning.
I am the sweetness of living, I am the touch of the Master.
Love shall die bound to my stake like a victim adorned as for
Life shall be bathed in my flames and be purified gold or be
I, Aphrodite, shall move the world for ever and ever.
Yet now since most to me, Father of all, the ages arriving,
Hostile, rebuke my heart and turn from my joy and my
I will resist and not yield, nor care what I do, so I conquer.
Often I curbed my mood for your sakes and was gracious
Often I lay at Hera's feet and obeyed her commandments
Tranquil and proud or o'ercome by a honeyed and ancient
Fawned on thy pureness and served thy behests, O my sister
Deep was the love that united us, happy the wrestle and
Love divided, Love united, Love was our mover.
But since you now overbear and would s courge me and chain
and control me,
War I declare on you all, O my Father and brothers and sisters.
Henceforth I do my will as the joy in me prompts or the
Ranging the earth with my beauty and passion and golden
All whom I can, I will bind; I will dri:ve at the bliss of my
Whether men's hearts are seized by the joy or seized by the
Most I will plague your men, your worshippers and in my malice
Break up your works with confusion divine, O my mother and sister;
Then shall you fume and resist and be helpless and pine with my torments.
Yet will I never relent but always be sweet and malignant.
Cruel and tyrannous, hurtful and subtle, a charm and a torture.
Thou too, O father Zeus, shalt always be vexed with my doings;
Called in each moment to judge thou shalt chafe at our cry and our quarrels,
Often grope for thy. thunderbolt, often frown magisterial
joining in vain thy awful brows o'er thy turbulent children.
Yet in thy wrath recall my might and my wickedness, Father;
Hurt me not then too much lest the world and thyself too should suffer.
Save, O my Father, life and grace and the charm of the senses:
Love preserve lest the heart of the world grow dulled and forsaken."
Smiling her smile immortal of love and of mirth and of malice
White Aphrodite arose in her loveliness armed for the conflict.
Golden and careless and joyous she went like a wild bird that winging
Flits from bough to bough and resumes its chant interrupted.
Love where her white feet trod bloomed up like a flower from the spaces;
Mad round her touches billowed incessantly laughter and rapture.
Thrilled with her feet was the bosom of Space, for her amorous motion
Floated a flower on the wave of her bliss or swayed like the lightning.
Rich as a summer fruit and fresh as Spring's blossoms her body
Gleaming and blushing, veiled and bare and with ecstasy smiting
Burned out rosy and white through her happy ambrosial raiment,
Golden-tressed and a charm, her bosom a fragrance and peril.
So was she framed to the gaze as she came from the seats of the Mighty,
So embodied she visits the hearts of men and their dwellings
And in her breathing tenement laughs at the eyes that can see her.
Swirt-footed down to the Troad she hastened thrilling the earth-gods.
There with ambrosial secrecy veiled, admiring the heroes
Strong and beautiful, might of the warring and glory of armour,
Over her son Aeneas she stood, his guard in the battle.
But in the courts divine the Thunderer spoke mid his children:
"Thou for a day and a night and another day and a nightfall,
White Aphrodite, prevail; o'er thee too the night is extended.
She has gone forth who made men like gods in their glory and gladness.
Now in the darkness coming all beauty must wane or be tarnished;
Joy shall fade and mighty Love grow fickle and fretful;
Even as a child that is scared in the night, he shall shake in his chambers.
Yet shall a portion be kept for these, Ares and white Aphrodite.
Thou whom already thy Pythoness bears not, torn by thy advent,
Caverned already who sittest in Delphi knowing thy future,
What wilt thou do with the veil and the night, O burning Apollo,"
Then from the orb of his glory unbearable save to immortals
Bright and austere replied the beautiful mystic Apollo:
"Zeus, I know that I fade; already the night is around me.
Dusk she extends her reign and obscures my lightnings with error.
Therefore my prophets mislead men's hearts to the ruin appointed.
Therefore Cassandra cries in vain to her sire and her brothers.
All I endure I foresee and the strength in me waits for its coming:
All I foresee I approve; for I know what is willed, O Cronion.
