THE chiefs were set; the soldiers crown’d the
To these the master of the seven-fold shield
Upstarted fierce: and kindled with disdain.
Eager to speak, unable to contain
His boiling rage, he rowl’d his eyes around
The shore, and Graecian gallies hall’d a-ground.
The Then stretching out his hands, O Jove, he cry’d,
Speeches of Must then our cause before the fleet be try’d?
Ajax and And dares Ulysses for the prize contend,
Ulysses In sight of what he durst not once defend?
But basely fled that memorable day,
When I from Hector’s hands redeem’d the flaming
So much ’tis safer at the noisie bar
With words to flourish, than ingage in war.
By diff’rent methods we maintain our right,
Nor am I made to talk, nor he to fight.
In bloody fields I labour to be great;
His arms are a smooth tongue, and soft deceit:
Nor need I speak my deeds, for those you see,
The sun, and day are witnesses for me.
Let him who fights unseen, relate his own,
And vouch the silent stars, and conscious moon.
Great is the prize demanded, I confess,
But such an abject rival makes it less;
That gift, those honours, he but hop’d to gain,
Can leave no room for Ajax to be vain:
Losing he wins, because his name will be
Ennobled by defeat, who durst contend with me.
Were my known valour question’d, yet my blood
Without that plea wou’d make my title good:
My sire was Telamon, whose arms, employ’d
With Hercules, these Trojan walls destroy’d;
And who before with Jason sent from Greece,
In the first ship brought home the golden fleece.
Great Telamon from Aeacus derives
His birth (th’ inquisitor of guilty lives
In shades below; where Sisyphus, whose son
This thief is thought, rouls up the restless heavy
Just Aeacus, the king of Gods above
Begot: thus Ajax is the third from Jove.
Nor shou’d I seek advantage from my line,
Unless (Achilles) it was mix’d with thine:
As next of kin, Achilles’ arms I claim;
This fellow wou’d ingraft a foreign name
Upon our stock, and the Sisyphian seed
By fraud, and theft asserts his father’s breed:
Then must I lose these arms, because I came
To fight uncall’d, a voluntary name,
Nor shunn’d the cause, but offer’d you my aid?
While he long lurking was to war betray’d:
Forc’d to the field he came, but in the reer;
And feign’d distraction to conceal his fear:
‘Till one more cunning caught him in the snare
(Ill for himself); and dragg’d him into war.
Now let a hero’s arms a coward vest,
And he who shunn’d all honours, gain the best:
And let me stand excluded from my right,
Robb’d of my kinsman’s arms, who first appear’d in
Better for us, at home had he remain’d,
Had it been true the madness which he feign’d,
Or so believ’d; the less had been our shame,
The less his counsell’d crime, which brands the
Nor Philoctetes had been left inclos’d
In a bare isle, to wants and pains expos’d,
Where to the rocks, with solitary groans,
His suff’rings, and our baseness he bemoans:
And wishes (so may Heav’n his wish fulfill)
The due reward to him, who caus’d his ill.
Now he, with us to Troy’s destruction sworn,
Our brother of the war, by whom are born
Alcides’ arrows, pent in narrow bounds,
With cold and hunger pinch’d, and pain’d with
To find him food and cloathing, must employ
Against the birds the shafts due to the fate of
Yet still he lives, and lives from treason free,
Because he left Ulysses’ company;
Poor Palamede might wish, so void of aid,
Rather to have been left, than so to death
The coward bore the man immortal spight,
Who sham’d him out of madness into fight:
Nor daring otherwise to vent his hate,
Accus’d him first of treason to the state;
And then for proof produc’d the golden store,
Himself had hidden in his tent before:
Thus of two champions he depriv’d our host,
By exile one, and one by treason lost.
Thus fights Ulysses, thus his fame extends,
A formidable man, but to his friends:
Great, for what greatness is in words, and sound,
Ev’n faithful Nestor less in both is found:
But that he might without a rival reign,
He left this faithful Nestor on the plain;
Forsook his friend ev’n at his utmost need,
Who tir’d, and tardy with his wounded steed,
Cry’d out for aid, and call’d him by his name;
But cowardice has neither ears nor shame;
Thus fled the good old man, bereft of aid,
And, for as much as lay in him, betray’d:
That this is not a fable forg’d by me,
Like one of his, an Ulyssean lie,
I vouch ev’n Diomede, who tho’ his friend,
Cannot that act excuse, much less defend:
He call’d him back aloud, and tax’d his fear;
And sure enough he heard, but durst not hear.
The Gods with equal eyes on mortal look,
He justly was forsaken, who forsook:
Wanted that succour, he refus’d to lend,
Found ev’ry fellow such another friend:
No wonder, if he roar’d that all might hear;
His elocution was increas’d by fear:
I heard, I ran, I found him out of breath,
Pale, trembling, and half dead with fear of death.
Though he had judg’d himself by his own laws,
And stood condemn’d, I help’d the common cause:
With my broad buckler hid him from the foe
(Ev’n the shield trembled as he lay below);
And from impending Fate the coward freed:
Good Heav’n forgive me for so bad a deed!
If still he will persist, and urge the strife,
First let him give me back his forfeit life:
Let him return to that opprobrious field;
Again creep under my protecting shield:
Let him lie wounded, let the foe be near,
And let his quiv’ring heart confess his fear;
There put him in the very jaws of Fate;
And let him plead his cause in that estate:
And yet when snatch’d from death, when from below
My lifted shield I loos’d, and let him go;
Good Heav’ns, how light he rose, with what a bound
He sprung from earth, forgetful of his wound;
How fresh, how eager then his feet to ply;
Who had not strength to stand, had speed to fly!
