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

A poem by William Cowper

Argument Of The Seventeenth Book.

Sharp contest ensues around the body of Patroclus. Hector puts on the armor of Achilles. Menelaus, having dispatched Antilochus to Achilles with news of the death of Patroclus, returns to the battle, and, together with Meriones, bears Patroclus off the field, while the Ajaces cover their retreat.

Nor Menelaus, Atreus' valiant son,
Knew not how Menoetiades had fallen
By Trojan hands in battle; forth he rush'd
All bright in burnish'd armor through his van,
And as some heifer with maternal fears
Now first acquainted, compasses around
Her young one murmuring, with tender moan,
So moved the hero of the amber locks
Around Patroclus, before whom his spear
Advancing and broad shield, he death denounced
On all opposers; neither stood the son
Spear-famed of Panthus inattentive long
To slain Patroclus, but approach'd the dead,
And warlike Menelaus thus bespake.
Prince! Menelaus! Atreus' mighty son!
Yield. Leave the body and these gory spoils;
For of the Trojans or allies of Troy
None sooner made Patroclus bleed than I.
Seek not to rob me, therefore, of my praise
Among the Trojans, lest my spear assail
Thee also, and thou perish premature.[1]
To whom, indignant, Atreus' son replied.
Self-praise, the Gods do know, is little worth.
But neither lion may in pride compare
Nor panther, nor the savage boar whose heart's
High temper flashes in his eyes, with these
The spear accomplish'd youths of Panthus' house.
Yet Hyperenor of equestrian fame
Lived not his lusty manhood to enjoy,
Who scoffingly defied my force in arms,
And call'd me most contemptible in fight
Of all the Danaï. But him, I ween,
His feet bore never hence to cheer at home
His wife and parents with his glad return.
So also shall thy courage fierce be tamed,
If thou oppose me. I command thee, go--
Mix with the multitude; withstand not me,
Lest evil overtake thee! To be taught
By sufferings only, is the part of fools.
He said, but him sway'd not, who thus replied.
Now, even now, Atrides! thou shalt rue
My brother's blood which thou hast shed, and mak'st
His death thy boast. Thou hast his blooming bride
Widow'd, and thou hast fill'd his parents' hearts
With anguish of unutterable wo;
But bearing hence thy armor and thy head
To Troy, and casting them at Panthus' feet,
And at the feet of Phrontis, his espoused,
I shall console the miserable pair.
Nor will I leave that service unessay'd
Longer, nor will I fail through want of force,
Of courage, or of terrible address.
He ceased, and smote his shield, nor pierced the disk,
But bent his point against the stubborn brass.
Then Menelaus, prayer preferring first
To Jove,[2] assail'd Euphorbus in his turn,
Whom pacing backward in the throat he struck,
And both hands and his full force the spear
Impelled, urged it through his neck behind.
Sounding he fell; loud rang his batter'd arms.
His locks, which even the Graces might have own'd,
Blood-sullied, and his ringlets wound about
With twine of gold and silver, swept the dust.
As the luxuriant olive by a swain
Rear'd in some solitude where rills abound,
Puts forth her buds, and fann'd by genial airs
On all sides, hangs her boughs with whitest flowers,
But by a sudden whirlwind from its trench
Uptorn, it lies extended on the field;
Such, Panthus' warlike son Euphorbus seem'd,
By Menelaus, son of Atreus, slain
Suddenly, and of all his arms despoil'd.
But as the lion on the mountains bred,
Glorious in strength, when he hath seized the best
And fairest of the herd, with savage fangs
First breaks her neck, then laps the bloody paunch
Torn wide; meantime, around him, but remote,
Dogs stand and swains clamoring, yet by fear
Repress'd, annoy him not nor dare approach;
So there all wanted courage to oppose
The force of Menelaus, glorious Chief.
Then, easily had Menelaus borne
The armor of the son of Panthus thence,
But that Apollo the illustrious prize
Denied him, who in semblance of the Chief
Of the Ciconians, Mentes, prompted forth
Against him Hector terrible as Mars,
Whose spirit thus in accents wing'd he roused.
Hector! the chase is vain; here thou pursuest
The horses of Æacides the brave,
Which thou shalt never win, for they are steeds
Of fiery nature, such as ill endure
To draw or carry mortal man, himself
Except, whom an immortal mother bore.
Meantime, bold Menelaus, in defence
Of dead Patroclus, hath a Trojan slain
Of highest note, Euphorbus, Panthus' son,
And hath his might in arms for ever quell'd.
So spake the God and to the fight return'd.
But grief intolerable at that word
Seized Hector; darting through the ranks his eye,
He knew at once who stripp'd Euphorbus' arms,
And him knew also lying on the field,
And from his wide wound bleeding copious still.
Then dazzling bright in arms, through all the van
He flew, shrill-shouting, fierce as Vulcan's fire
Unquenchable; nor were his shouts unheard
By Atreus' son, who with his noble mind
Conferring sad, thus to himself began.
