Book 7

This said, brave Hector through the ports, with Troy’s bane-bringing knight,
Made issue to th’ insatiate field, resolv’d to fervent fight.

As when the deity has given a prosperous wind to expecting mariners,
after they have become weary, agitating the deep with well-polished oars, and their limbs are relaxed with toil; thus then did those two appear to the expecting Trojans.

And each one killed his man.

Bold Paris first the work of death begun
On great Menestheus, Areithous' son,
Sprung from the fair Philomeda's embrace,
The pleasing Arne was his native place.
Then sunk Eioneus to the shades below,
Beneath his steely casque he felt the blow
Full on his neck, from Hector's weighty hand;
And roll'd, with limbs relax'd, along the land.
By Glaucus' spear the bold Iphmous bleeds,
Fix'd in the shoulder as he mounts his steeds;
Headlong he tumbles: his slack nerves unbound,
Drop the cold useless members on the ground.

When, therefore, Minerva saw these men making havoc of the
Argives, she darted down to Ilius from the summits of Olympus,
and Apollo, who was looking on from Pergamus, went out to meet
her; for he wanted the Trojans to be victorious. The pair met by the
oak tree, and King Apollo son of Jove was first to speak.

Down from Olympos to this field again?
What passion moves you now? To give Danaans
power for a breakthrough? Daughter of Zeus,
you waste no pity on the Trojan dead.
If you would listen, I know a better plan.
Why not arrange an interval in battle,
a day's respite? They can fight on tomorrow
until they find the end ordained for Ilionas
that is all you goddesses have at heart,
the plundering of this town.

And Minerva answered,

So be it, archer of the sky!
Those were my very thoughts, winging down from Olympus
into the midst of Trojans and Achaeans. But tell me,
how do you hope to stop the men from fighting?

Apollo, son of Jove, replied,

By firing the spirit
of Hektor, breaker of wild horses. Let him
defy some champion of Danaans
to measure spears with him in mortal combat.
When they are challenged, let them pick a man
to stand up against Hektor in his pride.

So spake Apollo, and his counsel pleased
Minerva; which when Helenus the seer,
Priam's own son, in his prophetic soul


By augury discern’d th’ event that these two pow’rs decreed,

approaching Hector, thus he spake.

Wilt thou be once advis’d?
I am thy brother, and thy life with mine is ev’nly prised.
Command the rest of Troy and Greece to cease this public fight,
And what Greek bears the greatest mind, to single strokes excite.
I promise thee that yet thy soul shall not descend to fates;
So heard I thy survival cast by the celestial states.

He spake, whom Hector heard with joy elate.
Before his van striding into the space
Both hosts between, he with his spear transverse
Press'd back the Trojans, and they sat. Down sat
The well-greaved Grecians also at command
Of Agamemnon; and in shape assumed
Of vultures,

in the likeness of vultures,

Like two vultures

Pallas and Apollo perch'd
High on the lofty beech sacred to Jove
The father AEgis-arm'd; delighted thence
They view'd the peopled plain horrent around
With shields and helms and glittering spears erect.

As when the rising west wind furs the face of the sea

shivering gloom on the clear sea

and the waters grow dark beneath it,

Just so
the seated mass of Trojans and Akhaians
rippled along the plain.

And Hector spoke thus:

Hear, all ye Trojan, all ye Grecian bands,
What my soul prompts, and what some god commands.
Great Jove, averse our warfare to compose,
O'erwhelms the nations with new toils and woes;
War with a fiercer tide once more returns,
Till Ilion falls, or till yon navy burns.
You then, O princes of the Greeks! appear;
'Tis Hector speaks, and calls the gods to hear:
From all your troops select the boldest knight,
And him, the boldest, Hector dares to fight.
Here if I fall, by chance of battle slain,
Be his my spoil, and his these arms remain;
But let my body, to my friends return'd,
By Trojan hands and Trojan flames be burn'd.
And if Apollo, in whose aid I trust,
Shall stretch your daring champion in the dust;
If mine the glory to despoil the foe;
On Phoebus' temple I'll his arms bestow:
The breathless carcase to your navy sent,
Greece on the shore shall raise a monument;
Which when some future mariner surveys,
Wash'd by broad Hellespont's resounding seas,
Thus shall he say, 'A valiant Greek lies there,
By Hector slain, the mighty man of war,'
The stone shall tell your vanquish'd hero's name.
And distant ages learn the victor's fame.   

