The Illiad: The Fourth Battle Continued, in which Neptune Assists the Greeks. The Acts of Idomeneus.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Fourth Battle Continued, in which Neptune Assists the Greeks. The Acts of Idomeneus.

Neptune, concerned for the loss of the Grecians, upon seeing the fortification forced by Hector (who had entered the gate near the station of the Ajaces), assumes the shape of Calchas, and inspires those heroes to oppose him; then, in the form of one of the generals, encourages the other Greeks who had retired to their vessels. The Ajaces form their troops into a close phalanx, and put a stop to Hector and the Trojans. Several deeds of valour are performed; Meriones, losing his spear in the encounter, repairs to seek another at the tent of Idomeneus; this occasions a conversation between these two warriors, who return together to the battle. Idomeneus signalizes his courage above the rest; he kills Othryoneus, Asius, and Alcathous; Deiphobus and AEneas march against him, and at length Idomeneus retires. Menelaus wounds Helenus and kills Peisander. The Trojans are repulsed in the left wing. Hector still keeps his ground against the Ajaces, till, being galled by the Locrian slingers and archers, Polydamas advises to call a council of war: Hector approves his advice, but goes first to rally the Trojans; upbraids Paris, rejoins Polydamas, meets Ajax again, and renews the attack.

The eight-and-twentieth day still continues. The scene is between the Grecian wall and the sea-shore.

When Jove had Hector and the Trojans brought
Close to the ships, he left them there to toil
And strife continuous; turning his keen glance
To view far off th' equestrian tribes of Thrace,
The warlike Mysians, and the men who feed
On milk of mares, thence Hippemolgi term'd;
A peaceful race, the justest of mankind.
On Troy he turn'd not once his piercing glance;
Nor deem'd he any God would dare to give
To Trojans or to Greeks his active aid.
No careless watch the monarch Neptune kept:
Wond'ring, he view'd the battle, where he sat
Aloft on wooded Samos' topmost peak,
Samos of Thrace; whence Ida's heights he saw,
And Priam's city, and the ships of Greece.
Thither ascended from the sea, he sat;
And thence the Greeks, by Trojans overborne,
Pitying he saw, and deeply wroth with Jove.
Then down the mountain's craggy side he pass'd
With rapid step; and as he mov'd along,
Beneath th' immortal feet of Ocean's Lord
Quak'd the huge mountain and the shadowy wood.
Three strides he took; the fourth, he reach'd his goal,
AEgae; where on the margin of the bay
His temple stood, all glitt'ring, all of gold,
Imperishable; there arriv'd, he yok'd
Beneath his car the brazen-footed steeds,
Of swiftest flight, with manes of flowing gold.
All clad in gold, the golden lash he grasp'd
Of curious work, and mounting on his car,
Skimm'd o'er the waves; from all the depths below
Gamboll'd around the monsters of the deep,
Acknowledging their King; the joyous sea
Parted her waves; swift flew the bounding steeds,
Nor was the brazen axle wet with spray,
When to the ships of Greece their Lord they bore.
Down in the deep recesses of the sea
A spacious cave there is, which lies midway
'Twixt Tenedos and Imbros' rocky isle:
Th' Earth-shaking Neptune there his coursers stay'd,
Loos'd from the chariot, and before them plac'd
Ambrosial provender; and round their feet
Shackles of gold, which none might break nor loose,
That there they might await their Lord's return;
Then to the Grecian army took his way.
Meantime, by Hector, son of Priam, led,
Like fire, or whirlwind, press'd the Trojans on,
With furious zeal, and shouts and clamour hoarse;
In hopes to take the ships, and all the chiefs
To slay beside them; but from Ocean's depths
Uprose th' Earth-shaker, Circler of the Earth,
To Calchas' likeness and deep voice conform'd,
And rous'd the fainting Greeks; th' Ajaces first,
Themselves with ardour fill'd, he thus address'd:
"'Tis yours, Ajaces, fill'd with courage high,
Discarding chilly fear, to save the Greeks:
Elsewhere I dread not much the Trojan force,
Though they in crowds have scal'd the lofty wall;
The well-greav'd Greeks their onset may defy.
Yet greatly fear I lest we suffer loss,
Where that fierce, fiery madman, Hector, leads.
Who boasts himself the son of Jove most high.
But may some God your hearts inspire, yourselves
Firmly to stand, and cheer your comrades on;
So from your swiftly-sailing ships ye yet
May drive the foe, how bold soe'er he be,
Though by Olympian Jove himself upheld."
So spake th' Earth-shaker, Circler of the Earth,
And with his sceptre touching both the chiefs,
Fill'd them with strength and courage, and their limbs,
Their feet and hands, with active vigour strung;
Then like a swift-wing'd falcon sprang to flight,
Which down the sheer face of some lofty rock
Swoops on the plain to seize his feather'd prey:
So swiftly Neptune left the chiefs; him first
Departing, knew Oileus' active son,
And thus the son of Telamon address'd:
"Ajax, since some one of th' Olympian Gods,
In likeness of a seer, hath hither come
To urge us to the war (no Calchas he,
Our augur Heav'n-inspir'd; for well I mark'd
His movements, as he went; and of a God
'Tis easy to discern the outward signs),
I feel fresh spirit kindled in my breast,
And new-born vigour in my feet and hands."
Whom answer'd thus the son of Telamon:
"My hands too grasp with firmer hold the spear,
My spirit like thine is stirr'd; I feel my feet
Instinct with fiery life; nor should I fear
With Hector, son of Priam, in his might
Alone to meet, and grapple to the death."
