The Iliad of Homer
Page: 323Now forward fares the father on his way,
Through the lone fields, and back to Ilion they.
Great Jove beheld him as he cross'd the plain,
And felt the woes of miserable man.
Then thus to Hermes: "Thou whose constant cares
Still succour mortals, and attend their prayers;
Behold an object to thy charge consign'd:
If ever pity touch'd thee for mankind,
Go, guard the sire: the observing foe prevent,
And safe conduct him to Achilles' tent."
The god obeys, his golden pinions binds,294
And mounts incumbent on the wings of winds,
That high, through fields of air, his flight sustain,
O'er the wide earth, and o'er the boundless main;
Then grasps the wand that causes sleep to fly,
Or in soft slumbers seals the wakeful eye:
Thus arm'd, swift Hermes steers his airy way,
And stoops on Hellespont's resounding sea.
A beauteous youth, majestic and divine,
He seem'd; fair offspring of some princely line!
Now twilight veil'd the glaring face of day,
And clad the dusky fields in sober grey;
What time the herald and the hoary king
(Their chariots stopping at the silver spring,
That circling Ilus' ancient marble flows)
Allow'd their mules and steeds a short repose,
Through the dim shade the herald first espies
A man's approach, and thus to Priam cries:
"I mark some foe's advance: O king! beware;
This hard adventure claims thy utmost care![pg 440]
For much I fear destruction hovers nigh:
Our state asks counsel; is it best to fly?
Or old and helpless, at his feet to fall,
Two wretched suppliants, and for mercy call?"
The afflicted monarch shiver'd with despair;
Pale grew his face, and upright stood his hair;
Sunk was his heart; his colour went and came;
A sudden trembling shook his aged frame:
When Hermes, greeting, touch'd his royal hand,
And, gentle, thus accosts with kind demand:
"Say whither, father! when each mortal sight
Is seal'd in sleep, thou wanderest through the night?
Why roam thy mules and steeds the plains along,
Through Grecian foes, so numerous and so strong?
What couldst thou hope, should these thy treasures view;
These, who with endless hate thy race pursue?
For what defence, alas! could'st thou provide;
Thyself not young, a weak old man thy guide?
Yet suffer not thy soul to sink with dread;
From me no harm shall touch thy reverend head;
From Greece I'll guard thee too; for in those lines
The living image of my father shines."
"Thy words, that speak benevolence of mind,
Are true, my son! (the godlike sire rejoin'd:)
Great are my hazards; but the gods survey
My steps, and send thee, guardian of my way.
Hail, and be bless'd! For scarce of mortal kind
Appear thy form, thy feature, and thy mind."
"Nor true are all thy words, nor erring wide;
(The sacred messenger of heaven replied;)
But say, convey'st thou through the lonely plains
What yet most precious of thy store remains,
To lodge in safety with some friendly hand:
Prepared, perchance, to leave thy native land?