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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 304

[pg 412]
Swift as the word she vanish'd from their view;
Swift as the word the winds tumultuous flew;
Forth burst the stormy band with thundering roar,
And heaps on heaps the clouds are toss'd before.
To the wide main then stooping from the skies,
The heaving deeps in watery mountains rise:
Troy feels the blast along her shaking walls,
Till on the pile the gather'd tempest falls.
The structure crackles in the roaring fires,
And all the night the plenteous flame aspires.
All night Achilles hails Patroclus' soul,
With large libations from the golden bowl.
As a poor father, helpless and undone,
Mourns o'er the ashes of an only son,
Takes a sad pleasure the last bones to burn,
And pours in tears, ere yet they close the urn:
So stay'd Achilles, circling round the shore,
So watch'd the flames, till now they flame no more.
'Twas when, emerging through the shades of night.
The morning planet told the approach of light;
And, fast behind, Aurora's warmer ray
O'er the broad ocean pour'd the golden day:
Then sank the blaze, the pile no longer burn'd,
And to their caves the whistling winds return'd:
Across the Thracian seas their course they bore;
The ruffled seas beneath their passage roar.
Then parting from the pile he ceased to weep,
And sank to quiet in the embrace of sleep,
Exhausted with his grief: meanwhile the crowd
Of thronging Grecians round Achilles stood;
The tumult waked him: from his eyes he shook
Unwilling slumber, and the chiefs bespoke:
"Ye kings and princes of the Achaian name!
First let us quench the yet remaining flame
With sable wine; then, as the rites direct,
The hero's bones with careful view select:
(Apart, and easy to be known they lie
Amidst the heap, and obvious to the eye:
The rest around the margin will be seen
Promiscuous, steeds and immolated men:)
These wrapp'd in double cauls of fat, prepare;
And in the golden vase dispose with care;
There let them rest with decent honour laid,
Till I shall follow to the infernal shade.
Meantime erect the tomb with pious hands,
A common structure on the humble sands:
Hereafter Greece some nobler work may raise,
And late posterity record our praise!"
The Greeks obey; where yet the embers glow,
Wide o'er the pile the sable wine they throw,
[pg 413]
And deep subsides the ashy heap below.
Next the white bones his sad companions place,
With tears collected, in the golden vase.
The sacred relics to the tent they bore;
The urn a veil of linen covered o'er.
That done, they bid the sepulchre aspire,
And cast the deep foundations round the pyre;
High in the midst they heap the swelling bed
Of rising earth, memorial of the dead.
The swarming populace the chief detains,
And leads amidst a wide extent of plains;
There placed them round: then from the ships proceeds
A train of oxen, mules, and stately steeds,
Vases and tripods (for the funeral games),
Resplendent brass, and more resplendent dames.

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