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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 217

Supine he fell; his brazen helmet rung.
On the fallen chief the invading Trojan press'd,
And plunged the pointed javelin in his breast.
His circling friends, who strove to guard too late
The unhappy hero, fled, or shared his fate.
Chased from the foremost line, the Grecian train
Now man the next, receding toward the main:
Wedged in one body at the tents they stand,
Wall'd round with sterns, a gloomy, desperate band.
Now manly shame forbids the inglorious flight;
Now fear itself confines them to the fight:
Man courage breathes in man; but Nestor most
(The sage preserver of the Grecian host)
Exhorts, adjures, to guard these utmost shores;
And by their parents, by themselves implores.
"Oh friends! be men: your generous breasts inflame
With mutual honour, and with mutual shame!
Think of your hopes, your fortunes; all the care
Your wives, your infants, and your parents share:
Think of each living father's reverend head;
Think of each ancestor with glory dead;
Absent, by me they speak, by me they sue,
They ask their safety, and their fame, from you:
The gods their fates on this one action lay,
And all are lost, if you desert the day."
He spoke, and round him breathed heroic fires;
Minerva seconds what the sage inspires.
The mist of darkness Jove around them threw
She clear'd, restoring all the war to view;
[pg 285]
A sudden ray shot beaming o'er the plain,
And show'd the shores, the navy, and the main:
Hector they saw, and all who fly, or fight,
The scene wide-opening to the blaze of light,
First of the field great Ajax strikes their eyes,
His port majestic, and his ample size:
A ponderous mace with studs of iron crown'd,
Full twenty cubits long, he swings around;
Nor fights, like others, fix'd to certain stands
But looks a moving tower above the bands;
High on the decks with vast gigantic stride,
The godlike hero stalks from side to side.
So when a horseman from the watery mead
(Skill'd in the manage of the bounding steed)
Drives four fair coursers, practised to obey,
To some great city through the public way;
Safe in his art, as side by side they run,
He shifts his seat, and vaults from one to one;
And now to this, and now to that he flies;
Admiring numbers follow with their eyes.
From ship to ship thus Ajax swiftly flew,
No less the wonder of the warring crew.
As furious, Hector thunder'd threats aloud,
And rush'd enraged before the Trojan crowd;
Then swift invades the ships, whose beaky prores
Lay rank'd contiguous on the bending shores;
So the strong eagle from his airy height,
Who marks the swans' or cranes' embodied flight,
Stoops down impetuous, while they light for food,
And, stooping, darkens with his wings the flood.
Jove leads him on with his almighty hand,
And breathes fierce spirits in his following band.
The warring nations meet, the battle roars,
Thick beats the combat on the sounding prores.

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