The Iliad of Homer
Page: 50With shame deserting, heap with vile disgrace.
Not such at Argos was their generous vow:
Once all their voice, but ah! forgotten now:
Ne'er to return, was then the common cry,
Till Troy's proud structures should in ashes lie.
Behold them weeping for their native shore;
What could their wives or helpless children more?
What heart but melts to leave the tender train,
And, one short month, endure the wintry main?
Few leagues removed, we wish our peaceful seat,
When the ship tosses, and the tempests beat:
Then well may this long stay provoke their tears,
The tedious length of nine revolving years.
Not for their grief the Grecian host I blame;
But vanquish'd! baffled! oh, eternal shame!
Expect the time to Troy's destruction given.
And try the faith of Chalcas and of heaven.
And all who live to breathe this Phrygian air.
Beside a fountain's sacred brink we raised
Our verdant altars, and the victims blazed:
'Twas where the plane-tree spread its shades around,
The altars heaved; and from the crumbling ground
A mighty dragon shot, of dire portent;
From Jove himself the dreadful sign was sent.[pg 035]
Straight to the tree his sanguine spires he roll'd,
And curl'd around in many a winding fold;
The topmost branch a mother-bird possess'd;
Eight callow infants fill'd the mossy nest;
Herself the ninth; the serpent, as he hung,
Stretch'd his black jaws and crush'd the crying young;
While hovering near, with miserable moan,
The drooping mother wail'd her children gone.
The mother last, as round the nest she flew,
Seized by the beating wing, the monster slew;
Nor long survived: to marble turn'd, he stands
A lasting prodigy on Aulis' sands.
Such was the will of Jove; and hence we dare
Trust in his omen, and support the war.
For while around we gazed with wondering eyes,
And trembling sought the powers with sacrifice,
Full of his god, the reverend Chalcas cried,90
'Ye Grecian warriors! lay your fears aside.
This wondrous signal Jove himself displays,
Of long, long labours, but eternal praise.
As many birds as by the snake were slain,
So many years the toils of Greece remain;
But wait the tenth, for Ilion's fall decreed:'
Thus spoke the prophet, thus the Fates succeed.
Obey, ye Grecians! with submission wait,
Nor let your flight avert the Trojan fate."
He said: the shores with loud applauses sound,
The hollow ships each deafening shout rebound.
Then Nestor thus—"These vain debates forbear,
Ye talk like children, not like heroes dare.
Where now are all your high resolves at last?
Your leagues concluded, your engagements past?
Vow'd with libations and with victims then,
Now vanish'd like their smoke: the faith of men!
While useless words consume the unactive hours,
No wonder Troy so long resists our powers.
Rise, great Atrides! and with courage sway;
We march to war, if thou direct the way.
But leave the few that dare resist thy laws,
The mean deserters of the Grecian cause,