Blackwoods Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 59, No. 365, March, 1846 online

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[It may be thought idle or presumptuous to make a new attempt towards
the naturalization among us of any measure based on the ancient
hexameter. Even Mr Southey has not been in general successful in such
efforts; yet no one can deny that here and there - as, for instance, at
the opening of his _Vision of Judgment_, and in his Fragment on
_Mahomet_ - he has produced English hexameters of very happy
construction, uniting vigour with harmony. His occasional success marks
a step of decided progress. Dr Whewell also, in some passages of his
_Hermann and Dorothea_, reached a musical effect sufficient to show,
that, if he had bestowed more leisure, he might have rendered the whole
of Goethe's masterpiece in its original measure, at least as agreeably
as the _Faust_ has been presented to us hitherto. Mr Coleridge's
felicity, both in the Elegiac metre and a slight variation of the
Hendecasyllabic, is universally acknowledged.

The present experiment was made before the writer had seen the German
Homer of Voss; but in revising his MS. he has had that skillful
performance by him, and he has now and then, as he hopes, derived
advantage from its study. Part of the first book of the _Iliad_ is said
to have been accomplished by Wolff in a still superior manner; but the
writer has never had the advantage of comparing it with Voss. Nor was he
acquainted, until he had finished his task, with a small specimen of the
first book in English hexameters, which occurs in the _History of
English Rhythms_, lately published by Mr E. Guest, of Caius College,

Like Voss and Mr Guest, he has chosen to adhere to the Homeric names of
the deities, in place of adopting the Latin forms; and in this matter he
has little doubt that every scholar will approve his choice. Mr
Archdeacon Williams has commonly followed the same plan in those very
spirited prose translations that adorn his learned Essay, _Homerus_.

It is hardly necessary to interpret these names: as, perhaps, no one
will give much attention to the following pages, who does not already
know that ZEUS answers to Jupiter - and that KRONION is a usual Homeric
designation of Zeus, signifying the son of KRONOS = SATURN: that HERA is
Juno; POSEIDON, Neptune: ARES, Mars; ARTEMIS, Diana; APHRODITÉ, Venus;
HERMES, Mercury; and so forth.

Should this experiment be received with any favour, the writer has in
his portfolio a good deal of Homer, long since translated in the same
manner; and he would not be reluctant to attempt the completion of an
Iliad in English Hexameters, such as he can make them.
LONDON, _Jan._ 31, 1846.]

* * * * *

Now the assembly dissolv'd; and the multitude rose and disperst them,
Each making speed to the ships, for the needful refreshment of nature,
Food and the sweetness of sleep; but alone in his tent was Achilles,
Weeping the friend that he lov'd; nor could Sleep, the subduer of all
Master his grief; but he turn'd him continually hither and thither,
Thinking of all that was gracious and brave in departed Patroclus,
And of the manifold days they two had been toilfully comrades,
Both in the battles of men and the perilous tempests of ocean.
Now on his side, and anon on his back, or with countenance downward,
Prone in his anguish he sank: then suddenly starting, he wander'd,
Desolate, forth by the shore; till he noted the burst of the morning
As on the waters it gleam'd, and the surf-beaten length of the
Instantly then did he harness his swift-footed horses, and corded
Hector in rear of the car, to be dragg'd at the wheels in dishonour.
Thrice at the speed he encircled the tomb of the son of Menoetius,
Ere he repos'd him again in his tent, and abandon'd the body,
Flung on its face in the dust; but not unobserv'd of Apollo.
He, though the hero was dead, with compassionate tenderness eyed him,
And with the ægis of gold all over protected from blemish,
Not to be mangled or marr'd in the turbulent trailing of anger.

