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CONTENTS · BIBLIOGRAPHIC RECORD
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
 
Translations from Homer
The Iliad
Book XV. The Fifth Battle, at the Ships; and the Acts of Ajax
 
        
The Argument
  Jupiter, awaking, sees the Trojans repulsed from the trenches, Hector in a swoon, and Neptune at the head of the Greeks; he is highly incensed at the artifice of Juno, who appeases him by her submissions; she is then sent to Iris and Apollo. Juno, repairing to the assembly of the Gods, attempts with extraordinary address to incense them against Jupiter; in particular she touches Mars with a violent resentment; he is ready to take arms, but is prevented by Minerva. Iris and Apollo obey the orders of Jupiter; Iris commands Neptune to leave the battle, to which, after much reluctance and passion, he consents. Apollo reinspires Hector with vigour, brings him back to the battle, marches before him with his ægis, and turns the fortune of the fight. He breaks down a great part of the Grecian wall; the Trojans rush in, and attempt to fire the first line of the fleet, but are yet repelled by the greater Ajax with a prodigious slaughter.

  NOW in swift flight they pass the trench profound,
And many a Chief lay gasping on the ground;
Then stopp’d and panted, where the chariots lie;
Fear on their cheek, and horror in their eye.
Meanwhile, awaken’d from his dream of love,        5
On Ida’s summit sat imperial Jove;
Round the wide fields he cast a careful view,
There saw the Trojans fly, the Greeks pursue;
These proud in arms, those scatter’d o’er the plain;
And, midst the war, the Monarch of the Main.        10
Not far, great Hector on the dust he spies
(His sad associates round with weeping eyes),
Ejecting blood, and panting yet for breath,
His senses wand’ring to the verge of death.
The God beheld him with a pitying look,        15
And thus, incens’d, to fraudful Juno spoke:
  ‘O thou, still adverse to th’ eternal will,
For ever studious in promoting ill!
Thy arts have made the godlike Hector yield,
And driv’n his conquering squadrons from the field.        20
Canst thou, unhappy in thy wiles! withstand
Our power immense, and brave th’ almighty hand?
Hast thou forgot, when, bound and fix’d on high,
From the vast concave of the spangled sky,
I hung thee trembling in a golden chain;        25
And all the raging Gods opposed in vain?
Headlong I hurl’d them from th’ Olympian hall,
Stunn’d in the whirl, and breathless with the fall.
For godlike Hercules these deeds were done,
Nor seem’d the vengeance worthy such a son;        30
When, by thy wiles induced, fierce Boreas toss’d
The shipwreck’d hero on the Coan coast:
Him thro’ a thousand forms of death I bore,
And sent to Argos, and his native shore.
Hear this, remember, and our fury dread,        35
Nor pull th’ unwilling vengeance on thy head;
Lest arts and blandishments successless prove,
Thy soft deceits, and well-dissembled love.’
  The Thund’rer spoke: imperial Juno mourn’d,
And, trembling, these submissive words return’d:        40
  ‘By ev’ry oath that powers immortal ties,
The foodful earth, and all infolding skies,
By thy black waves, tremendous Styx! that flow
Thro’ the drear realms of gliding ghosts below:
By the dread honours of thy sacred head,        45
And that unbroken vow, our virgin bed!
Not by my arts the ruler of the main
Steeps Troy in blood, and ranges round the plain:
By his own ardour, his own pity, sway’d
To help his Greeks; he fought, and disobey’d:        50
Else had thy Juno better counsels giv’n,
And taught submission to the Sire of Heav’n.’
  ‘Thinkst thou with me? fair Empress of the Skies!’
Th’ immortal Father with a smile replies:
‘Then soon the haughty Sea-God shall obey,        55
Nor dare to act, but when we point the way.
If truth inspires thy tongue, proclaim our will
To yon bright Synod on th’ Olympian Hill;
Our high decree let various Iris know,
And call the God that bears the silver bow.        60
Let her descend, and from th’ embattled plain
Command the Sea-God to his wat’ry reign:
While Phœbus hastes great Hector to prepare
To rise afresh, and once more wake the war;
His lab’ring bosom re-inspires with breath,        65
And calls his senses from the verge of death.
Greece, chased by Troy ev’n to Achilles’ fleet,
Shall fall by thousands at the hero’s feet.
He, not untouch’d with pity, to the plain
Shall send Patroclus, but shall send in vain.        70
What youths he slaughters under Ilion’s walls!
Ev’n my lov’d son, divine Sarpedon, falls!
Vanquish’d at last by Hector’s lance he lies,
Then, not till then, shall great Achilles rise:
And lo! that instant, godlike Hector dies.        75
From that great hour the war’s whole fortune turns,
Pallas assists, and lofty Ilion burns.
Not till that day shall Jove relax his rage,
Nor one of all the heav’nly host engage
In aid of Greece. The promise of a God        80
I gave, and seal’d it with th’ almighty nod,
Achilles’ glory to the stars to raise;
Such was our word, and Fate the word obeys.’
  The trembling Queen (th’ almighty order given)
Swift from th’ Idæan summit shot to Heav’n.        85
As some wayfaring man, who wanders o’er,
In thought, a length of lands he trod before,
Sends forth his active mind from place to place,
Joins hill to dale, and measures space with space:
So swift flew Juno to the blest abodes,        90
If thought of man can match the speed of Gods.
