The Iliad of Homer
Page: 61By mutual aids to fix a doubtful field,
Swift march the Greeks: the rapid dust around
Darkening arises from the labour'd ground.
Thus from his flaggy wings when Notus sheds
A night of vapours round the mountain heads,
Swift-gliding mists the dusky fields invade,
To thieves more grateful than the midnight shade;
While scarce the swains their feeding flocks survey,
Lost and confused amidst the thicken'd day:
So wrapp'd in gathering dust, the Grecian train,
A moving cloud, swept on, and hid the plain.
Now front to front the hostile armies stand,
Eager of fight, and only wait command;
When, to the van, before the sons of fame
In form a god! the panther's speckled hide
Flow'd o'er his armour with an easy pride:
His bended bow across his shoulders flung,
His sword beside him negligently hung;
Two pointed spears he shook with gallant grace,
And dared the bravest of the Grecian race.
As thus, with glorious air and proud disdain,
He boldly stalk'd, the foremost on the plain,
Him Menelaus, loved of Mars, espies,
With heart elated, and with joyful eyes:
So joys a lion, if the branching deer,
Or mountain goat, his bulky prize, appear;
Eager he seizes and devours the slain,
Press'd by bold youths and baying dogs in vain.
Thus fond of vengeance, with a furious bound,
In clanging arms he leaps upon the ground
From his high chariot: him, approaching near,
The beauteous champion views with marks of fear,
Smit with a conscious sense, retires behind,
And shuns the fate he well deserved to find.
As when some shepherd, from the rustling trees110
Shot forth to view, a scaly serpent sees,
Trembling and pale, he starts with wild affright
And all confused precipitates his flight:
So from the king the shining warrior flies,
And plunged amid the thickest Trojans lies.
As godlike Hector sees the prince retreat,
He thus upbraids him with a generous heat:
"Unhappy Paris! but to women brave!111
So fairly form'd, and only to deceive![pg 053]
Oh, hadst thou died when first thou saw'st the light,
Or died at least before thy nuptial rite!
A better fate than vainly thus to boast,
And fly, the scandal of thy Trojan host.
Gods! how the scornful Greeks exult to see
Their fears of danger undeceived in thee!
Thy figure promised with a martial air,
But ill thy soul supplies a form so fair.
In former days, in all thy gallant pride,
When thy tall ships triumphant stemm'd the tide,
When Greece beheld thy painted canvas flow,
And crowds stood wondering at the passing show,
Say, was it thus, with such a baffled mien,
You met the approaches of the Spartan queen,
Thus from her realm convey'd the beauteous prize,
And both her warlike lords outshined in Helen's eyes?
This deed, thy foes' delight, thy own disgrace,
Thy father's grief, and ruin of thy race;
This deed recalls thee to the proffer'd fight;
Or hast thou injured whom thou dar'st not right?