Thus in the rage of his mood did he outrage illustrious Hector;
But from the mansions of bliss the Immortals beheld him with pity,
And to a stealthy removal incited the slayer of Argus.
This by the rest was approv'd; but neither of Hera, the white-arm'd,
Nor of the Blue-eyed Maid, nor of Earth-disturbing Poseidon.
Steadfast were they in their hatred of Troy, and her king, and her
Even as of old when they swore to avenge the presumption of Paris,
Who at his shieling insulted majestical Hera and Pallas,
Yielding the glory to her that had bribed him with wanton allurements.
But when suspense had endured to the twelfth reappearance of morning,
Thus, in the midst of the Gods, outspake to them Phoebus Apollo:
"Cruel are ye and ungrateful, O Gods! was there sacrifice never
Either of goats or of beeves on your altars devoted by Hector,
Whom thus, dead as he lies, ye will neither admit to be ransom'd,
Nor to be seen of his wife, or his child, or the mother that bore him,
Nor of his father the king, or the people, with woful concernment
Eager to wrap him in fire and accomplish the rites of departure?
But with the sanction of Gods ye uphold the insensate Achilles,
Brutal, perverted in reason, to every remorseful emotion
Harden'd his heart, as the lion that roams in untameable wildness;
Who, giving sway to the pride of his strength and his truculent impulse,
Rushes on sheep in the fold, and engorges his banquet of murder;
So has the Myrmidon kill'd compassion, nor breathes in his bosom
Shame, which is potent for good among mortals, as well as for evil.
Dear was Patroclus to him, but the mourner that buries a brother,
Yea, and the father forlorn, that has stood by the grave of his
These, even these, having wept and lamented, are sooth'd into calmness,
For in the spirit of man have the Destinies planted submission.
But because Hector in battle arrested the life of his comrade,
Therefore encircling the tomb, at the speed of his furious horses,
Drags he the corse of the fall'n: Neither seemly the action nor prudent;
He among Us peradventure may rouse a retributing vengeance,
Brave though he be, that insults the insensible clay in his frenzy."

Hera, the white-arm'd queen, thus answer'd Apollo in anger:
"Thou of the Silvern Bow! among them shall thy word have approval,
Who in equivalent honour have counted Achilles and Hector.
This from a man had his blood, and was nurs'd at the breast of a woman;
He that ye estimate with him, conceiv'd in the womb of a Goddess,
Rear'd by myself, and assign'd by myself for the consort of Peleus,
Whom above all of his kindred the love of Immortals exalted.
And ye were witnesses, Gods! Thou, too, at the feast of the Bridal,
Thou, with the lyre in thy hand, ever-treacherous, friend of the guilty!"

But the Compeller of Clouds thus answer'd her, interposing:
"Hera! with Gods the debate, nor beseems the upbraiding of anger.
Not in equivalent honour the twain; yet was generous Hector
Dearest at heart to the Gods among Ilion's blood of the death-doom'd:
Dearest to me; for his gifts from his youth were unfailingly tender'd;
Never to altar of mine was his dutiful sacrifice wanting,
Savour, or costly libation; for such is our homage appointed.
Dear was the generous Hector; yet never for that shall be sanction'd
Stealthy removal, or aught that receives not assent from Achilles.
Daily and nightly, be sure, in his sorrow his mother attends him;
Swiftly some messenger hence, and let Thetis be moved to approach me:
So may some temperate word find way to his heart, and Peleides
Bend to the gifts of the king, and surrender the body of Hector."

Zeus having spoken, up sprang, for his messenger, swift-footed Iris;
And between Samos anon and the rocks of precipitous Imber
Smote on the black sea-wave, and about her the channel resounded:
Then, as the horn-fixt lead drops sheer from the hand of the islesman,
Fatal to ravenous fish, plung'd she to the depth of the ocean:
Where in a cavern'd recess, the abode of the sisterly Sea-nymphs,
Thetis the goddess appear'd, in the midst of them sitting dejected;
For she was ruefully brooding the fate of her glorious offspring,
Doom'd to a Phrygian grave, far off from the land of his fathers.
Near to her standing anon, thus summon'd her wind-footed Iris:
"Thetis, arise! thou art calléd by Zeus whose decrees are eternal."
But she was instantly answer'd by Thetis the silvery-footed: -
"Why hath the Mightiest calléd for me? Overburthen'd with sorrow,
How shall I stand in the place where the Gods are assembled in splendour?
Yet will I go: never word that He speaketh in vain may be spoken."