There sat the Powers in awful Synod placed:
They bow’d, and made obeisance as she pass’d,
Thro’ all the brazen dome: with goblets crown’d
They hail her queen; the nectar streams around.        95
Fair Themis first presents the golden bowl,
And anxious asks what cares disturb her soul?
  To whom the white-arm’d Goddess thus replies:
‘Enough thou know’st the Tyrant of the Skies;
Severely bent his purpose to fulfil,        100
Unmov’d his mind, and unrestrain’d his will.
Go thou, the feasts of Heav’n attend thy call;
Bid the crown’d nectar circle round the hall;
But Jove shall thunder thro’ th’ ethereal dome
Such stern decrees, such threaten’d woes to come,        105
As soon shall freeze mankind with dire surprise,
And damp th’ eternal banquets of the skies.’
  The Goddess said, and sullen took her place:
Blank horror sadden’d each celestial face.
To see the gath’ring grudge in every breast,        110
Smiles on her lips a spleenful joy express’d.
While on her wrinkled front, and eyebrow bent,
Sat steadfast care, and low’ring discontent.
Thus she proceeds: ‘Attend, ye Powers above!
But know, ’t is madness to contest with Jove:        115
Supreme he sits; and sees, in pride of sway,
Your vassal Godheads grudgingly obey;
Fierce in the majesty of power controls,
Shakes all the thrones of Heav’n, and bends the poles.
Submiss, immortals! all he wills, obey;        120
And thou, great Mars, begin and show the way.
Behold Ascalaphus! behold him die,
But dare not murmur, dare not vent a sigh;
Thy own lov’d boasted offspring lies o’er-thrown,
If that lov’d boasted offspring be thy own.’        125
  Stern Mars, with anguish for his slaughter’d son,
Smote his rebelling breast, and fierce begun:
‘Thus then, Immortals! thus shall Mars obey?
Forgive me, Gods, and yield my vengeance way:
Descending first to yon forbidden plain,        130
The God of Battles dares avenge the slain;
Dares, tho’ the thunder bursting o’er my head
Should hurl me blazing on those heaps of dead.’
  With that, he gives command to Fear and Flight
To join his rapid coursers for the fight:        135
Then grim in arms, with hasty vengeance flies;
Arms, that reflect a radiance thro’ the skies.
And now had Jove, by bold rebellion driv’n,
Discharged his wrath on half the host of Heav’n;
But Pallas springing thro’ the bright abode,        140
Starts from her azure throne to calm the God.
Struck for th’ immortal race with timely fear,
From frantic Mars she snatch’d the shield and spear;
Then the huge helmet lifting from his head,
Thus to th’ impetuous homicide she said:        145
  ‘By what wild passion, furious! art thou toss’d?
Strivest thou with Jove? thou art already lost.
Shall not the Thund’rer’s dread command restrain,
And was imperial Juno heard in vain?
Back to the skies would’st thou with shame be driv’n,        150
And in thy guilt involve the host of Heav’n?
Ilion and Greece no more shall Jove engage;
The skies would yield an ampler scene of rage,
Guilty and guiltless find an equal fate,
And one vast ruin whelm th’ Olympian state.        155
Cease then thy offspring’s death unjust to call;
Heroes as great have died, and yet shall fall.
Why should Heav’n’s law with foolish man comply,
Exempted from the race ordain’d to die?’
  This menace fix’d the warrior to his throne;        160
Sullen he sat, and curb’d the rising groan.
Then Juno call’d (Jove’s orders to obey)
The winged Iris, and the God of Day.
‘Go wait the Thund’rer’s will’ (Saturnia cried),
‘On yon tall summit of the fountful Ide:        165
There in the Father’s awful presence stand,
Receive and execute his dread command.’
  She said, and sat. The God that gilds the day,
And various Iris, wing their airy way.
Swift as the wind, to Ida’s hills they came        170
(Fair nurse of fountains, and of savage game);
There sat th’ Eternal; he whose nod controls
The trembling world, and shakes the steady poles.
Veil’d in a mist of fragrance him they found,
With clouds of gold and purple circled round.        175
Well-pleas’d the Thund’rer saw their earnest care,
And prompt obedience to the Queen of Air;
Then (while a smile serenes his awful brow)
Commands the Goddess of the Showery Bow:
  ‘Iris! descend, and what we here ordain        180
Report to you mad tyrant of the main,
Bid him from fight to his own deeps repair,
Or breathe from slaughter in the fields of air.
If he refuse, then let him timely weigh
Our elder birthright, and superior sway.        185
How shall his rashness stand the dire alarms,
If Heav’n’s omnipotence descend in arms?
Strives he with me, by whom his power was giv’n,
And is there equal to the Lord of Heav’n?’
  Th’ Almighty spoke; the Goddess wing’d her flight        190
To sacred Ilion from th’ Idæan height.
Swift as the rattling hail or fleecy snows
Drive thro’ the skies, when Boreas fiercely blows;
So from the clouds descending Iris falls;
And to blue Neptune thus the Goddess calls:        195
  ‘Attend the mandate of the Sire above,
In me behold the Messenger of Jove:
He bids thee from forbidden wars repair
To thy own deeps, or to the fields of air.
This if refused, he bids thee timely weigh        200
His elder birthright, and superior sway.
How shall thy rashness stand the dire alarms,
If Heav’n’s omnipotence descend in arms?
Strivest thou with him, by whom all power is giv’n?
And art thou equal to the lord of Heav’n?’        205
  ‘What means the haughty Sov’reign of the Skies?’
