The Iliad Of Homer: Translated Into English Blank Verse: Book XXIII.

A poem by William Cowper

Argument Of The Twenty-Third Book.


The body of Patroclus is burned, and the funeral games ensue.



Such mourning was in Troy; meantime the Greeks
Their galleys and the shores of Hellespont
Regaining, each to his own ship retired.
But not the Myrmidons; Achilles them
Close rank'd in martial order still detain'd,
And thus his fellow-warriors brave address'd.
Ye swift-horsed Myrmidons, associates dear!
Release not from your chariots yet your steeds
Firm-hoof'd, but steeds and chariots driving near,
Bewail Patroclus, as the rites demand
Of burial; then, satiate with grief and tears,
We will release our steeds, and take repast.
He ended, and, himself leading the way,
His numerous band all mourn'd at once the dead.
Around the body thrice their glossy steeds,
Mourning they drove, while Thetis in their hearts
The thirst of sorrow kindled; they with tears
The sands bedew'd, with tears their radiant arms,
Such deep regret of one so brave they felt.
Then, placing on the bosom of his friend
His homicidal hands, Achilles thus
The shade of his Patroclus, sad, bespake.
Hail, oh Patroclus, even in Ades hail!
For I will now accomplish to the full
My promise pledged to thee, that I would give
Hector dragg'd hither to be torn by dogs
Piecemeal, and would before thy funeral pile
The necks dissever of twelve Trojan youths
Of noblest rank, resentful of thy death.
He said, and meditating foul disgrace
To noble Hector, stretch'd him prone in dust
Beside the bier of Menoetiades.
Then all the Myrmidons their radiant arms
Put off, and their shrill-neighing steeds released.
A numerous band beside the bark they sat
Of swift Æacides, who furnish'd forth
Himself a feast funereal for them all.
Many a white ox under the ruthless steel
Lay bleeding, many a sheep and blatant goat,
With many a saginated boar bright-tusk'd,
Amid fierce flames Vulcanian stretch'd to roast.
Copious the blood ran all around the dead.
And now the Kings of Greece conducted thence
To Agamemnon's tent the royal son
Of Peleus, loth to go, and won at last
With difficulty, such his anger was
And deep resentment of his slaughter'd friend.
Soon then as Agamemnon's tent they reach'd,
The sovereign bade his heralds kindle fire
Around an ample vase, with purpose kind
Moving Achilles from his limbs to cleanse
The stains of battle; but he firm refused
That suit, and bound refusal with an oath--
No; by the highest and the best of all,
By Jove I will not. Never may it be
That brazen bath approach this head of mine,
Till I shall first Patroclus' body give
To his last fires, till I shall pile his tomb,
And sheer my locks in honor of my friend;
For, like to this, no second wo shall e'er
My heart invade, while vital breath I draw.
But, all unwelcome as it is, repast
Now calls us. Agamemnon, King of men!
Give thou command that at the dawn they bring
Wood hither, such large portion as beseems
The dead, descending to the shades, to share,
That hungry flames consuming out of sight
His body soon, the host may war again.
He spake; they, hearing, readily obey'd.
Then, each his food preparing with dispatch,
They ate, nor wanted any of the guests
Due portion, and their appetites sufficed
To food and wine, all to their tents repair'd
Seeking repose; but on the sands beside
The billowy deep Achilles groaning lay
Amidst his Myrmidons, where space he found
With blood unstain'd beside the dashing wave.[1]
There, soon as sleep, deliverer of the mind,
Wrapp'd him around (for much his noble limbs
With chase of Hector round the battlements
Of wind-swept Ilium wearied were and spent)
The soul came to him of his hapless friend,
In bulk resembling, in expressive eyes
And voice Patroclus, and so clad as he.
Him, hovering o'er his head, the form address'd.
Sleep'st thou, Achilles! of thy friend become
Heedless? Him living thou didst not neglect
Whom thou neglectest dead. Give me a tomb
Instant, that I may pass the infernal gates.
For now, the shades and spirits of the dead
Drive me afar, denying me my wish
To mingle with them on the farthest shore,
And in wide-portal'd Ades sole I roam.
Give me thine hand, I pray thee, for the earth
I visit never more, once burnt with fire;
We never shall again close council hold
As we were wont, for me my fate severe,
Mine even from my birth, hath deep absorb'd.
And oh Achilles, semblance of the Gods!
Thou too predestined art beneath the wall
To perish of the high-born Trojan race.
But hear my last injunction! ah, my friend!
My bones sepulchre not from thine apart,
But as, together we were nourish'd both
Beneath thy roof (what time from Opoëis
Menoetius led me to thy father's house,
Although a child, yet fugitive for blood,
Which, in a quarrel at the dice, I spilt,
Killing my playmate by a casual blow,
The offspring of Amphidamas, when, like
A father, Peleus with all tenderness
Received and cherish'd me, and call'd me thine)
So, let one vase inclose, at last, our bones,
The golden vase, thy Goddess mother's gift.[2]
To whom Achilles, matchless in the race.
Ah, loved and honor'd! wherefore hast thou come!
Why thus enjoin'd me? I will all perform
With diligence that thou hast now desired.
But nearer stand, that we may mutual clasp
Each other, though but with a short embrace,
And sad satiety of grief enjoy.
He said, and stretch'd his arms toward the shade,
But him seized not; shrill-clamoring and light
As smoke, the spirit pass'd into the earth.
Amazed, upsprang Achilles, clash'd aloud
His palms together, and thus, sad, exclaim'd.
Ah then, ye Gods! there doubtless are below
The soul and semblance both, but empty forms;
For all night long, mourning, disconsolate,
The soul of my Patroclus, hapless friend!
Hath hover'd o'er me, giving me in charge
His last requests, just image of himself.
