Verse > Alexander Pope > Complete Poetical Works
Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
Translations from Homer
The Iliad
Book XVII. The Seventh Battle, for the Body of Patroclus.—The Acts of Menelaus
The Argument
  Menelaus, upon the death of Patroclus, defends his body from the enemy: Euphorbus, who attempts it, is slain. Hector advancing, Menelaus retires; but soon returns with Ajax, and drives him off. This Glaucus objects to Hector as a flight, who thereupon puts on the armour he had won from Patroclus, and renews the battle. The Greeks give way, till Ajax rallies them: Æneas sustains the Trojans. Æneas and Hector attempt the chariot of Achilles, which is borne off by Automedon. The horses of Achilles deplore the loss of Patroclus; Jupiter covers his body with a thick darkness: the noble prayer of Ajax on that occasion. Menelaus sends Antilochus to Achilles, with the news of Patroclus’s death: then returns to the fight, where, though attacked with the utmost fury, he and Meriones, assisted by the Ajaces, bear off the body to the ships.
  The time is the evening of the eight-and-twentieth day. The scene lies in the fields before Troy.

  ON the cold earth divine Patroclus spread,
Lies pierc’d with wounds among the vulgar dead.
Great Menelaus, touch’d with gen’rous woe,
Springs to the front, and guards him from the foe:
Thus, round her new-fall’n young the heifer moves,        5
Fruit of her throes, and first-born of her loves;
And anxious (helpless as he lies, and bare)
Turns and re-turns her, with a mother’s care.
Opposed to each that near the carcass came,
His broad shield glimmers, and his lances flame.        10
  The son of Panthus, skill’d the dart to send,
Eyes the dead hero, and insults the friend:
‘This hand, Atrides, laid Patroclus low;
Warrior! desist, nor tempt an equal blow.
To me the spoils my prowess won, resign;        15
Depart with life, and leave the glory mine.’
  The Trojan thus: the Spartan Monarch burn’d
With gen’rous anguish, and in scorn return’d:
‘Laugh’st thou not, Jove! from thy superior throne,
When mortals boast of prowess not their own?        20
Not thus the lion glories in his might,
Nor panther braves his spotted foe in fight;
Nor thus the boar (those terrors of the plain);
Man only vaunts his force, and vaunts in vain.
But far the vainest of the boastful kind        25
These sons of Panthus vent their haughty mind.
Yet ’t was but late, beneath my conquering steel
This boaster’s brother, Hyperenor, fell:
Against our arm, which rashly he defied,
Vain was his vigour, and as vain his pride.        30
These eyes beheld him on the dust expire,
No more to cheer his spouse, or glad his sire.
Presumptuous youth! like his shall be thy doom,
Go, wait thy brother to the Stygian gloom;
Or, while thou may’st, avoid the threaten’d fate;        35
Fools stay to feel it, and are wise too late.’
  Unmov’d, Euphorbus thus: ‘That action known,
Come, for my brother’s blood repay thy own.
His weeping father claims thy destin’d head,
And spouse, a widow in her bridal bed.        40
On these thy conquer’d spoils I shall bestow,
To soothe a consort’s and a parent’s woe.
No longer then defer the glorious strife,
Let Heav’n decide our Fortune, Fame, and Life.’
  Swift as the word the missile lance he flings,        45
The well-aim’d weapon on the buckler rings,
But, blunted by the brass, innoxious falls:
On Jove, the father, great Atrides calls;
Nor flies the jav’lin from his arm in vain;
It pierc’d his throat, and bent him to the plain;        50
Wide thro’ the neck appears the grisly wound,
Prone sinks the warrior, and his arms resound.
The shining circlets of his golden hair,
Which ev’n the Graces might be proud to wear,
Instarr’d with gems and gold, bestrew the shore,        55
With dust dishonour’d, and deform’d with gore.
  As the young olive, in some sylvan scene,
Crown’d by fresh fountains with eternal green,
Lifts the gay head, in snowy flow’rets fair,
And plays and dances to the gentle air;        60
When lo! a whirlwind from high Heav’n invades
The tender plant, and withers all its shades;
It lies uprooted from its genial bed,
A lovely ruin now defaced and dead:
Thus young, thus beautiful, Euphorbus lay,        65
While the fierce Spartan tore his arms away.
Proud of his deed, and glorious in the prize,
Affrighted Troy the tow’ring victor flies;
Flies, as before some mountain lion’s ire
The village curs and trembling swains retire;        70
When o’er the slaughter’d bull they hear him roar,
And see his jaws distil with smoking gore;
All pale with fear, at distance scatter’d round,
They shout incessant, and the vales resound.
  Meanwhile Apollo view’d with envious eyes,        75
And urged great Hector to dispute the prize
(In Mentes’ shape, beneath whose martial care
The rough Ciconians learn’d the trade of war):
‘Forbear,’ he cried, ‘with fruitless speed to chase
Achilles’ coursers, of ethereal race;        80
They stoop not, these, to mortal man’s command,
Or stoop to none but great Achilles’ hand.
Too long amused with a pursuit so vain,
Turn, and behold the brave Euphorbus slain!
