The Fifth Battle, at the Ships; and the Acts of Ajax.
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 aegis, and turns the fortune of the fight. He breaks down the first 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 when the Trojans had recross'd the trench And palisades, and in their headlong flight Many had fall'n by Grecian swords, the rest, Routed, and pale with fear, made head awhile Beside their cars; then Jove on Ida's height At golden-throned Juno's side awoke; Rising, he saw the Trojans and the Greeks, Those in confusion, while behind them press'd The Greeks, triumphant, Neptune in their midst: He saw too Hector stretch'd upon the plain, His comrades standing round; senseless he lay, Drawing short breath, blood gushing from his mouth; For by no feeble hand the blow was dealt.
Pitying, the Sire of Gods and men beheld, And thus, with sternest glance, to Juno spoke: "This, Juno, is thy work! thy wicked wiles Have Hector quell'd, and Trojans driv'n to flight: Nor know I but thyself mayst reap the fruit, By shameful scourging, of thy vile deceit. Hast thou forgotten how in former times I hung thee from on high, and to thy feet Attach'd two pond'rous anvils, and thy hands With golden fetters bound, which none might break? There didst thou hang amid the clouds of Heav'n; Through all Olympus' breadth the Gods were wroth; Yet dar'd not one approach to set thee free. If any so had ventur'd, him had I Hurl'd from Heav'n's threshold till to earth he fell, With little left of life. Yet was not quench'd My wrath on godlike Hercules' account, Whom thou, with Boreas, o'er the wat'ry waste With fell intent didst send; and tempest-toss'd, Cast him ashore on Coos' fruitful isle. I rescued him from thence, and brought him back, After long toil, to Argos' grassy plains. This to thy mind I bring, that thou mayst learn To cease thy treach'rous wiles, nor hope to gain By all thy lavish'd blandishments of love, Wherewith thou hast deceived me, and betray'd."
He said; and terror seiz'd the stag-ey'd Queen; Who thus with winged words address'd her Lord:
"By Earth I swear, and yon broad Heav'n above, And Stygian stream beneath, the weightiest oath Of solemn pow'r to bind the blessed Gods; By thine own sacred head, our nuptial bed, Whose holy tie I never could forswear; That not by my suggestion and advice Earth-shaking Neptune on the Trojan host, And Hector, pours his wrath, and aids the Greeks; In this he but obeys his own desire, Who looks with pity on the Grecian host Beside their ships o'erborne; and could my words Prevail, my counsel were to shape his course, O cloud-girt King, obedient to thy will."
She said; the Sire of Gods and men, well pleas'd, Her answer heard, and thus with gracious smile:
"If, stag-ey'd Queen, in synod of the Gods Thy counsels shall indeed with mine agree, Neptune, how strong soe'er his wish, must change His course, obedient to thy will and mine; And if in all sincerity thou speak, Go to th' assembled Gods, and hither send Iris, and Phoebus of the silver bow; That she may to the Grecian camp repair, And bid that Neptune from the battle-field Withdraw, and to his own domain retire; While Phoebus Hector to the fight restores, Inspiring new-born vigour, and allaying The mortal pains which bow his spirit down: Then, heartless fear infusing in the Greeks, Put them to flight, that flying they may fall Beside Achilles' ships; his comrade then, Patroclus, he shall send to battle forth To be by Hector slain, in front of Troy; Yet not to fall till many valiant youths Have felt his prowess; and, amid the rest, My son, Sarpedon; by his comrade's death Enrag'd, Achilles Hector shall subdue; Thenceforth my counsel is, that from the ships The Trojan force shall still be backward driv'n, Until at length, by Pallas' deep designs, The Greeks possess the lofty walls of Troy. Yet will not I my anger intermit, Nor suffer other of th' immortal Gods To aid the Greeks, till Peleus' son behold His wish accomplish'd, and the boon obtain'd I promis'd once, and with a nod confirm'd, That day when sea-born Thetis clasp'd my knees, And pray'd me to avenge her warrior son."
Thus he; the white-arm'd Queen of Heav'n submiss His mandate heard; and from th' Idaean mount With rapid flight to high Olympus sped. Swift as the mind of man, who many a land Hath travell'd o'er, and with reflective thought Recalls, "here was I such a day, or here," And in a moment many a scene surveys; So Juno sped o'er intervening space; Olympus' heights she reach'd, and in the house Of Jove appear'd amid th' assembled Gods. They at her coming rose, with golden cups Greeting their Queen's approach; the rest she pass'd, And from the hand of fair-fac'd Themis took The proffer'd cup, who first had run to meet, And thus with winged words address'd the Queen: "Juno, why com'st thou hither? and with looks Of one distraught with, fear? hath Saturn's son, Thy mighty Lord, thus sore affrighted thee?" To whom the white-arm'd Goddess, Juno, thus:
"Forbear thy questions, Themis; well thou know'st How haughty and imperious is his mind; Thou for the Gods in haste prepare the feast; Then shalt thou learn, amid th' Immortals all, What evil he designs; nor all, I ween, His counsels will approve, or men, or Gods, Though now in blissful ignorance they feast."
