Зображення сторінки

as their surgeon. Nestor, taking Machaon in his chariot, conveyed him from the field. As they passed the ships of Achilles, that hero, looking over the battle, saw the chariot of Nestor, and recognized the old chief, but could not discern who the wounded warrior was. Calling Patroclus, his companion and dearest friend, he sent him to Nestor's tent to inquire. Patroclus, performing the behest, saw Machaon wounded, and having told the cause of his coming would have hastened away, but Nestor detained him, to tell him the extent of the Grecian calamities. He reminded him also how, at the time of the departure for Troy, Achilles and himself had been charged by their respective sires : the one to aspire to the highest pitch of glory ; the other, as the elder, to keep watch over his friend, and to guide his inexperience. “Now,” said Nestor, “is the time for such guidance. If the gods so please, thou mayest win Achilles back to the common cause ; but if not, let him at least send his soldiers to the field, and come thou, Patroclus, clad in his armor. Perhaps the very sight of it may drive back the Trojans.”

Patroclus in the Armor of Achilles. — Patroclus, strongly moved by this address, hastened to his friend, revolving in his mind what he had seen and heard. He told the prince the sad condition of affairs at the camp of their late associates ; Diomede, Ulysses, Agamemnon, Machaon, all wounded, the rampart broken down, the enemy among the ships preparing to burn them, and thus to cut off all means of return to Greece. While they spoke, the flames burst forth from one of the ships. Achilles, at the sight, relented so far as to entrust Patroclus with the Myrmidons for the onslaught, and to lend him his armor that he might thereby strike the more terror into the minds of the Trojans. Without delay the soldiers were marshalled, Patroclus put on the radiant armor, mounted the chariot of Achilles, and led forth the men ardent for battle. But before his friend went, Achilles strictly charged him to be content with repelling the foe. “Seek

add still more to the disgrace already mine."

Then exhorting the troops to do their best, he dismissed them full of ardor to the fight.

Patroclus and his Myrmidons at once plunged into the contest where it raged hottest ; at the sight of them the joyful Grecians shouted, and the ships re-echoed the acclaim ; but the Trojans, beholding the well-known armor, struck with terror, looked everywhere for refuge. First those who had got possession of the ship and set it on fire allowed the Grecians to retake it and extinguish the flames. Then the rest fled in dismay. Ajax, Menelaus, and the two sons of Nestor performed prodigies of valor. Hector was forced to turn his horses' heads and retire from the enclosure, leaving his men encumbered in the fosse to escape as they could. Patroclus drove all before him, slaying many; nor did one dare to make a stand against him.

The Death of Sarpedon. — At last the grandson of Bellerophon, Sarpedon, son of Jove and Laodamia, ventured to oppose the Greek warrior. The Olympian looked down upon his son, and would have snatched him from the fate impending, but Juno hinted that if he did so the other inhabitants of heaven might be induced to interpose in like manner whenever any of their offspring were endangered ; an argument to which Jove yielded. Sarpedon threw his spear, but missed Patroclus; the spear of the Greek, on the other hand, pierced Sarpedon's breast, - and he fell, calling to his friends to save his body from the foe. Then a furious contest arose for the corpse. The Greeks succeeded in stripping Sarpedon of his armor ; but Jove would not suffer the body to be dishonored. By his command Apollo snatched it from the midst of the combatants and committed it to the care of the twin brothers Death and Sleep. By them it was transported to Lycia, Sarpedon's native land, and there received due funeral rites,

Thus far Patroclus had succeeded to the utmost in repelling the foe and relieving his countrymen, but now came a change of fortune. Hector, borne in his chariot, confronted him. Patroclus threw a vast stone at the Trojan, which missed its aim, but smote Cebriones, the charioteer, and felled him from the car. Hector leaped from the chariot to rescue his friend, and Patroclus also descended to complete his victory. Thus the two heroes met face to face. At this decisive moment the poet, as if reluctant to give Hector the glory, records that Phæbus Apollo, taking part against Patroclus, struck the helmet from his head and the lance from his hand. At the same moment an obscure Trojan wounded him in the back, and Hector pressing forward pierced him with his spear. He fell mortally wounded.

