The Iliad of Homer
Stung with the shame, within the winding way,
To bar his passage fifty warriors lay;
Two heroes led the secret squadron on,
Mason the fierce, and hardy Lycophon;
Those fifty slaughter'd in the gloomy vale.
He spared but one to bear the dreadful tale,
Such Tydeus was, and such his martial fire;
Gods! how the son degenerates from the sire!"
No words the godlike Diomed return'd,
But heard respectful, and in secret burn'd:
Not so fierce Capaneus' undaunted son;
Stern as his sire, the boaster thus begun:
"What needs, O monarch! this invidious praise,
Ourselves to lessen, while our sire you raise?
Dare to be just, Atrides! and confess[pg 078]
Our value equal, though our fury less.
With fewer troops we storm'd the Theban wall,
And happier saw the sevenfold city fall,137
In impious acts the guilty father died;
The sons subdued, for Heaven was on their side.
Far more than heirs of all our parents' fame,
Our glories darken their diminish'd name."
To him Tydides thus: "My friend, forbear;
Suppress thy passion, and the king revere:
His high concern may well excuse this rage,
Whose cause we follow, and whose war we wage:
His the first praise, were Ilion's towers o'erthrown,
And, if we fail, the chief disgrace his own.
Let him the Greeks to hardy toils excite,
'Tis ours to labour in the glorious fight."
He spoke, and ardent, on the trembling ground
Sprung from his car: his ringing arms resound.
Dire was the clang, and dreadful from afar,
Of arm'd Tydides rushing to the war.
As when the winds, ascending by degrees,138
First move the whitening surface of the seas,
The billows float in order to the shore,
The wave behind rolls on the wave before;
Till, with the growing storm, the deeps arise,
Foam o'er the rocks, and thunder to the skies.
So to the fight the thick battalions throng,
Shields urged on shields, and men drove men along
Sedate and silent move the numerous bands;
No sound, no whisper, but the chief's commands,
Those only heard; with awe the rest obey,
As if some god had snatch'd their voice away.
Not so the Trojans; from their host ascends
A general shout that all the region rends.
As when the fleecy flocks unnumber'd stand
In wealthy folds, and wait the milker's hand,
The hollow vales incessant bleating fills,
The lambs reply from all the neighbouring hills:
Such clamours rose from various nations round,
Mix'd was the murmur, and confused the sound.
Each host now joins, and each a god inspires,
These Mars incites, and those Minerva fires,
Pale flight around, and dreadful terror reign;
And discord raging bathes the purple plain;[pg 079]
Discord! dire sister of the slaughtering power,
Small at her birth, but rising every hour,
While scarce the skies her horrid head can bound,
She stalks on earth, and shakes the world around;139
The nations bleed, where'er her steps she turns,
The groan still deepens, and the combat burns.
Now shield with shield, with helmet helmet closed,
To armour armour, lance to lance opposed,
Host against host with shadowy squadrons drew,
The sounding darts in iron tempests flew,
Victors and vanquish'd join'd promiscuous cries,
And shrilling shouts and dying groans arise;
With streaming blood the slippery fields are dyed,
And slaughter'd heroes swell the dreadful tide.
As torrents roll, increased by numerous rills,
With rage impetuous, down their echoing hills
Rush to the vales, and pour'd along the plain.
Roar through a thousand channels to the main:
The distant shepherd trembling hears the sound;
So mix both hosts, and so their cries rebound.
The bold Antilochus the slaughter led,
The first who struck a valiant Trojan dead:
At great Echepolus the lance arrives,
Razed his high crest, and through his helmet drives;
Warm'd in the brain the brazen weapon lies,
And shades eternal settle o'er his eyes.
So sinks a tower, that long assaults had stood
Of force and fire, its walls besmear'd with blood.
Him, the bold leader of the Abantian throng,140
Seized to despoil, and dragg'd the corpse along:
But while he strove to tug the inserted dart,
Agenor's javelin reach'd the hero's heart.
His flank, unguarded by his ample shield,
Admits the lance: he falls, and spurns the field;
The nerves, unbraced, support his limbs no more;
The soul comes floating in a tide of gore.
Trojans and Greeks now gather round the slain;
The war renews, the warriors bleed again:
As o'er their prey rapacious wolves engage,
Man dies on man, and all is blood and rage.
In blooming youth fair Simoisius fell,
Sent by great Ajax to the shades of hell;
Fair Simoisius, whom his mother bore
Amid the flocks on silver Simois' shore:
The nymph descending from the hills of Ide,
To seek her parents on his flowery side,[pg 080]
Brought forth the babe, their common care and joy,
And thence from Simois named the lovely boy.
Short was his date! by dreadful Ajax slain,
He falls, and renders all their cares in vain!
So falls a poplar, that in watery ground
Raised high the head, with stately branches crown'd,
(Fell'd by some artist with his shining steel,
To shape the circle of the bending wheel,)
Cut down it lies, tall, smooth, and largely spread,
With all its beauteous honours on its head
There, left a subject to the wind and rain,
And scorch'd by suns, it withers on the plain
Thus pierced by Ajax, Simoisius lies
Stretch'd on the shore, and thus neglected dies.
At Ajax, Antiphus his javelin threw;
The pointed lance with erring fury flew,
And Leucus, loved by wise Ulysses, slew.
He drops the corpse of Simoisius slain,
And sinks a breathless carcase on the plain.
This saw Ulysses, and with grief enraged,
Strode where the foremost of the foes engaged;
Arm'd with his spear, he meditates the wound,
In act to throw; but cautious look'd around,
Struck at his sight the Trojans backward drew,
And trembling heard the javelin as it flew.