She said, and sat; the Gods, oppress'd with care, Her farther speech awaited; on her lips There dwelt indeed a smile, but not a ray Pass'd o'er her dark'ning brow, as thus her wrath Amid th' assembled Gods found vent in words:
"Fools are we all, who madly strive with Jove, Or hope, by access to his throne, to sway, By word or deed, his course; from all apart, He all our counsels heeds not, but derides; And boasts o'er all th' immortal Gods to reign In unapproach'd pre-eminence of pow'r. Prepare then each his sev'ral woe to bear; On Mars e'en now, methinks, the blow hath fall'n; Since in the fight, the man he loves the best, And boasts his son, Ascalaphus, is slain." She said; and Mars, enrag'd, his brawny thigh Smote with his hands, and thus, lamenting, spoke:
"Blame not, ye Gods, who on Olympus dwell, That to the Grecian ships I haste, to avenge My slaughter'd son, though blasted by Heav'n's fire 'Twere mine 'mid corpses, blood, and dust to lie."
He said, and gave command to Fear and Flight To yoke his ear; and donn'd his glitt'ring arms. Then from the throne of Jove had heavier wrath And deeper vengeance on th' Immortals fall'n, But Pallas, in alarm for all the Gods, Quitting in haste the throne whereon she sat, Sprang past the vestibule, and from his head The helmet lifted, from his arm the shield; Took from his sturdy hand, and rear'd upright, The brazen spear; then with reproachful words She thus assail'd th' impetuous God of War;
"Frantic, and passion-maddened, thou art lost! Hast thou no ears to hear! or are thy mind And sense of rev'rence utterly destroyed? Or heard'st thou not what white-arm'd Juno spoke, Fresh from the presence of Olympian Jove? Wouldst thou, thine evil destiny fulfill'd, By hard constraint, despite thy grief, be driv'n Back to Olympus; and to all the rest Confusion and disaster with thee bring? At once from valiant Trojans and from Greeks His thoughts would be diverted, and his wrath Embroil Olympus, and on all alike, Guilty or not, his anger would be pour'd. Waive then thy vengeance for thy gallant son; Others as brave of heart, as strong of arm, Have fall'n, and yet must fall; and vain th' attempt To watch at once o'er all the race of men."
Thus saying, to his seat again she forc'd Th' impetuous Mars: meanwhile, without the house, Juno, by Jove's command, Apollo call'd, And Iris, messenger from God to God; And thus to both her winged words address'd:
"Jove bids you with all speed to Ida haste; And when, arriv'd, before his face ye stand, Whate'er he orders, that observe and do."
Thus Juno spoke, and to her throne return'd; While they to spring-abounding Ida's heights, Wild nurse of forest beasts, pursued their way; Th' all-seeing son of Saturn there they found Upon the topmost crag of Gargarus, An incense-breathing cloud around him spread. Before the face of cloud-compelling Jove They stood; well-pleas'd he witness'd their approach In swift obedience to his consort's words, And thus to Iris first his speech address'd:
"Haste thee, swift Iris, and to Ocean's King My message bear, nor misreporting aught, Nor aught omitting; from the battle-field Bid him retire, and join th' assembled Gods, Or to his own domain of sea withdraw. If my commands he heed not, nor obey, Let him consider in his inmost soul If, mighty though he be, he dare await My hostile coming; mightier far than him, His elder born; nor may his spirit aspire To rival me, whom all regard with awe."
He said; swift-footed Iris, at the word, From Ida's heights to sacred Ilium sped. Swift as the snow-flakes from the clouds descend, Or wintry hail before the driving blast Of Boreas, ether-born; so swift to Earth Descended Iris; by his side she stood, And with these words th' Earth-shaking God address'd: "A message, dark-hair'd Circler of the Earth, To thee I bring from AEgis-bearing Jove. He bids thee straightway from the battle-field Retire, and either join th' assembled Gods, Or to thine own domain of sea withdraw. If his commands thou heed not, nor obey, Hither he menaces himself to come, And fight against thee; but he warns thee first, Beware his arm, as mightier far than thee, Thine elder born; nor may thy spirit aspire To rival him, whom all regard with awe."
