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In fhort, I am of opinion that this pailage outrages
decency; and it is a fign of fome wcaknefs to have fo
much occafion of j unification. Indeed the whole paf-
fage is capable of a ferious conftruaion, and of fuch a
fenfe as a mother might exprefs to a fon with decency;
and then it will run thus, " Why art thou, my fon,

Vol. IV. X

2 4 2 H O M E R's I L I A D. BookXXIV.

"No longer then (his fury if thou dread)
Detain the relics of great Heclor dead ;
Kor vent on fenfelefs earth thy vengeance vain,
But yield to ranfom, and reftore the flain.

To whom Achilles: be the ranfom giv'n, 17;

And we fubmit, fince fuch the will of heav'n.

While thus they commun'd, from th' Olympian bow'rs
Jove orders Iris to the Trojan tow'rs.
Hafte, winged Goddefs ! to the facred town,
And urge her monarch to redeem his fon; 180

Alone, the Ilian ramparts let him leave,
And bear what ftern Achilles may receive :
Alone, for fo we will: no Trojan near;
Except to place the dead with decent care,
Some aged herald, who with gentle hand, 185

May the flow mules and fun'ral car command.
Kor let him death, nor let him danger dread,
Safe thro' the foe by our protection led :

u thus afHi&ed ? Why thus refigned to forrow ? Can
u neither fleep nor love divert you ? Short is thy date
" of life, fpend it not all in weeping, but allow forac
" part of it to love and pleafure!" But dill the indecency
lies in the manner of the expreffion, which muft be al-
lowed to be almofl. obfeene, (for fuch is the word joo-yurl'
mifceri.) All that can be faid in defence of it is, that as
v/e are not competent judges of what ideas words might
carry in Homer's time, fo we ought not intirely to con-
demn him, becaufe it is poflible the expremon might not
found fo indecently in ancient, as in modern ears.

Book XXIV. H O M E R's ILIAD. 243

Him Hermes to Achilles (hall convey,

Guard of his life, and partner of his way. 190

Fierce as he is, Achilles' felf mall fpare

His age, nor touch one venerable hair :

f. 189. Him Hermes to Achilles pall convey. ~] The
intervention of Mercury was very necefTary at this time,
and by it the poet not only gives an air of probability
to the relation, but alfo pays a complement to his coun-
trymen the Grecians : they kept fo ftrivft a guard that
nothing but a God could pafs unobferved ; this highly
recommends their military difcipline; and Priam not
being able to carry the ranfom without a chariot, it
would have been an offence againft probability to have
fuppofed him able to have palTed all the guards of the
army in his chariot, without the affiftance of fome deity r
Horace had this paiTage in his view, ode the xoth of the
firft book,

Iniqtta Troja caflra fefellit*

f, ,01. Achilles' felf jhallfpare

His age, nor touch one venerable hair, etc/]
It is obfervable that every word here is a negative,
fa>«K, aa*o*<K, ax,W,« M v; Achilles is dill fo angry that
Jupiter cannot fay he is wife, judicious, and merciful;
he only commends him negatively, and barely fays he
is not a madman, nor perverfely wicked.

It is the obfervation of the ancients, fays Euftathius,
that all the caufes of the fins of man are included in
thofe three words: man offends either out of ignorance,
and then he is £$pl>v, or through inadvertency, then he
is a.tr%oTtoq\ or wilfully and malicioufly, and then he is
«a;t«V«v. So that this defcription agrees very well
with the prefent difpofition of Achilles ; he is not *<&<&,
becaufe his refentment begins to abate; he is not acrwrog r
becaufe his mother has given him inftruittons ; nor
X 2

244 H O M E R's I L I A D, BookXXlV.
Some thought there mult be, in a foul fo brave,
Some fenfe of duty, fome defire to fave.

Then down her bow the winged Iris drives, 195
And fwift at Priam's mournful court arrives:
Where the fad fons befide their father's throne
Sate bath'd in tears, and anfwer'd groan with groan.
And all amidfl; them lay the hoary fire>
(Sad fcene of woe I) His face his wrapt attire 200


becaufe he will not offend againft the injunctions
of Jupiter.