Such was their mutual converse, as they joy'd
In the fierce transport by the God inspir'd.
Neptune, meanwhile, the other Greeks arous'd,
Who, to the ships withdrawn, their wasted strength
Recruited; for their limbs were faint with toil,
And grief was in their hearts, as they beheld
The Trojan hosts that scal'd the lofty wall;
They saw, and from their eyes the teardrops fell,
Of safety desp'rate; but th' Earth-shaking God
Amid their ranks appearing, soon restor'd
Their firm array; to Teucer first he came,
To Leitus, and valiant Peneleus,
Thoas, Deipyrus, Meriones,
And young Antilochus, brave warriors all,
And to the chiefs his winged words address'd:
"Shame on ye, Grecian youths! to you I look'd
As to our ships' defenders; but if ye
Shrink from the perilous battle, then indeed
Our day is come, to be by Troy subdu'd.
O Heav'n! a sad and wondrous sight is this,
A sight I never deem'd my eyes should see,
Our ships assail'd by Trojan troops; by those
Who heretofore have been as tim'rous hinds
Amid the forest depths, the helpless prey
Of jackals, pards, and wolves; they here and there,
Uncertain, heartless, unresisting, fly:
Such were the Trojans once; nor dar'd abide,
No, not an hour, the strength and arms of Greece;
And these are they, who now beside our ships,
Far from their city walls, maintain the fight,
Embolden'd by our great commander's fault,
And slackness of the people, who, with him
Offended, scarce are brought to guard our ships.
And, feebly fighting, are beside them slain.
E'en though the mighty monarch, Atreus' son,
Wide-ruling Agamemnon, be in truth
Wholly to blame in this, that he hath wrong'd
The son of Peleus, yet 'tis not for us
Our courage to relax. Arouse ye then!
A brave man's spirit its vigour soon regains.
That ye, the best and bravest of the host,
Should stand aloof thus idly, 'tis not well;
If meaner men should from the battle shrink,
I might not blame them; but that such as ye
Should falter, indignation fills my soul.
Dear friends, from this remissness must accrue
Yet greater evils; but with gen'rous shame
And keen remorse let each man's breast be fill'd;
Fierce is the struggle; in his pride of strength
Hector has forc'd the gates and massive bars,
And raging, 'mid the ships maintains the war."
Thus Neptune on the Greeks, reproving, call'd:
Then round th' Ajaces twain were cluster'd thick
The serried files, whose firm array nor Mars,
Nor spirit-stirring Pallas might reprove:
For there, the bravest all, in order due,
Waited the Trojan charge by Hector led:
Spear close by spear, and shield by shield o'erlaid,
Buckler to buckler press'd, and helm to helm,
And man to man; the horsehair plumes above,
That nodded on the warriors' glitt'ring crests,
Each other touch'd; so closely massed they stood.
Backward, by many a stalwart hand, were drawn
The spears, in act to hurl; their eyes and minds
Turn'd to the front, and eager for the fray.
On pour'd the Trojan masses; in the van
Hector straight forward urg'd his furious course.
As some huge boulder, from its rocky bed
Detach'd, and by the wintry torrent's force
Hurl'd down the cliff's steep face, when constant rains
The massive rock's firm hold have undermin'd;
With giant bounds it flies; the crashing wood
Resounds beneath it; still it hurries on,
Until, arriving at the level plain,
Its headlong impulse check'd, it rolls no more;
So Hector, threat'ning now through ships and tents,
E'en to the sea, to force his murd'rous way,
Anon, confronted by that phalanx firm,
Halts close before it; while the sons of Greece,
With thrust of sword and double-pointed spears,
Stave off his onset; he a little space
Withdrew, and loudly on the Trojans call'd:
"Trojans, and Lycians, and ye Dardans fam'd
In close encounter, stand ye firm! not long
The Greeks, though densely mass'd, shall bar my way,
But soon, methinks, before my spear shall quail,
If from the chief of Gods my mission be,
From Jove the Thund'rer, royal Juno's Lord."
His words fresh courage rais'd in ev'ry breast;
On loftiest deeds intent, Deiphobus,
The son of Priam, from the foremost ranks,
His shield's broad orb before him borne, advanc'd
With airy step, protected by the shield:
At him Meriones with glitt'ring spear
Took aim, nor miss'd his mark; the shield's broad orb
Of tough bull's-hide it struck; but pass'd not through,
For near the head the sturdy shaft was snapp'd.
Yet from before his breast Deiphobus
Held at arm's length his shield; for much he fear'd
The weapon of Meriones; but he
Back to his comrades' shelt'ring ranks withdrew,
Griev'd at his baffled hopes and broken spear.
Then tow'rd the ships he bent his steps, to seek
Another spear, which in his tent remain'd.
The rest, 'mid wild uproar, maintain'd the fight.
There Teucer first, the son of Telamon,
A warrior slew, the son of Mentor, Lord
Of num'rous horses, Imbrius, spearman skill'd.
In former days, ere came the sons of Greece,
He in Pedaeus dwelt, and had to wife
Medesicaste, Priam's bastard child;
But when the well-trimm'd ships of Greece appear'd,
Return'd to Troy; and there, rever'd by all,
With Priam dwelt, who lov'd him as a son.
Him Teucer with his lance below the ear
Stabb'd, and drew back the weapon; down he fell,
As by the woodman's axe, on some high peak,
Falls a proud ash, conspicuous from afar,
Scatt'ring its tender foliage on the ground;
He fell; and loud his burnish'd armour rang.