Hector came on, and brought the Gods along;
Fear seiz’d alike the feeble, and the strong:
Each Greek was an Ulysses; such a dread
Th’ approach, and ev’n the sound of Hector bred:
Him, flesh’d with slaughter, and with conquest
I met, and over-turn’d him to the ground;
When after, matchless as he deem’d in might,
He challeng’d all our host to single fight;
All eyes were fix’d on me: the lots were thrown;
But for your champion I was wish’d alone:
Your vows were heard; we fought, and neither yield;
Yet I return’d unvanquish’d from the field.
With Jove to friend, th’ insulting Trojan came,
And menac’d us with force, our fleet with flame.
Was it the strength of this tongue-valiant lord,
In that black hour, that sav’d you from the sword?
Or was my breast expos’d alone, to brave
A thousand swords, a thousand ships to save?
The hopes of your return! And can you yield,
For a sav’d fleet, less than a single shield?
Think it no boast, o Grecians, if I deem
These arms want Ajax, more than Ajax them:
Or, I with them an equal honour share;
They honour’d to be worn, and I to wear.
Will he compare my courage with his sleight?
As well he may compare the day with night.
Night is indeed the province of his reign:
Yet all his dark exploits no more contain
Than a spy taken, and a sleeper slain;
A priest made pris’ner, Pallas made a prey:
But none of all these actions done by day:
Nor ought of these was done, and Diomede away.
If on such petty merits you confer
So vast a prize, let each his portion share;
Make a just dividend; and if not all,
The greater part to Diomede will fall.
But why for Ithacus such arms as those,
Who naked, and by night invades his foes?
The glitt’ring helm by moonlight will proclaim
The latent robber, and prevent his game:
Nor cou’d he hold his tott’ring head upright
Beneath that morion, or sustain the weight;
Nor that right arm cou’d toss the beamy lance;
Much less the left that ampler shield advance;
Pond’rous with precious weight, and rough with cost
Of the round world in rising gold emboss’d.
That orb would ill become his hand to wield,
And look as for the gold he stole the shield;
Which, shou’d your error on the wretch bestow,
It would not frighten, but allure the foe:
Why asks he, what avails him not in fight,
And wou’d but cumber, and retard his flight,
In which his only excellence is plac’d?
You give him death, that intercept his haste.
Add, that his own is yet a maiden-shield,
Nor the least dint has suffer’d in the field,
Guiltless of fight: mine batter’d, hew’d, and
Worn out of service, must forsake his lord,
What farther need of words our right to scan?
My arguments are deeds, let action speak the man.
Since from a champion’s arms the strife arose,
Go cast the glorious prize amid the foes;
Then send us to redeem both arms, and shield,
And let him wear, who wins ’em in the field.
He said: a murmur from a multitude,
Or somewhat like a stifled shout, ensu’d:
‘Till from his seat arose Laertes’ son,
Look’d down a while, and paus’d, e’er he begun;
Then, to th’ expecting audience, rais’d his look,
And not without prepar’d attention spoke:
Soft was his tone, and sober was his face;
Action his words, and words his action grace.
If Heav’n, my lords, had heard our common pray’r,
These arms had caus’d no quarrel for an heir;
Still great Achilles had his own possess’d,
And we with great Achilles had been bless’d;
But since hard Fate, and Heav’n’s severe decree,
Have ravish’d him away from you, and me
(At this he sigh’d, and wip’d his eyes, and drew,
Or seem’d to draw, some drops of kindly dew),
Who better can succeed Achilles lost,
Than he, who gave Achilles to your hoast?
This only I request, that neither he
May gain, by being what he seems to be,
A stupid thing; nor I may lose the prize,
By having sense, which Heav’n to him denies:
Since great or small, the talent I enjoy’d
Was ever in the common cause employ’d;
Nor let my wit, and wonted eloquence,
Which often has been us’d in your defense,
And in my own, this only time be brought
To bear against my self, and deem’d a fault.
Make not a crime, where Nature made it none;
For ev’ry man may freely use his own.
The deeds of long-descended ancestors
Are but by grace of imputation ours,
Theirs in effect; but since he draws his line
From Jove, and seems to plead a right divine;
From Jove, like him, I claim my pedigree,
And am descended in the same degree:
My sire Laertes was Arcesius’ heir,
Arcesius was the son of Jupiter:
No parricide, no banish’d man, is known
In all my line: let him excuse his own.
Hermes ennobles too my mother’s side,
By both my parents to the Gods ally’d.
But not because that on the female part
My blood is better, dare I claim desert,
Or that my sire from parricide is free;
But judge by merit betwixt him, and me:
The prize be to the best; provided yet
That Ajax for a while his kin forget,
And his great sire, and greater uncle’s name,
To fortifie by them his feeble claim:
Be kindred and relation laid aside,
And honour’s cause by laws of honour try’d:
For if he plead proximity of blood;
That empty title is with ease withstood.
Peleus, the hero’s sire, more nigh than he,
And Pyrrhus, his undoubted progeny,
Inherit first these trophies of the field;
To Scyros, or to Pthia, send the shield:
And Teucer has an uncle’s right; yet he
Waves his pretensions, nor contends with me.
Then since the cause on pure desert is plac’d,
Whence shall I take my rise, what reckon last?
I not presume on ev’ry act to dwell,
But take these few, in order as they fell.
