The Iliad of Homer
Page: 173These on the farther bank now stood and gazed,
By Heaven alarm'd, by prodigies amazed:
A signal omen stopp'd the passing host,
Their martial fury in their wonder lost.
Jove's bird on sounding pinions beat the skies;
A bleeding serpent of enormous size,
His talons truss'd; alive, and curling round,
He stung the bird, whose throat received the wound:
Mad with the smart, he drops the fatal prey,
In airy circles wings his painful way,
Floats on the winds, and rends the heaven with cries:
Amidst the host the fallen serpent lies.
They, pale with terror, mark its spires unroll'd,
And Jove's portent with beating hearts behold.
Then first Polydamas the silence broke,
Long weigh'd the signal, and to Hector spoke:
"How oft, my brother, thy reproach I bear,
For words well meant, and sentiments sincere?
True to those counsels which I judge the best,
I tell the faithful dictates of my breast.[pg 223]
To speak his thoughts is every freeman's right,
In peace, in war, in council, and in fight;
And all I move, deferring to thy sway,
But tends to raise that power which I obey.
Then hear my words, nor may my words be vain!
Seek not this day the Grecian ships to gain;
For sure, to warn us, Jove his omen sent,
And thus my mind explains its clear event:
The victor eagle, whose sinister flight
Retards our host, and fills our hearts with fright,
Dismiss'd his conquest in the middle skies,
Allow'd to seize, but not possess the prize;
Thus, though we gird with fires the Grecian fleet,
Though these proud bulwalks tumble at our feet,
Toils unforeseen, and fiercer, are decreed;
More woes shall follow, and more heroes bleed.
So bodes my soul, and bids me thus advise;
For thus a skilful seer would read the skies."
To him then Hector with disdain return'd:
(Fierce as he spoke, his eyes with fury burn'd:)
"Are these the faithful counsels of thy tongue?
Thy will is partial, not thy reason wrong:
Or if the purpose of thy heart thou vent,
Sure heaven resumes the little sense it lent.
What coward counsels would thy madness move
Against the word, the will reveal'd of Jove?
The leading sign, the irrevocable nod,
And happy thunders of the favouring god,
These shall I slight, and guide my wavering mind
By wandering birds that flit with every wind?
Ye vagrants of the sky! your wings extend,
Or where the suns arise, or where descend;
To right, to left, unheeded take your way,
While I the dictates of high heaven obey.
Without a sign his sword the brave man draws,
And asks no omen but his country's cause.
But why should'st thou suspect the war's success?
None fears it more, as none promotes it less:
Though all our chiefs amidst yon ships expire,
Trust thy own cowardice to escape their fire.
Troy and her sons may find a general grave,
But thou canst live, for thou canst be a slave.
Yet should the fears that wary mind suggests