Forth Teucer sprang to seize the spoil; at whom,
Advancing, Hector aim'd his glitt'ring spear;
He saw, and, stooping, shunn'd the brazen death
A little space; but through the breast it struck
Amphimachus, the son of Cteatus,
The son of Actor, hastening to the fight:
Thund'ring he fell, and loud his armour rang.
Then forward Hector sprang, in hopes to seize
The brazen helm, that fitted well the brow
Of brave Amphimachus; but Ajax met
Th' advance of Hector with his glitt'ring spear;
Himself he reach'd not, all in dazzling brass
Encas'd; but pressing on his bossy shield
Drove by main force beyond where lay the dead:
Them both the Greeks withdrew; th' Athenian chiefs
Stychius and brave Menestheus, bore away
Amid the ranks of Greece Amphimachus;
While, as two lions high above the ground
Bear through the brushwood in their jaws a goat,
Snatch'd from the sharp-fang'd dogs' protecting care:
So, fill'd with warlike rage, th' Ajaces twain
Lifted on high, and of its armour stripp'd
The corpse of Imbrius; and Oileus' son,
Griev'd at Amphimachus, his comrade's death,
Cut from the tender neck, and like a ball
Sent whirling through the crowd the sever'd head;
And in the dust at Hector's feet it fell.
Then, for his grandson slain, fierce anger fill'd
The breast of Neptune; through the tents of Greece
And ships he pass'd, the Greeks encouraging,
And ills preparing for the sons of Troy.
Him met Idomeneus, the warrior King,
Leaving a comrade, from the battle field,
Wounded behind the knee, but newly brought;
Borne by his comrades, to the leech's care
He left him, eager to rejoin the fray;
Whom by his tent th' Earth-shaking God address'd,
The voice assuming of Andraemon's son,
Who o'er th' AEtolians, as a God rever'd,
In Pleuron reign'd, and lofty Calydon:
"Where now, Idomeneus, sage Cretan chief,
Are all the vaunting threats, so freely pour'd
Against the Trojans by the sons of Greece?"
To whom the Cretan King, Idomeneus:
"Thoas, on none, so far as I may judge,
May blame be cast; we all our duties know;
Nor see I one by heartless fear restrain'd,
Nor hanging back, and flinching from the war:
Yet by th' o'erruling will of Saturn's son
It seems decreed that here the Greeks should fall,
And far from Argos lie in nameless graves.
But, Thoas, as thyself art ever staunch,
Nor slow the laggards to reprove, thy work
Remit not now; but rouse each sev'ral man."
To whom Earth-shaking Neptune thus replied:
"Idomeneus, may he from Troy return
No more, but here remain to glut the dogs,
If such there be, from this day's fight who shrinks.
But haste thee, don thine arms; great need is now
To hasten, if in aught we two may serve:
E'en meaner men, united, courage gain;
But we the bravest need not fear to meet."
He said, and to the strife of men return'd.
Within his well-constructed tent arriv'd,
Straight donn'd Idomeneus his armour bright:
Two spears he took; and, like the lightning's flash,
Which, as a sign to men, the hand of Jove
Hurls downwards from Olympus' glitt'ring heights;
Whose dazzling radiance far around is thrown;
Flash'd, as the warrior ran, his armour bright.
Him met Meriones, his follower brave,
Close to the tent; to seek a spear he came;
To whom Idomeneus: "Meriones,
Swift-footed son of Molus, comrade dear,
Why com'st thou here, and leav'st the battle field?
Hast thou some wound receiv'd, whereof the pain
Subdues thy spirit? or com'st thou, to the field
To summon me? unsummon'd, well thou know'st
I better love the battle than the tent."
Whom answer'd thus the sage Meriones:
"Idomeneus, the brass-clad Cretans' King,
I come to seek a spear, if haply such
Within thy tent be found; for, in the fight,
That which I lately bore, e'en now I broke
Against the shield of brave Deiphobus."
To whom Idomeneus, the Cretan King:
"Of spears, or one, or twenty, if thou list,
Thou there mayst find against the polish'd wall.
The spoil of Trojans slain; for with my foes
'Tis not my wont to wage a distant war.
Thence have I store of spears, and bossy shields,
And crested helms, and breastplates polish'd bright."
Whom answer'd thus the sage Meriones:
"Nor are my tent and dark-ribb'd ship devoid
Of Trojan spoils; but they are far to seek;
Nor deem I that my hand is slack in fight;
For 'mid the foremost in the glorious strife
I stand, whene'er is heard the battle cry.
My deeds by others of the brass-clad Greeks
May not be noted; but thou know'st them well."
To whom Idomeneus, the Cretan King:
"What need of this? thy prowess well I know;
For should we choose our bravest through the fleet
To man the secret ambush, surest test
Of warriors' courage, where is manifest
The diff'rence 'twixt the coward and the brave;
(The coward's colour changes, nor his soul
Within his breast its even balance keeps,
But changing still, from foot to foot he shifts,
And in his bosom loudly beats his heart,
Expecting death; and chatter all his teeth:
The brave man's colour changes not; no fear
He knows, the ambush ent'ring; all his pray'r
Is that the hour of battle soon may come)
E'en there, thy courage none might call in doubt.
Shouldst thou from spear or sword receive a wound,
Not on thy neck behind, nor on thy back
Would fall the blow, but on thy breast, in front,
Still pressing onward 'mid the foremost ranks.
But come, prolong we not this idle talk,
Like babblers vain, who scorn might justly move:
Haste to my tent, and there select thy spear."
He said: and from the tent Meriones,
Valiant as Mars, his spear selected straight,
And, eager for the fray, rejoin'd his chief.
