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Thunderer. Vulcan soothes his mother with nectar, and hands the cup round, whilst the gods and goddesses make fun of his hobbling gait.
Jupiter sends a vision of Nestor to Agamemnon, urging him to storm the city. The king of men'assembles his council, and, to test the temper of the army, proposes, before leading them to the assault, that they shall embark at once for home. They take him at his word and commence launching the galleys; but Juno intervenes by sending Minerva to bid Ulysses check their flight. He borrows the king's sceptre and awes the crowd. Thersites alone raises his voice in defiance,
• The ugliest man was he that came to Troy,' upon which Ulysses chastises him, and the Greeks laugh heartily as he writhes and howls. They are then addressed by Ulysses and Nestor, and Agamemnon concludes the debate by a call to immediate battle. But first the troops are well fed, whilst Agamemnon gives a banquet to six of the chieftains, at which Menelaus is present.
The king stands by the burnt-offering, to which no omen is vouchsafed. Nevertheless, the army is set in array, and a long muster-roll follows of the Greek clans on the one side, and of the Trojans and their allies on the other.
The battle begins—the Asiatics move forward with shouts and clashing weapons, the Greeks in silence. Godlike in his beauty, Paris advances alone from the Trojan ranks, and challenges the leaders of the Greeks to single combat. Menelaus springs from his chariot, exulting at the opportunity of gratifying his vengeance. But Paris starts back from the man he has wronged, and encounters Hector, who checks his retreat, ashamed at his cowardice, and Paris is induced by his brother's rebuke to accept the answer to his challenge. Helen is writing her own history when she is warned by the goddess Iris of the impending duel, and goes to the palace, where old King Priam is sitting at the Scæan gate. Her beauty enchants every beholder, and all say it is no blame to fight for such a woman, the spells of Venus are irresistible. She takes her place beside the king, and is pointing out to him the
chiefs she is able to recognise, when he is summoned away to ratify the armistice. Then the lists are measured and the combat takes place. Menelaus has seized Paris by his crest, when Venus breaks the strap and he is left with the empty helmet in his hand, the goddess wrapping Paris in a mist and transporting him to Helen's chamber. Her first exclamation is,
Back from the battle! Would thou there hadst died !'
but his misadventure is soon condoned.
Jupiter now suggests that Helen be given up, and the fate of Troy averted; but Juno is furious, and he consents to leave the city to her will. She accordingly sends Minerva to incite the Trojans to break the truce by tempting Pandarus to aim at Menelaus. The goddess, however, turns the arrow aside,
• As when a mother from her infant's cheek,
Nevertheless it has drawn blood, and Agamemnon fears his brother is mortally injured. Machaon, however, staunches the wound, and the Greek leaders being roused to avenge the treachery, their forces are marshalled, and Nestor counsels the dispositions of the line of battle, the plan of which is followed to the present day.
Again the two armies encounter each other, like two winter torrents mingling in a deep ravine. Then follows a series of single combats between warriors of note on either side, Minerva cheering on the Greeks, and Apollo the Trojans. The gallant Diomed is hit by Pandarus, but the goddess heals the wound, and, returning to the contest, he kills his foe, and crushes the hip-joint of Æneas, who is screened from further harm by Venus. Diomed, however, wounds her in the palm, and she mounts to Olympus bewailing the injury she has suffered from a mortal. Her mother Dione consoles her by narrating how other deities have had to endure wrongs from men, whilst Apollo carries Æneas to be tended by Latona and Diana. Mars now calls Hector to the rescue, and Æneas returns cured. The Greek line is giving way, when Juno and Minerva alight on the battle plain. The queen of the gods,
“In form of Stentor of the brazen voice,' reproaches the Greeks with cowardice, whilst Minerva, taunting Diomed with his inferiority to his father Tydeus, who, though small in stature, was every inch a soldier, mounts his chariot against Mars, and the god's ichor being made to flow from a wound inflicted by Diomed's spear,
he cries out with a shout like ten thousand men, and flies to Jupiter, who rates him soundly, but bids Poon heal him, and Hebe prepares him a bath. The fight continues, and Diomed encounters Glaucus, who, in answer to his inquiry, replies,
* Brave son of Tydeus, wherefore set thy mind,
Worsley. He, however, proceeds to announce himself as the grandson of Bellerophon, who rode Pegasus, and slew Chimæra, and Diomed remembers that his grandfather was Bellerophon's guest. So, instead of fighting, they exchange armour in token of arnity.
