The Iliad of Homer
Page: 303Permit the mourning legions to retire,
And let the chiefs alone attend the pyre;
The pious care be ours, the dead to burn—"
He said: the people to their ships return:
While those deputed to inter the slain
Heap with a rising pyramid the plain.288
A hundred foot in length, a hundred wide,
The growing structure spreads on every side;
High on the top the manly corse they lay,
And well-fed sheep and sable oxen slay:
Achilles covered with their fat the dead,
And the piled victims round the body spread;
Then jars of honey, and of fragrant oil,
Suspends around, low-bending o'er the pile.
Four sprightly coursers, with a deadly groan
Pour forth their lives, and on the pyre are thrown.
Of nine large dogs, domestic at his board,
Fall two, selected to attend their lord,
Then last of all, and horrible to tell,
Sad sacrifice! twelve Trojan captives fell.289
On these the rage of fire victorious preys,
Involves and joins them in one common blaze.
Smear'd with the bloody rites, he stands on high,
And calls the spirit with a dreadful cry:290
"All hail, Patroclus! let thy vengeful ghost
Hear, and exult, on Pluto's dreary coast.
Behold Achilles' promise fully paid,
Twelve Trojan heroes offer'd to thy shade;
But heavier fates on Hector's corse attend,
Saved from the flames, for hungry dogs to rend."
So spake he, threatening: but the gods made vain
His threat, and guard inviolate the slain:
Celestial Venus hover'd o'er his head,
And roseate unguents, heavenly fragrance! shed:
She watch'd him all the night and all the day,
And drove the bloodhounds from their destined prey.[pg 411]
Nor sacred Phoebus less employ'd his care;
He pour'd around a veil of gather'd air,
And kept the nerves undried, the flesh entire,
Against the solar beam and Sirian fire.
Nor yet the pile, where dead Patroclus lies,
Smokes, nor as yet the sullen flames arise;
But, fast beside, Achilles stood in prayer,
Invoked the gods whose spirit moves the air,
And victims promised, and libations cast,
To gentle Zephyr and the Boreal blast:
He call'd the aerial powers, along the skies
To breathe, and whisper to the fires to rise.
And instant hasten'd to their airy hall,
Where in old Zephyr's open courts on high,
Sat all the blustering brethren of the sky.
She shone amidst them, on her painted bow;
The rocky pavement glitter'd with the show.
All from the banquet rise, and each invites
The various goddess to partake the rites.
"Not so (the dame replied), I haste to go
To sacred Ocean, and the floods below:
Even now our solemn hecatombs attend,
And heaven is feasting on the world's green end
With righteous Ethiops (uncorrupted train!)
Far on the extremest limits of the main.
But Peleus' son entreats, with sacrifice,
The western spirit, and the north, to rise!
Let on Patroclus' pile your blast be driven,
And bear the blazing honours high to heaven."