Then arose a tremendous conflict for the body of Patroclus; but his armor was at once taken possession of by Hector, who, retiring a short distance, divested himself of his own mail, put on that of Achilles, then returned to the fight. Ajax and Menelaus defended the body, and Hector and his bravest warriors struggled to capture it. The battle still raged with equal fortune, when Jove enveloped the whole face of heaven in a cloud. The lightning flashed, the thunder roared, and Ajax, looking round for some one whom he might despatch to Achilles to tell him of the death of his friend and of the imminent danger of his remains falling into the hands of the enemy, could see no suitable messenger. In desperation, he exclaimed :

“Father of heaven and earth! deliver thou

Achaia's host from darkness; clear the skies;
Give day; and, since thy sovereign will is such,
Destruction with it; but, oh, give us day!”1

Jupiter heard the prayer and dispersed the clouds. Ajax sent Antilochus to Achilles with the intelligence of Patroclus' death, and of the conflict raging for his remains ; and the Greeks at last le succeeded in bearing off the body to the ships, closely pursued una by Hector and Æneas and the rest of the Trojans. And you

The Remorse of Achilles. — Achilles heard the fate of his friend with such distress that Antilochus feared for a while lest he might destroy himself. His groans reached the ears of Thetis, far down in the deeps of ocean where she abode, and she hastened to inquire

1 Cowper's translation. The lines are often quoted.

the cause. She found him overwhelmed with self-reproach that he had suffered his friend to fall a victim to his resentment. His only consolation was the hope of revenge. He would fly instantly in search of Hector. But his mother reminded him that he was now without armor, and promised, if he would but wait till the morrow, to procure for him a suit of armor from Vulcan more than equal to that he had lost. He consented, and Thetis immediately repaired to Vulcan's palace. She found him busy at his forge, making tripods for his own use, so artfully constructed that they moved forward of their own accord when wanted, and retired again when dismissed. On hearing the request of Thetis, Vulcan immediately laid aside his work and hastened to comply with her wishes. He fabricated a splendid suit of armor for Achilles ; first a shield adorned with elaborate devices, then a helmet crested with gold, then a corselet and greaves of impenetrable temper, all perfectly adapted to the hero's form, and of consummate workmanship. The suit was made in one night; and Thetis, receiving it, descended to earth and laid it at Achilles' feet at the dawn of day.

The Reconciliation of Agamemnon and Achilles. — The first glow of pleasure that Achilles had felt since the death of Patroclus was at the sight of this splendid armor. And now arrayed in it, he went forth to the camp, calling the chiefs to council. When the leaders were assembled, Achilles addressed them. Renouncing his displeasure against Agamemnon and bitterly lamenting the miseries that had resulted from it, he called on them to proceed at once to the field. Agamemnon made a suitable reply, laying the blame on Ate, the goddess of infatuation; and thereupon complete reconcilement took place between the heroes.

Then Achilles went forth to battle, inspired with a rage and thirst for vengeance that made him irresistible. The bravest warriors fled before him, or fell by his lance. Hector, cautioned by Apollo, kept aloof; but the god, assuming the form of one of Priam's sons, Lycaon, urged Æneas to encounter the terrible warrior. Æneas, though he felt himself unequal, did not decline the combat. He hurled his spear with all his force against the shield, the work of Vulcan. The spear pierced two plates of the shield, but was stopped in the third. Achilles threw his spear with better success. It pierced through the shield of Æneas, but glanced near his shoulder and made no wound. Then Æneas, seizing a stone, such as two men of modern times could hardly lift, was about to throw it, — and Achilles, with sword drawn, was about to rush upon him, — when Neptune, looking out upon the contest, had pity upon Æneas, who was sure to have the worst of it. The god, consequently, spread a cloud between the combatants, and lifting the Trojan from the ground, bore him over the heads of warriors and steeds to the rear of the battle. Achilles, when the mist cleared away, looked round in vain for his adversary, and acknowledging the prodigy, turned his arms against other champions. But none dared stand before him; and Priam from his city walls beheld the whole army in full flight toward the city. He gave command to open wide the gates to receive the fugitives, and to shut them as soon as the Trojans should have passed, lest the enemy should enter likewise. But Achilles was so close in pursuit that that would have been impossible if Apollo had not, in the form of Agenor, Priam's son, first encountered the swift-footed hero, then turned in flight, and taken the way apart from the city. Achilles pursued, and had chased his supposed victim far from the walls before the god disclosed himself.

The Fall of Hector. — But when the rest had escaped into the town Hector stood without determined to await the combat. His father called to him from the walls, begging him to retire nor tempt the encounter. His mother, Hecuba, also besought him, but all in vain. “How can I,” said he to himself, “by whose command the people went to this day's contest where so many have fallen, seek refuge for myself from a single foe? Or shall I offer to yield up Helen and all her, treasures and ample of our own beside ? Ah no! even that is too late. He would not

« НазадПродовжити »