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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 110

As when to sailors labouring through the main,
That long have heaved the weary oar in vain,
Jove bids at length the expected gales arise;
The gales blow grateful, and the vessel flies.
So welcome these to Troy's desiring train,
The bands are cheer'd, the war awakes again.
Bold Paris first the work of death begun
On great Menestheus, Areithous' son,
Sprung from the fair Philomeda's embrace,
The pleasing Arne was his native place.
Then sunk Eioneus to the shades below,
Beneath his steely casque he felt the blow177
[pg 128]
Full on his neck, from Hector's weighty hand;
And roll'd, with limbs relax'd, along the land.
By Glaucus' spear the bold Iphmous bleeds,
Fix'd in the shoulder as he mounts his steeds;
Headlong he tumbles: his slack nerves unbound,
Drop the cold useless members on the ground.
When now Minerva saw her Argives slain,
From vast Olympus to the gleaming plain
Fierce she descends: Apollo marked her flight,
Nor shot less swift from Ilion's towery height.
Radiant they met, beneath the beechen shade;
When thus Apollo to the blue-eyed maid:
"What cause, O daughter of Almighty Jove!
Thus wings thy progress from the realms above?
Once more impetuous dost thou bend thy way,
To give to Greece the long divided day?
Too much has Troy already felt thy hate,
Now breathe thy rage, and hush the stern debate;
This day, the business of the field suspend;
War soon shall kindle, and great Ilion bend;
Since vengeful goddesses confederate join
To raze her walls, though built by hands divine."
To whom the progeny of Jove replies:
"I left, for this, the council of the skies:
But who shall bid conflicting hosts forbear,
What art shall calm the furious sons of war?"
To her the god: "Great Hector's soul incite
To dare the boldest Greek to single fight,
Till Greece, provoked, from all her numbers show
A warrior worthy to be Hector's foe."
At this agreed, the heavenly powers withdrew;
Sage Helenus their secret counsels knew;
Hector, inspired, he sought: to him address'd,
Thus told the dictates of his sacred breast:
"O son of Priam! let thy faithful ear
Receive my words: thy friend and brother hear!
Go forth persuasive, and a while engage
The warring nations to suspend their rage;
Then dare the boldest of the hostile train
To mortal combat on the listed plain.
For not this day shall end thy glorious date;
The gods have spoke it, and their voice is fate."
He said: the warrior heard the word with joy;
Then with his spear restrain'd the youth of Troy,
Held by the midst athwart. On either hand
The squadrons part; the expecting Trojans stand;
Great Agamemnon bids the Greeks forbear:
They breathe, and hush the tumult of the war.
The Athenian maid, and glorious god of day,178
[pg 129]
With silent joy the settling hosts survey:
In form of vultures, on the beech's height
They sit conceal'd, and wait the future fight.
The thronging troops obscure the dusky fields,
Horrid with bristling spears, and gleaming shields.
As when a general darkness veils the main,
(Soft Zephyr curling the wide wat'ry plain,)
The waves scarce heave, the face of ocean sleeps,
And a still horror saddens all the deeps;
Thus in thick orders settling wide around,
At length composed they sit, and shade the ground.
Great Hector first amidst both armies broke
The solemn silence, and their powers bespoke:
"Hear, all ye Trojan, all ye Grecian bands,
What my soul prompts, and what some god commands.
Great Jove, averse our warfare to compose,
O'erwhelms the nations with new toils and woes;
War with a fiercer tide once more returns,
Till Ilion falls, or till yon navy burns.
You then, O princes of the Greeks! appear;
'Tis Hector speaks, and calls the gods to hear:
From all your troops select the boldest knight,
And him, the boldest, Hector dares to fight.
Here if I fall, by chance of battle slain,
Be his my spoil, and his these arms remain;
But let my body, to my friends return'd,
By Trojan hands and Trojan flames be burn'd.
And if Apollo, in whose aid I trust,
Shall stretch your daring champion in the dust;
If mine the glory to despoil the foe;
On Phoebus' temple I'll his arms bestow:
The breathless carcase to your navy sent,
Greece on the shore shall raise a monument;
Which when some future mariner surveys,
Wash'd by broad Hellespont's resounding seas,
Thus shall he say, 'A valiant Greek lies there,
By Hector slain, the mighty man of war,'
The stone shall tell your vanquish'd hero's name.
And distant ages learn the victor's fame."
This fierce defiance Greece astonish'd heard,
Blush'd to refuse, and to accept it fear'd.
Stern Menelaus first the silence broke,
And, inly groaning, thus opprobrious spoke:
"Women of Greece! O scandal of your race,
Whose coward souls your manly form disgrace,
How great the shame, when every age shall know
That not a Grecian met this noble foe!
Go then! resolve to earth, from whence ye grew,
A heartless, spiritless, inglorious crew!
Be what ye seem, unanimated clay,
[pg 130]
Myself will dare the danger of the day;
'Tis man's bold task the generous strife to try,
But in the hands of God is victory."
These words scarce spoke, with generous ardour press'd,
His manly limbs in azure arms he dress'd.
That day, Atrides! a superior hand
Had stretch'd thee breathless on the hostile strand;
But all at once, thy fury to compose,
The kings of Greece, an awful band, arose;
Even he their chief, great Agamemnon, press'd
Thy daring hand, and this advice address'd:
"Whither, O Menelaus! wouldst thou run,
And tempt a fate which prudence bids thee shun?
Grieved though thou art, forbear the rash design;
Great Hectors arm is mightier far than thine:
Even fierce Achilles learn'd its force to fear,
And trembling met this dreadful son of war.
Sit thou secure, amidst thy social band;

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