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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 52

A steer of five years' age, large limb'd, and fed,92
To Jove's high altars Agamemnon led:
There bade the noblest of the Grecian peers;
And Nestor first, as most advanced in years.
Next came Idomeneus,93
and Tydeus' son,94
Ajax the less, and Ajax Telamon;95
Then wise Ulysses in his rank was placed;
And Menelaus came, unbid, the last.96
The chiefs surround the destined beast, and take
The sacred offering of the salted cake:
When thus the king prefers his solemn prayer;
"O thou! whose thunder rends the clouded air,
Who in the heaven of heavens hast fixed thy throne,
Supreme of gods! unbounded, and alone!
Hear! and before the burning sun descends,
Before the night her gloomy veil extends,
Low in the dust be laid yon hostile spires,
Be Priam's palace sunk in Grecian fires.
In Hector's breast be plunged this shining sword,
And slaughter'd heroes groan around their lord!"
Thus prayed the chief: his unavailing prayer
Great Jove refused, and toss'd in empty air:
The God averse, while yet the fumes arose,
Prepared new toils, and doubled woes on woes.
Their prayers perform'd the chiefs the rite pursue,
The barley sprinkled, and the victim slew.
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The limbs they sever from the inclosing hide,
The thighs, selected to the gods, divide.
On these, in double cauls involved with art,
The choicest morsels lie from every part,
From the cleft wood the crackling flames aspire
While the fat victims feed the sacred fire.
The thighs thus sacrificed, and entrails dress'd
The assistants part, transfix, and roast the rest;
Then spread the tables, the repast prepare,
Each takes his seat, and each receives his share.
Soon as the rage of hunger was suppress'd,
The generous Nestor thus the prince address'd.
"Now bid thy heralds sound the loud alarms,
And call the squadrons sheathed in brazen arms;
Now seize the occasion, now the troops survey,
And lead to war when heaven directs the way."
He said; the monarch issued his commands;
Straight the loud heralds call the gathering bands
The chiefs inclose their king; the hosts divide,
In tribes and nations rank'd on either side.
High in the midst the blue-eyed virgin flies;
From rank to rank she darts her ardent eyes;
The dreadful aegis, Jove's immortal shield,
Blazed on her arm, and lighten'd all the field:
Round the vast orb a hundred serpents roll'd,
Form'd the bright fringe, and seem'd to burn in gold,
With this each Grecian's manly breast she warms,
Swells their bold hearts, and strings their nervous arms,
No more they sigh, inglorious, to return,
But breathe revenge, and for the combat burn.
As on some mountain, through the lofty grove,
The crackling flames ascend, and blaze above;
The fires expanding, as the winds arise,
Shoot their long beams, and kindle half the skies:
So from the polish'd arms, and brazen shields,
A gleamy splendour flash'd along the fields.
Not less their number than the embodied cranes,
Or milk-white swans in Asius' watery plains.
That, o'er the windings of Cayster's springs,97

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