Alas! if I forsake these gorgeous spoils,
And leave Patroclus for my glory slain,
I fear lest the Achaians at that sight
Incensed, reproach me; and if, urged by shame,
I fight with Hector and his host, alone,
Lest, hemm'd around by multitudes, I fall;
For Hector, by his whole embattled force
Attended, comes. But whither tend my thoughts?
No man may combat with another fenced
By power divine and whom the Gods exalt,
But he must draw down wo on his own head.
Me, therefore, none of all Achaia's host
Will blame indignant, seeing my retreat
From Hector, whom themselves the Gods assist.
But might the battle-shout of Ajax once
Reach me, with force united we would strive,
Even in opposition to a God,
To rescue for Achilles' sake, his friend.
Task arduous! but less arduous than this.
While he thus meditated, swift advanced
The Trojan ranks, with Hector at their head.
He then, retiring slow, and turning oft,
Forsook the body. As by dogs and swains
With clamors loud and spears driven from the stalls
A bearded lion goes, his noble heart
Abhors retreat, and slow he quits the prey;
So Menelaus with slow steps forsook
Patroclus, and arrived in front, at length,
Of his own phalanx, stood, with sharpen'd eyes
Seeking vast Ajax, son of Telamon.
Him leftward, soon, of all the field he mark'd
Encouraging aloud his band, whose hearts
With terrors irresistible himself
Phoebus had fill'd. He ran, and at his side
Standing, incontinent him thus bespake.
My gallant Ajax, haste--come quickly--strive
With me to rescue for Achilles' sake
His friend, though bare, for Hector hath his arms.
He said, and by his words the noble mind
Of Ajax roused; issuing through the van
He went, and Menelaus at his side.
Hector the body of Patroclus dragg'd,
Stript of his arms, with falchion keen erelong
Purposing to strike off his head, and cast
His trunk, drawn distant, to the dogs of Troy.
But Ajax, with broad shield tower-like, approach'd.
Then Hector, to his bands retreating, sprang
Into his chariot, and to others gave
The splendid arms in charge, who into Troy
Should bear the destined trophy of his praise,
But Ajax with his broad shield guarding stood
Slain Menoetiades, as for his whelps
The lion stands; him through some forest drear
Leading his little ones, the hunters meet;
Fire glimmers in his looks, and down he draws
His whole brow into frowns, covering his eyes;
So, guarding slain Patroclus, Ajax lour'd.
On the other side, with tender grief oppress'd
Unspeakable, brave Menelaus stood.
But Glaucus, leader of the Lycian band,
Son of Hippolochus, in bitter terms
Indignant, reprimanded Hector thus,
Ah, Hector, Chieftain of excelling form,
But all unfurnish'd with a warrior's heart!
Unwarranted I deem thy great renown
Who art to flight addicted. Think, henceforth,
How ye shall save city and citadel
Thou and thy people born in Troy, alone.
No Lycian shall, at least, in your defence
Fight with the Grecians, for our ceaseless toil
In arms, hath ever been a thankless task.
Inglorious Chief! how wilt thou save a worse
From warring crowds, who hast Sarpedon left
Thy guest, thy friend, to be a spoil, a prey
To yonder Argives? While he lived he much
Thee and thy city profited, whom dead
Thou fear'st to rescue even from the dogs.
Now, therefore, may but my advice prevail,
Back to your country, Lycians! so, at once,
Shall remediless ruin fall on Troy.
For had the Trojans now a daring heart
Intrepid, such as in the breast resides
Of laborers in their country's dear behalf,
We soon should drag Patroclus into Troy;
And were his body, from the battle drawn,
In Priam's royal city once secured,
As soon, the Argives would in ransom give
Sarpedon's body with his splendid arms
To be conducted safe into the town.
For when Patroclus fell, the friend was slain
Of such a Chief as is not in the fleet
For valor, and his bands are dauntless all.
But thou, at the first glimpse of Ajax' eye
Confounded, hast not dared in arms to face
That warrior bold, superior far to thee.
To whom brave Hector, frowning stern, replied,
Why, Glaucus! should a Chief like thee his tongue
Presume to employ thus haughtily? My friend!
I thee accounted wisest, once, of all
Who dwell in fruitful Lycia, but thy speech
Now utter'd altogether merits blame,
In which thou tell'st me that I fear to stand
Against vast Ajax. Know that I from fight
Shrink not, nor yet from sound of prancing steeds;
But Jove's high purpose evermore prevails
Against the thoughts of man; he turns to flight
The bravest, and the victory takes with ease
Even from those whom once he favor'd most.
But hither, friend! stand with me; mark my deed;
Prove me, if I be found, as thou hast said,
An idler all the day, or if by force
I not compel some Grecian to renounce
Patroclus, even the boldest of them all.
He ceased, and to his host exclaim'd aloud.
Trojans, and Lycians, and close-fighting sons
Of Dardanus, oh be ye men, my friends!