As Mars, the bane of men, goes forth to war,
Attended by his strong, unfearing son,
Terror, who shakes the bravest warrior's soul;
They two, from Thrace, against the Ephyri,
Or haughty Phlegyans arm; nor hear alike
The pray'rs of both the combatants, one side
With vict'ry crowning; so to battle went
Those leaders twain, in dazzling arms array'd:
Then thus Meriones his chief address'd:
"Son of Deucalion, say if on the right,
Or on the centre of the gen'ral host,
Our onset should be made, or on the left;
For there, methinks, most succour need the Greeks."
To whom Idomeneus, the Cretan chief:
"Others there are the centre to defend,
Th' Ajaces both, and Teucer, of the Greeks
Best archer, good too in the standing fight;
These may for Hector full employment find,
Brave as he is, and eager for the fray;
E'en for his courage 'twere a task too hard,
Their might to conquer, and resistless hands,
And burn the ships, if Saturn's son himself
Fire not, and 'mid the shipping throw the torch.
Great Ajax Telamon to none would yield,
Of mortal birth, by earthly food sustain'd,
By spear or pond'rous stone assailable;
In hand to hand encounter, scarce surpass'd
By Peleus' son Achilles; though with him
In speed of foot he might not hope to vie.
Then on the left let us our onset make;
And quickly learn if we on others' heads
Are doom'd to win renown, or they on ours."
He said: and, brave as Mars, Meriones,
Thither where he directed, led the way.
Now when, attended thus, Idomeneus,
Like blazing fire, in dazzling arms appear'd,
Around him throng'd, with rallying cries, the Greeks,
And rag'd beside the ships the balanc'd fight.
As, when the dust lies deepest on the roads,
Before the boist'rous winds the storm drives fast,
And high at once the whirling clouds are toss'd;
So was the fight confus'd; and in the throng
Each man with keen desire of slaughter burn'd.
Bristled the deadly strife with pond'rous spears,
Wielded with dire intent; the brazen gleam
Dazzled the sight, by flashing helmets cast,
And breastplates polish'd bright, and glitt'ring shields
Commingling; stern of heart indeed were he,
Who on that sight with joy, not pain, could gaze.
Dire evil then on mortal warriors brought
The diverse minds of Saturn's mighty sons:
To Hector and the Trojans Jove design'd,
In honour of Achilles, swift of foot,
To give the vict'ry; yet not utterly
He will'd to slay before the walls of Troy
The Grecian host; but glory to confer
On Thetis and her noble-minded son.
Neptune, on th' other side, the Greeks inspir'd,
Clandestine rising from the hoary sea;
For them before the Trojan host o'erborne
He saw with grief, and deeply wroth with Jove.
Equal the rank of both, their birth the same,
But Jove in wisdom, as in years, the first.
Nor ventur'd Neptune openly to aid
The cause of Greece; but cloth'd in mortal form,
In secret still the army's courage rous'd.
This way and that they tugg'd of furious war
And balanc'd strife, where many a warrior fell,
The straining rope, which none might break or loose.
Then, though his hair was grizzl'd o'er with age,
Calling the Greeks to aid, Idomeneus,
Inspiring terror, on the Trojans sprang,
And slew Othryoneus, who but of late
Came from Cabesus on the alarm of war;
And, welcomed as a guest in Priam's house,
The fairest of his daughters sought to wed,
No portion asked, Cassandra; mighty deeds
He promis'd, from before the walls of Troy
In their despite to drive the sons of Greece.
The aged Priam listen'd to his snit;
And he, his promise trusting, fought for Troy.
Him, marching with proud step, Idomeneus
Struck with his glitt'ring spear, nor aught avail'd
His brazen breastplate; through the middle thrust,
Thund'ring he fell: the victor vaunting cried:
"Othryoneus, above all mortal men
I hold thee in respect, if thou indeed
Wilt make thy words to aged Priam good,
Who promis'd thee his daughter in return:
We too would offer thee a like reward;
And give thee here to wed, from Argos brought,
Atrides' fairest daughter, if with us
Thou wilt o'erthrow the well-built walls of Troy.
Come then, on board our ocean-going ships
Discuss the marriage contract; nor shall we
Be found illib'ral of our bridal gifts."
He said, and seizing by the foot the slain,
Dragg'd from the press; but to the rescue came
Asius, himself on foot before his car:
So close his charioteer the horses held,
They breath'd upon his shoulders; eagerly
He sought to reach Idomeneus; but he,
Preventing, through his gullet drove the spear,
Beneath his chin; right through the weapon pass'd;
He fell; as falls an oak, or poplar tall,
Or lofty pine, which on the mountain top,
For some proud ship, the woodman's axe hath hewn:
So he, before the car and horses stretch'd,
His death-cry utt'ring, clutch'd the blood-stain'd soil;
Bewilder'd, helpless, stood his charioteer;
Nor dar'd, escaping from the foemen's hands,
To turn his horses: him, Antilochus
Beneath the waistband struck; nor aught avail'd
His brazen breastplate; through the middle thrust,
He, from the well-wrought chariot, gasping, fell.
Antilochus, the noble Nestor's son,
The horses seiz'd, and from the Trojan ranks
Drove to the Grecian camp. For Asius' death
Deep griev'd, Deiphobus, approaching, hurl'd
Against Idomeneus his glitt'ring spear:
The coming weapon he beheld, and shunn'd:
Beneath the ample circle of his shield,
With hides and brazen plates encircled round,
And by two rods sustain'd, conceal'd he stood:
Beneath he crouch'd, and o'er him flew the spear:
Yet harsh it grated, glancing from the shield;
Nor bootless from that stalwart hand it flew,
But through the midriff, close below the heart,
Hypsenor, son of Hippasus, it struck,
And straight relax'd his limbs; then shouting loud,
In boastful tone, Deiphobus exclaim'd:
"Not unaveng'd lies Asius; he, methinks,
As I have found him fellowship, with joy
Thro' Hades' strongly-guarded gates may pass."
