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"High as heaven in all men's mouths
Diomed straightway volunteers for the adventure, and out of the many chiefs who offer themselves as his comrade, he chooses Ulysses. So—not -without due prayer to Heaven—valour and subtlety go forth together on their perilous errand.
Meanwhile the same idea has occurred to Hector; he too would learn the counsels of his enemies. One Dolon—a young warrior who has a fine taste for horses, but is otherwise of somewhat feminine type (Homer tells us he was the only brother of five sisters), and whose main qualification is fleetness of foot—is tempted to undertake the enterprise on a somewhat singular condition—that he shall have as his prize the more than mortal- horses of Achilles, when, as he doubts not will be soon the case, the spoils of the conquered Greeks shall come to be divided. And Hector, with equal confidence, swears "by his sceptre" that they shall be his and none other's. Wrapped in a cloak of wolfskin, and wearing a cap of marten's fur instead of a helmet, he too steals out into the night. He does not escape the keen vision of Ulysses. The Greek spies crouch behind some dead bodies, and allow him to pass them, when they rise and cut off his retreat to the Trojan camp. At first he thinks they are Trojans, sent after him by Hector;
"But when they came a spear-cast off, or less,
Hang steadily behind, to seize and slay, Down the green woods, a wild fawn or a hare, That shrieking flies them; on his track so lay Odysseus and the son of Tydeus there, Winding him out from Troy, and never swerved a hair." (W.)
Their aim is to take him alive. Diomed at last gets
within an easy spear-cast—
'Then, hurling, he so ruled his aim, the spear Whizzed by the neck, then sank into the ground. He, trembling in his teeth, and white with fear, Stood: from his mouth there came a chattering sound. They panting, as he wept, his arms enwound. 'Take me alive, and sell me home,' cried he; 'Brass, iron, and fine gold are with me found. Glad will my father render countless fee, If living by the ships they bear him news of me.'" (W.)
Ulysses parleys with the unhappy youth, and drags from his terrified lips not only the secret of his errand, but the disposition of the Trojan forces,-—most convenient information for their own movements. Especially, he tells them where they might find an easy prey, such as his own soul would love. Ehesus, king of the Thracian allies, has his camp apart—
"No steeds that e'er I saw,
The unwilling treachery does not save his wretched
life. Ulysses sarcastically admires his choice of a
"High soared thy hopes indeed, that thought to win
The horses of Achilles; hard are they
For mortal man to harness or control,
Save for Achilles' self, the goddess-bora."
Then with the cruel indifference to human life which
marks every one of Homer's heroes—he severs his head from his body.
Following the directions given by Dolon, the two Greeks make their way first to the quarters of the Thracian contingent. Swiftly and silently Diomed despatches the king and twelve of his warriors, as they sleep, while Ulysses drives off the snow-white horses. With these trophies they return safe to the Greek camp, where they are cordially welcomed, though it must be admitted they have gained but little insight into the designs of Hector.*
* There is pretty good authority for considering the whole of this night expedition, which forms a separate book (the tenth) in the division of the poem, as an interpolation. It is a separate lay of an exploit performed by Ulysses and Diomed, and certainly does not in any way affect the action of the poem.
CHAP TEE VII.
THE THIRD BATTLE.
With the morroVs dawn begins the third and great battle, at the Greek lines, which occupies from the eleventh to the eighteenth book of the poem. Agamemnon is the hero of the earlier part of the day, and Hector is warned by Jupiter not to hazard his own person in the battle, unless the Greek king is wounded; which at last he is, by the spear of a son of Antenor. Ulysses and Diomed supply his place; until Paris, fighting in somewhat coward fashion, crouching behind the monumental stone of the national hero Ilus, pins Diomed through the right heel to the ground with an arrow. Ulysses stands manfully at bay almost alone amidst a host of enemies, holding his ground, though he too is wounded, till Ajax comes to his aid. Still the Greeks have the worst of it. The skilful leech Machaon, amongst others, is wounded by an arrow from the bow of Paris : till even Achilles, watching the fight from the lofty prow of his ship, sees his day of triumph and vengeance close at hand. He sends Patroelus to the field—nominally to inquire who has just been carried off wounded, but with the further object, we may suppose, of learning the state of the case more thoroughly. Nestor, to whose tent Patroclus comes, begs him to use his influence now with Lis angry chief, and persuade him, if not to come to the rescue in person, at least to send his stout Myrmidons to the aid of his countrymen, under Patroclus' own command.
Again the Greeks are driven within their intrenchments, and Hector and the Trojan chariot-fighters pressing on them, attempt in their fierce excitement even to make their horses leap the ditch and palisade. Foiled in this, they dismount, and, forming in five detachments under the several command of Hector, Helenus, Paris, ./Eneas, and Asius son of Hyrtacus, they attack the stockade at five points at once. Asius alone refuses to quit his chariot; and choosing the quarter where a gate is still left open to receive the Greek fugitives, he drives full at the narrow entrance. But in that gateway on either hand stand two stalwart warders, Leonteus and Polypates. The latter is the son of the mighty hero Pirithous, friend and comrade of Hercules, and both are of the renowned race of the Lapithse. Gallantly the two champions keep the dangerous post against all comers, while their friends from the top of the rampart shower huge stones upon their assailants. Even Hector at his point of attack can make no impression: and as his followers vainly strive to pass the ditch, an omen from heaven strikes them with apprehension as to the final issue. An eagle, carrying off a huge serpent through the air, is bitten by the reptile, and drops it, writhing and bleeding, in the midst of the combatants. Polydamas points it out to Hector, and reads in it a warning that their victory will be at best a dearly-bought one. Hector rebukes him for his weakness in putting faith in portents. The noble