The Iliad of Homer

Page: 195

Wide rolling, foaming high, and tumbling to the shore:
Thus rank on rank, the thick battalions throng,
Chief urged on chief, and man drove man along.
Far o'er the plains, in dreadful order bright,
The brazen arms reflect a beamy light:
Full in the blazing van great Hector shined,
Like Mars commission'd to confound mankind.
Before him flaming his enormous shield,
Like the broad sun, illumined all the field;
His nodding helm emits a streamy ray;
His piercing eyes through all the battle stray,
And, while beneath his targe he flash'd along,
Shot terrors round, that wither'd e'en the strong.
Thus stalk'd he, dreadful; death was in his look:
Whole nations fear'd; but not an Argive shook.
The towering Ajax, with an ample stride,
Advanced the first, and thus the chief defied:
"Hector! come on; thy empty threats forbear;
'Tis not thy arm, 'tis thundering Jove we fear:
The skill of war to us not idly given,
Lo! Greece is humbled, not by Troy, but Heaven.
Vain are the hopes that haughty mind imparts,
To force our fleet: the Greeks have hands and hearts.
Long ere in flames our lofty navy fall,
Your boasted city, and your god-built wall,
Shall sink beneath us, smoking on the ground;
And spread a long unmeasured ruin round.
The time shall come, when, chased along the plain,
Even thou shalt call on Jove, and call in vain;
Even thou shalt wish, to aid thy desperate course,
[pg 252]Illustration: GREEK EARRINGS.

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Nestor, sitting at the table with Machaon, is alarmed with the increasing clamour of war, and hastens to Agamemnon; on his way he meets that prince with Diomed and Ulysses, whom he informs of the extremity of the danger. Agamemnon proposes to make their escape by night, which Ulysses withstands; to which Diomed adds his advice, that, wounded as they were, they should go forth and encourage the army with their presence, which advice is pursued. Juno, seeing the partiality of Jupiter to the Trojans, forms a design to over-reach him: she sets off her charms with the utmost care, and (the more surely to enchant him) obtains the magic girdle of Venus. She then applies herself to the god of sleep, and, with some difficulty, persuades him to seal the eyes of Jupiter: this done, she goes to mount Ida, where the god, at first sight, is ravished with her beauty, sinks in her embraces, and is laid asleep. Neptune takes advantage of his slumber, and succours the Greeks: Hector is struck to the ground with a prodigious stone by Ajax, and carried off from the battle: several actions succeed, till the Trojans, much distressed, are obliged to give way: the lesser Ajax signalizes himself in a particular manner.

But not the genial feast, nor flowing bowl,
Could charm the cares of Nestor's watchful soul;
His startled ears the increasing cries attend;
Then thus, impatient, to his wounded friend:
"What new alarm, divine Machaon, say,
What mix'd events attend this mighty day?
Hark! how the shouts divide, and how they meet,
And now come full, and thicken to the fleet!
Here with the cordial draught dispel thy care,
Let Hecamede the strengthening bath prepare,
Refresh thy wound, and cleanse the clotted gore;
While I the adventures of the day explore."
He said: and, seizing Thrasymedes' shield,
(His valiant offspring,) hasten'd to the field;
(That day the son his father's buckler bore;)
Then snatch'd a lance, and issued from the door.
Soon as the prospect open'd to his view,
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His wounded eyes the scene of sorrow knew;
Dire disarray! the tumult of the fight,
The wall in ruins, and the Greeks in flight.
As when old ocean's silent surface sleeps,
The waves just heaving on the purple deeps:
While yet the expected tempest hangs on high,
Weighs down the cloud, and blackens in the sky,
The mass of waters will no wind obey;
Jove sends one gust, and bids them roll away.
While wavering counsels thus his mind engage,
Fluctuates in doubtful thought the Pylian sage,
To join the host, or to the general haste;
Debating long, he fixes on the last:
Yet, as he moves, the sight his bosom warms,
The field rings dreadful with the clang of arms,
The gleaming falchions flash, the javelins fly;
Blows echo blows, and all or kill or die.
Him, in his march, the wounded princes meet,
By tardy steps ascending from the fleet:
The king of men, Ulysses the divine,
And who to Tydeus owes his noble line.232
(Their ships at distance from the battle stand,
In lines advanced along the shelving strand:
Whose bay, the fleet unable to contain
At length; beside the margin of the main,
Rank above rank, the crowded ships they moor:
Who landed first, lay highest on the shore.)
Supported on the spears, they took their way,
Unfit to fight, but anxious for the day.
Nestor's approach alarm'd each Grecian breast,
Whom thus the general of the host address'd:
"O grace and glory of the Achaian name;
What drives thee, Nestor, from the field of fame?
Shall then proud Hector see his boast fulfill'd,
Our fleets in ashes, and our heroes kill'd?
Such was his threat, ah! now too soon made good,
On many a Grecian bosom writ in blood.
Is every heart inflamed with equal rage
Against your king, nor will one chief engage?
And have I lived to see with mournful eyes
In every Greek a new Achilles rise?"
Gerenian Nestor then: "So fate has will'd;
And all-confirming time has fate fulfill'd.
Not he that thunders from the aerial bower,
Not Jove himself, upon the past has power.
The wall, our late inviolable bound,
And best defence, lies smoking on the ground:
Even to the ships their conquering arms extend,