The Iliad of Homer (Cowper)/Book VI
ARGUMENT OF THE SIXTH BOOK.
Thus was the field forsaken by the Gods.
And now success proved various; here the Greeks
With their extended spears, the Trojans there
Prevail'd alternate, on the champain spread
The Xanthus and the Simoïs between.15
First Telamonian Ajax,2 bulwark firm
Of the Achaians, broke the Trojan ranks,
And kindled for the Greeks a gleam of hope,
Slaying the bravest of the Thracian band,
Huge Acamas, Eusorus' son; him first10
Full on the shaggy crest he smote, and urged
The spear into his forehead; through his skull
The bright point pass'd, and darkness veil'd his eyes.
But Diomede, heroic Chief, the son
Of Teuthras slew, Axylus.3 Rich was he,15
And in Arisba (where he dwelt beside
The public road, and at his open door
Made welcome all) respected and beloved.
But of his numerous guests none interposed
To avert his woful doom; nor him alone20
He slew, but with him also to the shades
Calesius sent, his friend and charioteer.
Opheltius fell and Dresus, by the hand
Slain of Euryalus, who, next, his arms
On Pedasus and on Æsepus turned25
Brethren and twins. Them Abarbarea bore,
A Naiad, to Bucolion, son renown'd
Of King Laomedon, his eldest born,
But by his mother, at his birth, conceal'd.
Bucolion pasturing his flocks, embraced30
The lovely nymph; she twins produced, both whom,
Brave as they were and beautiful, thy son4
Mecisteus! slew, and from their shoulders tore
Their armor. Dauntless Polypœtes slew
Astyalus. Ulysses with his spear35
Transfixed Pydites, a Percosian Chief,
And Teucer Aretaön; Nestor's pride
Antilochus, with his bright lance, of life
Bereft Ablerus, and the royal arm
Of Agamemnon, Elatus; he dwelt40
Among the hills of lofty Pedasus,
On Satnio's banks, smooth-sliding river pure
Phylacus fled, whom Leïtus as swift
Soon smote. Melanthius at the feet expired
Of the renown'd Eurypylus, and, flush'd45
With martial ardor, Menelaus seized
And took alive Adrastus. As it chanced
A thicket his affrighted steeds detain'd
Their feet entangling; they with restive force
At its extremity snapp'd short the pole,50
And to the city, whither others fled,
Fled also. From his chariot headlong hurl'd,
Adrastus press'd the plain fast by his wheel.
Flew Menelaus, and his quivering spear
Shook over him; he, life imploring, clasp'd55
Importunate his knees, and thus exclaim'd.
Oh, son of Atreus, let me live! accept
Illustrious ransom! In my father's house
Is wealth abundant, gold, and brass, and steel
Of truest temper, which he will impart60
Till he have gratified thine utmost wish,
Inform'd that I am captive in your fleet.
He said, and Menelaus by his words
Vanquish'd, him soon had to the fleet dismiss'd
Given to his train in charge, but swift and stern65
Approaching, Agamemnon interposed.
Now, brother, whence this milkiness of mind,
These scruples about blood? Thy Trojan friends
Have doubtless much obliged thee. Die the race!
May none escape us! neither he who flies,70
Nor even the infant in his mother's womb
Unconscious. Perish universal Troy
Unpitied, till her place be found no more!5
So saying, his brother's mind the Hero turn'd,
Advising him aright; he with his hand75
Thrust back Adrastus, and himself, the King,
His bowels pierced. Supine Adrastus fell,
And Agamemnon, with his foot the corse
Impressing firm, pluck'd forth his ashen spear.
Then Nestor, raising high his voice, exclaim'd.80
Friends, Heroes, Grecians, ministers of Mars!
Let none, desirous of the spoil, his time
Devote to plunder now; now slay your foes,
And strip them when the field shall be your own.6
He said, and all took courage at his word.85
Then had the Trojans enter'd Troy again
By the heroic Grecians foul repulsed,
So was their spirit daunted, but the son
Of Priam, Helenus, an augur far
Excelling all, at Hector's side his speech90
To him and to Æneas thus address'd.
Hector, and thou, Æneas, since on you
The Lycians chiefly and ourselves depend,
For that in difficult emprize ye show
Most courage; give best counsel; stand yourselves,95
And, visiting all quarters, cause to stand
Before the city-gates our scatter'd troops,
Ere yet the fugitives within the arms
Be slaughter'd of their wives, the scorn of Greece.
