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Alexander Pope (1688–1744).  Complete Poetical Works.  1903.
 
Translations from Homer
The Iliad
Book XXI. The Battle in the River Scamander
 
        
The Argument
  The Trojans fly before Achilles, some towards the town, others to the river Scamander; he falls upon the latter with great slaughter, takes twelve captives alive, to sacrifice to the shade of Patroclus; and kills Lycaon and Asteropæus. Scamander attacks him with all his waves; Neptune and Pallas assist the hero; Simois joins Scamander; at length Vulcan, by the instigation of Juno, almost dries up the river. This combat ended, the other gods engage each other. Meanwhile Achilles continues the slaughter, and drives the rest into Troy: Agenor only makes a stand, and is conveyed away in a cloud by Apollo: who (to delude Achilles) takes upon him Agenor’s shape, and while he pursues him in that disguise, gives the Trojans an opportunity of retiring into their city.
  The same day continues. The scene is on the banks and in the stream of Scamander.

  AND now to Xanthus’ gliding stream they drove,
Xanthus, immortal progeny of Jove.
The river here divides the flying train:
Part to the town fly diverse o’er the plain,
Where late their troops triumphant bore the fight,        5
Now chased and trembling in ignoble flight
(These with a gather’d mist Saturnia shrouds,
And rolls behind the rout a heap of clouds);
Part plunge into the stream: old Xanthus roars;
The flashing billows beat the whiten’d shores:        10
With cries promiscuous all the banks resound,
And here and there, in eddies whirling round,
The flouncing steeds and shrieking warriors drown’d,
As the scorch’d locusts from their fields retire,
While fast behind them runs the blaze of fire;        15
Driv’n from the land before the smoky cloud,
The clust’ring legions rush into the flood:
So plunged in Xanthus by Achilles’ force,
Roars the resounding surge with men and horse.
His bloody lance the hero casts aside        20
(Which spreading tam’risks on the margin hide),
Then, like a God, the rapid billows braves,
Arm’d with his sword, high brandish’d o’er the waves;
Now down he plunges, now he whirls it round,
Deep groan the waters with the dying sound;        25
Repeated wounds the redd’ning river dyed,
And the warm purple circled on the tide.
Swift thro’ the foamy flood the Trojans fly,
And close in rocks or winding caverns lie:
So the huge dolphin tempesting the main,        30
In shoals before him fly the scaly train;
Confusedly heap’d, they seek their inmost caves,
Or pant and heave beneath the floating waves.
Now, tired with slaughter, from the Trojan band
Twelve chosen youths he drags alive to land;        35
With their rich belts their captive arms constrains
(Late their proud ornaments, but now their chains);
These his attendants to the ships convey’d,
Sad victims! destin’d to Patroclus’ shade.
  Then, as once more he plunged amid the flood,        40
The young Lycaon in his passage stood;
The son of Priam, whom the hero’s hand
But late made captive in his father’s hand
(As from a sycamore his sounding steel
Lopp’d the green arms to spoke a chariot wheel),        45
To Lemnos’ isle he sold the royal slave,
Where Jason’s son the price demanded gave:
But kind Eëtion, touching on the shore.
The ransom’d Prince to fair Arisbe bore.
Ten days were past, since in his father’s regin        50
He felt the sweets of liberty again:
The next, that God whom men in vain withstand,
Gives the same youth to the same conquering hand:
Now never to return! and doom’d to go
A sadder journey to the shades below.        55
His well-known face when great Achilles eyed
(The helm and vizor he had cast aside
With wild affright, and dropp’d upon the field
His useless lance and unavailing shield),
As trembling, panting, from the stream he fled,        60
And Knock’d his falt’ring Knees, the hero said:
  ‘Ye mighty Gods! what wonders strike my view!
Is it in vain our conquering arms subdue?
Sure I shall see yon heaps of Trojans Kill’d,
Rise from the shade, and brave me on the field:        65
As now the captive, whom so late I bound
And sold to Lemnos, stalks on Trojan ground!
Not him the sea’s unmeasur’d deeps detain,
That bar such numbers from their native plain:
Lo! he returns. Try then my flying spear!        70
Try, if the grave can hold the wanderer:
If earth at length this active Prince can seize,
Earth, whose strong grasp has held down Hercules.’