So saying, he call'd anew their sorrow forth,
And rosy-palm'd Aurora found them all
Mourning afresh the pitiable dead.
Then royal Agamemnon call'd abroad
Mules and mule-drivers from the tents in haste
To gather wood. Uprose a valiant man,
Friend of the virtuous Chief Idomeneus,
Meriones, who led them to the task.
They, bearing each in hand his sharpen'd axe
And twisted cord, thence journey'd forth, the mules
Driving before them; much uneven space
They measured, hill and dale, right onward now,
And now circuitous; but at the groves
Arrived at length, of Ida fountain-fed,
Their keen-edged axes to the towering oaks
Dispatchful they applied; down fell the trees
With crash sonorous. Splitting, next, the trunks,
They bound them on the mules; they, with firm hoofs
The hill-side stamping, through the thickets rush'd
Desirous of the plain. Each man his log
(For so the armor-bearer of the King
Of Crete, Meriones, had them enjoin'd)
Bore after them, and each his burthen cast
Down on the beach regular, where a tomb
Of ample size Achilles for his friend
Patroclus had, and for himself, design'd.
Much fuel thrown together, side by side
There down they sat, and his command at once
Achilles issued to his warriors bold,
That all should gird their armor, and the steeds
Join to their chariots; undelaying each
Complied, and in bright arms stood soon array'd.
Then mounted combatants and charioteers.
First, moved the chariots, next, the infantry
Proceeded numerous, amid whom his friends,
Bearing the body of Patroclus, went.
They poll'd their heads, and cover'd him with hair
Shower'd over all his body, while behind
Noble Achilles march'd, the hero's head
Sustaining sorrowful, for to the realms
Of Ades a distinguish'd friend he sent.
And now, arriving on the ground erewhile
Mark'd by Achilles, setting down the dead,
They heap'd the fuel quick, a lofty pile.[3]
But Peleus' son, on other thoughts intent,
Retiring from the funeral pile, shore off
His amber ringlets,[4] whose exuberant growth
Sacred to Sperchius he had kept unshorn,
And looking o'er the gloomy deep, he said.
Sperchius! in vain Peleus my father vow'd
That, hence returning to my native land,
These ringlets shorn I should present to thee[5]
With a whole hecatomb, and should, beside,
Rams offer fifty at thy fountain head
In thy own field, at thy own fragrant shrine.
So vow'd the hoary Chief, whose wishes thou
Leavest unperform'd. Since, therefore, never more
I see my native home, the hero these
Patroclus takes down with him to the shades.
He said, and filling with his hair the hand
Of his dead friend, the sorrows of his train
Waken'd afresh. And now the lamp of day
Westering[6] apace, had left them still in tears,
Had not Achilles suddenly address'd
King Agamemnon, standing at his side.
Atrides! (for Achaia's sons thy word
Will readiest execute) we may with grief
Satiate ourselves hereafter; but, the host
Dispersing from the pile, now give command
That they prepare repast; ourselves,[7] to whom
These labors in peculiar appertain
Will finish them; but bid the Chiefs abide.
Which when imperial Agamemnon heard,
He scatter'd instant to their several ships
The people; but the burial-dressers thence
Went not; they, still abiding, heap'd the pile.
A hundred feet of breadth from side to side
They gave to it, and on the summit placed
With sorrowing hearts the body of the dead.
Many a fat sheep, with many an ox full-horn'd
They flay'd before the pile, busy their task
Administering, and Peleus' son the fat
Taking from every victim, overspread
Complete the body with it of his friend[8]
Patroclus, and the flay'd beasts heap'd around.
Then, placing flagons on the pile, replete
With oil and honey, he inclined their mouths
Toward the bier, and slew and added next,
Deep-groaning and in haste, four martial steeds.
Nine dogs the hero at his table fed,
Of which beheading two, their carcases
He added also. Last, twelve gallant sons
Of noble Trojans slaying (for his heart
Teem'd with great vengeance) he applied the force
Of hungry flames that should devour the whole,
Then, mourning loud, by name his friend invoked.
Rejoice, Patroclus! even in the shades,
Behold my promise to thee all fulfill'd!
Twelve gallant sons of Trojans famed in arms,
Together with thyself, are all become
Food for these fires: but fire shall never feed
On Hector; him I destine to the dogs.
So threaten'd he; but him no dogs devour'd;
Them, day and night, Jove's daughter Venus chased
Afar, and smooth'd the hero o'er with oils
Of rosy scent ambrosial, lest his corse,
Behind Achilles' chariot dragg'd along
So rudely, should be torn; and Phoebus hung
A veil of sable clouds from heaven to earth,
O'ershadowing broad the space where Hector lay,
Lest parching suns intense should stiffen him.
But the pile kindled not. Then, Peleus' son
Seeking a place apart, two Winds in prayer
Boreas invoked and Zephyrus, to each
Vowing large sacrifice. With earnest suit
(Libation pouring from a golden cup)
Their coming he implored, that so the flames
Kindling, incontinent might burn the dead.
Iris, his supplications hearing, swift
Convey'd them to the Winds; they, in the hall
Banqueting of the heavy-blowing West
Sat frequent. Iris, sudden at the gate
Appear'd; they, at the sight upstarting all,
Invited each the Goddess to himself.
But she refused a seat and thus she spake.[9]
I sit not here. Borne over Ocean's stream
Again, to Æthiopia's land I go
Where hecatombs are offer'd to the Gods,
Which, with the rest, I also wish to share.
But Peleus' son, earnest, the aid implores
Of Boreas and of Zephyrus the loud,
Vowing large sacrifice if ye will fan
Briskly the pile on which Patroclus lies
By all Achaia's warriors deep deplored.
She said, and went. Then suddenly arose
The Winds, and, roaring, swept the clouds along.
First, on the sea they blew; big rose the waves
Beneath the blast. At fruitful Troy arrived
Vehement on the pile they fell, and dread
On all sides soon a crackling blaze ensued.
