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mander summons his brother-river Simois to his aid, Vulcan sends flames that scorch all the river-banks, consuming the trees and shrubs that clothe them, and threatening to dry up the very streams themselves. The river yields, and retires to his banks, leaving Achilles free to pursue his victories. He drives the Trojans inside their walls, and but that Apollo guards the gates, would have entered the city in hot pursuit. Hector alone remains without—his doom is upon him.
The gods, meanwhile, have entered the field of battle on their own account, and contributed, as before, a ludicrous element to the action of the poem. Minerva fells Mars the war-god to the ground with a huge mass of rock, an ancient landmark, which she hurls against him; and he lies covering "above seven hundred feet," till Venus comes to his aid to lead him from the field, when the terrible goddess strikes her to the earth beside him. Juno shows the strength of those "white arms" which the poet always assigns to her, by a terrible buffet which she bestows, for no particular reason apparently, upon Diana, who drops her bow and loses her arrows, and flies weeping to her father Jupiter. He, for his part, has been watching the quarrels of his court and family with a dignified amusement ;—
"Jove as his sport the dreadful scene descries.
Those philosophers who sec a moral allegory in the whole of the Homeric story, have supplied us with a key to the conduct and feelings of Jupiter during this curious combat. "Jupiter, as the lord of nature, is well pleased with the war of the gods-—-that is, of earth, sea, air, &c.—because the harmony of all beings arises from that discord. Thus heat and cold, moist and dry, are in a continual war, yet upon this depends the fertility of the earth and the beauty of the creation. So that Jupiter, who, according to the Greeks, is the soul of all, may well be said to smile at this contention. Those readers who may not be satisfied with this solution must be content to take the burlesque as it stands.
THE DEATH OF HECTOR.
Hector remains alone outside the Sesean gate, awaiting his great enemy. In vain his aged father and mother from the walls entreat him to take shelter within, like the rest of his countrymen. He will not meet the just reproach of Polydamas, whose prudent counsel he rejected. The deaths of his friends who have fallen in this terrible battle, which he had insisted upon their risking, hang heavy on his souL He, at least, will do what he may for Troy. Yet he has no confidence in the result of the encounter. If he were only sure that Achilles would listen, he would even now offer to restore Helen, and so end this disastrous war. But he feels it is too late; vengeance alone will now content Achilles.
"Not this the time, nor he the man with whom
Achilles draws near. The courage which has never failed Hector before, wholly deserts him now; he turns and flies, "like a dove from the falcon." Judged by any theory of modern heroism, his conduct is simply indefensible. Critics tell us that the poet, in order to enhance the glory of his chief hero, makes even the champion of Troy fear to face him. But it is no compliment, in our modern eyes, to a victorious warrior, to have it explained that his crowning victory was won over a coward. Yet perhaps there was something of this feeling maintained even by Englishmen in days not so very long gone by, when it was the popular fashion to represent Frenchmen generally, and the great Trench general in particular, as always running away from the English bayonets. However, to Homer's public it was evidently not incongruous or derogatory to the heroic type of character, that sudden panic should seize even the bravest in the presence of superior force. Hector, as has been said, turns and flies for his life.
Thrice round the walls of the city, his friends looking on in horror at the terrible race, he flies, with Achilles in pursuit. In each course he tries to reach the gates, that his comrades may either open to him, or at least cover him by launching their missiles from the walls against his enemy. But still Achilles turns him back towards the plain, signing to the Greeks to hurl no spear, nor to interfere in any way with his single vengeance. The gods look down from Olympus with divided interest. Jupiter longs to save him; but Minerva sternly reminds him of the dread destiny—the Eternal Law—which even the Ruler of Olympus is bound to reverence. Once more he lifts in heaven the golden scales, and finds that Hector's fate weighs down, the balance. Then, at last, his guardian Apollo leaves him. Minerva, on her part, comes to the aid of her
favourite Achilles with a stratagem, as little worthy of his renown (to our view) as the sudden panic of Hector. She appears by the side of the Trojan hero in the likeness of his brother Deiphobus, and bids him stand and light; they two, together, must surely be a match for Achilles. Hector turns and challenges his adversary. One compact he tries to make, in a few hurried words, before they encounter; yet each promise, since one must fall, to restore the dead body of his enemy in. all honour to his kindred. Achilles makes no reply but this :—
"Talk not to me of compacts; as 'tween men
Tho spear launched with these words misses its mark: that of Hector strikes full in the centre of his enemy's shield, but it glances harmlessly off from the fire-god's workmanship. He looks round for Deiphobus to hand him another; but the false Deiphobus has vanished, and, too late, Hector detects the cruel deceit of the goddess. He will die at least as a hero should. He draws his sword, and rushes on Achilles. The wary Greek eyes him carefully as he comes on, and spies the joint in his harness where the breastplate meets tho throat. Through that fatal spot he drives his spear, and the Trojan falls to the ground mortally wounded,