Yet is the fierce strength wroth in my breast at the need of approval
And for the human race fierce pity works in my bosom;
Wroth is my splendid heart with the cowering knowledge of mortals,
Wroth are my burning eyes with the purblind vision of reason.
I will go forth from your seats and descend to the night among mortals
There to guard the flame and the mystery; vast in my moments
Rare and sublime to sound like a sea against Time and its limits,
Cry like a spirit in pain in the hearts of the priest and the poet,
Cry against limits set and disorder sanities bounded.
Jealous for truth to the end my might shall prevail and for ever
Shatter the moulds that men make to imprison their limitless spirits.
Dire, overpowering the brain I shall speak out my oracles splendid.
Then in their ages of barren light or lucidity fruitful
Whenso the clear gods think they have conquered earth and its mortals,
Hidden God from all eyes, they shall wake from their dream and recoiling
Still they shall find in their paths the fallen and dark Apollo."
So he spoke, repressing his dreadful might in his bosom,
And from their high seats passed, his soul august and resplendent
Drawn to the anguish of men and the fierce terrestrial labour.
Down he dropped with a roar of light invading the regions,
And in his fierce and burning spirit intense and uplifted
Sure of his luminous truth and careless for weakness of mortals
Flaming oppressed the earth with his dire intolerant beauty.
Over the summits descending that slept in the silence of heaven,
He through the spaces angrily drew towards the tramp and the shouting
Over the speeding of Xanthus and over the pastures of Troya.
Clang of his argent bow was the wrath restrained of the mighty,
Stern was his pace like Fate's; so he came to the warfare of mortals
And behind Paris strong and inactive waited God's moment
Knowing what should arrive, nor disturbed like men by their hopings.
But in the courts of Heaven Zeus to his brother immortal
Turned like a menaced king on his counsellor smiling augustly:
"Seest thou, Poseidon, this sign that great gods revolting have left us,
Follow their hearts and strive with Ananke? Yet though they struggle,
Thou and I will do our will with the world, O earth-shaker."
Answered to Zeus the besieger of earth, the voice of the waters:
"This is our strength and our right, for we are the kings and the masters.
Too much pity has been and yielding of Heaven to mortals.
I will go down with my chariot drawn by my thunder-maned coursers
Into the battle and thrust down Troy with my hand to the silence,
Even though she cling round the snowy knees of our child Aphrodite
Or with Apollo's sun take refuge from Night and her shadows.
I will not pity her pain, who am ruthless even as my surges.
Brother, thou knowest, O Zeus, that I am a king and a trader;
For on my paths I receive earth's skill and her merchandise gather,
Traffic richly in pearls and bear the swift ships in my bosom.
Blue are my waves and they call men's hearts to wealth and adventure.
Lured by the shifting surges they launch their delight and their treasures
Trusting the toil of years to the perilous moments of Ocean.
Huge man's soul in its petty frame goes wrestling with Nature
Over her vasts and his fragile ships between my horizons
Buffeting death in his solitudes labour through swell and through storm-blast
Bound for each land with her sons and watched for by eyes in each haven.
I from Tyre up to Gades trace on my billows their trade-routes
And on my vast and spuming Atlantic suffer their rudders.
Carthage and Greece are my children, the marts of the world are my term-posts.
Who then deserves the earth if not he who enriches and fosters?
But thou hast favoured thy sons, O Zeus; O Hera, earth's sceptres
Still were denied me and kept for strong Ares and brilliant Apollo.
Now all your will shall be done, so you give me the earth for my nations.
Gold shall make men like gods and bind their thoughts into oneness;
Peace I will build with gold and heaven with the pearls of my caverns."
Smiling replied to his brother's craft the mighty Cronion:
"Lord of the boundless seas, Poseidon, soul of the surges,
Well thou knowest that earth shall be seized as a booth for the trader.
Rome nor Greece nor France can drive back Carthage for ever.
Always each birth of the silence attaining the field and the movement
Takes from Time its reign; for it came for its throne and its godhead.