  Thus while he spake, the Trojan, pale with fears,
Approach’d, and sought his knees with suppliant tears;        75
Loath as he was to yield his youthful breath,
And his soul shiv’ring at th’ approach of death.
Achilles rais’d the spear, prepared to wound;
He Kiss’d his feet, extended on the ground:
And while above the spear suspended stood,        80
Longing to dip its thirsty point in blood,
One hand embraced them close, one stopp’d the dart;
While thus these melting words attempt his heart:
  ‘Thy well-known captive, great Achilles!
Once more Lycaon trembles at thy Knee;        85
Some pity to a suppliant’s name afford,
Who shared the gifts of Ceres at thy board;
Whom late thy conquering arm to Lemnos bore,
Far from his father, friends, and native shore;
A hundred oxen were his price that day,        90
Now sums immense thy mercy shall repay.
Scarce respited from woes I yet appear,
And scarce twelve morning suns have seen me here:
Lo! Jove again submits me to thy hands,
Again, her victim cruel Fate demands!        95
I sprung from Priam, and Laothoë fair
(Old Altes’ daughter, and Lelegia’s heir;
Who held in Pedasus his famed abode,
And ruled the fields where silver Satnio flow’d);
Two sons (alas! unhappy sons) she bore;        100
For ah! one spear shall drink each brother’s gore,
And I succeed to slaughter’d Polydore.
How from that arm of terror shall I fly?
Some demon urges, ’t is my doom to die!
If ever yet soft pity touch’d thy mind,        105
Ah! think not me too much of Hector’s kind!
Not the same mother gave thy suppliant breath,
With his, who wrought thy lov’d Patroclus’ death.’
  These words, attended with a shower of tears,
The youth address’d to unrelenting ears:        110
‘Talk not of life, or ransom’ (he replies),
‘Patroclus dead, whoever meets me, dies:
In vain a single Trojan sues for grace;
But least, the sons of Priam’s hateful race.
Die then, my friend! what boots it to deplore?        115
The great, the good Patroclus is no more!
He, far thy better, was foredoom’d to die,
And thou, dost thou bewail mortality?
Seest thou not me, whom Nature’s gifts adorn,
Sprung from a Hero, from a Goddess born?        120
The day shall come (which nothing can avert)
When by the spear, the arrow, or the dart,
By night, or day, by force or by design,
Impending death and certain fate are mine.
Die then:’ he said, and as the word he spoke,        125
The fainting stripling sunk before the stroke;
His hand forgot its grasp, and left the spear;
While all his trembling frame confess’d his fear.
Sudden Achilles his broad sword display’d,
And buried in his neck the reeking blade.        130
Prone fell the youth; and, panting on the land,
The gushing purple dyed the thirsty sand:
The victor to the stream the carcass gave,
And thus insults him, floating on the wave:
  ‘Lie there, Lycaon! let the fish surround        135
Thy bloated corse, and suck thy gory wound:
There no sad mother shall thy funerals weep,
But swift Scamander roll thee to the deep,
Whose ev’ry wave some wat’ry monster brings,
To feast unpunish’d on the fat of Kings.        140
So perish Troy, and all the Trojan line!
Such ruin theirs, and such compassion mine.
What boots ye now Scamander’s worshipp’d stream,
His earthly honours, and immortal name?
In vain your immolated bulls are slain,        145
Your living coursers glut his gulfs in vain:
Thus he rewards you with this bitter fate;
Thus, till the Grecian vengeance is complete;
Thus is atoned Patroclus’ honour’d shade,
And the short absence of Achilles paid.’        150
  These boastful words provoke the raging God;
With fury swells the violated flood.
What means divine may yet the Power employ,
To check Achilles, and to rescue Troy?
Meanwhile the hero springs in arms, to dare        155
The great Asteropæus to mortal war;
The son of Pelagon, whose lofty line
Flows from the source of Axius, stream divine!
(Fair Peribœa’s love the God had crown’d,
With all his refluent waters circled round.)        160
On him Achilles rush’d: he fearless stood,
And shook two spears, advancing from the flood:
The flood impell’d him, on Pelides’ head
T’ avenge his waters chocked with heaps of dead.
Near as they drew, Achilles thus began:        165
‘What art thou, boldest of the race of man?
Who, or from whence? Unhappy is the sire,
Whose son encounters our resistless ire.’
