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Oileus follow'd; Idomen was there,*
And Merion, dreadful as the god of war:
With these Eurypylus and Thoas stand,
And wise Ulysses closed the daring band.
All these, alike inspired with noble rage,
Demand the fight.' To whom the Pylian sage:
“ Lest thirst of glory your brave souls divide,
What chief shall combat, let the gods decide.
Whom heaven shall choose, be his the chance to raise
His country's fame, his own immortal praise."
The lots produced, each hero signs his own :
Then in the general's helm the fates are thrown,t
The people pray, with lifted eyes and hands,
And vows like these ascend from all the bands:
Grant, thou Almighty ! in whose hand is fate,
A worthy champion for the Grecian state:
This task let Ajax or Tydides prove,
Or he, the king of kings, beloved by Jove.”
Old Nestor shook the casque. By heaven inspired,
Leap'd forth the lot, of every Greek desired.
This from the right to left the herald bears,
Held out in order to the Grecian peers;
Each to his rival yields the mark unknown,
Till godlike Ajax finds the lot his own;
Surveys the inscription with rejoicing eyes,
Then casts before him, and with transport cries :
“Warriors ! I claim the lot, and arm with joy ;
Be mine the conquest of this chief of Troy.
Now while my brightest arms my limbs invest,
To Saturn's son be all your vows address’d:
But pray in secret, lest 'the foes should hear,
And deem your prayers the mean effect of fear.
Said I in secret ? No, your vows declare
In such a voice as fills the earth and air,
Lives there a chief whom Ajax ought to dread?
Ajax, in all the toils of battle bred?
From warlike Salamis I drew my birth,
And, born to combats, fear no force on earth.”
He said. The troops with elevated eyes,
Implore the god whose thunder rends the skies :
“O father of mankind, superior lord !
On lofty Ida's holy hill adored :
Who in the highest heaven has fix'd thy throne,
Supreme of Gods ! unbounded and alone :
Grant thou, that Telamon may bear away
The praise and conquest of this doubtful day ;
Or, if illustrious Hector be thy care,
That both may claim it, and that both may
Now Ajax braced his dazzling armor on;
Sheathed in bright steel the giant-warrior shone:
He moves to combat with majestic pace ;
So stalks in arms the grisly god of Thrace,*
When Jove to punish faithless men prepares,
And gives whole nations to the waste of wars,
Thus march'd the chief, tremendous as a god;
Grimly he smiled; earth tremblei as he strode : f
His massy javelin quivering in his hand,
He stood, the bulwark of the Grecian band.
Through every Argive heart new transport ran;
All Troy stood trembling at the mighty man:
Even Hector paused; and with new doubt oppress'd,
Felt his great heart suspended in his breast :
'Twas vain to seek retreat, and vain to fear;
Himself had challenged, and the foe drew near.
Stern Telamon behind his ample shield,
As from a brazen tower, o'erlook'd the field.
Huge was its orb, with seven thick folds o'ercast,
Of tough bull-hides ; of solid brass the last,
(The work of Tychius, who in Hylè dwell’d
And in all arts of armory excell’d),
This Ajax bore before his manly breast,
Anl, threatening, thus his adverse chief address'd:
* Hector ! approach my arm, and singly know
What strength thou hast, and what the Grecian foe.
Achilles shuns the fight; yet some there are,
Not void of soul, and not unskill'd in war :
Let him, unactive on the sea-beat shore,
Indulge his wrath, and aid our arms no more;
Whole troops of heroes Greece has yet to boast,
And sends thee one, a sample of her host,
Such as I am, I come to prove thy might;
No more--be sudden, and begin the fight.”
“O son of Telamon, thy country's pride !
(To Ajax thus the Trojan prince replied)
* God of Thrace. Mars, or Mavors, according to his Thracian epithet. Hence 1. Mavortia Mænia.' † Grimly he smiled.
Grinn'd horribly, a ghastly smile.” –“ Paradise Lost," ii. 845.
"There Mavors stands
Grinning with ghastly feature.”-Carey's Dante: Hell, v.
Me, as a boy, or woman, wouldst thou fright,
New to the field, and trembling at the fight?
Thou meet'st a chief deserving of thy arms,
To combat born, and bred amidst alarms :
I know to shift my ground, remount the car,
Turn, charge, and answer every call of war;
To right, to left, the dexterous lance I wield,
And bear thick battle on my sounding shield.
But open be our fight, and bold each blow;
I steal no conquest from a noble foe.”
He said, and rising, high above the field
Whirld the long lance against the sevenfold shield.
Full on the brass descending from above
Through six bull-hides the furious weapon drove,
Till in the seventh it fix'd. Then Ajax threw;
Through Hector's shield the forceful javelin flew,
His corslet enters, and his garment rends,
And glancing downwards, near his flank descends.
The wary Trojan shrinks, and bending low
Beneath his buckler, disappo nts the blow.
From their bored shields the chiefs their javelins drew,
Then close impetuous, and the charge renew;
Fierce as the mountain-lions bathed in blood,
Or foaming boars, the terror of the wood.
