The Iliad of Homer
The race of Trojans in thy ruin join,
And faith is scorn'd by all the perjured line.
Not thus our vows, confirm'd with wine and gore,
Those hands we plighted, and those oaths we swore,
Shall all be vain: when Heaven's revenge is slow,
Jove but prepares to strike the fiercer blow.
The day shall come, that great avenging day,
When Troy's proud glories in the dust shall lay,
And one prodigious ruin swallow all.
I see the god, already, from the pole
Bare his red arm, and bid the thunder roll;
I see the Eternal all his fury shed,
And shake his aegis o'er their guilty head.
Such mighty woes on perjured princes wait;
But thou, alas! deserv'st a happier fate.
Still must I mourn the period of thy days,
And only mourn, without my share of praise?
Deprived of thee, the heartless Greeks no more
Shall dream of conquests on the hostile shore;
Thy bones shall moulder on a foreign coast;
While some proud Trojan thus insulting cries,
(And spurns the dust where Menelaus lies,)
'Such are the trophies Greece from Ilion brings,
And such the conquest of her king of kings!
Lo his proud vessels scatter'd o'er the main,
And unrevenged, his mighty brother slain.'
Oh! ere that dire disgrace shall blast my fame,
O'erwhelm me, earth! and hide a monarch's shame."
He said: a leader's and a brother's fears
Possess his soul, which thus the Spartan cheers:
"Let not thy words the warmth of Greece abate;
The feeble dart is guiltless of my fate:
Stiff with the rich embroider'd work around,
My varied belt repell'd the flying wound."
To whom the king: "My brother and my friend,
Thus, always thus, may Heaven thy life defend!
Now seek some skilful hand, whose powerful art
May stanch the effusion, and extract the dart.
Herald, be swift, and bid Machaon bring
His speedy succour to the Spartan king;
Pierced with a winged shaft (the deed of Troy),
The Grecian's sorrow, and the Dardan's joy."
With hasty zeal the swift Talthybius flies;
Through the thick files he darts his searching eyes,[pg 073]
And finds Machaon, where sublime he stands132
In arms incircled with his native bands.
Then thus: "Machaon, to the king repair,
His wounded brother claims thy timely care;
Pierced by some Lycian or Dardanian bow,
A grief to us, a triumph to the foe."
The heavy tidings grieved the godlike man
Swift to his succour through the ranks he ran.
The dauntless king yet standing firm he found,
And all the chiefs in deep concern around.
Where to the steely point the reed was join'd,
The shaft he drew, but left the head behind.
Straight the broad belt with gay embroidery graced,
He loosed; the corslet from his breast unbraced;
Then suck'd the blood, and sovereign balm infused,133
Which Chiron gave, and Æsculapius used.
While round the prince the Greeks employ their care,
The Trojans rush tumultuous to the war;
Once more they glitter in refulgent arms,
Once more the fields are fill'd with dire alarms.
Nor had you seen the king of men appear
Confused, unactive, or surprised with fear;
But fond of glory, with severe delight,
His beating bosom claim'd the rising fight.
No longer with his warlike steeds he stay'd,
Or press'd the car with polish'd brass inlaid
But left Eurymedon the reins to guide;
The fiery coursers snorted at his side.
On foot through all the martial ranks he moves
And these encourages, and those reproves.
"Brave men!" he cries, (to such who boldly dare
Urge their swift steeds to face the coming war),
"Your ancient valour on the foes approve;
Jove is with Greece, and let us trust in Jove.[pg 074]
'Tis not for us, but guilty Troy, to dread,
Whose crimes sit heavy on her perjured head;
Her sons and matrons Greece shall lead in chains,
And her dead warriors strew the mournful plains."
Thus with new ardour he the brave inspires;
Or thus the fearful with reproaches fires:
"Shame to your country, scandal of your kind;
Born to the fate ye well deserve to find!
Why stand ye gazing round the dreadful plain,
Prepared for flight, but doom'd to fly in vain?
Confused and panting thus, the hunted deer
Falls as he flies, a victim to his fear.
Still must ye wait the foes, and still retire,
Till yon tall vessels blaze with Trojan fire?
Or trust ye, Jove a valiant foe shall chase,
To save a trembling, heartless, dastard race?"
This said, he stalk'd with ample strides along,
To Crete's brave monarch and his martial throng;
High at their head he saw the chief appear,
And bold Meriones excite the rear.
At this the king his generous joy express'd,
And clasp'd the warrior to his armed breast.
"Divine Idomeneus! what thanks we owe
To worth like thine! what praise shall we bestow?
To thee the foremost honours are decreed,
First in the fight and every graceful deed.
For this, in banquets, when the generous bowls
Restore our blood, and raise the warriors' souls,
Though all the rest with stated rules we bound,
Unmix'd, unmeasured, are thy goblets crown'd.
Be still thyself, in arms a mighty name;
Maintain thy honours, and enlarge thy fame."
To whom the Cretan thus his speech address'd:
"Secure of me, O king! exhort the rest.
Fix'd to thy side, in every toil I share,
Thy firm associate in the day of war.
But let the signal be this moment given;
To mix in fight is all I ask of Heaven.
The field shall prove how perjuries succeed,
And chains or death avenge the impious deed."
Charm'd with this heat, the king his course pursues,
And next the troops of either Ajax views:
In one firm orb the bands were ranged around,
A cloud of heroes blacken'd all the ground.
Thus from the lofty promontory's brow