The Iliad of Homer
Page: 305First stood the prizes to reward the force
Of rapid racers in the dusty course:
A woman for the first, in beauty's bloom,
Skill'd in the needle, and the labouring loom;
And a large vase, where two bright handles rise,
Of twenty measures its capacious size.
The second victor claims a mare unbroke,
Big with a mule, unknowing of the yoke:
The third, a charger yet untouch'd by flame;
Four ample measures held the shining frame:
Two golden talents for the fourth were placed:
An ample double bowl contents the last.
These in fair order ranged upon the plain,
The hero, rising, thus address'd the train:
"Behold the prizes, valiant Greeks! decreed
To the brave rulers of the racing steed;
Prizes which none beside ourself could gain,
Should our immortal coursers take the plain;
(A race unrivall'd, which from ocean's god
Peleus received, and on his son bestow'd.)
But this no time our vigour to display;
Nor suit, with them, the games of this sad day:
Lost is Patroclus now, that wont to deck
Their flowing manes, and sleek their glossy neck.
Sad, as they shared in human grief, they stand,
And trail those graceful honours on the sand!
Let others for the noble task prepare,
Who trust the courser and the flying car."
Fired at his word the rival racers rise;
But far the first Eumelus hopes the prize,
Famed though Pieria for the fleetest breed,
And skill'd to manage the high-bounding steed.
With equal ardour bold Tydides swell'd,
The steeds of Tros beneath his yoke compell'd
(Which late obey'd the Dardan chiefs command,[pg 414]
When scarce a god redeem'd him from his hand).
Then Menelaus his Podargus brings,
And the famed courser of the king of kings:
Whom rich Echepolus (more rich than brave),
To 'scape the wars, to Agamemnon gave,
(Æthe her name) at home to end his days;
Base wealth preferring to eternal praise.
Next him Antilochus demands the course
With beating heart, and cheers his Pylian horse.
Experienced Nestor gives his son the reins,
Directs his judgment, and his heat restrains;
Nor idly warns the hoary sire, nor hears
The prudent son with unattending ears.
"My son! though youthful ardour fire thy breast,
The gods have loved thee, and with arts have bless'd;
Neptune and Jove on thee conferr'd the skill
Swift round the goal to turn the flying wheel.
To guide thy conduct little precept needs;
But slow, and past their vigour, are my steeds.
Fear not thy rivals, though for swiftness known;
Compare those rivals' judgment and thy own:
It is not strength, but art, obtains the prize,
And to be swift is less than to be wise.
'Tis more by art than force of numerous strokes
The dexterous woodman shapes the stubborn oaks;
By art the pilot, through the boiling deep
And howling tempest, steers the fearless ship;
And 'tis the artist wins the glorious course;
Not those who trust in chariots and in horse.
In vain, unskilful to the goal they strive,