When thus ye shall have rallied every band100
And roused their courage, weary though we be,
Yet since necessity commands, even here
Will we give battle to the host of Greece.
But, Hector! to the city thou depart;
There charge our mother, that she go direct,105
With the assembled matrons, to the fane
Of Pallas in the citadel of Troy.
Opening her chambers' sacred doors, of all
Her treasured mantles there, let her select
The widest, most magnificently wrought,110
And which she values most; that let her spread
On Athenæan Pallas' lap divine.7
Twelve heifers of the year yet never touch'd
With puncture of the goad, let her alike
Devote to her, if she will pity Troy,115
Our wives and little ones, and will avert
The son of Tydeus from these sacred towers,
That dreadful Chief, terror of all our host,
Bravest, in my account, of all the Greeks.
For never yet Achilles hath himself120
So taught our people fear, although esteemed
Son of a Goddess. But this warrior's rage
Is boundless, and his strength past all compare.
So Helenus; nor Hector not complied.
Down from his chariot instant to the ground125
All arm'd he leap'd, and, shaking his sharp spears,
Through every phalanx pass'd, rousing again
Their courage, and rekindling horrid war.
They, turning, faced the Greeks; the Greeks repulsed,
Ceased from all carnage, nor supposed they less130
Than that some Deity, the starry skies
Forsaken, help'd their foes, so firm they stood.
But Hector to the Trojans call'd aloud.
Ye dauntless Trojans and confederate powers
Call'd from afar! now be ye men, my friends,135
Now summon all the fury of your might!
I go to charge our senators and wives
That they address the Gods with prayers and vows
For our success, and hecatombs devote.
So saying the Hero went, and as he strode140
The sable hide that lined his bossy shield
Smote on his neck and on his ancle-bone.
And now into the middle space between
Both hosts, the son of Tydeus and the son
Moved of Hippolochus, intent alike145
On furious combat; face to face they stood,
And thus heroic Diomede began.
Most noble Champion! who of human kind
Art thou,8 whom in the man-ennobling fight
I now encounter first? Past all thy peers150
I must esteem thee valiant, who hast dared
To meet my coming, and my spear defy.
Ah! they are sons of miserable sires
Who dare my might; but if a God from heaven
Thou come, behold! I fight not with the Gods.155
That war Lycurgus son of Dryas waged,
And saw not many years. The nurses he
Of brain-disturbing Bacchus down the steep
Pursued of sacred Nyssa; they their wands
Vine-wreathed cast all away, with an ox-goad160
Chastised by fell Lycurgus. Bacchus plunged
Meantime dismay'd into the deep, where him
Trembling, and at the Hero's haughty threats
Confounded, Thetis in her bosom hid.9
Thus by Lycurgus were the blessed powers165
Of heaven offended, and Saturnian Jove
Of sight bereaved him, who not long that loss
Survived, for he was curst by all above.
I, therefore, wage no contest with the Gods;
But if thou be of men, and feed on bread170
Of earthly growth, draw nigh, that with a stroke
Well-aim'd, I may at once cut short thy days.10
To whom the illustrious Lycian Chief replied.
Why asks brave Diomede of my descent?
For, as the leaves, such is the race of man.11175
The wind shakes down the leaves, the budding grove
Soon teems with others, and in spring they grow.
So pass mankind. One generation meets
Its destined period, and a new succeeds.
But since thou seem'st desirous to be taught180
My pedigree, whereof no few have heard,
Know that in Argos, in the very lap
Of Argos, for her steed-grazed meadows famed,
Stands Ephyra;12 there Sisyphus abode,
Shrewdest of human kind; Sisyphus, named185
Æolides. Himself a son begat,
Glaucus, and he Bellerophon, to whom
The Gods both manly force and beauty gave.
Him Prœtus (for in Argos at that time
Prœtus was sovereign, to whose sceptre Jove190
Had subjected the land) plotting his death,
Contrived to banish from his native home.
For fair Anteia, wife of Prœtus, mad
Through love of young Bellerophon, him oft
In secret to illicit joys enticed;195
But she prevail'd not o'er the virtuous mind
Discrete of whom she wooed; therefore a lie
Framing, she royal Prœtus thus bespake.
Die thou, or slay Bellerophon, who sought
Of late to force me to his lewd embrace.200
So saying, the anger of the King she roused.
