The Iliad of Homer (Volume 4) online

. (page 8 of 22)
Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad of Homer (Volume 4) → online text (page 8 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Who Tcap'd by flight, or who by battle fell. 72c

^Twas tumult all, and violence of flight ;

^nd fudden joy confus'd, and mix'd affright :

Pale Troy againft Achilles fliuts her gate ;

And nations breathe, deliver'd from their fate.





The death of Hedor.

THE Trojans being fafe 'within the ivallsy HeTtor on',
ly flays to oppofe Achilles. Pria?n is Jl ruck at his
approach i and tries to perfuade his fon to reenter
the tonun. Hecuba joins her intreatieSf but in vain,
He^or con] lilts ^within hiinfelf luhat meaflires to

■ take: but at the advance of Achilles ^ his refoluiion
fails him., and he fie s; Achilles purfues him thrics
round the nualls of Troy. The Cods debate concer-^
Tiing the fate of He{lor ; at length Minerva de^
fcends to the aid of Achilles, She deludes He^or in
the fhape of Deiphobus : heflands the combat e, and
is fain. Achilles drags the dead body at his chari'
ci, in the fight of Priam and Hecuba, Their lamen-
tationst tears and defpair. Their cries reach the
ears of Andromache, nvho, ignorant ofthisyivas re-
tired into the inner part of the palace : fhe mounts
up to the nualls, and beholds her dead husband. She
fnjooons at the fpeftacle. Her excefs of grief and la'

The thirtieth day fill continues. The fcene lies under
the nuallsf and on the battlements of Troy •


H U S to their bulwarks, fink with panic fear,
The heraed Ilians rufh like driven deer;

It is impoflible but the whole attention of the reader
muft be awakened in this book : the heroes of the two

ii6 HOME R's ILIA D. Book XXII.

There fafe, they wipe the briny drops away.
And drown in bov/Is the labours of the day.
dole to the walls advancing' o'er the fields, c

' Beneath one rcof of well compacled (hields,
March, bending on, the Greeks embody'd pow'rs,
Far-ftretching in the fhade of Trojan tow'rs.
Great He^ftor fingly ftay'd ; chain'd down by fate,
There fixt he flood before the Scasan gate ; li9

Still his bold arms determined to employ, -
The guardian ftill of long-defended Troy.

Apollo now to tir'd Achilles turns ; ■
(7 he pow'r confelt in all his glory burns)
And what (he cries) has Peleus' fon In view, X?

AVith mortal fpeed a Godhead to purfue ?
JFor not to thee to linow the Gods is giv'n,
Unskill'd to trace the latent marks of heav'n.
What boots thee now, that Troy forfook the plain ?
. Vain thy pad labour, and thy preleot vain : 20

armies are now to ertcounter ; all the foregoing battles
iiave been but fo .niciny preludes and iinder-aclions, in or-
der to this great event, wherein the whole hte of Greece
and Troy is to be decided "by the fword of Achilles and

This is the book, which of the whole Iliad appears to
me the mod: charming. It alTembles in it all that can be i-
maglned of great and Important on the one hand, and of
tender and melancholy on the other : Terror and Pity are
here wrought -up in ' perfe6lion ; -and if the reader is not
fenfible of both in a high degree, cither he Is utterly void
of all tafte, or the tranfiator of all fiiili, in poetry.


Safe in their walls are now the troops beRow'd,

WTiile here thy frantic rage attacks a God.

The chief incens'd Too partial God of day !

To check my conquefts in the middle way :

How few in I lion elfe had refuge found ? 25

"What gafping numbers now had bit the ground ?

Thou robb'ft me of a glory juflly mine,

Pow'rful of Godhead, and of fraud divine :

Mean fame, alas I for one of heav'nly ftrain.