By Sparta slain; for ever now suppress’d        85
The fire which burn’d in that undaunted breast!’
  Thus having spoke, Apollo wing’d his flight,
And mix’d with mortals in the toils of fight:
His words infix’d unutterable care
Deep in great Hector’s soul: thro’ all the war        90
He darts his anxious eye: and instant view’d
The breathless hero in his blood imbrued
(Forth welling from the wound, as prone he lay),
And in the victor’s hand the shining prey.
Sheathed in bright arms, thro’ cleaving ranks he flies,        95
And sends his voice in thunder to the skies:
Fierce as a flood of flame by Vulcan sent,
It flew, and fired the nations as it went.
Atrides from the voice the storm divin’d,
And thus explor’d his own unconquer’d mind:        100
  ‘Then shall I quit Patroclus on the plain,
Slain in my cause, and for my honour slain;
Desert the arms, the relics of my friend?
Or singly Hector and his troops attend?
Sure, where such partial favour Heav’n bestow’d,        105
To brave the Hero were to brave the God:
Forgive me, Greece, if once I quit the field;
’T is not to Hector, but to Heav’n, I yield.
Yet, nor the God nor Heav’n should give me fear,
Did but the voice of Ajax reach my ear:        110
Still would we turn, still battle on the plains,
And give Achilles all that yet remains
Of his and our Patroclus.’ This, no more,
The time allow’d: Troy thicken’d on the shore;
A sable scene! The terrors Hector led;        115
Slow he recedes, and sighing quits the dead.
  So from the fold th’ unwilling lion parts,
Forc’d by loud clamours, and a storm of darts;
He flies indeed, but threatens as he flies,
With heart indignant and retorted eyes.        120
Now, enter’d in the Spartan ranks, he turn’d
His manly breast, and with new fury burn’d:
O’er all the black battalions sent his view,
And thro’ the cloud the godlike Ajax knew;
Where lab’ring on the left the warrior stood,        125
All grim in arms, and cover’d o’er with blood;
There breathing courage, where the God of Day
Had sunk each heart with terror and dismay.
  To him the King: ‘Oh! Ajax, oh my friend!
Haste, and Patroclus’ lov’d remains defend:        130
The body to Achilles to restore,
Demands our care; alas! we can no more!
For naked now, despoil’d of arms, he lies;
And Hector glories in the dazzling prize.’
He said, and touch’d his heart. The raging pair        135
Pierce the thick battle, and provoke the war.
Already had stern Hector seiz’d his head,
And doom’d to Trojan dogs th’ unhappy dead;
But soon as Ajax rear’d his tower-like shield,
Sprung to his car, and measured back the field.        140
His train to Troy the radiant armour bear,
To stand a trophy of his fame in war.
  Meanwhile great Ajax (his broad shield display’d)
Guards the dead hero with the dreadful shade;
And now before, and now behind he stood:        145
Thus, in the centre of some gloomy wood,
With many a step the lioness surrounds
Her tawny young, beset by men and hounds;
Elate her heart, and rousing all her powers,
Dark o’er the fiery balls each hanging eyebrow lowers.        150
Fast by his side the gen’rous Spartan glows
With great revenge, and feeds his inward woes.
  But Glaucus, leader of the Lycian aids,
On Hector frowning, thus his flight upbraids:
‘Where now in Hector shall we Hector find?        155
A manly form, without a manly mind!
Is this, O Chief! a hero’s boasted fame?
How vain, without the merit, is the name!
Since battle is renounc’d, thy thoughts employ
What other methods may preserve thy Troy:        160
’T is time to try if Ilion’s state can stand
By thee alone, nor ask a foreign hand;
Mean, empty boast! but shall the Lycians stake
Their lives for you? those Lycians you forsake?
What from thy thankless arms can we expect?        165
Thy friend Sarpedon proves thy base neglect:
Say, shall our slaughter’d bodies guard your walls,
While unrevenged the great Sarpedon falls?
Ev’n where he died for Troy, you left him there,
A feast for dogs, and all the fowls of air.        170
On my command if any Lycian wait,
Hence let him march, and give up Troy to fate.
Did such a spirit as the Gods impart
Impel one Trojan hand, or Trojan heart
(Such as should burn in every soul that draws        175
The sword for glory, and his country’s cause),
Ev’n yet our mutual arms we might employ,
And drag yon carcass to the walls of Troy.
Oh! were Patroclus ours, we might obtain
Sarpedon’s arms, and honour’d corse, again!        180
Greece with Achilles’ friend should be repaid,
And thus due honours purchas’d to his shade.
But words are vain. Let Ajax once appear,
And Hector trembles and recedes with fear;
Thou darest not meet the terrors of his eye;        185
And lo, already thou preparest to fly.’
  The Trojan Chief with fix’d resentment eyed
The Lycian leader, and sedate replied:
  ‘Say, is it just (my friend) that Hector’s ear
From such a warrior such a speech should hear?        190
I deem’d thee once the wisest of thy kind,
But ill this insult suits a prudent mind.
I shun great Ajax? I desert my train?
