The Illiad: The Seventh Battle, for the Body of Patroclus.-The Acts of Menelaus.

Updated February 28, 2017 | Infoplease Staff

The Seventh Battle, for the Body of Patroclus.-The Acts of Menelaus.

Menelaus, upon the death of Patroclus, defends his body from the enemy; Euphorbus, who attempts it, is slain. Hector advancing, Menelaus retires; but soon returns with Ajax, and drives him off. This Glaucus objects to Hector as a flight, who thereupon puts on the armour he had won from Patroclus, and renews the battle. The Greeks give way, till Ajax rallies them: AEneas sustains the Trojans. AEneas and Hector attempt the chariot of Achilles, which is borne off by Automedon. The horses of Achilles deplore the loss of Patroclus; Jupiter covers his body with a thick darkness; the noble prayer of Ajax on that occasion. Menelaus sends Antilochus to Achilles, with the news of Patroclus's death: then returns to the fight, where, though attacked with the utmost fury, he and Meriones, assisted by the Ajaces, bear off the body to the ships.

The time is the evening of the eight-and-twentieth day. The scene lies in the fields before Troy.

Nor was Patroclus' fall, by Trojans slain,
Of warlike Menelaus unobserv'd;
Forward he sprang, in dazzling arms array'd,
And round him mov'd, as round her new-dropp'd calf
Her first, a heifer moves with plaintive moan:
So round Patroclus Menelaus mov'd,
His shield's broad orb and spear before him held,
To all who might oppose him threat'ning death.
Nor, on his side, was Panthous' noble son
Unmindful of the slain; but, standing near,
The warlike Menelaus thus address'd:
"Illustrious son of Atreus, Heav'n-born chief,
Quit thou the dead; yield up the bloody spoils:
For, of the Trojans and their fam'd Allies,
Mine was the hand that in the stubborn fight
First struck Patroclus; leave me then to wear
Among the men of Troy my honours due,
Lest by my spear thou lose thy cherish'd life."
To whom in anger Menelaus thus:
"O Father Jove, how ill this vaunting tone
Beseems this braggart! In their own esteem,
"With Panthous' sons for courage none may vie;
Nor pard, nor lion, nor the forest boar,
Fiercest of beasts, and proudest of his strength.
Yet nought avail'd to Hyperenor's might
His youthful vigour, when he held me cheap,
And my encounter dar'd; of all the Greeks
He deem'd my prowess least; yet he, I ween,
On his own feet return'd not, to rejoice
His tender wife's and honour'd parents' sight.
So shall thy pride be quell'd, if me thou dare
Encounter; but I warn thee, while 'tis time,
Ere ill betide thee, 'mid the gen'ral throng
That thou withdraw, nor stand to me oppos'd.
After th' event may e'en a fool be wise."
He spoke in vain; Euphorbus thus replied:
"Now, Heav'n-born Menelaus, shalt thou pay
The forfeit for my brother's life, o'er whom,
Slain by thy hand, thou mak'st thy boasting speech.
Thou in the chambers of her new-found home
Hast made his bride a weeping widow; thou
Hast fill'd with bitt'rest grief his parents' hearts:
Some solace might those hapless mourners find,
Could I thy head and armour in the hands
Of Panthous and of honour'd Phrontis place;
Nor uncontested shall the proof remain,
Nor long deferr'd, of vict'ry or defeat."
He said, and struck the centre of the shield,
But broke not through; against the stubborn brass
The point was bent; then with a pray'r to Jove
The son of Atreus in his turn advanc'd;
And, backward as he stepp'd, below his throat
Took aim, and pressing hard with stalwart hand
Drove through the yielding neck the pond'rous spear:
Thund'ring he fell, and loud his armour rang.
Those locks, that with the Graces' hair might vie,
Those tresses bright, with gold and silver bound,
Were dabbled all with blood. As when a man
Hath rear'd a fair and vig'rous olive plant,
In some lone spot, by copious-gushing springs,
And seen expanding, nurs'd by ev'ry breeze,
Its whit'ning blossoms; till with sudden gust
A sweeping hurricane of wind and rain
Uproots it from its bed, and prostrate lays;
So lay the youthful son of Panthous, slain
By Atreus' son, and of his arms despoil'd.
And as a lion, in the mountains bred,
In pride of strength, amid the pasturing herd
Seizes a heifer in his pow'rful jaws,
The choicest; and, her neck first broken, rends,
And, on her entrails gorging, laps the blood;
Though with loud clamour dogs and herdsmen round
Assail him from afar, yet ventures none
To meet his rage, for fear is on them all;
So none was there so bold, with dauntless breast
The noble Menelaus' wrath to meet.
Now had Atrides borne away with ease
The spoils of Panthous' son; but Phoebus grudg'd
His prize of vict'ry, and against him launch'd
The might of Hector, terrible as Mars:
To whom his winged words, in Mentes' form,
Chief of the Cicones, he thus address'd:
"Hector, thy labour all is vain, pursuing
Pelides' flying steeds; and hard are they
For mortal man to harness, or control.