Now summon all your fortitude, while I
Put on the armor of Achilles, won
From the renown'd Patroclus slain by me.
So saying, illustrious Hector from the clash
Of spears withdrew, and with his swiftest pace
Departing, overtook, not far remote,
The bearers of Achilles' arms to Troy.
Apart from all the horrors of the field
Standing, he changed his armor; gave his own
To be by them to sacred Ilium borne,
And the immortal arms of Peleus' son
Achilles, by the ever-living Gods
To Peleüs given, put on. Those arms the Sire,
Now old himself, had on his son conferr'd
But in those arms his son grew never old.
Him, therefore, soon as cloud-assembler Jove
Saw glittering in divine Achilles' arms,
Contemplative he shook his brows, and said,
Ah hapless Chief! thy death, although at hand,
Nought troubles thee. Thou wear'st his heavenly
Who all excels, terror of Ilium's host.
His friend, though bold yet gentle, thou hast slain
And hast the brows and bosom of the dead
Unseemly bared: yet, bright success awhile
I give thee; so compensating thy lot,
From whom Andromache shall ne'er receive
Those glorious arms, for thou shalt ne'er return.
So spake the Thunderer, and his sable brows
Shaking, confirm'd the word. But Hector found
The armor apt; the God of war his soul
With fury fill'd, he felt his limbs afresh
Invigorated, and with loudest shouts
Return'd to his illustrious allies.
To them he seem'd, clad in those radiant arms,
Himself Achilles; rank by rank he pass'd
Through all the host, exhorting every Chief,
Asteropæus, Mesthles, Phorcys, Medon,
Thersilochus, Deisenor, augur Ennomus,
Chromius, Hippothoüs; all these he roused
To battle, and in accents wing'd began.
Hear me, ye myriads, neighbors and allies!
For not through fond desire to fill the plain
With multitudes, have I convened you here
Each from his city, but that well-inclined
To Ilium, ye might help to guard our wives
And little ones against the host of Greece.
Therefore it is that forage large and gifts
Providing for you, I exhaust the stores
Of Troy, and drain our people for your sake.
Turn then direct against them, and his life
Save each, or lose; it is the course of war.
Him who shall drag, though dead, Patroclus home
Into the host of Troy, and shall repulse
Ajax, I will reward with half the spoils
And half shall be my own; glory and praise
Shall also be his meed, equal to mine.
He ended; they compact with lifted spears
Bore on the Danaï, conceiving each
Warm expectation in his heart to wrest
From Ajax son of Telamon, the dead.
Vain hope! he many a lifeless Trojan heap'd
On slain Patroclus, but at length his speech
To warlike Menelaus thus address'd.
Ah, Menelaus, valiant friend! I hope
No longer, now, that even we shall 'scape
Ourselves from fight; nor fear I so the loss
Of dead Patroclus, who shall soon the dogs
Of Ilium, and the fowls sate with his flesh,
As for my life I tremble and for thine,
That cloud of battle, Hector, such a gloom
Sheds all around; death manifest impends.
Haste--call our best, if even they can hear.
He spake, nor Menelaus not complied,
But call'd aloud on all the Chiefs of Greece.
Friends, senators, and leaders of the powers
Of Argos! who with Agamemnon drink
And Menelaus at the public feast,
Each bearing rule o'er many, by the will
Of Jove advanced to honor and renown!
The task were difficult to single out
Chief after Chief by name amid the blaze
Of such contention; but oh, come yourselves
Indignant forth, nor let the dogs of Troy
Patroclus rend, and gambol with his bones!
He ceased, whom Oïliades the swift
Hearing incontinent, of all the Chiefs
Ran foremost, after whom Idomeneus
Approach'd, and dread as homicidal Mars
Meriones. But never mind of man
Could even in silent recollection name
The whole vast multitude who, following these
Renew'd the battle on the part of Greece.
The Trojans first, with Hector at their head,
Wedged in close phalanx, rush'd to the assault
As when within some rapid river's mouth
The billows and stream clash, on either shore[3]
Loud sounds the roar[3] of waves ejected wide,
Such seem'd the clamors of the Trojan host.
But the Achaians, one in heart, around
Patroclus stood, bulwark'd with shields of brass
And over all their glittering helmets Jove
Darkness diffused, for he had loved Patroclus
While yet he lived friend of Æacides,
And now, abhorring that the dogs of Troy
Should eat him, urged the Greeks to his defence,
The host of Troy first shook the Grecian host;
The body left, they fled; yet of them all,
The Trojan powers, determined as they were,
Slew none, but dragg'd the body. Neither stood
The Greeks long time aloof, soon as repulsed
Again led on by Ajax, who in form
And in exploits all others far excell'd.
Peerless Æacides alone except.
