The Iliad of Homer
Page: 243The mangled body bathed in sweat and blood;
While Greeks and Ilians equal strength employ,
Now to the ships to force it, now to Troy.
Not Pallas' self, her breast when fury warms,
Nor he whose anger sets the world in arms,
Could blame this scene; such rage, such horror reign'd;
Such, Jove to honour the great dead ordain'd.
Achilles in his ships at distance lay,
Nor knew the fatal fortune of the day;
He, yet unconscious of Patroclus' fall,
In dust extended under Ilion's wall,
Expects him glorious from the conquered plain,
And for his wish'd return prepares in vain;
Though well he knew, to make proud Ilion bend
Was more than heaven had destined to his friend.
Perhaps to him: this Thetis had reveal'd;
The rest, in pity to her son, conceal'd.
Still raged the conflict round the hero dead,
And heaps on heaps by mutual wounds they bled.
"Cursed be the man (even private Greeks would say)
Who dares desert this well-disputed day!
First may the cleaving earth before our eyes
Gape wide, and drink our blood for sacrifice;
First perish all, ere haughty Troy shall boast
We lost Patroclus, and our glory lost!"
Thus they: while with one voice the Trojans said,
"Grant this day, Jove! or heap us on the dead!"
Then clash their sounding arms; the clangours rise,
And shake the brazen concave of the skies.
Meantime, at distance from the scene of blood,
The pensive steeds of great Achilles stood:
Their godlike master slain before their eyes,
They wept, and shared in human miseries.248[pg 323]
In vain Automedon now shakes the rein,
Now plies the lash, and soothes and threats in vain;
Nor to the fight nor Hellespont they go,
Restive they stood, and obstinate in woe:
Still as a tombstone, never to be moved,
On some good man or woman unreproved
Lays its eternal weight; or fix'd, as stands
A marble courser by the sculptor's hands,
Placed on the hero's grave. Along their face
The big round drops coursed down with silent pace,
Conglobing on the dust. Their manes, that late
Circled their arched necks, and waved in state,
Trail'd on the dust beneath the yoke were spread,
And prone to earth was hung their languid head:
Nor Jove disdain'd to cast a pitying look,
While thus relenting to the steeds he spoke:
"Unhappy coursers of immortal strain,
Exempt from age, and deathless, now in vain;
Did we your race on mortal man bestow,
Only, alas! to share in mortal woe?
For ah! what is there of inferior birth,
That breathes or creeps upon the dust of earth;
What wretched creature of what wretched kind,
Than man more weak, calamitous, and blind?
A miserable race! but cease to mourn:
For not by you shall Priam's son be borne
High on the splendid car: one glorious prize
He rashly boasts: the rest our will denies.
Ourself will swiftness to your nerves impart,
Ourself with rising spirits swell your heart.
Automedon your rapid flight shall bear