Thetis, who knew the Fates, apply’d her care
To keep Achilles in disguise from war;
And ’till the threatning influence was past,
A woman’s habit on the hero cast:
All eyes were cozen’d by the borrow’d vest,
And Ajax (never wiser than the rest)
Found no Pelides there: at length I came
With proffer’d wares to this pretended dame;
She, not discover’d by her mien, or voice,
Betray’d her manhood by her manly choice;
And while on female toys her fellows look,
Grasp’d in her warlike hand, a javelin shook;
Whom, by this act reveal’d, I thus bespoke:
O Goddess-born! resist not Heav’n’s decree,
The fall of Ilium is reserv’d for thee;
Then seiz’d him, and produc’d in open light,
Sent blushing to the field the fatal knight.
Mine then are all his actions of the war;
Great Telephus was conquer’d by my spear,
And after cur’d: to me the Thebans owe,
Lesbos, and Tenedos, their overthrow;
Syros and Cylla: not on all to dwell,
By me Lyrnesus, and strong Chrysa fell:
And since I sent the man who Hector slew,
To me the noble Hector’s death is due:
Those arms I put into his living hand,
Those arms, Pelides dead, I now demand.
When Greece was injur’d in the Spartan prince,
And met at Aulis to avenge th’ offence,
‘Twas a dead calm, or adverse blasts, that reign’d,
And in the port the wind-bound fleet detain’d:
Bad signs were seen, and oracles severe
Were daily thunder’d in our gen’ral’s ear;
That by his daughter’s blood we must appease
Diana’s kindled wrath, and free the seas.
Affection, int’rest, fame, his heart assail’d:
But soon the father o’er the king prevail’d:
Bold, on himself he took the pious crime,
As angry with the Gods, as they with him.
No subject cou’d sustain their sov’reign’s look,
‘Till this hard enterprize I undertook:
I only durst th’ imperial pow’r controul,
And undermin’d the parent in his soul;
Forc’d him t’ exert the king for common good,
And pay our ransom with his daughter’s blood.
Never was cause more difficult to plead,
Than where the judge against himself decreed:
Yet this I won by dint of argument;
The wrongs his injur’d brother underwent,
And his own office, sham’d him to consent.
‘Tis harder yet to move the mother’s mind,
And to this heavy task was I design’d:
Reasons against her love I knew were vain;
I circumvented whom I could not gain:
Had Ajax been employ’d, our slacken’d sails
Had still at Aulis waited happy gales.
Arriv’d at Troy, your choice was fix’d on me,
A fearless envoy, fit for a bold embassy:
Secure, I enter’d through the hostile court,
Glitt’ring with steel, and crowded with resort:
There, in the midst of arms, I plead our cause,
Urge the foul rape, and violated laws;
Accuse the foes, as authors of the strife,
Reproach the ravisher, demand the wife.
Priam, Antenor, and the wiser few,
I mov’d; but Paris, and his lawless crew
Scarce held their hands, and lifted swords; but
In act to quench their impious thirst of blood:
This Menelaus knows; expos’d to share
With me the rough preludium of the war.
Endless it were to tell, what I have done,
In arms, or council, since the siege begun:
The first encounter’s past, the foe repell’d,
They skulk’d within the town, we kept the field.
War seem’d asleep for nine long years; at length
Both sides resolv’d to push, we try’d our strength
Now what did Ajax, while our arms took breath,
Vers’d only in the gross mechanick trade of death?
If you require my deeds, with ambush’d arms
I trapp’d the foe, or tir’d with false alarms;
Secur’d the ships, drew lines along the plain,
The fainting chear’d, chastis’d the rebel-train,
Provided forage, our spent arms renew’d;
Employ’d at home, or sent abroad, the common cause
The king, deluded in a dream by Jove,
Despair’d to take the town, and order’d to remove.
What subject durst arraign the Pow’r supream,
Producing Jove to justifie his dream?
Ajax might wish the soldiers to retain
From shameful flight, but wishes were in vain:
As wanting of effect had been his words,
Such as of course his thundring tongue affords.
But did this boaster threaten, did he pray,
Or by his own example urge their stay?
None, none of these: but ran himself away.
I saw him run, and was asham’d to see;
Who ply’d his feet so fast to get aboard, as he?
Then speeding through the place, I made a stand,
And loudly cry’d, O base degenerate band,
To leave a town already in your hand!
After so long expence of blood, for fame,
To bring home nothing, but perpetual shame!
These words, or what I have forgotten since
(For grief inspir’d me then with eloquence),
Reduc’d their minds; they leave the crowded port,
And to their late forsaken camp resort:
Dismay’d the council met: this man was there,
But mute, and not recover’d of his fear:
Thersites tax’d the king, and loudly rail’d,
But his wide opening mouth with blows I seal’d.
Then, rising, I excite their souls to fame,
And kindle sleeping virtue into flame.
From thence, whatever he perform’d in fight
Is justly mine, who drew him back from flight.
Which of the Grecian chiefs consorts with thee?
But Diomede desires my company,
And still communicates his praise with me.
As guided by a God, secure he goes,
Arm’d with my fellowship, amid the foes:
And sure no little merit I may boast,
Whom such a man selects from such an hoast;
Unforc’d by lots I went without affright,
To dare with him the dangers of the night:
On the same errand sent, we met the spy
Of Hector, double-tongu’d, and us’d to lie;
Him I dispatch’d, but not ’till undermin’d,
I drew him first to tell, what treach’rous Troy
My task perform’d, with praise I had retir’d,
But not content with this, to greater praise
Invaded Rhesus, and his Thracian crew,
And him, and his, in their own strength I slew;
Return’d a victor, all my vows compleat,
With the king’s chariot, in his royal seat:
Refuse me now his arms, whose fiery steeds
Were promis’d to the spy for his nocturnal deeds:
Yet let dull Ajax bear away my right,
When all his days out-balance this one night.
