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The struggle is renewed, and, as Hector attacks the galley in which Ajax stands at bay with an enormous pike, Teucer plies his arrows, and twelve Trojans are slain in their attempts to set the Greek ships on fire.
Achilles, who has been watching the peril of his countrymen, now consents that Patroclus shall go, clad in his armour, at the head of the Myrmidons, to aid them. The Trojans, believing it is Achilles himself who is leading, retreat in dismay, and Sarpedon, Jupiter's son, is slain. But Patroclus ventures too far in pursuit ; Apollo meets and disarms him, Euphorbus stabs him from behind, and Hector drives his spear through his body. With his dying breath he foretells the fate of his slayer, and the Greeks succeed in carrying off his body, Jupiter casting a veil of darkness around it. This, however, confuses friends as well as foes, and Ajax exclaims, 'Give us but light, O Jove, and in the light, if thou seest fit, destroy us !'
The crisis of the story is now reached. Achilles is frantic with grief and rage at the death of his comrade, and eager to avenge him. His mother, Thetis, reminds him that when Hector falls his own last hour is near ; but he replies, “Be it so, death comes in turn to all. He cannot, however, go forth without armour, and his mother promises that Vulcan shall forge him a suit by to-morrow's dawn.
Meanwhile, Iris bids him let the Trojans hear his voice, and, standing on the rampart, under the shield of Minerva, he shouts thrice aloud. They are seized with panic and abandon their pursuit of the Greeks, who bear off the corpse of Patroclus to Achilles' tent.
Vulcan is making velocipedes and automaton helpers when Thetis applies to him, but he willingly accedes to her request on behalf of her son. The helmet and breast-plate and body gear are soon ready, but upon the shield he bestows his utmost skill, and the poet's description of it is so graphic and elaborate that it will not bear condensing.
Thus armed for the deadly fight, Achilles makes for the tent of Agamemnon, calling on the Greek leaders to make ready as he passes the galleys; and he and the king, mutually admitting themselves to blame, are reconciled. Ulysses urges the need of a substantial meal for the army, from
which Achilles sits apart, but is sustained by Minerva with ambrosia and nectar. When all is prepared for the battle he mounts his chariot, drawn by Xanthus and Balius, and bearing the ashen spear of Mount Pelion, the gift of the Centaur. Taunting his horses with the death of Patroclus, one of them, inspired by Juno, replies in human voice, and tells him that his own doom draws nigh.
Several of the gods and goddesses take part in this last conflict, some on the side of the Greeks, and some on the Trojan side. The principal interest, however, is centred in the heroic deeds and narrow escapes of Achilles, who dashes through the Trojan host, hewing many in pieces, driving others into the river Scamander, and forcing the remainder to take refuge within their walls, Hector alone remaining outside the Scæan gate, which is guarded by Apollo.
As Achilles draws near him, the Trojan hero's courage wholly deserts him, and thrice he flies, with his adversary in pursuit. Then his guardian, Apollo, leaves him, and Minerva comes to the aid of her favourite. Hector now turns and challenges his foe, at the same time endeavouring to make a mutual compact that the dead body of whichsoever of them is slain shall be restored to his kindred; but Achilles rejects the proposal, and makes the first thrust. Hector rushes on him and falls mortally wounded by Achilles' spear, beseeching that his father Priam may be allowed to ransom his corpse, and prophesying the death of his adversary when he obdurately refuses his prayer. Savagely, instead, Achilles fastens the body to his chariot, and drags it towards the Greek fleet, in sight of Priam and Andromache.
On reaching the ships he flings the corpse in the dust in front of Patroclus's bier ; and, whilst he sleeps after his exertions, the shade of his friend appears to chide him for leaving his body so long unburied.
Next day the funeral pile is built, and the burial rites are celebrated, twelve captive Trojan youths being slaughtered by Achilles himself, and their bodies added to the flaming heap with the other libations. Then followed the funeral games, consisting of chariot races, boxing matches, wrestling, foot races, a single combat with shield and spear, quoitthrowing, archery, and hurling the spear.
But the wrath and grief of Achilles are not yet appeased, and for twelve days he drags the body of Hector each morning three times round the tomb containing the ashes of Patroclus. At last Priam is led by Mercury to his tent, and the aged monarch, in an agony of supplication, succeeds in obtaining from him the corpse, which, after it has been washed and anointed, and clothed in costly raiment by Achilles' orders, he carries back to Troy. The poem then concludes with a description of Hector's funeral rites, for the due celebration of which Achilles has spontaneously offered a twelve days' truce; and by none is the dead hero more tenderly or bitterly lamented than by remorseful Helen in the following lines :
'Hector, of all my brethren dearest thou !