Save for Achilles' self, the Goddess-born.
The valiant Menelaus, Atreus' son,
Defends meanwhile Patroclus; and e'en now
Hath slain a noble Trojan, Panthous' son,
Euphorbus, and his youthful vigour quell'd."
He said, and join'd again the strife of men:
Hector's dark soul with bitter grief was fill'd;
He look'd amid the ranks, and saw the two,
One slain, the other stripping off his arms,
The blood outpouring from the gaping wound.
Forward he sprang, in dazzling arms array'd,
Loud shouting, blazing like the quenchless flames
Of Vulcan: Menelaus heard the shout,
And, troubled, commun'd with his valiant heart:
"Oh, woe is me! for should I now the spoils
Abandon, and Patroclus, who for me
And in my cause lies slain, of any Greek
Who saw me, I might well incur the blame:
And yet if here alone I dare to fight
With Hector and his Trojans, much I fear,
Singly, to be by numbers overwhelm'd;
For Hector all the Trojans hither brings.
But wherefore entertain such thoughts, my soul?
Who strives, against the will divine, with one
Belov'd of Heav'n, a bitter doom must meet.
Then none may blame me, though I should retreat
From Hector, who with Heav'n's assistance wars.
Yet could I hear brave Ajax' battle cry,
We two, returning, would the encounter dare,
E'en against Heav'n, if so for Peleus' son
We might regain, and bear away the dead:
Some solace of our loss might then be ours."
While in his mind and spirit thus he mus'd,
By Hector led, the Trojan ranks advanc'd:
Backward he mov'd, abandoning the dead;
But turning oft, as when by men and dogs
A bearded lion from the fold is driv'n
With shouts and spears; yet grieves his mighty heart,
And with reluctant step he quits the yard:
So from Patroclus Menelaus mov'd;
Yet when he reach'd his comrades' ranks, he turn'd,
And look'd around, if haply he might find
The mighty Ajax, son of Telamon.
Him on the battle's farthest left he spied,
Cheering his friends and urging to the fight,
For sorely Phoebus had their courage tried;
And hast'ning to his side, address'd him thus:
"Ajax, haste hither; to the rescue come
Of slain Patroclus; if perchance we two
May to Achilles, Peleus' son, restore
His body: his naked body, for his arms
Are prize to Hector of the glancing helm."
He said, and Ajax' spirit within him stirr'd;
Forward he sprang, and with him Atreus' son.
Hector was dragging now Patroclus' corpse,
Stripped of its glitt'ring armour, and intent
The head to sever with his sword, and give
The mangled carcase to the dogs of Troy:
But Ajax, with his tow'r-like shield, approach'd;
Then Hector to his comrades' ranks withdrew,
Rush'd to his car, and bade the Trojans bear
The glitt'ring arms, his glorious prize, to Troy:
While Ajax with his mighty shield o'erspread
Menoetius' son; and stood, as for his cubs
A lion stands, whom hunters, unaware,
Have with his offspring met amid the woods.
Proud in his strength he stands; and down are drawn,
Cov'ring his eyes, the wrinkles of his brow:
So o'er Patroclus mighty Ajax stood,
And by his side, his heart with grief oppress'd,
The warlike Menelaus, Atreus' son.
Then Glaucus, leader of the Lycian host,
To Hector thus, with scornful glance, address'd
His keen reproaches: "Hector, fair of form,
How art thou wanting in the fight! thy fame,
Coward and runaway, thou hast belied.
Bethink thee now, if thou alone canst save
The city, aided but by Trojans born;
Henceforth no Lycian will go forth for Troy
To fight with Greeks; since favour none we gain
By unremitting toil against the foe.
How can a meaner man expect thine aid,
Who basely to the Greeks a prize and spoil
Sarpedon leav'st, thy comrade and thy guest?
Greatly he serv'd the city and thyself,
While yet he liv'd; and now thou dar'st not save
His body from the dogs! By my advice
If Lycians will be rul'd, we take at once
Our homeward way, and Troy may meet her doom.
But if in Trojan bosoms there abode
The daring, dauntless courage, meet for men
Who in their country's cause against the foe
Endure both toil and war, we soon should see
Patroclus brought within the walls of Troy;
Him from the battle could we bear away,
And, lifeless, bring to royal Priam's town,
Soon would the Greeks Sarpedon's arms release,
And we to Ilium's heights himself might bear:
For with his valiant comrades there lies slain
The follower of the bravest chief of Greece.
But thou before the mighty Ajax stood'st
With downcast eyes, nor durst in manly fight
Contend with one thy better far confess'd."
To whom thus Hector of the glancing helm,
With stern regard, replied: "Why, Glaucus, speak,
Brave as thou art, in this o'erbearing strain?
Good friend, I heretofore have held thee wise
O'er all who dwell in Lycia's fertile soil;
But now I change, and hold thy judgment cheap,
Who chargest me with flying from the might
Of giant Ajax; never have I shrunk
From the stern fight, and clatter of the cars;
But all o'erruling is the mind of Jove,
Who strikes with panic, and of vict'ry robs
The bravest; and anon excites to war.
