The Iliad of Homer
Page: 213Drove through the thickest of the embattled plains
The startling steeds, and shook his eager reins.
As all on glory ran his ardent mind,
The pointed death arrests him from behind:
Through his fair neck the thrilling arrow flies;
In youth's first bloom reluctantly he dies.
Hurl'd from the lofty seat, at distance far,
The headlong coursers spurn his empty car;
Till sad Polydamas the steeds restrain'd,
And gave, Astynous, to thy careful hand;
Then, fired to vengeance, rush'd amidst the foe:
Rage edged his sword, and strengthen'd every blow.
Once more bold Teucer, in his country's cause,
At Hector's breast a chosen arrow draws:
And had the weapon found the destined way,
Thy fall, great Trojan! had renown'd that day.
But Hector was not doom'd to perish then:
The all-wise disposer of the fates of men
(Imperial Jove) his present death withstands;
Nor was such glory due to Teucer's hands.
At its full stretch as the tough string he drew,
Struck by an arm unseen, it burst in two;
Down dropp'd the bow: the shaft with brazen head
Fell innocent, and on the dust lay dead.
The astonish'd archer to great Ajax cries;
"Some god prevents our destined enterprise:
Some god, propitious to the Trojan foe,
Has, from my arm unfailing, struck the bow,
And broke the nerve my hands had twined with art,
Strong to impel the flight of many a dart."
"Since heaven commands it (Ajax made reply)
Dismiss the bow, and lay thy arrows by:
Thy arms no less suffice the lance to wield,
And quit the quiver for the ponderous shield.
In the first ranks indulge thy thirst of fame,
Thy brave example shall the rest inflame.
Fierce as they are, by long successes vain;
To force our fleet, or even a ship to gain,
Asks toil, and sweat, and blood: their utmost might
Shall find its match—No more: 'tis ours to fight."
Then Teucer laid his faithless bow aside;[pg 280]
The fourfold buckler o'er his shoulder tied;
On his brave head a crested helm he placed,
With nodding horse-hair formidably graced;
A dart, whose point with brass refulgent shines,
The warrior wields; and his great brother joins.
This Hector saw, and thus express'd his joy:
"Ye troops of Lycia, Dardanus, and Troy!
Be mindful of yourselves, your ancient fame,
And spread your glory with the navy's flame.
Jove is with us; I saw his hand, but now,
From the proud archer strike his vaunted bow:
Indulgent Jove! how plain thy favours shine,
When happy nations bear the marks divine!
How easy then, to see the sinking state
Of realms accursed, deserted, reprobate!
Such is the fate of Greece, and such is ours:
Behold, ye warriors, and exert your powers.
Death is the worst; a fate which all must try;
And for our country, 'tis a bliss to die.
The gallant man, though slain in fight he be,
Yet leaves his nation safe, his children free;
Entails a debt on all the grateful state;