So too shall Mammon take and his sons their hour from the ages.
Yet is the flame and the dust last end of the silk and the iron,
And at their end the king and the prophet shall govern the nations.
Even as Troy, so shall Babylon flame up to heaven for the spoiler
Wailed by the merchant afar as he sees the red glow from the Ocean."
Up from the seats of the Mighty the Earth-shaker rose; his raiment
Round him purple and dominant rippled and murmured and whispered,
Whispered of argosies sunk and the pearls and the Nereids playing,
Murmured of azure solitudes, sounded of storm and the death-wail.
Even as the march of his waters so was the pace of the sea-god
Flowing on endless through Time; with the glittering symbol of empire
Crowned were his fatal brows; in his grasp was the wrath of the trident,
Tripled forces, life-shattering, brutal, imperial, sombre.
Resonant, surging, vast in the pomp of his clamorous greatness
Proud and victorious he came to his home in the far-spuming waters.
Even as a soul from the heights of thought plunges back into living,
So he plunged like a rock through the foam; for it falls from a mountain
Overpeering the waves in some silence of desolate waters
Left to the wind and the sea-gull where Ocean alone with the ages
Dreams of the calm of the skies or tosses its spray to the wind-gods,
Tosses for ever its foam in the solitude huge of its longings
Far from the homes and the noises of men. So the dark-browed Poseidon
Came to his coral halls and the sapphire stables of Nereus
Ever where champ their bits the harnessed steeds of the Ocean
Watched by foam-white girls in the caverns of still Amphitrite.
There was his chariot yoked by the Tritons, drawn by his coursers
Born of the fleeing sea-spray and shod with the north-wind .who journey
Black like the front of the storm and clothed with their manes as with thunder.
This now rose from its depths to the upper tumults of Ocean
Bearing the awful brows and the mighty form of the sea-god
And from the roar of the surges fast o'er the giant margin
Came remembering the storm and the swiftness wide towards the Troad.
So among men he arrived to the clamorous labours of Ares,
Close by the stern Diomedes stood and frowned o'er the battle.
He for the Trojan slaughter chose for his mace and his sword-edge
Iron Tydeus' son and the adamant heart of young Pyrrhus.
But in the courts divine the Father high of the immortals
Turned in his heart to the brilliant offspring born of his musings,
She who tranquil observes and judges her father and all things.
"What shall I say to the thought that is calm in thy breasts, O Athene?
Have I not given thee earth for thy portion, throned thee and armoured,
Darkened Cypris' smile, dimmed Hera's son and Latona's?
Swift in thy silent ambition, proud in thy radiant sternness,
Girl, thou shalt rule with the Greek and the Saxon, the Frank and the Roman.
Worker and fighter and builder and thinker, light of the reason,
Men shall leave all temples to crowd in thy courts, O Athene.
Go then and do my will, prepare man's tribes for their fullness."
But with her high clear smile on him answered the mighty Athene.
Wisely and soberly, tenderly smiled she chiding her father
Even as a mother might rail at her child when he hides and dissembles:
"Zeus, I see and I am not deceived by thy words in my spirit.
We but build forms for thy thought while thou smilest down high o'er our toiling;
Even as men are we tools for thee, who are thy children and dear ones.
All this life is thy sport and thou workst like a, boy at his engines
Making a toil of the game and a play of the serious labour.
Then to that play thou callest us wearing a sombre visage,
This consulting, that to our wills confiding, O Ruler;
Choosing thy helpers, hastened by those whom thou lurest to oppose thee
Guile thou usest with gods as with mortals, scheming, deceiving,
And at the wrath and the love thou hast prompted laughest in secret.
So we too who are sisters and enemies, lovers and rivals,
Fondled and baffled in turn obey thy will and thy cunning,
I, thy girl of war, and the rosy-white Aphrodite.
Always we served but thy pleasure since our immortal beginnings,
Always each other we helped by our play and our wrestlings and quarrels.
This too I know that I pass preparing the paths of Apollo
And at the end as his sister and slave and bride I must sojourn
Rapt to his courts of mystic light and unbearable brilliance.