Stand by me now, and see if through the day
I prove myself the coward that thou say'st,
Or suffer that a Greek, how brave soe'er,
Shall rescue from my hands Patroclus' corpse."
He said, and loudly on the Trojans call'd:
"Trojans and Lycians, and ye Dardans, fam'd
In close encounter, quit ye now like men;
Maintain awhile the stubborn fight, while I
The splendid armour of Achilles don,
My glorious prize from slain Patroclus torn."
So saying, Hector of the glancing helm,
Withdrawing from the field, with rapid steps
His comrades follow'd, and ere long o'ertook,
Who tow'rd the town Achilles' armour bore;
Then standing from the bloody fight aloof
The armour he exchang'd; his own he bade
The warlike Trojans to the city bear;
While he, of Peleus' son, Achilles, donn'd
The heav'nly armour, which th' immortal Gods
Gave to his sire; he to his son convey'd;
Yet in that armour grew not old that son.
Him when apart the Cloud-compeller saw
Girt with the arms of Peleus' godlike son,
He shook his head, and inly thus he mus'd:
"Ah hapless! little deem'st thou of thy fate,
Though now so nigh! Thou of the prime of men,
The dread of all, hast donn'd th' immortal arms,
Whose comrade, brave and good, thy hand hath slain;
And sham'd him, stripping from his head and breast
Helmet and cuirass; yet thy latest hours
Will I with glory crown; since ne'er from thee,
Eeturn'd from battle, shall Andromache
Receive the spoils of Peleus' godlike son."
He said, and nodded with his shadowy brows;
Then with the armour, fitted to his form
By Jove himself, was Hector girt by Mars
The fierce and terrible; with vig'rous strength
His limbs were strung, as 'mid his brave allies
He sprang, loud-shouting; glitt'ring in his arms,
To all he seem'd Achilles' godlike self.
To each and all in cheering tones he spoke,
Mesthles and Glaucus and Thersilochus,
Asteropaeus and Hippothous,
Medon, Deisenor, Phoreys, Chromius,
And Ennomus the seer: to all of these
His winged words he cheeringly address'd:
"Hear me, ye countless tribes, that dwelling round
Assist our cause! You from your sev'ral homes
Not for display of numbers have I call'd,
But that with willing hearts ye should defend
Our wives and infants from the warlike Greeks:
For this I drain my people's stores, for food
And gifts for you, exalting your estate;
Then, who will boldly onward, he may fall,
Or safe escape, such is the chance of war;
But who within our valiant Trojans' ranks
Shall but the body of Patroclus bring,
Despite the might of Ajax; half the spoils
To him I give, the other half myself
Retaining; and his praise shall equal mine."
He said; and onward, with uplifted spears,
They march'd upon the Greeks; high rose their hopes
From Ajax Telamon to snatch the dead;
Vain hopes, which cost them many a life! Then thus
To valiant Menelaus Ajax spoke;
"O Heav'n-born Menelaus, noble friend,
For safe return I dare no longer hope:
Not for Patroclus' corpse so much I fear,
Which soon will glut the dogs and birds of Troy,
As for my life and thine I tremble now:
For, like a war-cloud, Hector's might I see
O'ershadowing all around; now is our doom
Apparent; but do thou for succour call
On all the chiefs, if haply they may hear."
Thus Ajax spoke: obedient to his word,
On all the chiefs Atrides call'd aloud:
"O friends, the chiefs and councillors of Greece,
All ye that banquet at the gen'ral cost
With Atreus' sons, and o'er your sev'ral states
Dominion hold; whose honour is of Jove;
'Twere hard to call by name each single man,
So fierce the combat rages; but let each
And all their aid afford, and deem, it shame
Patroclus' corpse should glut the dogs of Troy."
He said: first heard Oileus' active son,
And hast'ning through the fray, beside him stood.
Next him Idomeneus, with whom there came,
Valiant as Mars, his friend Meriones.
But who can know or tell the names of all,
Who, following, swell'd the battle of the Greeks?
Onward the Trojans press'd, by Hector led:
With such a sound, as when the ocean wave
Meets on the beach th' outpouring of a stream,
Swoll'n by the rains of Heav'n: the lofty cliffs
Resound, and bellows the big sea without;
With such a sound advanc'd the Trojan host:
While round Patroclus, with one heart and mind,
The Greeks a fence of brass-clad bucklers rais'd.
O'er their bright helms the son of Saturn shed
A veil of darkness; for Menoetius' son,
Achilles' faithful friend, while yet he liv'd
Jove hated not, nor would that now his corpse
Should to the dogs of Troy remain a prey,
But to the rescue all his comrades stirr'd.
At first the Trojans drove the keen-ey'd Greeks;
Leaving the corpse, they fled; nor with their spears
The valiant Trojans reach'd a single Greek;
But on the dead they seiz'd; yet not for long
Endur'd their flight; them Ajax rallied soon,
In form pre-eminent, and deeds of arms,
O'er all the Greeks, save Peleus' matchless son.
