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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 314

And left the urn Ulysses' rich reward.
Then, grasping by the horn the mighty beast,
The baffled hero thus the Greeks address'd:
"Accursed fate! the conquest I forego;
A mortal I, a goddess was my foe;
She urged her favourite on the rapid way,
And Pallas, not Ulysses, won the day."
Thus sourly wail'd he, sputtering dirt and gore;
A burst of laughter echoed through the shore.
Antilochus, more humorous than the rest,
Takes the last prize, and takes it with a jest:
"Why with our wiser elders should we strive?
The gods still love them, and they always thrive.
Ye see, to Ajax I must yield the prize:
He to Ulysses, still more aged and wise;
(A green old age unconscious of decays,
That proves the hero born in better days!)
Behold his vigour in this active race!
Achilles only boasts a swifter pace:
For who can match Achilles? He who can,
Must yet be more than hero, more than man."
The effect succeeds the speech. Pelides cries,
"Thy artful praise deserves a better prize.
Nor Greece in vain shall hear thy friend extoll'd;
Receive a talent of the purest gold."
The youth departs content. The host admire
The son of Nestor, worthy of his sire.
Next these a buckler, spear, and helm, he brings;
[pg 426]
Cast on the plain, the brazen burden rings:
Arms which of late divine Sarpedon wore,
And great Patroclus in short triumph bore.
"Stand forth the bravest of our host! (he cries)
Whoever dares deserve so rich a prize,
Now grace the lists before our army's sight,
And sheathed in steel, provoke his foe to fight.
Who first the jointed armour shall explore,
And stain his rival's mail with issuing gore,
The sword Asteropaeus possess'd of old,
(A Thracian blade, distinct with studs of gold,)
Shall pay the stroke, and grace the striker's side:
These arms in common let the chiefs divide:
For each brave champion, when the combat ends,
A sumptuous banquet at our tents attends."
Fierce at the word uprose great Tydeus' son,
And the huge bulk of Ajax Telamon.
Clad in refulgent steel, on either hand,
The dreadful chiefs amid the circle stand;
Louring they meet, tremendous to the sight;
Each Argive bosom beats with fierce delight.
Opposed in arms not long they idly stood,
But thrice they closed, and thrice the charge renew'd.
A furious pass the spear of Ajax made
Through the broad shield, but at the corslet stay'd.
Not thus the foe: his javelin aim'd above
The buckler's margin, at the neck he drove.
But Greece, now trembling for her hero's life,
Bade share the honours, and surcease the strife.
Yet still the victor's due Tydides gains,
With him the sword and studded belt remains.
Then hurl'd the hero, thundering on the ground,
A mass of iron (an enormous round),
Whose weight and size the circling Greeks admire,
Rude from the furnace, and but shaped by fire.
This mighty quoit Aetion wont to rear,
And from his whirling arm dismiss in air;

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