Was I not ever condemned since my birth from the toil of thy musings
Seized like a lyre in my body to sob and to laugh out his music,
Shake as a leaf in his fierceness and leap as a flame in his splendours!
So must I dwell overpowered and so must I labour subjected
Robbed of my loneliness pure and coerced in my radiant freedom,
Now whose clearness and pride are the sovereign joy of thy creatures.
Such the reward that thou keepst for my labour obedient always.
Yet I work and I do thy will, for 'tis mine. O my Father."
Proud of her ruthless lust of thought and action and battle,
Swiftfooted rose the daughter of Zeus from her sessions immortal:
Breasts of the morning unveiled in a purity awful and candid,
Head of the mighty Dawn, the goddess Pallas Athene!
Strong and rapacious she swooped on the world as her prey and her booty
Down from the courts of the Mighty descending, darting on Ida.
Dire she descended, a god in her reason, a child in her longings,
Joy and woe to the world that is given to the whims of the child-god
Greedy for rule and play and the minds of men and their doings!
So with her aegis scattering light o'er the heads of the nations
Shining-eyed in her boyish beauty severe and attractive
Came to the fields of the Troad, came to the fateful warfare,
Veiled, the goddess calm and pure in her luminous raiment
Zoned with beauty and strength. Rejoicing, spurring the fighters
Close o'er Odysseus she stood and clear-eyed governed the battle.
Zeus to Hephaestus next, the Cyclopean toiler
Turned, Hephaestus the strong-souled, priest and king and a bond-slave,
Servant of men in their homes and their workshops, servant of Nature,
He who has built these worlds and kindles the fire for a mortal.
"Thou, my son, art obedient always. Wisdom is with thee,
Therefore thou know'st and obeyest. Submission is wisdom and knowledge;
He who is blind revolts and he who is limited struggles:
Strife is not for the infinite; wisdom observes to accomplish.
Troy and her sons and her works are thy food today, O Hephaestus."
And to his father the Toiler answered, the silent Seer:
"Yes, I obey thee, my Father, and That which than thou is more mighty;
Even as thou obeyest by rule, so I by my labour.
Now must I heap the furnace, now must I toil at the smithy,
I who have flamed on the altar of sacrifice helping the sages.
I am the Cyclops, the lamester, who once was pure and a high-priest.
Holy the pomp of my flames ascendent from pyre and from altar
Robed men's souls for their heavens and my smoke was a pillar to Nature.
Though I have burned in the sight of the sage and the heart of the hero,
Now is no nobler hymn for my ear than the clanging of metal,
Breath of human greed and the dolorous pant of the engines.
Still I repine not, but. toil; for to toil was I yoked by my Maker.
I am your servant, O Gods, and his of whom you are servants."
But to the Toiler Zeus replied, to the servant of creatures:
"What is the thought thou hast uttered betrayed by thy speech, O Hephaestus?
True is it earth shall grow as a smithy, the smoke of the furnace
Fill men's eyes and their souls shall be stunned with the clang of the hammers,
Yet in the end there is rest on the peak of a labour accomplished.
Nor shall the might of the thinker be quelled by that iron oppression,
Nor shall the soul of the warrior despair in the darkness triumphant,
For when the night shall be deepest, dawn shall increase on the mountains
And in the heart of the worst the best shall be born by my wisdom.
Pallas thy sister shall guard man's knowledge fighting the earth-smoke.
Thou too art mighty to live through the clamour even as Apollo.
Work then, endure; expect from the Silence an end and thywages."
So King Hephaestus arose and passed from the courts of his father;
Down upon earth he came with his lame omnipotent motion;
And with uneven steps absorbed and silent the Master
Worked employed mid the wheels of the cars as a smith in his smithy,
But it was death and bale that he forged, not the bronze and the iron.
Stark, like a fire obscured by its smoke, through the spear-casts he laboured
Helping Ajax' war and the Theban and Phocian fighters.