Right through the foremost combatants he rush'd,
In force resembling most some savage boar
That in the mountains bursting through the brakes,
The swains disperses and their hounds with ease;
Like him, illustrious Ajax, mighty son
Of Telamon, at his assault dispersed
With ease the close imbattled ranks who fought
Around Patroclus' body, strong in hope
To achieve it, and to make the glory theirs.
Hippothoüs, a youth of high renown,
Son of Pelasgian Lethus, by a noose
Around his ancle cast dragg'd through the fight
Patroclus, so to gratify the host
Of Ilium and their Chief; but evil him
Reached suddenly, by none of all his friends
(Though numerous wish'd to save him) turn'd aside.
For swift advancing on him through the crowd
The son of Telamon pierced, spear in hand,
His helmet brazen-cheek'd; the crested casque,
So smitten, open'd wide, for huge the hand
And ponderous was the spear that gave the blow
And all around its neck, mingled with blood
Gush'd forth the brain. There, lifeless, down he sank,
Let fall the hero's foot, and fell himself
Prone on the dead, never to see again?
Deep-soil'd Larissa, never to require
Their kind solicitudes who gave him birth,
In bloom of life by dauntless Ajax slain.
Then Hector hurl'd at Ajax his bright spear,
But he, forewarn'd of its approach, escaped
Narrowly, and it pierced Schedius instead,
Brave son of Iphitus; he, noblest Chief
Of the Phocensians, over many reign'd,
Dwelling in Panopeus the far-renown'd.
Entering beneath the clavicle[4] the point
Right through his shoulder's summit pass'd behind,
And on his loud-resounding arms he fell.
But Ajax at his waist wounded the son
Of Phoenops, valiant Phorcys, while he stood
Guarding Hippothöus; through his hollow mail
Enforced the weapon drank his inmost life,
And in his palm, supine, he clench'd the dust.
Then, Hector with the foremost Chiefs of Troy
Fell back; the Argives sent a shout to heaven,
And dragging Phorcys and Hippothöus thence
Stripp'd both. In that bright moment Ilium's host
Fear-quell'd before Achaia's warlike sons
Had Troy re-enter'd, and the host of Greece
By matchless might and fortitude their own
Had snatch'd a victory from the grasp of fate,
But that, himself, the King of radiant shafts
Æneas roused; Epytis' son he seem'd
Periphas, ancient in the service grown
Of old Anchises whom he dearly loved;
His form assumed, Apollo thus began.
How could ye save, Æneas, were the Gods
Your enemies, the towers of lofty Troy?
As I have others seen, warriors who would,
Men fill'd with might and valor, firm themselves
And Chiefs of multitudes disdaining fear.
But Jove to us the victory far more
Than to the Grecians wills; therefore the fault
Is yours, who tremble and refuse the fight.
He ended, whom Æneas marking, knew
At once the glorious Archer of the skies,
And thus to distant Hector call'd aloud.
Oh, Hector, and ye other Chiefs of Troy
And of her brave confederates! Shame it were
Should we re-enter Ilium, driven to flight
By dastard fear before the host of Greece.
A God assured me even now, that Jove,
Supreme in battle, gives his aid to Troy.
Rush, therefore, on the Danaï direct,
Nor let them, safe at least and unannoy'd,
Bear hence Patroclus' body to the fleet.
He spake, and starting far into the van
Stood foremost forth; they, wheeling, faced the Greeks.
Then, spear in hand, Æneas smote the friend
Of Lycomedes, brave Leocritus,
Son of Arisbas. Lycomedes saw
Compassionate his death, and drawing nigh
First stood, then hurling his resplendent lance,
Right through the liver Apisaon pierced
Offspring of Hippasus, his chest beneath,
And, lifeless, instant, on the field he fell.
He from Pæonia the deep soil'd to Troy
Came forth, Asteropæus sole except,
Bravest of all Pæonia's band in arms.
Asteropæus saw, and to the van
Sprang forth for furious combat well prepared,
But room for fight found none, so thick a fence
Of shields and ported spears fronted secure
The phalanx guarding Menoetiades.
For Ajax ranging all the ranks, aloud
Admonish'd them that no man yielding ground
Should leave Patroclus, or advance before
The rest, but all alike fight and stand fast.
Such order gave huge Ajax; purple gore
Drench'd all the ground; in slaughter'd heaps they fell
Trojans and Trojan aids of dauntless hearts
And Grecians; for not even they the fight
Waged bloodless, though with far less cost of blood,
Each mindful to avert his fellow's fate.
Thus burn'd the battle; neither hadst thou deem'd
The sun himself in heaven unquench'd, or moon,
Beneath a cope so dense of darkness strove
Unceasing all the most renown'd in arms
For Menoetiades. Meantime the war,
Wherever else, the bright-arm'd Grecians waged
And Trojans under skies serene. The sun
On them his radiance darted; not a cloud,
From mountain or from vale rising, allay'd
His fervor; there at distance due they fought
And paused by turns, and shunn'd the cruel dart.
But in the middle field not war alone
They suffer'd, but night also; ruthless raged
The iron storm, and all the mightiest bled.