To whom in tow'ring wrath th' Earth-shaking God: "By Heav'n, though great he be, he yet presumes Somewhat too far, if me, his equal born, He seeks by force to baffle of my will. We were three brethren, all of Rhaea born To Saturn; Jove and I, and Pluto third, Who o'er the nether regions holds his sway. Threefold was our partition; each obtain'd His meed of honour due; the hoary Sea By lot my habitation was assign'd; The realms of Darkness fell to Pluto's share; Broad Heav'n, amid the sky and clouds, to Jove; But Earth, and high Olympus, are to all A common heritage; nor will I walk To please the will of Jove; though great he be, With his own third contented let him rest: Nor let him think that I, as wholly vile, Shall quail before his arm; his lofty words Were better to his daughters and his sons Address'd, his own begotten; who perforce Must listen to his mandates, and obey."
To whom swift-footed Iris thus replied: "Is this, then, dark-hair'd Circler of the Earth, The message, stern and haughty, which to Jove Thou bidd'st me bear? perchance thine angry mood May bend to better counsels; noblest minds Are easiest bent; and o'er superior age Thou know'st th' avenging Furies ever watch."
To whom Earth-shaking Neptune thus replied: "Immortal Iris, weighty are thy words, And in good season spoken; and 'tis well When envoys are by sound discretion led. Yet are my heart and mind with grief oppress'd, When me, his equal both by birth and fate, He seeks with haughty words to overbear. I yield, but with indignant sense of wrong. This too I say, nor shall my threat be vain: Let him remember, if in my despite, 'Gainst Pallas', Juno's, Hermes', Vulcan's will, He spare to overthrow proud Ilium's tow'rs, And crown with victory the Grecian arms, The feud between us never can be heal'd."
Th' Earth-shaker said, and from the field withdrew Beneath the ocean wave, the warrior Greeks His loss deploring; to Apollo then The Cloud-compeller thus his speech address'd:
"Go straight to Hector of the brazen helm, Good Phoebus; for beneath the ocean wave Th' Earth-shaker hath withdrawn, escaping thus My high displeasure; had he dar'd resist, The tumult of our strife had reach'd the Gods Who in the nether realms with Saturn dwell. Yet thus 'tis better, both for me and him, That, though indignant, to my will he yields; For to compel him were no easy task. Take thou, and wave on high thy tassell'd shield, The Grecian warriors daunting: thou thyself, Far-darting King, thy special care bestow On noble Hector; so restore his strength And vigour, that in panic to their ships, And the broad Hellespont, the Greeks be driv'n. Then will I so by word and deed contrive That they may gain fresh respite from their toil."
He said, nor did Apollo not obey His Sire's commands; from Ida's heights he flew, Like to a falcon, swooping on a dove, Swiftest of birds; then Priam's son he found, The godlike Hector, stretch'd at length no more, But sitting, now to consciousness restor'd, With recognition looking on his friends; The cold sweat dried, nor gasping now for breath, Since by the will of AEgis-bearing Jove To life new waken'd; close beside him stood The Far-destroyer, and address'd him thus: "Hector, thou son of Priam, why apart From all thy comrades art thou sitting here, Feeble and faint? What trouble weighs thee down?"
To whom thus Hector of the glancing helm With falt'ring voice: "Who art thou, Prince of Gods, Who thus enquirest of me? know'st thou not How a huge stone, by mighty Ajax hurl'd, As on his comrades by the Grecian ships I dealt destruction, struck me on the breast, Dash'd to the earth, and all my vigour quell'd? I deem'd in sooth this day my soul, expir'd, Should see the dead, and Pluto's shadowy realm."
To whom again the far-destroying King: "Be of good cheer; from Saturn's son I come From Ida's height to be thy guide and guard; Phoebus Apollo, of the golden sword, I, who of old have thy protector been, Thee and thy city guarding. Rise then straight; Summon thy num'rous horsemen; bid them drive Their flying cars to assail the Grecian ships: I go before: and will thy horses' way Make plain and smooth, and daunt the warrior Greeks."
His words fresh vigour in the chief infus'd. As some proud steed, at well-fill'd manger fed, His halter broken, neighing, scours the plain, And revels in the widely-flowing stream To bathe his sides; then tossing high his head, While o'er his shoulders streams his ample mane, Light-borne on active limbs, in conscious pride, To the wide pastures of the mares he flies; So vig'rous, Hector plied his active limbs, His horsemen summoning at Heav'n's command.
