The Iliad of Homer
Page: 202The roaring main, at her great master's call,
Rose in huge ranks, and form'd a watery wall
Around the ships: seas hanging o'er the shores,
Both armies join: earth thunders, ocean roars.
Not half so loud the bellowing deeps resound,
When stormy winds disclose the dark profound;[pg 264]
Less loud the winds that from the Æolian hall
Roar through the woods, and make whole forests fall;
Less loud the woods, when flames in torrents pour,
Catch the dry mountain, and its shades devour;
With such a rage the meeting hosts are driven,
And such a clamour shakes the sounding heaven.
The first bold javelin, urged by Hector's force,
Direct at Ajax' bosom winged its course;
But there no pass the crossing belts afford,
(One braced his shield, and one sustain'd his sword.)
Then back the disappointed Trojan drew,
And cursed the lance that unavailing flew:
But 'scaped not Ajax; his tempestuous hand
A ponderous stone upheaving from the sand,
(Where heaps laid loose beneath the warrior's feet,
Or served to ballast, or to prop the fleet,)
Toss'd round and round, the missive marble flings;
On the razed shield the fallen ruin rings,
Full on his breast and throat with force descends;
Nor deaden'd there its giddy fury spends,
But whirling on, with many a fiery round,
Smokes in the dust, and ploughs into the ground.
As when the bolt, red-hissing from above,
Darts on the consecrated plant of Jove,
The mountain-oak in flaming ruin lies,
Black from the blow, and smokes of sulphur rise;
Stiff with amaze the pale beholders stand,
And own the terrors of the almighty hand!
So lies great Hector prostrate on the shore;
His slacken'd hand deserts the lance it bore;
His following shield the fallen chief o'erspread;
Beneath his helmet dropp'd his fainting head;
His load of armour, sinking to the ground,
Clanks on the field, a dead and hollow sound.
Loud shouts of triumph fill the crowded plain;
Greece sees, in hope, Troy's great defender slain:
All spring to seize him; storms of arrows fly,
And thicker javelins intercept the sky.
In vain an iron tempest hisses round;
He lies protected, and without a wound.238
Polydamas, Agenor the divine,
The pious warrior of Anchises' line,
And each bold leader of the Lycian band,
With covering shields (a friendly circle) stand,[pg 265]
His mournful followers, with assistant care,
The groaning hero to his chariot bear;
His foaming coursers, swifter than the wind,
Speed to the town, and leave the war behind.
When now they touch'd the mead's enamell'd side,
Where gentle Xanthus rolls his easy tide,
With watery drops the chief they sprinkle round,
Placed on the margin of the flowery ground.
Raised on his knees, he now ejects the gore;
Now faints anew, low-sinking on the shore;
By fits he breathes, half views the fleeting skies,
And seals again, by fits, his swimming eyes.
Soon as the Greeks the chief's retreat beheld,
With double fury each invades the field.
Oilean Ajax first his javelin sped,