All night, together blowing shrill, they drove
The sheeted flames wide from the funeral pile,
And all night long, a goblet in his hand
From golden beakers fill'd, Achilles stood
With large libations soaking deep the soil,
And calling on the spirit of his friend.
As some fond father mourns, burning the bones
Of his own son, who, dying on the eve
Of his glad nuptials, hath his parents left
O'erwhelm'd with inconsolable distress,
So mourn'd Achilles, his companion's bones
Burning, and pacing to and fro the field
Beside the pile with many a sigh profound.
But when the star, day's harbinger, arose,
Soon after whom, in saffron vest attired
The morn her beams diffuses o'er the sea,
The pile, then wasted, ceased to flame, and then
Back flew the Winds over the Thracian deep
Rolling the flood before them as they pass'd.
And now Pelides lying down apart
From the funereal pile, slept, but not long,
Though weary; waken'd by the stir and din
Of Agamemnon's train. He sat erect,
And thus the leaders of the host address'd.
Atrides, and ye potentates who rule
The whole Achaian host! first quench the pile
Throughout with generous wine, where'er the fire
Hath seized it. We will then the bones collect
Of Menoetiades, which shall with ease
Be known, though many bones lie scatter'd near,
Since in the middle pile Patroclus lay,
But wide apart and on its verge we burn'd
The steeds and Trojans, a promiscuous heap.
Them so collected in a golden vase
We will dispose, lined with a double cawl,
Till I shall, also, to my home below.
I wish not now a tomb of amplest bounds,
But such as may suffice, which yet in height
The Grecians and in breadth shall much augment
Hereafter, who, survivors of my fate,
Shall still remain in the Achaian fleet.
So spake Pelides, and the Chiefs complied.
Where'er the pile had blazed, with generous wine
They quench'd it, and the hills of ashes sank.
Then, weeping, to a golden vase, with lard
Twice lined, they gave their gentle comrade's bones
Fire-bleach'd, and lodging safely in his tent
The relics, overspread them with a veil.
Designing, next, the compass of the tomb,
They mark'd its boundary with stones, then fill'd
The wide enclosure hastily with earth,
And, having heap'd it to its height, return'd.
But all the people, by Achilles still
Detain'd, there sitting, form'd a spacious ring,
And he the destined prizes from his fleet
Produced, capacious caldrons, tripods bright,
Steeds, mules, tall oxen, women at the breast
Close-cinctured, elegant, and unwrought[10] iron.
First, to the chariot-drivers he proposed
A noble prize; a beauteous maiden versed
In arts domestic, with a tripod ear'd,
Of twenty and two measures. These he made
The conqueror's meed. The second should a mare
Obtain, unbroken yet, six years her age,
Pregnant, and bearing in her womb a mule.
A caldron of four measures, never smirch'd
By smoke or flame, but fresh as from the forge
The third awaited; to the fourth he gave
Two golden talents, and, unsullied yet
By use, a twin-ear'd phial[11] to the fifth.
He stood erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
Atrides, and ye chiefs of all the host!
These prizes, in the circus placed, attend
The charioteers. Held we the present games
In honor of some other Grecian dead,
I would myself bear hence the foremost prize;
For ye are all witnesses well-inform'd
Of the superior virtue of my steeds.
They are immortal; Neptune on my sire
Peleus conferr'd them, and my sire on me.
But neither I this contest share myself,
Nor shall my steeds; for they would miss the force
And guidance of a charioteer so kind
As they have lost, who many a time hath cleansed
Their manes with water of the crystal brook,
And made them sleek, himself, with limpid oil.
Him, therefore, mourning, motionless they stand
With hair dishevell'd, streaming to the ground.
But ye, whoever of the host profess
Superior skill, and glory in your steeds
And well-built chariots, for the strife prepare!
So spake Pelides, and the charioteers,
For speed renown'd arose. Long ere the rest
Eumelus, King of men, Admetus' son
Arose, accomplish'd in equestrian arts.
Next, Tydeus' son, brave Diomede, arose;
He yoked the Trojan coursers by himself
In battle from Æneas won, what time
Apollo saved their master. Third, upstood
The son of Atreus with the golden locks,
Who to his chariot Agamemnon's mare
Swift Æthe and his own Podargus join'd.
Her Echepolus from Anchises sprung
To Agamemnon gave; she was the price
At which he purchased leave to dwell at home
Excused attendance on the King at Troy;
For, by the gift of Jove, he had acquired
Great riches, and in wide-spread Sicyon dwelt.
Her wing'd with ardor, Menelaus yoked.
Antilochus, arising fourth, his steeds
Bright-maned prepared, son of the valiant King
Of Pylus, Nestor Neleïades.
Of Pylian breed were they, and thus his sire,
With kind intent approaching to his side,
Advised him, of himself not uninform'd.[12]
Antilochus! Thou art, I know, beloved
By Jove and Neptune both, from whom, though young
Thou hast received knowledge of every art
Equestrian, and hast little need to learn.
Thou know'st already how to trim the goal
With nicest skill, yet wondrous slow of foot
Thy coursers are, whence evil may ensue.
But though their steeds be swifter, I account
Thee wise, at least, as they. Now is the time
For counsel, furnish now thy mind with all
Precaution, that the prize escape thee not.
The feller of huge trees by skill prevails
More than by strength; by skill the pilot guides
His flying bark rock'd by tempestuous winds,
And more by skill than speed the race is won.
But he who in his chariot and his steeds
Trusts only, wanders here and wanders there
Unsteady, while his coursers loosely rein'd
Roam wide the field; not so the charioteer
Of sound intelligence; he though he drive
Inferior steeds, looks ever to the goal
Which close he clips, not ignorant to check
His coursers at the first but with tight rein
Ruling his own, and watching those before.