To cheat a mortal v/ho repines in vain. 30

Then to the city terrible and flrong.
With high and haughty fteps he towr'd along.
So the proud courfer, vicftor of the prize.
To the near goal with double ardour flies.
Him, as he blazing fhot acrofs the field, 35

The careful eyes of Priam firfl: beheld.
Not half fo dreadful riles to the light
Thro' the thick gloom of fome tempeftuous night

V. 37. JVof halffo dreadful rife Ty etc.] With how
much dreadful pomp is Achilles here introduced ! how
noble, and in what bold colours hath he drawn the blaz-
ing of his arms, the rapidity of his advance, the terror
of his appearance, the defolation round him ; but above
all, the certain death attending all his motions and his
very looks ; what a croud of terrible ideas in this one

But immediately after this, follows the moving image
of the two aged parents, trembling, weeping, and im-
ploring their fon : that is fucceeded again by the dread-
ful gloomy pidture of Hedtor, all on fire, obftinately bent
on death, and expeding Achilles ; admirably painted in
the limile of the fnake rolled up ia his den, and colle(5l-


Orion's dog (the year when Autumn weighs)
And o'er the feebler flars exerts his rays ; 40

Terrific glory ! for his burning breath
Taints the red air with fevers, plagues, and death.
So flam'd liis fiery mail. Then wept the fage ;
He flrikes his rcy'rend head now white with age :
He lifis his wither d arms ; obteds the ikies ; 45

'He calls his muclivjov'd fcTi with feeble cries ;
The Ton, refolv'd Achilles' force to dare,
Full at the Scxan gates e.ipe^LS the war :
While the fad father on the rampart frands,
And thus adjures him \yith extended hands, ^ 50-

Ah ftay not, ftay not ! guardlcfs and^ alone ;
Hcdor 1 my lov'd, my deared braved fon !

ing his poifons : and indeed, through the whole book,
this wonderful contrafl-, and oppofition of the moving
and of the terrible. Is perpetually kept up, each height-
ening the other : I cannot find words to exprefs how fo
great beauties alfedl me.

V. 51. Tke fpeeckof P riavi to Hefiorr^ The poet has
entertained us all along with various fcenes of {laughter
and horror : he now changes to the pathetic, and fills the
mind of the reader with tender forrows. Eufiathius ob-
ierves tiiat Priam preludes to his words by anions ex-
prelTive of mifery : the unhappy orator introduces his
fpeech to Hedlor with groans and tears, and rending his
lioary hair. The father and the king plead with Hedor
to preferve his life and his country. He reprefents his
own age, and the lofs of many of his children ; and adds^
t^at if Hedor falls he iliould then be Inconfolable> and
the empire of Troy at an end.

It is a piece of great judgment in Homer, to make
the fall of Troy to depend upon t::e death of iie^or i

BookXXIT. H O M E R's T L I A 15. 1 19

Methinks already I behold thee flain,

i^nd (Iretch'd beneath that R\vy of the plain.

Implacable Achilles ! might'd thou be, 5 $

To all the Gods no dearer than to me !

Thee, vultures wild fhould fcatter round the (liore,

And bloody dogs grow fiercer from thy gore.

How many valiant fons I late enjoy'd.

Valiant in vain ! by thy curfl: arm deftroy'd : 60

Or, worfe than flanghter'd, fold in dillant ifles

To fliameful bondage and unworthy toils.

Two, while I {peak, my eyes in vain explore.

Two from one mother fprung, my Polydore,

And lov'd Lycaon ; now perhaps no more !

Oh ! if in yonder hoftile camp they live,

What heaps of gold, vv'hat treafures w ou!d I give ?

(Their grandfire's wealth, by right of birth their own, .

Conflgn'd his daughter with Leiegia's throne)

But if (which heav'n forbid) already loft, 7c

All pale they wander on the Stygian coad: ;

What forrows then mufl: their fad mother know,

What anguifii I : unutterable woe I

Yet lefs that anguifli, lefs to her, to me,

Lefs to all Troy, if not depriv'd of thee. 75

the poet does not openly tell us, that Troy was taken
by the Greeks ; but that the reader might not be unac-*
quainted with what happened after the period of his po-
em, he gives us to underitand in this fpeech, that the city
was taken, and that Priam, his wives, his fons, anddaugh'
ters, were either killed or made Haves. .

I20 HO M E R's ILIAD. Book XXIl/

Yet fhun Achilles I enter yet the wall ;

And fpare thyfelf, thy father, fpare us all !

Save thy dear life ; or if a foul fo brave

Negled that thought, thy dearer glory five.

Pity, while yet I live, thefe filver hairs ; 8o

While yet thy father feels the woes lie bears,

Yet curd with fenfe ! a wretch, whom in his rage

(All trembling on the verge of helplefs age)

Great Jove has plac'd, fad fpedacle of pain !