Slay him himself he would not, for his heart
Forbad the deed; him therefore he dismiss'd
To Lycia, charged with tales of dire import
Written in tablets,13 which he bade him show,205
That he might perish, to Anteia's sire.
To Lycia then, conducted by the Gods,
He went, and on the shores of Xanthus found
Free entertainment noble at the hands
Of Lycia's potent King. Nine days complete210
He feasted him, and slew each day an ox.
But when the tenth day's ruddy morn appear'd,
He asked him then his errand, and to see
Those written tablets from his son-in-law.
The letters seen, he bade him, first, destroy215
Chimæra, deem'd invincible, divine
In nature, alien from the race of man,
Lion in front, but dragon all behind,
And in the midst a she-goat breathing forth
Profuse the violence of flaming fire.220
Her, confident in signs from heaven, he slew.
Next, with the men of Solymæ14 he fought,
Brave warriors far renown'd, with whom he waged,
In his account, the fiercest of his wars.
And lastly, when in battle he had slain225
The man-resisting Amazons, the king
Another stratagem at his return
Devised against him, placing close-conceal'd
An ambush for him from the bravest chosen
In Lycia; but they saw their homes no more;230
Bellerophon the valiant slew them all.
The monarch hence collecting, at the last,
His heavenly origin, him there detain'd,
And gave him his own daughter, with the half
Of all his royal dignity and power.235
The Lycians also, for his proper use,
Large lot assigned him of their richest soil,15
Commodious for the vine, or for the plow.
And now his consort fair three children bore
To bold Bellerophon; Isandrus one,240
And one, Hippolochus; his youngest born
Laodamia was for beauty such
That she became a concubine of Jove.
She bore Sarpedon of heroic note.
But when Bellerophon, at last, himself245
Had anger'd all the Gods, feeding on grief
He roam'd alone the Aleian field, exiled,
By choice, from every cheerful haunt of man.
Mars, thirsty still for blood, his son destroy'd
Isandrus, warring with the host renown'd250
Of Solymæ; and in her wrath divine
Diana from her chariot golden-rein'd
Laodamia slew. Myself I boast
Sprung from Hippolochus; he sent me forth
To fight for Troy, charging me much and oft255
That I should outstrip always all mankind
In worth and valor, nor the house disgrace
Of my forefathers, heroes without peer
In Ephyra, and in Lycia's wide domain.
Such is my lineage; such the blood I boast.260
He ceased. Then valiant Diomede rejoiced.
He pitch'd his spear, and to the Lycian Prince
In terms of peace and amity replied.
Thou art my own hereditary friend,
Whose noble grandsire was the guest of mine.16265
For Oeneus, on a time, full twenty days
Regaled Bellerophon, and pledges fair
Of hospitality they interchanged.
Oeneus a belt radiant with purple gave
To brave Bellerophon, who in return270
Gave him a golden goblet. Coming forth
I left the kind memorial safe at home.
A child was I when Tydeus went to Thebes,
Where the Achaians perish'd, and of him
Hold no remembrance; but henceforth, my friend,275
Thine host am I in Argos, and thou mine
In Lycia, should I chance to sojourn there.
We will not clash. Trojans or aids of Troy
No few the Gods shall furnish to my spear,
Whom I may slaughter; and no want of Greeks280
On whom to prove thy prowess, thou shalt find.
But it were well that an exchange ensued
Between us; take mine armor, give me thine,
That all who notice us may understand
Our patrimonial17 amity and love.285
So they, and each alighting, hand in hand
Stood lock'd, faith promising and firm accord.
Then Jove of sober judgment so bereft
Infatuate Glaucus that with Tydeus' son
He barter'd gold for brass, an hundred beeves290
In value, for the value small of nine.
But Hector at the Scæan gate and beech18
Meantime arrived, to whose approach the wives
And daughters flock'd of Troy, inquiring each
The fate of husband, brother, son, or friend.295
He bade them all with solemn prayer the Gods
Seek fervent, for that wo was on the wing.
But when he enter'd Priam's palace, built
With splendid porticoes, and which within
Had fifty chambers lined with polish'd stone,300
Contiguous all, where Priam's sons reposed
And his sons' wives, and where, on the other side.
