Графични страници
PDF файл

The empty forms of men inhabit there,
Impassive semblance, images of air !
Naught else are all that shined on earth before ;
Ajax and great Achilles are no more!
Yet still a master ghost, the rest he awed, 25
The rest adored him, towering as he trod;
Still at his side is Nestor's son survey'd,
And loved Patroclus still attends his shade.

New as they were to that infernal shore,
The suitors stopp'd, and gazed the hero o'er. 30
When, moving slow, the regal form they view'd
Of great Atrides : him in pomp pursued
And solemn sadness through the gloom of hell,
The train of those who by Ægysthus fell.

“ Oh mighty chief !” Pelides thus began, 35 “ Honour'd by Jove above the lot of man! King of a hundred kings! to whom resign'd The strongest, bravest, greatest of mankind, Comest thou the first, to view this dreary state? And was the noblest, the first mark of fate, 40 Condemn'd to pay the great arrear so soon, The lot, which all lament, and none can shun! Oh! better hadst thou sunk in Trojan ground, With all thy full-blown honours cover'd round; Then grateful Greece with streaming eyes might raise

45 Historic marbles to record thy praise: Thy praise eternal on the faithful stone Had with transmissive glories graced thy son. But heavier fates were destined to attend : What man is happy, till he knows his end !" 50

“Oh son of Peleus! greater than mankind !" Thus Agamemnon's kingly shade rejoin'd; “Thrice happy thou, to press the martial plain Mid heaps of heroes in thy quarrel slain : In clouds of smoke raised by the noble fray, 55 Great and terrific ev'n in death you lay, And deluges of blood flow'd round you every way.


Nor ceased the strife till Jove himself opposed,
And all in tempests the dire evening closed.
Then to the fleet we bore thy honour'd load, 60
And decent on the funeral bed bestow'd :
Then unguents sweet and tepid streams we shed;
Tears flow'd from every eye, and o'er the dead
Each clipp'd the curling honours of his head.
Struck at the news, thy azure mother came: 65
The sea-green sisters waited on the dame :
A voice of loud lament through all the main
Was heard ; and terror seized the Grecian train:
Back to their ships the frighted host had fled;
But Nestor spoke, they listen’d and obey'd.

70 (From old experience Nestor's counsel springs, And long vicissitudes of human things.)

Forbear your flight: fair Thetis froin the main To mourn Achilles leads her azure train.' Around thee stand the daughters of the deep, 75 Robe thee in heavenly vests, and round thee weep; Round thee, the muses, with alternate strain, In ever-consecrating verse, complain. Each warlike Greek the moving music hears, And iron-hearted heroes melt in tears. Till seventeen nights and seventeen days return'd, All that was mortal or immortal mourn'd. To flames we gave thee, the succeeding day, And fatted sheep, and sable oxen slay ; With oils and honey blaze the augmented fires, 85 And, like a god adorn'd, thy earthly part expires. Unnumber'd warriors round the burning pile Urge the fleet courser's or the racer's toil; Thick clouds of dust o'er all the circle rise, And the mix'd clamour thunders in the skies. 90 Soon as absorb’d in all embracing flame Sunk what was mortal of thy mighty name, We then collect thy snowy bones, and place With wines and unguents in a golden vase: (The vase to Thetis Bacchus gave of old, 95 And Vulcan's art enrich'd the sculptured gold.)


[ocr errors]

There we thy relics, great Achilles ! blend
With dear Patroclus, thy departed friend :
In the same urn a separate space contains
Thy next beloved, Antilochus' remains.

Now all the sons of warlike Greece surround
Thy destined tomb, and cast a mighty mound:
High on the shore the growing hill we raise,
That wide the extended Hellespont surveys;
Where all, from age to age, who pass the coast, 105
May point Achilles' tomb, and hail the mighty ghost.
Thetis herself to all our peers proclaims
Heroic prizes and exequial games;
The gods assented; and around thee lay
Rich spoils and gifts that blazed against the day. 110
Oft have I seen with solemn funeral games
Heroes and kings committed to the flames;
But strength of youth, or valour of the brave,
With nobler contest ne'er renown'd a grave.
Such were the games by azure Thetis given, 115
And such thy honours, oh beloved of Heaven!
Dear to mankind thy fame survives, nor fades
Its bloom eternal in the Stygian shades.
But what to me avail my honours gone,
Successful toils, and battles bravely won ? 120
Doom'd by stern Jove at home to end my life,
By cursed Ægysthus, and a faithless wise !"

