Page images
PDF
EPUB

This hear observant, and the gods obey!-
The vision spoke, and pass'd in air away.
Now, valiant chiefs! since Heaven itself alarms.
Unite, and rouse the sons of Greece to arms.
But first with caution try what yet they dare,
Worn with nine years of unsuccessful war!
To move the troops to measure back the main,
Be mine; and yours the province to detain.”

He spoke, and sat; when Nestor, rising, said (Nestor, whom Pylos' sandy realms obey'd):

100 “Princes of Greece, your faithful ears incline, Nor doubt the vision of the powers divine; Sent by great Jove to him who rules the host, Forbid it Heaven! this warning should be lost! Then let us haste, obey the god's alarms, And join to rouse the sons of Greece to arms.”

Thus spoke the sage. The kings without delay Dissolve the council, and their chief obey: The sceptred rulers lead: the following host, Pour'd forth by thousands, darkens all the coast. 110 As from some rocky cliff the shepherd sees Clustering in heaps on heaps the driving bees, Rolling, and blackening, swarms succeeding swarms, With deeper murmurs and more hoarse alarms; Dusky they spread, a close embodied crowd, And o'er the vale descends the living cloud : So, from the tents and ships, a lengthening train Spreads all the beach, and wide o'ershades the plain: Along the region runs a deafening sound; Beneath their footsteps groans the trembling ground: 120 Fame flies before, the messenger of Jove, And shining soars, and claps her wings above. Nine sacred heralds now, proclaiming loud The monarch's will, suspend the listening crowd. Soon as the throngs in order ranged appear, And fainter murmurs died upon the ear, The king of kings his awful figure raised; High in his hand the golden sceptre blazed:

130

140

The golden sceptre, of celestial frame,
By Vulcan form’d, from Jove to Hermes came:
To Pelops he th’ immortal gift resign'd;
Th' immortal gift great Pelops left behind,
In Atreus' hand, which not with Atreus ends,
To rich Thyestes next the prize descends;
And now the mark of Agamemnon's reign
Subjects all Argos, and controls the main.

On this bright sceptre now the king reclined,
And artful thus pronounced the speech design'd:
“Ye sons of Mars! partake your leader's care,
Heroes of Greece, and brothers of the war!
Of partial Jove with justice I complain,
And heavenly oracles believed in vain.
A safe return was promised to our toils,
Renown'd, triumphant, and enrich'd with spoils;
Now shameful flight alone can save the host,
Our blood, our treasure, and our glory lost.
So Jove decrees, resistless lord of all!
At whose command whole empires rise or fall:
He shakes the feeble props of human trust,
And towns and armies humbles to the dust. --
What shame to Greece a fruitless war to wage,
Oh, lasting shame in every future age!
Once great in arms, the common scorn we grow,
Repulsed and baffled by a feeble foe.
So small their number, that, if wars were ceased,
And Greece triumphant held a general feast- .
All rank'd by tens—whole decads, when they dine,
Must want a Trojan slave to pour the wine.
But other forces have our hopes o'erthrown,
And Troy prevails by armies not her own.
Now nine long years of mighty Jove are run,
Since first the labours of this war begun.
Our cordage torn, decay'd our vessels lie,
And scarce insure the wretched power to fly.
Haste then, for ever leave the Trojan wall!
Our weeping wives, our tender children call:

150

160 170

180

Love, duty, safety, summon us away,
'Tis nature's voice, and nature we obey.
Our shatter'd bark may yet transport us o'er,
Safe and inglorious, to our native shore.
Fly, Grecians, fly! your sails and oars employ,
And dream no more of heaven-defended Troy.”