As when a rustic crowd of men and dogs Have chas'd an antler'd stag, or mountain goat, That 'mid the crags and thick o'ershadowing wood Hath refuge found, and baffled their pursuit: If, by the tumult rous'd, a lion stand, With bristling mane, before them, back they turn, Check'd in their mid career; ev'n so the Greeks, Who late in eager throngs were pressing on, Thrusting with swords and double-pointed spears, When Hector moving through the ranks they saw, Recoil'd, and to their feet their courage fell. To whom thus Thoas spoke, Andraemon's son, AEtolia's bravest warrior, skill'd to throw The jav'lin, dauntless in the stubborn fight; By few surpass'd in speech, when in debate In full assembly Grecian youths contend. He thus with prudent speech began, and said:
"Great is the marvel which our eyes behold, That Hector see again to life restor'd, Escap'd the death we hop'd him to have met Beneath the hands of Ajax Telamon. Some God hath been his guard, and Hector sav'd, Whose arm hath slack'd the knees of many a Greek: So will he now; for not without the aid Of Jove, the Lord of thunder, doth he stand So boldly forth, so eager for the fight. Hear, then, and all by my advice be rul'd: Back to the ships dismiss the gen'ral crowd; While of our army we, the foremost men, Stand fast, and meeting him with levell'd spears, Hold him in check; and he, though brave, may fear To throw himself amid our serried ranks."
He said: they heard, and all obey'd his words: The mighty Ajax, and Idomeneus The King, and Teucer, and Meriones, And Meges, bold as Mars, with all their best, Their stedfast battle rang'd, to wait th' assault Of Hector and his Trojans; while behind, Th' unwarlike many to the ships retir'd. The Trojan mass came on, by Hector led With haughty stride; before him Phoebus went, His shoulders veil'd in cloud; his arm sustain'd The awful AEgis, dread to look on, hung With shaggy tassels round and dazzling bright; Which Vulcan, skilful workman, gave to Jove, To scatter terror 'mid the souls of men. This on his arm, the Trojan troops he led. Firm stood the mass of Greeks; from either side Shrill clamours rose; and fast from many a string The arrows flew, and many a jav'lin, hurl'd By vig'rous arms; some buried in the flesh Of stalwart youths, and many, ere they reach'd Their living mark, fell midway on the plain, Fix'd in the ground, in vain athirst for blood. While Phoebus motionless his AEgis held, Thick flew the shafts, and fast the people fell On either side; but when he turn'd its flash Full in the faces of the astonish'd Greeks, And shouted loud, their spirits within them quail'd, Their fiery courage borne in mind no more. As when two beasts of prey, at dead of night. With sudden onset scatter wide a herd Of oxen, or a num'rous flock of sheep, Their keepers absent; so unnerv'd by fear The Greeks dispers'd; such panic 'mid their ranks, That vict'ry so might crown the Trojan arms, Apollo sent; and as the masses broke, Each Trojan slew his man; by Hector's hand Fell Stichius and Arcesilas; the one, The leader of Boeotia's brass-clad host, The other, brave Menestheus' trusted friend. AEneas Medon slew, and Iasus; Medon, the great Oileus' bastard son, Brother of Ajax; he in Phylace, Far from his native home, was driv'n to dwell; Since one to Eriopis near akin, His sire Oileus' wife, his hand had slain: And Iasus, th' Athenian chief, was deem'd The son of Sphelus, son of Bucolus. Polydamas amid the foremost ranks Mecistes slew, Polites Echius, Agenor Olonius; while from Paris' hand An arrow, 'mid the crowd of fugitives Shot from behind, beneath the shoulder struck Deiocus, and through his chest was driv'n: These while the Trojans of their arms despoil'd, Through ditch and palisades promiscuous dash'd The flying Greeks, and gain'd, hard-press'd, the wall; While loudly Hector to the Trojans call'd To assail the ships, and leave the bloody spoils: "Whom I elsewhere, and from the ships aloof Shall find, my hand shall doom him on the spot; For him no fun'ral pyre his kin shall light, Or male or female; but before the wall Our city's dogs his mangled flesh shall tear."
He said; and on his horses' shoulder point Let fall the lash, and loudly through the ranks Call'd on the Trojans; they, with answ'ring shout And noise unspeakable, urg'd on with him Their harness'd steeds; Apollo, in the van, Trod down with ease th' embankment of the ditch, And fill'd it in; and o'er it bridg'd a way Level and wide, far as a jav'lin's flight Hurl'd by an arm that proves its utmost strength. O'er this their columns pass'd; Apollo bore His AEgis o'er them, and cast down the wall; Easy, as when a child upon the beach, In wanton play, with hands and feet o'erthrows The mound of sand, which late in play he rais'd; So, Phoebus, thou, the Grecian toil and pains Confounding, sentest panic through their souls. Thus hemm'd beside the ships they made their stand, While each exhorted each, and all, with hands Outstretch'd, to ev'ry God address'd their pray'r: And chief, Gerenian Nestor, prop of Greece, With hands uplifted tow'rd the starry Heav'n:
"O Father Jove! if any e'er to Thee On corn-clad plains of Argos burnt the fat Of bulls and sheep, and offer'd up his pray'r For safe return; and thine assenting nod Confirm'd thy promise; O remember now His pray'r; stave off the pitiless day of doom, Nor let the Greeks to Trojan arms succumb."
