<<<
>>>

The Iliad of Homer

Page: 116

The sage whose counsels long had sway'd the rest,
In words like these his prudent thought express'd:
"How dear, O kings! this fatal day has cost,
What Greeks are perish'd! what a people lost!
What tides of blood have drench'd Scamander's shore!
What crowds of heroes sunk to rise no more!
Then hear me, chief! nor let the morrow's light
Awake thy squadrons to new toils of fight:
Some space at least permit the war to breathe,
While we to flames our slaughter'd friends bequeath,
From the red field their scatter'd bodies bear,
And nigh the fleet a funeral structure rear;
So decent urns their snowy bones may keep,
And pious children o'er their ashes weep.
Here, where on one promiscuous pile they blazed,
High o'er them all a general tomb be raised;
Next, to secure our camp and naval powers,
Raise an embattled wall, with lofty towers;
From space to space be ample gates around,
For passing chariots; and a trench profound.
So Greece to combat shall in safety go,
Nor fear the fierce incursions of the foe."
'Twas thus the sage his wholesome counsel moved;
The sceptred kings of Greece his words approved.
Meanwhile, convened at Priam's palace-gate,
The Trojan peers in nightly council sate;
A senate void of order, as of choice:
Their hearts were fearful, and confused their voice.
Antenor, rising, thus demands their ear:
"Ye Trojans, Dardans, and auxiliars, hear!
'Tis heaven the counsel of my breast inspires,
And I but move what every god requires:
Let Sparta's treasures be this hour restored,
And Argive Helen own her ancient lord.
The ties of faith, the sworn alliance, broke,
Our impious battles the just gods provoke.
As this advice ye practise, or reject,
So hope success, or dread the dire effect."
[pg 137]
The senior spoke and sate. To whom replied
The graceful husband of the Spartan bride:
"Cold counsels, Trojan, may become thy years
But sound ungrateful in a warrior's ears:
Old man, if void of fallacy or art,
Thy words express the purpose of thy heart,
Thou, in thy time, more sound advice hast given;
But wisdom has its date, assign'd by heaven.
Then hear me, princes of the Trojan name!
Their treasures I'll restore, but not the dame;
My treasures too, for peace, I will resign;
But be this bright possession ever mine."
'Twas then, the growing discord to compose,
Slow from his seat the reverend Priam rose:
His godlike aspect deep attention drew:
He paused, and these pacific words ensue:
"Ye Trojans, Dardans, and auxiliar bands!
Now take refreshment as the hour demands;
Guard well the walls, relieve the watch of night.
Till the new sun restores the cheerful light.
Then shall our herald, to the Atrides sent,
Before their ships proclaim my son's intent.
Next let a truce be ask'd, that Troy may burn
Her slaughter'd heroes, and their bones inurn;
That done, once more the fate of war be tried,
And whose the conquest, mighty Jove decide!"
The monarch spoke: the warriors snatch'd with haste
(Each at his post in arms) a short repast.
Soon as the rosy morn had waked the day,
To the black ships Idaeus bent his way;
There, to the sons of Mars, in council found,
He raised his voice: the host stood listening round.
"Ye sons of Atreus, and ye Greeks, give ear!
The words of Troy, and Troy's great monarch, hear.
Pleased may ye hear (so heaven succeed my prayers)
What Paris, author of the war, declares.
The spoils and treasures he to Ilion bore
(Oh had he perish'd ere they touch'd our shore!)
He proffers injured Greece: with large increase
Of added Trojan wealth to buy the peace.
But to restore the beauteous bride again,
This Greece demands, and Troy requests in vain.
Next, O ye chiefs! we ask a truce to burn
Our slaughter'd heroes, and their bones inurn.
That done, once more the fate of war be tried,
And whose the conquest, mighty Jove decide!"
The Greeks gave ear, but none the silence broke;
At length Tydides rose, and rising spoke:
"Oh, take not, friends! defrauded of your fame,
Their proffer'd wealth, nor even the Spartan dame.
[pg 138]
Let conquest make them ours: fate shakes their wall,
And Troy already totters to her fall."
The admiring chiefs, and all the Grecian name,
With general shouts return'd him loud acclaim.
Then thus the king of kings rejects the peace:
"Herald! in him thou hear'st the voice of Greece
For what remains; let funeral flames be fed
With heroes' corps: I war not with the dead:
Go search your slaughtered chiefs on yonder plain,
And gratify the manes of the slain.
Be witness, Jove, whose thunder rolls on high!"
He said, and rear'd his sceptre to the sky.
To sacred Troy, where all her princes lay
To wait the event, the herald bent his way.
He came, and standing in the midst, explain'd
The peace rejected, but the truce obtain'd.
Straight to their several cares the Trojans move,
Some search the plains, some fell the sounding grove:
Nor less the Greeks, descending on the shore,
Hew'd the green forests, and the bodies bore.
And now from forth the chambers of the main,
To shed his sacred light on earth again,
Arose the golden chariot of the day,
And tipp'd the mountains with a purple ray.
In mingled throngs the Greek and Trojan train
Through heaps of carnage search'd the mournful plain.
Scarce could the friend his slaughter'd friend explore,
With dust dishonour'd, and deformed with gore.
The wounds they wash'd, their pious tears they shed,
And, laid along their cars, deplored the dead.
Sage Priam check'd their grief: with silent haste
The bodies decent on the piles were placed:
With melting hearts the cold remains they burn'd,
And, sadly slow, to sacred Troy return'd.
Nor less the Greeks their pious sorrows shed,
And decent on the pile dispose the dead;
The cold remains consume with equal care;
And slowly, sadly, to their fleet repair.

<<<
>>>