Thus they : while Hermes o'er the dreary plain
Led the sad numbers by Ulysses slain.
On each majestic form they cast a view, 125
And timorous pass'd, and awfully withdrew.
But Agamemnon, through the gloomy shade,
His ancient host Amphimedon survey'd ;
“ Son of Melanthius !” he began, “oh say!
What cause compellid so many, and so gay, 130
To tread the downward, melancholy way?
Say, could one city yield a troop so fair?
Were all these partners of one native air ?
Or did the rage of stormy Neptune sweep
Your lives at once, and whelm beneath the deep? 135

[ocr errors]

Did nightly thieves, or pirates' cruel bands,
Drench with your blood your pillaged country's

Or well-defending some beleaguer'd wall,
Say, for the public did ye greatly fall?
Inform thy guest: for such I was of yore 140
When our triumphant navies touch'd your shore;
Forced a long month the wintry seas to bear,
To move the great Ulysses to the war.

“Oh king of men! I faithful shall relate," Replied Amphimedon, " our hapless fate. 145 Ulysses absent, our ambitious aim With rival loves pursued his royal dame ; Her coy reserve, and prudence mix'd with pride, Our common suit nor granted, nor denied ; But close with inward hate our deaths design'd ; 150 Versed in all arts of wily woman kind. Her hand, laborious, in delusion spread A spacious loom, and mix'd the various thread. • Ye peers,' she cried, 'who press to gain my heart, Where dead Ulysses claims no more a part, 155 Yet a short space your rival suit suspend, Till this funereal web my labours end : Cease, till to good Laertes I bequeath A task of grief, his ornaments of death : Lest, when the fates his royal ashes claim, 160 The Grecian matrons taint my spotless fame ; Should he, long honour'd with supreme command, Want the last duties of a daughter's hand.'

“ The fiction pleased, our generous train complies, Nor fraud mistrusts in virtue's fair disguise. 165 The work she plied, but studious of delay, Each following night reversed the toils of day. Unheard, unseen, three years her arts prevail; The fourth, her maid reveal'd the amazing tale, And show'd, as unperceived we took our stand, 170 The backward labours of her faithless hand. Forced, she completes it; and before us lay

The mingled web, whose gold and silver ray
Display'd the radiance of the night and day.

“Just as she finish'd her illustrious toil, 175
Ill fortune led Ulysses to our isle.
Far in a lonely nook, beside the sea,
At an old swineherd's rural lodge he lay:
Thither his son from sandy Pyle repairs,
And speedy lands, and secretly confers. 180
They plan our future ruin, and resort
Confederate to the city and the court.
First came the son; the father next succeeds,
Clad like a beggar, whom Eumæus leads;
Propp'd on a staff, deform'd with age and care, 185
And hung with rags that flutter'd in the air.
Who could Ulysses in that form behold?
Scorn’d by the young, forgotten by the old,
Ill used by all ! to every wrong resign'd,
Patient he suffer'd with a constant mind.

190 But when, arising in his wrath to obey The will of Jove, he gave the vengeance way; The scatter'd arms that hung around the dome Careful he treasured in a private room : Then to her suitors bade his queen propose 195 The archer's strife, the source of future woes, And omen of our death! In vain we drew The twanging string, and tried the stubborn yew : To none it yields but great Ulysses' hands; In vain we threat ; Telemachus commands: 200 The bow he snatch'd, and in an instant bent; Through every ring the victor arrow went. Fierce on the threshold then in arms he stood; Pour'd forth the darts that thirsted for our blood, And frown'd before us, dreadful as a god! 205 First bleeds Antinous; thick the shafts resound; And heaps on heaps the wretches strew the ground ; This way, and that, we turn, we fly, we fall; Some god assisted, and unmann'd us all : Ignoble cries precede the dying groans;

210 ind batter'd brains and blood besmear the stones.

« ПредишнаНапред »