The Iliad of Homer
Page: 48Then meeting first Atrides, from his hand
Received the imperial sceptre of command.
Thus graced, attention and respect to gain,
He runs, he flies through all the Grecian train;
Each prince of name, or chief in arms approved,
He fired with praise, or with persuasion moved.
"Warriors like you, with strength and wisdom bless'd,
By brave examples should confirm the rest.
The monarch's will not yet reveal'd appears;
He tries our courage, but resents our fears.
The unwary Greeks his fury may provoke;
Not thus the king in secret council spoke.
Jove loves our chief, from Jove his honour springs,
Beware! for dreadful is the wrath of kings."
But if a clamorous vile plebeian rose,
Him with reproof he check'd or tamed with blows.
"Be still, thou slave, and to thy betters yield;
Unknown alike in council and in field!
Ye gods, what dastards would our host command!
Swept to the war, the lumber of a land.
Be silent, wretch, and think not here allow'd
That worst of tyrants, an usurping crowd.
To one sole monarch Jove commits the sway;
His are the laws, and him let all obey."86
With words like these the troops Ulysses ruled,
The loudest silenced, and the fiercest cool'd.[pg 032]
Back to the assembly roll the thronging train,
Desert the ships, and pour upon the plain.
Murmuring they move, as when old ocean roars,
And heaves huge surges to the trembling shores;
The groaning banks are burst with bellowing sound,
The rocks remurmur and the deeps rebound.
At length the tumult sinks, the noises cease,
And a still silence lulls the camp to peace.
Thersites only clamour'd in the throng,
Loquacious, loud, and turbulent of tongue:
Awed by no shame, by no respect controll'd,
In scandal busy, in reproaches bold:
With witty malice studious to defame,
Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim:—
But chief he gloried with licentious style
To lash the great, and monarchs to revile.
His figure such as might his soul proclaim;
One eye was blinking, and one leg was lame:
His mountain shoulders half his breast o'erspread,
Thin hairs bestrew'd his long misshapen head.
Spleen to mankind his envious heart possess'd,
And much he hated all, but most the best:
Ulysses or Achilles still his theme;
But royal scandal his delight supreme,
Long had he lived the scorn of every Greek,
Vex'd when he spoke, yet still they heard him speak.
Sharp was his voice; which in the shrillest tone,
Thus with injurious taunts attack'd the throne.
"Amidst the glories of so bright a reign,
What moves the great Atrides to complain?
'Tis thine whate'er the warrior's breast inflames,
The golden spoil, and thine the lovely dames.
With all the wealth our wars and blood bestow,
Thy tents are crowded and thy chests o'erflow.
Thus at full ease in heaps of riches roll'd,
What grieves the monarch? Is it thirst of gold?
Say, shall we march with our unconquer'd powers
(The Greeks and I) to Ilion's hostile towers,