’T is mine to prove the rash assertion vain;
I joy to mingle where the battle bleeds,        195
And hear the thunder of the sounding steeds.
But Jove’s high will is ever uncontroll’d,
The strong he withers, and confounds the bold:
Now crowns with fame the mighty man, and now
Strikes the fresh garland from the victor’s brow!        200
Come, thro’ you squadrons let us hew the way,
And thou be witness if I fear to-day;
If yet a Greek the sight of Hector dread,
Or yet their hero dare defend the dead.’
  Then, turning to the martial hosts, he cries,        205
‘Ye Trojans, Dardans, Lycians, and allies!
Be men (my friends) in action as in name,
And yet be mindful of your ancient fame.
Hector in proud Achilles’ arms shall shine,
Torn from his friend, by right of conquest mine.’        210
  He strode along the field as thus he said
(The sable plumage nodded o’er his head):
Swift thro’ the spacious plain he sent a look;
One instant saw, one instant overtook
The distant band, that on the sandy shore        215
The radiant spoils to sacred Ilion bore.
There his own mail unbraced the field bestrew’d;
His train to Troy convey’d the massy load.
Now blazing in th’ immortal arms he stands,
The work and present of celestial hands;        220
By aged Peleus to Achilles giv’n,
As first to Peleus by the court of Heav’n:
His father’s arms not long Achilles wears,
Forbid by Fate to reach his father’s years.
  Him, proud in triumph, glitt’ring from afar,        225
The God whose thunder rends the troubled air
Beheld with pity! as apart he sat,
And, conscious, look’d thro’ all the scene of fate,
He shook the sacred honours of his head;
Olympus trembled, and the Godhead said:        230
  ‘Ah, wretched man! unmindful of thy end!
A moment’s glory, and what fates attend!
In heav’nly panoply, divinely bright
Thou stand’st, and armies tremble at thy sight,
As at Achilles’ self! beneath thy dart        235
Lies slain the great Achilles’ dearer part:
Thou from the mighty dead those arms hast torn,
Which once the greatest of mankind had worn.
Yet live! I give thee one illustrious day,
A blaze of glory ere thou fadest away.        240
For ah! no more Andromache shall come,
With joyful tears to welcome Hector home;
No more officious, with endearing charms,
From thy tired limbs unbrace Pelides’ arms!’
  Then with his sable brow he gave the nod,        245
That seals his word; the sanction of the God.
The stubborn arms (by Jove’s command disposed)
Conform’d spontaneous, and around him closed:
Fill’d with the God, enlarged his members grew,
Thro’ all his veins a sudden vigour flew:        250
The blood in brisker tides began to roll,
And Mars himself came rushing on his soul.
Exhorting loud thro’ all the field he strode,
And look’d, and mov’d, Achilles, or a God.
Now Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon he inspires,        255
Now Phorcys, Chromius, and Hippothoüs fires;
The great Thersilochus like fury found,
Asteropæus kindled at the sound,
And Ennomus, in augury renown’d.
‘Hear, all ye hosts, and hear, unnumber’d bands        260
Of neighb’ring nations, or of distant lands!
’T was not for state we summon’d you so far,
To boast our numbers, and the pomp of war;
Ye came to fight; a valiant foe to chase,
To save our present and our future race.        265
For this, our wealth, our products, you enjoy,
And glean the relics of exhausted Troy.
Now, then, to conquer or to die prepare,
To die or conquer are the terms of war.
Whatever hand shall win Patroclus slain,        270
Whoe’er shall drag him to the Trojan train,
With Hector’s self shall equal honours claim;
With Hector part the spoil, and share the fame.’
  Fired by his words, the troops dismiss their fears,
They join, they thicken, they protend their spears;        275
Full on the Greeks they drive in firm array,
And each from Ajax hopes the glorious prey:
Vain hope! what numbers shall the field o’erspread,
What victims perish round the mighty dead!
  Great Ajax mark’d the growing storm from far,        280
And thus bespoke his brother of the war:
‘Our fatal day, alas! is come, my friend,
And all our wars and glories at an end!
’T is not this corse alone we guard in vain,
Condemn’d to vultures on the Trojan plain;        285
We too must yield; the same sad fate must fall
On thee, on me, perhaps (my friend) on all.
See what a tempest direful Hector spreads,
And lo! it bursts, it thunders on our heads!
Call on our Greeks, if any hear the call,        290
The bravest Greeks: this hour demands them all.’
  The warrior rais’d his voice, and wide around
The field re-echoed the distressful sound:
‘Oh Chiefs! oh Princes! to whose hand is giv’n
The rule of men; whose glory is from Heav’n!        295
Whom with due honours both Atrides grace:
Ye guides and guardians of our Argive race!
All, whom this well-known voice shall reach from far,
All, whom I see not thro’ this cloud of war,
Come all! let gen’rous rage your arms employ,        300
And save Patroclus from the dogs of Troy.’
  Oïlean Ajax first the voice obey’d,
Swift was his pace and ready was his aid;
Next him Idomeneus, more slow with age,
And Merion, burning with a hero’s rage.        305
The long-succeeding numbers who can name?
