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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 316

Among his spoils this memorable load.
For this, he bids those nervous artists vie,
That teach the disk to sound along the sky.
"Let him, whose might can hurl this bowl, arise;
Who farthest hurls it, take it as his prize;
If he be one enrich'd with large domain
Of downs for flocks, and arable for grain,
Small stock of iron needs that man provide;
His hinds and swains whole years shall be supplied
From hence; nor ask the neighbouring city's aid
For ploughshares, wheels, and all the rural trade."
Stern Polypoetes stepp'd before the throng,
[pg 427]Illustration: CERES.
CERES.

[pg 429]

BOOK XXIV.

ARGUMENT.

THE REDEMPTION OF THE BODY OF HECTOR.

The gods deliberate about the redemption of Hector's body. Jupiter sends Thetis to Achilles, to dispose him for the restoring it, and Iris to Priam, to encourage him to go in person and treat for it. The old king, notwithstanding the remonstrances of his queen, makes ready for the journey, to which he is encouraged by an omen from Jupiter. He sets forth in his chariot, with a waggon loaded with presents, under the charge of Idaeus the herald. Mercury descends in the shape of a young man, and conducts him to the pavilion of Achilles. Their conversation on the way. Priam finds Achilles at his table, casts himself at his feet, and begs for the body of his son: Achilles, moved with compassion, grants his request, detains him one night in his tent, and the next morning sends him home with the body: the Trojans run out to meet him. The lamentations of Andromache, Hecuba, and Helen, with the solemnities of the funeral.

The time of twelve days is employed in this book, while the body of Hector lies in the tent of Achilles; and as many more are spent in the truce allowed for his interment. The scene is partly in Achilles' camp, and partly in Troy.

Now from the finish'd games the Grecian band
Seek their black ships, and clear the crowded strand,
All stretch'd at ease the genial banquet share,
And pleasing slumbers quiet all their care.
Not so Achilles: he, to grief resign'd,
His friend's dear image present to his mind,
Takes his sad couch, more unobserved to weep;
Nor tastes the gifts of all-composing sleep.
Restless he roll'd around his weary bed,
And all his soul on his Patroclus fed:
The form so pleasing, and the heart so kind,
That youthful vigour, and that manly mind,
What toils they shared, what martial works they wrought,
What seas they measured, and what fields they fought;
All pass'd before him in remembrance dear,
Thought follows thought, and tear succeeds to tear.

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