The Iliad of Homer
Page: 72What praise were thine, couldst thou direct thy dart,
Amidst his triumph, to the Spartan's heart?
Thy country's foe, the Grecian glory slain?
Then seize the occasion, dare the mighty deed,
Aim at his breast, and may that aim succeed!
But first, to speed the shaft, address thy vow
To Lycian Phoebus with the silver bow,
And swear the firstlings of thy flock to pay,
On Zelia's altars, to the god of day."131
He heard, and madly at the motion pleased,[pg 071]
His polish'd bow with hasty rashness seized.
'Twas form'd of horn, and smooth'd with artful toil:
A mountain goat resign'd the shining spoil.
Who pierced long since beneath his arrows bled;
The stately quarry on the cliffs lay dead,
And sixteen palms his brow's large honours spread:
The workmen join'd, and shaped the bended horns,
And beaten gold each taper point adorns.
This, by the Greeks unseen, the warrior bends,
Screen'd by the shields of his surrounding friends:
There meditates the mark; and couching low,
Fits the sharp arrow to the well-strung bow.
One from a hundred feather'd deaths he chose,
Fated to wound, and cause of future woes;
Then offers vows with hecatombs to crown
Apollo's altars in his native town.
Now with full force the yielding horn he bends,
Drawn to an arch, and joins the doubling ends;
Close to his breast he strains the nerve below,
Till the barb'd points approach the circling bow;
The impatient weapon whizzes on the wing;
Sounds the tough horn, and twangs the quivering string.
But thee, Atrides! in that dangerous hour
The gods forget not, nor thy guardian power,
Pallas assists, and (weakened in its force)
Diverts the weapon from its destined course:
So from her babe, when slumber seals his eye,
The watchful mother wafts the envenom'd fly.
Just where his belt with golden buckles join'd,
Where linen folds the double corslet lined,
She turn'd the shaft, which, hissing from above,
Pass'd the broad belt, and through the corslet drove;
The folds it pierced, the plaited linen tore,
And razed the skin, and drew the purple gore.
As when some stately trappings are decreed
To grace a monarch on his bounding steed,
A nymph in Caria or Maeonia bred,
Stains the pure ivory with a lively red;
With equal lustre various colours vie,
The shining whiteness, and the Tyrian dye:
So great Atrides! show'd thy sacred blood,
As down thy snowy thigh distill'd the streaming flood.
With horror seized, the king of men descried
The shaft infix'd, and saw the gushing tide:
Nor less the Spartan fear'd, before he found
The shining barb appear above the wound,
Then, with a sigh, that heaved his manly breast,
The royal brother thus his grief express'd,
And grasp'd his hand; while all the Greeks around
With answering sighs return'd the plaintive sound.
"Oh, dear as life! did I for this agree
The solemn truce, a fatal truce to thee!
Wert thou exposed to all the hostile train,