The Iliad of Homer
The saffron morn, with early blushes spread,
THE DESCENT OF DISCORD.
The king of men his hardy host inspires
With loud command, with great example fires!
Himself first rose, himself before the rest
His mighty limbs in radiant armour dress'd,
And first he cased his manly legs around
In shining greaves with silver buckles bound;
The beaming cuirass next adorn'd his breast,
The same which once king Cinyras possess'd:
(The fame of Greece and her assembled host
Had reach'd that monarch on the Cyprian coast;
'Twas then, the friendship of the chief to gain,
This glorious gift he sent, nor sent in vain:)
Ten rows of azure steel the work infold,
Twice ten of tin, and twelve of ductile gold;
Three glittering dragons to the gorget rise,
Whose imitated scales against the skies
Reflected various light, and arching bow'd,
Like colour'd rainbows o'er a showery cloud
(Jove's wondrous bow, of three celestial dies,
Placed as a sign to man amidst the skies).[pg 197]
A radiant baldric, o'er his shoulder tied,
Sustain'd the sword that glitter'd at his side:
Gold was the hilt, a silver sheath encased
The shining blade, and golden hangers graced.
His buckler's mighty orb was next display'd,
That round the warrior cast a dreadful shade;
Ten zones of brass its ample brim surround,
And twice ten bosses the bright convex crown'd:
Tremendous Gorgon frown'd upon its field,
And circling terrors fill'd the expressive shield:
Within its concave hung a silver thong,
On which a mimic serpent creeps along,
His azure length in easy waves extends,
Till in three heads the embroider'd monster ends.
Last o'er his brows his fourfold helm he placed,
With nodding horse-hair formidably graced;
And in his hands two steely javelins wields,
That blaze to heaven, and lighten all the fields.
That instant Juno, and the martial maid,
In happy thunders promised Greece their aid;
High o'er the chief they clash'd their arms in air,
And, leaning from the clouds, expect the war.
Close to the limits of the trench and mound,
The fiery coursers to their chariots bound
The squires restrain'd: the foot, with those who wield
The lighter arms, rush forward to the field.
To second these, in close array combined,
The squadrons spread their sable wings behind.
Now shouts and tumults wake the tardy sun,
As with the light the warriors' toils begun.
Even Jove, whose thunder spoke his wrath, distill'd
Red drops of blood o'er all the fatal field;220
The woes of men unwilling to survey,
And all the slaughters that must stain the day.
Near Ilus' tomb, in order ranged around,
The Trojan lines possess'd the rising ground:
There wise Polydamas and Hector stood;
Æneas, honour'd as a guardian god;
Bold Polybus, Agenor the divine;
The brother-warriors of Antenor's line:
With youthful Acamas, whose beauteous face
And fair proportion match'd the ethereal race.
Great Hector, cover'd with his spacious shield,
Plies all the troops, and orders all the field.
As the red star now shows his sanguine fires
Through the dark clouds, and now in night retires,[pg 198]
Thus through the ranks appear'd the godlike man,
Plunged in the rear, or blazing in the van;
While streamy sparkles, restless as he flies,
Flash from his arms, as lightning from the skies.
As sweating reapers in some wealthy field,
Ranged in two bands, their crooked weapons wield,
Bear down the furrows, till their labours meet;
Thick fall the heapy harvests at their feet:
So Greece and Troy the field of war divide,
And falling ranks are strow'd on every side.
None stoop'd a thought to base inglorious flight;221
But horse to horse, and man to man they fight,
Not rabid wolves more fierce contest their prey;
Each wounds, each bleeds, but none resign the day.
Discord with joy the scene of death descries,
And drinks large slaughter at her sanguine eyes:
Discord alone, of all the immortal train,
Swells the red horrors of this direful plain:
The gods in peace their golden mansions fill,
Ranged in bright order on the Olympian hill:
But general murmurs told their griefs above,
And each accused the partial will of Jove.
Meanwhile apart, superior, and alone,
The eternal Monarch, on his awful throne,
Wrapt in the blaze of boundless glory sate;
And fix'd, fulfill'd the just decrees of fate.
On earth he turn'd his all-considering eyes,
And mark'd the spot where Ilion's towers arise;
The sea with ships, the fields with armies spread,
The victor's rage, the dying, and the dead.
Thus while the morning-beams, increasing bright,
O'er heaven's pure azure spread the glowing light,
Commutual death the fate of war confounds,
Each adverse battle gored with equal wounds.
But now (what time in some sequester'd vale
The weary woodman spreads his sparing meal,
When his tired arms refuse the axe to rear,
And claim a respite from the sylvan war;
But not till half the prostrate forests lay
Stretch'd in long ruin, and exposed to day)
Then, nor till then, the Greeks' impulsive might