He said; the Greeks, indignant, heard his boast;
Chief, of Antilochus the manly soul
Was stirr'd within him; yet amid his grief
His comrade not forgetting, up he ran,
And o'er him spread the cover of his shield.
Meanwhile, two trusty friends, Mecistheus, son
Of Echius, and Alastor, rais'd the slain,
And deeply groaning bore him to the ships.
Nor did Idomeneus his noble rage
Abate; still burning o'er some Trojan soul
To draw the gloomy veil of night and death;
Or, having sav'd the Greeks, himself to fall.
Then high-born AEsuetes' son he slew,
Alcathous; he, Anchises' son-in-law,
The eldest of his daughters had to wife,
Hippodamia; by her parents both,
O'er all, belov'd; in beauty, skill, and mind,
All her compeers surpassing; wife of one,
The noblest man through all the breadth of Troy.
Him Neptune by Idomeneus subdued;
Seal'd his quick eyes, his active limbs restrain'd,
Without the pow'r to fly, or shun the spear;
Fix'd as a pillar, or a lofty tree,
He stood, while through his breast Idomeneus
His weapon drove; the brazen mail it broke,
Which oft had turn'd aside the stroke of death;
Harshly it grated, sever'd by the spear:
He fell; the spear-point quiv'ring in his heart,
Which with convulsive throbbings shook the shaft.
There Mars its course arrested. Then with shouts
Of triumph, vaunting, thus Idomeneus:
"How now, Deiphobus? are three for one
An equal balance? where are now thy boasts?
Come forth, my friend, thyself to me oppos'd;
And learn, if here, unworthy my descent
From Jove, my great progenitor, I stand.
He Minos, guardian chief of Crete, begot;
Noble Deucalion was to Minos born,
I to Deucalion; far extends my rule
In wide-spread Crete; whom now our ships have brought,
A bane to thee, thy sire, and Trojans all."
He said; and doubtful stood Deiphobus,
Or to retreat, and summon to his aid
The Trojans, or alone the venture try.
Thus as he mus'd, the wiser course appear'd
To seek AEneas; him he found apart,
Behind the crowd; for he was still at feud
With godlike Priam, who, he thought, withheld
The public honour to his valour due.
To whom Deiphobus, approaching, thus:
"AEneas, sagest councillor of Troy,
Behoves thee now, if rev'rence for the dead
Can move thy soul, thy sister's husband aid:
Haste we to save Alcathous; who of old,
When thou wast little, in thy father's house,
Nurs'd thee with tender care; for him, but now,
The spear-renown'd Idomeneus hath slain."
He said; AEneas' spirit was rous'd, and fill'd
With martial rage he sought Idomeneus.
Nor, cowardlike, did he th' encounter shun;
But firmly stood, as stands a mountain-boar
Self-confident, that in some lonely spot
Awaits the clam'rous chase; bristles his back;
His eyes with fire are flashing; and his tusks
He whets, on men and dogs prepar'd to rush:
So stood the spear-renown'd Idomeneus,
The onset of AEneas, swift in fight,
Awaiting; and the friends he saw around
He summon'd to his aid; Ascalaphus,
Deipyrus, and brave Meriones,
Antilochus and Aphareus; to these,
Tried warriors all, he thus addressed his speech:
"Aid me, my friends! alone I stand, and dread
The onset of AEneas, swift of foot.
Mighty to slay in battle; and the bloom
Of youth is his, the crown of human strength;
If, as our spirit, our years were but the same,
Great glory now should he, or I, obtain."
He said; and, one in heart, their bucklers slop'd
Upon their shoulders, all beside him stood.
On th' other side, AEneas to his aid
Summon'd his brother chiefs, Deiphobus,
And Paris, and Agenor; following whom
Came on the gen'ral crowd; as flocks of sheep
From pasture follow to their drinking-place
The lordly ram; well pleas'd the shepherd sees;
So pleas'd, AEneas saw the gath'ring crowd.
Then o'er Alcathous hand to hand was wag'd
The war of spears; dire was the clash of brass
Upon the heroes' breasts, as 'mid the press
Each aim'd at other; proudly eminent
Stood forth two mighty warriors, terrible
As Mars, AEneas and Idomeneus,
Their sharp spears wielding each at other's life.
First at Idomeneus AEneas threw
His spear; he saw, and shunn'd the brazen point;
And vainly from his stalwart hand dismiss'd,
AEneas' spear stood quiv'ring in the ground.
Idomeneus in front, below the waist,
OEnomaus struck; the weighty spear broke through
The hollow breastplate, and th' intestines tore;
Prone in the dust he fell, and clutch'd the ground.
Forthwith Idomeneus from out the corpse
The pond'rous spear withdrew; yet could not strip
His armour off; so thickly flew the spears.
Nor did his feet retain their youthful force,
His weapon to regain, or back to spring.
Skill'd in the standing fight his life to guard,
He lack'd the active pow'r of swift retreat.
At him, retiring slow, Deiphobus,
Still fill'd with anger, threw his glitt'ring spear:
His aim he miss'd; but through the shoulder pierc'd
Ascalaphus, a valiant son of Mars;
Prone in the dust he fell, and clutch'd the ground.
