The Iliad of Homer
Page: 291That man can feel! man, fated to be cursed!"
He said, and acting what no words could say,
Rent from his head the silver locks away.
With him the mournful mother bears a part;
Yet all her sorrows turn not Hector's heart.
The zone unbraced, her bosom she display'd;
And thus, fast-falling the salt tears, she said:
"Have mercy on me, O my son! revere[pg 393]
The words of age; attend a parent's prayer!
If ever thee in these fond arms I press'd,
Or still'd thy infant clamours at this breast;
Ah do not thus our helpless years forego,
But, by our walls secured, repel the foe.
Against his rage if singly thou proceed,
Should'st thou, (but Heaven avert it!) should'st thou bleed,
Nor must thy corse lie honour'd on the bier,
Nor spouse, nor mother, grace thee with a tear!
Far from our pious rites those dear remains
Must feast the vultures on the naked plains."
So they, while down their cheeks the torrents roll;
But fix'd remains the purpose of his soul;
Resolved he stands, and with a fiery glance
Expects the hero's terrible advance.
So, roll'd up in his den, the swelling snake
Beholds the traveller approach the brake;
When fed with noxious herbs his turgid veins
Have gather'd half the poisons of the plains;
He burns, he stiffens with collected ire,
And his red eyeballs glare with living fire.
Beneath a turret, on his shield reclined,
He stood, and question'd thus his mighty mind:275
"Where lies my way? to enter in the wall?
Honour and shame the ungenerous thought recall:
Shall proud Polydamas before the gate
Proclaim, his counsels are obey'd too late,
Which timely follow'd but the former night,
What numbers had been saved by Hector's flight?
That wise advice rejected with disdain,
I feel my folly in my people slain.
Methinks my suffering country's voice I hear,
But most her worthless sons insult my ear,
On my rash courage charge the chance of war,
And blame those virtues which they cannot share.
No—if I e'er return, return I must
Glorious, my country's terror laid in dust:
Or if I perish, let her see me fall
In field at least, and fighting for her wall.
And yet suppose these measures I forego,
Approach unarm'd, and parley with the foe,
The warrior-shield, the helm, and lance, lay down.
And treat on terms of peace to save the town:
The wife withheld, the treasure ill-detain'd
(Cause of the war, and grievance of the land)
With honourable justice to restore:
And add half Ilion's yet remaining store,
Which Troy shall, sworn, produce; that injured Greece
May share our wealth, and leave our walls in peace.[pg 394]
But why this thought? Unarm'd if I should go,
What hope of mercy from this vengeful foe,
But woman-like to fall, and fall without a blow?
We greet not here, as man conversing man,
Met at an oak, or journeying o'er a plain;
No season now for calm familiar talk,
Like youths and maidens in an evening walk: