Homer's Iliad online

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As when to sailors, labouring through the main,
That long had heaved the weary oar in vain,
Jove bids at length th' expected gales arise ;
The gales blow grateful, and the vessel flies :
So welcome these to Troy's desiring train ;
The bands are cheer'd, the war awakes again. 10

Bold Paris first the work of death begun
On great Mnestheus, Areithous* son :


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Sprung from the fair Philomeda's embrace,

The pleasing Am6 was her native place.

Tnen sunk Eioneus to the shades below:

Beneath his steely casque he felt the blow.

Full on his neck from Hector's weighty hand.

And roird, with limbs relax'd, along tne land.

By Glaucus* spear the bold Iphinous bleeds,

Fix'd in the shoulder as he mounts his steeds ; 20

Headlong he tumbles : his slack nerves unbound,

Drop the cold useless members on the ground.

When now Minerva saw her Argives slain,

From vast Olympus to the gleaming plain

Fierce she descends : Apollo mark'd her flight.

Nor shot less swift from Ilion's towery height :

Radiant they met, beneath the beechen shade ;

When thus Apollo to the blue-eyed maid :

" What cause, O daughter of almighty Jove !
Thus wings thy progress from the realms above? 30

Once more impetuous dost thou bend thy way
To give to Greece the long-divided day?
Too much has Troy already felt thy hate ;
Now breathe thy rage, and hush the stem debate :
This day, the business of the field suspend ;
War soon shall kindle, and great Ilion bend ;
Since vengeful goddesses confederate join
To raze her walls, though built by hands divine.**

To whom the progeny of Jove replies :
" I left, for this, the coimcil of the skies. 40

But who shall bid conflicting hosts forbear?
What art shall calm the furious sons of war?"

To her the god : "Great Hector's soul incite
To dare the boldest Greek to single fight,
Till Greece, provoked, from all her numbers show
A warrior worthy to be Hector's foe."

At this agreed, the heavenly powers withdrew;
Sage Helenus their secret counsels knew:
Hector, inspired, he sought : to him address'd,
Thus told the dictates of his sacred breast: 60


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"Oh, son of Priam I let thy faithful ear

Receive my words ; thy friend and brother hear I

Go forth persuasive, and awhile engage

The warring nations to suspend their rage ;

Then dare the boldest of the hostile train

To mortal combat on the listed plain.

Fot not this day shall end thy glorious date ;

The gods have spoke it, and their voice is fate."

He said : the warrior heard the word with joy;
Then with his spear restrained the youth of Troy, 60
Held by the midst athwart. On either hand
The squadrons part; th' expecting Trojans stand:
Great Agamemnon bids the Greeks forbear;
They breathe, and hush the tumult of the war.
The Athenian maid and glorious god of day.
With silent joy the settling hosts survey:
In form of vultures, on the beech's height
They sit conceal'd, and wait the future fight.

The thronging troops obscure the dusky fields,
Horrid with bristling spears and gleaming sliields. 70

As when a general darkness veils the main,
(Soft Zephyr curling the wide watery plain,)
The waves scarce heave, the face of ocean sleeps.
And a still horror saddens all the deeps :
Thus in thick orders settling wide around.
At length composed they sit, and shake the ground.
3reat Hector first amidst both armies broke
The solemn silence, and their powers bespoke :

" Hear, all ye Trojan, all ye Grecian bands,
iVhat my soul prompts, and what some god comm mds : 80
Sreat Jove, averse our warfare to compose.
Overwhelms the nations with new toils and woes ;
War with a fiercer tide once more returns,
rill Ihon falls, or till yon navy bums,
fou then, O princes of the Greeks ! appear ;
Tis Hector speaks, and calls the gods to hear:
Prom all your troops select the boldest knight,
And him, the boldest. Hector dares to fight.


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Here, if I fall, by chance of battle slain.

Be his my spoil, and his these arms remain ; 00

But let my body, to my friends retum'd,

By Trojan hands and Trojan flames be bum'd :

And if Apollo, in whose aid I trust.

Shall stretch your daring champion in the dust —

If mine the glory to despoil the foe.

On Phoebus' temple Til his arms bestow:

The breathless carcase to your navy sent,

Greece on the shores shall raise a monument ;

Which, when some future mariner surveys,

Wash'd by broad Hellespont's resounding seas, 1(0

Thus shall he say: ^A valiant Greek lies there,

By Hector slain, the mighty man of war.'

The stone shall tell your vanquish'd hero's name.

And distant ages learn the victor's fame."

This fierce defiance Greece astonish'd he€u:d,
Blush'd to refuse, and to accept it fear'd.
Stem Menelaiis first the silence broke.
And, inly groaning, thus opprobrious ?poke :

"Women of Greece ! oh, scandal of your race,
Whose coward souls your manly forms disgrace, 110
How great the shame, when every age ^hall know
That not a Grecian met this noble foe !
Go then, resolve to earth, from whence ye grew,
A heartless, spiritless, inglorious crew !
Be what ye seem, unanimated clay !
Myself will dare the danger of the day.
'Tis man's bold task the generous strife to try.
But in the hand of God is victory."

These words scarce spoke, with generous ardour press'd.
His manly limbs in azure arms he dress'd : 120

That day, Atrides ! a superior hand
Had stretch'd thee breathless on the hostile strand.
But all at once, thy fury to compose,
The kings of Greece, an awful band, arose :
Ev'n he, their chief^ great Agamemnon, press'd
Thy daring hand, and th^s advice address'd :


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** Whither, oh, Menelaus ! would'st thou run,
KnA tempt a fate which prudence bids thee shun 7
Grieved though thou art, forbear the rash design ;
Great Hector's arm is mightier far than thine. 130

Ev'n fierce Achilles leam'd its force to fear,
And trembling met this dreadful son of war.
Sit thou secure amidst thy social band ;
Greece in our cause shall arm some powerful hand.
The mightiest warrior of the Achaian name,
Though bold, and burning with desire of fame,
Content the doubtful honour might forego.
So great the danger, and so brave the foe."

He said ; and turned his brother's vengeful mind ;
He stoop'd to reason, and his rage resigned ; 140

No longer bent to rush on certain harms.
His joyful friends unbrace his azure arms.

He from whose lips divine persuasion flows.
Grave Nestor, then in graceful act arose.
Thus to the kings he spoke : "What grief, what shame,
Attend on Greece, and all the Grecian name !
How shall, alas ! her hoary heroes mourn
Their sons degenerate, and their race a scorn !
What tears shall down thy silver beard be roIPd,
Oh, Peleus, old in arms — in wisdom old ! 150

Once with what joy the generous prince would hear
Of every chief who fought this glorious war !
Participate their fame, and, pleased, inquire
Each name, each action, and each hero's sire !
Gods ! should he see our warriors trembling stand.
And trembling all before one hostile hand.
How would he lift his aged arms on high.
Lament ingloriouf Greece, and beg to die !
Oh ! would to all th' immortal powers above,
Minerva, PhcEbus, and almighty Jove ! 160

Years might again roll back, my youth renew,
And give this arm the spring which once it knew,
When, fierce in war, where Jardan's waters fall,
I led my troops to Phea's trembling wall,


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And with th' Arcadian spears my prowess tried

Where Celadon rolls down his rapid tide.

There Ereuthalion braved us in the field,

Proud, Areithous' dreadful arms to wield ;

Great Areithous, known fi'om shore to shore

By the huge, knotted, iron mace he bore : 17€

No lance he shook, nor bent the twanging bow,

But broke, with this, the battle of the foe.

Him not by manly force Lycurgus slew,

Whose guileful javelin from the thicket flew !

Deep in a winding way his breast assail'd.

Nor aught the warrior's thundering mace avail'd.

Supine he fell : those arms which Mars before

Had given the vanquished, now the victor bore :

But when old age had dimm*d Lycurgus' eyes,

To Ereuthalion he consign'd the prize. 180

Furious with this, he crush'd our level'd bands.

And dared the trial of the strongest hands ;

Nor could the strongest hands iiis fury stay;

All saw, and fear'd, his huge tempestuous sway:

Till I, the youngest of the host, appear'd.

And, youngest, met whom all our army fear'd.

I fought the chief: my arms Minerva crown'd :

Prone fell the giant o'er a length of ground.

What then he was, oh, were your Nestor now I

Not Hector's self should want an equal foe. 19C

But, warriors, you, that youthful vigour boast.

The flower of Greece, ih' examples of our host.

Sprung from such fathers, who such numbers sway,

Can you stand trembling, and desert the day?"

His warm reproofs the listening kings inflame ;
And nine, the noblest of the Grecian name.
Up started fierce : but far before the rest
The king of men advanced his dauntless breast;
Then bold Tydides, great in arms, appear'd ;
And next his bulk gigantic Ajax rear'd ; 200

Oileus followed ; Idomen was there ;
And Merion, dreadful as the god of war:


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With these Eurypylus and Thoas stand,
And wise Ulysses closed the daring band.
All these, alike inspired with noble rage,
Demand the fight. To whom the Pylian sage :

** Let thirst of glory your brave souls divide ;
What chief shall combat, let the lots decide.
Whom Heaven shall choose, be his the chance to raise
His country's fame, his own immortal praise.** 210

The lots produced, each hero signs his own ;
Then in the general's helm the fates are thrown.
The people pray, with lifted eyes and hands,
And vows like tliese ascend from all the bands :
''Grant, thou Almighty! in whose hand is fate,
A worthy champion for the Grecian state.
This task let Ajax or Tydides prove,
Or he, the king of kings, beloved by Jove I"

Old Nestor shook the casque. By Heaven inspired,
Leap'd forth the lot, of every Greek desired. 220

This from the right to left the herald bears,
Held out in order to the Grecian peers ;
£ech to his rival yields the mark unknown.
Till godlike Ajax finds the lot his own ;
Surveys th' inscription with rejoicing eyes.
Then casts before him, and with transport, cries.:

"Warriors! I claim the lot, and arm with joy;
Be mine the conquest of this chief of Troy.
Now, while my brightest arms my limbs invest.
To Saturn's son be all your vows addressed : 2?W>

But pray in secret, lest the foes should hear.
And deem your prayers the mean eflfect of fear.
Said I in secret? No; your vows declare,
In such a voice as fills the earth and air.
Lives theie a chief whom Ajax ought to dread T
Ajax, in all the toils of battle bred?
From warlike Salamis I drew my birth.
And, bom to combats, fear no force on earth.**

He said. The troops, with elevated eyes,
Imnlore the god wf:ose thunder rends the skies : 240



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"Oh, Father of mankind, superior Lord!

On lofty Ida's holy hill adored:

Who in the higher heaven hast fix'd thy throne,

Supreme of gods! unbounded and alone:

Grant thou, that Telamon may bear away

The praise and conquest of this doubtful day!

Or, if illustrious Hector be thy care.

That both may claim it, and that both may share."

Now Ajax braced his dazzling armour on:
Sheath *d in bright steel the giant- warrior shone; 250

He moves to combat with majestic pace ;
So stalks in arms the grizly god of Thrace,
When Jove to punish faithless men prepares,
And gives whole nations to the waste of wars.
Thus march'd the chief, tremendous as a god ;
Grimly he smiled ; earth trembled as he strode ;
His massy javelin quivering in his hand.
He stood, the bulwark of the Grecian band.
Through every Argive heart new transport ran ;
All Troy stood trembling at the mighty man : 260

Ev'n Hector paused ; and, with new doubts oppressed,
Felt his great heart suspended in his breast :
'Twas vain to seek retreat, and vain to fear:
Himself had challenged, and the foe drew near.

