The Iliad of Homer
Page: 282Bridged the rough flood across: the hero stay'd
On this his weight, and raised upon his hand,
Leap'd from the channel, and regain'd the land.
Then blacken'd the wild waves: the murmur rose:
The god pursues, a huger billow throws,
And bursts the bank, ambitious to destroy
The man whose fury is the fate of Troy.
He like the warlike eagle speeds his pace
(Swiftest and strongest of the aerial race);
Far as a spear can fly, Achilles springs;
At every bound his clanging armour rings:
Now here, now there, he turns on every side,
And winds his course before the following tide;
The waves flow after, wheresoe'er he wheels,
And gather fast, and murmur at his heels.
So when a peasant to his garden brings
Soft rills of water from the bubbling springs,
And calls the floods from high, to bless his bowers,
And feed with pregnant streams the plants and flowers:
Soon as he clears whate'er their passage stay'd,
And marks the future current with his spade,
Swift o'er the rolling pebbles, down the hills,
Louder and louder purl the falling rills;
Before him scattering, they prevent his pains,
And shine in mazy wanderings o'er the plains.
Still flies Achilles, but before his eyes
Still swift Scamander rolls where'er he flies:
Not all his speed escapes the rapid floods;
The first of men, but not a match for gods.
Oft as he turn'd the torrent to oppose,
And bravely try if all the powers were foes;
So oft the surge, in watery mountains spread,
Beats on his back, or bursts upon his head.
Yet dauntless still the adverse flood he braves,
And still indignant bounds above the waves.
Tired by the tides, his knees relax with toil;[pg 381]
Wash'd from beneath him slides the slimy soil;
When thus (his eyes on heaven's expansion thrown)
Forth bursts the hero with an angry groan:
"Is there no god Achilles to befriend,
No power to avert his miserable end?
Prevent, O Jove! this ignominious date,271
And make my future life the sport of fate.
Of all heaven's oracles believed in vain,
But most of Thetis must her son complain;
By Phoebus' darts she prophesied my fall,
In glorious arms before the Trojan wall.
Oh! had I died in fields of battle warm,
Might Hector's spear this dauntless bosom rend,
And my swift soul o'ertake my slaughter'd friend.
Ah no! Achilles meets a shameful fate,
Oh how unworthy of the brave and great!
Like some vile swain, whom on a rainy day,
Crossing a ford, the torrent sweeps away,
An unregarded carcase to the sea."
Neptune and Pallas haste to his relief,
And thus in human form address'd the chief:
The power of ocean first: "Forbear thy fear,
O son of Peleus! Lo, thy gods appear!
Behold! from Jove descending to thy aid,
Propitious Neptune, and the blue-eyed maid.
Stay, and the furious flood shall cease to rave
'Tis not thy fate to glut his angry wave.