The Iliad of Homer
Page: 247Deserted of the god, yet let us try
What human strength and prudence can supply;
If yet this honour'd corse, in triumph borne,
May glad the fleets that hope not our return,
Who tremble yet, scarce rescued from their fates,
And still hear Hector thundering at their gates.
Some hero too must be despatch'd to bear
The mournful message to Pelides' ear;
For sure he knows not, distant on the shore,
His friend, his loved Patroclus, is no more.
But such a chief I spy not through the host:
The men, the steeds, the armies, all are lost
In general darkness—Lord of earth and air!
Oh king! Oh father! hear my humble prayer:
Dispel this cloud, the light of heaven restore;
Give me to see, and Ajax asks no more:
If Greece must perish, we thy will obey,
But let us perish in the face of day!"
With tears the hero spoke, and at his prayer[pg 328]
The god relenting clear'd the clouded air;
Forth burst the sun with all-enlightening ray;
The blaze of armour flash'd against the day.
"Now, now, Atrides! cast around thy sight;
If yet Antilochus survives the fight,
Let him to great Achilles' ear convey
The fatal news"—Atrides hastes away.
So turns the lion from the nightly fold,
Though high in courage, and with hunger bold,
Long gall'd by herdsmen, and long vex'd by hounds,
Stiff with fatigue, and fretted sore with wounds;
The darts fly round him from a hundred hands,
And the red terrors of the blazing brands:
Till late, reluctant, at the dawn of day
Sour he departs, and quits the untasted prey,
So moved Atrides from his dangerous place
With weary limbs, but with unwilling pace;
The foe, he fear'd, might yet Patroclus gain,
And much admonish'd, much adjured his train:
"O guard these relics to your charge consign'd,
And bear the merits of the dead in mind;
How skill'd he was in each obliging art;
The mildest manners, and the gentlest heart:
He was, alas! but fate decreed his end,
In death a hero, as in life a friend!"
So parts the chief; from rank to rank he flew,
And round on all sides sent his piercing view.
As the bold bird, endued with sharpest eye
Of all that wings the mid aerial sky,
The sacred eagle, from his walks above
Looks down, and sees the distant thicket move;
Then stoops, and sousing on the quivering hare,
Snatches his life amid the clouds of air.
Not with less quickness, his exerted sight
Pass'd this and that way, through the ranks of fight:
Till on the left the chief he sought, he found,
Cheering his men, and spreading deaths around:
To him the king: "Beloved of Jove! draw near,
For sadder tidings never touch'd thy ear;
Thy eyes have witness'd what a fatal turn!
How Ilion triumphs, and the Achaians mourn.
This is not all: Patroclus, on the shore
Now pale and dead, shall succour Greece no more.
Fly to the fleet, this instant fly, and tell