  ‘O son of Peleus! what avails to trace’
(Replied the warrior) ‘our illustrious race?        170
From rich Pæonia’s valleys I command,
Arm’d with protended spears, my native band;
Now shines the tenth bright morning since I came
In aid of Ilion to the Fields of Fame:
Axius, who swells with all the neighb’ring rills,        175
And wide around the floated region fills,
Begot my sire, whose spear such glory won:
Now lift thy arm, and try that hero’s son!’
  Threat’ning he said: the hostile Chiefs advance;
At once Asteropæus discharged each lance;        180
(For both his dext’rous hands the lance could wield);
One struck, but pierc’d not the Vulcanian shield;
One razed Achilles’ hand; the spouting blood
Spun forth, in earth the fasten’d weapon stood.
Like lightning next the Pelian jav’lin flies;        185
Its erring fury hiss’d along the skies;
Deep in the swelling bank was driv’n the spear,
Ev’n to the middle earth; and quiver’d there.
Then from his side the sword Pelides drew,
And on his foe with double fury flew;        190
The foe thrice tugg’d, and shook the rooted wood,
Repulsive of his might the weapon stood:
The fourth, he tries to break the spear, in vain;
Bent as he stands he tumbles to the plain;
His belly open’d with a ghastly wound,        195
The reeking entrails pour upon the ground.
Beneath the hero’s feet he panting lies,
And his eye darkens, and his spirit flies:
While the proud victor thus triumphing said,
His radiant armour tearing from the dead:        200
  ‘So ends thy glory! such the fate they prove
Who strive presumptuous with the sons of Jove.
Sprung from a river didst thou boast thy line?
But great Saturnius is the source of mine.
How durst thou vaunt thy wat’ry progeny?        205
Of Peleus, Æacus, and Jove, am I;
The race of these superior far to those,
As he that thunders to the stream that flows.
What rivers can, Scamander might have shewn:
But Jove he dreads, nor wars against his son.        210
Ev’n Acheloüs might contend in vain,
And all the roaring billows of the main.
Th’ eternal ocean, from whose fountains flow
The seas, the rivers, and the springs below,
The thund’ring voice of Jove abhors to hear,        215
And in his deep abysses shakes with fear.’
  He said: then from the bank his jav’lin tore,
And left the breathless warrior in his gore.
The floating tides the bloody carcass lave,
And beat against it, wave succeeding wave:        220
Till, roll’d between the banks, it lies the food
Of curling eels, and fishes of the flood.
All scatter’d round the stream (their mightiest slain)
Th’ Pæonians scour along the plain:
He vents his fury on the flying crew,        225
Thrasius, Astypylus, and Mnesus, slew;
Mydon, Thersilochus, with Ænius fell;
And numbers more his lance had plunged to Hell,
But from the bottom of his gulfs profound,
Scamander spoke; the shores return’d the sound:        230
  ‘O first of mortals (for the Gods are thine)!
In valour matchless, and in force divine!
If Jove have giv’n thee ev’ry Trojan head,
’T is not on me thy rage should heap the dead.
See! my choked streams no more their course can keep,        235
Nor roll their wonted tribute to the deep.
Turn then, impetuous! from our injured flood;
Content, thy slaughters could amaze a God.’
  In human form confess’d, before his eyes
The River thus; and thus the Chief replies:        240
‘O sacred stream! thy word we shall obey;
But not till Troy the destin’d vengeance pay;
Nor till within her towers the perjur’d train
Shall pant, and tremble at our arms again;
Not till proud Hector, guardian of her wall,        245
Or stain this lance, or see Achilles fall.’
  He said: and drove with fury on the foe.
Then to the Godhead of the Silver Bow
The yellow Flood began: ‘O Son of Jove!
Was not the mandate of the Sire above        250
Full and express? that Phœbus should employ
His sacred arrows in defence of Troy,
And make her conquer, till Hyperion’s fall
In awful darkness hide the face of all?’
  He spoke in vain: the Chief without dismay        255
Ploughs thro’ the boiling surge his desp’rate way.
Then, rising in his rage above the shores,
From all his deep the bell’wing river roars;
Huge heaps of slain disgorges on the coast,
And round the banks the ghastly dead are toss’d;        260
While all before, the billows ranged on high
(A wat’ry bulwark) screen the bands who fly.