But all were Greeks, and eager all for fame.
Fierce to the charge great Hector led the throng;
Whole Troy, embodied, rush’d with shouts along.
Thus, when a mountain billow foams and raves,        310
Where some swoln river disembogues his waves,
Full in the mouth is stopp’d the rushing tide,
The boiling ocean works from side to side,
The river trembles to his utmost shore,
And distant rocks rebellow to the roar.        315
  Nor less resolv’d, the firm Achaian band
With brazen shields in horrid circle stand:
Jove, pouring darkness o’er the mingled fight,
Conceals the warriors’ shining helms in night:
To him the Chief, for whom the hosts contend,        320
Had liv’d not hateful, for he liv’d a friend:
Dead he protects him with superior care,
Nor dooms his carcass to the birds of air.
  The first attack the Grecians scarce sustain,
Repuls’d, they yield; the Trojans seize the slain:        325
Then fierce they rally, to revenge led on
By the swift rage of Ajax Telamon
(Ajax, to Peleus’ son the second name,
In graceful stature next, and next in fame).
With headlong force the foremost ranks he tore:        330
So thro’ the thicket bursts the mountain boar,
And rudely scatters, far to distance round,
The frighted hunter and the baying hound.
The son of Lethus, brave Pelasgus’ heir,
Hippothoüs, dragg’d the carcass thro’ the war;        335
The sinewy ancles bored, the feet he bound
With thongs, inserted thro’ the double wound;
Inevitable Fate o’ertakes the deed;
Doom’d by great Ajax’ vengeful lance to bleed;
It cleft the helmet’s brazen cheeks in twain;        340
The shatter’d crest and horsehair strew the plain:
With nerves relax’d he tumbles to the ground,
The brain comes gushing thro’ the ghastly wound:
He drops Patroclus’ foot, and, o’er him spread,
Now lies a sad companion of the dead:        345
Far from Larissa lies, his native air,
And ill requites his parent’s tender care.
Lamented youth! in life’s first bloom he fell,
Sent by great Ajax to the shades of Hell.
  Once more at Ajax Hector’s jav’lin flies;        350
The Grecian marking as it cut the skies,
Shunn’d the descending death, which, hissing on,
Stretch’d in the dust the great Iphitus’ son,
Schedius the brave, of all the Phocian kind
The boldest warrior, and the noblest mind:        355
In little Panope, for strength renown’d,
He held his seat, and ruled the realms around.
Plunged in his throat, the weapon drank his blood,
And, deep transpiercing, thro’ the shoulder stood;
In clanging arms the hero fell, and all        360
The fields resounded with his weighty fall.
  Phorcys, as slain Hippothous he defends,
The Telamonian lance his belly rends;
The hollow armour burst before the stroke,
And thro’ the wound the rushing entrails broke.        365
In strong convulsions panting on the sands
He lies, and grasps the dust with dying hands.
  Struck at the sight, recede the Trojan train:
The shouting Argives strip the heroes slain.
And now had Troy, by Greece compell’d to yield,        370
Fled to her ramparts, and resign’d the field;
Greece, in her native fortitude elate,
With Jove averse, had turn’d the scale of Fate;
But Phœbus urged Æneas to the fight;
He seem’d like aged Periphas to sight        375
(A herald in Anchises’ love grown old,
Revered for prudence, and, with prudence, bold).
  Thus he: ‘What methods yet, oh Chief! remain,
To save your Troy, tho’ Heav’n its fall ordain?
There have been heroes, who, by virtuous care,        380
By valour, numbers, and by arts of war,
Have forc’d the Powers to spare a sinking state,
And gain’d at length the glorious odds of Fate.
But you, when Fortune smiles, when Jove declares
His partial favour, and assists your wars,        385
Your shameful efforts ’gainst yourselves employ,
And force th’ unwilling God to ruin Troy.’
  Æneas, thro’ the form assumed, descries
The power conceal’d, and thus to Hector cries:
‘Oh lasting shame! to our own fears a prey,        390
We seek our ramparts, and desert the day.
A God (nor is he less) my bosom warms,
And tells me Jove asserts the Trojan arms.’
  He spoke, and foremost to the combat flew;
The bold example all his hosts pursue.        395
Then first Leocritus beneath him bled,
In vain beloved by valiant Lycomede;
Who view’d his fall, and, grieving at the chance,
Swift to revenge it, sent his angry lance:
The whirling lance, with vig’rous force address’d,        400
Descends, and pants in Apisaon’s breast:
From rich Pæonia’s vales the warrior came;
Next thee, Asteropeus! in place and fame,
Asteropeus with grief beheld the slain,
And rush’d to combat, but he rush’d in vain:        405
Indissolubly firm, around the dead,
Rank within rank, on buckler buckler spread,
And hemm’d with bristled spears, the Grecians stood;
A brazen bulwark, and an iron wood.
Great Ajax eyes them with incessant care,        410
And in an orb contracts the crowded war,
Close in their ranks commands to fight or fall,
And stands the centre and the soul of all:
Fix’d on the spot they war, and wounded, wound;
A sanguine torrent steeps the reeking ground;        415
On heaps the Greeks, on heaps the Trojans bled,
And, thick’ning round them, rise the hills of dead.