Onward he sprang, as springs a mountain boar,
Which, turning in the forest glade to bay,
Scatters with ease both dogs and stalwart youths;
So Ajax scatter'd soon the Trojan ranks,
That round Patroclus closing, hop'd to bear,
With glory to themselves, his corpse to Troy.
Hippothous, Pelasgian Lethus' son,
Was dragging by the feet the noble dead,
A leathern belt around his ancles bound,
Seeking the favour of the men of Troy;
But on himself he brought destruction down,
Which none might turn aside; for from the crowd
Outsprang the son of Telamon, and struck,
In close encounter, on the brass-cheek'd helm;
The plumed helm was shiver'd by the blow,
Dealt by a weighty spear and stalwart hand;
Gush'd from the wound the mingled blood and brain,
His vital spirit quench'd; and on the ground
Fell from his pow'rless grasp Patroclus' foot;
While he himself lay stretch'd beside the dead,
Far from his own Larissa's teeming soil:
Not destin'd he his parents to repay
Their early care; for short his term of life,
By godlike Ajax' mighty spear subdu'd.
At Ajax Hector threw his glitt'ring spear:
He saw, and narrowly the brazen death
Escap'd; but Schedius, son of Iphitus,
(The bravest of the Phocian chiefs, who dwelt
In far-fam'd Panopeus, the mighty Lord
Of num'rous hosts,) below the collar-bone
It struck, and passing through, the brazen point
Came forth again beneath his shoulder-blade:
Thund'ring he fell, and loud his armour rang.
As Phorcys, son of Phaenops, kept his watch
O'er slain Hippothous, him Ajax smote
Below the waist; the weighty spear broke through
The hollow breastplate, and th' intestines tore;
Prone in the dust he fell, and clutch'd the ground.
At this the Trojan chiefs and Hector's self
'Gan to give way; the Greeks, with joyful shouts,
Seiz'd both the dead, and stripp'd their armour off.
To Ilium now, before the warlike Greeks,
O'ercome by panic, had the Trojans fled;
And now had Greeks, despite the will of Jove,
By their own strength and courage, won the day,
Had not Apollo's self AEneas rous'd,
In likeness of a herald, Periphas,
The son of Epytus, now aged grown
In service of AEneas' aged sire,
A man of kindliest soul: his form assum'd
Apollo, and AEneas thus address'd:
"AEneas, how, against the will of Heav'n,
Could ye defend your city, as others now
In their own strength and courage confident,
Their numbers, and their troops' undaunted hearts,
I see their cause maintaining; if when Jove
Rather to us than them the vict'ry wills,
With fear unspeakable ye shun the fight?"
He said: the presence of the Archer-God
AEneas knew, and loud to Hector call'd:
"Hector, and all ye other chiefs of Troy,
And brave Allies, foul shame it were that we,
O'ercome by panic, should to Ilium now
In flight be driv'n before the warlike Greeks;
And by my side, but now, some God there stood,
And told how Jove, the sov'reign arbiter
Of battle, on our side bestow'd his aid;
On then! nor undisturbed allow the Greeks
To bear Patroclus' body to their ships."
He said, and far before the ranks advanc'd;
They rallying turn'd, and fac'd again the Greeks.
Then first AEneas' spear the comrade brave
Of Lycomedes struck, Laocritus,
Son of Arisbas; Lycomedes saw
With pitying eyes his gallant comrade's fall;
And standing near, his glitt'ring spear he threw,
And through the midriff Apisaon struck,
His people's guardian chief, the valiant son
Of Hippasus, and slack'd his limbs in death.
He from Paeonia's fertile fields had come,
O'er all his comrades eminent in fight,
All save Asteropaeus, who with eyes
Of pity saw his gallant comrade's fall,
And forward sprang to battle with the Greeks;
Yet could not force his way; for all around
Patroclus rose a fence of serried shields,
And spears projecting: such the orders giv'n
By Ajax, and with earnest care enforc'd;
That from around the dead should none retire,
Nor any to the front advance alone
Before his fellows; but their steady guard
Maintain, and hand to hand the battle wage.
So order'd Ajax; then with crimson blood
The earth was wet; and hand to hand they fell,
Trojans alike, and brave Allies, and Greeks;
For neither these a bloodless fight sustain'd,
Though fewer far their losses; for they stood
Of mutual succour mindful, and support.
Thus, furious as the rage of fire, they fought;
Nor might ye deem the glorious sun himself
Nor moon was safe; for darkest clouds of night
O'erspread the warriors, who the battle wag'd
Around the body of Menoetius' son:
Elsewhere the Trojans and the well-greav'd Greeks
Fought, undisturb'd, in the clear light of day;
The sun's bright beams were shed abroad; no cloud
Lay on the face of earth or mountain tops;
They but by fits, at distant intervals,
And far apart, each seeking to avoid
The hostile missiles, fought; but in the midst
The bravest all, in darkness and in strife
Sore press'd, toil'd on beneath their armour's weight.
