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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 313

Shouts of applause run rattling through the skies.
Ajax to lift Ulysses next essays;
He barely stirr'd him, but he could not raise:
His knee lock'd fast, the foe's attempt denied;
And grappling close, they tumbled side by side.
Defiled with honourable dust they roll,
Still breathing strife, and unsubdued of soul:
Again they rage, again to combat rise;
When great Achilles thus divides the prize:
"Your noble vigour, O my friends, restrain;
Nor weary out your generous strength in vain.
Ye both have won: let others who excel,
Now prove that prowess you have proved so well."
The hero's words the willing chiefs obey,
From their tired bodies wipe the dust away,
And, clothed anew, the following games survey.
And now succeed the gifts ordain'd to grace
The youths contending in the rapid race:
A silver urn that full six measures held,
By none in weight or workmanship excell'd:
Sidonian artists taught the frame to shine,
Elaborate, with artifice divine;
Whence Tyrian sailors did the prize transport,
And gave to Thoas at the Lemnian port:
From him descended, good Eunaeus heir'd
The glorious gift; and, for Lycaon spared,
To brave Patroclus gave the rich reward:
Now, the same hero's funeral rites to grace,
It stands the prize of swiftness in the race.
A well-fed ox was for the second placed;
And half a talent must content the last.
Achilles rising then bespoke the train:
"Who hope the palm of swiftness to obtain,
Stand forth, and bear these prizes from the plain."
The hero said, and starting from his place,
Oilean Ajax rises to the race;
Ulysses next; and he whose speed surpass'd
His youthful equals, Nestor's son, the last.
Ranged in a line the ready racers stand;
Pelides points the barrier with his hand;
All start at once; Oileus led the race;
The next Ulysses, measuring pace with pace;
Behind him, diligently close, he sped,
As closely following as the running thread
The spindle follows, and displays the charms
[pg 425]
Of the fair spinster's breast and moving arms:
Graceful in motion thus, his foe he plies,
And treads each footstep ere the dust can rise;
His glowing breath upon his shoulders plays:
The admiring Greeks loud acclamations raise:
To him they give their wishes, hearts, and eyes,
And send their souls before him as he flies.
Now three times turn'd in prospect of the goal,
The panting chief to Pallas lifts his soul:
"Assist, O goddess!" thus in thought he pray'd!
And present at his thought descends the maid.
Buoy'd by her heavenly force, he seems to swim,
And feels a pinion lifting every limb.
All fierce, and ready now the prize to gain,
Unhappy Ajax stumbles on the plain
(O'erturn'd by Pallas), where the slippery shore
Was clogg'd with slimy dung and mingled gore.
(The self-same place beside Patroclus' pyre,
Where late the slaughter'd victims fed the fire.)
Besmear'd with filth, and blotted o'er with clay,
Obscene to sight, the rueful racer lay;
The well-fed bull (the second prize) he shared,

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