Thus he said, but all became mute in silence. Ashamed indeed they were
to refuse, and yet they dreaded to accept [the challenge]. At length, however, Menelaus stood up, and spoke among them, rebuking them with reproaches, and he groaned greatly in spirit:

Oh no – your
threats, your bluster – women, not men of Achaea!
What disgrace it will be – shame, cringing shame
if not one Danaan now steps up to battle Hector.
You can all turn to earth and water – rot away!
Look at each of you, sitting there, lifeless,
lust for glory gone. I'll harness up,
I'll fight the man myself. The gods on high –
they hold the ropes of victory in their hands!

He ended, and put on his radiant arms.
Then, Menelaus, manifest appear'd
Thy death approaching by the dreadful hands
Of Hector, mightier far in arms than thou,
But that the Chiefs of the Achaians all
Upstarting stay'd thee, and himself the King,
The son of Atreus, on thy better hand
Seizing affectionate, thee thus address'd.
Mad brother, ‘tis no work for thee, thou seek’st thou wilful wrack:
Contain, though it despite thee much, nor for this strife engage
Thy person with a man more strong, and whom all fear t’ enrage:
Yea whom Aeacides himself in men-renowning war
Makes doubt t’ encounter, whose huge strength surpasseth thine by far.
Sit thou then by thy regiment; some other Greek will rise
(Though he be dreadless, and no war will his desires suffice,
That makes this challenge to our strength) our valours to avow:
To whom, if he can ‘scape with life, he will be glad to bow.

He said, and turn'd his brother's vengeful mind;
He stoop'd to reason, and his rage resign'd,
No longer bent to rush on certain harms;
His joyful friends unbrace his azure arms.
He from whose lips divine persuasion flows,
Grave Nestor, then, in graceful act arose;
Thus to the kings he spoke:

O gods, surely great grief comes upon the Grecian land. Certainly the aged knight Peleus, the excellent counselor and adviser of the Myrmidons, will greatly lament, who formerly interrogated me, greatly rejoiced in his palace, inquiring the race and offspring of all the Greeks. If he now heard of them all crouching down under Hector, often indeed would he uplift his hands to the immortals [praying that] his soul, [separated] from his limbs, might depart into the house of Pluto. For would, O father Jove, and Minerva, and Apollo, I were young, as when the assembled Pylians and the spear-skilled Arcadians fought by the rapid Celadon, at the walls of Phaea, about the streams of Jardan. With them Ereuthalion, godlike hero, stood in the van, bearing on his shoulders the armor of king Areithous, of noble Areithous, whom men and beauteous-girt women called by surname Corynetes, since he fought not with the bow, nor with a long spear, but used to break the phalanxes with an iron club. Him Lycurgus slew by stratagem, not by strength, in a narrow defile, where his iron club did not ward off destruction from him; for Lycurgus, anticipating, pierced him right through the waist with his spear, and he was dashed to the ground on his back; and he spoiled him of the armor which brazen Mars had given him, and he indeed afterward bore them himself in the battle of Mars. But when Lycurgus had grown old in his palaces, he gave them to his beloved attendant Ereuthalion, to be borne: and he, having his armor, challenged all the bravest: but these trembled and feared very much: nor did any one dare [to withstand him]. But my bold mind, by its confidence, urged me on to fight him: now I was the youngest of them all; and I fought with him, and Minerva gave me glory. And I slew this most mighty and valiant hero, for vast he lay stretched out on this side and on that. Would that [now] I were thus young, and my strength entire – so quickly should crest-tossing Hector meet with a contest. But those of you who are the bravest of all the Greeks, not even you promptly desire to go against Hector.