Now mark; I will describe so plain the goal
That thou shalt know it surely. A dry stump
Extant above the ground an ell in height
Stands yonder; either oak it is, or pine
More likely, which the weather least impairs.
Two stones, both white, flank it on either hand.
The way is narrow there, but smooth the course
On both sides. It is either, as I think,
A monument of one long since deceased,
Or was, perchance, in ancient days design'd,
As now by Peleus' mighty son, a goal.
That mark in view, thy steeds and chariot push
Near to it as thou may'st; then, in thy seat
Inclining gently to the left, prick smart
Thy right-hand horse challenging him aloud,
And give him rein; but let thy left-hand horse
Bear on the goal so closely, that the nave
And felly[13] of thy wheel may seem to meet.
Yet fear to strike the stone, lest foul disgrace
Of broken chariot and of crippled steeds
Ensue, and thou become the public jest.
My boy beloved! use caution; for if once
Thou turn the goal at speed, no man thenceforth
Shall reach, or if he reach, shall pass thee by,
Although Arion in thy rear he drove
Adrastus' rapid horse of race divine,
Or those, Troy's boast, bred by Laomedon.
So Nestor spake, inculcating with care
On his son's mind these lessons in the art,
And to his place retiring, sat again.
Meriones his coursers glossy-maned
Made ready last. Then to his chariot-seat
Each mounted, and the lots were thrown; himself
Achilles shook them. First, forth leap'd the lot
Of Nestor's son Antilochus, after whom
The King Eumelus took his destined place.
The third was Menelaus spear-renown'd;
Meriones the fourth; and last of all,
Bravest of all, heroic Diomede
The son of Tydeus took his lot to drive.
So ranged they stood; Achilles show'd the goal
Far on the champain, nigh to which he placed
The godlike Phoenix servant of his sire,
To mark the race and make a true report.
All raised the lash at once, and with the reins
At once all smote their steeds, urging them on
Vociferous; they, sudden, left the fleet
Far, far behind them, scouring swift the plain.
Dark, like a stormy cloud, uprose the dust
Their chests beneath, and scatter'd in the wind
Their manes all floated; now the chariots swept
The low declivity unseen, and now
Emerging started into view; erect
The drivers stood; emulous, every heart
Beat double; each encouraged loud his steeds;
They, flying, fill'd with dust the darken'd air.
But when returning to the hoary deep
They ran their last career, then each display'd
Brightest his charioteership, and the race
Lay stretch'd, at once, into its utmost speed.
Then, soon the mares of Pheretiades[14]
Pass'd all, but Diomede behind him came,
Borne by his unemasculated steeds
Of Trojan pedigree; they not remote,
But close pursued him; and at every pace
Seem'd entering both; the chariot at their head,
For blowing warm into Eumelus' neck
Behind, and on his shoulders broad, they went,
And their chins rested on him as they flew.
Then had Tydides pass'd him, or had made
Decision dubious, but Apollo struck,
Resentful,[15] from his hand the glittering scourge.
Fast roll'd the tears indignant down his cheeks,
For he beheld the mares with double speed,
Flying, and of the spur deprived, his own
Retarded steeds continual thrown behind.
But not unnoticed by Minerva pass'd
The art by Phoebus practised to impede
The son of Tydeus, whom with winged haste
Following, she gave to him his scourge again,
And with new force his lagging steeds inspired.
Eumelus, next, the angry Goddess, swift
Pursuing, snapt his yoke; wide flew the mares
Asunder, and the pole fell to the ground.
Himself, roll'd from his seat, fast by the wheel
With lacerated elbows, nostrils, mouth,
And batter'd brows lay prone; sorrow his eyes
Deluged, and disappointment chok'd his voice.
Then, far outstripping all, Tydides push'd
His steeds beyond, which Pallas fill'd with power
That she might make the glorious prize his own.
Him follow'd Menelaus amber-hair'd,
The son of Atreus, and his father's steeds
Encouraging, thus spake Antilochus.
Away--now stretch ye forward to the goal.
I bid you not to an unequal strife
With those of Diomede, for Pallas them
Quickens that he may conquer, and the Chief
So far advanced makes competition vain.
But reach the son of Atreus, fly to reach
His steeds, incontinent; ah, be not shamed
For ever, foil'd by Æthe, by a mare!
Why fall ye thus behind, my noblest steeds?
I tell you both, and ye shall prove me true,
No favor shall ye find at Nestor's hands,
My valiant sire, but he will thrust his spear
Right through you, should we lose, for sloth of yours,
Or by your negligence, the nobler prize.
Haste then--pursue him--reach the royal Chief--
And how to pass him in yon narrow way
Shall be my care, and not my care in vain.
He ended; they, awhile, awed by his voice,
With more exertion ran, and Nestor's son
Now saw the hollow strait mark'd by his sire.
It was a chasm abrupt, where winter-floods,
Wearing the soil, had gullied deep the way.
Thither Atrides, anxious to avoid
A clash of chariots drove, and thither drove
Also, but somewhat devious from his track,
Antilochus. Then Menelaus fear'd,
And with loud voice the son of Nestor hail'd.
Antilochus, at what a madman's rate
Drivest thou! stop--check thy steeds--the way is here
Too strait, but widening soon, will give thee scope
To pass me by; beware, lest chariot close
To chariot driven, thou maim thyself and me.
He said; but still more rapid and the scourge
Plying continual, as he had not heard,
Antilochus came on. Far as the quoit
By some broad-shoulder'd youth for trial hurl'd
Of manhood flies, so far Antilochus
Shot forward; but the coursers fell behind
Of Atreus' son, who now abated much
By choice his driving, lest the steeds of both
Jostling, should overturn with sudden shock
Both chariots, and themselves in dust be roll'd,
Through hot ambition of the foremost prize.
Him then the hero golden-hair'd reproved.