Nor knew the loud-voic'd, mighty God of War
That in the stubborn fight his son had fall'n;
On high Olympus, girt with golden clouds,
He sat, amid th' Immortals all, restrain'd,
By Jove's commands, from mingling in the war.
How hand to hand around Ascalaphus
Rag'd the fierce conflict: first Deiphobus
From off his head the glitt'ring helmet tore;
But, terrible as Mars, Meriones
Sprang forth, and pierc'd his arm; and from his hand
With hollow sound the crested helmet fell.
On, like a vulture, sprang Meriones,
And from his arm the sturdy spear withdrew;
Then backward leap'd amid his comrades' ranks;
While round his brother's waist Polites threw
His arms, and led him from the battle-field
To where, with charioteer and rich-wrought car,
Beyond the fight, his flying coursers stood.
Him, rack'd with pain, and groaning, while the blood
Stream'd down his wounded arm, to Troy they bore.
The rest fought on, and loud the tumult rose.
AEneas through the throat of Aphareus,
Caletor's son, turn'd sideways tow'rds him, drove
His glitt'ring spear; and down on th' other side,
His shield and helmet following, sank his head;
And o'er his eyes were cast the shades of death.
As Thoon turn'd, Antilochus, who watch'd
Th' occasion, forward sprang, and with his spear
Ripp'd all the flesh that lay along the spine
Up to the neck; he backward fell, with hands
Uplifted calling for his comrades' aid:
But forward sprang Antilochus, and tore
His armour from his breast, while round he cast
His watchful glances; for on ev'ry side
On his broad shield the Trojans show'r'd their blows,
But touch'd him not; for Neptune, 'mid the throng
Of weapons, threw his guard o'er Nestor's son.
Yet not aloof he stood, but in their midst,
Commingled; nor held motionless his spear;
But ever threat'ning, turn'd from side to side,
Prepar'd to hurl, or hand to hand engage.
Him Adamas, the son of Asius, marked,
As o'er the crowd he glanc'd; and springing forth,
Struck with his spear the centre of the shield;
But dark-hair'd Neptune grudg'd the hero's life,
And stay'd the brazen point; half in the shield,
Like a fire-harden'd stake, remained infix'd,
The other half lay broken, on the ground.
Back to his comrades' shelt'ring ranks he sprang,
In hope of safety; but Meriones,
Quick-following, plung'd his weapon through his groin,
Where sharpest agony to wretched men
Attends on death; there planted he his spear:
Around the shaft he writh'd, and gasping groan'd,
Like to a mountain bull, which, bound with cords,
The herdsmen drag along, with struggles vain,
Resisting; so the wounded warrior groan'd:
But not for long: for fierce Meriones,
Approaching, from his body tore the spear,
And the dark shades of death his eyes o'erspread.
Then Helenus, a weighty Thracian sword
Wielding aloft, across the temples smote
Deipyrus, and all his helmet crash'd;
Which, as it roll'd beneath their feet, some Greek
Seiz'd 'mid the press; his eyes were clos'd in death.
The valiant Menelaus, Atreus' son,
With grief beheld; and royal Helenus
With threat'ning mien approaching, pois'd on high
His glitt'ring spear, while he the bowstring drew.
Then simultaneous flew from either side
The gleaming spear, and arrow from the string.
The shaft of Priam's son below the breast
The hollow cuirass struck, and bounded off;
As bound the dark-skinn'd beans, or clatt'ring peas,
From the broad fan upon the threshing-floor,
By the brisk breeze impell'd, and winnower's force;
From noble Menelaus' cuirass so
The stinging arrow bounding, glanc'd afar.
But valiant Menelaus, Atreus' son,
Transfix'd the hand that held the polish'd bow:
The brazen point pass'd through, and to the bow
The hand was pinn'd; back to his comrades' ranks
He sprang, in hope of safety, hanging down
The wounded limb, that trail'd the ashen spear.
Agenor from the wound the spear withdrew,
And with a twisted sling of woollen cloth,
By an attendant brought, bound up the hand.
To noble Menelaus stood oppos'd
Peisander, to the confines dark of death
Led by his evil fate, by thee to fall,
Great son of Atreus, in the deadly strife.
When near they drew, Atrides miss'd his aim,
With erring spear divergent; next his shield
Peisander struck, but drove not through the spear;
For the broad shield resisted, and the shaft
Was snapp'd in sunder: Menelaus saw
Rejoicing, and with hope of triumph flush'd;
Unsheathing then his silver-studded sword
Rush'd on Peisander; he beneath his shield
Drew forth a pond'rous brazen battle-axe,
With handle long, of polish'd olive-wood:
And both at once in deadly combat join'd.
Then, just below the plume, Peisander struck
The crested helmet's peak; but Atreus' son
Met him advancing, and across the brow
Smote him, above the nose; loud crash'd the bone,
And in the dust the gory eyeballs dropp'd
Before him; doubled with the pain, he fell:
The victor, planting on his chest his foot,
Stripp'd off his arms, and thus exulting cried:
"Thus shall ye all, insatiate of the fight,
Proud Trojans, from before our ships depart;
Nor lack your share of insult and of wrong,
Such as on me, vile hounds, ye cast erewhile,
Nor fear'd th' avenger of the slighted laws
Of hospitality, high thund'ring Jove,
Who soon your lofty city shall o'erthrow.
Kindly receiv'd, my virgin-wedded wife,
With store of goods, ye basely bore away;
And now ye rage, infuriate, to destroy
With fire our ocean-going ships, and slay
Our Grecian heroes; but the time shall come
When ye too fain would from the war escape.