In twelve magnificent chambers also lined
With polish'd marble and contiguous all,
The sons-in-law of Priam lay beside305
His spotless daughters, there the mother queen
Seeking the chamber of Laodice,
Loveliest of all her children, as she went
Met Hector. On his hand she hung and said:
Why leavest thou, O my son! the dangerous field?310
I fear that the Achaians (hateful name!)
Compass the walls so closely, that thou seek'st
Urged by distress the citadel, to lift
Thine hands in prayer to Jove? But pause awhile
Till I shall bring thee wine, that having pour'd315
Libation rich to Jove and to the powers
Immortal, thou may'st drink and be refresh'd.
For wine is mighty to renew the strength
Of weary man, and weary thou must be
Thyself, thus long defending us and ours.320
To whom her son majestic thus replied.
My mother, whom I reverence! cheering wine
Bring none to me, lest I forget my might.19
I fear, beside, with unwash'd hands to pour
Libation forth of sable wine to Jove,325
And dare on none account, thus blood-defiled,20
Approach the tempest-stirring God in prayer.
Thou, therefore, gathering all our matrons, seek
The fane of Pallas, huntress of the spoil,
Bearing sweet incense; but from the attire330
Treasured within thy chamber, first select
The amplest robe, most exquisitely wrought,
And which thou prizest most—then spread the gift
On Athenæan Pallas' lap divine.
Twelve heifers also of the year, untouch'd335
With puncture of the goad, promise to slay
In sacrifice, if she will pity Troy,
Our wives and little ones, and will avert
The son of Tydeus from these sacred towers,
That dreadful Chief, terror of all our host.340
Go then, my mother, seek the hallowed fane
Of the spoil-huntress Deity. I, the while,
Seek Paris, and if Paris yet can hear,
Shall call him forth. But oh that earth would yawn
And swallow him, whom Jove hath made a curse345
To Troy, to Priam, and to all his house;
Methinks, to see him plunged into the shades
For ever, were a cure for all my woes.
He ceased; the Queen, her palace entering, charged
Her maidens; they, incontinent, throughout350
All Troy convened the matrons, as she bade.
Meantime into her wardrobe incense-fumed,
Herself descended; there her treasures lay,
Works of Sidonian women,21 whom her son
The godlike Paris, when he cross'd the seas355
With Jove-begotten Helen, brought to Troy.
The most magnificent, and varied most
With colors radiant, from the rest she chose
For Pallas; vivid as a star it shone,
And lowest lay of all. Then forth she went,360
The Trojan matrons all following her steps.
But when the long procession reach'd the fane
Of Pallas in the heights of Troy, to them
The fair Theano ope'd the portals wide,
Daughter of Cisseus, brave Antenor's spouse,365
And by appointment public, at that time,
Priestess of Pallas. All with lifted hands22
In presence of Minerva wept aloud.
Beauteous Theano on the Goddess' lap
Then spread the robe, and to the daughter fair370
Of Jove omnipotent her suit address'd.
Goddess23 of Goddesses, our city's shield,
Adored Minerva, hear! oh! break the lance
Of Diomede, and give himself to fall
Prone in the dust before the Scæan gate.375
So will we offer to thee at thy shrine,
This day twelve heifers of the year, untouch'd
By yoke or goad, if thou wilt pity show
To Troy, and save our children and our wives.
Such prayer the priestess offer'd, and such prayer380
All present; whom Minerva heard averse.
But Hector to the palace sped meantime
Of Alexander, which himself had built,
Aided by every architect of name
Illustrious then in Troy. Chamber it had,385
Wide hall, proud dome, and on the heights of Troy
Near-neighboring Hector's house and Priam's stood.
There enter'd Hector, Jove-beloved, a spear
Its length eleven cubits in his hand,
Its glittering head bound with a ring of gold.390
He found within his chamber whom he sought,
Polishing with exactest care his arms
Resplendent, shield and hauberk fingering o'er
With curious touch, and tampering with his bow.24
Helen of Argos with her female train395
Sat occupied, the while, to each in turn
Some splendid task assigning. Hector fix'd
His eyes on Paris, and him stern rebuked.
Thy sullen humors, Paris, are ill-timed.
The people perish at our lofty walls;400
The flames of war have compass'd Troy around
And thou hast kindled them; who yet thyself
That slackness show'st which in another seen
Thou would'st resent to death. Haste, seek the field
This moment, lest, the next, all Ilium blaze.405
To whom thus Paris, graceful as a God.