Thus Nestor pray'd; loud thunder'd from on high The Lord of counsel, as he heard the pray'r Of Neleus' aged son; with double zeal, The Trojans, as the mind of Jove they knew, Press'd on the Greeks, with warlike ardour fir'd. As o'er the bulwarks of a ship pour down The mighty billows of the wide-path'd sea, Driv'n by the blast, that tosses high the waves, So down the wall, with shouts, the Trojans pour'd; The cars admitted, by the ships they fought With double-pointed spears, and hand to hand; These on their chariots, on the lofty decks Of their dark vessels those, with pond'rous spars Which on the ships were stor'd for naval war, Compact and strong, their heads encas'd in brass.
While yet beyond the ships, about the wall The Greeks and Trojans fought, Patroclus still Within the tent of brave Eurypylus Remaining, with his converse sooth'd the chief, And healing unguents to his wound applied, Of pow'r to charm away the bitter pains; But when the Trojans pouring o'er the wall, And routed Greeks in panic flight he saw, Deeply he groan'd, and smiting on his thigh With either palm, in anguish thus he spoke:
"Eurypylus, how great soe'er thy need, I can no longer stay; so fierce the storm Of battle rages; but th' attendants' care Will all thy wants supply; while I in haste Achilles seek, and urge him to the war; Who knows but Heav'n may grant me to succeed? For great is oft a friend's persuasive pow'r." He said, and quickly on his errand sped.
Meanwhile the Greeks, in firm array, endur'd The onset of the Trojans; nor could these The assailants, though in numbers less, repel; Nor those again the Grecian masses break, And force their passage through the ships and tents, As by a rule, in cunning workman's hand, Who all his art by Pallas' aid has learnt, A vessel's plank is smooth and even laid, So level lay the balance of the fight. Others round other ships maintain'd the war, But Hector that of Ajax sought alone. For that one ship they two unwearied toil'd; Nor Hector Ajax from his post could move, And burn the ship with fire; nor he repel The foe who came protected by a God. Then noble Ajax with his jav'lin smote Caletor, son of Clytius, through the breast, As tow'rd the ship a blazing torch he bore; Thund'ring he fell, and dropp'd his hand the torch. But Hector, when his eyes his kinsman saw By the dark vessel, prostrate in the dust, On Trojans and on Lycians call'd aloud:
"Trojans and Lycians, and ye Dardans, fam'd In close encounter, in this press of war Slack not your efforts; haste to save the son Of Clytius, nor let Greeks his arms possess, Who 'mid their throng of ships has nobly fall'n." At Ajax, as he spoke, his gleaming spear He threw, but miss'd his aim; yet Lycophron, His comrade, of Cythera, Mastor's son (Who flying from Cythera's lovely isle With guilt of bloodshed, near to Ajax dwelt), Standing beside the chief, above the ear He struck, and pierc'd the brain: from the tall prow Backwards he fell, his limbs relax'd in death. Then Ajax, shudd'ring, on his brother call'd:
"Good Teucer, we have lost a faithful friend, The son of Mastor, our Cytheran guest, Whom as a father all rever'd; who now Lies slain by noble Hector. Where are then Thine arrows, swift-wing'd messengers of fate, And where thy trusty bow, Apollo's gift?"
Thus Ajax; Teucer heard, and ran in haste, And stood beside him, with his bended bow, And well-stor'd quiver: on the Trojans fast He pour'd his shafts; and struck Pisenor's son, Clitus, the comrade of Polydamas, The noble son of Panthous; he the reins Held in his hand, and all his care bestow'd To guide his horses; for, where'er the throng Was thickest, there in Hector's cause, and Troy's, He still was found; but o'er him hung the doom Which none might turn aside; for from behind The fateful arrow struck him through the neck; Down from the car he fell; swerving aside, The startled horses whirl'd the empty car. Them first the King Polydamas beheld, And stay'd their course; to Protiaon's son, Astynous, then he gave them, with command To keep good watch, and still be near at hand; Then 'mid the foremost join'd again the fray. Again at Hector of the brazen helm An arrow Teucer aim'd; and had the shaft The life of Hector quench'd in mid career, Not long the fight had rag'd around the ships: But Jove's all-seeing eye beheld, who watch'd O'er Hector's life, and Teucer's hopes deceiv'd. The bow's well-twisted string he snapp'd in twain, As Teucer drew; the brass-tipp'd arrow flew Wide of the mark, and dropp'd his hand the bow. Then to his brother, all aghast, he cried: "O Heav'n, some God our best-laid schemes of war Confounds, who from my hand hath, wrench'd the bow, And snapp'd the newly-twisted string, which I But late attach'd, my swift-wing'd shafts to bear."
