The Iliad of Homer

Page: 219

Against the sable ships, with flaming brands,
So well the chief his naval weapon sped,
The luckless warrior at his stern lay dead:
Full twelve, the boldest, in a moment fell,
Sent by great Ajax to the shades of hell.

Illustration: <strong><a href=CASTOR AND POLLUX." title="CASTOR AND POLLUX." />


[pg 288]




Patroclus (in pursuance of the request of Nestor in the eleventh book) entreats Achilles to suffer him to go to the assistance of the Greeks with Achilles' troops and armour. He agrees to it, but at the same time charges him to content himself with rescuing the fleet, without further pursuit of the enemy. The armour, horses, soldiers, and officers are described. Achilles offers a libation for the success of his friend, after which Patroclus leads the Myrmidons to battle. The Trojans, at the sight of Patroclus in Achilles' armour, taking him for that hero, are cast into the uttermost consternation; he beats them off from the vessels, Hector himself flies, Sarpedon is killed, though Jupiter was averse to his fate. Several other particulars of the battle are described; in the heat of which, Patroclus, neglecting the orders of Achilles, pursues the foe to the walls of Troy, where Apollo repulses and disarms him, Euphorbus wounds him, and Hector kills him, which concludes the book.

So warr'd both armies on the ensanguined shore,
While the black vessels smoked with human gore.
Meantime Patroclus to Achilles flies;
The streaming tears fall copious from his eyes
Not faster, trickling to the plains below,
From the tall rock the sable waters flow.
Divine Pelides, with compassion moved.
Thus spoke, indulgent, to his best beloved:243
[pg 289]
"Patroclus, say, what grief thy bosom bears,
That flows so fast in these unmanly tears?
No girl, no infant whom the mother keeps
From her loved breast, with fonder passion weeps;
Not more the mother's soul, that infant warms,
Clung to her knees, and reaching at her arms,
Than thou hast mine! Oh tell me, to what end
Thy melting sorrows thus pursue thy friend?
"Griev'st thou for me, or for, my martial band?
Or come sad tidings from our native land?
Our fathers live (our first, most tender care),
Thy good Menoetius breathes the vital air,
And hoary Peleus yet extends his days;
Pleased in their age to hear their children's praise.
Or may some meaner cause thy pity claim?
Perhaps yon relics of the Grecian name,
Doom'd in their ships to sink by fire and sword,
And pay the forfeit of their haughty lord?
Whate'er the cause, reveal thy secret care,
And speak those sorrows which a friend would share."
A sigh that instant from his bosom broke,
Another follow'd, and Patroclus spoke:
"Let Greece at length with pity touch thy breast,
Thyself a Greek; and, once, of Greeks the best!
Lo! every chief that might her fate prevent,
Lies pierced with wounds, and bleeding in his tent:
Eurypylus, Tydides, Atreus' son,
And wise Ulysses, at the navy groan,
More for their country's wounds than for their own.