The Iliad of Homer
Page: 292War is our business, but to whom is given
To die, or triumph, that, determine Heaven!"
Thus pondering, like a god the Greek drew nigh;
His dreadful plumage nodded from on high;
The Pelian javelin, in his better hand,
Shot trembling rays that glitter'd o'er the land;
And on his breast the beamy splendour shone,
Like Jove's own lightning, or the rising sun.
As Hector sees, unusual terrors rise,
Struck by some god, he fears, recedes, and flies.
He leaves the gates, he leaves the wall behind:
Achilles follows like the winged wind.
Thus at the panting dove a falcon flies
(The swiftest racer of the liquid skies),
Just when he holds, or thinks he holds his prey,
Obliquely wheeling through the aerial way,
With open beak and shrilling cries he springs,
And aims his claws, and shoots upon his wings:
No less fore-right the rapid chase they held,
One urged by fury, one by fear impell'd:
Now circling round the walls their course maintain,
Where the high watch-tower overlooks the plain;
Now where the fig-trees spread their umbrage broad,
(A wider compass,) smoke along the road.
Next by Scamander's double source they bound,
Where two famed fountains burst the parted ground;
This hot through scorching clefts is seen to rise,
With exhalations steaming to the skies;
That the green banks in summer's heat o'erflows,
Like crystal clear, and cold as winter snows:
Each gushing fount a marble cistern fills,
Whose polish'd bed receives the falling rills;
Where Trojan dames (ere yet alarm'd by Greece)
Wash'd their fair garments in the days of peace.276
By these they pass'd, one chasing, one in flight:
(The mighty fled, pursued by stronger might:)
Swift was the course; no vulgar prize they play,
No vulgar victim must reward the day:
(Such as in races crown the speedy strife:)
The prize contended was great Hector's life.[pg 395]
As when some hero's funerals are decreed
In grateful honour of the mighty dead;
Where high rewards the vigorous youth inflame
(Some golden tripod, or some lovely dame)
The panting coursers swiftly turn the goal,
And with them turns the raised spectator's soul:
Thus three times round the Trojan wall they fly.
The gazing gods lean forward from the sky;
To whom, while eager on the chase they look,
The sire of mortals and immortals spoke:
"Unworthy sight! the man beloved of heaven,
Behold, inglorious round yon city driven!
My heart partakes the generous Hector's pain;
Hector, whose zeal whole hecatombs has slain,
Whose grateful fumes the gods received with joy,
From Ida's summits, and the towers of Troy:
Now see him flying; to his fears resign'd,
And fate, and fierce Achilles, close behind.
Consult, ye powers! ('tis worthy your debate)
Whether to snatch him from impending fate,
Or let him bear, by stern Pelides slain,
(Good as he is) the lot imposed on man."
Then Pallas thus: "Shall he whose vengeance forms
The forky bolt, and blackens heaven with storms,
Shall he prolong one Trojan's forfeit breath?