Antilochus! the man lives not on earth
Like thee for love of mischief. Go, extoll'd
For wisdom falsely by the sons of Greece.
Yet, trust me, not without an oath, the prize
Thus foully sought shall even now be thine.
He said, and to his coursers call'd aloud.
Ah be not tardy; stand not sorrow-check'd;
Their feet will fail them sooner far than yours,
For years have pass'd since they had youth to boast.
So he; and springing at his voice, his steeds
Regain'd apace the vantage lost. Meantime
The Grecians, in full circus seated, mark'd
The steeds; they flying, fill'd with dust the air.
Then, ere the rest, Idomeneus discern'd
The foremost pair; for, on a rising ground
Exalted, he without the circus sat,
And hearing, though remote, the driver's voice
Chiding his steeds, knew it, and knew beside
The leader horse distinguish'd by his hue,
Chestnut throughout, save that his forehead bore
A splendid blazon white, round as the moon.
He stood erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
Friends! Chiefs and senators of Argos' host!
Discern I sole the steeds, or also ye?
The horses, foremost now, to me appear
Other than erst, and I descry at hand
A different charioteer; the mares of late
Victorious, somewhere distant in the race
Are hurt; I plainly saw them at the first
Turning the goal, but see them now no more;
And yet with eyes inquisitive I range
From side to side the whole broad plain of Troy.
Either the charioteer hath slipp'd the reins,
Or rounded not successfully the goal
Through want of guidance. Thrown, as it should seem,
Forth from his seat, he hath his chariot maim'd,
And his ungovern'd steeds have roam'd away.
Arise and look ye forth yourselves, for I
With doubtful ken behold him; yet the man
Seems, in my view, Ætolian by descent,
A Chief of prime renown in Argos' host,
The hero Tydeus' son, brave Diomede,
But Ajax Oïliades the swift
Him sharp reproved. Why art thou always given
To prate, Idomeneus? thou seest the mares,
Remote indeed, but posting to the goal.
Thou art not youngest of the Argives here
So much, nor from beneath thy brows look forth
Quick-sighted more than ours, thine eyes abroad.
Yet still thou pratest, although silence more
Should suit thee, among wiser far than thou.
The mares which led, lead still, and he who drives
Eumelus is, the same who drove before.
To whom the Cretan Chief, angry, replied.
Ajax! whom none in wrangling can excel
Or rudeness, though in all beside thou fall
Below the Argives, being boorish-rough,
Come now--a tripod let us wager each,
Or caldron, and let Agamemnon judge
Whose horses lead, that, losing, thou may'st learn.
He said; then sudden from his seat upsprang
Swift Ajax Oïliades, prepared
For harsh retort, nor had the contest ceased
Between them, but had grown from ill to worse,
Had not himself, Achilles, interposed.
Ajax--Idomeneus--abstain ye both
From bitter speech offensive, and such terms
As ill become you. Ye would feel, yourselves,
Resentment, should another act as ye.
Survey the course, peaceable, from your seats;
The charioteers, by competition wing'd,
Will soon themselves arrive, then shall ye know
Distinctly, both who follows and who leads.
He scarce had said, when nigh at hand appear'd
Tydides, lashing, as he came, his steeds
Continual; they with hoofs uplifted high
Their yet remaining ground shorten'd apace,
Sprinkling with dusty drops at every stroke
Their charioteer, while close upon their heels
Radiant with tin and gold the chariot ran,
Scarce tracking light the dust, so swift they flew.
He stood in the mid-circus; there the sweat
Rain'd under them from neck and chest profuse,
And Diomede from his resplendent seat
Leaping, reclined his scourge against the yoke.
Nor was his friend brave Sthenelus remiss,
But, seizing with alacrity the prize,
Consign'd the tripod and the virgin, first,
To his own band in charge; then, loosed the steeds.
Next came, by stratagem, not speed advanced
To that distinction, Nestor's son, whom yet
The hero Menelaus close pursued
Near as the wheel runs to a courser's heels,
Drawing his master at full speed; his tail
With its extremest hairs the felly sweeps
That close attends him o'er the spacious plain,
So near had Menelaus now approach'd
Antilochus; for though at first he fell
A full quoit's cast behind, he soon retrieved
That loss, with such increasing speed the mare
Bright-maned of Agamemnon, Æthe, ran;
She, had the course few paces more to both
Afforded, should have clearly shot beyond
Antilochus, nor dubious left the prize.
But noble Menelaus threw behind
Meriones, companion in the field,
Of King Idomeneus, a lance's flight,
For slowest were his steeds, and he, to rule
The chariot in the race, least skill'd of all.
Last came Eumelus drawing to the goal,
Himself, his splendid chariot, and his mares
Driving before him. Peleus' rapid son
Beheld him with compassion, and, amid
The Argives, in wing'd accents thus he spake.
Here comes the most expert, driving his steeds
Before him. Just it were that he received
The second prize; Tydides claims the first.
He said, and all applauded the award.
Then had Achilles to Eumelus given
The mare (for such the pleasure seem'd of all)
Had not the son of mighty Nestor risen,
Antilochus, who pleaded thus his right.
Achilles! acting as thou hast proposed,
Thou shalt offend me much, for thou shalt take
The prize from me, because the Gods, his steeds
And chariot-yoke disabling, render'd vain
His efforts, and no failure of his own.
It was his duty to have sought the Gods
In prayer, then had he not, following on foot
His coursers, hindmost of us all arrived.
But if thou pity him, and deem it good,
Thou hast much gold, much brass, and many sheep
In thy pavilion; thou hast maidens fair,
And coursers also. Of thy proper stores
Hereafter give to him a richer prize
Than this, or give it now, so shall the Greeks
Applaud thee; but this mare yield I to none;
Stand forth the Grecian who desires to win
That recompense, and let him fight with me.