^.195. The winged Iris flirt, etc/] Monf. Rapin has
been very free upon this pafTage, where fo many ma-
chines are made ufe of, to caufe Priam to obtain the
body of Hector from Achilles, " This father (fays he)
*' who has fo much tendernefs for this fon, who is fo
** fuperftkious in obferving the funeral ceremonies, and
u faving thofe precious remains from the dogs and
" vultures ; ought not he to have thought of doing this
M himfelf, without being thus exprefly commanded by
" the gods ? Was there need of a machine to make
*t him remember that he was a father ?" But this cri-
tic intirely forgets what rendered fuch a conduct of ab-
folute ntceflity ; namely, the extreme danger and (in all
probability) imminent ruin both of the king and ftate,
upon Priam's putting himfelf into the power of his moft
inveterate enemy. There was no other method of re-,
covering Heclor, and of difcharging his funeral rites
(which were looked upon by the ancients of fo high
importance) and therefore the melfage from Jupiter to
encourage Priam, with the aflHtance of Mercury to con*
duct him, and to prepare Achilles to receive him with
favour, was far from impertinent : it was dignus vindice-
no.hs, as Horace exprelles it.

$. 200, His face his wrapt attire Conceal* d from
fight?^ The poet has obferved a great decency in this

Book XXIV. H O M E R's I L I A D. 245
Conceal'd from fight ; with frantic hands he fpread
A fhow'r of afhes o'er his neck and head.
From room to room his penfive daughters roam ;
Whofe (hrieks and clamours fill the vaulted dome ;
Mindful of thofe, who, late their pride and joy, 205
Lie pale and breathlefs round the fields of Troy !
Before the king Jove's meflTenger appears,
And thus in whifpers greets his trembling ears.

Fear not, oh father ! no ill news I bear ;
From Jove I come, Jove makes thee ftill his care : 2 ier
For Heclor's fake thefe walls he bids thee leave,
And bear what ftern Achilles may receive ;
Alone, for fo he wills : no Trojan near,
Except to place the dead with decent care,
Some aged herald, who with gentle hand, 21 5

May the flow mules and fun'ral car command.
Nor (halt thou death, nor (halt thou danger dread j
Safe thro' the foe by his protedion led ;
Thee Hermes to Pelides (hall convey
Guard of thy life, and partner of thy way.
Fierce as he is, Achilles' felf (hall fpare
Thy age, nor touch one venerable hair ;.

place- he was not able to exprefs the grief of hi* royal*
mourner, and fo covers what he could not reprefent.
From this paffage Semanthes theSicyonian painter bor-
rowed hisdefign in the facriffce of Iphigenia, and repre-
fents his Agamemnon, as Homer does h is Priam : JEfcby-
lus has likewife imitated this place, and draws his Niobc-
exactly after the manner of Homer. Euftathius.


246 H O M E R's ILIAD. Book XXIV.

Some thought there rauft be, in a foul fo brave,
Some fenfe of duty, fome defire to fave.

She fpoke, and vanifh'd. Priam bids prepare 225
His gentle mules, and harnefs to the car;
There, for the gifts, a polifh'd cafket lay :
His pious fons the king's command obey.
Then paft the monarch to his bridal room,
Where cedar-beams the lofty roofs perfume, 2 jo

And where the treafures of his empire lay ;
Then calPd the queen, and thus began to fay.

Unhappy confort of a kingdiftreft;
Partake the troubles of thy hufband's breaft :
I faw defcend the meflenger of Jove, 235

Who bids me try Achilles' mind to move;
Forfake thefe ramparts, and with gifts obtain
The corps of Hector, at yon' navy (lain.
Tell me thy thought : my heart impels to go
Thro' hoftile camps, and bears me to the foe. qaq

The hoary monarch thus. Her piercing cries
Sad Hecuba renews, and then replies.
Ah ! whither wanders thy diftemper'd mind ?
And where the prudence now that aw'd mankind?
Thro' Phrygia once, and foreign regions known, 245
Kow all confus'd, diftra&ed, overthrown !
Singly to pafs thro' hofts of foes ! to face
(Oh heart of fteel !) the murd'rer of thy race !
To view that deathful eye, and wander o'er
Thofe hands, yet red with Hector's noble gore ! 250

Book XXIV. HOME R's ILIAD. *47
■ Alas ! my lord ! he knows not how to fpare,
And what his mercy, thy (lain fons declare ;
So brave ! fo many fall'n ! to calm his rage
Vain were thy dignity, and vain thy age.