Now bursting on his head with thund’ring sound,
The falling deluge whelms the hero round:
His loaded shield bends to the rushing tide;        265
His feet, upborne, scarce the strong flood divide,
Slidd’ring, and stagg’ring. On the border stood
A spreading elm, that overhung the flood;
He seiz’d a bending bough, his steps to stay;
The plant uprooted to his weight gave way,        270
Heaving the bank, and undermining all;
Loud flash the waters to the rushing fall
Of the thick foliage. The large trunk display’d
Bridg’d the rough flood across: the hero stayed
On this his weight, and, rais’d upon his hand,        275
Leap’d from the channel, and regain’d the land.
Then blacken’d the wild waves; the murmur rose;
The God pursues, a huger billow throws,
And burst the bank, ambitious to destroy
The man whose fury is the Fate of Troy.        280
He, like the warlike eagle, speeds his pace
(Swiftest and strongest of the aërial race).
Far as a spear can fly, Achilles springs
At every bound; his clanging armour rings:
Now here, now there, he turns on ev’ry side,        285
And winds his course before the foll’wing tide;
The waves flow after, wheresoe’er he wheels,
And gather fast, and murmur at his heels.
So when a peasant to his garden brings
Soft rills of water from the bubbling springs,        290
And calls the floods from high to bless his bowers,
And feed with pregnant streams the plants and flowers;
Soon as he clears whate’er their passage stay’d,
And marks the future current with his spade,
Swift o’er the rolling pebbles, down the hills        295
Louder and louder purl the falling rills;
Before him scatt’ring, they prevent his pains,
And shine in mazy wand’rings o’er the plains.
  Still flies Achilles, but before his eyes
Still swift Scamander rolls where’er he flies:        300
Not all his speed escapes the rapid floods;
The first of men, but not a match for Gods:
Oft as he turn’d the torrent to oppose,
And bravely try if all the Powers were foes;
So oft the surge, in wat’ry mountains spread,        305
Beats on his back, or bursts upon his head.
Yet dauntless still the adverse flood he braves,
And still indignant bounds above the waves.
Tired by the tides, his knees relax with toil;
Wash’d from beneath him slides the slimy soil;        310
When thus (his eyes on Heav’n’s expansion thrown)
Forth bursts the hero with an angry groan:
  ‘Is there no God Achilles to befriend,
No power t’ avert his miserable end?
Prevent, oh Jove! this ignominious date,        315
And make my future life the sport of Fate:
Of all Heav’n’s oracles believ’d in vain,
But most of Thetis, must her son complain:
By Phœbus’ darts she prophesied my fall,
In glorious arms before the Trojan wall.        320
Oh! had I died in fields of battle warm,
Stretch’d like a Hero, by a Hero’s arm;
Might Hector’s spear this dauntless bosom rend,
And my swift soul o’ertake my slaughter’d friend!
Ah no! Achilles meets a shameful fate,        325
Oh how unworthy of the brave and great!
Like some vile swain, whom, on a rainy day,
Crossing a ford, the torrent sweeps away,
An unregarded carcass to the sea.’
  Neptune and Pallas haste to his relief,        330
And thus in human form address the Chief:
The Power of Ocean first: ‘Forbear thy fear,
O son of Peleus! lo, thy Gods appear!
Behold! from Jove descending to thy aid,
Propitious Neptune, and the Blue-eyed Maid.        335
Stay, and the furious flood shall cease to rave:
’T is not thy fate to glut his angry wave.
But thou the counsel Heav’n suggests attend;
Nor breathe from combat, nor thy sword suspend,
Till Troy receive her flying sons, till all        340
Her routed squadrons pant behind their wall:
Hector alone shall stand his fatal chance,
And Hector’s blood shall smoke upon thy lance;
Thine is the glory doom’d.’ Thus spake the Gods:
Then swift ascended to the bright abodes.        345
  Stung with new ardour, thus by Heav’n impell’d,
He springs impetuous, and invades the field:
O’er all th’ expanded plain the waters spread;
Heav’d on the bounding billows danc’d the dead,
Floating ’midst scatter’d arms: while casques of gold,        350
And turn’d-up bucklers, glitter’d as they roll’d.
High o’er the surging tide, by leaps and bounds,
He wades, and mounts; the parted wave resounds.
Not a whole river stops the hero’ course,
While Pallas fills him with immortal force.        355
With equal rage indignant Xanthus roars,
And lifts his billows, and o’erwhelms his shores.