(The King of Ocean thus, incens’d, replies):
‘Rule as he will his portion’d realms on high,
No vassal God, nor of his train, am I.
Three brother deities from Saturn came,        210
And ancient Rhea, earth’s immortal dame:
Assign’d by lot, our triple rule we know:
Infernal Pluto sways the shades below;
O’er the wide clouds, and o’er the starry plain,
Ethereal Jove extends his high domain;        215
My court beneath the hoary waves I keep,
And hush the roarings of the sacred deep:
Olympus, and this earth, in common lie;
What claim has here the Tyrant of the Sky?
Far in the distant clouds let him control,        220
And awe the younger brothers of the pole;
There to his children his commands be giv’n,
The trembling, servile, second race of Heav’n.’
  ‘And must I then’ (said she), ‘O Sire of floods!
Bear this fierce answer to the King of Gods?        225
Correct it yet, and change thy rash intent;
A noble mind disdains not to repent.
To elder brothers guardian fiends are giv’n,
To scourge the wretch insulting them and Heav’n.’
  ‘Great is the profit’ (thus the God rejoin’d),        230
‘When ministers are bless’d with prudent mind:
Warn’d by thy words, to powerful Jove I yield,
And quit, tho’ angry, the contended field.
Not but his threats with justice I disclaim,
The same our honours, and our birth the same.        235
If yet, forgetful of his promise giv’n
To Hermes, Pallas, and the queen of Heav’n,
To favour Ilion, that perfidious place,
He breaks his faith with half th’ ethereal race;
Give him to know, unless the Grecian train        240
Lay yon proud structures level with the plain,
Howe’er th’ offence by other Gods be pass’d,
The wrath of Neptune shall for ever last.’
  Thus speaking, furious from the field he strode,
And plunged into the bosom of the flood.        245
The Lord of Thunders from his lofty height
Beheld, and thus bespoke the source of light:
  ‘Behold! the God whose liquid arms are hurl’d
Around the globe, whose earthquakes rock the world,
Desists at length his rebel-war to wage,        250
Seeks his own seas, and trembles at our rage:
Else had my wrath, Heav’n’s thrones all shaking round,
Burn’d to the bottom of his seas profound;
And all the Gods that round old Saturn dwell,
Had heard the thunders to the deeps of Hell.        255
Well was the crime, and well the vengeance spared,
Ev’n power immense had found such battle hard.
Go thou, my son! the trembling Greeks alarm,
Shake my broad ægis on thy active arm:
Be godlike Hector thy peculiar care,        260
Swell his bold heart, and urge his strength to war:
Let Ilion conquer, till the Achaian train
Fly to their ships and Hellespont again:
Then Greece shall breathe from toils.’ The Godhead said;
His will divine the Son of Jove obey’d.        265
Not half so swift the sailing falcon flies,
That drives a turtle thro’ the liquid skies;
As Phœbus, shooting from th’ Idæan brow,
Glides down the mountain to the plain below.
There Hector seated by the stream he sees,        270
His sense returning with the coming breeze;
Again his pulses beat, his spirits rise;
Again his lov’d companions meet his eyes;
Jove thinking of his pains, they pass’d away.
To whom the God who gives the golden day:        275
  ‘Why sits great Hector from the field so far,
What grief, what wound, withholds him from the war?’
  The fainting hero, as the vision bright
Stood shining o’er him, half unseal’d his sight:
‘What bless’d immortal, with commanding breath,        280
Thus wakens Hector from the sleep of death?
Has fame not told, how, while my trusty sword
Bathed Greece in slaughter, and her battle gored,
The mighty Ajax with a deadly blow
Had almost sunk me to the shades below?        285
Ev’n yet, methinks, the gliding ghosts I spy,
And Hell’s black horrors swim before my eye.’
  To him Apollo: ‘Be no more dismay’d;
See, and be strong! the Thund’rer sends thee aid:
Behold! thy Phœbus shall his arms employ,        290
Phœbus, propitious still to thee and Troy.
Inspire thy warriors then with manly force,
And to the ships impel thy rapid horse:
Ev’n I will make thy fiery coursers’ way,
And drive the Grecians headlong to the sea.’        295
  Thus to bold Hector spoke the Son of Jove,
And breathed immortal ardour from above.
As when the pamper’d steed, with reins unbound,
Breaks from his stall, and pours along the ground;
With ample strokes he rushes to the flood,        300
To bather his sides and cool his fiery blood:
His head, now freed, he tosses to the skies:
His mane dishevell’d o’er his shoulders flies:
He snuffs the females in the well-known plain,
And springs, exulting, to his fields again:        305
Urged by the voice divine, thus Hector flew,
Full of the God; and all his hosts pursue.
As when the force of men and dogs combin’d
Invade the mountain-goat or branching hind;
Far from the hunter’s rage secure they lie        310
Close in the rock (not fated yet to die);
When lo! a lion shoots across the way!
They fly: at once the chasers and the prey:
So Greece, that late in conquering troops pursued,
And mark’d their progress thro’ the ranks in blood,        315
Soon as they see the furious Chief appear,
Forget to vanquish, and consent to fear.
  Thoas with grief observ’d his dreadful course,
Thoas, the bravest of th’ Ætolian force;
Skill’d to direct the jav’lin’s distant flight,        320
And bold to combat in the standing fight;
Nor more in counsels famed for solid sense,
Than winning words and heav’nly eloquence.