Zeus to his grandiose helper next, who proved and unmoving,
Calm in her greatness waited the mighty command of her husband:
"Hera, sister and spouse, what my will is thou knowest, O consort.
One are our blood and our hearts, nor the thought for the words of the speaker
Waits, but each other we know and ourselves and the Vast and the heavens,
Life and all between and all beyond and the ages.
That which Space not knows nor Time, we have known, O my sister.
Therefore our souls are one soul and our minds become mirrors of oneness.
Go then and do my will, O thou mighty one, burning down Troya."
Silent she rose from the seats of the Blissful, Hera majestic,
And with her flowing garment and mystical zone through the spaces
Haloed came like the moon on an evening of luminous silence
Down upon Ida descending, a snow-white swan on the greenness,
Down upon Ida the mystic haunted by footsteps immortal
Ever since out of the Ocean it rose and lived gazing towards heaven.
There on a peak of the mountains alone with the sea and the azure
Voiceless and mighty she paused like a thought on the summits of being
Clasped by all heaven; the winds at play in her gust-scattered raiment
Sported insulting her gracious strength with their turbulent sweetness,
Played with their mother and queen; but she stood absorbed and unheeding,
Mute, with her sandalled foot for a moment thrilling the grasses,
Dumbly adored by a soul in the mountains, a thought in the rivers,
Roared to loud by her lions. The voice of the cataracts falling
Entered her soul profound and it heard eternity's rumour.
Silent its gaze immense contained the wheeling of aeons.
Huge-winged through Time flew her thought and its grandiose vast revolutions
Turned and returned. So musing her timeless creative spirit,
Master of Time its instrument, grieflessly hastening forward
Parted with greatnesses dead and summoned new strengths from their stables;
Maned they came to her call and filled with their pacings the future.
Calm, with the vision satisfied, thrilled by the grandeurs within her,
Down in a billow of whiteness and gold and delicate raiment
Gliding the daughter of Heaven came to the earth that received her
Glad of the tread divine and bright with her more than with sunbeams.
King Agamemnon she found and smiling on Sparta's levies
Mixed unseen with the far-glinting spears of the haughty Mycenae.
Then to the Mighty who tranquil abode and august in his regions
Zeus, while his gaze over many forms and high-seated godheads
Passed like a swift-fleeing eagle over the peaks and the glaciers
When to his eyrie he flies alone through the vastness and silence:
"Artemis, child of my loins and you, O legioned immortals,
All you have heard. Descend, O ye gods, to your sovereign stations,
Labour rejoicing whose task is joy and your bliss is creation;
Shrink from no act that Necessity asks from your luminous natures.
Thee I have given no part in the years that come, O my daughter,
Huntress swift of the worlds who with purity all things pursuest.
Yet not less is thy portion intended than theirs who o'erpass thee:
Helpedare the souls that wait more than strengths soon fulfilled and exhausted.
Archeress, brilliance, wait thine hour from the speed of the ages."
So they departed, Artemis leading lightning-tasselled.
Ancient Themis remained and awful Dis and Ananke.
Then mid these last of the gods who shall stand when all others have perished,
Zeus to the Silence obscure under iron brows of that goddess,-
Griefless, unveiled was her visage, dire and unmoved and eternal:
"Thou and I, O Dis, remain and our sister Ananke.
That which the joyous hearts of our children, radiant heaven-moths
Flitting mid flowers of sense for the honey of thought, have not captured,
That which Poseidon forgets mid the pomp and the roar of his waters,
We three keep in our hearts. By the Light that I watch for unsleeping,
By thy tremendous consent to the silence and darkness, O Hades,
By her delight renounced and the prayers and the worship of mortals
Making herself as an engine of God without bowels or vision,-
Yet in that engine are only heart-beats, yet is her riddle
Only Love that is veiled and pity that suffers and slaughters,
We three are free from ourselves, O Dis, and free from each other.
Do then, O King of the Night, observe then with Time for thy servant
Not my behest, but What she and thou and I are for ever."
Mute the Darkness sat like a soul unmoved through the aeons,
Then came a voice from the silence of Dis, from the night there came wisdom.