So chided by the old man, volunteers
arose then, nine in all – first on his feet
being Lord Marshal Agamemnon, second
Diomedes, powerful son of Tydeus,
and, joining these, those two who were called Aias,
rugged impetuous men, and joining these
Idomeneus and that lord's right-hand man,
Merinones, the peer of the battle-god
in butchery of war; along with these
Eurypylos, Euaimon's handsome son,
Thoas Andraimonides, and Odysseus.
These were all willing to encounter Hektor
in single combat. Then again they heard
from Nestor of Gerenia, charioteer:

Cast lots among you to see who shall be chosen. If he come alive out of this fight he will have done good service alike to his own soul and to the Achaeans.

And each soldier scratched his mark on a stone
and threw it into Atrides Agamemnon's helmet.
Fighters prayed. Stretching hands to the gods
a man would murmur, scanning the wide sky,

O, Jove, so lead the herald’s hand
That Ajax or great Tydeus’ son may our wish’d champion stand;
Or else the king himself, that rules the rich Mycenian land.

Such prayer the people made; then Nestor shook
The helmet, and forth leaped, whose most they wished,
The lot of Ajax. Throughout all the host

COWPER (cont.)
To every chief and potentate of Greece,
From right to left the herald bore the lot
By all disown'd; but when at length he reach'd
The inscriber of the lot, who cast it in,
Illustrious Ajax, in his open palm
The herald placed it, standing at his side.
He, conscious, with heroic joy the lot
Cast at his foot, and thus exclaim'd aloud.

Warriors! I claim the lot, and arm with joy;
Be mine the conquest of this chief of Troy.
Now while my brightest arms my limbs invest,
To Saturn's son be all your vows address'd:
But pray in secret, lest the foes should hear,
And deem your prayers the mean effect of fear.
Said I in secret? No, your vows declare
In such a voice as fills the earth and air,
Lives there a chief whom Ajax ought to dread?
Ajax, in all the toils of battle bred!
From warlike Salamis I drew my birth,
And, born to combats, fear no force on earth.

Thus he spoke: but they prayed to Jove, the Saturnian king; and thus would one of them say, looking toward the wide heaven:

Father Zeus, from Ida
looking out for us all: greatest, most glorious:
let Aias win the honor of victory!
Or if you care for Hektor and are inclined
to favor him, then let both men be even
in staying power and honor!

Thus they prayed, and Ajax armed himself in his suit of gleaming
bronze. When he was in full array he sprang forward as monstrous
Mars when he takes part among men whom Jove has set fighting
with one another – even so did huge Ajax, bulwark of the Achaeans,
spring forward with a grim smile on his face as he brandished his
long spear and strode onward. The Argives were elated as they
beheld him, but the Trojans trembled in every limb, and the heart
even of Hector beat quickly, but he could not now retreat and
withdraw into the ranks behind him, for he had been the
challenger. Ajax came up bearing his shield in front of him like a
wall – a shield of bronze with seven folds of oxhide – the work of
Tychius, who lived in Hyle and was by far the best worker in
leather. He had made it with the hides of seven full-fed bulls, and
over these he had set an eighth layer of bronze. Holding this shield
before him, Ajax son of Telamon came close up to Hector, and
menaced him saying,

Hector, now you'll learn, once and for all,
in combat man-to-man, what kind of champions
range the Argive ranks, even besides Achilles,
that lionheart who mauls battalions wholesale.
Off in his beaked seagoing ships Achilles lies,
raging away at Agamemnon, marshal of armies –
but here we are, strong enough to engage you,
and plenty of us too. Come –lead off, if you can, with all your fighting power!