At Ajax, Hector his long lance extends;
The blunted point against the buckler bends;
But Ajax, watchful as his foe drew near,
Drove through the Trojan targe the knotty, spear;
It reach'd his neck, with matchless strength impellid !
Spouts the black gore, and dims his shining shield.
Yet ceased not Hector thus ; but stooping down,
In his strong hand up-heaved a flinty stone,
Black, craggy, vast: to this his forcé he bends;
Full on the brazen boss the stone descends ;
The hollow brass resounded with the shock:
Then Ajax seized the fragment of a rock,
Applied each nerve, and swinging round on high,
With force tempestuous, let the ruin fly;
The huge stone thundering through his buckler broke:
His slacken'd knees received the numbing stroke ;
Great Hector falls extended on the field,
His bulk supporting on the shatter'd shield :
Nor wanted heavenly aid : Apollo's might
Confirm'd his sinews, and restored to fight.
And now hoth heroes their broad falchions drew:
In flaming circles round their heads they flew ;
But then by heralds' voice the word was given,
The sacred ministers of earth and heaven:
Divine Talthybius, whom the Greeks employ,
And sage Idæus on the part of Troy,
Between the swords their peaceful sceptres rear’d;
And first Idæus' awful voice was heard :
“Forbear, my sons ! your further force to prove.
Both dear to men, and both beloved of Jove.
To either host your matchless worth is known,
Each sounds your praise, and war is all your own.
But now the Night extends her awful shade;
The goddess parts you; be the night obey’d.” *
To whom great Ajax his high soul expressid:
“O sage! to Hector be these words address’d.
Let him, who first provoked our chiefs to fight,
Let him demand the sanction of the night;
If first he ask'd it, I content obey,
And cease the strife when Hector shows the way.”
“O first of Greeks ! (his noble foe rejoin'd)
Whom heaven adorns, superior to thy kind,
With strength of body, and with worth of mind!
Now martial law commands us to forbear;
Hereafter we shall meet in glorious war,
Some future day shall lengthen out the strife,
And let the gods decide of death or life!
Since, then, the night extends her gloomy shade,
And heaven enjoins it, be the night obey d.
Return, brave Ajax, to thy Grecian friends,
And joy the nations whom thy arm defends;
As I shall glad each chief, and Trojan wife,
Who wearies heaven with vows for Hector's life.
But let us, on this memorable day,
Exchange some gift: that Greece and Troy may say
Not hate, but glory, made these chiefs contend;
And each brave foe was in his soul a friend.'"
With that, a sword with stars of silver graced,
The baldric studded, and the sheath enchased,
He gave the Greek. The generous Greek bestow'd
A radiant belt that rich with purple glow'd.
Then with majestic grace they quit the plain ;
This seeks the Grecian, that the Phrygian train.
The Trojan bands returning Hector wait,
And hail with joy the Champion of their state;
Escaped great Ajax, they survey him round,
Sete o guerrieri, incomincio Pindoro,
Con pari honor di pari ambo possenti,
Dunque cessi la pugna, e non sian rotte
Le ragioni, e 'l riposo, e de la notte.”—Gier. Lib. vi. 51.
Alive, unarm’d, and vigorous from his wound;
To Troy's high gates the godlike man they bear
Their present triumph, as their late despair.
But Ajax, glorying in his hardy deed,
The well-arm'd Greeks to Agamemnon lead.
A steer for sacrifice the king design’d,
Of full five years, and of the nobler kind.
The victim falls; they strip the smoking hide,
The beast they quarter, and the joints divide;
Then spread the tables, the repast prepare,
Each takes his seat, and each receives his share.
The king himself (an honorary sign)
Before great Ajax placed the mighty chine.*
When now the rage of hunger was removed,
Nestor, in each persuasive art approved,
The sage whose counsels long had sway'd the rest,
In words like these his prudent thought express'd:
“How dear, O kings ! this fatal day has cost,
What Greeks are perish'd! what a people lost!
What tides of blood have drench'd Scamander's shore !
What crowds of heroes sunk to rise no more !
Then hear me, chief! nor let the morrow's light
Awake thy squadrons to new toils of fight :
Some space at least permit the war to breathe,
While we to Alames our slaughter'd friends bequeath,
From the red field their scatter'd bodies bear,
And nigh the fleet a funeral structure rear;
So decent urns their snowy bones may keep,
And pious children o'er their ashes weep.
Here, where on one promiscuous pile they blazed,
High o'er them all a general tomb be raised;
Next, to secure our camp and naval powers,
Raisé an embattled wall, with lofty towers;
From space to space be ample gates around,
For passing chariots ; and a trench profound.
So Greece to combat shall in safety go,
Nor fear the fierce incursions of the foe."
'Twas thus the sage his wholesome counsel moved;
The sceptred kings of Greece his words approved.
Meanwhile, convened at Priam's palace-gate,
The Trojan peers in nightly council sate;
A senate void of order, as of choice :
Their hearts were fearful, and confused their voice.