His deep design unknown, the hosts approve
Atrides' speech. The mighty numbers move.
So roll the billows to the Icarian shore,
From east and south when winds begin to roar,
Burst their dark mansion in the clouds, and sweep
The whitening surface of the ruffled deep.
And as on corn when western gusts descend,
Before the blast the lofty harvests bend;
Thus o'er the field the moving host appears,
With nodding plumes and groves of waving spears.
The gathering murmur spreads, their trampling feet
Beat the loose sands, and thicken to the fleet.
With long-resounding cries they urge the train
To fit the ships, and launch into the main.
They toil, they sweat, thick clouds of dust arises
The doubling clamours echo to the skies.
Ev'n then the Greeks had left the hostile plain,
And fate decreed the fall of Troy in vain;
But Jove's imperial queen their fight survey'd,
• And, sighing, thus bespoke the blue-eyed maid:

“Shall then the Grecians fly? O dire disgrace!
And leave unpunish'd this perfidious race? m
Shall Troy, shall Priam, and the adulterous spouse,
In peace enjoy the fruits of broken vows?
And bravest chiefs, in Helen's quarrel slain,
Lie unrevenged on yon detested plain?
No: let my Greeks, unmoved by vain alarms,
Once more refulgent shine in brazen arms.
Haste, goddess, haste! the flying host detain,
Nor let one sail be hoisted on the main.”

Pallas obeys; and from Olympus' height,
Swift to the ships precipitates her flight:

190

200

Ulysses, first in public cares, she found,
For prudent council like the gods renown'd:
Oppress'd with generous grief the hero stood,
Nor drew his sable vessels to the flood:

"And is it thus, divine Lærtes' son!
Thus fly the Greeks ?" the martial maid begun ; 210
“Thus to their country bear their own disgrace,
And fame eternal leave to Priam's race?
Shall beauteous Helen still remain unfreed?
Still unrevenged a thousand heroes bleed?
Haste, generous Ithacus! prevent the shame,
Recall your armies, and your chiefs reclaim.
Your own resistless eloquence employ,
And to th’ immortals trust the fall of Troy."

The voice divine confess'd the warlike maid, Ulysses heard, nor uninspired obey'd:

220 Then meeting first Atrides, from his hand Received the imperial sceptre of command. Thus graced, attention and respect to gain, He runs, he flies through all the Grecian train, Each prince of name, or chief in arms approved, He fired with praise, or with persuasion moved.

“Warriors like you, with strength and wisdom bless'd, By brave examples should confirm the rest. The monarch's will not yet revealed appears; He tries our courage, but resents our fears.

230
Th’ unwary Greeks his fury may provoke;
Not thus the king in secret council spoke.
Jove loves our chief, from Jove his honour springs;
Beware! for dreadful is the wrath of kings."

But if a clamorous, vile plebeian rose,
Him with reproof he check’d, or tamed with blows.
“Be still, thou slave, and to thy betters yield!
Unknown alike in council and in field! .
Ye gods, what dastards would our host command !
Swept to the war, the lumber of a land !

240 Be silent, wretch! and think not here allow'd That worst of tyrants, an usurping crowd.

To one sole monarch Jove commits the sway;
His are the laws, and him let all obey."

With words like these the troops Ulysses ruled ;
The loudest silenced, and the fiercest coold.
Back to th' assembly rolled the thronging train,
Desert the ships, and pour upon the plain.
Murmuring they move, as when old Ocean roars,
And heaves huge surges to the trembling shores: 250
The groaning banks are burst with bellowing sound,
The rocks remurmur, and the deeps rebound.
At length the tumult sinks, the noises cease,
And a still silence lulls the camp to peace.
Thersites only clamour'd in the throng,
Loquacious, loud, and turbulent of tongue:
Awed by no shame, by no respect controlld,
In scandal busy, in reproaches bold:
With witty malice studious to defame:
Scorn all his joy, and laughter all his aim.

260 But chief he gloried, with licentious style, To lash the great, and monarchs to revile. His figure such as might his soul proclaim; One eye was blinking, and one leg was lame: His mountain-shoulders half his breast o'erspread, Thin hairs bestrew'd his long mis-shapen head. Spleen to mankind his envious heart possess’d, And much he hated all, but most the best. Ulysses or Achilles still his theme: But royal scandal his delight supreme.

270 Long had he lived the scorn of every Greek, Vex'd when he spoke, yet still they heard him speak. Sharp was his voice; which, in the shrillest tone, Thus with injurious taunts attack'd the throne:

“Amidst the glories of so bright a reign, What moves the great Atrides to complain? 'Tis thine whate'er the warrior's breast inflames, The golden spoil, and thine the lovely dames. With all the wealth our wars and blood bestow, Thy tents are crowded, and thy chests o’erflow. 280

« PreviousContinue »