THE ILIAD, BOOK XII - Edgar Allan Poe Poems

 
 

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THE ILIAD, BOOK XII

Furious he spoke, and rushing to the wall,
Calls on his host; his host obey the call;
With ardour follow where their leader flies:
Redoubling clamours thunder in the skies.
Jove breathes a whirlwind from the hills of Ide,
And drifts of dust the clouded navy hide;
He fills the Greeks with terror and dismay,
And gives great Hector the predestined day.
Strong in themselves, but stronger in his aid,
Close to the works their rigid siege they laid.
In vain the mounds and massy beams defend,
While these they undermine, and those they rend;
Upheave the piles that prop the solid wall;
And heaps on heaps the smoaky ruins fall.
Greece on her ramparts stands the fierce alarms;
The crowded bulwarks blaze with waving arms,
Shield touching shield, a long refulgent row;
Whence hissing darts, incessant, rain below.
The bold Ajaces fly from tow'r to tow'r,
And rouze, with flame divine, the Grecian pow'r.
The gen'rous impulse ev'ry Greek obeys;
Threats urge the fearful; and the valiant, praise.

Fellows in arms! whose deeds are known to fame,
And you whose ardour hopes an equal name!
Since not alike endu'd with force or art,
Behold a day when each may act his part!
A day to fire the brave, and warm the cold,
To gain new glories, or augment the old.
Urge those who stand, and those who faint excite;
Drown Hector's vaunts in loud exhorts of fight;
Conquest, not safety, fill the thoughts of all;
Seek not your fleet, but sally from the wall;
So Jove once more may drive their routed train,
And Troy lie trembling in her walls again.

Their ardour kindles all the Grecian pow'rs;
And now the stones descend in heavier show'rs.
As when high Jove his sharp artill'ry forms,
And opes his cloudy magazine of storms;
In winter's bleak uncomfortable reign,
A snowy inundation hides the plain;
He stills the winds, and bids the skies to sleep;
Then pours the silent tempest, thick, and deep;
And first the mountain tops are cover'd o'er,
Then the green fields, and then the sandy shore;
Bent with the weight the nodding woods are seen,
And one bright waste hides all the works of men:
The circling seas alone absorbing all,
Drink the dissolving fleeces as they fall.
So from each side increas'd the stony rain,
And the white ruin rises o'er the plain.

Thus god-like Hector and his troops contend
To force the ramparts, and the gates to rend:
Nor Troy could conquer, nor the Greeks would yield,
Till great Sarpedon tow'r'd amid the field;
For mighty Jove inspir'd with martial flame
His matchless son, and urg'd him on to fame.
In arms he shines, conspicuous from afar,
And bears aloft his ample shield in air;
Within whose orb the thick bull-hides were roll'd,
Pond'rous with brass, and bound with ductile gold:
And while two pointed javelins arm his hands,
Majestic moves along, and leads his Lycian bands.

So press'd with hunger, from the mountain's brow
Descends a lion on the flocks below;
So stalks the lordly savage o'er the plain,
In sullen majesty, and stern disdain:
In vain loud mastives bay him from afar,
And shepherds gall him with an iron war;
Regardless, furious, he pursues his way;
He foams, he roars, he rends the panting prey.

Resolv'd alike, divine Sarpedon glows
With gen'rous rage that drives him on the foes.
He views the tow'rs, and meditates their fall,
To sure destruction dooms th'aspiring wall;
Then casting on his friend an ardent look,
Fir'd with the thirst of glory, thus he spoke.

Why boast we, Glaucus! our extended reign,
Where Xanthus' streams enrich the Lycian plain,
Our num'rous herds that range the fruitful field,
And hills where vines their purple harvest yield,
Our foaming bowls with purer nectar crown'd,
Our feasts enhanc'd with music's sprightly sound?
Why on those shores are we with joy survey'd,
Admir'd as heroes, and as gods obey'd?
Unless great acts superior merit prove,
And vindicate the bount'ous pow'rs above.
'Tis ours, the dignity they give, to grace;
The first in valour, as the first in place.
That when with wond'ring eyes our martial bands
Behold our deeds transcending our commands,
Such, they may cry, deserve the sov'reign state,
Whom those that envy, dare not imitate!
Could all our care elude the gloomy grave,
Which claims no less the fearful than the brave,
For lust of fame I should not vainly dare
In fighting fields, nor urge thy soul to war.
But since, alas! ignoble age must come,
Disease, and death's inexorable doom;
The life which others pay, let us bestow,
And give to fame what we to nature owe;
Brave tho' we fall, and honour'd if we live,
Or let us glory gain, or glory give!