The Iliad of Homer
Page: 255Soon as the morn the purple orient warms,
Fierce on yon navy will we pour our arms.
If great Achilles rise in all his might,
His be the danger: I shall stand the fight.
Honour, ye gods! or let me gain or give;
And live he glorious, whosoe'er shall live!
Mars is our common lord, alike to all;
And oft the victor triumphs, but to fall."
The shouting host in loud applauses join'd;
So Pallas robb'd the many of their mind;
To their own sense condemn'd, and left to choose
The worst advice, the better to refuse.
While the long night extends her sable reign,
Around Patroclus mourn'd the Grecian train.
Stern in superior grief Pelides stood;
Those slaughtering arms, so used to bathe in blood,
Now clasp his clay-cold limbs: then gushing start
The tears, and sighs burst from his swelling heart.
The lion thus, with dreadful anguish stung,
Roars through the desert, and demands his young;
When the grim savage, to his rifled den
Too late returning, snuffs the track of men,[pg 340]
And o'er the vales and o'er the forest bounds;
His clamorous grief the bellowing wood resounds.
So grieves Achilles; and, impetuous, vents
To all his Myrmidons his loud laments.
"In what vain promise, gods! did I engage,
When to console Menoetius' feeble age,
I vowed his much-loved offspring to restore,
Charged with rich spoils, to fair Opuntia's shore?252
But mighty Jove cuts short, with just disdain,
The long, long views of poor designing man!
One fate the warrior and the friend shall strike,
And Troy's black sands must drink our blood alike:
Me too a wretched mother shall deplore,
An aged father never see me more!
Yet, my Patroclus! yet a space I stay,
Then swift pursue thee on the darksome way.
Ere thy dear relics in the grave are laid,
Shall Hector's head be offer'd to thy shade;
That, with his arms, shall hang before thy shrine;
And twelve, the noblest of the Trojan line,
Sacred to vengeance, by this hand expire;
Their lives effused around thy flaming pyre.
Thus let me lie till then! thus, closely press'd,
Bathe thy cold face, and sob upon thy breast!
While Trojan captives here thy mourners stay,
Weep all the night and murmur all the day:
Spoils of my arms, and thine; when, wasting wide,
Our swords kept time, and conquer'd side by side."
He spoke, and bade the sad attendants round
Cleanse the pale corse, and wash each honour'd wound.
A massy caldron of stupendous frame
They brought, and placed it o'er the rising flame:
Then heap'd the lighted wood; the flame divides
Beneath the vase, and climbs around the sides:
In its wide womb they pour the rushing stream;
The boiling water bubbles to the brim.
The body then they bathe with pious toil,
Embalm the wounds, anoint the limbs with oil,
High on a bed of state extended laid,
And decent cover'd with a linen shade;
Last o'er the dead the milk-white veil they threw;