  Then thus to Sïmois: ‘Haste, my brother flood!
And check this mortal that controls a God:
Our bravest heroes else shall quit the fight,        360
And Ilion tumble from her tow’ry height.
Call then thy subject streams, and bid them roar;
From all thy fountains swell thy wat’ry store;
With broken rocks, and with a load of dead
Charge the black surge, and pour it on his head.        365
Mark how resistless thro’ the floods he goes,
And boldly bids the warring Gods be foes!
But nor that force, nor form divine to sight,
Shall aught avail him, if our rage unite:
Whelm’d under our dark gulfs those harms shall lie,        370
That blaze so dreadful in each Trojan eye;
And deep beneath a sandy mountain hurl’d,
Immers’d remain this terror of the world.
Such pond’rous ruin shall confound the place,
No Greeks shall e’er his perish’d relics grace,        375
No hand his bones shall gather or inhume;
These his cold rites, and this his wat’ry tomb.’
  He said; and on the Chief descends amain,
Increas’d with gore, and swelling with the slain.
Then, murm’ring from his beds, he boils, he raves,        380
And a foam whitens on the purple waves:
At ev’ry step, before Achilles stood
The crimson surge, and deluged him with blood.
Fear touch’d the Queen of Heav’n: she saw dismay’d,
She call’d aloud, and summon’d Vulcan’s aid.        385
  ‘Rise to the war! th’ insulting Flood requires
Thy wasteful arm: assemble all thy fires!
While to their aid, by our command enjoin’d,
Rush the swift eastern and the western wind:
These from old ocean at my word shall blow,        390
Pour the red torrent on the wat’ry foe,
Corses and arms to one bright ruin turn,
And hissing rivers to their bottoms burn.
Go, mighty in thy rage! display thy power;
Drink the whole flood, the crackling trees devour;        395
Scorch all the banks! and (till our voice reclaim)
Exert th’ unwearied furies of the flame!’
  The Power Ignipotent her word obeys:
Wide o’er the plain he pours the boundless blaze;
At once consumes the dead, and dries the soil;        400
And the shrunk waters in their channel boil.
As when autumnal Boreas sweeps the sky,
And instant blows the water’d gardens dry:
So look’d the field, so whiten’d was the ground,
While Vulcan breathed the fiery blast around.        405
Swift on the sedgy reeds the ruin preys;
Along the margin winds the running blaze:
The trees in flaming rows to ashes turn,
The flow’ry lotos and the tam’risk burn,
Broad elm, and cypress rising in a spire;        410
The wat’ry willows hiss before the fire.
Now glow the waves, the fishes pant for breath:
The eels lie twisting in the pangs of death:
Now flounce aloft, now dive the scaly fry,
Or gasping, turn their bellies to the sky.        415
At length the River rear’d his languid head,
And thus, short panting, to the God he said:
  ‘Oh Vulcan! oh! what Power resists thy might?
I faint, I sink, unequal to the fight——
I yield—let Ilion fall; if Fate decree——        420
Ah bend no more thy fiery arms on me!’
  He ceas’d; while, conflagration blazing round,
The bubbling waters yield a hissing sound.
As when the flames beneath a caldron rise,
To melt the fat of some rich sacrifice,        425
Amid the fierce embrace of circling fires
The waters foam, the heavy smoke aspires:
So boils th’ imprison’d flood, forbid to flow,
And, choked with vapours, feels his bottom glow.
To Juno then, imperial Queen of Air,        430
The burning River sends his earnest prayer:
  ‘Ah why, Saturnia! must thy son engage
Me, only me, with all his wasteful rage?
On other Gods his dreadful arm employ,
For mightier Gods assert the cause of Troy.        435
Submissive I desist, if thou command,
But ah! withdraw this all-destroying hand.
Hear then my solemn oath, to yield to Fate
Unaided Ilion, and her destin’d state,
Till Greece shall gird her with destructive flame,        440
And in one ruin sink the Trojan name.’
  His warm entreaty touch’d Saturnia’s ear:
She bade th’ Ignipotent his rage forbear,
Recall the flame, nor in a mortal cause
Infest a God: th’ obedient flame withdraws:        445
Again, the branching streams begin to spread,
And soft re-murmur in their wonted bed.