Whom answer'd thus great Ajax Telamon: "O friend, leave there thine arrows and thy bow, Marr'd by some God who grudges our renown; But take in hand thy pond'rous spear, and cast Thy shield about thy shoulders, and thyself Stand forth, and urge the rest, to face the foe. Let us not tamely yield, if yield we must, Our well-built ships, but nobly dare the fight."
"Thus Ajax spoke; and Teucer in the tent Bestowed his bow, and o'er his shoulders threw His fourfold shield; and on his firm-set head A helm he plac'd, well-wrought, with horsehair plume, That nodded, fearful, o'er his brow; his hand Grasp'd the firm spear, with sharpen'd point of brass: Then ran, and swiftly stood by Ajax' side. Hector meanwhile, who saw the weapon marr'd, To Trojans and to Lycians call'd aloud:
"Trojans and Lycians, and ye Dardans fam'd In close encounter, quit ye now like men; Against the ships your wonted valour show. E'en now, before our eyes, hath Jove destroy'd A chieftain's weapon. Easy 'tis to trace O'er human wars th' o'erruling hand of Jove, To whom he gives the prize of victory, And whom, withholding aid, he minishes, As now the Greeks, while we his favour gain. Pour then your force united on the ships; And if there be among you, who this day Shall meet his doom, by sword or arrow slain, E'en let him die! a glorious death is his Who for his country falls; and dying, leaves Preserv'd from danger, children, wife, and home, His heritage uninjur'd, when the Greeks Embarking hence shall take their homeward way."
His words fresh courage rous'd in ev'ry breast. Ajax, on th' other side, address'd the Greeks:
"Shame on ye, Greeks! this very hour decides If we must perish, or be sav'd, and ward Destruction from our ships; and can ye hope That each, if Hector of the glancing helm Shall burn our ships, on foot can reach his home? Or hear ye not, how, burning to destroy Our vessels, Hector cheers his forces on? Not to the dance, but to the fight he calls; Nor better counsel can for us be found, Than in close fight with heart and hand to join. 'Twere better far at once to die, than live Hemm'd in and straiten'd thus, in dire distress, Close to our ships, by meaner men beset."
His words fresh courage rous'd in ev'ry breast. Then Hector Schedius, Perimedes' son, The Thracian leader, slew; on th' other side Ajax the captain of the foot o'ercame, Laodamas, Antenor's noble son; While of his arms Polydamas despoil'd Cyllenian Otus, friend of Phyleus' son, The proud Epeians' leader; Meges saw, And rush'd upon him; but Polydamas, Stooping, the blow evaded; him he miss'd; For Phoebus will'd not Panthous' son should fall In the front rank contending; but the spear Smote Croesmus through the breast; thund'ring he fell, And from his corpse the victor stripp'd his arms. Him Dolops, son of Lampus, spearman skill'd, Well train'd in ev'ry point of war, assail'd (The son of Lampus he, the prince of men, Son of Laomedon); from close at hand Forward he sprang, and thrust at Meges' shield; But him the solid corslet which he wore, With breast and back-piece fitted, sav'd from harm:* The corslet Phyleus brought from Ephyra, By Selles' stream; Euphetes, King of men, Bestow'd it as a friendly gift, to wear In battle for a guard from hostile spears; Which from destruction now preserv'd his son. Next Meges struck, with keen-edg'd spear, the crown Of Dolops' brass-bound, horsehair-crested helm, Sev'ring the horsehair plume, which, brilliant late With crimson dye, now lay defil'd in dust. Yet fought he on, and still for vict'ry hop'd; But warlike Menelaus to the aid Of Meges came; of Dolops unobserv'd He stood, and from behind his shoulder pierc'd; The point, its course pursuing, through his breast Was driv'n, and headlong on his face he fell. Forthwith, advanc'd the two to seize the spoils; But loudly Hector on his kinsmen call'd; On all, but chief on Icetaon's son, The valiant Melanippus; he erewhile, In far Percote, ere the foes appear'd, Pastur'd his herds; but when the ships of Greece Approach'd the shore, to Ilium back he came; There, 'mid the Trojans eminent, he dwelt In Priam's house, belov'd as Priam's son. Him Hector call'd by name, and thus address'd:
"Why, Melanippus, stand we idly thus? Doth not thy slaughter'd kinsmen touch thy heart? See how they rush on Dolops' arms to seize; Then on! no distant war must now be wag'd, But hand to hand, till or the Greeks be slain, Or lofty Troy, with all her children, fall."