-$0 pent in this fad palace, let us give 255

To grief, the wretched days we have to live.

Still, ftill for Hector let our forrows flow,

Born to his own, and to his parents woe i

Doom'd from the hour his lucklefs life begun,

To dogs, to vultures, and to Peleus' fon ! 260

Oh ! in his deareft blood might I allay

My rage, and thefe barbarities repay !

For ah ! could Hector merit thus ? whofe breath

Expir'd not meanly, in unactive death :

He pour'd his latefl: blood in manly fight, 265

And fell a hero in his country's right.

Seek not to flay me, nor my foul affright
With words of omen, like a bird of night;
(Reply'd unmov'd the venerable man)
'Tis heav'n commands me, and you urge in vain. 270

$. 265. He poured his late ft blood in manly fight,

And fell a hero 3 This whole dif-

courfe of Hecuba is exceedingly natural, (he aggravates
the features of Achilles, and foftens thofe of Hector: her
anger blinds her fo much, that me can fee nothing great
in Achilles, and her fondnefs fo much, that fhe can dif-
cern no defects in Hector. Thus fhe draws Achilles in
the fierceft colours, like a Barbarian, and calls him d/^ri's ;
but at the fame time forgets that Hector ever fled -from
Achilles, and in the original directly tells us that he knew
not how to fear, or how to fly. Eultathius.

248 H O M E R's I L I A D, Book XXIV.

Had any mortal voice th' injunction laid,

Nor augur, prieft, or feer had been obey'd.

A prefent Goddefs brought the high command,

I faw, I heard her, and the word (hall ftand.

I go, ye Gods ! obedient to your call : 275

If in yon' camp your pow'rs have doom'd my fall,

Content By the fame hand let me expire !

Add to the flaughter'd fon the wretched fire !

One cold embrace at lead may be allow'd,

And my laft tears flow mingled with his blood ! 280

From forth his open'd ftores, this faid, he drew
Twelve coftly carpets of refulgent hue,
As many vefts, as many mantles told,
And twelve fair veils and garments ftiff with gold.
Two tripods next, and twice two chargers (hine, 285
With ten pure talents from the richeft mine ;
And laft a large well labour'd bowl had place,
(The pledge of treaties once with friendly Thrace)
Seem'd all too mean the ftores he could employ,
For one laft look to buy him back to Troy I 290

Lo ! the fad father, frantic with his pain,
Around him furious drives his menial train :

^.291. Lo! the fad father, tic."] This behaviour of
Priam is very natural to a perfon in his circumftances :
the lofs of his favourite fon makes fo deep an impref-
fion upon his fpirits, that he is incapable of confoJation ;
he is difpleafed with every body ; he is angry he knows-
not why ; the diforder and hurry of his fpirits make
him break out into paffionate expreflions, and ihofe ex*
prefllons are contained id fhort periods, very natural to-

Book XXIV. H O M E R's I L I A D. 249

In vain each flave with duteous care attends,

Each office hurts him, and each face offends.

What make ye here ? officious crouds ! (he cries) 295

Hence! nor obtrude your anguifh on my eyes.

Have ye no griefs at home, to fix ye there ;

Am I the only object of defpair ?

men in anger, who give not themfelves leifure toexprefs
their fentiments at full length : it is from the fame paf-
fion that Priam, in the fecond fpeech, treats all his fons
with the utmoft indignity, calls them gluttons, dancers,,
and flatterers. Euftathius very juftly remarks, that he
had Paris particularly in his eye ; but his anger makes
him transfer that character to the reft of his children,
not being calm enough to make a diftinclion between
the innocent and guilty.