The helm-grac’d Hector answered him:

Ajax! heroic leader of the Greeks!
Offspring of Telamon! essay not me
With words to terrify, as I were a boy.
Or girl unskill'd in war; I am a man
Well exercised in battle, who have shed

COWPER (cont.)
The blood of many a warrior, and have learn'd,
From hand to hand shifting my shield, to fight
Unwearied; I can make a sport of war,
In standing fight adjusting all my steps
To martial measures sweet, or vaulting light
Into my chariot, thence can urge the foe.
Yet in contention with a Chief like thee
I will employ no stratagem, or seek
To smite thee privily, but with a stroke
(If I may reach thee) visible to all.

He said, and rising, high above the field
Whirl'd the long lance against the sevenfold shield.
Full on the brass descending from above
Through six bull-hides the furious weapon drove,
Till in the seventh it fix'd.

Then Ajax threw;

his angry lance did glide
Quite through his bright orbicular targe, his curace, shirt of mail,
And did his manly stomach’s mouth with dangerous taint assail:
But in the bowing of himself, black death too short did strike.

Now both men disengaged their spears and fell
on one another like man-eating lions
or, wild boars – no tame household creatures. Hektor's
lancehead scored the tower shield – but failed
to pierce it, as the point was bent aside.

But Ajax, bounding forward, pierced his shield: and the spear went right through, and repelled him as he rushed on: it glanced over his neck, cutting it, and black gore gushed forth.

But not even then did Hector quit the battle ...
backing, helmet flashing, his strong hand hefting
a rock from the field, dark, jagged, a ton weight –
he hurled it at Ajax, struck the gigantic shield,
seven oxhides thick, struck right on the jutting boss
and the bronze clanged, echoing round and round as Ajax
hoisting a boulder – far larger – wheeled and heaved it,
putting his weight behind it, tremendous force –
and the rock crashed home, Hector's shield burst in,
hit by a millstone – and Hector's fine knees buckled,
flat on his back he went, his shield crushing down on him
swept him off his feet.

but Apollo raised him at once. Thereon they would have hacked at
one another in close combat with their swords, had not heralds,
messengers of gods and men, come forward, one from the Trojans
and the other from the Achaeans – Talthybius and Idaeus both of
them honourable men; these parted them with their staves, and the
good herald Idaeus said,

My children, cease! prolong not still the fight.
Ye both are dear to cloud-assembler Jove,
Both valiant, and all know it. But the Night
Hath fallen, and Night's command must be obeyed.

Said Aias Telamonios in reply:

O sage! to Hector be these words address'd.
Let him, who first provoked our chiefs to fight,
Let him demand the sanction of the night;
If first he ask'd it, I content obey,
And cease the strife when Hector shows the way.

Hektor in his shimmering helmet answered:

Ajax, since some god has given thee size, and might, and prudence, and thou art the most excellent of the Greeks at the spear, let us now cease from battle and contest for this day; hereafter will we fight again, till the Deity shall separate us, and give the victory to either. Now night is approaching, and it is good to obey night, that thou mayest gladden all the Greeks at the ships, and chiefly those friends and companions which are thine; but I will gladden the Trojans and the train-bearing Trojan matrons, through the great city of king Priam, the dames who, praying
for me, are entering the deities' temple. But come, let us both mutually give very glorious gifts, that some one of the Greeks and Trojans may say thus: ‘They certainly fought in a soul-gnawing strife, but then again being reconciled, they parted in friendship.’

With that he gave him his silver-studded sword,
slung in its sheath on a supple, well-cut sword-strap,
and Ajax gave his war-belt, glistening purple.
So both men parted, Ajax back to Achaea's armies,
Hector back to his thronging Trojans – overjoyed
to see him still alive, unharmed, striding back,
free of the rage and hands of Ajax still unconquered.
They escorted him home to Troy – saved, past all their hopes –

FAGLES (cont.)
while far across the field the Achaean men-at-arms
escorted Ajax, thrilled with victory, back to Agamemnon.

