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The Iliad of Homer

Page: 75

A swain surveys the gathering storm below;
Slow from the main the heavy vapours rise,
Spread in dim streams, and sail along the skies,
Till black as night the swelling tempest shows,
The cloud condensing as the west-wind blows:
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He dreads the impending storm, and drives his flock
To the close covert of an arching rock.
Such, and so thick, the embattled squadrons stood,
With spears erect, a moving iron wood:
A shady light was shot from glimmering shields,
And their brown arms obscured the dusky fields.
"O heroes! worthy such a dauntless train,
Whose godlike virtue we but urge in vain,
(Exclaim'd the king), who raise your eager bands
With great examples, more than loud commands.
Ah! would the gods but breathe in all the rest
Such souls as burn in your exalted breast,
Soon should our arms with just success be crown'd,
And Troy's proud walls lie smoking on the ground."
Then to the next the general bends his course;
(His heart exults, and glories in his force);
There reverend Nestor ranks his Pylian bands,
And with inspiring eloquence commands;
With strictest order sets his train in arms,
The chiefs advises, and the soldiers warms.
Alastor, Chromius, Haemon, round him wait,
Bias the good, and Pelagon the great.
The horse and chariots to the front assign'd,
The foot (the strength of war) he ranged behind;
The middle space suspected troops supply,
Inclosed by both, nor left the power to fly;
He gives command to "curb the fiery steed,
Nor cause confusion, nor the ranks exceed:
Before the rest let none too rashly ride;
No strength nor skill, but just in time, be tried:
The charge once made, no warrior turn the rein,
But fight, or fall; a firm embodied train.
He whom the fortune of the field shall cast
From forth his chariot, mount the next in haste;
Nor seek unpractised to direct the car,
Content with javelins to provoke the war.
Our great forefathers held this prudent course,
Thus ruled their ardour, thus preserved their force;
By laws like these immortal conquests made,
And earth's proud tyrants low in ashes laid."
So spoke the master of the martial art,
And touch'd with transport great Atrides' heart.
"Oh! hadst thou strength to match thy brave desires,
And nerves to second what thy soul inspires!
But wasting years, that wither human race,
Exhaust thy spirits, and thy arms unbrace.
What once thou wert, oh ever mightst thou be!
And age the lot of any chief but thee."
Thus to the experienced prince Atrides cried;
He shook his hoary locks, and thus replied:
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"Well might I wish, could mortal wish renew134
That strength which once in boiling youth I knew;
Such as I was, when Ereuthalion, slain
Beneath this arm, fell prostrate on the plain.
But heaven its gifts not all at once bestows,
These years with wisdom crowns, with action those:
The field of combat fits the young and bold,
The solemn council best becomes the old:

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