The Iliad of Homer
Great Diomed himself was seized with fear,
And thus bespoke his brother of the war:
"Mark how this way yon bending squadrons yield!
The storm rolls on, and Hector rules the field:
Here stand his utmost force."—The warrior said;
Swift at the word his ponderous javelin fled;
Nor miss'd its aim, but where the plumage danced
Razed the smooth cone, and thence obliquely glanced.
Safe in his helm (the gift of Phoebus' hands)
Without a wound the Trojan hero stands;
But yet so stunn'd, that, staggering on the plain.
His arm and knee his sinking bulk sustain;
O'er his dim sight the misty vapours rise,
And a short darkness shades his swimming eyes.
Tydides followed to regain his lance;
While Hector rose, recover'd from the trance,
Remounts his car, and herds amidst the crowd:
The Greek pursues him, and exults aloud:
"Once more thank Phoebus for thy forfeit breath,
Or thank that swiftness which outstrips the death.
Well by Apollo are thy prayers repaid,
And oft that partial power has lent his aid.
Thou shall not long the death deserved withstand,
If any god assist Tydides' hand.
Fly then, inglorious! but thy flight, this day,
Whole hecatombs of Trojan ghosts shall pay,"
Him, while he triumph'd, Paris eyed from far,
(The spouse of Helen, the fair cause of war;)
Around the fields his feather'd shafts he sent,
From ancient Ilus' ruin'd monument:
Behind the column placed, he bent his bow,
And wing'd an arrow at the unwary foe;[pg 206]
Just as he stoop'd, Agastrophus's crest
To seize, and drew the corslet from his breast,
The bowstring twang'd; nor flew the shaft in vain,
But pierced his foot, and nail'd it to the plain.
The laughing Trojan, with a joyful spring.
Leaps from his ambush, and insults the king.
"He bleeds! (he cries) some god has sped my dart!
Would the same god had fix'd it in his heart!
So Troy, relieved from that wide-wasting hand,
Should breathe from slaughter and in combat stand:
Whose sons now tremble at his darted spear,
As scatter'd lambs the rushing lion fear."
He dauntless thus: "Thou conqueror of the fair,
Thou woman-warrior with the curling hair;
Vain archer! trusting to the distant dart,
Unskill'd in arms to act a manly part!
Thou hast but done what boys or women can;
Such hands may wound, but not incense a man.
Nor boast the scratch thy feeble arrow gave,
A coward's weapon never hurts the brave.
Not so this dart, which thou may'st one day feel;
Fate wings its flight, and death is on the steel:
Where this but lights, some noble life expires;
Its touch makes orphans, bathes the cheeks of sires,
Steeps earth in purple, gluts the birds of air,
And leaves such objects as distract the fair."
Ulysses hastens with a trembling heart,
Before him steps, and bending draws the dart:
Forth flows the blood; an eager pang succeeds;
Tydides mounts, and to the navy speeds.
Now on the field Ulysses stands alone,
The Greeks all fled, the Trojans pouring on;
But stands collected in himself, and whole,
And questions thus his own unconquer'd soul:
"What further subterfuge, what hopes remain?
What shame, inglorious if I quit the plain?
What danger, singly if I stand the ground,
My friends all scatter'd, all the foes around?
Yet wherefore doubtful? let this truth suffice,
The brave meets danger, and the coward flies.
To die or conquer, proves a hero's heart;
And, knowing this, I know a soldier's part."
Such thoughts revolving in his careful breast,
Near, and more near, the shady cohorts press'd;
These, in the warrior, their own fate enclose;
And round him deep the steely circle grows.
So fares a boar whom all the troop surrounds
Of shouting huntsmen and of clamorous hounds;
He grinds his ivory tusks; he foams with ire;
His sanguine eye-balls glare with living fire;[pg 207]
By these, by those, on every part is plied;
And the red slaughter spreads on every side.
Pierced through the shoulder, first Deiopis fell;
Next Ennomus and Thoon sank to hell;
Chersidamas, beneath the navel thrust,
Falls prone to earth, and grasps the bloody dust.
Charops, the son of Hippasus, was near;
Ulysses reach'd him with the fatal spear;
But to his aid his brother Socus flies,
Socus the brave, the generous, and the wise.
Near as he drew, the warrior thus began:
"O great Ulysses! much-enduring man!
Not deeper skill'd in every martial sleight,
Than worn to toils, and active in the fight!
This day two brothers shall thy conquest grace,
And end at once the great Hippasian race,
Or thou beneath this lance must press the field."
He said, and forceful pierced his spacious shield:
Through the strong brass the ringing javelin thrown,
Plough'd half his side, and bared it to the bone.
By Pallas' care, the spear, though deep infix'd,
Stopp'd short of life, nor with his entrails mix'd.
The wound not mortal wise Ulysses knew,
Then furious thus (but first some steps withdrew):
"Unhappy man! whose death our hands shall grace,
Fate calls thee hence and finish'd is thy race.
Nor longer check my conquests on the foe;
But, pierced by this, to endless darkness go,
And add one spectre to the realms below!"
He spoke, while Socus, seized with sudden fright,
Trembling gave way, and turn'd his back to flight;
Between his shoulders pierced the following dart,
And held its passage through the panting heart:
Wide in his breast appear'd the grisly wound;
He falls; his armour rings against the ground.
Then thus Ulysses, gazing on the slain:
"Famed son of Hippasus! there press the plain;
There ends thy narrow span assign'd by fate,
Heaven owes Ulysses yet a longer date.
Ah, wretch! no father shall thy corpse compose;
Thy dying eyes no tender mother close;
But hungry birds shall tear those balls away,
And hovering vultures scream around their prey.
Me Greece shall honour, when I meet my doom,
With solemn funerals and a lasting tomb."
Then raging with intolerable smart,