That paffage where he runs into the praifes of Hector,
is particularly natural: his concern and fondnefs make
him as extravagant in the commendation of him, as in
the difparagement of his other fons: they are lefs than
mortals, he more than man. Rapin has cenfured this
anger of Priam as a breach of the manners, and fays he
might have fhewn himfelf a father, otherwife than by
this ufage of his children. But whoever confiders his
circumftances, will judge after another manner. Priam,
after having been the moft wealthy, moft powerful and
formidable monarch of Afia, becomes all at once the
moft miferable of men; he lofes in lefs than eight days
the beft of his army, and a great number of virtuous
fons; he lofes the braveft of 'them all, his glory and his
defence, the gallant Heel or. This laft blow finks him
quite, and changes him fo much, that he is no longer
the fame: he becomes impatient, frantic, unreafonable !
the terrible effect of ill fortune ! whoever has the leaft
in fight into nature, muft admire fo fine a picture of the
force of adverfity on an unhappy old man.

2$o HOME R's ILIA D. BookXXIV,

Am I become my people's common (how,

Set up by Jove your fpeftacle of woe ? 300

No, you mud feel him too ; yourfelves muft fall ;

The fame ftern God to ruin gives you all :

Nor is great Hector loft by me alone ;

Your fole defence, your guardian pow'r is gone !

I fee your blood the fields of Phrygia drown, 30$

I fee the ruins of your fmoking town !

Oh fend me, Gods ! ere that fad day (hall come,

A willing ghoft to Pluto's dreary dome !

He faid, and feebly drives his friends away :
The forrowing friends his frantic rage obey. 310

Next on his fons his erring fury falls,
Polites, Paris, Agathon, he calls,
His threats Deiphobus and Dius hear,
Hippothous, Pammon, Helenus the feer,
And gen'rous Antiphon : for yet thefe nine 315

Surviv'd, fad relics of his num'rous line.

Inglorious fons of an unhappy fire !
Why did not all in Hector's caufe expire?
Wretch that I am ! my braveft offspring (lain,
You, the difgrace of Priam's houfe, remain ! 3 20

Meftor the brave, renown'd in ranks of war,
With Troilus, dreadful on his rufhing car,

$. 313. Deiphobus and Dius. ,] It has been a difpute
whether A7o? or 'Ayctvls t in f. 251. was a proper name;
but Pherecydes (fays Euflathius) determines it, and af-
fures us that Dios was a fpurious fon of Priam.


And laft great Hector, more than man divine,

For fure he feem'd not of terreftrial line!

All thofe relentlefs Mars untimely flew, 325

And left me thefe, a foft and fervile crew,

Whofe days the feaft and wanton dance employ,

Gluttons and flatt'rers, the contempt of Troy !

Why teach ye not my rapid wheels to run,

And fpeed my journey to redeem my fon ? 330

The fons their father's wretched age revere,
Forgive his anger, and produce the car.
High on the feat the cabinet they bind :
The new-made car with folid beauty (hin'd;
Box was the yoke, emboli with coftly pains, 335

And hung with ringlets to receive the reins ;
Nine cubits long the traces fwept the ground ;
Thefe to the chariot's polifh'd pole they bound,
Then fix'd a ring the running reins to guide,
And clofe beneath the gather'd ends were ty'd. 340
Next with the gifts (the price of Hector flain)
The fad attendants load the groaning wain :
Laft to the yoke the well-match'd mules they bring,
(The gift ofMyfiato the Trojan king.)
But the fair horfes, long his darling care, - 34$

Himfelf receiv'd, and harnefs'd to his car:

f. 342. The fad attendants load the groaning ivaln.']
It is neceffary to obferve to the reader, to avoid confu-
fion, that two cars are here prepared ; the one drawn
by mules, to carry the prefents, and to bring back the
body of Hector; the other drawn by horfes, in Vvhich
the herald and Priam rode. Euftathius.

252 H O M E R's I L I A D, Book XXIV.

Griev'd as he was, he not this talk deny'd;

The hoary herald help'd him at his fide.

While careful thefe the gentle courfers join'd,

Sad Hecuba approach'd with anxious mind; 3 JO

A golden bowl that foam'd with fragrant wine,

(Libation deftin'd to the pow'r divine)

Held in her right, before the fteeds (he (lands,

And thus configns it to the monarch's hands.