So having spoken, the Goddess in majesty peerless, arising,
Veil'd her in mantle of black; never gloomier vesture was woven;
And she advanced, but, for guidance, the wind-footed Iris preceded.
Then the o'erhanging abyss of the ocean was parted before them,
And having touched on the shore, up darted the twain into Æther;
Where, in the mansion of Zeus Far-seeing, around him were gather'd
All the assembly of Gods, without sorrow, whose life is eternal:
And by the throne was she seated; for Blue-eyed Pallas Athena
Yielded the place; and, the goblet of gold being tender'd by Hera
Softly with comforting words, soon as Thetis had drank and restored it,
Then did the Father of gods and of men thus open his purpose:
"Thou to Olympus hast come, O Goddess! though press'd with affliction;
Bearing, I know it, within thee a sorrow that ever is wakeful.
Listen then, Thetis, and hear me discover the cause of the summons:
Nine days agone there arose a contention among the Immortals,
Touching the body of Hector and Town-destroying Achilles:
Some to a stealthy removal inciting the slayer of Argus,
But in my bosom prevailing concern for the fame of Peleides,
Love and respect, as of old, toward Thee, and regard of hereafter.
Hasten then, Thou, to the camp, and by Thee let thy son be admonished:
Tell that the Gods are in anger, and I above all the Immortals,
For that the corse is detain'd by the ships, and he spurns at a ransom;
If there be awe toward me, let it move the surrender of Hector.
Iris the while will I send to bid generous Priam adventure,
That he may rescue his son, straightway to the ships of Achaia,
Laden with gifts for Achilles, wherewith to appease and content him."

Nor was the white-footed Thetis unsway'd by the word of Kronion;
But she descended amain, at a leap, from the peaks of Olympus,
And to the tent of her son went straight; and she found him within it
Groaning in heavy unrest - but around him his loving companions
Eager in duty appear'd, as preparing the meal for the midday.
Bulky and woolly the sheep they within the pavilion had slaughter'd.
Then by the side of the chief sat Thetis the mother majestic,
And she caress'd with her hand on his cheek, and address'd him and named
him -
"How long wilt thou, my child, thus groan, in a pauseless affliction
Eating thy heart, neither mindful of food nor the pillow of slumber?
Well were it surely for thee to be mingled in love with a woman;
Few are, bethink thee, the days thou shalt live in the sight of thy
Near even now stands Death, and the violent Destiny shades thee.
Listen meantime to my word, for from Zeus is the message I bear thee;
Wrathful, he says, are the Gods, but himself above all the Immortals,
For that in rage thou detainest the dead, nor is ransom accepted.
Haste thee, deliver the corse, and be sooth'd with the gifts of

Ceased then Thetis divine, and Peleides the swift-footed answer'd:
"So let it be: let a ransom be brought, and the body surrender'd,
Since the Olympian minds it in earnest, and sends the commandment."

Thus at the station of ships had the son and the mother communion.
Iris from Zeus meanwhile had descended to Ilion holy:
"Go," said he, "Iris the swift, and make speed from the seat of Olympus
Down into Ilion, bearing my message to generous Priam.
Forth to the ships let him fare with a ransom to soften Peleides -
Priam alone; not a man from the gates of the city attending:
Save that for driving the mules be some elderly herald appointed,
Who may have charge of the wain with the treasure, and back to the city
Carefully carry the dead that was slain by the godlike Achilles.
Nor be there death in the thought of the king, nor confusion of terror;
Such is the guard I assign for his guiding, the slayer of Argus,
Who shall conduct him in peace till he reaches the ships of Achaia.
Nor when, advancing alone, he has enter'd the tent of Peleides,
Need there be fear that he kill: he would shield him if menac'd by
For neither reasonless he, nor yet reckless, nor wilfully wicked:
But when a suppliant bends at his knee he will kindly entreat him."

Swift at the bidding of Zeus arose wind-footed Iris, and nearing
Soon the abode of the king, found misery there and lamenting:
Low on the ground, in the hall, sat the sons of illustrious Priam,
Watering their raiment with tears, and in midst of his sons was the old
Wrapt in his mantle, the visage unseen, but the head and the bosom
Cover'd in dust, wherewith, rolling in anguish, his hands had bestrewn
But in their chambers remote were the daughters of Priam bewailing,
Mindful of them that, so many, so goodly, in youth had been slaughter'd
Under the Argive hands. But the messenger charged by Kronion
Stood by the king and in whispers address'd him, and hearing he trembled:

"Strengthen thy spirit within thee, Dardantan Priam, and fear not:
For with no message of evil have I to thy dwelling descended,
But with a kindly intent, and I come from the throne of Kronion,
Who, though afar be his seat, with concern and compassion beholds thee.
Thee the Olympian calls to go forth for the ransom of Hector,
Laden with gifts for Peleides, wherewith to appease and content him.
Go thou alone: not a man from the gates of the city attending;
Only for guiding the mules be some elderly herald appointed,
Who may have charge of the wain with its treasure, and back to the city
Carefully carry the dead that was slain by the godlike Achilles."