As yet no tidings of Patroclus' fall
Had reach'd two valiant chiefs, Antilochus
And Thrasymedes; but they deem'd him still
Alive, and fighting in the foremost ranks.
They, witnessing their comrades' flight and death,
Fought on apart, by Nestor so enjoin'd,
When from the ships he bade them join the fray.
Great was meanwhile their labour, who sustain'd,
Throughout the livelong day, that weary fight;
Reek'd with continuous toil and sweat, the knees,
And legs and feet, the arms, and eyes, of all
Who round Achilles' faithful comrade fought.
As when a chief his people bids to stretch
A huge bull's hide, all drench'd and soak'd with grease;
They in a circle rang'd, this way and that,
Pull the tough hide, till ent'ring in, the grease
Is all absorb'd; and dragg'd by num'rous hands
The supple skin to th' utmost length is stretch'd;
So these in narrow space this way and that
The body dragg'd; and high the hopes of each
To bear it off in triumph; to their ships
The Greeks, to Troy the Trojans; fiercely rag'd
The struggle; spirit-stirring Mars himself,
Or Pallas to her utmost fury rous'd,
Had not that struggle with contempt beheld:
Such grievous labour o'er Patroclus' corpse
Had Jove to horses and to men decreed.
But of Patroclus' fall no tidings yet
Had reach'd Achilles; for the war was wag'd
Far from the ships, beneath the walls of Troy;
Nor look'd he of his death to hear, but deem'd
That when the Trojans to their gates were driv'n,
He would return in safety; for no hope
Had he of taking by assault the town,
With, or without, his aid; for oft apart
His Goddess-mother had his doom, foretold,
Revealing to her son the mind of Jove;
Yet ne'er had warn'd him of such grief as this,
Which now befell, his dearest comrade's loss.
Still round the dead they held their pointed spears,
Fought hand to hand, and mutual slaughter dealt;
And thus perchance some brass-clad Greek would say:
"O friends, 'twere shameful should we to the ships
Ingloriously return; ere that should be,
Let earth engulph us all; so better far
Than let these Trojans to their city bear
Our dead, and boast them of their triumph gain'd."
On th' other hand some valiant Trojan thus
Would shout: "O friends, tho' fate decreed that here
We all should die, yet let not one give way."
Thus, cheering each his comrades, would they speak,
And thus they fought; the iron clangour pierc'd
The empty air, and brazen vault of Heav'n.
But, from the fight withdrawn, Achilles' steeds
Wept, as they heard how in the dust was laid
Their charioteer, by Hector's murd'rous hand.
Automedon, Diores' valiant son,
Essay'd in vain to rouse them with the lash,
In vain with honey'd words, in vain with threats;
Nor to the ships would they return again
By the broad Hellespont, nor join the fray;
But as a column stands, which marks the tomb
Of man or woman, so immovable
Beneath the splendid car they stood, their heads
Down-drooping to the ground, while scalding tears
Dropp'd earthward from their eyelids, as they mourn'd
Their charioteer; and o'er the yoke-band shed
Down stream'd their ample manes, with dust defil'd.
The son of Saturn pitying saw their grief,
And sorrowing shook his head, as thus he mus'd:
"Ah, hapless horses! wherefore gave we you
To royal Peleus, to a mortal man,
You that from age and death are both exempt!
Was it that you the miseries might share
Of wretched mortals? for of all that breathe,
And walk upon the earth, or creep, is nought
More wretched than th' unhappy race of man.
Yet shall not ye, nor shall your well-wrought car,
By Hector, son of Priam, be controll'd;
I will not suffer it; enough for him
To hold, with vaunting boast, Achilles' arms;
But to your limbs and spirits will I impart
Such strength, that from the battle to the ships
Ye shall in safety bear Automedon;
For yet I will the Trojans shall prevail,
And slay, until they reach the well-mann'd ships,
Till sets the sun, and darkness shrouds the earth."
He said, and in their breasts fresh spirit infus'd;
They, shaking from their manes the dust, the car
Amid the Greeks and Trojans lightly bore.
Then, as a vulture 'mid a flock of geese,
Amid the battle rush'd Automedon,
His horses' course directing, and their speed
Exciting, though he mourn'd his comrade slain.
Swiftly he fled from out the Trojan host;
Swiftly again assail'd them in pursuit;
Yet, speedy to pursue, he could not slay;
Nor, in the car alone, had pow'r at once
To guide the flying steeds, and hurl the spear.
At length a comrade brave, Alcimedon,
Laerces' son, beheld; behind the car
He stood, and thus Automedon address'd:
"Automedon, what God has fill'd thy mind
With counsels vain, and thee of sense bereft?
That with the Trojans, in the foremost ranks,
Thou fain wouldst fight alone, thy comrade slain,
While Hector proudly on his breast displays
The glorious arms of great AEacides."
