The Iliad of Homer
Page: 288What if?—But wherefore all this vain debate?
Stand I to doubt, within the reach of fate?
Even now perhaps, ere yet I turn the wall,
The fierce Achilles sees me, and I fall:
Such is his swiftness, 'tis in vain to fly,
And such his valour, that who stands must die.
Howe'er 'tis better, fighting for the state,
Here, and in public view, to meet my fate.
Yet sure he too is mortal; he may feel
(Like all the sons of earth) the force of steel.
One only soul informs that dreadful frame:
And Jove's sole favour gives him all his fame."
He said, and stood, collected, in his might;
And all his beating bosom claim'd the fight.
So from some deep-grown wood a panther starts,
Roused from his thicket by a storm of darts:
Untaught to fear or fly, he hears the sounds[pg 389]
Of shouting hunters, and of clamorous hounds;
Though struck, though wounded, scarce perceives the pain;
And the barb'd javelin stings his breast in vain:
On their whole war, untamed, the savage flies;
And tears his hunter, or beneath him dies.
Not less resolved, Antenor's valiant heir
Confronts Achilles, and awaits the war,
Disdainful of retreat: high held before,
His shield (a broad circumference) he bore;
Then graceful as he stood, in act to throw
The lifted javelin, thus bespoke the foe:
"How proud Achilles glories in his fame!
And hopes this day to sink the Trojan name
Beneath her ruins! Know, that hope is vain;
A thousand woes, a thousand toils remain.
Parents and children our just arms employ,
And strong and many are the sons of Troy.
Great as thou art, even thou may'st stain with gore
These Phrygian fields, and press a foreign shore."
He said: with matchless force the javelin flung
Smote on his knee; the hollow cuishes rung
Beneath the pointed steel; but safe from harms
He stands impassive in the ethereal arms.
Then fiercely rushing on the daring foe,
His lifted arm prepares the fatal blow:
But, jealous of his fame, Apollo shrouds
The god-like Trojan in a veil of clouds.
Safe from pursuit, and shut from mortal view,
Dismiss'd with fame, the favoured youth withdrew.
Meanwhile the god, to cover their escape,
Assumes Agenor's habit, voice and shape,
Flies from the furious chief in this disguise;
The furious chief still follows where he flies.
Now o'er the fields they stretch with lengthen'd strides,
Now urge the course where swift Scamander glides:
The god, now distant scarce a stride before,
Tempts his pursuit, and wheels about the shore;
While all the flying troops their speed employ,
And pour on heaps into the walls of Troy:
No stop, no stay; no thought to ask, or tell,
Who 'scaped by flight, or who by battle fell.
'Twas tumult all, and violence of flight;
And sudden joy confused, and mix'd affright.
And nations breathe, deliver'd from their fate.
THE DEATH OF HECTOR.