O Father Jove, 'tis said that thou excell'st,
In wisdom, Gods and men; all human things
From thee proceed; and can it be, that thou
With favour seest these men of violence,
These Trojans, with presumptuous courage fill'd,
Whose rage for the battle knows nor stint nor bound?
Men are with all things sated; sleep and love;
Sweet sounds of music, and the joyous dance.
Of these may some more gladly take their fill;
But Trojans still for war, instiate, thirst."
Thus Menelaus; and the blood-stained arms
Stripp'd from the corpse, and to his comrades gave;
Then join'd again the foremost in the fray.
There to th' encounter forth Harpalion sprang,
Son of the King Pylaemenes, who came,
His father following, to the war of Troy,
But back return'd not to his native land.
He standing near, full in the centre struck
Atrides' shield, but drove not through the spear;
Back to his comrades' shelt'ring ranks he sprang
In hopes of safety, glancing all around,
His body to defend; but as he turn'd,
In his right flank a brazen-pointed shaft,
Shot by Meriones, was buried deep:
Beneath the bone it pass'd, and pierc'd him through.
At once he fell; and gasping out his life,
Amid his comrades, writhing on the ground
Like a crush'd worm he lay; and from the wound
The dark blood pouring, drench'd the thirsty soil.
The valiant troops of Paphlagonia clos'd
Around him; on his car they plac'd the slain.
And deeply sorrowing, to the city bore;
His father, weeping, walk'd beside the car,[1]
Nor vengeance for his slaughter'd son obtain'd.
Paris with grief and anger saw him fall:
For he in former days his guest had been
In Paphlagonia; then, with anger fill'd,
A brass-tipp'd arrow from his bow he sent.
A certain man there was, Euchenor nam'd,
Who dwelt in Corinth; rich, of blameless life,
The son of Polyeidus, skilful seer:
His fate well knowing, he embark'd; for oft
The good old man had told him that his doom
Was, or at home by sharp disease to die,
Or with the Greeks by Trojan hands to fall.
Embarking, he escap'd alike the fine
By Greeks impos'd, and pangs of sharp disease.
Him Paris smote between the ear and jaw;
Swift fled his spirit, and darkness clos'd his eyes.
Thus rag'd, like blazing fire, the furious fight.
But nought as yet had Hector heard, nor knew
How sorely, leftward of the ships, were press'd
The Trojans by the Greeks; and now appear'd
Their triumph, sure; such succour Neptune gave,
Their courage rousing, and imparting strength.
But there he kept, where first the serried ranks
Of Greeks he broke, and storm'd the wall and gates;
There beach'd beside the hoary sea, the ships
Of Ajax and Protesilaus lay;
There had the wall been lowest built; and there
Were gather'd in defence the chiefest all,
Horses and men: the stout Boeotians there,
Join'd to th' Ionians with their flowing robes,
Loerians, and Phthians, and Epeians proud,
Could scarce protect their ships; nor could repel
Th' impetuous fire of godlike Hector's charge.
There too the choicest troops of Athens fought;
Their chief, Menestheus, Peteus' son; with whom
Were Pheidas, Stichius, Bias in command;
Th' Epeians Meges, Phyleus' son, obey'd,
And Dracius and Amphion; Medon next,
With brave Podarces led the Phthian host:
Medon, the great Oileus' bastard son,
Brother of Ajax; he in Phylace,
Far from his native land, was driv'n to dwell,
Since one to Eriopis near akin,
His sire Oileus' wife, his hand had slain.
Podarces from Iphiclus claim'd his birth,
The son of Phylacus; these two in arms
The valiant Phthians leading to the fight,
Join'd the Boeotian troops to guard the ships.
But from the side of Ajax Telamon
Stirr'd not a whit Oileus' active son;
But as on fallow-land with one accord,
Two dark-red oxen drag the well-wrought plough,
Streaming with sweat that gathers round their horns;
They by the polish'd yoke together held,
The stiff soil cleaving, down the furrow strain;
So closely, side by side, those two advanc'd.
But comrades, many and brave, on Telamon
Attended, who, whene'er with toil and sweat
His limbs grew faint, upheld his weighty shield;
While in the fray, Oileus' noble son
No Locrians follow'd; theirs were not the hearts
To brook th' endurance of the standing fight;
Nor had they brass-bound helms, with horsehair plume,
Nor ample shields they bore, nor ashen spear;
But came to Troy, in bows and twisted slings
Of woollen cloth confiding; and from these
Their bolts quick-show'ring, broke the Trojan ranks.
While those, in front, in glitt'ring arms oppos'd
The men of Troy, by noble Hector led:
These, in the rear, unseen, their arrows shot.
Nor stood the Trojans; for amid their ranks
The galling arrows dire confusion spread.
Then had the Trojans from the ships and tents
Back to the breezy heights of Troy been driv'n
In flight disastrous; but Polydamas
Drew near to Hector, and address'd him thus:
"Hector, I know thee, how unapt thou art
To hearken to advice; because the Gods
Have giv'n thee to excel in warlike might,
Thou deemest thyself, in counsel too, supreme;
Yet every gift thou canst not so combine:
To one the Gods have granted warlike might,
To one the dance, to one the lyre and song;
While in another's breast all-seeing Jove
Hath plac'd the spirit of wisdom, and a mind
Discerning, for the common good of all:
By him are states preserv'd; and he himself
Best knows the value of the precious gift.
Then hear what seems to me the wisest course.