Two glorious Chiefs, the while, Antilochus
And Thrasymedes, had no tidings heard
Of brave Patroclus slain, but deem'd him still
Living, and troubling still the host of Troy;
For watchful[5] only to prevent the flight
Or slaughter of their fellow-warriors, they
Maintain'd a distant station, so enjoin'd
By Nestor when he sent them to the field.
But fiery conflict arduous employ'd
The rest all day continual; knees and legs,
Feet, hands, and eyes of those who fought to guard
The valiant friend of swift Æacides
Sweat gather'd foul and dust. As when a man
A huge ox-hide drunken with slippery lard
Gives to be stretch'd, his servants all around
Disposed, just intervals between, the task
Ply strenuous, and while many straining hard
Extend it equal on all sides, it sweats
The moisture out, and drinks the unction in,[6]
So they, in narrow space struggling, the dead
Dragg'd every way, warm hope conceiving, these
To drag him thence to Troy, those, to the ships.
Wild tumult raged around him; neither Mars,
Gatherer of hosts to battle, nor herself
Pallas, however angry, had beheld
That conflict with disdain, Jove to such length
Protracted on that day the bloody toil
Of steeds and men for Menoetiades.
Nor knew divine Achilles or had aught
Heard of Patroclus slain, for from the ships
Remote they fought, beneath the walls of Troy.
He, therefore, fear'd not for his death, but hope
Indulged much rather, that, the battle push'd
To Ilium's gates, he should return alive.
For that his friend, unaided by himself
Or ever aided, should prevail to lay
Troy waste, he nought supposed; by Thetis warn'd
In secret conference oft, he better knew
Jove's purpose; yet not even she had borne
Those dreadful tidings to his ear, the loss
Immeasurable of his dearest friend.
They all around the dead fought spear in hand
With mutual slaughter ceaseless, and amid
Achaia's host thus spake a Chief mail-arm'd.
Shame were it, Grecians! should we seek by flight
Our galleys now; yawn earth our feet beneath
And here ingulf us rather! Better far
Than to permit the steed-famed host of Troy
To drag Patroclus hence into the town,
And make the glory of this conflict theirs.
Thus also of the dauntless Trojans spake
A certain warrior. Oh, my friends! although
The Fates ordain us, one and all, to die
Around this body, stand! quit not the field.
So spake the warrior prompting into act
The courage of his friends, and such they strove
On both sides; high into the vault of heaven
The iron din pass'd through the desart air.
Meantime the horses of Æacides
From fight withdrawn, soon as they understood
Their charioteer fallen in the dust beneath
The arm of homicidal Hector, wept.
Them oft with hasty lash Diores' son
Automedon impatient smote, full oft
He stroked them gently, and as oft he chode;[7]
Yet neither to the fleet ranged on the shore
Of spacious Hellespont would they return,
Nor with the Grecians seek the fight, but stood
As a sepulchral pillar stands, unmoved
Between their traces;[8] to the earth they hung
Their heads, with plenteous tears their driver mourn'd,
And mingled their dishevell'd manes with dust.
Jove saw their grief with pity, and his brows
Shaking, within himself thus, pensive, said.
Ah hapless pair! Wherefore by gift divine
Were ye to Peleus given, a mortal king,
Yourselves immortal and from age exempt?
Was it that ye might share in human woes?
For, of all things that breathe or creep the earth,
No creature lives so mere a wretch as man.
Yet shall not Priameian Hector ride
Triumphant, drawn by you. Myself forbid.
Suffice it that he boasts vain-gloriously
Those arms his own. Your spirit and your limbs
I will invigorate, that ye may bear
Safe hence Automedon into the fleet.
For I ordain the Trojans still to spread
Carnage around victorious, till they reach
The gallant barks, and till the sun at length
Descending, sacred darkness cover all.
He said, and with new might the steeds inspired.
They, shaking from their hair profuse the dust,
Between the van of either army whirl'd
The rapid chariot. Fighting as he pass'd,
Though fill'd with sorrow for his slaughter'd friend,
Automedon high-mounted swept the field
Impetuous as a vulture scattering geese;
Now would he vanish, and now, turn'd again,
Chase through a multitude his trembling foe;
But whomsoe'er he follow'd, none he slew,
Nor was the task possible to a Chief
Sole in the sacred chariot, both to aim
The spear aright and guide the fiery steeds.
At length Alcimedon, his friend in arms,
Son of Laerceus son of Æmon, him
Observing, from behind the chariot hail'd
The flying warrior, whom he thus bespake.
What power, Automedon! hath ta'en away
Thy better judgment, and thy breast inspired
With this vain purpose to assail alone
The Trojan van? Thy partner in the fight
Is slain, and Hector on his shoulders bears,
Elate, the armor of Æacides.
Then, answer thus Automedon return'd,
Son of Diores. Who of all our host
Was ever skill'd, Alcimedon! as thou
To rule the fire of these immortal steeds,
Save only while he lived, peer of the Gods
In that great art, Patroclus, now no more?