Nor fought I darkling still: the sun beheld
With slaughter’d Lycians when I strew’d the field:
You saw, and counted as I pass’d along,
Alastor, Chromius, Ceranos the strong,
Alcander, Prytanis, and Halius,
Noemon, Charopes, and Ennomus;
Coon, Chersidamas; and five beside,
Men of obscure descent, but courage try’d:
All these this hand laid breathless on the ground;
Nor want I proofs of many a manly wound:
All honest, all before: believe not me;
Words may deceive, but credit what you see.
At this he bar’d his breast, and show’d his
As of a furrow’d field, well plow’d with wars;
Nor is this part unexercis’d, said he;
That gyant-bulk of his from wounds is free:
Safe in his shield he fears no foe to try,
And better manages his blood, than I:
But this avails me not; our boaster strove
Not with our foes alone, but partial Jove,
To save the fleet: this I confess is true
(Nor will I take from any man his due):
But thus assuming all, he robs from you.
Some part of honour to your share will fall,
He did the best indeed, but did not all.
Patroclus in Achilles’ arms, and thought
The chief he seem’d, with equal ardour fought;
Preserv’d the fleet, repell’d the raging fire,
And forc’d the fearful Trojans to retire.
But Ajax boasts, that he was only thought
A match for Hector, who the combat sought:
Sure he forgets the king, the chiefs, and me:
All were as eager for the fight, as he:
He but the ninth, and not by publick voice,
Or ours preferr’d, was only Fortune’s choice:
They fought; nor can our hero boast th’ event,
For Hector from the field unwounded went.
Why am I forc’d to name that fatal day,
That snatch’d the prop and pride of Greece away?
I saw Pelides sink, with pious grief,
And ran in vain, alas! to his relief;
For the brave soul was fled: full of my friend
I rush’d amid the war, his relicks to defend:
Nor ceas’d my toil, ’till I redeem’d the prey,
And, loaded with Achilles, march’d away:
Those arms, which on these shoulders then I bore,
‘Tis just you to these shoulders should restore.
You see I want not nerves, who cou’d sustain
The pond’rous ruins of so great a man:
Or if in others equal force you find,
None is endu’d with a more grateful mind.
Did Thetis then, ambitious in her care,
These arms thus labour’d for her son prepare;
That Ajax after him the heav’nly gift shou’d wear!
For that dull soul to stare with stupid eyes,
On the learn’d unintelligible prize!
What are to him the sculptures of the shield,
Heav’n’s planets, Earth, and Ocean’s watry field?
The Pleiads, Hyads; less, and greater Bear,
Undipp’d in seas; Orion’s angry star;
Two diff’ring cities, grav’d on either hand;
Would he wear arms he cannot understand?
Beside, what wise objections he prepares
Against my late accession to the wars?
Does not the fool perceive his argument
Is with more force against Achilles bent?
For if dissembling be so great a crime,
The fault is common, and the same in him:
And if he taxes both of long delay,
My guilt is less, who sooner came away.
His pious mother, anxious for his life,
Detain’d her son; and me, my pious wife.
To them the blossoms of our youth were due,
Our riper manhood we reserv’d for you.
But grant me guilty, ’tis not much my care,
When with so great a man my guilt I share:
My wit to war the matchless hero brought,
But by this fool I never had been caught.
Nor need I wonder, that on me he threw
Such foul aspersions, when he spares not you:
If Palamede unjustly fell by me,
Your honour suffer’d in th’ unjust decree:
I but accus’d, you doom’d: and yet he dy’d,
Convinc’d of treason, and was fairly try’d:
You heard not he was false; your eyes beheld
The traytor manifest; the bribe reveal’d.
That Philoctetes is on Lemnos left,
Wounded, forlorn, of human aid bereft,
Is not my crime, or not my crime alone;
Defend your justice, for the fact’s your own:
‘Tis true, th’ advice was mine; that staying there
He might his weary limbs with rest repair,
From a long voyage free, and from a longer war.
He took the counsl, and he lives at least;
Th’ event declares I counsell’d for the best:
Though faith is all in ministers of state;
For who can promise to be fortunate?
Now since his arrows are the Fate of Troy,
Do not my wit, or weak address, employ;
Send Ajax there, with his persuasive sense,
To mollifie the man, and draw him thence:
But Xanthus shall run backward; Ida stand
A leafless mountain; and the Grecian band
Shall fight for Troy; if, when my councils fail,
The wit of heavy Ajax can prevail.
Hard Philoctetes, exercise thy spleen
Against thy fellows, and the king of men;
Curse my devoted head, above the rest,
And wish in arms to meet me breast to breast:
Yet I the dang’rous task will undertake,
And either die my self, or bring thee back.
Nor doubt the same success, as when before
The Phrygian prophet to these tents I bore,
Surpriz’d by night, and forc’d him to declare
In what was plac’d the fortune of the war,
Heav’n’s dark decrees, and answers to display,
And how to take the town, and where the secret lay:
Yet this I compass’d, and from Troy convey’d
The fatal image of their guardian-maid;
That work was mine; for Pallas, though our friend,
Yet while she was in Troy, did Troy defend.
Now what has Ajax done, or what design’d?
A noisie nothing, and an empty wind.
If he be what he promises in show,
Why was I sent, and why fear’d he to go?
Our boasting champion thought the task not light
To pass the guards, commit himself to night;
Not only through a hostile town to pass,
But scale, with steep ascent, the sacred place;
With wand’ring steps to search the cittadel,
And from the priests their patroness to steal:
Then through surrounding foes to force my way,
And bear in triumph home the heavn’ly prey;
Which had I not, Ajax in vain had held,
Before that monst’rous bulk, his sev’nfold shield.