"Yes, I have chosen and that which I chose I endure, O Cronion,
Though to the courts of the gods I come as a threat and a shadow,
Even though none to their counsels call me, none to their pastime,
None companions me willingly; even thy daughter, my consort,
Trembling whom once from our sister Demeter I plucked like a blossom
Torn from Sicilian fields, while Fate reluctant, consenting,
Bowed her head, lives but by her gasps of the sun and the azure;
Stretched are her hands to the light and she seeks for the clasp of her mother.
I, I am Night and her reign and that of which Night is a symbol.
All to me comes, even thou shalt come to me, brilliant Cronion.
All here exists by me whom all walk fearing and shunning;
He who shuns not, He am I and thou and Ananke.
All things I take to my bosom that Life may be swift in her voyage;
For out of death is Life and not by birth and her motions
And behind Night is light and not in the sun and his splendours.
Troy to the Night I will gather a wreath for my shadows, O grower."
So in his arrogance dire the vast invincible Death-god
Triumphing passed out of heaven with Themis and silent Ananke.
Zeus alone in the spheres of his bliss, in his kingdom of brilliance
Sat divine and alarmed; for even the gods in their heavens
Scarce shall live who have gazed on the unveiled face of Ananke,
Heard the accents dire of the Darkness that waits for the ages.
Awful and dull grew his eyes and mighty and still grew his members,
Back from his nature he drew to the passionless peaks of the spirit,
Throned where it dwells for ever uplifted and silent and changeless
Far beyond living and death, beyond Nature and ending of Nature.
There for a while he dwelt veiled, protected from Dis and his greatness;
Then to the works of the world he returned and the joy of his musings.
Life and the blaze of the mighty soul that he was of God's making
Dawned again in the heavenly eyes and the majestied semblance.
Comforted heaven he beheld, to the green of the earth was attracted.
But through this Space unreal, but through these worlds that are shadows
Went the awful Three. None saw them pass, none felt them.
Only in the heavens was a tread as of death, in the air was a winter,
Earth oppressed moaned long like a woman striving with anguish.
Ida saw them not, but her grim lions cowered in their caverns,
Ceased for a while on her slopes the eternal laughter of fountains.
Over the ancient ramparts of Dardanus' high-roofed city
Darkening her victor domes and her gardens of life and its sweetness
Silent they came. Unseen and unheard was the dreadful arrival.
Troy and her gods dreamed secure in the moment flattered by sunlight.
Dim to the citadel high they arrived and their silence invaded
Pallas' marble shrine where stern and white in her beauty,
Armed on her pedestal, trampling the prostrate image of darkness
Mighty Athene's statue guarded imperial Troya.
Dim and vast they entered in. Then through all the great city
Huge a rushing sound was heard from her gardens and places
And in their musings her seers as they strove with night and with error
And in the fane of Apollo Laocoon torn by his visions
Heard aghast the voice of Troy's deities fleeing from Troya,
Saw the flaming lords of her households drive in a death-rout
Forth from her ancient halls and their noble familiar sessions.
Ghosts of her splendid centuries wailed on the wings of the doom-blast.
Moaning the Dryads fled and his Naiads passed from Scamander
Leaving the world to deities dumb of the clod and the earth-smoke,
And from their tombs and their shrines the shadowy Ancestors faded.
Filled was the air with their troops and the sound of a vast lamentation.
wailing they went, lamenting mortality's ages of greatness,
Ruthless Ananke's deeds and the mortal conquests of Hades.
Then in the fane Palladian the shuddering priests of Athene
Entered the darkened shrine and saw on the suffering marble
Shattered Athene's, mighty statue prostrate as conquered,
But on its pedestal rose o'er the unhurt image of darkness
Awful shapes, a Trinity dim and dire unto mortals.
Dumb they fell down on the earth and the life-breath was slain in their bosoms
And in the noon there was night. And Apollo passed out of Troya.
taken from Ilion - Book VIII - "The Book of the Gods"
by Sri Aurobindo
(Centenary Edition, Pondicherry : 1972), pp. 492-512)