  While these by Juno’s will the strife resign,
The warring Gods in fierce contention join:
Rekindling rage each heav’nly breast alarms;        450
With horrid clangour shock th’ ethereal arms:
Heav’n in loud thunder bids the trumpet sound;
And wide beneath them groans the rending ground.
Jove, as his sport, the dreadful scene descries,
And views contending Gods with careless eyes.        455
The Power of Battles lifts his brazen spear,
And first assaults the radiant Queen of War.
  ‘What mov’d thy madness, thus to disunite
Ethereal minds, and mix all Heav’n in fight?
What wonder this, when in thy frantic mood        460
Thou drovest a mortal to insult a God?
Thy impious hand Tydides’ jav’lin bore,
And madly bathed it in celestial gore.’
  He spoke, and smote the loud-resounding shield,
Which bears Jove’s thunder on its dreadful field;        465
The adamantine ægis of her sire,
That turns the glancing bolt, and forked fire.
Then heav’d the Goddess in her mighty hand
A stone, the limit of the neighb’ring land,
There fix’d from eldest times; black, craggy, vast.        470
This at the heav’nly homicide she cast.
Thund’ring he falls; a mass of monstrous size,
And sev’n broad acres covers as he lies.
The stunning stroke his stubborn nerves unbound;
Loud o’er the fields his ringing arms resound:        475
The scornful Dame her conquest views with smiles,
And, glorying, thus the prostrate God reviles:
  ‘Hast thou not yet, insatiate fury! known
How far Minerva’s force transcends thy own?
Juno, whom thou rebellious dar’st withstand,        480
Corrects thy folly thus by Pallas’ hand;
Thus meets thy broken faith with just disgrace,
And partial aid to Troy’s perfidious race.’
  The Goddess spoke, and turn’d her eyes away,
That, beaming round, diffused celestial day.        485
Jove’s Cyprian daughter, stooping on the land,
Lent to the wounded God her tender hand:
Slowly he rises, scarcely breathes with pain,
And propt on her fair arm forsakes the plain:
This the bright Empress of the Heav’ns survey’d,        490
And scoffing thus to War’s victorious Maid:
  ‘Lo, what an aid on Mars’s side is seen!
The smiles’ and loves’ unconquerable Queen!
Mark with what insolence, in open view,
She moves: let Pallas, if she dares, pursue.’        495
  Minerva smiling heard, the pair o’ertook,
And slightly on her breast the wanton struck:
She, unresisting, fell (her spirits fled);
On earth together lay the lovers spread.
  ‘And like these heroes, be the fate of all’        500
(Minerva cries) ‘who guard the Trojan wall!
To Grecian Gods such let the Phrygian be,
So dread, so fierce, as Venus is to me;
Then from the lowest stone shall Troy be mov’d:’
Thus she, and Juno with a smile approv’d.        505
  Meantime, to mix in more than mortal fight,
The God of Ocean dares the God of Light.
‘What sloth has seiz’d us, when the fields around
Ring with conflicting Powers, and Heav’n returns the sound?
Shall, ignominious, we with shame retire,        510
No deed perform’d, to our Olympian sire?
Come, prove thy arm! for first the war to wage,
Suits not my greatness, or superior age;
Rash as thou art, to prop the Trojan throne
(Forgetful of my wrongs, and of thy own),        515
And guard the race of proud Laomedon!
Hast thou forgot, how, at the Monarch’s prayer,
We shared the lengthen’d labours of a year?
Troy’s walls I rais’d (for such were Jove’s commands),
And yon proud bulwarks grew beneath my hands;        520
Thy task it was to feed the bell’wing droves
Along fair Ida’s valves, and pendent groves.
But when the circling seasons in their train
Brought back the grateful day that crown’d our pain;
With menace stern the fraudful King defied        525
Our latent Godhead, and the prize denied:
Mad as he was, he threaten’d servile bands,
And doom’d us exiles far in barb’rous lands.
Incens’d, we heavenward fled with swiftest wing,
And destin’d vengeance on the perjur’d King.        530
Dost thou, for this, afford proud Ilion grace,
And not, like us, infest the faithless race?
Like us, their present, future sons destroy,
And from its deep foundations heave their Troy?’
  Apollo thus: ‘To combat for mankind        535
Ill suits the wisdom of celestial mind:
For what is man? Calamitous by birth,
They owe their life and nourishment to earth:
Like yearly leaves, that now, with beauty crown’d,
Smile on the sun; now, wither on the ground;        540
To their own hands commit the frantic scene,
Nor mix Immortals in a cause so mean.’