Take this, and pour to Jove; that fafe from harms, 355
His grace reftore thee to our roof, and arms.
Since victor of thy fears, and flighting mine,
Heav'n, or thy foul, infpire this bold defign:
Pray to that God, who high on Ida's brow
Surveys thy defolated realms below, 360

His winged meflfenger to fend from high,
And lead thy way with heav'nly augury :
Let the flrong fov'reign of the plumy race
Tow'r on the right of yon' aethereal fpace.
That fign beheld, and flrengthen'd from above, 365
Boldly purfue the journey mark'd by Jove;
But if the God his augury denies,
Snpprefs thy impulfe, nor reject advice.

'Tis juft (faid Priam) to the (ire above
To raife our hands, for who fo good as Jove ? 370

He fpoke, and bad th' attendant handmaid bring
The pureft water of the living fpring:
(Her ready hands the ewer and bafon held)
Then took the golden cup his queen had fiU'd;


Book XXIV. H O M E R/s ILIAD. 253
On- the mid pavement pours the rofy wine, 37^

Uplifts his eyes, and calls the pow'r divine.

Oh firft, and greateft ! heavVs imperial lord !
On lofty Ida's holy hill ador-'d !
To ftern Achilles now direct my ways,
And teach him mercy when a father prays. 3S0

If fuch thy will, difpatch from yonder iky
Thy facred bird, celeflial augury !
Let the ftrong fov'reign of the plumy race
Tow'r on' the right of yon' ethereal fpace:
So (hall thy fuppliant, ftrengtben'd from above, 3$;
Fearlefs pu'rfne the journey mark'd "by Jove.

Jove heard his pray'r, and from the throne on high
Difpatch 'd his bird, celeflial augury !
The fwift-wing'd chafer of the feather'd game,
And known to Gods by Perenos* lofty name. ~q>

Wtde, as appears fonie palace-gate difplay'd,
So broad, his pinions flrerch'd their ample made,
As (looping dexter with refounding wings
Th' imperial bird defcends in airy rings.

f. 377. Oh fir!} , and great l £ft ! etc] Euftatbitis ob-
ferves, that there is not one inttanre in the whoie 3 lias
cf any prayer that was juftly, preferred, that failed of
flicce r s. This proceeding or Homer's is very judicious,
and anfwers exactly to the true end of poetry, which is
%o pleafe and infrrucl. Thus ^riatn prays that Achilles
may ceafe his wrath, and compalfionate his miferiesj
and Jupiter grants his requefl: the unfortunate king
obtains compafiion, and in his mod inveterate enemy
finds a friend.

Vol. IV. Y

2*4 HOME R's ILIA D, ^BookXXIV.

A dawn of joy in ev'ry face appears : 395

The mourning matron dries her tim'rous tears.

Swift on the car th' impatient monarch fprung;

The brazen portal in his paflfage rung.

The mules preceding draw the loaded wain,

Charg'd with the gifts: Idaeus holds the rein: 400

The king himfelf his gentle deeds controuls,

And thro' furrounding friends the chariot rolls.

On his flow wheels the following people wait,

Mourn at each ftep, and give him up to fate;

With hands uplifted, eye him as he paft, 40$

And gaze upon hira as they gaz'd their laft.

Now forward fares the father on his way,

Thro' the lone fields, and back to Ilion they.

Great Jove beheld him as he croft the plain,

And felt the woesofmiferable man, 410

Then thus to Hermes. Thou whofe conftant cares

Still fuccour mortals, and attend their pray'rs;

Behold an object to thy charge confign'd,

If ever pity touch'd thee for mankind.

Go, guard the fire; th' obferving foe prevent, 415

And fafe conduct him to Achilles' tent.

The God obeys, his golden pinions binds,
And mounts incumbent on the wings of winds,

f. 417. The defcription of Mercury J] A man mud have
no tafte for poetry that does not admire this fublime
defcription : Virgil has tranflated it almoft verbatim in
the 4th book of the iEneis, f. 240.

Hie patris magni par ere parabat

Imferh, et primm pedibus Salaria ncftit

Book XXIV. H O M E R's ILIAD. 255

That high thro' fields of air his flight Curtain,

O'er the wide earth, and o'er the boundlefs main: 420

Then grafps the wand that caufes deep to fly,

Or in foft (lumbers feals the wakeful eye;

Thus arm'd, fwift Hermes (leers his airy way,

And (loops on Hellefpont's refounding fea.

