The Iliad of Homer
Prostrate on earth their beauteous bodies lay,
Like mountain firs, as tall and straight as they.
Great Menelaus views with pitying eyes,
Lifts his bright lance, and at the victor flies;
Mars urged him on; yet, ruthless in his hate,
The god but urged him to provoke his fate.
He thus advancing, Nestor's valiant son
Shakes for his danger, and neglects his own;[pg 099]
Struck with the thought, should Helen's lord be slain,
And all his country's glorious labours vain.
Already met, the threatening heroes stand;
The spears already tremble in their hand:
In rush'd Antilochus, his aid to bring,
And fall or conquer by the Spartan king.
These seen, the Dardan backward turn'd his course,
Brave as he was, and shunn'd unequal force.
The breathless bodies to the Greeks they drew,
Then mix in combat, and their toils renew.
First, Pylaemenes, great in battle, bled,
Who sheathed in brass the Paphlagonians led.
Atrides mark'd him where sublime he stood;
Fix'd in his throat the javelin drank his blood.
The faithful Mydon, as he turn'd from fight
His flying coursers, sunk to endless night;
A broken rock by Nestor's son was thrown:
His bended arm received the falling stone;
From his numb'd hand the ivory-studded reins,
Dropp'd in the dust, are trail'd along the plains:
Meanwhile his temples feel a deadly wound;
He groans in death, and ponderous sinks to ground:
Deep drove his helmet in the sands, and there
The head stood fix'd, the quivering legs in air,
Till trampled flat beneath the coursers' feet:
The youthful victor mounts his empty seat,
And bears the prize in triumph to the fleet.
Great Hector saw, and, raging at the view,
Pours on the Greeks: the Trojan troops pursue:
He fires his host with animating cries,
And brings along the furies of the skies,
Mars, stern destroyer! and Bellona dread,
Flame in the front, and thunder at their head:
This swells the tumult and the rage of fight;
That shakes a spear that casts a dreadful light.
Where Hector march'd, the god of battles shined,
Now storm'd before him, and now raged behind.
Tydides paused amidst his full career;
Then first the hero's manly breast knew fear.
As when some simple swain his cot forsakes,
And wide through fens an unknown journey takes:
If chance a swelling brook his passage stay,
And foam impervious 'cross the wanderer's way,
Confused he stops, a length of country pass'd,
Eyes the rough waves, and tired, returns at last.
Amazed no less the great Tydides stands:
He stay'd, and turning thus address'd his bands:
"No wonder, Greeks! that all to Hector yield;
Secure of favouring gods, he takes the field;
His strokes they second, and avert our spears.[pg 100]
Behold where Mars in mortal arms appears!
Retire then, warriors, but sedate and slow;
Retire, but with your faces to the foe.
Trust not too much your unavailing might;
'Tis not with Troy, but with the gods ye fight."
Now near the Greeks the black battalions drew;
And first two leaders valiant Hector slew:
His force Anchialus and Mnesthes found,
In every art of glorious war renown'd;
In the same car the chiefs to combat ride,
And fought united, and united died.
Struck at the sight, the mighty Ajax glows
With thirst of vengeance, and assaults the foes.
His massy spear with matchless fury sent,
Through Amphius' belt and heaving belly went;
Amphius Apaesus' happy soil possess'd,
With herds abounding, and with treasure bless'd;
But fate resistless from his country led
The chief, to perish at his people's head.
Shook with his fall his brazen armour rung,
And fierce, to seize it, conquering Ajax sprung;
Around his head an iron tempest rain'd;
A wood of spears his ample shield sustain'd:
Beneath one foot the yet warm corpse he press'd,
And drew his javelin from the bleeding breast:
He could no more; the showering darts denied
To spoil his glittering arms, and plumy pride.
Now foes on foes came pouring on the fields,
With bristling lances, and compacted shields;
Till in the steely circle straiten'd round,
Forced he gives way, and sternly quits the ground.
While thus they strive, Tlepolemus the great,153
Urged by the force of unresisted fate,
Burns with desire Sarpedon's strength to prove;
Alcides' offspring meets the son of Jove.
Sheathed in bright arms each adverse chief came on.
Jove's great descendant, and his greater son.
Prepared for combat, ere the lance he toss'd,
The daring Rhodian vents his haughty boast:
"What brings this Lycian counsellor so far,
To tremble at our arms, not mix in war!
Know thy vain self, nor let their flattery move,
Who style thee son of cloud-compelling Jove.
How far unlike those chiefs of race divine,
How vast the difference of their deeds and thine![pg 101]
Jove got such heroes as my sire, whose soul
No fear could daunt, nor earth nor hell control.
Troy felt his arm, and yon proud ramparts stand
Raised on the ruins of his vengeful hand:
With six small ships, and but a slender train,
He left the town a wide-deserted plain.
But what art thou, who deedless look'st around,
While unrevenged thy Lycians bite the ground!
Small aid to Troy thy feeble force can be;
But wert thou greater, thou must yield to me.
Pierced by my spear, to endless darkness go!
I make this present to the shades below."
The son of Hercules, the Rhodian guide,
Thus haughty spoke. The Lycian king replied:
"Thy sire, O prince! o'erturn'd the Trojan state,
Whose perjured monarch well deserved his fate;
Those heavenly steeds the hero sought so far,
False he detain'd, the just reward of war.
Nor so content, the generous chief defied,
With base reproaches and unmanly pride.
But you, unworthy the high race you boast,
Shall raise my glory when thy own is lost:
Now meet thy fate, and by Sarpedon slain,
Add one more ghost to Pluto's gloomy reign."
He said: both javelins at an instant flew;