‘Gods! what portent’ (he cried) ‘these eyes invades?
Lo, Hector rises from the Stygian shades!        325
We saw him, late, by Thund’ring Ajax kill’d;
What God restores him to the frighted field;
And not content that half of Greece lie slain,
Pours new destruction on her sons again?
He comes not, Jove! without thy powerful will;        330
Lo! still he lives, pursues, and conquers still!
Yet hear my counsel, and his worst withstand;
The Greek’s main body to the fleet command:
But let the few whom brisker spirits warm,
Stand the first onset, and provoke the storm:        335
Thus point your arms; and when such foes appear,
Fierce as he is, let Hector learn to fear.’
  The warrior spoke, the list’ning Greeks obey,
Thick’ning their ranks, and form a deep array.
Each Ajax, Teucer, Merion gave command,        340
The valiant leader of the Cretan band,
And Mars-like Meges: these the Chiefs excite,
Approach the foe, and meet the coming fight.
Behind, unnumber’d multitudes attend
To flank the navy, and the shores defend.        345
Full on the front the pressing Trojans bear,
And Hector first came tow’ring to the war.
Phœbus himself the rushing battle led;
A veil of clouds involv’d his radiant head:
High-held before him, Jove’s enormous shield        350
Portentous shone, and shaded all the field:
Vulcan to Jove th’ immortal gift consign’d,
To scatter hosts, and terrify mankind.
The Greeks expect the shock; the clamours rise
From diff’rent parts, and mingle in the skies.        355
Dire was the hiss of darts, by heroes flung,
And arrows leaping from the bow-string sung;
These drink the life of gen’rous warriors slain;
Those guiltless fall, and thirst for blood in vain.
As long as Phœbus bore unmov’d the shield,        360
Sat doubtful Conquest hov’ring on the field;
But when aloft he shakes it in the skies,
Shouts in their ears, and lightens in their eyes,
Deep horror seizes ev’ry Grecian breast,
Their force is humbled, and their fear confess’d.        365
So flies a herd of oxen, scatter’d wide,
No swain to guard them, and no day to guide,
When two fell lions from the mountain come,
And spread the carnage thro’ the shady gloom.
Impending Phœbus pours around them fear,        370
And Troy and Hector thunder in the rear.
Heaps fall on heaps: the slaughter Hector leads;
First, great Arcesilas, then Stichius bleeds;
One to the bold Bœotians ever dear,
And one Menestheus’ friend, and famed compeer.        375
Medon and Iäsus, Æneas sped;
This sprung from Phelus, and th’ Athenians led;
But hapless Medon from Oïleus came;
Him Ajax honour’d with a brother’s name,
Tho’ born of lawless love: from home expell’d,        380
A banish’d man, in Phylace he dwell’d,
Press’d by the vengeance of an angry wife;
Troy ends, at last, his labours and his life.
Mecystes next, Polydamas o’erthrew;
And thee, brave Clonius! great Agenor slew.        385
By Paris, Deiochus inglorious dies,
Pierc’d thro’ the shoulder as he basely flies.
Polites’ arm laid Echius on the plain;
Stretch’d on one heap, the victors spoil the slain.
The Greeks dismay’d, confused, disperse or fall,        390
Some seek the trench, some skulk behind the wall;
While these fly trembling, others pant for breath.
And o’er the slaughter stalks gigantic death.
On rush’d bold Hector, gloomy as the night,
Forbids to plunder, animates the fight.        395
Points to the fleet: ‘For, by the Gods, who flies,
Who dares but linger, by this hand he dies;
No weeping sister his cold eye shall close,
No friendly hand his funeral pyre compose.
Who stops to plunder at this signal hour,        400
The birds shall tear him, and the dogs devour.’
  Furious he said; the smarting scourge resounds;
The coursers fly; the smoking chariot bounds;
The hosts rush on; loud clamours shake the shore;
The horses thunder, earth and ocean roar!        405
Apollo, planted at the trench’s bound,
Push’d at the bank; down sunk th’ enormous mound:
Roll’d in the ditch the heapy ruin lay;
A sudden road! a long and ample way:
O’er the dread fosse (a late impervious space)        410
Now steeds, and men, and cars tumultuous pass.
The wond’ring crowds the downward level trod;
Before them flamed the shield, and march’d the God.
Then with his hand he shook the mighty wall;
And lo! the turrets nod, the bulwarks fall.        415
Easy, as when ashore an infant stands.
And draws imagin’d houses in the sands;
The sportive wanton, pleas’d with some new play.
Sweeps the slight works and fashion’d domes away.
Thus vanish’d, at thy touch, the towers and walls;        420
The toil of thousands in a moment falls.
  The Grecians gaze around with wild despair,
Confused, and weary all the powers with prayer;
Exhort their men, with praises, threats, commands;
And urge the Gods, with voices, eyes, and hands.        425
Experienc’d Nestor chief obtests the skies,
And weeps his country with a father’s eyes:
  ‘O Jove! if ever, on his native shore,
One Greek enrich’d thy shrine with offer’d gore;
If e’er in hope our country to behold,        430
We paid the fatted firstlings of the fold;
If e’er thou sign’st our wishes with thy nod;
Perform the promise of a gracious God!
This day preserve our navies from the flame,
And save the reliques of the Grecian name.’        435
  Thus pray’d the sage: th’ Eternal gave consent,
And peals of Thunder shook the firmament.
Presumptuous Troy mistook th’ accepting sign,
And catch’d new fury at the voice divine.
