The Iliad of Homer
Page: 151[pg 191]
Or leave me here, a captive's fate to mourn,
In cruel chains, till your return reveal
The truth or falsehood of the news I tell."
To this Tydides, with a gloomy frown:
"Think not to live, though all the truth be shown:
Shall we dismiss thee, in some future strife
To risk more bravely thy now forfeit life?
Or that again our camps thou may'st explore?
No—once a traitor, thou betray'st no more."
Sternly he spoke, and as the wretch prepared
With humble blandishment to stroke his beard,
Like lightning swift the wrathful falchion flew,
Divides the neck, and cuts the nerves in two;
One instant snatch'd his trembling soul to hell,
The head, yet speaking, mutter'd as it fell.
The furry helmet from his brow they tear,
The wolf's grey hide, the unbended bow and spear;
These great Ulysses lifting to the skies,
To favouring Pallas dedicates the prize:
"Great queen of arms, receive this hostile spoil,
And let the Thracian steeds reward our toil;
Thee, first of all the heavenly host, we praise;
O speed our labours, and direct our ways!"
This said, the spoils, with dropping gore defaced,
High on a spreading tamarisk he placed;
Then heap'd with reeds and gathered boughs the plain,
To guide their footsteps to the place again.
Through the still night they cross the devious fields,
Slippery with blood, o'er arms and heaps of shields,
Arriving where the Thracian squadrons lay,
And eased in sleep the labours of the day.
Ranged in three lines they view the prostrate band:
The horses yoked beside each warrior stand.
Their arms in order on the ground reclined,
Through the brown shade the fulgid weapons shined:
Amidst lay Rhesus, stretch'd in sleep profound,
And the white steeds behind his chariot bound.
The welcome sight Ulysses first descries,
And points to Diomed the tempting prize.
"The man, the coursers, and the car behold!
Described by Dolon, with the arms of gold.
Now, brave Tydides! now thy courage try,
Approach the chariot, and the steeds untie;
Or if thy soul aspire to fiercer deeds,
Urge thou the slaughter, while I seize the steeds."
Breathed in his heart, and strung his nervous arms;
Where'er he pass'd, a purple stream pursued
His thirsty falchion, fat with hostile blood,
Bathed all his footsteps, dyed the fields with gore,[pg 192]
And a low groan remurmur'd through the shore.
So the grim lion, from his nightly den,
O'erleaps the fences, and invades the pen,
On sheep or goats, resistless in his way,
He falls, and foaming rends the guardless prey;
Nor stopp'd the fury of his vengeful hand,
Till twelve lay breathless of the Thracian band.
Ulysses following, as his partner slew,
Back by the foot each slaughter'd warrior drew;
The milk-white coursers studious to convey
Safe to the ships, he wisely cleared the way:
Lest the fierce steeds, not yet to battles bred,
Should start, and tremble at the heaps of dead.
Now twelve despatch'd, the monarch last they found;