Since, Hector, thou hast charged me with a fault,
And not unjustly, I will answer make,
And give thou special heed. That here I sit,
The cause is sorrow, which I wish'd to soothe410
In secret, not displeasure or revenge.
I tell thee also, that even now my wife
Was urgent with me in most soothing terms
That I would forth to battle; and myself,
Aware that victory oft changes sides,415
That course prefer. Wait, therefore, thou awhile,
'Till I shall dress me for the fight, or go
Thou first, and I will overtake thee soon.
He ceased, to whom brave Hector answer none
Return'd, when Helen him with lenient speech420
Accosted mild.25 My brother! who in me
Hast found a sister worthy of thy hate,
Authoress of all calamity to Troy,
Oh that the winds, the day when I was born,
Had swept me out of sight, whirl'd me aloft425
To some inhospitable mountain-top,
Or plunged me in the deep; there I had sunk
O'erwhelm'd, and all these ills had never been.
But since the Gods would bring these ills to pass,
I should, at least, some worthier mate have chosen,430
One not insensible to public shame.
But this, oh this, nor hath nor will acquire
Hereafter, aught which like discretion shows
Or reason, and shall find his just reward.
But enter; take this seat; for who as thou435
Labors, or who hath cause like thee to rue
The crime, my brother, for which Heaven hath doom'd
Both Paris and my most detested self
To be the burthens of an endless song?
To whom the warlike Hector huge26 replied.440
Me bid not, Helen, to a seat, howe'er
Thou wish my stay, for thou must not prevail.
The Trojans miss me, and myself no less
Am anxious to return. But urge in haste
This loiterer forth; yea, let him urge himself445
To overtake me ere I quit the town.
For I must home in haste, that I may see
My loved Andromache, my infant boy,
And my domestics, ignorant if e'er
I shall behold them more, or if my fate450
Ordain me now to fall by Grecian hands.
So spake the dauntless hero, and withdrew.
But reaching soon his own well-built abode
He found not fair Andromache; she stood
Lamenting Hector, with the nurse who bore455
Her infant, on a turret's top sublime.
He then, not finding his chaste spouse within,
Thus from the portal, of her train inquired.
Tell me, ye maidens, whither went from home
Andromache the fair?27 Went she to see460
Her female kindred of my father's house,
Or to Minerva's temple, where convened
The bright-hair'd matrons of the city seek
To soothe the awful Goddess? Tell me true.
To whom his household's governess discreet.465
Since, Hector, truth is thy demand, receive
True answer. Neither went she forth to see
Her female kindred of thy father's house,
Nor to Minerva's temple, where convened
The bright-haired matrons of the city seek470
To soothe the awful Goddess; but she went
Hence to the tower of Troy: for she had heard
That the Achaians had prevail'd, and driven
The Trojans to the walls; she, therefore, wild
With grief, flew thither, and the nurse her steps475
Attended, with thy infant in her arms.
So spake the prudent governess; whose words
When Hector heard, issuing from his door
He backward trod with hasty steps the streets
Of lofty Troy, and having traversed all480
The spacious city, when he now approach'd
The Scæan gate, whence he must seek the field,
There, hasting home again his noble wife
Met him, Andromache the rich-endow'd
Fair daughter of Eëtion famed in arms.485
Eëtion, who in Hypoplacian Thebes
Umbrageous dwelt, Cilicia's mighty lord—
His daughter valiant Hector had espoused.
There she encounter'd him, and with herself
The nurse came also, bearing in her arms490
Hectorides, his infant darling boy,
Beautiful as a star. Him Hector called
Scamandrios, but Astyanax28 all else
In Ilium named him, for that Hector's arm
Alone was the defence and strength of Troy.495
The father, silent, eyed his babe, and smiled.
Andromache, meantime, before him stood,
With streaming cheeks, hung on his hand, and said.
Thy own great courage will cut short thy days,
My noble Hector! neither pitiest thou500
Thy helpless infant, or my hapless self,
Whose widowhood is near; for thou wilt fall
Ere long, assail'd by the whole host of Greece.
Then let me to the tomb, my best retreat
When thou art slain. For comfort none or joy505
Can I expect, thy day of life extinct,
But thenceforth, sorrow. Father I have none;
No mother. When Cilicia's city, Thebes
The populous, was by Achilles sack'd.