As, when black tempests mix the seas and skies,        440
The roaring deeps in wat’ry mountains rise,
Above the sides of some tall ship ascend,
Its womb they deluge, and its ribs they rend:
Thus loudly roaring, and o’erpowering all,
Mount the thick Trojans up the Grecian wall;        445
Legions on legions from each side arise:
Thick sound the keels; the storm of arrows flies:
Fierce on the ships above, the cars below,
These wield the mace, and those the jav’lin throw.
  While thus the thunder of the battle raged,        450
And lab’ring armies round the works engaged;
Still in the tent Patroclus sat, to tend
The good Eurypylus, his wounded friend.
He sprinkles healing balms, to anguish kind,
And adds discourse, the med’cine of the mind.        455
But when he saw, ascending up the fleet,
Victorious Troy; then, starting from his seat,
With bitter groans his sorrows he express’d;
He wrings his hands, he beats his manly breast.
‘Tho’ yet thy state require redress’ (he cries),        460
‘Depart I must: what horrors strike my eyes!
Charged with Achilles’ high commands I go,
A mournful witness of this scene of woe:
I haste to urge him, by his country’s care,
To rise in arms, and shine again in war.        465
Perhaps some fav’ring God his soul may bend:
The voice is powerful of a faithful friend.’
  He spoke; and, speaking, swifter than the wind
Sprung from the tent, and left the war behind.
Th’ embodied Greeks the fierce attack sustain,        470
But strive, tho’ numerous, to repulse in vain:
Nor could the Trojans, thro’ that firm array,
Force, to the fleet and tents, th’ impervious way.
As when a shipwright, with Palladian art,
Smooths the rough wood, and levels ev’ry part:        475
With equal hand he guides his whole design,
By the just rule, and the directing line:
The martial leaders, with like skill and care,
Preserv’d their line, and equal kept the war.
Brave deeds of arms thro’ all the ranks were tried,        480
And ev’ry ship sustain’d an equal tide.
At one proud bark, high-tow’ring o’er the fleet,
Ajax the great and Godlike Hector meet:
For one bright prize the matchless Chiefs contend,
Nor this the ships can fire, nor that defend;        485
One kept the shore, and one the vessel trod;
That fix’d as fate, this acted by a God.
The son of Clytius in his daring hand,
The deck approaching, shakes a flaming brand;
But pierc’d by Telamon’s huge lance expires;        490
Thund’ring he falls, and drops th’ extinguish’d fires.
Great Hector view’d him with a sad survey,
As stretch’d in dust before the stern he lay.
‘Oh! all of Trojan, all of Lycian race!
Stand to your arms, maintain this arduous space.        495
Lo! where the son of royal Clytius lies,
Ah, save his arms, secure his obsequies!’
  This said, his eager, jav’lin sought the foe:
But Ajax shunn’d the meditated blow.
Not vainly yet the forceful lance was thrown;        500
It stretch’d in dust unhappy Lycophron:
An exile long, sustain’d at Ajax’ board,
A faithful servant to a foreign lord;
In peace, in war, for ever at his side,
Near his lov’d master, as he liv’d, he died.        505
From the high poop he tumbles on the sand,
And lies, a lifeless load, along the land.
With anguish Ajax views the piercing sight,
And thus inflames his brother to the fight:
  ‘Teucer, behold! extended on the shore,        510
Our friend, our lov’d companion! now no more!
Dear as a parent, with a parent’s care
To fight our wars, he left his native air.
This death deplor’d to Hector’s rage we owe;
Revenge, revenge it on the cruel foe!        515
Where are those darts on which the fates attend?
And where the bow which Phœbus taught to bend?’
  Impatient Teucer, hast’ning to his aid,
Before the Chief his ample bow display’d;
The well-stored quiver on his shoulders hung:        520
Then hiss’d his arrow, and the bow-string sung.
Clytus, Pisenor’s son, renown’d in fame
(To thee, Polydamas! an honour’d name),
Drove thro’ the thickest of th’ embattled plains
The startling steeds, and shook his eager reins.        525
As all on glory ran his ardent mind,
The pointed death arrests him from behind:
Thro’ his fair neck the thrilling arrow flies;
In youth’s first bloom reluctantly he dies.
Hurl’d from the lofty seat, at distance far,        530
The headlong coursers spurn his empty car;
Till sad Polydamas the steeds restrain’d,
And gave, Astynous, to thy careful hand;
Then, fired to vengeance, rush’d amidst the foe;
Rage edg’d his sword, and strengthen’d ev’ry blow.        535
  Once more bold Teucer, in his country’s cause,
At Hector’s breast a chosen arrow draws:
And had the weapon found the destin’d way,
Thy fall, great Trojan! had renown’d that day.
But Hector was not doom’d to perish then:        540
Th’ all-wise disposer of the fates of men
(Imperial Jove) his present death withstands;
Nor was such glory due to Teucer’s hands.
At his full stretch as the tough string he drew,
Struck by an arm unseen, it burst in two:        545
Down dropp’d the bow: the shaft with brazen head
Fell innocent, and on the dust lay dead.
  Th’ astonish’d archer to great Ajax cries:
‘Some God prevents our destin’d enterprise:
Some God propitious to the Trojan foe,        550
Has, from my arm unfailing, struck the bow,
And broke the nerve my hands had twined with art,
Strong to impel the flight of many a dart.’