Who to the great Saturnides preferr’d an offering:
An ox that fed on five fair springs; they flay’d and quart’red him,
And then (in pieces cut) on spits they roasted every limb;
Which neatly dressed they drew it off: work done, they fell to feast:
All had enough but Telamon the king fed past the rest
With good large pieces of chine. Thus thirst and hunger stay’d,
Nestor, whose counsels late were best, vows new, and first he said:

Chiefs of Achaia, and thou, chief of all,
Great Agamemnon! Many of our host
Lie slain, whose blood sprinkles, in battle shed,
The banks of smooth Scamander, and their souls
Have journey'd down into the realms of death.
To-morrow, therefore, let the battle pause
As need requires, and at the peep of day
With mules and oxen, wheel ye from all parts
The dead, that we may burn them near the fleet.
So, home to Greece returning, will we give
The fathers' ashes to the children's care.
Accumulating next, the pile around,
One common tomb for all, with brisk dispatch
We will upbuild for more secure defence
Of us and of our fleet, strong towers and tall
Adjoining to the tomb, and every tower
Shall have its ponderous gate, commodious pass
Affording to the mounted charioteer.
And last, without those towers and at their foot,
Dig we a trench, which compassing around
Our camp, both steeds and warriors shall exclude,
And all fierce inroad of the haughty foe.

Thus he spoke, and the princess shouted in applause. Meanwhile
the Trojans held a council, angry and full of discord, on the
acropolis by the gates of King Priam’s palace; and wise Antenor

Trojans, Dardans, and allies,
listen to me, to what I am moved to say!
Bring Argive Helen and the treasure with her,
and let us give her back to the Atreidai
to take home in the ships! We fight as men
proven untrustworthy, truce-breakers. I see
no outcome favorable to ourselves unless
we act as I propose.

He, having thus said, sat down; but to them arose divine Alexander, the
husband of fair-haired Helen, who answering him spoke winged words:

Cold counsels, Trojan, may become thy years
But sound ungrateful in a warrior's ears:
Old man, if void of fallacy or art,
Thy words express the purpose of thy heart,
Thou, in thy time, more sound advice hast given;
But wisdom has its date, assign'd by heaven.
Then hear me, princes of the Trojan name!
Their treasures I'll restore, but not the dame;
My treasures too, for peace, I will resign;
But be this bright possession ever mine.

With that concession the prince sat down again.
Then Priam the son of Dardanus rose among them,
a man who could match the gods for strong advice,
and with good will toward all he swayed his people:

Trojans, Dardanians, and allies of Troy!
I shall declare my sentence; hear ye me.
Now let the legions, as at other times,
Take due refreshment; let the watch be set,
And keep ye vigilant guard. At early dawn
We will dispatch Idaeus to the fleet,
Who shall inform the Atridae of this last
Resolve of Paris, author of the war.
Discreet Idaeus also shall propose
A respite (if the Atridae so incline)
From war's dread clamor, while we burn the dead.
Then will we clash again, till heaven at length
Shall part us, and the doubtful strife decide.

Thus did he speak, and they did even as he had said. They took
supper in their companies and at daybreak Idaeus went his way to
the ships. He found the Danaans, servants of Mars, in council at the
stern of Agamemnon’s ship, and took his place in the midst of

Atrides, my renowned king, and other kings his aid,
Propose by me, in their commands, the offers Paris makes
(From whose joy all our woes proceed); he princely undertakes
That all the wealth he brought from Greece (would that he had died before!)
CHAPMAN (cont.
He will, with other added wealth, for your amends restore:
But famous Menelaus’ wife he means to enjoy,
Though he be urged to the contrary by all the peers of Troy.
And this, besides, I have in charge, that if it please you all,
They wish both sides may cease from war, that rites of funeral
May on their bodies be perform’d that in the fields lie slain,
And after, to the will of Fate, renew the fight again.

He finished, and they all sat hushed and still.
At last Diomedes of the great warcry
burst out:

Oh, take not, friends! defrauded of your fame,
Their proffer'd wealth, nor even the Spartan dame.
Let conquest make them ours: fate shakes their wall,
And Troy already totters to her fall.