He slew my father; yet his gorgeous arms510
Stripp'd not through reverence of him, but consumed,
Arm'd as it was, his body on the pile,
And heap'd his tomb, which the Oreades,
Jove's daughters, had with elms inclosed around.29
My seven brothers, glory of our house,515
All in one day descended to the shades;
For brave Achilles,30 while they fed their herds
And snowy flocks together, slew them all.
My mother, Queen of the well-wooded realm
Of Hypoplacian Thebes, her hither brought520
Among his other spoils, he loosed again
At an inestimable ransom-price,
But by Diana pierced, she died at home.
Yet Hector—oh my husband! I in thee
Find parents, brothers, all that I have lost.525
Come! have compassion on us. Go not hence,
But guard this turret, lest of me thou make
A widow, and an orphan of thy boy.
The city walls are easiest of ascent
At yonder fig-tree; station there thy powers;530
For whether by a prophet warn'd, or taught
By search and observation, in that part
Each Ajax with Idomeneus of Crete,
The sons of Atreus, and the valiant son
Of Tydeus, have now thrice assail'd the town.535
To whom the leader of the host of Troy.
These cares, Andromache, which thee engage,
All touch me also; but I dread to incur
The scorn of male and female tongues in Troy,
If, dastard-like, I should decline the fight.540
Nor feel I such a wish. No. I have learn'd
To be courageous ever, in the van
Among the flower of Ilium to assert
My glorious father's honor, and my own.
For that the day shall come when sacred Troy,545
When Priam, and the people of the old
Spear-practised King shall perish, well I know.
But for no Trojan sorrows yet to come
So much I mourn, not e'en for Hecuba,
Nor yet for Priam, nor for all the brave550
Of my own brothers who shall kiss the dust,
As for thyself, when some Achaian Chief
Shall have convey'd thee weeping hence, thy sun
Of peace and liberty for ever set.
Then shalt thou toil in Argos at the loom555
For a task-mistress, and constrain'd shalt draw
From Hypereïa's fount,31 or from the fount
Messeïs, water at her proud command.
Some Grecian then, seeing thy tears, shall say—
"This was the wife of Hector, who excell'd560
All Troy in fight when Ilium was besieged."
Such he shall speak thee, and thy heart, the while,
Shall bleed afresh through want of such a friend
To stand between captivity and thee.
But may I rest beneath my hill of earth565
Or ere that day arrive! I would not live
To hear thy cries, and see thee torn away.
So saying, illustrious Hector stretch'd his arms
Forth to his son, but with a scream, the child
Fell back into the bosom of his nurse,570
His father's aspect dreading, whose bright arms
He had attentive mark'd and shaggy crest
Playing tremendous o'er his helmet's height.
His father and his gentle mother laugh'd,32
And noble Hector lifting from his head575
His dazzling helmet, placed it on the ground,
Then kiss'd his boy and dandled him, and thus
In earnest prayer the heavenly powers implored.
Hear all ye Gods! as ye have given to me,
So also on my son excelling might580
Bestow, with chief authority in Troy.
And be his record this, in time to come,
When he returns from battle. Lo! how far
The son excels the sire! May every foe
Fall under him, and he come laden home585
With spoils blood-stain'd to his dear mother's joy.
He said, and gave his infant to the arms
Of his Andromache, who him received
Into her fragrant bosom, bitter tears
With sweet smiles mingling; he with pity moved590
That sight observed, soft touch'd her cheek, and said,
Mourn not, my loved Andromache, for me
Too much; no man shall send me to the shades
Of Tartarus, ere mine allotted hour,
Nor lives he who can overpass the date595
By heaven assign'd him, be he base or brave.33
Go then, and occupy content at home
The woman's province; ply the distaff, spin
And weave, and task thy maidens. War belongs
To man; to all men; and of all who first600
Drew vital breath in Ilium, most to me.34
He ceased, and from the ground his helmet raised
Hair-crested; his Andromache, at once
Obedient, to her home repair'd, but oft
Turn'd as she went, and, turning, wept afresh.605
No sooner at the palace she arrived
Of havoc-spreading Hector, than among
Her numerous maidens found within, she raised
A general lamentation; with one voice,
In his own house, his whole domestic train610
Mourn'd Hector, yet alive; for none the hope
Conceived of his escape from Grecian hands,
Or to behold their living master more.
Nor Paris in his stately mansion long
Delay'd, but, arm'd resplendent, traversed swift615
The city, all alacrity and joy.