That night to conquer Troy I might be said,
When Troy was liable to conquest made.
Why point’st thou to my partner of the war?
Tydides had indeed a worthy share
In all my toil, and praise; but when thy might
Our ships protected, did’st thou singly fight?
All join’d, and thou of many wert but one;
I ask’d no friend, nor had, but him alone:
Who, had he not been well assur’d, that art,
And conduct were of war the better part,
And more avail’d than strength, my valiant friend
Had urg’d a better right, than Ajax can pretend:
As good at least Eurypilus may claim,
And the more mod’rate Ajax of the name:
The Cretan king, and his brave charioteer,
And Menelaus bold with sword, and spear:
All these had been my rivals in the shield,
And yet all these to my pretensions yield.
Thy boist’rous hands are then of use, when I
With this directing head those hands apply.
Brawn without brain is thine: my prudent care
Foresees, provides, administers the war:
Thy province is to fight; but when shall be
The time to fight, the king consults with me:
No dram of judgment with thy force is join’d:
Thy body is of profit, and my mind.
By how much more the ship her safety owes
To him who steers, than him that only rows;
By how much more the captain merits praise,
Than he who fights, and fighting but obeys;
By so much greater is my worth than thine,
Who canst but execute, what I design.
What gain’st thou, brutal man, if I confess
Thy strength superior, when thy wit is less?
Mind is the man: I claim my whole desert,
From the mind’s vigour, and th’ immortal part.
But you, o Grecian chiefs, reward my care,
Be grateful to your watchman of the war:
For all my labours in so long a space,
Sure I may plead a title to your grace:
Enter the town, I then unbarr’d the gates,
When I remov’d their tutelary Fates.
By all our common hopes, if hopes they be
Which I have now reduc’d to certainty;
By falling Troy, by yonder tott’ring tow’rs,
And by their taken Gods, which now are ours;
Or if there yet a farther task remains,
To be perform’d by prudence, or by pains;
If yet some desp’rate action rests behind,
That asks high conduct, and a dauntless mind;
If ought be wanting to the Trojan doom,
Which none but I can manage, and o’ercome,
Award, those arms I ask, by your decree:
Or give to this, what you refuse to me.
He ceas’d: and ceasing with respect he bow’d,
And with his hand at once the fatal statue show’d.
Heav’n, air and ocean rung, with loud applause,
And by the gen’ral vote he gain’d his cause.
Thus conduct won the prize, when courage fail’d,
And eloquence o’er brutal force prevail’d.
The Death of He who cou’d often, and alone, withstand
Ajax The foe, the fire, and Jove’s own partial hand,
Now cannot his unmaster’d grief sustain,
But yields to rage, to madness, and disdain;
Then snatching out his fauchion, Thou, said he,
Art mine; Ulysses lays no claim to thee.
O often try’d, and ever-trusty sword,
Now do thy last kind office to thy lord:
‘Tis Ajax who requests thy aid, to show
None but himself, himself cou’d overthrow:
He said, and with so good a will to die,
Did to his breast the fatal point apply,
It found his heart, a way ’till then unknown,
Where never weapon enter’d, but his own.
No hands cou’d force it thence, so fix’d it stood,
‘Till out it rush’d, expell’d by streams of
The fruitful blood produc’d a flow’r, which grew
On a green stem; and of a purple hue:
Like his, whom unaware Apollo slew:
Inscrib’d in both, the letters are the same,
But those express the grief, and these the name.
The Story of The victor with full sails for Lemnos stood
Polyxena and (Once stain’d by matrons with their husbands’
Thence great Alcides’ fatal shafts to bear,
Assign’d to Philoctetes’ secret care.
These with their guardian to the Greeks convey’d,
Their ten years’ toil with wish’d success repaid.
With Troy old Priam falls: his queen survives;
‘Till all her woes compleat, transform’d she
In borrow’d sounds, nor with an human face,
Barking tremendous o’er the plains of Thrace.
Still Ilium’s flames their pointed columns raise,
And the red Hellespont reflects the blaze.
Shed on Jove’s altar are the poor remains
Of blood, which trickl’d from old Priam’s veins.
Cassandra lifts her hands to Heav’n in vain,
Drag’d by her sacred hair; the trembling train
Of matrons to their burning temples fly:
There to their Gods for kind protection cry;
And to their statues cling ’till forc’d away,
The victor Greeks bear off th’ invidious prey.
From those high tow’rs Astyanax is thrown,
Whence he was wont with pleasure to look down.
When oft his mother with a fond delight
Pointed to view his father’s rage in fight,
To win renown, and guard his country’s right.
The winds now call to sea; brisk northern gales
Sing in the shrowds, and court the spreading sails.
Farewel, dear Troy, the captive matrons cry;
Yes, we must leave our long-lov’d native sky.
Then prostrate on the shore they kiss the sand,
And quit the smoking ruines of the land.
Last Hecuba on board, sad sight! appears;
Found weeping o’er her children’s sepulchres:
Drag’d by Ulysses from her slaughter’d sons,
Whilst yet she graspt their tombs, and kist their
Yet Hector’s ashes from his urn she bore,
And in her bosom the sad relique wore:
Then scatter’d on his tomb her hoary hairs,
A poor oblation mingled with her tears.
Oppos’d to Ilium lye the Thracian plains,
Where Polymestor safe in plenty reigns.
King Priam to his care commits his son,
Young Polydore, the chance of war to shun.
A wise precaution! had not gold, consign’d
For the child’s use, debauch’d the tyrant’s mind.