The bitter dregs of fortune's cup to diain : 85

To fill with fcenes of deadi his clofing eyes,

And number all his days by miferies !

My heroes ilain, my bridal-bed o'erturn'd.

My daug'iters ravifh'd, and my city burn'd,

My bleeding infmts dafn'd againft the floor ; 90

Thefe I have yet to fee, perhaps 3^et more !

V. 76. Enter yet the ivall, ani fpare^ etc] Tlie ar-
gument that Priam ufes (fays Euf(:athIus)to induce Hec-
tor to fecure himfelf in Troy is remarkable : he draws
it not from Hedor's fears, nor does he tell him that he
is to fave his own life : but he Inlifls upon ftronger mo-
tives : he tells him he may preferve his feilow-citizens,
his country, and his father ; and farther perfuades him
not to add glory to his mortal enemy by his fall.

V. 90. My bleeding infarits d iJJ^H againji the floor, "^
Cruelties which the Barbarians ufually exercifed in the
facking of tov/ns. Thus Ifaiah foretells to Babylon that
her children ihall be daflied in pieces before her eyes by
the Medes. Infantes eorum allidentur in oculis eoruffj,
xii. 16. And David fays to the fame city, hnppy ChalL
h be- that takeih and dajhctk thy little ones ogainfl the


Book XXII. H O M E R's I L I A D. 121

Perhaps ev'n I, referv'd by angry fate
The laft fad relic' of my rain'd ftate,
(Dire pomp of fov'reign wretchednefs !) mull fall,
And (lain the pavement of my regal hall ; 9^

Where famifli'd dogs, iate guardians -of my door.
Shall lick their mangled mafter^ fpatter'd gore,
- Yet for my Tons I thank ye Gods ! 'twas well ;
Well have riiey pevifh'd, for in fight they feH.
Who- dies in youth, and vigour, dies the befl, 100

Struck, thro' with wounds, all honeft on the breaft.
But when the fates, in fulnefs of their rage.
Spurn tiie hoar head of unvefifling age.
In dud the rev'rend linea;tient:s deform,
And po«r to dogs the life-blood fcarcely warm ! 105
This, this is mifery ! the lad, the word,
That man can feel ; mau, fated to be card !

Jlofjes. Pfal. cxxxvii. 9. And m the propliet Hofea,
xiii. 16. Their infants shall he dash ;d in {nieces. Vi^ckr,

V. 102. But when the- fates, etc.] Nothing can be
more moving than the image which Homer gives here,
in comparing the different effeds produced by the view
of a young man, a-nd that of an old one, both bleeding,
and extended on the dud. The old man, it is certain,
touches us mod, and feveral reafons may be given for
it ; the principal is, that the young man defended him-
felf; and his death is glorious ; whereas an old man h,a:,
no defence but bis wcaknefs, prayers and tears. They
mud be very infenfible of what is dreadful, and have no
tade in poetry, who omit this pafTagc in a tranfUition,
and labditute things of a trivial and indpid nature,

Vol. IV. h

122 H O M E R's I L I A D. Book XXII.

He faid, aiid a<rting what no words could fay,
R.ent from his head the (ilver locks away.
With him the mournful mother bears a part ; no

Yet all their forrows turn not Kc^^or's heart :
The zone unbrac'd, her bofom fhe difplay'd;
And thus, fad-falling the fiilt tears, fhe faid.

Have mercy on me, O my fon ! revere
The words of age ; attend a parent's pray'r ! 115

if ever thee in thefe fond arms I preil,
Or ItiU'd thy infant clamours at this bread ;

V. 114. T/:e fpeech of Heciibj.~\ The fpeech of He-
cuba opens with as much tendernefs as that of Priam :
the circumftance in particular of her fliewing that breaft
to her ibn which had fuftained his infancy, is highly
moving : it is a iilent kind of oratory, and prepares the
heart to liiten, by prepofTcffiiig the eye in fivour of the

Euftathius takes notice of the difference between the
■fpeeches of Priam and Hecuba : Priam diflliades him from
the combate, by enumerating not only the lofs of his
own family, but of his whole country : Hecuba dwells
entirely upon his (ingle death ; this is a great beauty in
the poet, to make Priam a father to his whole country;
but to defcribe the fondnefs of the mother as prevailing
over all other confiderations, and to mention that only
which chiefly affe(fl;s her.