  Greece, in close order and collected might,
Yet suffers least, and sways the wav’ring fight;
Fierce as conflicting fires, the combat burns,        420
And now it rises, now it sinks, by turns.
In one thick darkness all the fight was lost:
The sun, the moon, and all th’ ethereal host,
Seem’d as extinct; day ravish’d from their eyes,
And all Heav’n’s splendours blotted from the skies.        425
Such o’er Patroclus’ body hung the night,
The rest in sunshine fought, and open light:
Unclouded there, th’ aërial azure spread,
No vapour rested on the mountain’s head,
The golden sun pour’d forth a stronger ray,        430
And all the broad expansion flamed with day.
Dispers’d around the plain, by fits they fight,
And here, and there, their scatter’d arrows light:
But death and darkness o’er the carcass spread,
There burn’d the war, and there the mighty bled.        435
  Meanwhile the sons of Nestor, in the rear
(Their fellows routed), toss the distant spear,
And skirmish wide: so Nestor gave command,
When from the ships he sent the Pylian band.
The youthful brothers thus for fame contend,        440
Nor knew the fortune of Achilles’ friend;
In thought they view’d him still, with martial joy,
Glorious in arms, and dealing deaths to Troy.
  But round the corse the heroes pant for breath,
And thick and heavy grows the work of death:        445
O’erlabour’d now, with dust, and sweat, and gore,
Their knees, their legs, their feet, are cover’d o’er;
Drops follow drops, the clouds on clouds arise,
And carnage clogs their hands, and darkness fills their eyes.
As when a slaughter’d bull’s yet reeking hide,        450
Strain’d with full force, and tugg’d from side to side,
The brawny curriers stretch; and labour o’er
Th’ extended surface, drunk with fat and gore;
So tugging round the corse both armies stood;
The mangled body bathed in sweat and blood:        455
While Greeks and Ilians equal strength employ,
Now to the ships to force it, now to Troy.
Not Pallas’ self, her breast when fury warms,
Nor he whose anger sets the world in arms,
Could blame this scene; such rage, such horror, reign’d;        460
Such Jove to honour the great dead ordain’d.
  Achilles in his ships at distance lay,
Nor knew the fatal fortune of the day;
He, yet unconscious of Patroclus’ fall,
In dust extended under Ilion’s wall,        465
Expects him glorious from the conquer’d plain,
And for his wish’d return prepares in vain;
Tho’ well he knew, to make proud Ilion bend,
Was more than Heav’n had destin’d to his friend,
Perhaps to him: this Thetis had reveal’d;        470
The rest, in pity to her son, conceal’d.
  Still raged the conflict round the hero dead,
And heaps on heaps by mutual wounds they bled.
‘Curs’d be the man’ (ev’n private Greeks would say)
‘Who dares desert this well-disputed day!        475
First may the cleaving earth before our eyes
Gape wide, and drink our blood for sacrifice!
First perish all, ere haughty Troy shall boast
We lost Patroclus, and our glory lost.’
  Thus they. While with one voice the Trojans said,        480
‘Grant this day, Jove! or heap us on the dead!’
  Then clash their sounding arms; the clangors rise,
And shake the brazen concave of the skies.
  Meantime, at distance from the scene of blood,
The pensive steeds of great Achilles stood;        485
Their godlike master slain before their eyes,
They wept, and shared in human miseries.
In vain Automedon now shakes the rein,
Now plies the lash, and soothes and threats in vain;
Nor to the fight, nor Hellespont they go;        490
Restive they stood, and obstinate in woe:
Still as a tombstone, never to be mov’d,
On some good man, or woman unreprov’d,
Lays its eternal weight; or fix’d as stands
A marble courser by the sculptor’s hands        495
Placed on the hero’s grave. Along their face
The big round drops cours’d down with silent pace,
Conglobing on the dust. Their manes, that late
Circled their arched necks, and waved in state,
Trail’d on the dust beneath the yoke were spread,        500
And prone to earth was hung their languid head:
Nor Jove disdain’d to cast a pitying look,
While thus relenting to the steeds he spoke:
  ‘Unhappy coursers of immortal strain!
Exempt from age, and deathless now in vain;        505
Did we your race on mortal man bestow,
Only, alas! to share in mortal woe?
For ah! what is there, of inferior birth,
That breathes or creeps upon the dust of earth;
What wretched creature of what wretched kind,        510
Than man more weak, calamitous, and blind?
A miserable race! but cease to mourn:
For not by you shall Priam’s son be borne
High on the splendid car: one glorious prize
He rashly boasts; the rest our will denies.        515
Ourself will swiftness to your nerves impart,
Ourself with rising spirits swell your heart.
Automedon your rapid flight shall bear
Safe to the navy thro’ the storm of war.
For yet ’t is given to Troy, to ravage o’er        520
The field, and spread her slaughters to the shore;
The sun shall see her conquer, till his fall
With sacred darkness shades the face of all.’
