The Iliad of Homer
Page: 221No more your general calls his heroes on:
Hector, alone, I hear; his dreadful breath[pg 291]
Commands your slaughter, or proclaims your death.
Yet now, Patroclus, issue to the plain:
Now save the ships, the rising fires restrain,
And give the Greeks to visit Greece again.
But heed my words, and mark a friend's command,
Who trusts his fame and honours in thy hand,
And from thy deeds expects the Achaian host
Shall render back the beauteous maid he lost:
Rage uncontroll'd through all the hostile crew,
Though Jove in thunder should command the war,
Be just, consult my glory, and forbear.
The fleet once saved, desist from further chase,
Nor lead to Ilion's walls the Grecian race;
Some adverse god thy rashness may destroy;
Some god, like Phoebus, ever kind to Troy.
Let Greece, redeem'd from this destructive strait,
Do her own work; and leave the rest to fate.
O! would to all the immortal powers above,
That not one Trojan might be left alive,
And not a Greek of all the race survive:
Might only we the vast destruction shun,
And only we destroy the accursed town!"
Such conference held the chiefs; while on the strand
Great Jove with conquest crown'd the Trojan band.
Ajax no more the sounding storm sustain'd,
So thick the darts an iron tempest rain'd:
On his tired arm the weighty buckler hung;
His hollow helm with falling javelins rung;
His breath, in quick short pantings, comes and goes;
And painful sweat from all his members flows.
Spent and o'erpower'd, he barely breathes at most;
Yet scarce an army stirs him from his post;
Dangers on dangers all around him glow,
And toil to toil, and woe succeeds to woe.
Say, Muses, throned above the starry frame,
How first the navy blazed with Trojan flame?
Stern Hector waved his sword, and standing near,
Where furious Ajax plied his ashen spear,
Full on the lance a stroke so justly sped,
That the broad falchion lopp'd its brazen head;
His pointless spear the warrior shakes in vain;
The brazen head falls sounding on the plain.
Great Ajax saw, and own'd the hand divine;
Confessing Jove, and trembling at the sign,
Warn'd he retreats. Then swift from all sides pour
The hissing brands; thick streams the fiery shower;
O'er the high stern the curling volumes rise,
And sheets of rolling smoke involve the skies.
Divine Achilles view'd the rising flames,
And smote his thigh, and thus aloud exclaims:
"Arm, arm, Patroclus! Lo, the blaze aspires!
The glowing ocean reddens with the fires.
Arm, ere our vessels catch the spreading flame;
Arm, ere the Grecians be no more a name;
I haste to bring the troops."—The hero said;
The friend with ardour and with joy obey'd.
He cased his limbs in brass; and first around
His manly legs, with silver buckles bound
The clasping greaves; then to his breast applies
The flaming cuirass of a thousand dyes;