Thou, therefore, the resplendent reins receive
And scourge, while I, dismounting, wage the fight.
He ceased; Alcimedon without delay
The battle-chariot mounting, seized at once
The lash and reins, and from his seat down leap'd
Automedon. Them noble Hector mark'd,
And to Æneas at his side began.
Illustrious Chief of Trojans brazen-mail'd
Æneas! I have noticed yonder steeds
Of swift Achilles rushing into fight
Conspicuous, but under sway of hands
Unskilful; whence arises a fair hope
That we might seize them, wert thou so inclined;
For never would those two dare to oppose
In battle an assault dreadful as ours.
He ended, nor the valiant son refused
Of old Anchises, but with targets firm
Of season'd hide brass-plated thrown athwart
Their shoulders, both advanced direct, with whom
Of godlike form Aretus also went
And Chromius. Ardent hope they all conceived
To slay those Chiefs, and from the field to drive
Achilles' lofty steeds. Vain hope! for them
No bloodless strife awaited with the force
Of brave Automedon; he, prayer to Jove
First offering, felt his angry soul with might
Heroic fill'd, and thus his faithful friend
Alcimedon, incontinent, address'd.
Alcimedon! hold not the steeds remote
But breathing on my back; for I expect
That never Priameïan Hector's rage
Shall limit know, or pause, till, slaying us,
He shall himself the coursers ample-maned
Mount of Achilles, and to flight compel
The Argive host, or perish in the van.
So saying, he call'd aloud on Menelaus
With either Ajax. Oh, illustrious Chiefs
Of Argos, Menelaus, and ye bold
Ajaces![9] leaving all your best to cope
With Ilium's powers and to protect the dead,
From friends still living ward the bitter day.
For hither borne, two Chiefs, bravest of all
The Trojans, Hector and Æneas rush
Right through the battle. The events of war
Heaven orders; therefore even I will give
My spear its flight, and Jove dispose the rest!
He said, and brandishing his massy spear
Dismiss'd it at Aretus; full he smote
His ample shield, nor stay'd the pointed brass,
But penetrating sheer the disk, his belt
Pierced also, and stood planted in his waist.
As when some vigorous youth with sharpen'd axe
A pastured bullock smites behind the horns
And hews the muscle through; he, at the stroke
Springs forth and falls, so sprang Aretus forth,
Then fell supine, and in his bowels stood
The keen-edged lance still quivering till he died.
Then Hector, in return, his radiant spear
Hurl'd at Automedon, who of its flight
Forewarn'd his body bowing prone, the stroke
Eluded, and the spear piercing the soil
Behind him, shook to its superior end,
Till, spent by slow degrees, its fury slept.
And now, with hand to hilt, for closer war
Both stood prepared, when through the multitude
Advancing at their fellow-warrior's call,
The Ajaces suddenly their combat fierce
Prevented. Awed at once by their approach
Hector retired, with whom Æneas went
Also and godlike Chromius, leaving there
Aretus with his vitals torn, whose arms,
Fierce as the God of war Automedon
Stripp'd off, and thus exulted o'er the slain.
My soul some portion of her grief resigns
Consoled, although by slaughter of a worse,
For loss of valiant Menoetiades.
So saying, within his chariot he disposed
The gory spoils, then mounted it himself
With hands and feet purpled, as from a bull
His bloody prey, some lion newly-gorged.
And now around Patroclus raged again
Dread strife deplorable! for from the skies
Descending at the Thunderer's command
Whose purpose now was to assist the Greeks,
Pallas enhanced the fury of the fight.
As when from heaven, in view of mortals, Jove
Exhibits bright his bow, a sign ordain'd
Of war, or numbing frost which all the works
Suspends of man and saddens all the flocks;
So she, all mantled with a radiant cloud
Entering Achaia's host, fired every breast.
But meeting Menelaus first, brave son
Of Atreus, in the form and with the voice
Robust of Phoenix, him she thus bespake.
Shame, Menelaus, shall to thee redound
For ever, and reproach, should dogs devour
The faithful friend of Peleus' noble son
Under Troy's battlements; but stand, thyself,
Undaunted, and encourage all the host.
To whom the son of Atreus bold in arms.
Ah, Phoenix, friend revered, ancient and sage!
Would Pallas give me might and from the dint
Shield me of dart and spear, with willing mind
I would defend Patroclus, for his death
Hath touch'd me deep. But Hector with the rage
Burns of consuming fire, nor to his spear
Gives pause, for him Jove leads to victory.
He ceased, whom Pallas, Goddess azure-eyed
Hearing, rejoiced that of the heavenly powers
He had invoked her foremost to his aid.
His shoulders with new might, and limbs she fill'd,
And persevering boldness to his breast
Imparted, such as prompts the fly, which oft
From flesh of man repulsed, her purpose yet
To bite holds fast, resolved on human blood.