Thus having spoken to Priam, the wind-footed Iris departed;
And he commanded his sons straightway to make ready the mule-wain,
Strong-built; sturdy of wheel, and upon it to fasten the coffer.
But he himself from the hall to his odorous chamber descended,
Cedarn, lofty of roof, wherein much treasure was garner'd,
And unto Hecuba calling, outspake to her generous Priam: -

"Mourner! but now at my hand hath a messenger stood from Kronion;
Me he commands to go forth to the ships for redeeming of Hector,
Carrying gifts for Peleides, wherewith to appease and content him.
Answer me truly, my spouse, and declare what of this is thy judgment,
For of a surety my heart and my spirit with vehement urgence
Move me to go to the ships and the wide-spread host of Achaians."

Thus did he say; but the spouse of the old man shriekt, and made answer:
"Wo to me! whither are scatter'd the wits that were famous aforetime,
Not with the Trojans alone, but afar in the lands of the stranger?
Wo to me! thou to adventure, alone, to the ships of Achaia,
Into the sight of the man by whose fierceness thy sons have been
Many, and comely, and brave! Of a surety thy heart is of iron;
For if he holds thee but once, and his eyes have been fasten'd upon thee,
Bloody and faithless is he, hope thou neither pity nor worship.
Him that is taken away let us mourn for him here in our dwelling,
Since we can see him no more; the immoveable Destiny markt him,
And it was wove in his thread, even so, in the hour that I bare him,
To be the portion of dogs, who shall feast on him far from his parents,
Under the eyes of the foe: whose liver if I could but grapple
Fast by the midst to devour, he then should have just retribution
For what he did to my son; for in no misbehaving he slew him,
But for the men of his land and the well-girt women of Troia
Firm stood Hector in field; neither mindful of flight nor avoidance."

This was her answer from Priam, the old man godlike in presence: -
"Hold me not back when my will is to go; nor thyself in my dwelling
Be the ill-omening bird: - howbe, thou shalt not persuade me.
Had I been bidden to this by a mortal of earth's generation,
Prophet, or Augur, or Priest might he be, I had deem'd him deceitful;
Not to go forth, but to stay, had the more been the bent of my purpose:
But having heard her myself, looking face unto face on the Goddess,
Go I, nor shall the word be in vain; and, if Destiny will'd me,
Going, to meet with my death at the ships of the brass-coated Argives,
So let it be. I refuse not to die by the hand of Achilles,
Clasping my son in mine arms, the desire of my sorrow accomplish'd."

So having spoken, he open'd the coffers that shone in his chamber,
Whence he selected, anon, twelve shawls surpassingly splendid;
Delicate wool-cloaks twelve, and the like of embroidered carpets;
Twelve fair mantles of state, and of tunics as many to match them.
Next, having measur'd his gold, did he heap ten plentiful talents;
Twain were the tripods he chose, twice twain the magnificent platters;
Lastly, a goblet of price, which the chieftains of Thracia tender'd
When he on embassy journey'd: a great gift, yet did the old man
Grudge not to pluck from his store even this, for his spirit impell'd him
Eager to ransom his son: But the people who look'd on his treasure
Them did he chase from the gate, and with bitter reproaches pursued
them: -
"Graceless and worthless, begone! in your homes is there nothing to weep
That ye in mine will harass me - or lacks it, to fill your contentment,
That the Olympian god has assign'd to me this tribulation -
Loss of a son without peer? But yourselves shall partake my affliction;
Easier far will it be for the pitiless sword of the Argives,
Now he is dead, to make havoc of you. For myself, ere I witness
Ilion storm'd in their wrath, and the fulness of her desolation,
Oh, may the Destiny yield me to enter the dwelling of Hades!"