As some stall'd horse high-fed, his stable-cord
Snapt short, beats under foot the sounding plain,
Accustomed in smooth-sliding streams to lave
Exulting; high he bears his head, his mane620
Undulates o'er his shoulders, pleased he eyes
His glossy sides, and borne on pliant knees
Shoots to the meadow where his fellows graze;
So Paris, son of Priam, from the heights
Of Pergamus into the streets of Troy,625
All dazzling as the sun, descended, flush'd
With martial pride, and bounding in his course.
At once he came where noble Hector stood
Now turning, after conference with his spouse,
When godlike Alexander thus began.630
My hero brother, thou hast surely found
My long delay most irksome. More dispatch
Had pleased thee more, for such was thy command.
To whom the warlike Hector thus replied.
No man, judicious, and in feat of arms635
Intelligent, would pour contempt on thee
(For thou art valiant) wert thou not remiss
And wilful negligent; and when I hear
The very men who labor in thy cause
Reviling thee, I make thy shame my own.640
But let us on. All such complaints shall cease
Hereafter, and thy faults be touch'd no more,
Let Jove but once afford us riddance clear
Of these Achaians, and to quaff the cup
Of liberty, before the living Gods.645
It may be observed, that Hector begins to resume his hope of success, and his warlike spirit is roused again, as he approaches the field of action. The depressing effect of his sad interview is wearing away from his mind, and he is already prepared for the battle with Ajax, which awaits him.
The student who has once read this book, will read it again and again. It contains much that is addressed to the deepest feelings of our common nature, and, despite of the long interval of time which lies between our age and the Homeric—despite the manifold changes of customs, habits, pursuits, and the advances that have been made in civilization and art—despite of all these, the universal spirit of humanity will recognize in these scenes much of that true poetry which delights alike all ages, all nations, all men.—Felton.
- ^ The Simoïs and Xanthus were two rivers of the Troad, which form a junction before they reached the Hellespont. The Simoïs rose in Mt. Ida, and the Xanthus had its origin near Troy.—Felton.
- ^ Ajax commences his exploits immediately on the departure of the gods from the battle. It is observed of this hero, that he is never assisted by the deities.
- ^ Axylus was distinguished for his hospitality. This trait was characteristic of the Oriental nations, and is often alluded to by ancient writers. The rite of hospitality often united families belonging to different and hostile nations, and was even transmitted from father to son. This description is a fine tribute to the generosity of Axylus.—Felton
- ^ [Euryalus.]
- ^ Agamemnon's taking the life of the Trojan whom Menelaus had pardoned, was according to the custom of the times. The historical books of the Old Testament abound in instances of the like cruelty to conquered enemies.
- ^ This important maxim of war is very naturally introduced, upon Menelaus being ready to spare an enemy for the sake of a ransom. According to Dacier, it was for such lessons as these that Alexander so much esteemed Homer and studied his poem.
- ^ The custom of making donations to the gods is found among the ancients, from the earliest times of which we have any record down to the introduction of Christianity; and even after that period it was observed by the Christians during the middle ages. Its origin seems to have been the same as that of sacrifices: viz. the belief that the gods were susceptible of influence in their conduct towards men. These gifts were sometimes very costly, but often nothing more than locks of hair cut from the head of the votary.
- ^ Diomede had knowingly wounded and insulted the deities; he therefore met Glaucus with a superstitious fear that he might be some deity in human shape. This feeling brought to his mind the story of Lycurgus.
- ^ It is said that Lycurgus caused most of the vines of his country to be rooted up, so that his subjects were obliged to mix their wine with water, as it became less plentiful. Hence the fable that Thetis received Bacchus into her bosom.
- ^ This style of language was according to the manners of the times. Thus Goliath to David, "Approach, and I will give thy flesh to the fowls of the air and the beasts of the field." The Orientals still speak in the same manner.
- ^ Though this comparison may be justly admired for its beauty in the obvious application to the mortality and succession of human life, it seems designed by the poet, in this place, as a proper emblem of the transitory state of families which, by their misfortune or folly, have fallen and decayed, and again appear, in a happier season, to revive and flourish in the fame and virtues of their posterity. In this sense it is a direct answer to the question of Diomede, as well as a proper preface to what Glaticus relates of his own family, which, having become extinct in Corinth, recovers new life in Lycia.
- ^ The same as Corinth.