He ended, and Achilles, godlike Chief,
Smiled on him, gratulating his success,
Whom much he loved; then, ardent, thus replied.
Antilochus! if thou wouldst wish me give
Eumelus of my own, even so I will.
I will present to him my corslet bright
Won from Asteropæus, edged around
With glittering tin; a precious gift, and rare.
So saying, he bade Automedon his friend
Produce it from the tent; he at his word
Departing, to Achilles brought the spoil,
Which at his hands Eumelus glad received.
Then, stung with grief, and with resentment fired
Immeasurable, Menelaus rose
To charge Antilochus. His herald gave
The sceptre to his hand, and (silence bidden
To all) the godlike hero thus began.
Antilochus! oh heretofore discreet!
What hast thou done? Thou hast dishonor'd foul
My skill, and wrong'd my coursers, throwing thine,
Although inferior far, by fraud before them.
Ye Chiefs and Senators of Argos' host!
Impartial judge between us, lest, of these,
Some say hereafter, Menelaus bore
Antilochus by falsehood down, and led
The mare away, because, although his steeds
Were worse, his arm was mightier, and prevail'd.
Yet hold--myself will judge, and will to all
Contentment give, for I will judge aright.
Hither, Antilochus, illustrious youth!
And, as the law prescribes, standing before
Thy steeds and chariot, holding too the scourge
With which thou drovest, lay hand on both thy steeds,
And swear by Neptune, circler of the earth,
That neither wilfully, nor yet by fraud
Thou didst impede my chariot in its course.
Then prudent, thus Antilochus replied.
Oh royal Menelaus! patient bear
The fault of one thy junior far, in years
Alike unequal and in worth to thee.
Thou know'st how rash is youth, and how propense
To pass the bounds by decency prescribed,
Quick, but not wise. Lay, then, thy wrath aside;
The mare now given me I will myself
Deliver to thee, and if thou require
A larger recompense, will rather yield
A larger much than from thy favor fall
Deservedly for ever, mighty Prince!
And sin so heinously against the Gods.
So saying, the son of valiant Nestor led
The mare, himself, to Menelaus' hand,
Who with heart-freshening joy the prize received.
As on the ears of growing corn the dews
Fall grateful, while the spiry grain erect
Bristles the fields, so, Menelaus, felt
Thy inmost soul a soothing pleasure sweet!
Then answer thus the hero quick return'd.
Antilochus! exasperate though I were,
Now, such no longer, I relinquish glad
All strife with thee, for that at other times
Thou never inconsiderate wast or light,
Although by youthful heat misled to-day.
Yet safer is it not to over-reach
Superiors, for no other Grecian here
Had my extreme displeasure calm'd so soon;
But thou hast suffer'd much, and much hast toil'd,
As thy good father and thy brother have,
On my behalf; I, therefore, yield, subdued
By thy entreaties, and the mare, though mine,
Will also give thee, that these Grecians all
May know me neither proud nor hard to appease.
So saying, the mare he to Noëmon gave,
Friend of Antilochus, and, well-content,
The polish'd caldron for his prize received.
The fourth awarded lot (for he had fourth
Arrived) Meriones asserted next,
The golden talents; but the phial still
Left unappropriated Achilles bore
Across the circus in his hand, a gift
To ancient Nestor, whom he thus bespake.
Thou also, oh my father! this accept,
Which in remembrance of the funeral rites
Of my Patroclus, keep, for him thou seest
Among the Greeks no more. Receive a prize,
Thine by gratuity; for thou shalt wield
The cestus, wrestle, at the spear contend,
Or in the foot-race (fallen as thou art
Into the wane of life) never again.
He said, and placed it in his hands. He, glad,
Receiving it, in accents wing'd replied.
True, oh my son! is all which thou hast spoken.
These limbs, these hands, young friend! (their vigor lost)
No longer, darted from the shoulder, spring
At once to battle. Ah that I could grow
Young yet again, could feel again such force
Athletic, as when in Buprasium erst
The Epeans with sepulchral pomp entomb'd
King Amarynceus, where his sons ordain'd
Funereal games in honor of their sire!
Epean none or even Pylian there
Could cope with me, or yet Ætolian bold.
Boxing, I vanquish'd Clytomedes, son
Of Enops; wrestling, the Pleuronian Chief
Ancæus; in the foot-race Iphiclus,
Though a fleet runner; and I over-pitch'd
Phyleus and Polydorus at the spear.
The sons of Actor[16] in the chariot-race
Alone surpass'd me, being two for one,
And jealous both lest I should also win
That prize, for to the victor charioteer
They had assign'd the noblest prize of all.
They were twin-brothers, and one ruled the steeds,
The steeds one ruled,[17] the other lash'd them on.
Such once was I; but now, these sports I leave
To younger; me submission most befits
To withering age, who then outshone the best.
But go. The funeral of thy friend with games
Proceed to celebrate; I accept thy gift
With pleasure; and my heart is also glad
That thou art mindful evermore of one
Who loves thee, and such honor in the sight
Yield'st me of all the Greeks, as is my due.
May the Gods bless thee for it more and more!
He spake, and Peleus' son, when he had heard
At large his commendation from the lips
Of Nestor, through the assembled Greeks return'd.
He next proposed, not lightly to be won,
The boxer's prize. He tether'd down a mule,
Untamed and hard to tame, but strong to toil,
And in her prime of vigor, in the midst;
A goblet to the vanquish'd he assign'd,
Then stood erect and to the Greeks exclaim'd.
Atridæ! and ye Argives brazen-greaved!
I call for two bold combatants expert
To wage fierce strife for these, with lifted fists
Smiting each other. He, who by the aid
Of Phoebus shall o'ertome, and whom the Greeks
Shall all pronounce victorious, leads the mule
Hence to his tent; the vanquish'd takes the cup.