  He said; and breathing in th’ immortal horse
Excessive spirit, urged them to the course;        525
From their high manes they shake the dust, and bear
The kindling chariot thro’ the parted war.
So flies a vulture thro’ the clam’rous train
Of geese, that scream, and scatter round the plain.
From danger now with swiftest speed they flew,        530
And now to conquest with like speed pursue;
Sole in the seat the charioteer remains,
Now plies the jav’lin, now directs the reins:
Him brave Alcimedon beheld distress’d,
Approach’d the chariot, and the Chief address’d:        535
‘What God provokes thee, rashly thus to dare,
Alone, unaided, in the thickest war?
Alas! thy friend is slain, and Hector wields
Achilles’ arms triumphant in the fields.’
  ‘In happy time (the charioteer replies),        540
The bold Alcimedon now greets my eyes;
No Greek like him the heav’nly steeds restrains,
Or holds their fury in suspended reins:
Patroclus, while he liv’d, their rage could tame,
But now Patroclus is an empty name!        545
To thee I yield the seat, to thee resign
The ruling charge: the task of fight be mine.’
  He said. Alcimedon, with active heat,
Snatches the reins, and vaults into the seat.
His friend descends. The Chief of Troy descried,        550
And call’d Æneas fighting near his side:
‘Lo, to my sight beyond our hope restor’d,
Achilles’ car, deserted of its lord!
The glorious steeds our ready arms invite,
Scarce their weak drivers guide them thro’ the fight:        555
Can such opponents stand, when we assail?
Unite thy force, my friend, and we prevail.’
  The son of Venus to the counsel yields:
Then o’er their backs they spread their solid shields;
With brass refulgent the broad surface shin’d,        560
And thick bull-hides the spacious concave lin’d.
Them Chromius follows, Aretus succeeds,
Each hopes the conquest of the lofty steeds;
In vain, brave youths, with glorious hopes ye burn,
In vain advance! not fated to return.        565
  Unmov’d, Automedon attends the fight,
Implores th’ Eternal, and collects his might.
Then, turning to his friend, with dauntless mind:
‘Oh keep the foaming coursers close behind!
Full on my shoulders let their nostrils blow,        570
For hard the fight, determin’d is the foe;
’T is Hector comes; and when he seeks the prize,
War knows no mean: he wins it, or he dies.’
  Then thro’ the fiels he sends his voice aloud,
And calls th’ Ajaces from the warring crowd,        575
With great Atrides. ‘Hither turn’ (he said),
‘Turn where distress demands immediate aid;
The dead, encircled by his friends, forego,
And save the living from a fiercer foe.
Unhelp’d we stand, unequal to engage        580
The force of Hector and Æneas’ rage:
Yet mighty as they are, my force to prove
Is only mine; th’ event belongs to Jove.’
  He spoke, and high the sounding jav’lin flung,
Which pass’d the shield of Aretus the young;        585
It pierc’d his belt, emboss’d with curious art;
Then in the lower belly stuck the dart.
As when a pond’rous axe, descending full,
Cleaves the broad forehead of some brawny bull;
Struck ’twixt the horns, he springs with many a bound,        590
Then tumbling rolls enormous on the ground:
Thus fell the youth; the air his soul receiv’d,
And the spear trembled as his entrails heav’d.
  Now at Automedon the Trojan foe
Discharged his lance; the meditated blow,        595
Stooping, he shunn’d; the jav’lin idly fled,
And hiss’d innoxious o’er the hero’s head:
Deep rooted in the ground, the forceful spear
In long vibrations spent its fury there.
With clashing flachions now the Chief had closed,        600
But each brave Ajax heard, and interposed;
Nor longer Hector with his Trojans stood,
But left their slain companion in his blood:
His arms Automedon divests, and cries,
‘Accept, Patroclus, this mean sacrifice.        605
Thus have I soothed my griefs, and thus have paid,
Poor as it is, some off’ring to thy shade.’
  So looks the lion o’er a mangled boar,
All grim with rage, and horrible with gore:
High on the chariot at one bound he sprung,        610
And o’er his seat the bloody trophies hung.
  And now Minerva, from the realms of air,
Descends impetuous, and renews the war;
For, pleas’d at length the Grecian arms to aid,
The Lord of Thunders sent the Blue-eyed Maid.        615
As when high Jove, denouncing future woe,
O’er the dark clouds extends his purple bow
(In sign of tempests from the troubled air,
Or, from the rage of man, destructive war);
The drooping cattle dread th’ impending skies,        620
And from his half-till’d field the lab’rer flies:
In such a form the Goddess round her drew
A livid cloud, and to the battle flew.
Assuming Phœnix’ shape, on earth she falls,
And in his well-known voice to Sparta calls:        625
‘And lies Achilles’ friend, belov’d by all,
A prey to dogs beneath the Trojan wall?
What shame to Greece for future times to tell,
To thee the greatest, in whose cause he fell!’
  ‘O Chief, oh Father!’ (Atreus’ son replies)        630
‘O full of days! by long experience wise!
What more desires my soul, than here, unmov’d,
To guard the body of the man I lov’d?