To whom Automedon, Diores' son:
"Alcimedon, since none of all the Greeks
May vie with thee, the mettle to control
Of these immortal horses, save indeed,
While yet he liv'd, Patroclus, godlike chief;
But him stern death and fate have overta'en;
Take thon the whip and shining reins, while I,
Descending from the car, engage in fight."
He said; and, mounting on the war-car straight,
Alcimedon the whip and reins assum'd;
Down leap'd Automedon; great Hector saw,
And thus address'd AEneas at his side:
"AEneas, prince and counsellor of Troy,
I see, committed to unskilful hands,
Achilles' horses on the battle-field:
These we may hope to take, if such thy will;
For they, methinks, will scarcely stand oppos'd,
Or dare th' encounter of our joint assault."
He said; Anchises' valiant son complied;
Forward they went, their shoulders cover'd o'er
With stout bull's-hide, thick overlaid with brass.
With them both Chromius and Aretus went;
And high their hopes were rais'd, the warriors both
To slay, and make the strong-neck'd steeds their prize:
Blind fools! nor destin'd scatheless to escape
Automedon's encounter; he his pray'r
To Jove address'd, and straight with added strength
His soul was fill'd; and to Alcimedon,
His trusty friend and comrade, thus he spoke:
"Alcimedon, do thou the horses keep
Not far away, but breathing on my neck;
For Hector's might will not, I deem, be stay'd,
Ere us he slay, and mount Achilles' car,
And carry terror 'mid the Grecian host,
Or in the foremost ranks himself be slain."
Thus spoke Automedon, and loudly call'd
On Menelaus and th' Ajaces both:
"Ye two Ajaces, leaders of the host,
And, Menelaus, with our bravest all,
Ye on the dead alone your care bestow,
To guard him, and stave off the hostile ranks;
But haste, and us, the living, save from death;
For Hector and AEneas hitherward,
With weight o'erpow'ring, through the bloody press,
The bravest of the Trojans, force their way:
Yet is the issue in the hands of Heav'n;
I hurl the spear, but Jove directs the blow."
He said, and, poising, hurl'd the pond'rous spear;
Full on Aretus' broad-orb'd shield it struck;
Nor stay'd the shield its course; the brazen point
Drove through the belt, and in his body lodg'd.
As with sharp axe in hand a stalwart man,
Striking behind the horns a sturdy bull,
Severs the neck; he, forward, plunging, falls;
So forward first he sprang, then backwards fell:
And quiv'ring, in his vitals deep infix'd,
The sharp spear soon relax'd his limbs in death.
Then at Automedon great Hector threw
His glitt'ring spear; he saw, and forward stoop'd,
And shunn'd the brazen death; behind him far
Deep in the soil infix'd, with quiv'ring shaft
The weapon stood; there Mars its impulse stay'd.
And now with swords, and hand to hand, the fight
Had been renew'd; but at their comrade's call
The two Ajaces, pressing through the throng,
Between the warriors interpos'd in haste.
Before them Hector and AEneas both,
And godlike Chromius, in alarm recoil'd;
Pierc'd through the heart, Aretus there they left;
And, terrible as Mars, Automedon
Stripp'd off his arms, and thus exulting cried:
"Of some small portion of its load of grief,
For slain Patroclus, is my heart reliev'd,
In slaying thee, all worthless as thou art."
Then, throwing on the car the bloody spoils,
He mounted, hands and feet imbrued with blood,
As 'twere a lion, fresh from his repast
Upon the carcase of a slaughter'd bull.
Again around Patroclus' body rag'd
The stubborn conflict, direful, sorrow-fraught:
From Heav'n descending, Pallas stirr'd the strife,
Sent by all-seeing Jove to stimulate
The warlike Greeks; so changed was now his will.
As o'er the face of Heav'n when Jove extends
His bright-hued bow, a sign to mortal men
Of war, or wintry storms, which bid surcease
The rural works of man, and pinch the flocks;
So Pallas, in a bright-hued cloud array'd,
Pass'd through the ranks, and rous'd each sev'ral man.
To noble Menelaus, Atreus' son,
Who close beside her stood, the Goddess first,
The form of Phoenix and his pow'rful voice
Assuming, thus her stirring words address'd:
"On thee, O Menelaus, foul reproach
Will fasten, if Achilles' faithful friend
The dogs devour beneath the walls of Troy;
Then hold thou firm, and all the host inspire."
To whom thus Menelaus, good in fight:
"O Phoenix, aged warrior, honour'd sire,
If Pallas would the needful pow'r impart,
And o'er me spread her aegis, then would I
Undaunted for Patroclus' rescue fight,
For deeply by his death my heart is touch'd;
But valiant Hector, with the strength of fire
Still rages, and destruction deals around:
For Jove is with him, and his triumph wills."
He said: the blue-ey'd Goddess heard with joy
That, chief of all the Gods, her aid he sought.
