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THE SINGLE COMBAT OF HECTOR AND AJAX.
The battle renewing with double ardor upon the return of Hector, Minerva is under
apprehensions for the Greeks. Apollo, seeing her descend from O.ympus, joins her near the Scæan gate. They agree to put off the general engagement for that day, and incite Hector to challenge the Greeks to a single combat. Nine of the princes accepting the challenge, the lot is cast and falls upon Ajax. These heroes, after several attacks, are parted by the night. The Trojans calling a council, Antenor proposes the delivery of Helen to the Greeks; to which Paris will not consent, but offers to restore them her riches. Priam sends a herald to make this offer, and to demand a truce for burning the dead; the last of which only is agreed to by Agamemnon. When the funerals are performed, the Greeks, pursuant to the advice of Nestor, erect a fortification to protect their feet and camp, flanked with towers, and defended by a ditch and palisades. Neptune testifies his jealousy at this work, but is pacified by a promise from Jupiter. Both armies pass the night in feasting : but Jupiter disheartens the Trojans with thunder, and other signs of his wrath.
The three-and-twentieth day ends with the duel of Hector and Ajax ; the next day the truce is agreed ; another is taken up in the funeral rites of the slain ; and one more in building the fortification before the ships. So that somewhat about three days is employed in this book. The scene lies wholiy in the field.
So spoke the guardian of the Trojan state,
Then rush'd impetuous through the Scæan gate.
Him Paris follow'd to the dire alarms;
Both breathing slaughter, both resolved in arms.
As when to sailors laboring through the main,
That long have heaved the weary oar in vain,
Jove bids at length the expected gales arise ;
The gales blow grateful, and the vessel flies :
So welcome these to Troy's desiring train ;.
The bands are cheer'd, the war awakes again.
Bold Paris first the work of death begun
On great Menestheus, Areïthous' son;
Sprung from the fair Philomeda's embrace,
The pleasing Arné was his native place.
Then sunk Eioneus to the shades below;
Beneath his steely casque * he felt the blow
Casque. The original word is otepávn, about the meaning of which there is some doubt. Some take it for a different kind of cap or helmet, others for the rim, others for the cone, of the helmet.
Full on his neck, from Hector's weighty hand;
And roll’d, with limbs relax'd, along the land.
By Glaucus' spear the bold Iphinous bleeds,
Fix'd in the shoulder as he mounts his steeds;
Headlong he tumbles : his slack nerves unbound,
Drop the cold useless members on the ground.
When now Minerva saw her Argives slain,
From vast Olympus to the gleaming plain
Fierce she descends: Apollo marked her flight,
Nor shot less swift from Ilion's towery height.
Radiant they met, beneath the beechen shade;
When thus Apollo to the blue-eyed maid :
“What cause, O daughter of Almighty Jove!
Thus wings thy progress from the realms above ?
Once more impetuous dost thou bend thy way,
To give to Greece the long divided day?
Too much has Troy already felt thy hate,
Now breathe thy rage, and hush the stern debate
This day, the business of the field suspend;
War soon shall kindle, and great Ilion bend;
Since vengeful goddesses confederate join
To raize her walls, though built by hands divine."
To whom the progeny of Jove replies : “I left, for this, the council of the skies : But who shall bid conflicting hosts forbear, What art shall calm the furious sons of war?' To her the god : “Great Hector's soul incite To dare the boldest Greek to single fight, Till Greece, provoked, from all her numbers show A warrior worthy to be Hector's foe.”
At this agreed, the heavenly powers withdrew; Sage Helenus their secret counsels knew; Hector, inspired, he sought : to him address'd, Thus told the dictates of his sacred breast : “O son of Priam ! let thy faithful ear Receive my words: thy friend and brother hear Go forth persuasive, and a while engage The warring nations to suspend their rage; Then dare the boldest of the hostile train To mortal combat on the listed plain. For not this day shall nd thy glorious date; The gods have spoke it, and their voice is fate."
He said : the warrior heard the word with joy; Then with his spear restrain'd the youth of Troy, Held by the midst athwart. On either hand The squadrons part; the expecting Trojans stand; Great Agamemnon bids the Greeks forbear:
They breathe, and hush the tumult of the war.
The Athenian maid, * and glorious god of day,
With silent joy the settling hosts survey:
In form of vultures, on the beech's height
They sit conceald, and wait the future fight.
The thronging troops obscure the dusty fields,
Horrid with bristling spears, and gleaming shields.
As when a general darkness veils the main,
(Soft Zephyr curling the wide wat'ry plain,)
The waves scarce heave, the face of ocean sleeps,
And a still horror saddens all the deeps ;
Thus in thick orders settling wide around,
At length composed they sit, and shade the ground.
Great Hector first amidst both armies broke
The solemn silence, and their powers bespoke :
* Hear, all ye Trojan, all ye Grecian bands, What
my soul prompts, and what some god commands.
Great Jove, averse our warfare to compose,
O’erwhelms the nations with new toils and woes;
War with a fiercer tide once more returns,
Till Ilion falls, or till yon navy burns.