He said, and led the way; him follow'd straight The godlike chief; great Ajax Telamon Meanwhile the Greeks encourag'd to the fight, And cried, "Brave comrades, quit ye now like men; Bear a stout heart; and in the stubborn fight Let each to other mutual succour give; By mutual succour more are sav'd than fall; In timid flight nor fame nor safety lies."
He said; and pond'ring well his words, they stood, Firm in defence; as with a wall of brass The ships they guarded; though against them Jove Led on the Trojans; Menelaus then With stirring words Antilochus address'd: "Antilochus, than thou, of all the Greeks Is none more active, or more light of foot; None stronger hurls the spear; then from the crowd Spring forth, and aim to reach some Trojan's life."
Thus saying, he withdrew; fir'd by his words, Forth sprang the youth, and pois'd his glitt'ring spear, Glancing around him; back the Trojans drew Before his aim; nor flew the spear in vain; But through the breast it pierc'd, as on he came, Brave Melanippus, Icetaon's son. Thund'ring he fell, and loud his armour rang. Forth sprang Antilochus, as springs a hound Upon a fawn, which from its lair disturb'd A hunter's shaft has struck, and quell'd its pow'rs; So, Melanippus, sprang to seize thy spoils The stout Antilochus; but not unmark'd Of Hector's eye, who, hast'ning through the press, Advanc'd to meet him; waited not th' attack, Bold warrior as he was, Antilochus, But trembling fled: as when a beast of prey, Conscious of evil deed, amid the herd The guardian dog or herdsman's self has slain, And flies, ere yet th' avenging crowd collect; So fled the son of Nestor; onward press'd, By Hector led, the Trojans; loud their shouts, As on the Greeks their murd'rous shafts they pour'd: Yet turn'd he, when his comrades' ranks he reach'd. Then on the ships, as rav'ning lions, fell The Trojans: they but work'd the will of Jove, Who still their courage rais'd, and quell'd the Greeks; Of vict'ry these debarr'd, and those inspir'd; For so he will'd, that Hector, Priam's son, Should wrap in fire the beaked ships of Greece, And Thetis to the uttermost obtain Her over-bold petition; yet did Jove, The Lord of counsel, wait but to behold The flames ascending from the blazing ships: For from that hour the Trojans, backward driv'n, Should to the Greeks the final triumph leave. With such design, to seize the ships, he fir'd Th' already burning zeal of Priam's son; Fiercely he rag'd, as terrible as Mars With brandish'd spear; or as a raging fire 'Mid the dense thickets on the mountain side. The foam was on his lips; bright flash'd his eyes Beneath his awful brows, and terribly Above his temples wav'd amid the fray The helm of Hector; Jove himself from Heav'n. His guardian hand extending, him alone With glory crowning 'mid the host of men; But short his term of glory: for the day Was fast approaching, when, with Pallas' aid, The might of Peleus' son should work his doom. Oft he essay'd to break the ranks, where'er The densest and throng noblest arms he saw; But strenuous though his efforts, all were vain: They, mass'd in close array, his charge withstood; Firm as a craggy rock, upstanding high, Close by the hoary sea, which meets unmov'd The boist'rous currents of the whistling winds, And the big waves that bellow round its base; So stood unmov'd the Greeks, and undismay'd. At length, all blazing in his arms, he sprang Upon the mass; so plunging down, as when On some tall vessel, from beneath the clouds A giant billow, tempest-nurs'd, descends; The deck is drench'd in foam; the stormy wind Howls in the shrouds; th' affrighted seamen quail In fear, but little way from death remov'd; So quail'd the spirit in ev'ry Grecian breast.
As when a rav'ning lion on a herd Of heifers falls, which on some marshy mead Feed numberless, beneath the care of one, Unskill'd from beasts of prey to guard his charge; And while beside the front or rear he walks, The lion on th' unguarded centre springs, Seizes on one, and scatters all the rest; So Hector, led by Jove, in wild alarm Scatter'd the Grecians all; but one alone, Brave Periphetes, of Mycenae, slew; The son of Copreus, whom Eurystheus sent His envoy to the might of Hercules; Far nobler than the father was the son; In speed of foot, in warlike might, in mind, In all, among Mycenians foremost he; Who now on Hector fresh renown conferr'd; For, backward as he stepp'd, against the rim Of the broad shield which for defence he bore, Down reaching to his feet, he tripp'd, and thus Entangled, backward fell; and as he fell, Around his temples clatter'd loud his helm. Hector beheld, and o'er him stood in haste, And with his spear transfix'd his breast, and slew Before his comrades' eyes; yet dar'd not one, Though grieving for their comrade's loss, advance To rescue; such of Hector was their awe. They fronted now the ships; the leading prows Which first were drawn on shore, still barr'd their way; Yet on they stream'd; and from the foremost ships, Now hardly press'd, the Greeks perforce retir'd; But closely mass'd before the tents they stood, Not scatter'd o'er the camp; by shame restrain'd, And fear; and loudly each exhorted each. Gerenian Nestor chief, the prop of Greece, Thus by their fathers singly each adjur'd: "Quit ye like men, dear friends; and think it shame To forfeit now the praise of other men; Let each man now his children and his wife, His fortunes and his parents, bear in mind; And not the living only, but the dead; For them, the absent, I, your suppliant, pray, That firm ye stand, and scorn disgraceful flight."