She gave fresh vigour to his arms and knees,
And to his breast the boldness of the fly,
Which, oft repell'd by man, renews th' assault
Incessant, lur'd by taste of human blood;
Such boldness in Atrides' manly breast
Pallas inspir'd: beside Patroclus' corpse
Again he stood, and pois'd his glitt'ring spear.
There was one Podes in the Trojan ranks,
Son of Eetion, rich, of blameless life,
Of all the people most to Hector dear,
And at his table oft a welcome guest:
Him, as he turn'd to fly, beneath the waist
Atrides struck; right through the spear was driv'n;
Thund'ring he fell; and Atreus' son the corpse
Dragg'd from the Trojans 'mid the ranks of Greece.
Then close at Hector's side Apollo stood,
Clad in the form of Phaenops, Asius' son,
Who in Abydos dwelt; of all th' Allies
Honour'd of Hector most, and best belov'd;
Clad in his form, the Far-destroyer spoke:
"Hector, what other Greek will scare thee next?
Who shrink'st from Menelaus, heretofore
A warrior deem'd of no repute; but now,
Alone, he robs our Trojans of their dead;
And in the foremost ranks e'en now hath slain
Podes, thine own good friend, Eetion's son."
He said; dark grief o'erclouded Hector's brow,
As to the front in dazzling arms he sprang.
Then Saturn's son his tassell'd aegis wav'd,
All glitt'ring bright; and Ida's lofty head
In clouds and darkness shrouded; then he bade
His lightning flash, his volleying thunder roar,
That shook the mountain; and with vict'ry crown'd
The Trojan arms, and panic-struck the Greeks.
The first who turn'd to fly was Peneleus,
Boeotian chief; him, facing still the foe,
A spear had slightly on the shoulder struck,
The bone just grazing: by Polydamas,
Who close before him stood, the spear was thrown.
Then Hector Leitus, Aloctryon's son,
Thrust thro' the wrist, and quell'd his warlike might;
Trembling, he look'd around, nor hop'd again
The Trojans, spear in hand, to meet in fight;
But, onward as he rush'd on Leitus,
Idomeneus at Hector threw his spear:
Full on his breast it struck; but near the head
The sturdy shaft was on the breastplate snapp'd:
Loud was the Trojans' shout; and he in turn
Aim'd at Idomeneus, Deucalion's son,
Upstanding on his car; his mark he miss'd,
But Coeranus he struck, the charioteer
And faithful follower of Meriones,
Who with him came from Lyctus' thriving town:
The chief had left on foot the well-trimm'd ships;
And, had not Coeranus his car in haste
Driv'n to the rescue, by his fall had giv'n
A Trojan triumph; to his Lord he brought
Safety, and rescue from unsparing death;
But fell, himself, by Hector's murd'rous hand.
Him Hector struck between the cheek and ear,
Crashing the teeth, and cutting through the tongue.
Headlong he fell to earth, and dropp'd the reins:
These, stooping from the car, Meriones
Caught up, and thus Idomeneus address'd:
"Ply now the lash, until thou reach the ships:
Thyself must see how crush'd the strength of Greece."
He said; and tow'rd the ships Idomeneus
Urg'd his fleet steeds; for fear was on his soul.
Nor did not Ajax and Atrides see
How in the Trojans' favour Saturn's son
The wav'ring scale of vict'ry turn'd; and thus
Great Ajax Telamon his grief express'd:
"O Heav'n! the veriest child might plainly see
That Jove the Trojans' triumph has decreed:
Their weapons all, by whomsoever thrown,
Or weak, or strong, attain their mark; for Jove
Directs their course; while ours upon the plain
Innocuous fall. But take we counsel now
How from the fray to bear away our dead,
And by our own return rejoice those friends
Who look with sorrow on our plight, and deem
That we, all pow'rless to resist the might
Of Hector's arm, beside the ships must fall.
Would that some comrade were at hand, to bear
A message to Achilles; him, I ween,
As yet the mournful tidings have not reach'd,
That on the field his dearest friend lies dead.
But such I see not; for a veil of cloud
O'er men and horses all around is spread.
O Father Jove, from, o'er the sons of Greece
Remove this cloudy darkness; clear the sky,
That we may see our fate, and die at least,
If such thy will, in th' open light of day."
He said, and, pitying, Jove beheld his tears;
The clouds he scatter'd, and the mist dispers'd;
The sun shone forth, and all the field was clear;
Then Ajax thus to Menelaus spoke:
"Now, Heav'n-born Menelaus, look around
If haply 'mid the living thou mayst see
Antilochus, the noble Nester's son;
And bid him to Achilles bear in haste
The tidings, that his dearest friend lies dead."
He said, nor did Atrides not comply;
But slow as moves a lion from the fold,
Which dogs and youths with ceaseless toil hath worn,
Who all night long have kept their watch, to guard
From his assault the choicest of the herd;
He, hunger-pinch'd, hath oft th' attempt renew'd,
But nought prevail'd; by spears on ev'ry side,
And jav'lins met, wielded by stalwart hands,
And blazing torches, which his courage daunt;
Till with the morn he sullenly withdraws;
So from Patroclus, with reluctant step
Atrides mov'd; for much he fear'd the Greeks
Might to the Trojans, panic-struck, the dead
Abandon; and departing, he besought
The two Ajaces and Meriones:
"Ye two Ajaces, leaders of the Greeks,
And thou, Meriones, remember now
Our lost Patroclus' gentle courtesy,
How kind and genial was his soul to all,
While yet he liv'd?now sunk, alas! in death."