This puts me in mind of a judicious ftroke in Mil-
ton, with regard to the feveral charafters of Adam and
Eve. When the angel is "driving them both out of
paradife, Adam, grieves that he muft leave a place where
he had converfed with God and his angds ; but Eve
laments that fhe fhall n^ver more behold the fine flowers
of Eden. Here Adam mourns like a man, and Eve lik«
a woman.


Ah do not thus our helplefs years fcre«o.

But bv our Willis fecur'd, repel die foe.

Againft his rage If fingly thou proceed, 120

Should'il thou (but heav'n avert it!) fliould'ft thou bleed,

Nor muft thy corps lie honour*d on tlie bier,

Nor fpoufe, nor mother, grace diee with a tear ;

Far from our pious rites, thofc dear remains

JMuft feafl the vultures on the naked plains, 125

So they, while down their cheeks the torrents roll ;
But fix'd ramains the purpofe of his foul :
Refolv'd lie Tfands, and with a fiery glarxe
Expecfls the hero's terrible advance.
So roll'd up in his den, the fwelling fnake 1 3^

Beholds the traveller -approach the brake;
When fed with noxious herbs his turgid veins
Have gather'd half the poifons of the plains ;
He burns, he fiiffens with colledcd ire,
And his red eye-balls glare with living fire. 13 J

Beneath a turret, on his fhield reclin'd.
He flood, and queflion'd thus his mighty mind.

Where lies my way ? to enter in the wall ?
Honour and fname th' ungen'rous thought recall :

V. 17.2. The SoUlcqiiy of He{lor7\ There is much
greatnefs in the fentiments of this whole foliloquy. Hec-
tor prefers death to an ignominious life : he knows how
to die with glory» but not how to live with difhonour.
The reproach of Polydamas affed:s him ; the fcandals of
the meanefl people have an influence on his thoughts.

It is remarkable that he does not fay, he fears the in-
fults of the braver Trojans^ but of the mod worthlefs


124 homer's ILIAD. BookXXlf.

Shall proud Polydamas before the gate 14O

Procl;iIm, his counfels are obey'd too late.

only. Men of meiit are always the mofl candid ; but
others are ever for bringing all men to a level with them-
felves. They cannot bear that any one fliould be fo
bold as to excel, and are ready to pull him down to
Them, upon the lead mifcarrlage. This fentiment is per-
fectly fine, and agreeable to the way of thinking, natural -
to a great and fenfible mind.

There is a very beautiful break in the middle of this
fpeech. He^ftor's mind fluctuates every way, he is call-
ing a ccunci) in his own breaft, and confulting what me-
? bod to purfue: he doubts if he fhpuld not propofe' terras
of peace to Achilles, and grants him very large concef-
ajons ; but of a fudden he checks himfelf, and leaves the
Sentence unfmifiied. The paragraph runs thus ; " If, fays
'* HeCtor, I fnould offer him die largeft conditions, give
'^ all that Troy contains" — There he (lops, and imme-
fliately fubjoins, *' But v^^hy do I delude myfelf, etc.

It is evident from this fpeech, that the power of mak-
ifig peace was in Hedor^s hands : for unlefs Priam had
Transferred it to him, he could not have made thefe pro-
portion?. So tliat it was Hedor who broke the treaty
in the third book (u'here the very fame conditions were
projofcd by Agameniron.) It is Hector therefore that
is guilty, he is blameable in continuing the war, and in-
vohing the Greeks and Trojans in blood. This con-
dudt in Homer was necelTary ; he obfervcs a poetical juf-
slce, and (hews us that Hedor is a criminal, before he
brings him to death. Euflathius.

v* 140. Shall proud Polydamas etc.^ Heftor alludes
to the counfel given him by Polydamas in the eighteenth
book, which he then negle<5ted to follow : it was, to with-
draw to the city, and fortify themfelves there, befoi^ A-
clulks returned to tlic battle.

Book XXII. H O iM E R's I L I A D. ^ 12 J*

Which timely foliow'd but the former night,

What numbers had been fav'd by Heaor's flight ?