His words fresh courage rous'd in ev'ry breast; And from their eyeballs Pallas purg'd away The film of darkness; and on ev'ry side, Both tow'rd the ships and tow'rd the level fight, Clear light diffus'd; there Hector they discern'd, And all his comrades, those who stood aloof, And those who near the ships maintain'd the war. Then was not Ajax' mighty soul content To stand where stood the other sons of Greece; Along the vessels' lofty decks he mov'd With haughty stride; a pond'rous boarding-pike, Well polish'd, and with rivets well secur'd, Of two and twenty cubits' length, he bore, As one well-skill'd in feats of horsemanship, Who from a troop of horses on the plain Has parted four, and down the crowded road, While men and women all in wonder gaze, Drives tow'rd the city; and with force untir'd From one to other springs, as on they fly; O'er many a vessel's deck so Ajax pass'd With lofty stride, and voice that reach'd to Heav'n, As loudly shouting on the Greeks he call'd To save their ships and tents: nor Hector stay'd Amid the closely buckler'd Trojan ranks; But, as upon a flock of birds, that feed Beside a river's bank, or geese, or cranes, Or long-neck'd swans, a fiery eagle swoops; So on the dark-prow'd ship with furious rush Swept Hector down; him Jove with mighty hand Sustain'd, and with him forward urg'd the crowd. Fierce round the ships again the battle rag'd; Well might ye deem no previous toil had worn Their strength, who in that dread encounter met; With edge so keen, and stubborn will they fought. But varying far their hopes and fears: the Greeks Of safety and escape from death despair'd; While high the hopes in ev'ry Trojan's breast, To burn the ships, and slay the warlike Greeks; So minded each, oppos'd in arms they stood.
On a swift-sailing vessel's stern, that bore Protesilaus to the coast of Troy, But to his native country bore not thence, Hector had laid his hand; around that ship Trojans and Greeks in mutual slaughter join'd. The arrow's or the jav'lin's distant flight They waited not, but, fir'd with equal rage, Fought hand to hand, with axe and hatchet keen, And mighty swords, and double-pointed spears. Many a fair-hilted blade, with iron bound, Dropp'd from the hands, or from the sever'd arms, Of warrior chiefs; the dark earth ran with blood: Yet loos'd not Hector of the stern his hold, But grasp'd the poop, and on the Trojans call'd;
"Bring fire, and all together loud and clear Your war-cry raise; this day will Jove repay Our labours all, with capture of those ships, Which hither came, against the will of Heav'n, And which on us unnumber'd ills have brought, By our own Elders' fault, who me, desiring Ev'n at their vessels' sterns to urge the war, Withheld, and to the town the troops confin'd. But Jove all-seeing, if he then o'errul'd Our better mind, himself is now our aid."
Thus he: they onward press'd with added zeal; Nor Ajax yet endur'd, by hostile spears Now sorely gall'd; yet but a little space, Back to the helmsman's sev'n-foot board he mov'd, Expecting death; and left the lofty deck, Where long he stood on guard; but still his spear The Trojans kept aloof, whoe'er essay'd Amid the ships to launch th' unwearied flames; And, loudly shouting, to the Greeks he call'd:
"Friends, Grecian heroes, ministers of Mars, Quit ye like men! dear friends, remember now Your wonted valour! think ye in your rear To find supporting forces, or some fort Whose walls may give you refuge from your foe? No city is nigh, whose well-appointed tow'rs, Mann'd by a friendly race, may give us aid; But here, upon the well-arm'd Trojans' soil, And only resting on the sea, we lie Far from our country; not in faint retreat, But in our own good arms, our safety lies."
He said; and with his sharp-edg'd spear his words He follow'd up; if any Trojan dar'd, By Hector's call inspir'd, with fiery brand To assail the ships, him with his ponderous spear Would Ajax meet; and thus before the ships Twelve warriors, hand to hand, his prowess felt.