His stormy bosom with such courage fill'd
By Pallas, to Patroclus he approach'd
And hurl'd, incontinent, his glittering spear.
There was a Trojan Chief, Podes by name,
Son of Eëtion, valorous and rich;
Of all Troy's citizens him Hector most
Respected, in convivial pleasures sweet
His chosen companion. As he sprang to flight,
The hero of the golden locks his belt
Struck with full force and sent the weapon through.
Sounding he fell, and from the Trojan ranks
Atrides dragg'd the body to his own.
Then drew Apollo near to Hector's side,
And in the form of Phoenops, Asius' son,
Of all the foreign guests at Hector's board
His favorite most, the hero thus address'd.
What Chief of all the Grecians shall henceforth
Fear Hector, who from Menelaus shrinks
Once deem'd effeminate, but dragging now
The body of thy valiant friend approved
Whom he hath slain, Podes, Eëtion's son?
He spake, and at his words grief like a cloud
Involved the mind of Hector dark around;
Right through the foremost combatants he rush'd
All clad in dazzling brass. Then, lifting high
His tassel'd Ægis radiant, Jove with storms
Enveloped Ida; flash'd his lightnings, roar'd
His thunders, and the mountain shook throughout.
Troy's host he prosper'd, and the Greeks dispersed.
First fled Peneleus, the Boeotian Chief,
Whom facing firm the foe Polydamas
Struck on his shoulder's summit with a lance
Hurl'd nigh at hand, which slight inscribed the bone.
[10]Leïtus also, son of the renown'd
Alectryon, pierced by Hector in the wrist,
Disabled left the fight; trembling he fled
And peering narrowly around, nor hoped
To lift a spear against the Trojans more.
Hector, pursuing Leïtus, the point
Encounter'd of the brave Idomeneus
Full on his chest; but in his mail the lance
Snapp'd, and the Trojans shouted to the skies.
He, in his turn, cast at Deucalion's son
Idomeneus, who in that moment gain'd[11]
A chariot-seat; but him the erring spear
Attain'd not, piercing Coeranus instead
The friend and follower of Meriones
From wealthy Lyctus, and his charioteer.
For when he left, that day, the gallant barks
Idomeneus had sought the field on foot,
And triumph proud, full sure, to Ilium's host
Had yielded now, but that with rapid haste
Coeranus drove to his relief, from him
The fate averting which himself incurr'd
Victim of Hector's homicidal arm.
Him Hector smiting between ear and jaw
Push'd from their sockets with the lance's point
His firm-set teeth, and sever'd sheer his tongue.
Dismounted down he fell, and from his hand
Let slide the flowing reins, which, to the earth
Stooping, Meriones in haste resumed,
And briefly thus Idomeneus address'd.
Now drive, and cease not, to the fleet of Greece!
Thyself see'st victory no longer ours.
He said; Idomeneus whom, now, dismay
Seized also, with his lash plying severe
The coursers ample-maned, flew to the fleet.
Nor Ajax, dauntless hero, not perceived,
Nor Menelaus, by the sway of Jove
The victory inclining fast to Troy,
And thus the Telamonian Chief began.
Ah! who can be so blind as not to see
The eternal Father, now, with his own hand
Awarding glory to the Trojan host,
Whose every spear flies, instant, to the mark
Sent forth by brave or base? Jove guides them all,
While, ineffectual, ours fall to the ground.
But haste, devise we of ourselves the means
How likeliest we may bear Patroclus hence,
And gladden, safe returning, all our friends,
Who, hither looking anxious, hope have none
That we shall longer check the unconquer'd force
Of hero-slaughtering Hector, but expect
[12]To see him soon amid the fleet of Greece.
Oh for some Grecian now to carry swift
The tidings to Achilles' ear, untaught,
As I conjecture, yet the doleful news
Of his Patroclus slain! but no such Greek
May I discern, such universal gloom
Both men and steeds envelops all around.
Father of heaven and earth! deliver thou
Achaia's host from darkness; clear the skies;
Give day; and (since thy sovereign will is such)
Destruction with it--but oh give us day![13]
He spake, whose tears Jove saw with pity moved,
And chased the untimely shades; bright beam'd the sun
And the whole battle was display'd. Then spake
The hero thus to Atreus' mighty son.
Now noble Menelaus! looking forth,
See if Antilochus be yet alive,
Brave son of Nestor, whom exhort to fly
With tidings to Achilles, of the friend
Whom most he loved, of his Patroclus slain.
He ceased, nor Menelaus, dauntless Chief,
That task refused, but went; yet neither swift
Nor willing. As a lion leaves the stalls
Wearied himself with harassing the guard,
Who, interdicting him his purposed prey,
Watch all the night; he famish'd, yet again
Comes furious on, but speeds not, kept aloof
By spears from daring hands dismissed, but more
By flash of torches which, though fierce, he dreads,
Till at the dawn, sullen he stalks away;
So from Patroclus Menelaus went
Heroic Chief! reluctant; for he fear'd
Lest the Achaians should resign the dead,
Through consternation, to the host of Troy.
