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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 146

To ease a sovereign and relieve a sire:
But now the last despair surrounds our host;
No hour must pass, no moment must be lost;
Each single Greek, in this conclusive strife,
Stands on the sharpest edge of death or life:
Yet, if my years thy kind regard engage,
Employ thy youth as I employ my age;
Succeed to these my cares, and rouse the rest;
He serves me most, who serves his country best."
This said, the hero o'er his shoulders flung
A lion's spoils, that to his ankles hung;
Then seized his ponderous lance, and strode along.
Meges the bold, with Ajax famed for speed,
The warrior roused, and to the entrenchments lead.
And now the chiefs approach the nightly guard;
A wakeful squadron, each in arms prepared:
The unwearied watch their listening leaders keep,
And, couching close, repel invading sleep.
So faithful dogs their fleecy charge maintain,
With toil protected from the prowling train;
When the gaunt lioness, with hunger bold,
Springs from the mountains toward the guarded fold:
Through breaking woods her rustling course they hear;
[pg 185]
Loud, and more loud, the clamours strike their ear
Of hounds and men: they start, they gaze around,
Watch every side, and turn to every sound.
Thus watch'd the Grecians, cautious of surprise,
Each voice, each motion, drew their ears and eyes:
Each step of passing feet increased the affright;
And hostile Troy was ever full in sight.
Nestor with joy the wakeful band survey'd,
And thus accosted through the gloomy shade.
"'Tis well, my sons! your nightly cares employ;
Else must our host become the scorn of Troy.
Watch thus, and Greece shall live." The hero said;
Then o'er the trench the following chieftains led.
His son, and godlike Merion, march'd behind
(For these the princes to their council join'd).
The trenches pass'd, the assembled kings around
In silent state the consistory crown'd.
A place there was, yet undefiled with gore,
The spot where Hector stopp'd his rage before;
When night descending, from his vengeful hand
Reprieved the relics of the Grecian band:
(The plain beside with mangled corps was spread,
And all his progress mark'd by heaps of dead:)
There sat the mournful kings: when Neleus' son,
The council opening, in these words begun:
"Is there (said he) a chief so greatly brave,
His life to hazard, and his country save?
Lives there a man, who singly dares to go
To yonder camp, or seize some straggling foe?
Or favour'd by the night approach so near,
Their speech, their counsels, and designs to hear?
If to besiege our navies they prepare,
Or Troy once more must be the seat of war?
This could he learn, and to our peers recite,
And pass unharm'd the dangers of the night;
What fame were his through all succeeding days,
While Phoebus shines, or men have tongues to praise!
What gifts his grateful country would bestow!
What must not Greece to her deliverer owe?
A sable ewe each leader should provide,

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