That wife advice rejedled with difdain,

I feel my folly in my people {lain. , 1 45

Methinks my fuff 'ring country's voice I hear.

But moll:, her worthlefs fons infult my ear.

On my raih courage charge the chance of war,

And blame thofe virtues which they cannot fhare.'

No ife'er I return, return I mud 1 50

Glorious, my country's terror laid in dutt. :
Or if I perilh, let her fee me fall
In field at leaft, and fighting for her wall,
And yet luppofe thefe mealures I forgo,
Approach unarm'd, and parley v/iththe foe, 155.,

The warrior-fnield, the helm, and lacce lay dov/n.
And treat on terms of peace to fave the town ;
The wife with-held, the treafure lU-detain'd,
(Caufe of the war, and grievance of the land)
With honourable judice to redore ; 160

And add half 1 lion's yet remaining (lore,
'• Which Troy lliall, fworn, produce ; that injur a Greece
iSIay (hare our w:ealth, and leave our walls in peace.
Bat why this thought : unarm'd if i iliould go, ")
What hope of mercy from this vengeful foe, ^165

But woman- like to fall, and fill without a blov/ ?

L 3


We greet not here, as man converfing man.
Met at an oak, or journeying o'er a plain:

V. 167. F/c greet not here^ as man converfing 7nafty
Met (Jt an oak, or journeying o'er a plain ^ etc. J
The words literally are thefe, ** There is no talking
«u77/6 Achilles, «7ro ^^^05 vV kT^o 7rir^r,(;,from an oaky or
from a rock^ [or about an oak or a rockj as a young man
and a 7naiden talk together. It is thought an obfcure
pafTage, though I confefs I am either too fond of my own
explication in the above cited verfes, or they make it a
very clear one. *' There is no converling with this im-
** placable enemy in the rage of battle ; as when faun-
*' tring people talk at leifurc to one another on the road,
*' or when young men and women meet in a field." I
ihlnk the expolition of Euflathius more far-fetched,
though it be ingenious; and therefore I muif do him the
jufticencttofupprefsit. It was a common pradice, fays
-he, with the heathens, to expofe fuch children as they
either could not, or would not educate : the places where
they depofited them, were ufually in the cavities of rocks^
or the hollow of oaks : thefe children being frequently
found and preferved by Grangers, were faid to be the ofF-
fpring of thofe oaks, or rocks where they were found.
This gave occafion to the poets to feign that men were
bom o^osks, and there was a famous fable too of Deu-
calion and Pyrrha's repairing mankind by caflingy?^'?."/
behind them : it grew at lad into a proverb, to fignify
idle tales ; fo that in the prefent paflage it imports, that
.Ahcilles nvill nol liffen to fuch idle tales as may pa fs
luith filly maids a?id frjnd lovers. For fables and (bries
(and particularly fuch (lories as the prefervation, (trange
fortune, and adventures ofexpcfedchikiren) are the ufu-
al converfation of young men and maidens. Eufiatliius's
explanation may be a^rrobo rated by a parallel place in
the Odyffey ; where the poet fays.

Book XXII. HO M ERV IL I AD. 127

No fcrJon now for calm famiiiar talk,

Like youths and maidens in an ev'nlng walk : 170

War is our bufinefs, but to whom is giv'n

To die, or triumph, that, determine heav'n !

• 7hus pond'rlng, like a God the Greek drew nigh :

His dreadful plumage nodded from on high;

The Pelian jav'lin, in his better hand, 17 j

Shot trembling rays that giitter'd o'er the land ;

And on his breaft the beamy fplendors (hone

Like Jove's own light'ning, or the riling fun.

As FTec%r fees, unufual terrors rife.

Struck by fome God, he fears, recedes, and iiies. . 180

The meaning of which paiTage is plainly this, Te/1 7ne of
twhat race you are^ for undouhiedly you had a father
and ffiother ; you are not, according lo the oldjiory, de-
fcendedfrom an oak or a rock. Where the word ttk,-
XcctdioiTy fliews that this was become an ancient proverb
even in Homer's days.