Stem Telamon, behind his ample shield.
As from a brazen tower, o*erlook'd the fi^ld :
Huge was its orb, with seven thick folds o'ercast,
Of tough bull-hides; of solid brass the last;
(The work of Tychius, who in Hyl6 dwell'd,
And all in arts of armoury excel'd.) 270

This Ajax bore before his manly breast.
And, threatening, thus his adverse chief address'd :

" Hector ! approach my arm, and singly know
What strength thou hast, and what the Grecian lew.
Achilles shuns the fight; yet some there are,
Not void of soul, and not unskill'd in war:
Let him, inactive on the sea-beat shore.
Indulge his wrath, and aid our arms no more ;


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Whole troops of heroes Greece has yet to bostst,

And sends thee one, a sample of her host. 880

Such as I am, I come to prove thy might;

No more. Be sudden, and begin the fight.**

"Oh, son of Telamon, thy country's pride P
To Ajax thus the Trojan prince replied ;
" Me, as a boy or woman, would'st thou fright.
New to the field, and trembling at the fight?
Thou meet'st a chief deserving of thy arms.
To combat born, and bred amidst alarms :
I know to shift my ground, remount the car.
Turn, charge, and answer every call of war; 290

To right, to left, the dextrous lance I wield.
And bear thick battle on my sounding shield.
But open be our fight, and bold each blow ;
I steal no conquest from a noble foe."

He said ; and, rising, high above the field
Whirl'd the long lance against the sevenfold shield
Pull on the brass descending from above
Through six bull-hides the furious weapon drove.
Till in the seventh it fix*d. Then Ajax threw ;
Through Hector's shield the forceful javelin flew, 300
His corslet enters, and his garment rends.
And glancing downwards, near his flank descends.
The wary Trojan shrinks, and, bending low
Beneath his buckler, disappoints the blow.
From their bored shields the chiefs their javelins drew.
Then close impetuous, and the charge renew;
Fierce as the mountain-lions bathed in blood.
Or foaming boars, the terror of the wood,
At Ajax, Hector his long lance extends ;
The blunted point against the buckler bends : 310

But Ajax, watchful, as his foe drew near.
Drove through the Trojan targe the knotty spear ;
It reach'd his neck, with matchless strength impell'd ;
Spouts the black gore, and dims his shining shield.
Yet ceased not Hector thus ; but, stoopin^r down.
In his strong hand up-heaved a flinty stone —


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Blacky craggy, vast : to this his force he bends :

Full on the brazen boss the stone descends ;

The hollow brass resounded with the shock.

Then Ajax seized the fragment of a rock, 320

Applied each nerve, and swinging round on high.

With force tempestuous let the ruin fly:

The huge stone thundering through his buckler broke.

His slacken'd knees received the numbing stroke ;

Great Hector falls extended on the field.

His bulk supporting on the shattered shield ;

Nor wanted heavenly aid : Apollo's might

Confirm'd his sinews, and restored to fight.

And now both heroes their broad faulchions drew:

In flaming circles round their heads they flew. 830

But then by heralds' voice the word was given,
The sacred ministers of earth and heaven ;
Divine Talthybius whom the Greeks employ,
And sage Idaeus on the part of Troy.
Between the swords their peaceful sceptres rear'd :
And first Idaeus' awful voice was heard :

" Forbear, my sons, your farther force to prove !
Both dear to men, and both beloved of Jove.
To either host your matchless worth is known.
Each sounds your praise, and war is all your own. 340
But now the night extends her awful shade ;
The goddess parts you : be the night obey'd."

To whom great Ajax his high soul express'd :
"Oh, sage ! to Hector be these words address'd.
Let him who first provoked our chiefs to fight.
Let him demand the sanction of the night ;
If first he ask it, I content obey.
And cease the strife when Hector shows the way."