Departing, therefore, he admonish'd oft
Meriones and the Ajaces, thus.
Ye two brave leaders of the Argive host,
And thou, Meriones! now recollect
The gentle manners of Patroclus fallen
Hapless in battle, who by carriage mild
Well understood, while yet he lived, to engage
All hearts, through prisoner now of death and fate.
So saying, the hero amber-hair'd his steps
Turn'd thence, the field exploring with an eye
Sharp as the eagle's, of all fowls beneath
The azure heavens for keenest sight renown'd,
Whom, though he soar sublime, the leveret
By broadest leaves conceal'd 'scapes not, but swift
Descending, even her he makes his prey;
So, noble Menelaus! were thine eyes
Turn'd into every quarter of the host
In search of Nestor's son, if still he lived.
Him, soon, encouraging his band to fight,
He noticed on the left of all the field,
And sudden standing at his side, began.
Antilochus! oh hear me, noble friend!
And thou shalt learn tidings of such a deed
As best had never been. Thou know'st, I judge,
And hast already seen, how Jove exalts
To victory the Trojan host, and rolls
Distress on ours; but ah! Patroclus lies,
Our chief Achaian, slain, whose loss the Greeks
Fills with regret. Haste, therefore, to the fleet,
Inform Achilles; bid him haste to save,
If save he can, the body of his friend;
He can no more, for Hector hath his arms.
He ceased. Antilochus with horror heard
Those tidings; mute long time he stood, his eyes
Swam tearful, and his voice, sonorous erst,
Found utterance none. Yet even so distress'd,
He not the more neglected the command
Of Menelaus. Setting forth to run,
He gave his armor to his noble friend
Laodocus, who thither turn'd his steeds,
And weeping as he went, on rapid feet
Sped to Achilles with that tale of wo.
Nor could the noble Menelaus stay
To give the weary Pylian band, bereft
Of their beloved Antilochus, his aid,
But leaving them to Thrasymedes' care,
He flew to Menoetiades again,
And the Ajaces, thus, instant bespake.
He goes. I have dispatch'd him to the fleet
To seek Achilles; but his coming naught
Expect I now, although with rage he burn
Against illustrious Hector; for what fight
Can he, unarm'd, against the Trojans wage?
Deliberating, therefore, frame we means
How best to save Patroclus, and to 'scape
Ourselves unslain from this disastrous field.
Whom answer'd the vast son of Telamon.
Most noble Menelaus! good is all
Which thou hast spoken. Lift ye from the earth
Thou and Meriones, at once, and bear
The dead Patroclus from the bloody field.
To cope meantime with Hector and his host
Shall be our task, who, one in name, nor less
In spirit one, already have the brunt
Of much sharp conflict, side by side, sustain'd.
He ended; they enfolding in their arms
The dead, upbore him high above the ground
With force united; after whom the host
Of Troy, seeing the body borne away,
Shouted, and with impetuous onset all
Follow'd them. As the hounds, urged from behind
By youthful hunters, on the wounded boar
Make fierce assault; awhile at utmost speed
They stretch toward him hungering, for the prey,
But oft as, turning sudden, the stout brawn
Faces them, scatter'd on all sides escape;
The Trojans so, thick thronging in the rear,
Ceaseless with falchions and spears double-edged
Annoy'd them sore, but oft as in retreat
The dauntless heroes, the Ajaces turn'd
To face them, deadly wan grew every cheek,
And not a Trojan dared with onset rude
Molest them more in conflict for the dead.
Thus they, laborious, forth from battle bore
Patroclus to the fleet, tempestuous war
Their steps attending, rapid as the flames
Which, kindled suddenly, some city waste;
Consumed amid the blaze house after house
Sinks, and the wind, meantime, roars through the fire;
So them a deafening tumult as they went
Pursued, of horses and of men spear-arm'd.
And as two mules with strength for toil endued,
Draw through rough ways down from the distant hills
Huge timber, beam or mast; sweating they go,
And overlabor'd to faint weariness;
So they the body bore, while, turning oft,
The Ajaces check'd the Trojans. As a mound
Planted with trees and stretch'd athwart the mead
Repels an overflow; the torrents loud
Baffling, it sends them far away to float
The level land, nor can they with the force
Of all their waters burst a passage through;
So the Ajaces, constant, in the rear
Repress'd the Trojans; but the Trojans them
Attended still, of whom Æneas most
Troubled them, and the glorious Chief of Troy.
They as a cloud of starlings or of daws
Fly screaming shrill, warn'd timely of the kite
Or hawk, devourers of the smaller kinds,
So they shrill-clamoring toward the fleet,
Hasted before Æneas and the might
Of Hector, nor the battle heeded more.
Much radiant armor round about the foss
Fell of the flying Grecians, or within
Lay scatter'd, and no pause of war they found.

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