He spake, and at his word a Greek arose
Big, bold, and skillful in the boxer's art,
Epeüs, son of Panopeus; his hand
He on the mule imposed, and thus he said.
Approach the man ambitious of the cup!
For no Achaian here shall with his fist
Me foiling, win the mule. I boast myself
To all superior. May it not suffice
That I to no pre-eminence pretend
In battle? To attain to foremost praise
Alike in every art is not for one.
But this I promise, and will well perform--
My blows shall lay him open, split him, crush
His bones to splinters, and let all his friends,
Attendant on him, wait to bear him hence,
Vanquish'd by my superior force in fight.
He ended, and his speech found no reply.
One godlike Chief alone, Euryalus,
Son of the King Mecisteus, who, himself,
Sprang from Talaion, opposite arose.
He, on the death of Oedipus, at Thebes
Contending in the games held at his tomb,
Had overcome the whole Cadmean race.
Him Diomede spear-famed for fight prepared,
Giving him all encouragement, for much
He wish'd him victory. First then he threw[18]
His cincture to him; next, he gave him thongs[19]
Cut from the hide of a wild buffalo.
Both girt around, into the midst they moved.
Then, lifting high their brawny arms, and fists
Mingling with fists, to furious fight they fell;
Dire was the crash of jaws, and the sweat stream'd
From every limb. Epeüs fierce advanced,
And while Euryalus with cautious eye
Watch'd his advantage, pash'd him on the cheek
He stood no longer, but, his shapely limbs,
Unequal to his weight, sinking, he fell.
As by the rising north-wind driven ashore
A huge fish flounces on the weedy beach,
Which soon the sable flood covers again,
So, beaten down, he bounded. But Epeüs,
Heroic chief, upraised him by his hand,
And his own comrades from the circus forth
Led him, step dragging after step, the blood
Ejecting grumous, and at every pace
Rolling his head languid from side to side.
They placed him all unconscious on his seat
In his own band, then fetch'd his prize, the cup.
Still other prizes, then, Achilles placed
In view of all, the sturdy wrestler's meed.
A large hearth-tripod, valued by the Greeks
At twice six beeves, should pay the victor's toil;
But for the vanquish'd, in the midst he set
A damsel in variety expert
Of arts domestic, valued at four beeves.
He rose erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
Arise ye, now, who shall this prize dispute.
So spake the son of Peleus; then arose
Huge Telamonian Ajax, and upstood
Ulysses also, in all wiles adept.
Both girt around, into the midst they moved.
With vigorous gripe each lock'd the other fast,
Like rafters, standing, of some mansion built
By a prime artist proof against all winds.
Their backs, tugg'd vehemently, creak'd,[20] the sweat
Trickled, and on their flanks and shoulders, red
The whelks arose; they bearing still in mind
The tripod, ceased not struggling for the prize.
Nor could Ulysses from his station move
And cast down Ajax, nor could Ajax him
Unsettle, fixt so firm Ulysses stood.
But when, long time expectant, all the Greeks
Grew weary, then, huge Ajax him bespake.
Laertes' noble son, for wiles renown'd!
Lift, or be lifted, and let Jove decide.
He said, and heaved Ulysses. Then, his wiles
Forgat not he, but on the ham behind
Chopp'd him; the limbs of Ajax at the stroke
Disabled sank; he fell supine, and bore
Ulysses close adhering to his chest
Down with him. Wonder riveted all eyes.
Then brave Ulysses from the ground awhile
Him lifted in his turn, but ere he stood,
Inserting his own knee the knees between[21]
Of Ajax, threw him. To the earth they fell
Both, and with dust defiled lay side by side.
And now, arising to a third essay,
They should have wrestled yet again, had not
Achilles, interfering, them restrain'd.
Strive not together more; cease to exhaust
Each other's force; ye both have earn'd the prize
Depart alike requited, and give place
To other Grecians who shall next contend.
He spake; they glad complied, and wiping off
The dust, put on their tunics. Then again
Achilles other prizes yet proposed,
The rapid runner's meed. First, he produced
A silver goblet of six measures; earth
Own'd not its like for elegance of form.
Skilful Sidonian artists had around
Embellish'd it,[22] and o'er the sable deep
Phoenician merchants into Lemnos' port
Had borne it, and the boon to Thoas[23] given;
But Jason's son, Euneüs, in exchange
For Priam's son Lycaon, to the hand
Had pass'd it of Patroclus famed in arms.
Achilles this, in honor of his friend,
Set forth, the swiftest runner's recompense.
The second should a fatted ox receive
Of largest size, and he assign'd of gold
A just half-talent to the worst and last.
He stood erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
Now stand ye forth who shall this prize dispute.
He said, and at his word instant arose
Swift Ajax Oïliades; upsprang
The shrewd Ulysses next, and after him
Brave Nestor's son Antilochus, with whom
None vied in speed of all the youths of Greece.
They stood prepared. Achilles show'd the goal.
At once all started. Oïliades
Led swift the course, and closely at his heels
Ulysses ran. Near as some cinctured maid
Industrious holds the distaff to her breast,
While to and fro with practised finger neat
She tends the flax drawing it to a thread,
So near Ulysses follow'd him, and press'd
His footsteps, ere the dust fill'd them again,
Pouring his breath into his neck behind,
And never slackening pace. His ardent thirst
Of victory with universal shouts
All seconded, and, eager, bade him on.
And now the contest shortening to a close,
Ulysses his request silent and brief
To azure-eyed Minerva thus preferr'd.
Oh Goddess hear, prosper me in the race!
Such was his prayer, with which Minerva pleased,
Freshen'd his limbs, and made him light to run.
And now, when in one moment they should both
Have darted on the prize, then Ajax' foot
Sliding, he fell; for where the dung of beeves
Slain by Achilles for his friend, had spread
The soil, there[24] Pallas tripp'd him. Ordure foul
His mouth, and ordure foul his nostrils fill'd.