Speaking, he smote with his staff, and they fled from the wrath of the
old man;
But, when they all had disperst, he upbraided his sons and rebuked them;
Deiphobus and Alexander, Hippothöus, generous Dius,
Came at the call of the king, with Antiphonus, Helenus, Pammon,
Agathon, noble of port, and Polites, good at the war-shout: -
These were the nine that he urged and admonish'd with bitter
reproaches: -
"Hasten ye, profitless children and vile! if ye all had been slaughter'd,
Fair were the tidings to me, were but Hector in place of ye skaithless!
O, evil-destinied me! that had sons upon sons to sustain me,
None to compare in the land, and not one that had worth is remaining!
Mentor the gallant and goodly, and Tröilus prompt with the war-team;
Hector, a god among men - he, too, who in nothing resembled
Death-doom'd man's generation, but imaged the seed of Immortals -
Battle hath reft me of these: - but the shames of my house are in safety;
Jesters and singers enow, and enow that can dance on the feast-day;
Scourges and pests of the realm; bold spoilers of kids and of lambkins!
Will ye bestir ye at length, and make ready the wain and the coffer,
Piling in all that ye see, and delay me no more from my journey?"

So did he speak; but the sons, apprehending the wrath of their father,
Speedfully dragg'd to the portal the mule-wain easily-rolling,
New-built, fair to behold; and upon it the coffer was corded.
Next from the pin they unfasten'd the mule-yoke, carv'd of the box-tree,
Shaped with a prominent boss, and with strong rings skilfully fitted.
Then with the bar was unfolded the nine ells' length of the yoke-band;
But when the yoke had been placed on the smooth-wrought pole with
Back at the end of the shaft, and the ring had been turn'd on the holder,
Hither and thither the thongs on the boss made three overlappings,
Whence, drawn singly ahead, they were tight-knit under the collar.
Next they produced at the portal, and high on the vehicle seemly
Piled the uncountable worth of the king's Hectorean head-gifts.
Then did they harness the mules, strong-hoof'd, well-matcht in their
Sent of the Mysi to Priam, and splendid the gift of the stranger:
Last, to the yoke they conducted the horses which reverend Priam
Tended and cherish'd himself, of his own hand fed at the manger;
But in the high-built court these harness'd the king and the herald,
None putting hand to the yoke but the old men prudent in counsel.

Hecuba, anxious in soul, had observ'd, and anon she approach'd them,
Goblet of gold in her hand, with the generous juice of the vine-tree,
Careful they might not go forth without worshipful rite of libation.
"Take," said she; "pour unto Zeus, and beseech him in mercy to shield
Home again safe from the host, since thy vehement spirit impels thee
Forth to the ships, and my warning avails not to stay thee from going:
Pour it, and call on the Lord of the Black Cloud, greatest Kronion,
Him who, on Ida enthron'd, surveys wide Troia's dominion.
Pray for his messenger fleet to be issued in air on the right hand,
Dearest of birds in his eyes, without peer in the might of the wingéd:
Trustful in whom thou may'st go to the ships of the Danäid horsemen.
But if the Thunderer God vouchsafe not his messenger freely,
Ne'er can I will thee to go, howsoever intent on the ransom."

Thus to her answer'd the king, old Priam, the godlike of presence:
"Spouse, not in this shall mine ear be averse to the voice of thy
Good is it, lifting our hands, to implore for the grace of the Godhead."

Priam demanded amain of the handmaiden, chief of the household,
Water to lave on his hands; and the handmaiden drew from the fountain
At the command of the king, and with basin and ewer attended:
Then having sprinkled his hands, and from Hecuba taken the wine-cup,
Standing in midst of the court did he worship, and pour it before them,
Fixing his eyes upon heaven, and thus audibly made supplication:

"Father, enthron'd upon Ida, in power and in glory supremest!
Grant me, approaching Peleides, to find with him mercy and favour.
Now, let thy messenger fleet issue forth in the sky on the right hand,
Dearest of birds in thine eyes, without peer in the might of the wingéd,
Seeing and trusting in whom I may go to the ships of Achaia."

So did he make supplication, and Zeus All-Provident heard him,

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Online LibraryVariousBlackwoods Edinburgh Magazine, Volume 59, No. 365, March, 1846 → online text (page 1 of 21)