Ah would Minerva send me strength to rear
This wearied arm, and ward the storm of war!        635
But Hector, like the rage of fire, we dread,
And Jove’s own glories blaze around his head.’
  Pleas’d to be first of all the Powers address’d,
She breathes new vigour in her hero’s breast,
And fills with keen revenge, with fell despite,        640
Desire of blood, and rage, and lust of fight.
So burns the vengeful hornet (soul all o’er),
Repuls’d in vain, and thirsty still of gore
(Bold son of air and heat), on angry wings
Untamed, untired, he turns, attacks, and stings:        645
Fired with like ardour fierce Atrides flew,
And sent his soul with every lance he threw.
  There stood a Trojan, not unknown to Fame,
Eëtion’s son, and Podes was his name;
With riches honour’d, and with courage bless’d,        650
By Hector lov’d, his comrade, and his guest;
Thro’ his broad belt the spear a passage found,
And, pond’rous as he falls, his arms resound.
Sudden at Hector’s side Apollo stood,
Like Phænops, Asius’ son, appear’d the God        655
(Asius the great, who held his wealthy reign
In fair Abydos, by the rolling main).
  ‘Oh Prince’ (he cried), ‘oh foremost once in Fame!
What Grecian now shall tremble at thy name?
Dost thou at length to Menelaüs yield?        660
A Chief, once thought no terror of the field!
Yet singly, now, the long-disputed prize
He bears victorious, while our army flies.
By the same arm illustrious Podes bled,
The friend of Hector, unrevenged, is dead!’        665
This heard, o’er Hector spreads a cloud of woe,
Rage lifts his lance, and drives him on the foe.
  But now th’ Eternal shook his sable shield,
That shaded Ide, and all the subject field,
Beneath its ample verge. A rolling cloud        670
Involv’d the mount, the thunder roar’d aloud:
Th’ affrighted hills from their foundations nod,
And blaze beneath the lightnings of the God:
At one regard of his all-seeing eye,
The vanquish’d triumph, and the victors fly.        675
  Then trembled Greece: the flight Peneleus led;
For, as the brave Bœotian turn’d his head
To face the foe, Polydamas drew near,
And razed his shoulder with a shorten’d spear:
By Hector wounded, Leitus quits the plain,        680
Pierc’d thro’ the wrist; and, raging with the pain,
Grasps his once formidable lance in vain.
  As Hector follow’d, Idomen address’d
The flaming jav’lin to his manly breast;
The brittle point before his corslet yields;        685
Exulting Troy with clamour fills the fields:
High on his chariot as the Cretan stood,
The son of Priam whirl’d the missive wood:
But, erring from its aim, th’ impetuous spear
Struck to the dust the squire and charioteer        690
Of martial Merion: Cœranus his name,
Who left fair Lyetus for the fields of fame.
On foot bold Merion fought; and now, laid low,
Had graced the triumphs of his Trojan foe;
But the brave squire the ready coursers brought,        695
And with his life his master’s safety bought.
Between his cheek and ear the weapon went,
The teeth it shatter’d, and the tongue it rent.
Prone from the seat he tumbles to the plain;
His dying hand forgets the falling rein:        700
This Merion reaches, bending from the car,
And urges to desert the hopeless war;
Idomeneus consents; the lash applies;
And the swift chariot to the navy flies.
  Nor Ajax less the will of Heav’n descried,        705
And conquest shifting to the Trojan side,
Turn’d by the hand of Jove. Then thus begun,
To Atreus’ seed, the godlike Telamon:
  ‘Alas! who sees not Jove’s almighty hand
Transfers the glory to the Trojan band!        710
Whether the weak or strong discharge the dart,
He guides each arrow to a Grecian heart:
Not so our spears: incessant tho’ they rain,
He suffers ev’ry lance to fall in vain.
Deserted of the God, yet let us try        715
What human strength and prudence can supply;
If yet this honour’d corse, in triumph borne,
May glad the fleets that hope not our return,
Who tremble yet, scarce rescued from their fates,
And still hear Hector thund’ring at their gates.        720
Some hero too must be despatch’d to bear
The mournful message to Pelides’ ear;
For sure he knows not, distant on the shore,
His friend, his lov’d Patroclus, is no more.
But such a Chief I spy not thro’ the host:        725
The men, the steeds, the armies, all are lost
In gen’ral darkness: Lord of earth and air!
Oh King! oh Father! hear my humble prayer:
Dispel this cloud, the light of Heav’n restore;
Give me to see, and Ajax asks no more:        730
If Greece must perish, we thy will obey,
But let us perish in the face of day!’
  With tears the Hero spoke, and at his prayer
The God relenting, clear’d the clouded air;
Forth burst the sun with all-enlight’ning ray;        735
The blaze of armour flash’d against the day.
‘Now, now, Atrides! cast around thy sight,
If yet Antilochus survives the fight,
Let him to great Achilles’ ear convey
The fatal news.’ Atrides hastes away.        740
  So turns the lion from the nightly fold,
Tho’ high in courage, and with hunger bold,
Long gall’d by herdsmen, and long vex’d by hounds,
Stiff with fatigue, and fretted sore with wounds;
The darts fly round him from a hundred hands,        745
And the red terrors of the blazing brands:
Till late, reluctant, at the dawn of day
Sour he departs, and quits th’ untasted prey.
