Book XVI.



Patroclus (in pursuance of the request of Nestor in the eleventh book) entreats Achilles to suffer him to go to the assistance of the Greeks with Achilles' troops and armour. He agrees to it, but at the same time charges him to content himself with rescuing the fleet, without further pursuit of the enemy. The armour, horses, soldiers, and officers are described. Achilles offers a libation for the success of his friend, after which Patroclus leads the Myrmidons to battle. The Trojans, at the sight of Patroclus in Achilles' armour, taking him for that hero, are cast into the uttermost consternation; he beats them off from the vessels, Hector himself flies, Sarpedon is killed, though Jupiter was averse to his fate. Several other particulars of the battle are described; in the heat of which, Patroclus, neglecting the orders of Achilles, pursues the foe to the walls of Troy, where Apollo repulses and disarms him, Euphorbus wounds him, and Hector kills him, which concludes the book.

So warr'd both armies on the ensanguined shore, While the black vessels smoked with human gore. Meantime Patroclus to Achilles flies; The streaming tears fall copious from his eyes Not faster, trickling to the plains below, From the tall rock the sable waters flow. Divine Pelides, with compassion moved. Thus spoke, indulgent, to his best beloved:(243)

"Patroclus, say, what grief thy bosom bears, That flows so fast in these unmanly tears? No girl, no infant whom the mother keeps From her loved breast, with fonder passion weeps; Not more the mother's soul, that infant warms, Clung to her knees, and reaching at her arms, Than thou hast mine! Oh tell me, to what end Thy melting sorrows thus pursue thy friend?

"Griev'st thou for me, or for, my martial band? Or come sad tidings from our native land? Our fathers live (our first, most tender care), Thy good Menoetius breathes the vital air, And hoary Peleus yet extends his days; Pleased in their age to hear their children's praise. Or may some meaner cause thy pity claim? Perhaps yon relics of the Grecian name, Doom'd in their ships to sink by fire and sword, And pay the forfeit of their haughty lord? Whate'er the cause, reveal thy secret care, And speak those sorrows which a friend would share." A sigh that instant from his bosom broke, Another follow'd, and Patroclus spoke:

"Let Greece at length with pity touch thy breast, Thyself a Greek; and, once, of Greeks the best! Lo! every chief that might her fate prevent, Lies pierced with wounds, and bleeding in his tent: Eurypylus, Tydides, Atreus' son, And wise Ulysses, at the navy groan, More for their country's wounds than for their own. Their pain soft arts of pharmacy can ease, Thy breast alone no lenitives appease. May never rage like thine my soul enslave, O great in vain! unprofitably brave! Thy country slighted in her last distress, What friend, what man, from thee shall hope redress? No--men unborn, and ages yet behind, Shall curse that fierce, that unforgiving mind.

"O man unpitying! if of man thy race; But sure thou spring'st not from a soft embrace, Nor ever amorous hero caused thy birth, Nor ever tender goddess brought thee forth: Some rugged rock's hard entrails gave thee form, And raging seas produced thee in a storm, A soul well suiting that tempestuous kind, So rough thy manners, so untamed thy mind.