Thus saying, Menelaus took his way,
Casting his glance around on ev'ry side,
Like to an eagle, fam'd of sharpest sight
Of all that fly beneath the vault of Heav'n;
Whom, soaring in the clouds, the crouching hare
Eludes not, though in leafiest covert hid;
But swooping down, he rends her life away:
So, Menelaus, through the ranks of war
Thy piercing glances ev'ry way were turn'd,
If Nestor's son, alive, thou mightst descry;
Him on the field's extremest left he found,
Cheering his friends, and urging to the fight;
He stood beside him, and address'd him thus:
"Antilochus, come hither, godlike friend,
And woful tidings hear, which would to Heav'n
I had not to impart; thyself thou seest
How Jove hath heap'd disaster on the Greeks,
And vict'ry giv'n to Troy; but one has fallen,
Our bravest, best! Patroclus lies in death;
And deeply must the Greeks his loss deplore.
But haste thee to the ships, to Peleus' son
The tidings bear, if haply he may save
The body of Patroclus from the foe;
His naked body, for his arms are now
The prize of Hector of the glancing helm."
He said; and at his words Antilochus
Astounded stood; long time his tongue in vain
For utt'rance strove; his eyes were fill'd with tears,
His cheerful voice was mute; yet not the less
To Menelaus' bidding gave his care:
Swiftly he sped; but to Laodocus,
His comrade brave, who waited with his car
In close attendance, first consign'd his arms;
Then from the field with active limbs he flew,
Weeping, with mournful news, to Peleus' son.
Nor, noble Menelaus, did thy heart
Incline thee to remain, and aid thy friends,
Where from their war-worn ranks the Pylian troops
Deplor'd the absence of Antilochus;
But these in godlike Thrasymedes' charge
He left; and to Patroclus hast'ning back,
Beside th' Ajaces stood, as thus he spoke:
"Him to Achilles, to the ships, in haste
I have despatch'd; yet fiercely as his wrath
May burn tow'rd Hector, I can scarce expect
His presence here; for how could he, unarm'd,
With Trojans fight? But take we counsel now
How from the field to bear away our dead,
And 'scape ourselves from death by Trojan hands."
Whom answer'd thus great Ajax Telamon:
"Illustrious Menelaus, all thy words
Are just and true; then from amid the press,
Thou and Meriones, take up in haste,
And bear away the body; while behind
We two, in heart united, as in name,
Who side by side have still been wont to fight,
Will Hector and his Trojans hold at bay."
He said; they, lifting in their arms the corpse,
Uprais'd it high in air; then from behind
Loud yell'd the Trojans, as they saw the Greeks
Retiring with their dead; and on they rush'd,
As dogs that in advance of hunter youths
Pursue a wounded boar; awhile they run,
Eager for blood; but when, in pride of strength,
He turns upon them, backward they recoil,
This way and that in fear of death dispers'd:
So onward press'd awhile the Trojan crowd,
With thrust of swords, and double-pointed spears;
But ever as th' Ajaces turn'd to bay,
Their colour chang'd to pale, not one so bold
As, dashing on, to battle for the corpse.
Thus they, with anxious care, from off the field
Bore tow'rd the ships their dead; but on their track
Came sweeping on the storm of battle, fierce,
As, on a sudden breaking forth, the fire
Seizes some populous city, and devours
House after house amid the glare and blaze,
While roar the flames before the gusty wind;
So fiercely pressed upon the Greeks' retreat
The clatt'ring tramp of steeds and armed men.
But as the mules, with stubborn strength endued,
That down the mountain through the trackless waste
Drag some huge log, or timber for the ships;
And spent with toil and sweat, still labour on
Unflinching; so the Greeks with patient toil
Bore on their dead; th' Ajaces in their rear
Stemming the war, as stems the torrent's force
Some wooded cliff, far stretching o'er the plain;
Checking the mighty river's rushing stream,
And flinging it aside upon the plain,
Itself unbroken by the strength of flood:
So firmly, in the rear, th' Ajaces stemm'd
The Trojan force; yet these still onward press'd,
And, 'mid their comrades proudly eminent,
Two chiefs, AEneas, old Anchises' son,
And glorious Hector, in the van were seen.
Then, as a cloud of starlings or of daws
Fly screaming, as they see the hawk approach,
To lesser birds the messenger of death;
So before Hector and AEneas fled,
Screaming, forgetful of their warlike fame,
The sons of Greece; and scatter'd here and there
Around the ditch lay store of goodly arms,
By Greeks abandon'd in their hasty flight.
Yet still, unintermitted, rag'd the war.
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