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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 264

Cursed the dire fury, and in secret groan'd.258
Even thus, like Jove himself, was I misled,
While raging Hector heap'd our camps with dead.
What can the errors of my rage atone?
My martial troops, my treasures are thy own:
This instant from the navy shall be sent
Whate'er Ulysses promised at thy tent:
But thou! appeased, propitious to our prayer,
Resume thy arms, and shine again in war."
" O king of nations! whose superior sway
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(Returns Achilles) all our hosts obey!
To keep or send the presents, be thy care;
To us, 'tis equal: all we ask is war.
While yet we talk, or but an instant shun
The fight, our glorious work remains undone.
Let every Greek, who sees my spear confound
The Trojan ranks, and deal destruction round,
With emulation, what I act survey,
And learn from thence the business of the day.
The son of Peleus thus; and thus replies
The great in councils, Ithacus the wise:
"Though, godlike, thou art by no toils oppress'd,
At least our armies claim repast and rest:
Long and laborious must the combat be,
When by the gods inspired, and led by thee.
Strength is derived from spirits and from blood,
And those augment by generous wine and food:
What boastful son of war, without that stay,
Can last a hero through a single day?
Courage may prompt; but, ebbing out his strength,
Mere unsupported man must yield at length;
Shrunk with dry famine, and with toils declined,
The drooping body will desert the mind:
But built anew with strength-conferring fare,
With limbs and soul untamed, he tires a war.
Dismiss the people, then, and give command.
With strong repast to hearten every band;
But let the presents to Achilles made,
In full assembly of all Greece be laid.
The king of men shall rise in public sight,
And solemn swear (observant of the rite)
That, spotless, as she came, the maid removes,
Pure from his arms, and guiltless of his loves.
That done, a sumptuous banquet shall be made,
And the full price of injured honour paid.
Stretch not henceforth, O prince.! thy sovereign might
Beyond the bounds of reason and of right;
'Tis the chief praise that e'er to kings belong'd,
To right with justice whom with power they wrong'd."
To him the monarch: "Just is thy decree,
Thy words give joy, and wisdom breathes in thee.
Each due atonement gladly I prepare;
And heaven regard me as I justly swear!
Here then awhile let Greece assembled stay,
Nor great Achilles grudge this short delay.
Till from the fleet our presents be convey'd,
And Jove attesting, the firm compact made.
A train of noble youths the charge shall bear;
These to select, Ulysses, be thy care:
In order rank'd let all our gifts appear,
[pg 354]
And the fair train of captives close the rear:
Talthybius shall the victim boar convey,
Sacred to Jove, and yon bright orb of day."
"For this (the stern ├ćacides replies)
Some less important season may suffice,
When the stern fury of the war is o'er,
And wrath, extinguish'd, burns my breast no more.
By Hector slain, their faces to the sky,
All grim with gaping wounds, our heroes lie:
Those call to war! and might my voice incite,
Now, now, this instant, shall commence the fight:
Then, when the day's complete, let generous bowls,
And copious banquets, glad your weary souls.
Let not my palate know the taste of food,
Till my insatiate rage be cloy'd with blood:
Pale lies my friend, with wounds disfigured o'er,
And his cold feet are pointed to the door.
Revenge is all my soul! no meaner care,
Interest, or thought, has room to harbour there;
Destruction be my feast, and mortal wounds,
And scenes of blood, and agonizing sounds."
"O first of Greeks, (Ulysses thus rejoin'd,)
The best and bravest of the warrior kind!
Thy praise it is in dreadful camps to shine,
But old experience and calm wisdom mine.
Then hear my counsel, and to reason yield,
The bravest soon are satiate of the field;
Though vast the heaps that strow the crimson plain,
The bloody harvest brings but little gain:
The scale of conquest ever wavering lies,
Great Jove but turns it, and the victor dies!
The great, the bold, by thousands daily fall,
And endless were the grief, to weep for all.
Eternal sorrows what avails to shed?
Greece honours not with solemn fasts the dead:
Enough, when death demands the brave, to pay
The tribute of a melancholy day.
One chief with patience to the grave resign'd,
Our care devolves on others left behind.
Let generous food supplies of strength produce,
Let rising spirits flow from sprightly juice,
Let their warm heads with scenes of battle glow,
And pour new furies on the feebler foe.
Yet a short interval, and none shall dare
Expect a second summons to the war;
Who waits for that, the dire effects shall find,
If trembling in the ships he lags behind.
Embodied, to the battle let us bend,
And all at once on haughty Troy descend."
And now the delegates Ulysses sent,
[pg 355]
To bear the presents from the royal tent:
The sons of Nestor, Phyleus' valiant heir,
Thias and Merion, thunderbolts of war,
With Lycomedes of Creiontian strain,
And Melanippus, form'd the chosen train.
Swift as the word was given, the youths obey'd:
Twice ten bright vases in the midst they laid;
A row of six fair tripods then succeeds;
And twice the number of high-bounding steeds:
Seven captives next a lovely line compose;
The eighth Briseis, like the blooming rose,
Closed the bright band: great Ithacus, before,
First of the train, the golden talents bore:
The rest in public view the chiefs dispose,
A splendid scene! then Agamemnon rose:
The boar Talthybius held: the Grecian lord
Drew the broad cutlass sheath'd beside his sword:
The stubborn bristles from the victim's brow
He crops, and offering meditates his vow.

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