The Iliad of Homer
Page: 242We seek our ramparts, and desert the day.
A god, nor is he less, my bosom warms,
And tells me, Jove asserts the Trojan arms."
He spoke, and foremost to the combat flew:
The bold example all his hosts pursue.
Then, first, Leocritus beneath him bled,
In vain beloved by valiant Lycomede;
Who view'd his fall, and, grieving at the chance,
Swift to revenge it sent his angry lance;[pg 321]
The whirling lance, with vigorous force address'd,
Descends, and pants in Apisaon's breast;
From rich Paeonia's vales the warrior came,
Next thee, Asteropeus! in place and fame.
Asteropeus with grief beheld the slain,
And rush'd to combat, but he rush'd in vain:
Indissolubly firm, around the dead,
Rank within rank, on buckler buckler spread,
And hemm'd with bristled spears, the Grecians stood,
A brazen bulwark, and an iron wood.
Great Ajax eyes them with incessant care,
And in an orb contracts the crowded war,
Close in their ranks commands to fight or fall,
And stands the centre and the soul of all:
Fix'd on the spot they war, and wounded, wound
A sanguine torrent steeps the reeking ground:
On heaps the Greeks, on heaps the Trojans bled,
And, thickening round them, rise the hills of dead.
Greece, in close order, and collected might,
Yet suffers least, and sways the wavering fight;
Fierce as conflicting fires the combat burns,
And now it rises, now it sinks by turns.
In one thick darkness all the fight was lost;
The sun, the moon, and all the ethereal host
Seem'd as extinct: day ravish'd from their eyes,
And all heaven's splendours blotted from the skies.
Such o'er Patroclus' body hung the night,
The rest in sunshine fought, and open light;
Unclouded there, the aerial azure spread,
No vapour rested on the mountain's head,
The golden sun pour'd forth a stronger ray,
And all the broad expansion flamed with day.
Dispersed around the plain, by fits they fight,
And here and there their scatter'd arrows light:
But death and darkness o'er the carcase spread,
There burn'd the war, and there the mighty bled.
Meanwhile the sons of Nestor, in the rear,
(Their fellows routed,) toss the distant spear,
And skirmish wide: so Nestor gave command,
When from the ships he sent the Pylian band.
The youthful brothers thus for fame contend,
Nor knew the fortune of Achilles' friend;
In thought they view'd him still, with martial joy,
Glorious in arms, and dealing death to Troy.
But round the corse the heroes pant for breath,
And thick and heavy grows the work of death:
O'erlabour'd now, with dust, and sweat, and gore,
Their knees, their legs, their feet, are covered o'er;
Drops follow drops, the clouds on clouds arise,
And carnage clogs their hands, and darkness fills their eyes.[pg 322]
As when a slaughter'd bull's yet reeking hide,
Strain'd with full force, and tugg'd from side to side,
The brawny curriers stretch; and labour o'er
The extended surface, drunk with fat and gore:
So tugging round the corse both armies stood;