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Prepared I stand: he was but born to try
The lot of man; to suffer, and to die.
O then, if ever through the ten years' war
The wise, the good Ulysses claim'd thy care;
If e'er he join'd thy council or thy sword,
True in his deed, and constant to his word;
Far as thy mind through backward time can see,
Search all thy stores of faithful memory:
'Tis sacred truth I ask, and ask of thee.'
To him experienced Nestor thus rejoin'd • O friend! what sorrows dost thou bring to mind! Shall I the long, laborious scene review, And open
all the wounds of Greece anew? What toils by sea! where dark in quest of prey Dauntless we roved; Achilles led the way: What toils by land! where mix'd in fatal fight Such numbers fell, such heroes sunk to night: There Ajax great, Achilles there the brave, There wise Patroclus, fill an early grave : There too my son-ah! once my best delight, Once swift of foot, and terrible in fight, In whom stern courage with soft virtue join'd, A faultless body, and a blameless mind : Antilochus-what more can I relate? How trace the tedious series of our fate? Not added years on years my task could close, The long historian of my country's woes : Back to thy native islands mightst thou sail, And leave half-heard the melancholy tale. Nine painful years on that detested shore, What stratagems we form', what toils we bore ! Still labouring on, till scarce at last we found Great Jove propitious, and our conquest crown'd. Far o'er the rest thy mighty father shined, In wit, in prudence, and in force of mind.
Art thou the son of that illustrious sire?
With joy I grasp thee, and with love admire.
So like your voices, and your words so wise,
Who finds thee younger must consult his eyes.
Thy sire and I were one; nor varied aught
In public sentence, or in private thought;
Alike to council or the assembly came,
With equal souls, and sentiments the same.
But when (by wisdom won) proud Ilion burn’d,
And in their ships the conquering Greeks return'd;
'Twas God's high will the victors to divide,
And turn the event, confounding human pride:
Some he destroy'd, some scatter'd as the dust
(Not all were prudent, and not all were just);
Then Discord, sent by Pallas from above,
Stern daughter of the great avenger, Jove,
The brother kings inspired with fell debate;
Who call’d to council all the' Achaian state,
But callid untimely (not the sacred rite
Observed, nor heedful of the setting light,
Nor herald sworn the session to proclaim):
Sour with debauch, a reeling tribe they came.
To these the cause of meeting they explain,
And Menelaüs moves to cross the main;
Not so the king of men: he will’d to stay;
The sacred rites and hecatombs to pay,
And calm Minerva's wrath. Oh, blind to Fate!
The gods not lightly change their love, or hate.
With ireful taunts each other they oppose,
Till in loud tumult all the Greeks arose.
Now different counsels every breast divide,
Each burns with rancour to the adverse side:
The' unquiet night strange projects entertain'd
(So Jove, that urged us to our fate, ordain'd).
We with the rising morn our ships unmoord,
And brought our captives and our stores aboard;
But half the people with respect obey'd
The king of men, and at his bidding stay'd.
Now on the wings of winds our course we keep
(For God had smooth'd the waters of the deep),
For Tenedos we spread our eager oars,
There land, and pay due victims to the powers:
To bless our safe return we join in prayer,
But angry Jove dispersed our vows in air,
And raised new discord. Then (so Heaven
Ulysses first and Nestor disagreed:
Wise as he was, by various counsels sway'd,
He there, though late, to please the monarch,
But I, determined, stem the foamy floods,
Warn’d of the coming fury of the gods.
With us, Tydides fear’d, and urged his haste :
And Menelaüs came, but came the last.
He join'd our vessels in the Lesbian bay,
While yet we doubted of our watery way;
If to the right to urge the pilot's toil,
(The safer road) beside the Psyrian isle ;
Or the straight course to rocky Chios plough,
And anchor under Mimas' shaggy brow.
We sought direction of the power divine:
The god propitious gave the guiding sign;
Through the mid seas he bid our navy steer,
And in Eubea shun the woes we fear.
The whistling winds already waked the sky;
Before the whistling winds the vessels fly,
With rapid swiftness cut the liquid way,
And reach Gerestus at the point of day.
There hecatombs of bulls, to Neptune slain,
High flaming please the monarch of the main.
The fourth day shone, when all their labours o'er
Tydides' vessels touch'd the wish’d-for shore :
But I to Pylos scud before the gales,
The god still breathing on my swelling sails;
Separate from all, I safely landed here;
Their fates or fortunes never reach'd my ear.
Yet what I learn'd, attend; as here I sat,
And ask'd each voyager each hero's fate;
Curious to know, and willing to relate.
“Safe reach'd the Myrmidons their native land,
Beneath Achilles' warlike son's command.
Those, whom the heir of great Apollo's art,
Brave Philoctetes, taught to wing the dart;
And those whom Idomen from Ilion's plain
Had led, securely cross'd the dreadful main.
How Agamemnon touch'd his Argive coast,
And how his life by fraud and force he lost,
And how the murderer paid his forfeit breath;
What lands so distant from that scene of death
But trembling heard the fame? and, heard, admire
How well the son appeased his slaughter'd sire!
E'en to the unhappy, that unjustly bleed,
Heaven gives posterity, to' avenge the deed.
So fell Egysthus; and mayst thou, my friend,
(On whom the virtues of thy'sire descend)
Make future times thy equal act adore,
And be what brave Orestes was before!
The prudent youth replied thou, the grace And lasting glory of the Grecian race! Just was the vengeance, and to latest days Shall long posterity resound the praise.
Some god this arm with equal prowess bless!
And the proud suitors shall its force confess :
Injurious men! who, while my soul is sore
Of fresh affronts, are meditating more.
But Heaven denies this honour to my hand,
Nor shall my father repossess the land :
The father's fortune never to return,
And the sad son's to suffer and to mourn!'
Thus he; and Nestor took the word—My son,
Is it then true, as distant rumours run,
That crowds of rivals for thy mother's charms
Thy palace fill with insults and alarms?
Say, is the fault, through tame submission, thine ?
Or leagued against thee, do thy people join,
Moved by some oracle, or voice divine?
And yet who knows, but ripening lies in fate
An hour of vengeance for the’afflicted state;
When great Ulysses shall suppress these harms,
Ulysses singly, or all Greece in arms?
But if Athena, war's triumphant maid,
The happy son will, as the father, aid,
(Whose fame and safety was her constant care,
In every danger and in every war:
Never on man did heavenly favour shine
With rays so strong, distinguish’d, and divine,
As those with which Minerva mark'd thy sire)
So might she love thee, so thy soul inspire!
Soon should their hopes in humble dust be laid,
And long oblivion of the bridal bed.'
Ah! no such hope (the prince with sighs replies) Can touch my breast; that blessing Heaven denies: E’en by celestial favour were it given, Fortune or Fate would cross the will of Heaven.'