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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 112

The king of men advanced his dauntless breast:
Then bold Tydides, great in arms, appear'd;
And next his bulk gigantic Ajax rear'd;
Oileus follow'd; Idomen was there,180
And Merion, dreadful as the god of war:
With these Eurypylus and Thoas stand,
And wise Ulysses closed the daring band.
All these, alike inspired with noble rage,
Demand the fight. To whom the Pylian sage:
"Lest thirst of glory your brave souls divide,
What chief shall combat, let the gods decide.
Whom heaven shall choose, be his the chance to raise
His country's fame, his own immortal praise."
The lots produced, each hero signs his own:
Then in the general's helm the fates are thrown,181
[pg 132]
The people pray, with lifted eyes and hands,
And vows like these ascend from all the bands:
"Grant, thou Almighty! in whose hand is fate,
A worthy champion for the Grecian state:
This task let Ajax or Tydides prove,
Or he, the king of kings, beloved by Jove."
Old Nestor shook the casque. By heaven inspired,
Leap'd forth the lot, of every Greek desired.
This from the right to left the herald bears,
Held out in order to the Grecian peers;
Each to his rival yields the mark unknown,
Till godlike Ajax finds the lot his own;
Surveys the inscription with rejoicing eyes,
Then casts before him, and with transport cries:
"Warriors! I claim the lot, and arm with joy;
Be mine the conquest of this chief of Troy.
Now while my brightest arms my limbs invest,
To Saturn's son be all your vows address'd:
But pray in secret, lest the foes should hear,
And deem your prayers the mean effect of fear.
Said I in secret? No, your vows declare
In such a voice as fills the earth and air,
Lives there a chief whom Ajax ought to dread?
Ajax, in all the toils of battle bred!
From warlike Salamis I drew my birth,
And, born to combats, fear no force on earth."
He said. The troops with elevated eyes,
Implore the god whose thunder rends the skies:
"O father of mankind, superior lord!
On lofty Ida's holy hill adored:
Who in the highest heaven hast fix'd thy throne,
Supreme of gods! unbounded and alone:
Grant thou, that Telamon may bear away
The praise and conquest of this doubtful day;
Or, if illustrious Hector be thy care,
That both may claim it, and that both may share."
Now Ajax braced his dazzling armour on;
Sheathed in bright steel the giant-warrior shone:
He moves to combat with majestic pace;
So stalks in arms the grisly god of Thrace,182
When Jove to punish faithless men prepares,
And gives whole nations to the waste of wars,
Thus march'd the chief, tremendous as a god;
Grimly he smiled; earth trembled as he strode:183
[pg 133]
His massy javelin quivering in his hand,
He stood, the bulwark of the Grecian band.
Through every Argive heart new transport ran;
All Troy stood trembling at the mighty man:
Even Hector paused; and with new doubt oppress'd,

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