V. 180. Struck by fome God, he fears y recedes and
files f\ I doubt not mod readers are fhocked at the flight
of Hedtor : it Is indeed a high exaltation of Achilles
(who was the poet's chief hero) tliat fo brave a man as
Hcvflor durfi not (land him. While Achilles was at a
diftance he had fortified his heart with noble refoluuons,
but at his approach they all vanilh, and he flies. This
(as exceptionable as fome may think it) may yet be al-
lowed to be atrue portrait of human nature; for diftance,
as it leffens all objects, fo it does our fears : but where
inevitable danger approaches, the flouteli: hearts will feel
fome apprrlienlions at certain fate. It was the faying of
one of tlie braved: men in this age, to one wiio told him
he feared nothing, She'vj nic but a certain danger, and

123 . H O M _E R's ILIAD. Book XXII.
He leaves the gates, he leaves the walls behind ;
Achilles follows like the winged wind.

I Jhall be as much afraid as any of you. I do not ab-
Iblutely pretend to jui'Hfy this pafiage in every point, but
only to have this mucii granted me, tiiat Hedor was ia
this defperate circamflance.

Firfly It will not bcfoundinthe whole Iliad that Hec-
tor ever thouoht hiniftlf a match for Achilies. Homer
(to keep this in our minds) had jull: now made Priam tell
him, as a thing known (for certainly Priam would not
infult him at that time) that there was no comparifon be-
tv/een his own Ifrength, and that of his antagomil :

e7r«jj 5roAy (pi^rs^og Wiv^

Secondly, We may obferve with Dacier, the degrees
by which Homer prepares this incident. In the iS'ch
book the mere fight and voice of Achilles unarmed, has
terrified and put the whole Trojan army into diforder.
In the 19th the very found of the celefHal arms givea
him by Vulcan, has affrighted his own Myrmidons as
they ifand about him. In the 20th, he has been upon
the point of killing jiilneas, and Hector himfelf was not
faved from him but by Apollo's interpofing. In that and
the following book, he makes an incredible (laughter of
sll that oppofe him, he overtakes mod of tliofe that fly
from him, and Priam himieif opens the gates of Troy to
receive the reft.

Thirdly, Hedor ftays, not that he hopes to overcome
Achilles, but becaufe ihame and the dread of reproach
forbid him to re-enter the city ;-a fhame (fays EuiUthi-
us) which was a fault that betrayed him out of his life,
and ruined his country. Nay, Homer adds farther, that
he only ftayed by the immediate ivill of heaven, intoxi-
cated and irrefil^ibly bound down hyfate.

Book XXII. H O M E Il':5 I L T A D. 129

Thus at the panting dove a falcon Hies,
(The fwifteft racer of the liquid skies)

Fourthly, He had juft been reflecting on the Injuftlce
of the war he maintained ; his fpirits are deprefTed by
heaven, he expedls certain death, he perceives himfelf
abandoned by the Gods, (as he direftly lays in v. 300,
etc. of the Greek, and 385. of the tranflation) fo that
lie might fay to Achilles what Turnus does to jiineas,

Di't 7m terrent, et Jupiter hofi'ts.

This indeed is the rrrongeft reafon that can be offered
for the flight of Heclor. Ke flies not from Achilles as
a mortal hero, but from one whom he fees clad in im-
penetrable armour, feconded by Minerva and one w ho
had put to fli;jht the inferior Gods themfcives. This is
not cowardice, according to the conflant principles of
Homer, who thought it no part of a hero's character to
be impious, or to fancy himfelf independent on the fu-
preme being.

Indeed it had been a grievous fault, had our author
fuflfercd the courage of Hector intirely to forfake him
even in this extremity : a brave man's foul is (Hll capa-
ble of rouzing itfelf, and ading honourably in the laft
ftruggles. Accordingly HcvStor, though delivered over
to his dediny, abandoned by the gods, and certain of
death, yet flops and attacks Achilles ; when he lofes his
^ear, he draws his fword : it was impoflible he (hould
conquer, it was only in his power to fall glorioufly ; this
he did, and it was all that man could do.

If the reader, after all, cannot bring himfelf to like
this paffage, for his own particular ; yet to induce him
to {ufpend his abfolate cenfure, he may confider that
Virgil had an uncommon eileem for it, as he has tefH-
ficd in transferring it almoft intirely to the death of
Turnus ; where tiiere was no neceflity of making ufe of

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryHomerThe Iliad of Homer (Volume 4) → online text (page 8 of 22)