On ev'ry side the circling ring of war
Is blazing all around thee; and, thou seest,
Our valiant Trojans, since the wall they scal'd,
Or stand aloof, or scatter'd 'mid the ships
Outnumber'd, with superior forces strive.
Then thou, retiring, hither call the chiefs;
Here take we counsel fully, if to fall
Upon their well-mann'd ships, should Heaven vouchsafe
The needful strength, or, scatheless yet, withdraw;
For much I fear they soon will pay us back
Their debt of yesterday; since in their ranks
One yet remains insatiate of the fight,
And he, methinks, not long will stand aloof."
Thus he: the prudent counsel Hector pleas'd;
Down from his chariot with his arms he leap'd,
And to Polydamas his speech address'd:
"Polydamas, detain thou here the chiefs;
Thither will I, and meet the front of war,
And, giv'n my orders, quickly here return."
He said; and, like a snow-clad mountain high,
Uprose; and loudly shouting, in hot haste
Flew through the Trojan and Confed'rate host.
At sound of Hector's voice, round Panthous' son,
Polydamas, were gather'd all the chiefs.
But 'mid the foremost combatants he sought
If haply he might find Deiphobus,
And royal Helenus, and Adamas,
And gallant Asius, son of Hyrtacus.
These found he not unscath'd by wounds or death;
For some beside the ships of Greece had paid,
By Grecian hands, the forfeit of their lives,
While others wounded lay within the wall.
But, to the leftward of the bloody fray,
The godlike Paris, fair-hair'd Helen's Lord,
Cheering his comrades to the fight, he found,
And with reproachful words address'd him thus:
"Thou wretched Paris, fair in outward form,
Thou slave of woman, manhood's counterfeit,
Where is Deiphobus, and where the might
Of royal Helenus? where Adamas,
The son of Asius? where too Asius, son
Of Hyrtacus? and where Othryoneus?
Now from its summit totters to the fall
Our lofty Ilium; now thy doom is sure."
To whom the godlike Paris thus replied:
"Hector, since blameless I incur thy blame,
Ne'er have I less withdrawn me from the fight,
And me not wholly vile my mother bore;
For since thou gav'st command to attack the ships,
We here against the Greeks unflinching war
Have wag'd; our comrades, whom thou seek'st, are slain:
Only Deiphobus hath left the field,
And Helenus; both wounded by the spear,
Both through the hand; but Jove their life hath spar'd.
But thou, where'er thy courage bids, lead on:
We shall be prompt to follow; to our pow'r
Thou shalt in us no lack of valour find;
Beyond his pow'r the bravest cannot fight."
Wrought on his brother's mind the hero's words:
Together both they bent their steps, where rag'd
The fiercest conflict; there Cebriones,
Phalces, Orthaeus, brave Polydamas,
Palmys, and godlike Polyphetes' might,
And Morys, and Ascanius fought; these two
Hippotion's sons; from rich Ascania's plains
They, as reliefs, but yestermorn had come;
Impell'd by Jove, they sought the battle field.
Onward they dash'd, impetuous as the rush
Of the fierce whirlwind, which with lightning charg'd,
From Father Jove sweeps downward o'er the plain:
As with loud roar it mingles with the sea,
The many-dashing ocean's billows boil,
Upheaving, foam-white-crested, wave on wave;
So, rank on rank, the Trojans, closely mass'd,
In arms all glitt'ring, with their chiefs advanc'd;
Hector, the son of Priam, led them on,
In combat terrible as blood-stain'd Mars:
Before his breast his shield's broad orb he bore,
Of hides close join'd, with brazen plates o'erlaid;
The gleaming helmet nodded o'er his brow.
He, with proud step, protected by his shield,
On ev'ry side the hostile ranks survey'd,
If signs of yielding he might trace; but they
Unshaken stood; and with like haughty mien,
Ajax at Hector thus defiance hurl'd:
"Draw nearer, mighty chief; why seek to scare
Our valiant Greeks? we boast ourselves of war
Not wholly unskill'd, though now the hand of Jove
Lies heavy on us with the scourge of Heav'n.
Thou hop'st, forsooth, our vessels to destroy;
But stalwart arms for their defence we boast.
Long ere that day shall your proud city fall,
Tak'n and destroy'd by our victorious hands.
Not far the hour, when thou thyself in flight
To Jove and all the Gods shalt make thy pray'r,
That swifter than the falcon's wing thy steeds
May bear thee o'er the dusty plain to Troy."
Thus as he spoke, upon his right appear'd
An eagle, soaring high; the crowd of Greeks
The fav'ring omen saw, and shouted loud:
Then noble Hector thus: "What words are these,
Ajax, thou babbling braggart, vain of speech!
For would to Heav'n I were as well assur'd
I were the son of aegis-bearing Jove,
Born of imperial Juno, and myself
In equal honour with Apollo held
Or blue-ey'd Pallas, as I am assur'd
This day is fraught with ill to all the Greeks:
Thou 'mid the rest shalt perish, if thou dare
My spear encounter, which thy dainty skin
Shall rend; and slain beside the ships, thy flesh
Shall glut the dogs and carrion birds of Troy."
He said, and led them on; with eager cheers
They followed; shouted loud the hindmost throng.
On th' other side the Greeks return'd the shout:
Of all the Trojans' bravest they, unmov'd,
The onset bore; their mingled clamours rose
To Heav'n, and reach'd the glorious light of Jove.

This passage would seem to be the result of an oversight on the part of the Poet; who, apparently, had forgotten that Pylasmenes, "the Paphlagonian Chief," had himself been killed by Menelaus, some time before the death of his son See Book V., l. 656.

Sources +