"Oh, first of Greeks 1" his noble foe rejoin'd,
"Whom Heaven adorns, superior to thy kind, 360

With strength of body, and with worth of mind !
Now martial law commands us to forbear ;
Hereafter we shall meet in glorious war;
Some future day shall lengthen out the strife.
And let the gods decide of death or life !


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THE ILIAD, BOOK Vtl. iftft

Since then the night extends her gloomy shade,

And Heaven enjoins it, be the night obey'd.

Return, brave Ajax, to thy Grecian friends,

And joy the nations whom thy arm defends ;

As I shall glad each chief, and Trojan wife, 360

Who wearies Heaven with vows for Hector's life.

But let us, on this memorable day.

Exchange some gift ; that Greece and Troy may say,

' No hate, but glory, made their chiefs contend ;

And each brave foe was in his soul a friend.'"

With that, a sword, with stars of silver graced.
The baldrick studded, and the sheath enchased.
He gave the Greek. The generous Greek bestow'd
A radiant belt that rich with purple glow'd.
Then with majestic grace they quit the plain ; 370

This seeks the Grecian, that the Phrygian train.

The Trojan bands returning Hector wait,
And hail with joy the champion of their state :
Escaped great Ajax, they surveyed him round,
Alive, unharm'd, and vigorous from his wound.
To Troy's high gates the godlike man they bear.
Their present triumph, as their late despair.

But Ajax, glorying in his hardy deed.
The well-arm'd Greeks to Agamemnon lead.
A steer for sacrifice the king design'd, 880

Of full five years, and of a nobler kind.
The victim falls ; they strip the smoking hide.
The beast they quarter, and the joints divide ;
Then spread the tables, the repast prepare.
Each takes his seat, and each receives his share.
The king himself (an honorary sign)
Before great Ajax placed the mighty chme.
When now the rage of hunger was removed,
Nestor, in each persuasive art approved,
The sage whose counsels long had sway'd the rest, 390
In words like these his prudent thought expressed :

** How dear, O kings ! this fatal day has cost !
What Greeks are perish'd ! what a people lost I


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What tides of blood have drench^ Scamander's shore I

What crowds of heroes sunk, to rise no more !

Then hear me, chief! nor let the morrow's light

Awake thy squadrons to new toils of fight;

Some space at least permit the war to breathe,

While we to flames our slaughter'd friends bequeath.

From the red field their scatter'd bodies bear, 400

And nigh the fleet a funeral structure rear;

So decent urns their snowy bones may keep,

And pious children o'er their ashes weep.

Here, where on one promiscuous pile they blazed.

High o'er them all a general tomb be raised ;

Next, to secure our camp and naval powers.

Raise an embattled wall with lofty towers ;

From space to space be ample gates around.

For passing chariots ; and a trench profound.

So Greece to combat shall in safety go^ 410

Nor fear the fierce incursions of the foe.**

'Twas thus the sage his wholesome counsel moved ;
The sceptred kings of Greece his words approved.

Meanwhile, convened at Priam's palace gate.
The Trojan peers in nightly council sate :
A senate void of order, as of choice ;
Their hearts were fearfiil, and confused their voice.
Antenor, rising, thus demands their ear:
"Ye Trojans, Dardans, and auxiliars, hear!
*Tis Heaven the counsel of my breast inspires, 420

And I but move what every god requires :
Let Sparta's treasures be this hour restored.
And Argive Helen own her ancient lord.
The ties of faith, the sworn alliance broke.
Our impious battles the just gods provoke.
As this advice ye practice, or reject.
So hope success, or dread the dire effect.

The senior spoke, and sate. To whom replied
The graceful husband of the Spartan bride :
"Cold counsels, Trojan, may become thy years^ 480

But sound ungrateiiil in a warrior's ears :


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Old man, if void of fallacy or art,
Thy words express the purpose of thy heart,
Thou, in thy time, more sound advice hast gii'ea
But wisdom has its date assigned by Heaven.
Then heai* me, princes of the Trojan name !
Their treasures I'll restore, but not the dame.
My treasures too, for peace, I will resign ;
But be this bright possession ever mine."