Thus he said, and all the sons of the Greeks shouted, admiring the words of horse-breaking Diomede: and then Agamemnon, king of men, thus addressed Idaeus:

Idaeus, you have heard the answer the Achaeans make you –
and I with them. But as concerning the dead, I give you leave to burn
them, for when men are once dead there should be no grudging
them the rites of fire. Let Jove the mighty husband of Juno be
witness to this covenant.

With that oath
he raised his scepter high in the eyes of all the gods
and Idaeus turned, trailing back to sacred Troy.
There they sat in assembly, Trojans, Dardans,
all collected together, waiting long and tense
for the herald to return. And home Idaeus came,
delivered his message standing in their midst
and they fell to making hurried preparations,
dividing the labors quickly – two detachments,
one to gather the bodies, one the timber.
And far on the other side Achaean troops
came streaming out of the well-benched ships,
some to gather the bodies, some the timber.

Now from the gently-swelling flood profound
The sun arising, with his earliest rays
In his ascent to heaven smote on the fields.
When Greeks and Trojans met, scarce could the slain
Be clear distinguish'd, but they cleansed from each
His clotted gore with water, and warm tears
Distilling copious, heaved them to the wains.
But wailing none was heard, for such command
Had Priam issued; therefore heaping high
The bodies, silent and with sorrowing hearts
They burn'd them, and to sacred Troy return'd.

Just so on their side the Akhaians piled
dead bodies on their pyre, sick at heart,
and burned it down. Then back to the ships they went.

Yet doubtful night obscur’d the earth, the day did not appear,
When round about the funeral pile the Grecians gather’d were;
The pile they circled with a tomb, and by it rais’d a wall,
High tow’rs to guard the fleet and them, and in the midst of all
They built strong gates, through which the horse and chariots passage had.
Without the rampire a broad dike long and profound they made,
On which they pallisadoes pitch’d; and thus the Grecians wrought
Their huge works in so little time were to perfection brought,

So toil'd the Greeks: meanwhile the gods above,
In shining circle round their father Jove,
Amazed beheld the wondrous works of man:
Then he, whose trident shakes the earth, began:

O father Jove, is there any mortal on the boundless earth, who will any
more disclose his mind and counsel to the immortals? Dost thou not perceive how the long-haired Greeks have built a wall before their shipping, and have drawn a ditch all round, nor have they given splendid hecatombs to the gods? The fame of this [work] will certainly be wherever light is diffused: but they will forget that [wall] which I and Phoebus Apollo, toiling, built round the city for the hero Laomedon.

But filled with anger, Zeus who marshals the thunderheads
let loose now:

What, O shaker of the earth, are you talking about? A god less powerful than yourself might be alarmed at what they are doing, but your fame reaches as far as dawn itself. Surely when the Achaeans have gone home with their ships, you can shatter their wall and Ring it into the sea; you can cover the beach with sand again, and the great wall of the Achaeans
will then be utterly effaced.

So ran their colloquy. The sun went down
and now the Akhaian labor was accomplished.
Amid their huts they slaughtered beasts and made
their evening meal. Wine-ships had come ashore
from Lemnos, a whole fleet loaded with wine.
These ships were sent by Euneos, Ieson's son,
born to that hero by Hypsipyle.
To Agamemnon, as to MeneIaos,
he gave a thousand measures of the wine
for trading, so the troops could barter for it,
some with bronze and some with shining iron,
others with hides and others still with oxen,
some with slaves. They made a copious feast,
and all night long Akhaians with flowing hair
feasted, while the Trojans and their allies
likewise made a feast.

All night the Grecians feasted, and the host
Of Ilium, and all night deep-planning Jove
Portended dire calamities to both,
Thundering tremendous! – Pale was every cheek;
Each pour'd his goblet on the ground, nor dared
The hardiest drink, 'till he had first perform'd
Libation meet to the Saturnian King
Omnipotent; then, all retiring, sought
Their couches, and partook the gift of sleep.

︎︎︎Book 8