The Iliad of Homer
Page: 143The same night continues; the scene lies in the two camps.
All night the chiefs before their vessels lay,
And lost in sleep the labours of the day:
All but the king: with various thoughts oppress'd,215
His country's cares lay rolling in his breast.
As when by lightnings Jove's ethereal power
Foretels the rattling hail, or weighty shower,
Or sends soft snows to whiten all the shore,
Or bids the brazen throat of war to roar;
By fits one flash succeeds as one expires,
And heaven flames thick with momentary fires:
So bursting frequent from Atrides' breast,
Sighs following sighs his inward fears confess'd.
Now o'er the fields, dejected, he surveys
From thousand Trojan fires the mounting blaze;
Hears in the passing wind their music blow,
And marks distinct the voices of the foe.[pg 181]
Now looking backwards to the fleet and coast,
Anxious he sorrows for the endangered host.
He rends his hair, in sacrifice to Jove,
And sues to him that ever lives above:
Inly he groans; while glory and despair
Divide his heart, and wage a double war.
A thousand cares his labouring breast revolves;
To seek sage Nestor now the chief resolves,
With him, in wholesome counsels, to debate
What yet remains to save the afflicted state.
He rose, and first he cast his mantle round,
Next on his feet the shining sandals bound;
A lion's yellow spoils his back conceal'd;
His warlike hand a pointed javelin held.
Meanwhile his brother, press'd with equal woes,
Alike denied the gifts of soft repose,
Laments for Greece, that in his cause before
So much had suffer'd and must suffer more.
A leopard's spotted hide his shoulders spread:
A brazen helmet glitter'd on his head:
Thus (with a javelin in his hand) he went
To wake Atrides in the royal tent.
Already waked, Atrides he descried,
His armour buckling at his vessel's side.
Joyful they met; the Spartan thus begun:
"Why puts my brother his bright armour on?
Sends he some spy, amidst these silent hours,
To try yon camp, and watch the Trojan powers?
But say, what hero shall sustain that task?
Such bold exploits uncommon courage ask;
Guideless, alone, through night's dark shade to go,
And midst a hostile camp explore the foe."
To whom the king: "In such distress we stand,
No vulgar counsel our affairs demand;
Greece to preserve, is now no easy part,
But asks high wisdom, deep design, and art.
For Jove, averse, our humble prayer denies,
And bows his head to Hector's sacrifice.
What eye has witness'd, or what ear believed,
In one great day, by one great arm achieved,
Such wondrous deeds as Hector's hand has done,
And we beheld, the last revolving sun
What honours the beloved of Jove adorn!
Sprung from no god, and of no goddess born;
Yet such his acts, as Greeks unborn shall tell,
And curse the battle where their fathers fell.