  ‘Since Heav’n commands it’ (Ajax made reply),
‘Dismiss the bow, and lay thy arrows by:        555
Thy arms no less suffice the lance to wield,
And quit the quiver for the pond’rous shield.
In the first ranks indulge thy thirst of fame,
Thy brave example shall the rest inflame.
Fierce as they are, by long successes vain,        560
To force our fleet, or ev’n a ship to gain,
Asks toil, and sweat, and blood: their utmost might
Shall find its match—No more; ’t is ours to fight.’
  Then Teucer laid his faithless bow aside:
The fourfold buckler o’er his shoulder tied;        565
On his brave head a crested helm he placed,
With nodding horsehair formidably graced;
A dart, whose point with brass refulgent shines,
The warrior wields; and his great brother joins.
  This Hector saw, and thus express’d his joy;        570
‘Ye troops of Lycia, Dardanus, and Troy!
Be mindful of yourselves, your ancient fame,
And spread your glory with the navy’s flame.
Jove is with us; I saw his hand, but now,
From the proud archer strike his vaunted bow.        575
Indulgent Jove! how plain thy favours shine,
When happy nations bear the marks divine!
How easy then to see the sinking state
Of realms accurs’d, deserted, reprobate!
Such is the fate of Greece, and such is ours:        580
Behold, ye warriors, and exert your powers.
Death is the worst; a fate which all must try;
And for our country’ t is a bliss to die.
The gallant man, tho’ slain in fight he be,
Yet leaves his nation safe, his children free;        585
Entails a debt on all the grateful state;
His own brave friends shall glory in his fate;
His wife live honour’d, all his race succeed,
And late posterity enjoy the deed!’
  This rous’d the soul in ev’ry Trojan breast.        590
The godlike Ajax next his Greeks address’d:
‘How long, ye warriors of the Argive race,
(To gen’rous Argos what a dire disgrace!)
How long on these curs’d confines will ye lie,
Yet undetermin’d, or to live, or die?        595
What hopes remain, what methods to retire,
If once your vessels catch the Trojan fire?
Mark how the flames approach, how near they fall,
How Hector calls, and Troy obeys his call!
Not to the dance that dreadful voice invites;        600
It calls to death, and all the rage of fights.
’T is now no time for wisdom or debates;
To your own hands are trusted all your fates:
And better far, in one decisive strife,
One day should end our labour, or our life,        605
Than keep this hard-got inch of barren sands,
Still press’d, and press’d by such inglorious hands.’
  The list’ning Grecians feel their leader’s flame,
And ev’ry kindling bosom pants for fame.
Then mutual slaughters spread on either side;        610
By Hector here the Phocian Schedius died;
There, pierc’d by Ajax, sank Laodamas,
Chief of the foot, of old Antenor’s race.
Polydamas laid Otus on the sand,
The fierce commander of th’ Epeian band.        615
His lance bold Meges at the victor threw;
The victor stooping, from the death withdrew
(That valued life, O Phœbus! was thy care),
But Crœsmus’ bosom took the flying spear:
His corpse fell bleeding on the slipp’ry shore:        620
His radiant arms triumphant Meges bore.
Dolops, the son of Lampus, rushes on,
Sprung from the race of old Laomedon,
And famed for prowess in a well-fought field;
He pierc’d the centre of his sounding shield:        625
But Meges Phyleus’ ample breast-plate wore
(Well known in fight on Selles’ winding shore:
For King Euphetes gave the golden mail,
Compact, and firm with many a jointed scale),
Which oft, in cities storm’d, and battles won,        630
Had saved the father, and now saves the son.
Full at the Trojan’s head he urged his lance,
Where the high plumes above the helmet dance,
New-tinged with Tyrian dye: in dust below,
Shorn from the crest, the purple honours glow;        635
Meantime their fight the Spartan King survey’d,
And stood by Meges’ side, a sudden aid,
Thro’ Dolops’ shoulder urged his forceful dart,
Which held its passage thro’ the panting heart,
And issued at his breast. With thund’ring sound        640
The warrior falls extended on the ground.
In rush the conquering Greeks to spoil the slain;
But Hector’s voice excites his kindred train;
The hero most from Hicetaon sprung,
Fierce Melanippus, gallant, brave, and young.        645
He (e’er to Troy the Grecians cross’d the main)
Fed his large oxen on Percote’s plain;
But when oppress’d, his country claim’d his care,
Return’d to Ilion, and excell’d in war:
For this in Priam’s court he held his place,        650
Belov’d no less than Priam’s royal race.
Him Hector singled, as his troops he led,
And thus inflamed him, pointing to the dead:
  ‘Lo, Melanippus! lo where Dolops lies;
And is it thus our royal kinsman dies?        655
O’ermatch’d he falls; to two at once a prey,
And lo, they bear the bloody arms away!
Come on—a distant war no longer wage,
But hand to hand thy country’s foes engage:
Till Greece at once, and all her glory, end;        660
Or Ilion from her tow’ry height descend,
Heav’d from the lowest stone; and bury all
In one sad sepulchre, one common fall.’
  Hector (this said) rush’d forward on the foes:
With equal ardour Melanippus glows:        665
Then Ajax thus: ‘O Greeks! respect your fame,
Respect yourselves, and learn an honest shame:
Let mutual rev’rence mutual warmth inspire,
And catch from breast to breast the noble fire.
On valour’s side the odds of combat lie,        670
The brave live glorious, or lamented die;
The wretch that trembles in the Field of Fame,
Meets death, and worse than death, eternal shame.’