When sinking Troy to its last period drew,
With impious hands his royal charge he slew;
Then in the sea the lifeless coarse is thrown;
As with the body he the guilt could drown.
The Greeks now riding on the Thracian shore,
‘Till kinder gales invite, their vessels moor.
Here the wide-op’ning Earth to sudden view
Disclos’d Achilles, great as when he drew
The vital air, but fierce with proud disdain,
As when he sought Briseis to regain;
When stern debate, and rash injurious strife
Unsheath’d his sword, to reach Atrides’ life.
And will ye go? he said. Is then the name
Of the once great Achilles lost to fame?
Yet stay, ungrateful Greeks; nor let me sue
In vain for honours to my Manes due.
For this just end, Polyxena I doom
With victim-rites to grace my slighted tomb.
The phantom spoke; the ready Greeks obey’d,
And to the tomb led the devoted maid
Snatch’d from her mother, who with pious care
Cherish’d this last relief of her despair.
Superior to her sex, the fearless maid,
Approach’d the altar, and around survey’d
The cruel rites, and consecrated knife,
Which Pyrrhus pointed at her guiltless life,
Then as with stern amaze intent he stood,
“Now strike,” she said; “now spill my genr’ous
Deep in my breast, or throat, your dagger sheath,
Whilst thus I stand prepar’d to meet my death.
For life on terms of slav’ry I despise:
Yet sure no God approves this sacrifice.
O cou’d I but conceal this dire event
From my sad mother, I should dye content.
Yet should she not with tears my death deplore,
Since her own wretched life demands them more.
But let not the rude touch of man pollute
A virgin-victim; ’tis a modest suit.
It best will please, whoe’er demands my blood,
That I untainted reach the Stygian flood.
Yet let one short, last, dying prayer be heard;
To Priam’s daughter pay this last regard;
‘Tis Priam’s daughter, not a captive, sues;
Do not the rites of sepulture refuse.
To my afflicted mother, I implore,
Free without ransom my dead corpse restore:
Nor barter me for gain, when I am cold;
But be her tears the price, if I am sold:
Time was she could have ransom’d me with gold”.
Thus as she pray’d, one common shower of tears
Burst forth, and stream’d from ev’ry eye but hers.
Ev’n the priest wept, and with a rude remorse
Plung’d in her heart the steel’s resistless force.
Her slacken’d limbs sunk gently to the ground,
Dauntless her looks, unalter’d by the wound.
And as she fell, she strove with decent pride
To hide, what suits a virgin’s care to hide.
The Trojan matrons the pale corpse receive,
And the whole slaughter’d race of Priam grieve,
Sad they recount the long disastrous tale;
Then with fresh tears, thee, royal maid, bewail;
Thy widow’d mother too, who flourish’d late
The royal pride of Asia’s happier state:
A captive lot now to Ulysses born;
Whom yet the victor would reject with scorn,
Were she not Hector’s mother: Hector’s fame
Scarce can a master for his mother claim!
With strict embrace the lifeless coarse she view’d;
And her fresh grief that flood of tears renew’d,
With which she lately mourn’d so many dead;
Tears for her country, sons, and husband shed.
With the thick gushing stream she bath’d the wound;
Kiss’d her pale lips; then weltring on the ground,
With wonted rage her frantick bosom tore;
Sweeping her hair amidst the clotted gore;
Whilst her sad accents thus her loss deplore.
“Behold a mother’s last dear pledge of woe!
Yes, ’tis the last I have to suffer now.
Thou, my Polyxena, my ills must crown:
Already in thy Fate, I feel my own.
‘Tis thus, lest haply of my numerous seed
One should unslaughter’d fall, even thou must
And yet I hop’d thy sex had been thy guard;
But neither has thy tender sex been spar’d.
The same Achilles, by whose deadly hate
Thy brothers fell, urg’d thy untimely fate!
The same Achilles, whose destructive rage
Laid waste my realms, has robb’d my childless age.
When Paris’ shafts with Phoebus’ certain aid
At length had pierc’d this dreaded chief, I said,
Secure of future ills, he can no more:
But see, he still pursues me as before.
With rage rekindled his dead ashes burn;
And his yet murd’ring ghost my wretched house must
This tyrant’s lust of slaughter I have fed
With large supplies from my too-fruitful bed.
Troy’s tow’rs lye waste; and the wide ruin ends
The publick woe; but me fresh woe attends.
Troy still survives to me; to none but me;
And from its ills I never must be free.
I, who so late had power, and wealth, and ease,
Bless’d with my husband, and a large encrease,
Must now in poverty an exile mourn;
Ev’n from the tombs of my dead offspring torn:
Giv’n to Penelope, who proud of spoil,
Allots me to the loom’s ungrateful toil;
Points to her dames, and crys with scorning mien:
See Hector’s mother, and great Priam’s queen!
And thou, my child, sole hope of all that’s lost,
Thou now art slain, to sooth this hostile ghost.
Yes, my child falls an offering to my foe!
Then what am I, who still survive this woe?
Say, cruel Gods! for what new scenes of death
Must a poor aged wretch prolong this hated breath?
Troy fal’n, to whom could Priam happy seem?
Yet was he so; and happy must I deem
His death; for O! my child, he saw not thine,
When he his life did with his Troy resign.
Yet sure due obsequies thy tomb might grace;
And thou shalt sleep amidst thy kingly race.
Alas! my child, such fortune does not wait
Our suffering house in this abandon’d state.
A foreign grave, and thy poor mother’s tears
Are all the honours that attend thy herse.
All now is lost!- Yet no; one comfort more
Of life remains, my much-lov’d Polydore.