A beauteous youth, majeftic and divine, 4 2 5

He feem'd; fair offspring offome princely line!

Aurea, qua fiblimem alts, five aqucra fipra,
Seu terrain rapido pariter cum famine port ant.
Turn virgam capit, hac animas ille evocat orco
Pallentes, alias fib triftia tartar a mitt it ;
Datfimnos, adimitque, et lumina morte refignat.
It is hard to determine which is more excellent, the
copy, or the original: Mercury appears in both pictures
with equal majefty ; and the Roman drcfs becomes him
as well as the Grecian. Virgil has added the latter part
of the fifth, and the whole fixth line, to Homer, which
makes it dill more full and majeftical.

Give me leave to produce a paflage out of Milton of
near affinity with the lines above, which is not inferior
to Homer or Virgil: it is the defcription of the defcent
of an angel.

Down thither, prom in fight

Hefpceds, and thro'' the vaft athereal fky

Sails between worlds and worlds ; with fie ady wing :

Now on the polar winds : then with quick force

Winnows the buxom air

Of beaming finny rays a golden tiar
Circled his head; nor lefs his loch behind
Jllufriousy on his jhoulders fiedg'd with wings,

Lay waving rmind r etc.

Y 2


Now twilight veil'd the glaring face of day,

And clad the dufky fields in fober gray ;

"What time the herald and the hoary king

Their chariots flopping, at the filver fpring 45^

That circling Ilus' ancient marble flows,

Allow'd their mules and fleeds a fhort repofe.

Thro' the dim (hade the herald firft efpies

A man's approach, and thus to Priam cries.

I mark fome foe's advance: O king ! beware; 435

This hard adventure claims thy utmofl: care:

For much I fear, deflruction hovers nigh :

Our flate afks counfel; is it befi: to fly ?

Or, old and helplefs, at his feet to fall,

(Two wretched fuppliants) and for mercy call ? 440

^.427. Now tw'i fight ve\l\l the glaring face of day . ~\
The poet by fuch intimations as thefe recalls to our
minds the exact time which Priam takes up in his jour-
ney to Achilles: he fet out in the evening; and by the
time that he had reached the tomb of Ilus, it was grown
fomewhat dark, which (hews that this tomb flood at
ibme diftance from the city : here Mercury meets him,
and when it was quite dark, guides him into. the prefence
of Achilles. By tbefe methods we may difcover how
exactly the poet prefer ves the unities of time and place,
and he allots fpace fufficient for the actions which he
defcribes, and yet does not croud more incidents into
any interval of time than may be executed in as much
at he allows: thus it being improbable that fo ftubbom
a man as Achilles mould relent in a few moments, the*
poet allows a whole night for this affair, fo that Priam
has leifure enough to go and return, and time enough
remaining to perfuade Achilles.

Book XXIV. H O M E R's I L I A D. 257

Th' afflicted monarch fliiver'd with defpair;
Pale grew his face, and upright ftood his hair;
Sunk was his heart; his colour went and came;
A fudden trembling fhook his aged frame:
When Hermes greeting, touch'd his royal hand, 445
And gentle, thus accofts with kind demand.

Say whither, father ! when each mortal fight
Is feal'd in deep, thou wander'ft thro' the night t

f. 447. etc. Tbefpeecb of Mercury to Priam^ I dial!
not trouble the reader with the dreams of Eufiathius,,
who tells us that this fiction of Mercury, is partly true
and partly falfe : It is true that his father is old ; for Ju-
piter is king of the whole univerfe, was from eternity,
and created both men and gods : in like manner, when
Mercury fays he is the feventh child of his father, Eu-
ftathius affirms that he meant that there were fix planets
befides Mercury. Sure it requires great pains and thought
to be fo learnedly abfurd : the fuppofition which he
makes afterwards is far more natural. Priam, fays he,
might by chance meet with one of the Myrmidons, who
might conduct him unobferved through the camp into
the prefence of Achilles: and as the execution of any
wife defign is afcribed to Pallas, fo may this clandeitine
enterprize be faid to be managed by the guidance of

But perhaps this whole paffage may be better explained

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 16 18 19 20 21 22

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