  His gen’rous sense he not in vain imparts;
It sunk, and rooted in the Grecian hearts.        675
They join, they throng, they thicken at his call,
And flank the navy with a brazen wall;
Shields touching shields, in order blaze above,
And stop the Trojans, tho’ impell’d by Jove.
The fiery Spartan first, with loud applause,        680
Warms the bold son of Nestor in his cause.
‘Is there’ (he said) ‘in arms a youth like you,
So strong to fight, so active to pursue?
Why stand you distant, nor attempt a deed?
Lift the bold lance, and make some Trojan bleed.’        685
  He said, and backwards to the lines retired;
Forth rush’d the youth, with martial fury fired,
Beyond the foremost ranks; his lance he threw
And round the black battalions cast his view.
The troops of Troy recede with sudden fear,        690
While the swift jav’lin hiss’d along in air.
Advancing Melanippus met the dart
With his bold breast, and felt it in his heart:
Thund’ring he falls; his falling arms resound,
And his broad buckler rings against the ground.        695
The victor leaps upon his prostrate prize;
Thus on a roe the well-breathed beagle flies,
And rends his side, fresh-bleeding with the dart
The distant hunter sent into his heart.
Observing Hector to the rescue flew;        700
Bold as he was, Antilochus withdrew:
So when a savage, ranging o’er the plain,
Has torn the shepherd’s dog, or shepherd swain;
While, conscious of the deed, he glares around,
And hears the gath’ring multitude resound,        705
Timely he flies the yet untasted food,
And gains the friendly shelter of the wood.
So fears the youth; all Troy with shouts pursue,
While stones and darts in mingled tempests flew;
But, enter’d in the Grecian ranks, he turns        710
His manly breast, and with new fury burns.
  Now on the fleet the tides of Trojans drove,
Fierce to fulfil the stern decrees of Jove:
The Sire of Gods, confirming Thetis’ prayer,
The Grecian ardour quench’d in deep despair;        715
But lifts to glory Troy’s prevailing bands,
Swells all their hearts, and strengthens all their hands.
On Ida’s top he waits with longing eyes,
To view the navy blazing to the skies;
Then, nor till then, the scale of war shall turn,        720
The Trojans fly, and conquer’d Ilion burn.
These fates revolv’d in his almighty mind,
He raises Hector to the work design’d,
Bids him with more than mortal fury glow,
And drives him, like a lightning, on the foe.        725
So Mars, when human crimes for vengeance call,
Shakes his huge jav’lin, and whole armies fall.
Not with more rage a conflagration rolls,
Wraps the vast mountains, and involves the poles.
He foams with wrath; beneath his gloomy brow        730
Like fiery meteors his red eye-balls glow:
The radiant helmet on his temple burns,
Waves when he nods, and lightens as he turns:
For Jove his splendour round the Chief had thrown,
And cast the blaze of both the hosts on one.        735
Unhappy glories! for his fate was near,
Due to stern Pallas, and Pelides’ spear:
Yet Jove deferr’d the death he was to pay,
And gave what Fate allow’d, the honours of a day!
  Now all on fire for fame, his breast, his eyes        740
Burn at each foe, and single ev’ry prize;
Still at the closest ranks, the thickest fight,
He points his ardour, and exerts his might.
The Grecian phalanx, moveless as a tower,
On all sides batter’d, yet resists his power:        745
So some tall rock o’erhangs the hoary main,
By winds assail’d, by billows beat in vain;
Unmov’d it hears, above, the tempest blow,
And sees the wat’ry mountains break below.
Girt in surrounding flames, he seems to fall        750
Like fire from Jove, and bursts upon them all;
Bursts as a wave that from the clouds impends,
And swell’d with tempests on the ship descends;
White are the decks with foam; the winds aloud
Howl o’er the masts, and sing thro’ ev’ry shroud:        755
Pale, trembling, tired, the sailors freeze with fears;
And instant death on ev’ry wave appears.
So pale the Greeks the eyes of Hector meet,
The Chief so thunders, and so shakes the fleet.
  As when a lion rushing from his den,        760
Amidst the plain of some wide-water’d fen
(Where numerous oxen, as at ease they feed,
At large expatiate o’er the ranker mead),
Leaps on the herds before the herdsman’s eyes:
The trembling herdsman far to distance flies:        765
Some lordly bull (the rest dispers’d and fled)
He singles out; arrests, and lays him dead.
Thus from the rage of Jove-like Hector flew
All Greece in heaps; but one he seiz’d, and slew.
Mycenean Periphes, a mighty name,        770
In wisdom great, in arms well-known to fame:
The minister of stern Eurystheus’ ire,
Against Alcides; Copreus was his sire:
The son redeem’d the honours of the race,
A son as gen’rous as the sire was base;        775
O’er all his country’s youth conspicuous far
In ev’ry virtue, or of peace or war:
But doom’d to Hector’s stronger force to yield!
Against the margin of his ample shield
He struck his hasty foot: his heels upsprung;        780
Supine he fell, his brazen helmet rung.
On the fall’n Chief th’ invading Trojan press’d,
And plunged the pointed jav’lin in his breast.
His circling friends, who strove to guard too late
Th’ unhappy hero, fled, or shared his fate.        785
  Chased from the foremost line, the Grecian train
Now man the next, receding toward the main:
Wedg’d in one body at the tents they stand,
Wall’d round with sterns, a gloomy, desp’rate band.
