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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 227

Patroclus flies;
Tumultuous clamour fills the fields and skies;
Thick drifts of dust involve their rapid flight;
Clouds rise on clouds, and heaven is snatch'd from sight.
The affrighted steeds their dying lords cast down,
Scour o'er the fields, and stretch to reach the town.
Loud o'er the rout was heard the victor's cry,
Where the war bleeds, and where the thickest die,
Where horse and arms, and chariots he o'erthrown,
And bleeding heroes under axles groan.
No stop, no check, the steeds of Peleus knew:
From bank to bank the immortal coursers flew.
High-bounding o'er the fosse, the whirling car
Smokes through the ranks, o'ertakes the flying war,
And thunders after Hector; Hector flies,
Patroclus shakes his lance; but fate denies.
Not with less noise, with less impetuous force,
The tide of Trojans urge their desperate course,
Than when in autumn Jove his fury pours,
And earth is loaden with incessant showers;
(When guilty mortals break the eternal laws,
Or judges, bribed, betray the righteous cause;)
From their deep beds he bids the rivers rise,
And opens all the flood-gates of the skies:
The impetuous torrents from their hills obey,
Whole fields are drown'd, and mountains swept away;
Loud roars the deluge till it meets the main;
And trembling man sees all his labours vain!
[pg 299]
And now the chief (the foremost troops repell'd)
Back to the ships his destined progress held,
Bore down half Troy in his resistless way,
And forced the routed ranks to stand the day.
Between the space where silver Simois flows,
Where lay the fleets, and where the rampires rose,
All grim in dust and blood Patroclus stands,
And turns the slaughter on the conquering bands.
First Pronous died beneath his fiery dart,
Which pierced below the shield his valiant heart.
Thestor was next, who saw the chief appear,
And fell the victim of his coward fear;
Shrunk up he sat, with wild and haggard eye,
Nor stood to combat, nor had force to fly;
Patroclus mark'd him as he shunn'd the war,
And with unmanly tremblings shook the car,
And dropp'd the flowing reins. Him 'twixt the jaws,
The javelin sticks, and from the chariot draws.
As on a rock that overhangs the main,
An angler, studious of the line and cane,
Some mighty fish draws panting to the shore:
Not with less ease the barbed javelin bore
The gaping dastard; as the spear was shook,
He fell, and life his heartless breast forsook.
Next on Eryalus he flies; a stone,
Large as a rock, was by his fury thrown:
Full on his crown the ponderous fragment flew,
And burst the helm, and cleft the head in two:
Prone to the ground the breathless warrior fell,
And death involved him with the shades of hell.
Then low in dust Epaltes, Echius, lie;
Ipheas, Evippus, Polymelus, die;
Amphoterus and Erymas succeed;
And last Tlepolemus and Pyres bleed.
Where'er he moves, the growing slaughters spread
In heaps on heaps a monument of dead.
When now Sarpedon his brave friends beheld
Grovelling in dust, and gasping on the field,
With this reproach his flying host he warms:
"Oh stain to honour! oh disgrace to arms!
Forsake, inglorious, the contended plain;
This hand unaided shall the war sustain:
The task be mine this hero's strength to try,
Who mows whole troops, and makes an army fly."
He spake: and, speaking, leaps from off the car:
Patroclus lights, and sternly waits the war.
As when two vultures on the mountain's height
Stoop with resounding pinions to the fight;
They cuff, they tear, they raise a screaming cry;
The desert echoes, and the rocks reply:
[pg 300]
The warriors thus opposed in arms, engage
With equal clamours, and with equal rage.
Jove view'd the combat: whose event foreseen,
He thus bespoke his sister and his queen:
"The hour draws on; the destinies ordain,245
My godlike son shall press the Phrygian plain:
Already on the verge of death he stands,
His life is owed to fierce Patroclus' hands,
What passions in a parent's breast debate!
Say, shall I snatch him from impending fate,
And send him safe to Lycia, distant far
From all the dangers and the toils of war;
Or to his doom my bravest offspring yield,
And fatten, with celestial blood, the field?"
Then thus the goddess with the radiant eyes:
"What words are these, O sovereign of the skies!
Short is the date prescribed to mortal man;
Shall Jove for one extend the narrow span,
Whose bounds were fix'd before his race began?
How many sons of gods, foredoom'd to death,
Before proud Ilion must resign their breath!
Were thine exempt, debate would rise above,
And murmuring powers condemn their partial Jove.
Give the bold chief a glorious fate in fight;
And when the ascending soul has wing'd her flight,
Let Sleep and Death convey, by thy command,
The breathless body to his native land.
His friends and people, to his future praise,
A marble tomb and pyramid shall raise,

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