The Trojans being hard pressed, Hector sends his mother, Hecuba, to offer prayers to Pallas, and finding Paris in the palace with Helen, upbraids him sharply. Hector passes on to see his wife Andromache and their child. She is not in the palace, but at the Scæan gate, eagerly watching the battle. Clinging to her husband, she entreats him not to be too prodigal of his life, for she is the last of her race, but, she adds,
“While my Hector still survives, I see
My father, mother, brethren all in thee.' He attempts to soothe her, but, with a foreboding of his fate, he says, –
'I should blush
(Lord Derby), and they part, never to meet again.
Now Hector challenges the Greeks to put forward one of their chieftains against him. Agamemnon will not suffer Menelaus to be the champion, and Nestor deplores that the young men are not what they were in his earlier days. Nine leaders offer themselves, and Ajax being chosen by lot, he and Hector fight valiantly till dusk. Then there is a truce to bury the dead, and the Trojans, being dispirited, hold a council of war, at which Antenor proposes to give up Helen, and so put an end to the weary siege ; but Paris offers to give up the treasure only, and not Helen, a proposal which the Greeks spurn as an insult. Jupiter now forbids the deities to interfere further in the contest, and himself surveys the battle-field from Mount Ida. Hesitating which side to aid, he weighs their fates in a balance, and decides in favour of Troy, because their scale, being the lightest, mounts to heaven. Accordingly he troubles the Greek host with lightning, and with a thunderbolt induces Nestor and Diomed to retire from attacking Hector, who urges his chariot forward, and drives them into their trenches. Teucer, the brother of Ajax, kills Hector's •charioteer, upon which Hector fells him to the ground with a fragment of rock. The approach of night saves the Greek fleet from destruction, and the Trojans bivouac in *the field, watching lest the enemy should set sail under cover of the darkness.
Utterly disheartened, the Greeks send a deputation to induce Achilles to rejoin them; but he declares that nothing shall move him unless Hector brings fire and sword to the tents of his Myrmidons. Agamemnon holds a midnight council, and Diomed volunteers to reconnoitre the Trojan lines, with Ulysses as his comrade. Hector conceives a similar idea, and Dolon undertakes the enterprise, on condition that he shall have as his prize the famous horses of Achilles. He, however, is captured by the Greek spies, who force from him the information they desire, and behead him, after which they make their way to the Thracian camp, assassinate the king and tweive of his warriors as they sleep, and carry off their snow-white steeds.
Next morning the battle is renewed, and the Greeks are very hard pressed ; Achilles sends his man Patroclus to learn how they are faring, and Nestor begs him to persuade his master to come to the rescue. The Trojans charge the entrenchments, whilst an eagle drops a serpent in the midst of the combatants. Hector makes light of the portent, saying,
• The best of omens is our country's cause,'
and the balance of the fight hangs even until he heaves a huge boulder, which bursts open the wooden gates of the Greek stockade, and as the Trojans rush in the Greeks flee in confusion to their ships. Neptune, however, in the form of the soothsayer Calchas, rallies them, and Hector's advance is checked. But the Greek ships are still in danger of being burnt, and a proposal to launch them and escape during the night is with difficulty over-ruled.
Juno now borrows from Venus her magic girdle, with which she diverts the attention of her husband, so that he may not help the Trojans, and Neptune leads the Greeks in person. Ajax meets Hector and hurls a stone against his breast, which disables him, and the Greeks rush to strip off his armour. The Trojan chiefs, however, shield him, and he is borne away to his chariot.
Jupiter awakes in time to avert further danger from the Trojans, and, turning wrathfully on Juno, reminds her how he has punished her in former times, and explains his desire to teach the Greeks their utter helplessness without Achilles. For this purpose, Apollo is sent to revive Hector and accompany him back to the conflict. Flashing his shield in the faces of their adversaries, he clears a way for the Trojan chariots,
* Easy as when a child upon the beach In wanton play, with hands and feet o'erthrows The mound of sand which late in sport he raised.'