  Then turns his face, far beaming heav’nly fires,
And from the senior Power submiss retires;
Him, thus retreating, Artemis upbraids,        545
The quiver’d Huntress of the sylvan Shades:
  ‘And is it thus the youthful Phœbus flies,
And yields to Ocean’s hoary Sire the prize?
How vain that martial pomp, and dreadful show
Of pointed arrows, and the silver bow!        550
Now boast no more in yon celestial bower,
Thy force can match the great earth-shaking Power.’
  Silent he heard the Queen of Woods upbraid:
Not so Saturnia bore the vaunting maid;
But furious thus: ‘What insolence has driv’n        555
Thy pride to face the Majesty of Heav’n?
What tho’ by Jove the female plague design’d,
Fierce to the feeble race of womankind,
The wretched matron feels thy piercing dart;
Thy sex’s tyrant, with a tiger’s heart?        560
What tho’, tremendous in the woodland chase,
Thy certain arrows pierce the savage race?
How dares thy rashness on the Powers divine
Employ those arms, or match thy force with mine?
Learn hence, no more unequal war to wage’—        565
She said, and seiz’d her wrists with eager rage;
These in her left hand lock’d, her right untied
The bow, the quiver, and its plumy pride.
About her temples flies the busy bow;
Now here, now there, she winds her from the blow;        570
The scat’ring arrows, rattling from the case,
Drop round, and idly mark the dusty place.
Swift from the field the baffled huntress flies,
And scarce restrains the torrent in her eyes:
So when the falcon wings her way above        575
To the cleft cavern speeds the gentle dove
(Not fated yet to die), there safe retreats,
Yet still her heart against the marble beats.
  To her Latona hastes with tender care;
Whom Hermes viewing thus declines the war:        580
‘How shall I face the Dame who gives delight
To him whose thunders blacken Heav’n with night?
Go, matchless Goddess! triumph in the skies,
And boast my conquest, while I yield the prize.’
  He spoke, and pass’d: Latona, stooping low,        585
Collects the scatter’d shafts, and fallen bow,
That, glitt’ring on the dust, lay here and there;
Dishonour’d relics of Diana’s war.
Then swift pursued her to her blest abode,
Where, all confused, she sought the sov’reign God;        590
Weeping she grasp’d his knees: th’ ambrosial vest
Shook with her sighs, and panted on her breast.
  The Sire superior smiled; and bade her shew
What heav’nly hand had caus’d his daughter’s woe?
Abash’d she names his own imperial spouse;        595
And the pale crescent fades upon her brows.
  Thus they above; while, swiftly gliding down,
Apollo enters Ilion’s sacred town:
The guardian God now trembled for her wall,
And fear’d the Greeks, tho’ Fate forbade her fall.        600
Back to Olympus, from the war’s alarms,
Return the shining bands of Gods in arms;
Some proud in triumph, some with rage on fire;
And take their thrones around th’ ethereal Sire.
  Thro’ blood, thro’ death, Achilles still proceeds,        605
O’er slaughter’d heroes, and o’er rolling steeds.
As when avenging flames, with fury driv’n,
On guilty towns exert the wrath of Heav’n;
The pale inhabitants, some fall, some fly;
And the red vapours purple all the sky:        610
So raged Achilles: death, and dire dismay,
And toils, and terror, fill’d the dreadful day.
  High on a turret hoary Priam stands,
And marks the waste of his destructive hands;
Views, from his arm, the Trojans’ scatter’d flight,        615
And the near hero rising on his sight.
No stop, no check, no aid! With feeble pace,
And settled sorrow on his aged face,
Fast as he could, he sighing quits the walls!
And thus, descending, on the guards he calls:        620
  ‘You, to whose care our city gates belong,
Set wide your portals to the flying throng.
For lo! he comes, with unresisted sway;
He comes, and desolation marks his way!
But when within the walls our troops take breath,        625
Lock fast the brazen bars, and shut out death.’
Thus charged the rev’rend Monarch: wide were flung
The opening folds! the sounding hinges rung.