My youngest hope: here on this coast he lives,
Nurs’d by the guardian-king, he still survives.
Then let me hasten to the cleansing flood,
And wash away these stains of guiltless blood.”
Streit to the shore her feeble steps repair
With limping pace, and torn dishevell’d hair
Silver’d with age. “Give me an urn,” she cry’d,
“To bear back water from this swelling tide”:
When on the banks her son in ghastly hue
Transfix’d with Thracian arrows strikes her view.
The matrons shriek’d; her big-swoln grief surpast
The pow’r of utterance; she stood aghast;
She had nor speech, nor tears to give relief;
Excess of woe suppress’d the rising grief.
Lifeless as stone, on Earth she fix’d her eyes;
And then look’d up to Heav’n with wild surprise.
Now she contemplates o’er with sad delight
Her son’s pale visage; then her aking sight
Dwells on his wounds: she varys thus by turns,
Wild as the mother-lion, when among
The haunts of prey she seeks her ravish’d young:
Swift flies the ravisher; she marks his trace,
And by the print directs her anxious chase.
So Hecuba with mingled grief, and rage
Pursues the king, regardless of her age.
She greets the murd’rer with dissembled joy
Of secret treasure hoarded for her boy.
The specious tale th’ unwary king betray’d.
Fir’d with the hopes of prey: “Give quick,” he said
With soft enticing speech, “the promis’d store:
Whate’er you give, you give to Polydore.
Your son, by the immortal Gods I swear,
Shall this with all your former bounty share.”
She stands attentive to his soothing lyes,
And darts avenging horrour from her eyes.
Then full resentment fires her boyling blood:
She springs upon him, ‘midst the captive crowd
(Her thirst of vengeance want of strength
Fastens her forky fingers in his eyes:
Tears out the rooted balls; her rage pursues,
And in the hollow orbs her hand imbrews.
The Thracians, fir’d, at this inhuman scene,
With darts, and stones assail the frantick queen.
She snarls, and growls, nor in an human tone;
Then bites impatient at the bounding stone;
Extends her jaws, as she her voice would raise
To keen invectives in her wonted phrase;
But barks, and thence the yelping brute betrays.
Still a sad monument the place remains,
And from this monstrous change its name obtains:
Where she, in long remembrance of her ills,
With plaintive howlings the wide desart fills.
Greeks, Trojans, friends, and foes, and Gods
Her num’rous wrongs to just compassion move.
Ev’n Juno’s self forgets her ancient hate,
And owns, she had deserv’d a milder fate.
The Funeral of Yet bright Aurora, partial as she was
Memnon To Troy, and those that lov’d the Trojan cause,
Nor Troy, nor Hecuba can now bemoan,
But weeps a sad misfortune, more her own.
Her offspring Memnon, by Achilles slain,
She saw extended on the Phrygian plain:
She saw, and strait the purple beams, that grace
The rosie morning, vanish’d from her face;
A deadly pale her wonted bloom invades,
And veils the lowring skies with mournful shades.
But when his limbs upon the pile were laid,
The last kind duty that by friends is paid,
His mother to the skies directs her flight,
Nor cou’d sustain to view the doleful sight:
But frantick, with her loose neglected hair,
Hastens to Jove, and falls a suppliant there.
O king of Heav’n, o father of the skies,
The weeping Goddess passionately cries,
Tho’ I the meanest of immortals am,
And fewest temples celebrate my fame,
Yet still a Goddess, I presume to come
Within the verge of your etherial dome:
Yet still may plead some merit, if my light
With purple dawn controuls the Pow’rs of night;
If from a female hand that virtue springs,
Which to the Gods, and men such pleasure brings.
Yet I nor honours seek, nor rites divine,
Nor for more altars, or more fanes repine;
Oh! that such trifles were the only cause,
From whence Aurora’s mind its anguish draws!
For Memnon lost, my dearest only child,
With weightier grief my heavy heart is fill’d;
My warrior son! that liv’d but half his time,
Nipt in the bud, and blasted in his prime;
Who for his uncle early took the field,
And by Achilles’ fatal spear was kill’d.
To whom but Jove shou’d I for succour come?
For Jove alone cou’d fix his cruel doom.
O sov’reign of the Gods accept my pray’r,
Grant my request, and sooth a mother’s care;
On the deceas’d some solemn boon bestow,
To expiate the loss, and ease my woe.
Jove, with a nod, comply’d with her desire;
Around the body flam’d the fun’ral fire;
The pile decreas’d, that lately seem’d so high,
And sheets of smoak roll’d upward to the sky:
As humid vapours from a marshy bog,
Rise by degrees, condensing into fog,
That intercept the sun’s enliv’ning ray,
And with a cloud infect the chearful day.
The sooty ashes wafted by the air,
Whirl round, and thicken in a body there;
Then take a form, which their own heat, and fire
With active life, and energy inspire.
Its lightness makes it seem to fly, and soon
It skims on real wings, that are its own;
A real bird, it beats the breezy wind,
Mix’d with a thousand sisters of the kind,
That, from the same formation newly sprung,
Up-born aloft on plumy pinions hung.
Thrice round the pile advanc’d the circling throng.
Thrice, with their wings, a whizzing consort rung.
In the fourth flight their squadron they divide,
Rank’d in two diff’rent troops, on either side:
Then two, and two, inspir’d with martial rage,
From either troop in equal pairs engage.
Each combatant with beak, and pounces press’d,
In wrathful ire, his adversary’s breast;
Each falls a victim, to preserve the fame
Of that great hero, whence their being came.
From him their courage, and their name they take,
And, as they liv’d, they dye for Memnon’s sake.