You then, O princes of the Greeks! appear;
'Tis Hector speaks, and calls the gods to hear :
From all your troops select the boldest knight,
And him, the boldest, Hector dares to fight.
Here if I fall, by chance of battle slain,
Be his my spoil, and his these arms remain ;
But let my body, to my friends return'd,
By Trojan hands and Trojan fames be burn'd.
And if Apollo, in whose aid I trust,
Shall stretch your daring champion in the dust;
If mine the glory to despoil the foe;
On Phæbus' temple I'll his arms bestow :
The breathless carcase to your navy sent,
Greece on the shore shall raise a monument;
Which when some future mariner surveys,
Wash'd by broad Hellespont's resounding seas,
Thus shall he say, “A valiant Greek lies there,
By Hector slain, the mighty man of war,'
The stone shall tell your vanquish'd hero's name,
And distant ages learn the victor's fame."
This fierce defiance Greece astonish'd heard,
Blush'd to refuse, and to accept it fear'd.
Stern Menelaus first the silence broke,
And, inly groaning, thus opprobrious spoke :
“ Women of Greece! O scandal of your race,
Whose coward souls your manly form disgrace,
How great the shame, when every age shall know
That not a Grecian met this noble foe!
Go then! resolve to earth, from whence ye grew,
A heartless, spiritless, inglorious crew!
Be what ye seem, unanimated clay,
Myself will dare the danger of the day;
'Tis man's bold task the generous strife to try,
But in the hands of God is victory.”
These words scarce spoke, with generous ardor press'd,
His manly limbs in azure arms he dress'd.
That day, Atrides! a superior hand
Had stretch'd thee breathless on the hostile strand;
But all at once, thy fury to compose,
The kings of Greece, an awful band, arose ;
Even he their chief, great Agamemnon, press'd
Thy daring hand, and this advice address'd :
Whither, O Menelaus ! wouldst thou run,
And tempt a fate which prudence bids thee shun?
Grieved though thou art, forbear the rash design;
Great Hector's arm is mightier far than thine :
Even fierce Achilles learned its force to fear,
And trembling met this dreadful son of war.
Sit thou secure, amidst thy social band;
Greece in our cause shall arm some powerful hand.
The mightiest warrior of the Achaian name,
Though bold and burning with desire of fame,
Content the doubtful honor might forego,
So great the danger, and so brave the foe.”
He said, and turn’d his brother's vengeful mind;
He stoop'd to reason, and his rage resign'd,
No longer bent to rush on certain harms;
His joyful friends unbrace his azure arms.
He from whose lips divine persuasion flows,
Grave Nestor, then, in graceful act arose ;
Thus to the kings he spoke : “What grief, what shame
Attend on Greece, and all the Grecian name!
How shall, alas! her hoary heroes mourn
Their sons degenerate, and their race a scorn !
What tears shall down thy silvery beard be rollid,
O Peleus, old in arms, in wisdom old !
Once with what joy the generous prince would hear
Of every chief who fought this glorious war,
Participate their fame, and pleased inquire
Each name, each action, and each hero's sire !
Gods! should he see our warriors trembling stand,
And trembling all before one hostile hand;
How would he lift his aged arms on high,
Lament inglorious Greece, and beg to die !
Oh! would to all the immortal powers above,
Minerva, Pecebus, and almighty Jove !
Years might again roll back, my youth renew,
And give this arm the spring which once it knew :
When fierce in war, where Jardan's waters fall,
I led my troops to Phea's trembling wall,
And with the Arcadian spears my prowess tried.
Where Celadon rolls down his rapid tide.*
There Ereuthalion braved us in the field,
Proud Areïthous' dreadful arms to wield ;
Great Aresthous, known from shore to shore
By the huge, knotted, iron mace he bore;
No lance he shook, nor bent the twanging bow,
But broke, with this, the battle of the foe.
Him not by manly force Lycurgus slew,
Whose guileful javelin from the thicket flew,
Deep in a winding way his breast assailed,
Nor aught the warrior's thundering mace avail’d.
Supine he fell : those arms which Mars before
Had given the vanquish'd, now the victor bore:
But when old age had dimm'd Lycurgus' eyes,
To Ereuthalion he consign’d the prize.
Furious with this he crush'd our levell’d bands,
And dared the trial of the strongest hands;
Nor could the strongest hands his fury stay:
All saw, and fear’d, his huge tempestuous sway
Till I, the youngest of the host, appear'd,
And, youngest, met whom all our army fear'd.
I fought the chief: my arms Minerva crown’d:
Prone fell the giant o'er a length of ground.
What then I was, O were your Nestor now!
Not Hector's self should want an equal foe.
But, warriors, you that youthful vigor boast,
The flower of Greece, the examples of our host,
Sprung from such fathers, who such numbers sway,
Can you stand trembling, and desert the day ?'
His warm reproofs the listening kings inflame
And nine, the noblest of the Grecian name,
Up-started fierce : but far before the rest
The king of men advanced his dauntless breast
Then bold Tydides, great in arms, appear’d;
And next his bulk gigantic Ajax rear’d;