Now manly shame forbids th’ inglorious flight;        790
Now fear itself confines them to the fight:
Man courage breathes in man; but Nestor most
(The sage preserver of the Grecian host)
Exhorts, adjures, to guard these utmost shores;
And by their parents, by themselves, implores:        795
  ‘O friends! be men: your gen’rous breasts inflame
With mutual honour, and with mutual shame!
Think of your hopes, your fortunes; all the care
Your wives, your infants, and your parents, share:
Think of each living father’s rev’rend head;        800
Think of each ancestor with glory dead;
Absent, by me they speak, by me they sue;
They ask their safety and their fame from you:
The Gods their fates on this one action lay,
And all are lost if you desert the day.’        805
  He spoke, and round him breathed heroic fires;
Minerva seconds what the sage inspires.
The mist of darkness Jove around them threw,
She clear’d, restoring all the war to view:
A sudden ray shot beaming o’er the plain,        810
And shew’d the shores, the navy, and the main.
Hector they saw, and all who fly or fight,
The scene wide opening to the blaze of light.
First of the field, great Ajax strikes their eyes,
His port majestic, and his ample size:        815
A pond’rous mace, with studs of iron crown’d,
Full twenty cubits long, he swings around.
Nor fights like others fix’d to certain stands,
But looks a moving tower above the bands;
High on the decks, with vast gigantic stride,        820
The godlike hero stalks from side to side.
So when a horseman from the wat’ry mead
(Skill’d in the manage of the bounding steed)
Drives four fair coursers, practis’d to obey,
To some great city thro’ the public way;        825
Safe in his art, as side by side they run,
He shifts his seat, and vaults from one to one;
And now to this, and now to that he flies;
Admiring numbers follow with their eyes.
From ship to ship thus Ajax swiftly flew,        830
No less the wonder of the warring crew.
As furious, Hector thunder’d threats aloud,
And rush’d enraged before the Trojan crowd;
Then swift invades the ships, whose beaky prores
Lay rank’d contiguous on the bending shores.        835
So the strong eagle from his airy height,
Who marks the swans’ or cranes’ embodied flight,
Stoops down impetuous, while they light for food,
And stooping darkens with his wings the flood.
Jove leads him on with his almighty hand,        840
And breathes fierce spirits in his foll’wing band.
The warring nations meet, the battle roars,
Thick beats the combat on the sounding prores.
Thou would’st have thought, so furious was their fire,
No force could tame them, and no toil could tire;        845
As if new vigour from new fights they won,
And the long battle was but then begun.
Greece, yet unconquer’d, kept alive the war,
Secure of death, confiding in despair;
Troy in proud hopes already view’d the main        850
Bright with the blaze, and red with heroes slain:
Like strength is felt from hope, and from despair,
And each contends, as his were all the war.
  ’T was thou, bold Hector! whose resistless hand
First seiz’d a ship on that contested strand;        855
The same which dead Protesilaus bore,
The first that touch’d th’ unhappy Trojan shore.
For this in arms the warring nations stood,
And bathed their gen’rous breasts with mutual blood.
No room to poise the lance, or bend the bow;        860
But hand to hand, and man to man they grow:
Wounded, they wound; and seek each other’s hearts
With falchions, axes, swords, and shorten’d darts.
The falchions ring, shields rattle, axes sound,
Swords flash in air, or glitter on the ground:        865
With streaming blood the slipp’ry shores are dyed,
And slaughter’d heroes swell the dreadful tide.
  Still raging Hector with his ample hand
Grasps the high stern, and gives his loud command:
  ‘Haste, bring the flames! the toil of ten long years        870
Is finish’d; and the day desired appears!
This happy day with acclamations greet,
Bright with destruction of yon hostile fleet.
The coward counsels of a tim’rous throng
Of rev’rend dotards, check’d out glory long:        875
Too long Jove lull’d us with lethargic charms,
But now in peals of thunder calls to arms;
In this great day he crowns our full desires,
Wakes all our force, and seconds all our fires.’
  He spoke. The warriors, at his fierce command,        880
Pour a new deluge on the Grecian band.
Ev’n Ajax paus’d (so thick the jav’lins fly),
Stepp’d back, and doubted or to live, or die.
Yet where the oars are placed, he stands to wait
What Chief approaching dares attempt his fate:        885
Ev’n to the last his naval charge defends,
Now shakes his spear, now lifts, and now protends;
Ev’n yet, the Greeks with piercing shouts inspires,
Amidst attacks, and deaths, and darts, and fires:
  ‘O friends! O heroes! names for ever dear,        890
Once sons of Mars, and thunderbolts of war!
Ah! yet be mindful of your old renown,
Your great forefathers’ virtues and your own.
What aids expect you in this utmost strait?
What bulwarks rising between you and fate?        895
No aids, no bulwarks, your retreat attend,
No friends to help, no city to defend.
This spot is all you have, to lose or keep;
There stand the Trojans, and here rolls the deep.
’T is hostile ground you tread; your native lands        900
Far, far from hence: your fates are in your hands.’
  Raging he spoke; nor farther wastes his breath,
But turns his jav’lin to the work of death.
Whate’er bold Trojan arm’d his daring bands
Against the sable ships with flaming brands,        905
So well the Chief his naval weapon sped,
The luckless warrior at his stern lay dead:
Full twelve, the boldest, in a moment fell,
Sent by great Ajax to the shades of hell.
 
 
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