Punctual to time, with each revolving year,
In fresh array the champion birds appear;
Again, prepar’d with vengeful minds, they come
To bleed, in honour of the souldier’s tomb.
Therefore in others it appear’d not strange,
To grieve for Hecuba’s unhappy change:
But poor Aurora had enough to do
With her own loss, to mind another’s woe;
Who still in tears, her tender nature shews,
Besprinkling all the world with pearly dews.
The Voyage of Troy thus destroy’d, ’twas still deny’d by Fate,
Aeneas The hopes of Troy should perish with the state.
His sire, the son of Cytherea bore,
And household-Gods from burning Ilium’s shore,
The pious prince (a double duty paid)
Each sacred burthen thro’ the flames convey’d.
With young Ascanius, and this only prize,
Of heaps of wealth, he from Antandros flies;
But struck with horror, left the Thracian shore,
Stain’d with the blood of murder’d Polydore.
The Delian isle receives the banish’d train,
Driv’n by kind gales, and favour’d by the main.
Here pious Anius, priest, and monarch reign’d,
And either charge, with equal care sustain’d,
His subjects rul’d, to Phoebus homage pay’d,
His God obeying, and by those obey’d.
The priest displays his hospitable gate,
And shows the riches of his church, and state
The sacred shrubs, which eas’d Latona’s pain,
The palm, and olive, and the votive fane.
Here grateful flames with fuming incense fed,
And mingled wine, ambrosial odours shed;
Of slaughter’d steers the crackling entrails
And then the strangers to the court return’d.
On beds of tap’stry plac’d aloft, they dine
With Ceres’ gift, and flowing bowls of wine;
When thus Anchises spoke, amidst the feast:
Say, mitred monarch, Phoebus’ chosen priest,
Or (e’er from Troy by cruel Fate expell’d)
When first mine eyes these sacred walls beheld,
A son, and twice two daughters crown’d thy bliss?
Or errs my mem’ry, and I judge amiss?
The royal prophet shook his hoary head,
With snowy fillets bound, and sighing, said:
Thy mem’ry errs not, prince; thou saw’st me then,
The happy father of so large a train;
Behold me now (such turns of chance befall
The race of man!), almost bereft of all.
For (ah!) what comfort can my son bestow,
What help afford, to mitigate my woe!
While far from hence, in Andros’ isle he reigns,
(From him so nam’d) and there my place sustains.
Him Delius praescience gave; the twice-born God
A boon more wond’rous on the maids bestow’d.
Whate’er they touch’d, he gave them to transmute
(A gift past credit, and above their suit)
To Ceres, Bacchus, and Minerva’s fruit.
How great their value, and how rich their use,
Whose only touch such treasures could produce!
The dire destroyer of the Trojan reign,
Fierce Agamemnon, such a prize to gain
(A proof we also were design’d by Fate
To feel the tempest, that o’erturn’d your state),
With force superior, and a ruffian crew,
From these weak arms, the helpless virgins drew:
And sternly bad them use the grant divine,
To keep the fleet in corn, and oil, and wine.
Each, as they could, escap’d: two strove to gain
Euboea’s isle, and two their brother’s reign.
The soldier follows, and demands the dames;
If held by force, immediate war proclaims.
Fear conquer’d Nature in their brother’s mind,
And gave them up to punishment assign’d.
Forgive the deed; nor Hector’s arm was there,
Nor thine, Aeneas, to maintain the war;
Whose only force upheld your Ilium’s tow’rs,
For ten long years, against the Grecian pow’rs.
Prepar’d to bind their captive arms in bands,
To Heav’n they rear’d their yet unfetter’d hands,
Help, Bacchus, author of the gift, they pray’d;
The gift’s great author gave immediate aid;
If such destruction of their human frame
By ways so wond’rous, may deserve the name;
Nor could I hear, nor can I now relate
Exact, the manner of their alter’d state;
But this in gen’ral of my loss I knew,
Transform’d to doves, on milky plumes they flew,
Such as on Ida’s mount thy consort’s chariot drew.
With such discourse, they entertain’d the feast;
Then rose from table, and withdrew to rest.
The following morn, ere Sol was seen to shine,
Th’ inquiring Trojans sought the sacred shrine;
The mystick Pow’r commands them to explore
Their ancient mother, and a kindred shore.
Attending to the sea, the gen’rous prince
Dismiss’d his guests with rich munificence,
In old Anchises’ hand a sceptre plac’d,
A vest, and quiver young Ascanius grac’d,
His sire, a cup; which from th’ Aonian coast,
Ismenian Therses sent his royal host.
Alcon of Myle made what Therses sent,
And carv’d thereon this ample argument.
A town with sev’n distinguish’d gates was shown,
Which spoke its name, and made the city known;
Before it, piles, and tombs, and rising flames,
The rites of death, and quires of mourning dames,
Who bar’d their breasts, and gave their hair to
The signs of grief, and marks of publick woe.
Their fountains dry’d, the weeping Naiads mourn’d,
The trees stood bare, with searing cankers burn’d,
No herbage cloath’d the ground, a ragged flock
Of goats half-famish’d, lick’d the naked rock,
Of manly courage, and with mind serene,
Orion’s daughters in the town were seen;
One heav’d her chest to meet the lifted knife,
One plung’d the poyniard thro’ the seat of life,
Their country’s victims; mourns the rescu’d state,
The bodies burns, and celebrates their Fate.
To save the failure of th’ illustrious line,
From the pale ashes rose, of form divine,
Two gen’rous youths; these, fame Coronae calls,
Who join the pomp,
Ovid - Metamorphoses: Book The Thirteenth
THE chiefs were set; the soldiers crown’d the