'Twas then, the growing discord to compose, 410

Slow from his seat the reverend Priam rose :
His godlike aspect deep attention drew:
He paused, and these pacific words ensue :

"Ye Trojans, Dard%'ms, and auxiliar bands !
Now take refreshment as the hour demands :
Guard well the walls, relieve the watch of night.
Till the new sun restores the cheerful light :
Then shall our herald, to th' Atrides sent.
Before their ships proclaim my son's intent
Next let a truce be ask'd, that Troy may bum 450

Her slaughtered heroes, and their bones inurn ;
That done, once more the fate of war be tried,
And whose the conquest, mighty Jove decide !"

The monarch spoke : the warriors snatch'd with haste
(Each at his post in arms) a short repast.
Soon as the rosy mom had waked the day,
To the black ships Idseus bent his way;
There, to the sons of Mars, in council found,
He raised his voice : the host stood listening round .

"Ye sons of Atreus, and ye Greeks, give ear! * 460
The words of Troy, and Troy's great monarch, hear.
Pleased may ye hear (so Heaven succeed my prayers)
What Paris, author of the war, declares.
The spoils and treasures he to Ilion bore,
(Oh, had he perish'd e'er they touch'd our shore !)
He proffers injured Greece ; with large increase
Of added Trojan wealth, to buy the peace ;
But to restore the beauteous bride again.
This Greece demands, and Troy requests in vain.


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Next, O ye chiefs ! we ask a truce, to bum 470

Our slaughter'd heroes, and their bones inum.
That done, once more the fate of war be tried.
And whose the conquest, mighty Jove decide P

The Greeks gave ear, but none the silence broke.
At length, Tydides rose ; and, rising, spoke :
**0h, take not, friends — defrauded of your fame —
Their proffered wealth, nor ev'n the Spartan dame:
Let conquest make them ours : fate shakes their wall.
And Troy already totters to her fall/*

Th* admiring chiefs, and all the Grecian name, 480
With general shouts retum'd him loud acclaim.
Then thus the king of kings rejects the peace :
"Herald ! in him thou hear'st the voice of Greece.
For what remains, let funeral flames be fed
With heroes' corpse ; I war not with the dead ;
Go, search your slaughter'd chiefs on yonder plain,
And gratify the manes of the slain.
Be witness, Jove, whose thunder rolls on high !"
He said, and rear'd his sceptre to the sky.

To sacred Troy, where all her princes lay 400

To wait th' event, the herald bent his way.
He came, and, standing in the midst, explained
The peace rejected, but the truce obtained.
Straight to their several cares the Trojans move.
Some search the plain, some fell the sounding grove :
Nor less the Greeks, descending on the shore,
Hew'd the green forests, and the bodies bore.

And now from forth the chambers of the main.
To shed his sacred light on earth again.
Arose the golden chariot of the day, 500

And tipp'd the mountains with a purple ray.
In mingled throngs the Greek and Trojan train
Through heaps of carnage search'd the mournful plain.
Scarce could the friend his slaughter'd friend explore,
With dust dishonour'd, and deform'd with gore.
The wounds they wash'd, their pious tears they sF ed.
And, laid along their cars, deplored the dead.


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Sage Piiam checked their grief: with silent haste
The bodies decent on their piles were placed :
With melting hearts the cold remains they burn'd, 510
And sadly slow to sacred Troy returned.

Nor less the Greeks their pious sorrows shed,
And decent on the pile dispose the dead ;
The cold remains consume with equal care ;
And slowly, sadly, to their fleet repair.
Now, ere the mom had streakM with reddening light
The doubtful confines of the day and night,
About the dying flames the Greeks appeared,
And round the pile a general tomb they rear'd.
Then, to secure the camp and naval powers, 520

Online LibraryHomerHomer's Iliad → online text (page 13 of 41)