So mov’d Atrides from his dangerous place,
With weary limbs, but with unwilling pace;        750
The foe, he fear’d, might yet Patroclus gain,
And much admonish’d, much adjur’d his train:
  ‘Oh, guard these relics to your charge consign’d,
And bear the merits of the dead in mind;
How skill’d he was in each obliging art;        755
The mildest manners, and the gentlest heart:
He was, alas! but Fate decreed his end,
In death a hero, as in life a friend!’
  So parts the Chief, from rank to rank he flew,
And round on all sides sent his piercing view.        760
As the bold bird, endued with sharpest eye
Of all that wing the mid aërial sky,
The sacred eagle, from his walks above
Looks down, and sees the distant thicket move;
Then stoops, and sousing on the quiv’ring hare,        765
Snatches his life amid the clouds of air:
Not with less quickness his exerted sight
Pass’d this and that way, thro’ the ranks of fight;
Till on the left the Chief he sought, he found,
Cheering his men, and spreading deaths around.        770
  To him the King: ‘Belov’d of Jove! draw near,
For sadder tidings never touch’d thy ear.
Thy eyes have witness’d what a fatal turn!
How Ilion triumphs, and th’ Achaians mourn.
This is not all: Patroclus, on the shore        775
Now pale and dead, shall succour Greece no more.
Fly to the fleet, this instant fly, and tell
The sad Achilles how his lov’d one fell:
He too may haste the naked corse to gain;
The arms are Hector’s, who despoil’d the slain.’        780
  The youthful warrior heard with silent woe,
From his fair eyes the tears began to flow;
Big with the mighty grief, he strove to say
What sorrow dictates, but no word found way.
To brave Laodocus his arms he flung,        785
Who, near him wheeling, drove his steeds along;
Then ran, the mournful message to impart,
With tearful eyes, and with dejected heart.
  Swift fled the youth: nor Menelaüs stands
(Tho’ sore distress’d) to aid the Pylian bands;        790
But bids bold Thrasymede those troops sustain;
Himself returns to his Patroclus slain.
  ‘Gone is Antilochus’ (the hero said),
‘But hope not, warriors, for Achilles’ aid:
Tho’ fierce his rage, unbounded be his woe,        795
Unarm’d he fights not with the Trojan foe.
’T is in our hands alone our hopes remain,
’T is our own vigour must the dead regain;
And save ourselves, while with impetuous hate
Troy pours along, and this way rolls our fate.’        800
  ‘’T is well’ (said Ajax); ‘be it then thy care,
With Merion’s aid, the weighty corse to rear;
Myself and my bold brother will sustain
The shock of Hector and his charging train:
Nor fear we armies, fighting side by side;        805
What Troy can dare, we have already tried,
Have tried it, and have stood.’ The hero said:
High from the ground the warriors heave the dead.
A gen’ral clamour rises at the sight:
Loud shout the Trojans, and renew the fight;        810
Not fiercer rush along the gloomy wood,
With rage insatiate, and with thirst of blood,
Voracious hounds, that many a length before
Their furious hunters, drive the wounded boar;
But if the savage turns his glaring eye,        815
They howl aloof, and round the forest fly.
Thus on retreating Greece the Trojans pour,
Wave their thick falchions, and their jav’lins shower:
But, Ajax turning, to their fears they yield,
All pale they tremble, and forsake the field.        820
  While thus aloft the hero’s corse they bear,
Behind them rages all the storm of war;
Confusions, tumult, horror, o’er the throng
Of men, steeds, chariots, urged the rout along:
Less fierce the winds with rising flames conspire,        825
To whelm some city under waves of fire;
Now sink in gloomy clouds the proud abodes;
Now crack the blazing temples of the Gods;
The rumbling torrent thro’ the ruin rolls,
And sheets of smoke mount heavy to the poles.        830
The heroes sweat beneath their honour’d load:
As when two mules, along the rugged road,
From the steep mountain with exerted strength
Drag some vast beam, or mast’s unwieldly length;
Inly they groan, big drops of sweat distil,        835
Th’ enormous timber lumb’ring down the hill;
So these: Behind, the bulk of Ajax stands,
And breaks the torrent of the rushing bands.
Thus when a river, swell’d with sudden rains,
Spreads his broad waters o’er the level plains,        840
Some interposing hill the stream divides,
And breaks its force, and turns the winding tides.
Still close they follow, close the rear engage;
Æneas storms, and Hector foams with rage:
While Greece a heavy thick retreat maintains,        845
Wedg’d in one body, like a flight of cranes,
That shriek incessant while the falcon, hung
High on pois’d pinions, threats their callow young.
So from the Trojan Chiefs the Grecians fly,
Such the wild terror, and the mingled cry;        850
Within, without the trench, and all the way,
Strew’d in bright heaps, their arms and armour lay;
Such horror Jove impress’d! yet still proceeds
The work of death, and still the battle bleeds.

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