Phœbus rush’d forth, the flying bands to meet,
Struck slaughter back, and cover’d the retreat.        630
On heaps the Trojans crowd to gain the gate,
And gladsome see their last escape from Fate:
Thither, all parch’d with thirst, a heartless train,
Hoary with dust, they beat the hollow plain;
And gasping, panting, fainting, labour on        635
With heavier strides, that lengthen tow’rd the town.
Enraged Achilles follows with his spear;
Wild with revenge, insatiable of war.
  Then had the Greeks eternal praise acquired,
And Troy inglorious to her walls retired;        640
But he, the God who darts ethereal flame,
Shot down to save her, and redeem her fame.
To young Agenor force divine he gave
(Antenor’s offspring, haughty, bold, and brave):
In aid of him, beside the beech he sat,        645
And, wrapt in clouds, restrain’d the hand of Fate.
When now the gen’rous youth Achilles spies,
Thick beats his heart, the troubled motions rise
(So, ere a storm, the waters heave and roll):
He stops, and questions thus his mighty soul:        650
  ‘What! shall I fly this terror of the plain?
Like others fly, and be like others slain?
Vain hope! to shun him by the self-same road
Yon line of slaughter’d Trojans lately trod.
No: with the common heap I scorn to fall—        655
What if they pass’d me to the Trojan wall,
While I decline to yonder path that leads
To Ida’s forests and surrounding shades?
So may I reach, conceal’d, the cooling flood,
From my tired body wash the dirt and blood,        660
And, soon as Night her dusky veil extends,
Return in safety to my Trojan friends.
What if—? But wherefore all this vain debate?
Stand I to doubt within the reach of Fate?
Ev’n now perhaps, ere yet I turn the wall,        665
The fierce Achilles sees me, and I fall:
Such is his swiftness, ’t is in vain to fly,
And such his valour, that who stands must die.
Howe’er ’t is better, fighting for the state,
Here, and in public view, to meet my fate.        670
Yet sure he too is mortal; he may feel
(Like all the sons of earth) the force of steel:
One only soul informs that dreadful frame;
And Jove’s sole favour gives him all his fame.’
He said, and stood, collected in his might;        675
And all his beating bosom claim’d the fight.
So from some deep-grown wood a panther starts,
Rous’d from his thicket by a storm of darts:
Untaught to fear or fly, he hears the sounds
Of shouting hunters, and of clam’rous hounds;        680
Tho’ struck, tho’ wounded, scarce perceives the pain,
And the barb’d jav’lin stings his breast in vain;
On their whole war, untamed the savage flies;
And tears his hunter, or beneath him dies.
Not less resolv’d Antenor’s valiant heir        685
Confronts Achilles, and awaits the war,
Disdainful of retreat: high-held before,
His shield (a broad circumference) he bore;
Then, graceful as he stood, in act to throw
The lifted jav’lin, thus bespoke the foe:        690
  ‘How proud Achilles glories in his fame!
And hopes this day to sink the Trojan name
Beneath her ruins! Know, that hope is vain;
A thousand woes, a thousand toils, remain.
Parents and children our just arms employ,        695
And strong, and many, are the sons of Troy:
Great as thou art, ev’n thou may’st stain with gore
These Phrygian fields, and press a foreign shore.’
  He said; with matchless force the jav’lin flung
Smote on his Knee, the hollow cuishes rung        700
Beneath the pointed steel; but safe from harms
He stands impassive in th’ ethereal arms.
Then, fiercely rushing on the daring foe,
His lifted arm prepares the fatal blow;
But, jealous of his fame, Apollo shrouds        705
The godlike Trojan in a veil of clouds:
Safe from pursuit, and shut from mortal view,
Dismiss’d with fame, the favour’d youth withdrew.
Meanwhile the God, to cover their escape,
Assumes Agenor’s habit, voice, and shape,        710
Flies from the furious Chief in this disguise;
The furious Chief still follows where he flies.
Now o’er the fields they stretch with lengthen’d strides,
Now urge the course where swift Scamander glides:
The God, now distant scarce a stride before,        715
Tempts his pursuit, and wheels about the shore,
While all the flying troops their speed employ,
And pour on heaps into the walls of Troy:
No stop, no stay: no thought to ask or tell,
Who ’scaped by flight, or who by battle fell.        720
’T was tumult all, and violence of flight;
And sudden joy confused, and mix’d affright:
Pale Troy against Achilles shuts her gate;
And nations breathe, deliver’d from their Fate.
 
 
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