Then brave Ulysses, first arriving, seized
The cup, and Ajax took his prize, the ox.
He grasp'd his horn, and sputtering as he stood
The ordure forth, the Argives thus bespake.
Ah--Pallas tripp'd my footsteps; she attends
Ulysses ever with a mother's care.
Loud laugh'd the Grecians. Then, the remnant prize
Antilochus receiving, smiled and said.
Ye need not, fellow-warriors, to be taught
That now, as ever, the immortal Gods
Honor on seniority bestow.
Ajax is elder, yet not much, than I.
But Laertiades was born in times
Long past, a chief coëval with our sires,
Not young, but vigorous; and of the Greeks,
Achilles may alone with him contend.
So saying, the merit of superior speed
To Peleus' son he gave, who thus replied.
Antilochus! thy praise of me shall prove
Nor vain nor unproductive to thyself,
For the half-talent doubled shall be thine.
He spake, and, doubling it, the talent placed
Whole in his hand. He glad the gift received.
Achilles, then Sarpedon's arms produced,
Stripp'd from him by Patroclus, his long spear,
Helmet and shield, which in the midst he placed.
He stood erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
I call for two brave warriors arm'd to prove
Each other's skill with weapons keen, this prize
Disputing, next, in presence of us all.
Who first shall through his armor reach the skin
Of his antagonist, and shall draw his blood,
To him this silver-studded falchion bright
I give; the blade is Thracian, and of late
Asteropæus wore it, whom I slew.
These other arms shall be their common meed,
And I will banquet both within my tent.
He said, then Telamonian Ajax huge
Arose, and opposite the son arose
Of warlike Tydeus, Diomede the brave.
Apart from all the people each put on
His arms, then moved into the middle space,
Lowering terrific, and on fire to fight.
The host look'd on amazed. Approaching each
The other, thrice they sprang to the assault,
And thrice struck hand to hand. Ajax the shield
Pierced of his adversary, but the flesh
Attain'd not, baffled by his mail within.
Then Tydeus' son, sheer o'er the ample disk
Of Ajax, thrust a lance home to his neck,
And the Achaians for the life appall'd
Of Ajax, bade them, ceasing, share the prize.
But the huge falchion with its sheath and belt--
Achilles them on Diomede bestow'd.
The hero, next, an iron clod produced
Rough from the forge, and wont to task the might
Of King Eëtion; but, when him he slew,
Pelides, glorious chief, with other spoils
From Thebes convey'd it in his fleet to Troy.
He stood erect, and to the Greeks he cried.
Come forth who also shall this prize dispute!
How far soe'er remote the winner's fields,
This lump shall serve his wants five circling years;
His shepherd shall not, or his plower, need
In quest of iron seek the distant town,
But hence he shall himself their wants supply.[25]
Then Polypoetes brave in fight arose,
Arose Leonteus also, godlike chief,
With Ajax son of Telamon. Each took
His station, and Epeüs seized the clod.
He swung, he cast it, and the Grecians laugh'd.
Leonteus, branch of Mars, quoited it next.
Huge Telamonian Ajax with strong arm
Dismiss'd it third, and overpitch'd them both.
But when brave Polypoetes seized the mass
Far as the vigorous herdsman flings his staff
That twirling flies his numerous beeves between,[26]
So far his cast outmeasured all beside,
And the host shouted. Then the friends arose
Of Polypoetes valiant chief, and bore
His ponderous acquisition to the ships.
The archers' prize Achilles next proposed,
Ten double and ten single axes, form'd
Of steel convertible to arrow-points.
He fix'd, far distant on the sands, the mast
Of a brave bark cerulean-prow'd, to which
With small cord fasten'd by the foot he tied
A timorous dove, their mark at which to aim.
[27]Who strikes the dove, he conquers, and shall bear
These double axes all into his tent.
But who the cord alone, missing the bird,
Successful less, he wins the single blades.
The might of royal Teucer then arose,
And, fellow-warrior of the King of Crete,
Valiant Meriones. A brazen casque
Received the lots; they shook them, and the lot
Fell first to Teucer. He, at once, a shaft
Sent smartly forth, but vow'd not to the King[28]
A hecatomb, all firstlings of the flock.
He therefore (for Apollo greater praise
Denied him) miss'd the dove, but struck the cord
That tied her, at small distance from the knot,
And with his arrow sever'd it. Upsprang
The bird into the air, and to the ground
Depending fell the cord. Shouts rent the skies.
Then, all in haste, Meriones the bow
Caught from his hand holding a shaft the while
Already aim'd, and to Apollo vow'd
A hecatomb, all firstlings of the flock.
He eyed the dove aloft, under a cloud,
And, while she wheel'd around, struck her beneath
The pinion; through her and beyond her pass'd
The arrow, and, returning, pierced the soil
Fast by the foot of brave Meriones.
She, perching on the mast again, her head
Reclined, and hung her wide-unfolded wing,
But, soon expiring, dropp'd and fell remote.
Amazement seized the people. To his tent
Meriones the ten best axes bore,
And Teucer the inferior ten to his.[29] 90
Then, last, Achilles in the circus placed
A ponderous spear and caldron yet unfired,
Emboss'd with flowers around, its worth an ox.
Upstood the spear-expert; Atrides first,
Wide-ruling Agamemnon, King of men, 95
And next, brave fellow-warrior of the King
Of Crete, Meriones; when thus his speech
Achilles to the royal chief address'd.
Atrides! (for we know thy skill and force
Matchless! that none can hurl the spear as thou)
This prize is thine, order it to thy ship;
And if it please thee, as I would it might,
Let brave Meriones the spear receive.
He said; nor Agamemnon not complied,
But to Meriones the brazen spear
Presenting, to Talthybius gave in charge
The caldron, next, his own illustrious prize.

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