THE ODYSSE Y.
The incidents and descriptions in this poem, like those in the Iliad, are founded on Greek mythology and Oriental romance ; but its characters seem more closely drawn from actual life, and bear witness to the generally accepted belief that, in the course of so many centuries, nothing has changed so little as human nature. As in the Iliad one year only of the siege is dealt with, so in the Odyssey the main events are those comprised in the last six weeks of the entire tale of Troy. Between the two poems an arrow from the bow of Paris has slain Achilles ; Ulysses has fetched the hero's son, Neoptolemus, to be the leader of the Greeks in the final storming and sacking of the city;
and nearly ten years have elapsed since the return of the survivors of the expedition to their homes. Ulysses alone has not yet reached his island kingdom of Ithaca again, where his aged father Laertes, his wife Penelope, and his son Telemachus have so long expected him. is beset by suitors, who are unbidden guests at the royal table; but she still firmly believes that her husband survives, and refuses to listen to them.
It is known only by the gods that, having incurred the anger of Neptune, Ulysses has lain captive for seven years in the enchanted realm of Calypso, and the opening scene of the poem is a council on Olympus, at which Minerva, taking advantage of Neptune's absence, reminds Jupiter of the hard fate of her favourite, and it is agreed that Mercury shall announce to him that his release draws nigh, whilst the goddess, in the guise of a stranger named Mentes, bids Telemachus dismiss the intrusive suitors, and set sail round the coasts of Greece in search of his father. Inspired by her with manliness and self-assertion, Telemachus tells his mother that he intends to assume the management of the palace, and proceeds to intimate to the assembled company that they must in future feast in each other's houses. On the morrow, at a meeting of the heads of the people, he reproaches them for not having offered their help to dislodge the revellers. Antinous replies that Penelope has deceived them, having promised to make her choice of another husband on completing a winding-sheet for Laertes ; but they have learnt from her maidens that she unwound at night as much as she wove by day. Telemachus appeals to the gods, and two eagles appear tearing each other furiously. The soothsayer Halitherses augurs the speedy return of Ulysses, but is silenced, and Mentor, who defends the young prince, is met with jeers. Telemachus wanders to the sea shore to vent his grief and pray to Minerva, who provides a ship and crew for. his voyage, and, in the form of Mentor, sits beside him in the stern when he embarks at night, with a store of provisions prepared by his old nurse Eurycleia, unknown to his mother.
On reaching Pylos they are welcomed by King Nestor's youngest son Pisistratus, who at the banquet asks them,
before drinking, to join in supplication to Neptune, saying, • All men have need of prayer.' Nestor then inquires if they are pirates, on which Telemachus declares his errand, and begs for tidings of his father. This affords the old man an opportunity of narrating the fall of Troy, and the fate of Agamemnon on his return home. Then the supposed Mentor reveals her divinity by disappearing in the semblance of a sea eagle, and Pisistratus drives Telemachus to the palace of Menelaus at Sparta, resting at Phere on their way.
There were being celebrated, with great magnificence, the marriages of Helen's daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus, and of the king's son by a slave wife.
The strangers are hospitably entertained, and Menelaus agitates his guest by alluding to his still missing comrade Ulysses, when Helen enters and at once recognises Telemachus by his likeness to his father. She mixes with the wine a potent drug called Nepenthes,
Which so cures heartache, and the inward stings,
That men forget all sorrow wherein they pine. Next day the king relates how he extorted from Proteus, the old man of the sea, where Ulysses was detained, and what his own fate would be :
'Thee to Elysian fields, earth's farthest end,
ring winters there, nor snow, nor shower,
Worsley. Having obtained intelligence of his father, Telemachus is impatient to rejoin his galley, and declines his host's offer of a chariot and three horses as a parting gift.
The story now reverts to Penelope, who, in an agony of grief at her son's departure, appeals to Minerva, and is assured in a dream that he has a guardian, such as many a hero would pray to have.
Then follows another council of the gods, at which Minerva protests, “Let never king henceforth do justly and love mercy, but let him rule with iron hand and work all iniquity; for lo ! what is Ulysses' reward?' Jupiter is moved,