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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 158

Then, where the thickest fought, the victor flew;
The king's example all his Greeks pursue.
Now by the foot the flying foot were slain,
Horse trod by horse, lay foaming on the plain.
From the dry fields thick clouds of dust arise,
Shade the black host, and intercept the skies.
The brass-hoof'd steeds tumultuous plunge and bound,
And the thick thunder beats the labouring ground,
Still slaughtering on, the king of men proceeds;
The distanced army wonders at his deeds,
As when the winds with raging flames conspire,
And o'er the forests roll the flood of fire,
In blazing heaps the grove's old honours fall,
And one refulgent ruin levels all:
Before Atrides' rage so sinks the foe,
Whole squadrons vanish, and proud heads lie low.
The steeds fly trembling from his waving sword,
And many a car, now lighted of its lord,
Wide o'er the field with guideless fury rolls,
Breaking their ranks, and crushing out their souls;
While his keen falchion drinks the warriors' lives;
More grateful, now, to vultures than their wives!
Perhaps great Hector then had found his fate,
But Jove and destiny prolong'd his date.
Safe from the darts, the care of heaven he stood,
Amidst alarms, and death, and dust, and blood.
Now past the tomb where ancient Ilus lay,
Through the mid field the routed urge their way:
Where the wild figs the adjoining summit crown,
The path they take, and speed to reach the town.
As swift, Atrides with loud shouts pursued,
Hot with his toil, and bathed in hostile blood.
Now near the beech-tree, and the Scaean gates,
The hero halts, and his associates waits.
Meanwhile on every side around the plain,
Dispersed, disorder'd, fly the Trojan train.
So flies a herd of beeves, that hear dismay'd
The lion's roaring through the midnight shade;
[pg 201]
On heaps they tumble with successless haste;
The savage seizes, draws, and rends the last.
Not with less fury stern Atrides flew,
Still press'd the rout, and still the hindmost slew;
Hurl'd from their cars the bravest chiefs are kill'd,
And rage, and death, and carnage load the field.
Now storms the victor at the Trojan wall;
Surveys the towers, and meditates their fall.
But Jove descending shook the Idaean hills,
And down their summits pour'd a hundred rills:
The unkindled lightning in his hand he took,
And thus the many-coloured maid bespoke:
"Iris, with haste thy golden wings display,
To godlike Hector this our word convey—
While Agamemnon wastes the ranks around,
Fights in the front, and bathes with blood the ground,
Bid him give way; but issue forth commands,
And trust the war to less important hands:
But when, or wounded by the spear or dart,
That chief shall mount his chariot, and depart,
Then Jove shall string his arm, and fire his breast,
Then to her ships shall flying Greece be press'd,
Till to the main the burning sun descend,
And sacred night her awful shade extend."
He spoke, and Iris at his word obey'd;
On wings of winds descends the various maid.
The chief she found amidst the ranks of war,
Close to the bulwarks, on his glittering car.
The goddess then: "O son of Priam, hear!
From Jove I come, and his high mandate bear.
While Agamemnon wastes the ranks around,
Fights in the front, and bathes with blood the ground,
Abstain from fight; yet issue forth commands,
And trust the war to less important hands:
But when, or wounded by the spear or dart,
The chief shall mount his chariot, and depart,
Then Jove shall string thy arm, and fire thy breast,
Then to her ships shall flying Greece be press'd,
Till to the main the burning sun descend,
And sacred night her awful shade extend."
She said, and vanish'd. Hector, with a bound,
Springs from his chariot on the trembling ground,
In clanging arms: he grasps in either hand
A pointed lance, and speeds from band to band;
Revives their ardour, turns their steps from flight,
And wakes anew the dying flames of fight.
They stand to arms: the Greeks their onset dare,
Condense their powers, and wait the coming war.
New force, new spirit, to each breast returns;
The fight renew'd with fiercer fury burns:
[pg 202]
The king leads on: all fix on him their eye,
And learn from him to conquer, or to die.
Ye sacred nine! celestial Muses! tell,
Who faced him first, and by his prowess fell?
The great Iphidamas, the bold and young,
From sage Antenor and Theano sprung;
Whom from his youth his grandsire Cisseus bred,
And nursed in Thrace where snowy flocks are fed.
Scarce did the down his rosy cheeks invest,
And early honour warm his generous breast,
When the kind sire consign'd his daughter's charms
(Theano's sister) to his youthful arms.
But call'd by glory to the wars of Troy,
He leaves untasted the first fruits of joy;
From his loved bride departs with melting eyes,
And swift to aid his dearer country flies.
With twelve black ships he reach'd Percope's strand,
Thence took the long laborious march by land.
Now fierce for fame, before the ranks he springs,
Towering in arms, and braves the king of kings.
Atrides first discharged the missive spear;
The Trojan stoop'd, the javelin pass'd in air.
Then near the corslet, at the monarch's heart,
With all his strength, the youth directs his dart:
But the broad belt, with plates of silver bound,
The point rebated, and repell'd the wound.
Encumber'd with the dart, Atrides stands,
Till, grasp'd with force, he wrench'd it from his hands;
At once his weighty sword discharged a wound
Full on his neck, that fell'd him to the ground.
Stretch'd in the dust the unhappy warrior lies,
And sleep eternal seals his swimming eyes.
Oh worthy better fate! oh early slain!
Thy country's friend; and virtuous, though in vain!
No more the youth shall join his consort's side,
At once a virgin, and at once a bride!

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