The Iliad of Homer
Page: 294Dearer than all that own a brother's name;
Long tried, long loved: much loved, but honoured more!
Since you, of all our numerous race alone
Defend my life, regardless of your own."
Again the goddess: "Much my father's prayer,
And much my mother's, press'd me to forbear:
My friends embraced my knees, adjured my stay,
But stronger love impell'd, and I obey.
Come then, the glorious conflict let us try,
Let the steel sparkle, and the javelin fly;[pg 397]
Or let us stretch Achilles on the field,
Or to his arm our bloody trophies yield."
Fraudful she said; then swiftly march'd before:
The Dardan hero shuns his foe no more.
Sternly they met. The silence Hector broke:
His dreadful plumage nodded as he spoke:
"Enough, O son of Peleus! Troy has view'd
Her walls thrice circled, and her chief pursued.
But now some god within me bids me try
Thine, or my fate: I kill thee, or I die.
Yet on the verge of battle let us stay,
And for a moment's space suspend the day;
Let Heaven's high powers be call'd to arbitrate
The just conditions of this stern debate,
(Eternal witnesses of all below,
And faithful guardians of the treasured vow!)
To them I swear; if, victor in the strife,
Jove by these hands shall shed thy noble life,
No vile dishonour shall thy corse pursue;
Stripp'd of its arms alone (the conqueror's due)
The rest to Greece uninjured I'll restore:
Now plight thy mutual oath, I ask no more."
"Talk not of oaths (the dreadful chief replies,
While anger flash'd from his disdainful eyes),
Detested as thou art, and ought to be,
Nor oath nor pact Achilles plights with thee:
Such pacts as lambs and rabid wolves combine,
Such leagues as men and furious lions join,
To such I call the gods! one constant state
Of lasting rancour and eternal hate:
No thought but rage, and never-ceasing strife,
Till death extinguish rage, and thought, and life.
Rouse then thy forces this important hour,
Collect thy soul, and call forth all thy power.
No further subterfuge, no further chance;
Each Grecian ghost, by thee deprived of breath,
Now hovers round, and calls thee to thy death."
He spoke, and launch'd his javelin at the foe;
But Hector shunn'd the meditated blow:
He stoop'd, while o'er his head the flying spear
Sang innocent, and spent its force in air.
Minerva watch'd it falling on the land,
Then drew, and gave to great Achilles' hand,
Unseen of Hector, who, elate with joy,
Now shakes his lance, and braves the dread of Troy.
"The life you boasted to that javelin given,
Prince! you have miss'd. My fate depends on Heaven,
To thee, presumptuous as thou art, unknown,
Or what must prove my fortune, or thy own.[pg 398]
Boasting is but an art, our fears to blind,
And with false terrors sink another's mind.
But know, whatever fate I am to try,