The Iliad of Homer
As when autumnal Boreas sweeps the sky,
And instant blows the water'd gardens dry:
So look'd the field, so whiten'd was the ground,
While Vulcan breathed the fiery blast around.
Swift on the sedgy reeds the ruin preys;
Along the margin winds the running blaze:
The trees in flaming rows to ashes turn,
The flowering lotos and the tamarisk burn,
Broad elm, and cypress rising in a spire;
The watery willows hiss before the fire.
Now glow the waves, the fishes pant for breath,
The eels lie twisting in the pangs of death:
Now flounce aloft, now dive the scaly fry,
Or, gasping, turn their bellies to the sky.
At length the river rear'd his languid head,
And thus, short-panting, to the god he said:
"Oh Vulcan! oh! what power resists thy might?
I faint, I sink, unequal to the fight—
I yield—Let Ilion fall; if fate decree—
Ah—bend no more thy fiery arms on me!"
He ceased; wide conflagration blazing round;
The bubbling waters yield a hissing sound.
As when the flames beneath a cauldron rise,272
To melt the fat of some rich sacrifice,
Amid the fierce embrace of circling fires
The waters foam, the heavy smoke aspires:
So boils the imprison'd flood, forbid to flow,
And choked with vapours feels his bottom glow.
To Juno then, imperial queen of air,[pg 384]
The burning river sends his earnest prayer:
"Ah why, Saturnia; must thy son engage
Me, only me, with all his wasteful rage?
On other gods his dreadful arm employ,
For mightier gods assert the cause of Troy.
Submissive I desist, if thou command;
But ah! withdraw this all-destroying hand.
Hear then my solemn oath, to yield to fate
Unaided Ilion, and her destined state,
Till Greece shall gird her with destructive flame,
And in one ruin sink the Trojan name."
His warm entreaty touch'd Saturnia's ear:
She bade the ignipotent his rage forbear,
Recall the flame, nor in a mortal cause
Infest a god: the obedient flame withdraws:
Again the branching streams begin to spread,
And soft remurmur in their wonted bed.
While these by Juno's will the strife resign,
The warring gods in fierce contention join:
Rekindling rage each heavenly breast alarms:
With horrid clangour shock the ethereal arms:
Heaven in loud thunder bids the trumpet sound;
And wide beneath them groans the rending ground.
Jove, as his sport, the dreadful scene descries,
And views contending gods with careless eyes.
The power of battles lifts his brazen spear,
And first assaults the radiant queen of war:
"What moved thy madness, thus to disunite
Ethereal minds, and mix all heaven in fight?
What wonder this, when in thy frantic mood
Thou drovest a mortal to insult a god?
Thy impious hand Tydides' javelin bore,
And madly bathed it in celestial gore."
He spoke, and smote the long-resounding shield,
Which bears Jove's thunder on its dreadful field:
The adamantine aegis of her sire,
That turns the glancing bolt and forked fire.
Then heaved the goddess in her mighty hand
A stone, the limit of the neighbouring land,
There fix'd from eldest times; black, craggy, vast;
This at the heavenly homicide she cast.
Thundering he falls, a mass of monstrous size:
And seven broad acres covers as he lies.
The stunning stroke his stubborn nerves unbound:
Loud o'er the fields his ringing arms resound:
The scornful dame her conquest views with smiles,
And, glorying, thus the prostrate god reviles:
"Hast thou not yet, insatiate fury! known
How far Minerva's force transcends thy own?
Juno, whom thou rebellious darest withstand,[pg 385]
Corrects thy folly thus by Pallas' hand;
Thus meets thy broken faith with just disgrace,
And partial aid to Troy's perfidious race."
The goddess spoke, and turn'd her eyes away,
That, beaming round, diffused celestial day.
Jove's Cyprian daughter, stooping on the land,
Lent to the wounded god her tender hand:
Slowly he rises, scarcely breathes with pain,
And, propp'd on her fair arm, forsakes the plain.
This the bright empress of the heavens survey'd,
And, scoffing, thus to war's victorious maid:
"Lo! what an aid on Mars's side is seen!
The smiles' and loves' unconquerable queen!
Mark with what insolence, in open view,
She moves: let Pallas, if she dares, pursue."
Minerva smiling heard, the pair o'ertook,
And slightly on her breast the wanton strook:
She, unresisting, fell (her spirits fled);
On earth together lay the lovers spread.
"And like these heroes be the fate of all
(Minerva cries) who guard the Trojan wall!
To Grecian gods such let the Phrygian be,
So dread, so fierce, as Venus is to me;
Then from the lowest stone shall Troy be moved."
Thus she, and Juno with a smile approved.
Meantime, to mix in more than mortal fight,
The god of ocean dares the god of light.
"What sloth has seized us, when the fields around
Ring with conflicting powers, and heaven returns the sound:
Shall, ignominious, we with shame retire,
No deed perform'd, to our Olympian sire?
Come, prove thy arm! for first the war to wage,
Suits not my greatness, or superior age:
Rash as thou art to prop the Trojan throne,
(Forgetful of my wrongs, and of thy own,)
And guard the race of proud Laomedon!
Hast thou forgot, how, at the monarch's prayer,
We shared the lengthen'd labours of a year?
Troy walls I raised (for such were Jove's commands),
And yon proud bulwarks grew beneath my hands:
Thy task it was to feed the bellowing droves
Along fair Ida's vales and pendant groves.
But when the circling seasons in their train
Brought back the grateful day that crown'd our pain,
With menace stern the fraudful king defied
Our latent godhead, and the prize denied:
Mad as he was, he threaten'd servile bands,
And doom'd us exiles far in barbarous lands.273[pg 386]
Incensed, we heavenward fled with swiftest wing,
And destined vengeance on the perjured king.
And not, like us, infest the faithless race;