"If some dire oracle thy breast alarm, If aught from Jove, or Thetis, stop thy arm, Some beam of comfort yet on Greece may shine, If I but lead the Myrmidonian line: Clad in thy dreadful arms if I appear, Proud Troy shall tremble, and desert the war; Without thy person Greece shall win the day, And thy mere image chase her foes away. Press'd by fresh forces, her o'erlabour'd train Shall quit the ships, and Greece respire again." Thus, blind to fate! with supplicating breath, Thou begg'st his arms, and in his arms thy death. Unfortunately good! a boding sigh Thy friend return'd; and with it, this reply: "Patroclus! thy Achilles knows no fears; Nor words from Jove nor oracles he hears; Nor aught a mother's caution can suggest; The tyrant's pride lies rooted in my breast. My wrongs, my wrongs, my constant thought engage, Those, my sole oracles, inspire my rage: I made him tyrant: gave him power to wrong Even my: I felt it; and shall feel it long. The maid, my black-eyed maid, he forced away, Due to the toils of many a well-fought day; Due to my conquest of her father's reign; Due to the votes of all the Grecian train. From me he forced her; me, the bold and brave, Disgraced, dishonour'd, like the meanest slave. But bear we this--the wrongs I grieve are past; 'Tis time our fury should relent at last: I fix'd its date; the day I wish'd appears: How Hector to my ships his battle bears, The flames my eyes, the shouts invade my ears. Go then, Patroclus! court fair honour's charms In Troy's famed fields, and in Achilles' arms: Lead forth my martial Myrmidons to fight, Go save the fleets, and conquer in my right. See the thin relics of their baffled band At the last edge of yon deserted land! Behold all Ilion on their ships descends; How the cloud blackens, how the storm impends! It was not thus, when, at my sight amazed, Troy saw and trembled, as this helmet blazed: Had not the injurious king our friendship lost, Yon ample trench had buried half her host. No camps, no bulwarks now the Trojans fear, Those are not dreadful, no Achilles there; No longer flames the lance of Tydeus' son; No more your general calls his heroes on: Hector, alone, I hear; his dreadful breath Commands your slaughter, or proclaims your death. Yet now, Patroclus, issue to the plain: Now save the ships, the rising fires restrain, And give the Greeks to visit Greece again. But heed my words, and mark a friend's command, Who trusts his fame and honours in thy hand, And from thy deeds expects the Achaian host Shall render back the beauteous maid he lost: Rage uncontroll'd through all the hostile crew, But touch not Hector, Hector is my due. Though Jove in thunder should command the war, Be just, consult my glory, and forbear. The fleet once saved, desist from further chase, Nor lead to Ilion's walls the Grecian race; Some adverse god thy rashness may destroy; Some god, like Phoebus, ever kind to Troy. Let Greece, redeem'd from this destructive strait, Do her own work; and leave the rest to fate. O! would to all the immortal powers above, Apollo, Pallas, and almighty Jove! That not one Trojan might be left alive, And not a Greek of all the race survive: Might only we the vast destruction shun, And only we destroy the accursed town!" Such conference held the chiefs; while on the strand Great Jove with conquest crown'd the Trojan band. Ajax no more the sounding storm sustain'd, So thick the darts an iron tempest rain'd: On his tired arm the weighty buckler hung; His hollow helm with falling javelins rung; His breath, in quick short pantings, comes and goes; And painful sweat from all his members flows. Spent and o'erpower'd, he barely breathes at most; Yet scarce an army stirs him from his post; Dangers on dangers all around him glow, And toil to toil, and woe succeeds to woe.

Say, Muses, throned above the starry frame, How first the navy blazed with Trojan flame?

Stern Hector waved his sword, and standing near, Where furious Ajax plied his ashen spear, Full on the lance a stroke so justly sped, That the broad falchion lopp'd its brazen head; His pointless spear the warrior shakes in vain; The brazen head falls sounding on the plain. Great Ajax saw, and own'd the hand divine; Confessing Jove, and trembling at the sign, Warn'd he retreats. Then swift from all sides pour The hissing brands; thick streams the fiery shower; O'er the high stern the curling volumes rise, And sheets of rolling smoke involve the skies.

Divine Achilles view'd the rising flames, And smote his thigh, and thus aloud exclaims: "Arm, arm, Patroclus! Lo, the blaze aspires! The glowing ocean reddens with the fires. Arm, ere our vessels catch the spreading flame; Arm, ere the Grecians be no more a name; I haste to bring the troops."--The hero said; The friend with ardour and with joy obey'd.

He cased his limbs in brass; and first around His manly legs, with silver buckles bound The clasping greaves; then to his breast applies The flaming cuirass of a thousand dyes; Emblazed with studs of gold his falchion shone In the rich belt, as in a starry zone: Achilles' shield his ample shoulders spread, Achilles' helmet nodded o'er his head: Adorn'd in all his terrible array, He flash'd around intolerable day. Alone untouch'd, Pelides' javelin stands, Not to be poised but by Pelides' hands: From Pelion's shady brow the plant entire Old Chiron rent, and shaped it for his sire; Whose son's great arm alone the weapon wields, The death of heroes, and the dread of fields.

[Illustration: Buckles.]


The brave Automedon (an honour'd name, The second to his lord in love and fame, In peace his friend, and partner of the war) The winged coursers harness'd to the car; Xanthus and Balius, of immortal breed, Sprung from the wind, and like the wind in speed. Whom the wing'd harpy, swift Podarge, bore, By Zephyr pregnant on the breezy shore: Swift Pedasus was added to their side, (Once great Aetion's, now Achilles' pride) Who, like in strength, in swiftness, and in grace, A mortal courser match'd the immortal race.

Achilles speeds from tent to tent, and warms His hardy Myrmidons to blood and arms. All breathing death, around the chief they stand, A grim, terrific, formidable band: Grim as voracious wolves, that seek the springs(244) When scalding thirst their burning bowels wrings; When some tall stag, fresh-slaughtered in the wood, Has drench'd their wide insatiate throats with blood, To the black fount they rush, a hideous