- ^ Some suppose that alphabetical writing was unknown in the Homeric age, and consequently that these signs must have been hieroglyphical marks. The question is a difficult one, and the most distinguished scholars are divided in opinion. We can hardly imagine that a poem of the length and general excellence of the Iliad, could be composed without the aid of writing; and yet, we are told, there are well-authenticated examples of such works being preserved and handed down by traditional memory. However this may be, we know that the Oriental nations were in possession of the art of alphabetical writing it a very early period, and before the Trojan war. It cannot, then, seem very improbable, that the authors of the Iliad should also have been acquainted with it.—Felton.
- ^ The Solymi were an ancient nation inhabiting the mountainous parts of Asia Minor, between Lycia and Pisidia. Pliny mentions them as having become extinct in his time.
- ^ It was the custom in ancient times, upon the performance of any signal service by kings or great men, for the public to grant them a tract of land as a reward. When Sarpedon, in the 12th Book, exhorts Glaucus to behave valiantly, he reminds him of these possessions granted by his countrymen.
- ^ The laws of hospitality were considered so sacred, that a friendship contracted under their observance was preferred to the ties of consanguinity and alliance, and regarded as obligatory even to the third and fourth generation. Diomede and Glaucus here became friends, on the ground of their grandfathers having been mutual guests. The presents made on these occasions were preserved by families, as it was considered obligatory to transmit them as memorials to their children.
- ^ [Ξεινοι πατρωιοι.]
- ^ The Scæan gate opened to the field of battle, and was the one through which the Trojans made their excursions. Close to this stood the beech tree sacred to Jupiter, and often mentioned in connection with it.
- ^ There is a mournfulness in the interview between the hero and his mother which is deeply interesting. Her urging him to take wine and his refusal were natural and simple incidents, which heighten the effect of the scene.—Felton.
- ^ The custom that prohibits persons polluted with blood from performing any offices of divine worship before purification, is so ancient and universal, that it may be considered a precept of natural religion, tending to inspire a horror of bloodshed. In Euripides, Iphigenia argues the impossibility of human sacrifices being acceptable to the gods, since they do not permit any one defiled with blood, or even polluted with the touch of a dead body, to come near their altars.
- ^ Paris surprised the King of Phœnecia by night, and carried off many of his treasures and captives, among whom probably were these Sidonian women. Tyre and Sidon were famous for works in gold, embroidery, etc., and for whatever pertained to magnificence and luxury.
- ^ This gesture is the only one described by Homer as being used by the ancients in their invocations of the gods.
- ^ [δια θεαων]
- ^ The employment in which Hector finds Paris engaged, is extremely characteristic.—Felton.
- ^ This address of Helen is in fine keeping with her character.—Felton.
- ^ [The bulk of his heroes is a circumstance of which Homer frequently reminds us by the use of the word μεγας—and which ought, therefore, by no means to be suppressed.—Tr.]
- ^ Love of his country is a prominent characteristic of Hector, and is here beautifully displayed in his discharging the duties that the public welfare required, before seeking his wife and child. Then finding that she had gone to the tower, he retraces his steps to "the Scæan gate, whence he must seek the field." Here his wife, on her return home, accidentally meets him.
- ^ [The name signifies, the Chief of the city.—Tr.]
- ^ It was the custom to plant about tombs only such trees as elms, alders, etc., that bear no fruit, as being most appropriate to the dead.
- ^ In this recapitulation, Homer acquaints us with some of the great achievements of Achilles, which preceded the opening of the poem—a happy manner of exalting his hero, and exciting our expectation as to what he is yet to accomplish. His greatest enemies never upbraid him, but confess his glory. When Apollo encourages the Trojans to fight, it is by telling them Achilles fights no more. When Juno animates the Greeks, she reminds them how their enemies fear Achilles; and when Andromache trembles for Hector, it is with the remembrance of his resistless force.
- ^ Drawing water was considered the most servile employment.
- ^ [The Scholiast in Villoisson calls it φυσικον τινα και μετριον γελωτα a natural and moderate laughter.—Tr.]
- ^ According to the ancient belief, the fatal period of life is appointed to all men at the time of their birth, which no precaution can avoid and no danger hasten.
- ^ This scene, for true and unaffected pathos, delicate touches of nature, and a profound knowledge of the human heart, has rarely been equalled, and never surpassed, among all the efforts of genius during the three thousand years that have gone by since it was conceived and composed.—Felton.