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And whomsoever I behold at lair
He remembers, too, like a wise general, that a battle may be lost by fighting on an empty stomach. So the oxen and the fatlings are slain, the choice pieces of the thighs and the fat are offered in sacrifice to the gods, and then the whole army feasts their filL Agamemnon holds a select banquet of six of the chief leaders—King Idomeneus of Crete, Nestor, Ajax the Greater and the Less, and Ulysses, " wise in council as Zeus." One guest comes uninvited—his brother Menelaus. He is no dinner-loving intruder; he comes, as the poet simply tells us, "because he knew in his heart how many were his brother's cares and anxieties,"—he might be of some use or support to him. Throughout the whole of the poem, the mutual affection borne by these two brothers is very remarkable, and unlike any type of the same relationship which exists in fiction. It is never put forward or specially dwelt upon, but comes out simply and naturally in every particular of their intercourse.
A king and priest, like Abraham at Bethel, Agamemnon stands by his burnt-offering, and lifts his prayer for victory to Jupiter, "most glorious and most great, who dwells in the clouds and thick darkness." But no favourable omen comes from heaven. The god, whether or no he accepts the offering, gives no sign. Nevertheless—we may suppose with a certain wilfulness which is part of his character—Agamemnon proceeds to set the battle in array; and the second book of the Iliad closes with the long muster-roll of the Greek clans under their respective kings or chiefs on the one side, and of the Trojans and their allies on the other, which in our introduction has already been partly anticipated.* The long list of chiefs, with their genealogies and birthplaces, and the strength of their several contingents, was evidently composed with a view to recitation: and whatever may be its value as an authentic record, we can understand the interest with which a Greek audience would listen to a muster-roll which was to them what the Roll of Battle Abbey was to the descendants of the Normans in England. If here and there, upon occasion, the wandering minstrel inserted in the text the name and lineage of some provincial hero on his own responsibility, the popular applause would assuredly be none the less.
THE DUEL OF PARIS AND MENELAUS.
The battle is set in array, "army against army." But there is a difference in the bearing of the opposed forces which is very significant, and is probably a note of real character, not a mere stroke of the poet's art. The Trojan host, after the fashion of Asiatic warfare, modern as well as ancient, move forward to the combat with loud shouts and clashing of weapons. The poet compares their confused clamour to the noise of a flock of cranes on their annual migration. The Greeks, on the other hand, march in silence, with closed ranks, uttering no sound, but "breathing determination." So, when afterwards they actually close for action, not a sound is heard in their ranks but the voice of the leaders giving the word of command. "You would not think," says the poet, "that all that mighty host had tongues ;" while, in the mixed battalions of the enemy, whose allies are men of many lands and languages, there arises a noisy discordant clamour—" like as of bleating ewes that hear the cries of their lambs."
But while the hostile forces yet await the signal for the battle, Paris springs forth alone from the Trojan ranks. "Godlike" he is in his beauty, and with the love of personal adornment which befits his character, he wears a spotted leopard's hide upon his shoulders. Tennyson's portrait of him, though in a different scene, is thoroughly Homeric—
"White-breasted like a star,
Advancing with long strides in the space between the armies, he challenges the leaders of the Greeks, one and all, to meet him singly in mortal combat. Menelaus hears the boast. "Like a hungry lion springing on his prey," he leaps full-armed from his chariot, exulting in the thought that now at last his personal vengeance shall be gratified. But conscience makes a coward of Paris. He starts back—" as a man that sees a serpent in his path "—the godlike visage grows pale, the knees tremble, and the Trojan champion draws back under the shelter of his friends from the gallant hero whom he has so bitterly wronged. The Eoman historian Livy—a poet in prose—had surely this passage in his mind when he described Sextus Tarquinius, the dishonourer of Lucretia, quailing, as no Eoman of his blood and rank would otherwise have quailed, when young Valerius dashes out from the Eoman lines to engage him. The moral teaching of the heathen poet on such points is far higher than that of the medieval romancers with whom he has so many points in common. Sir Tristram of Lyonnois has no such scruples of conscience in meeting King Mark. Lancelot, indeed, will not fight with Arthur; but the very nobility of character with which the unknown author of that striking impersonation has endowed him is in itself the highest of all wrongs against morality, in that it steals the reader's sympathies for the wrong-doer instead of for the injured husband. Shakespeare, as is his wont, strikes the higher key. It is the consciousness of guilt which makes Macbeth half quail before Macduff—
"Of all men else have I avoided thee:
Paris withdraws into the Trojan ranks, and there encounters Hector. As has been already said, the poet assumes at the outset, on the part of his audience, at least such knowledge of his dramatis persona! as to make a formal introduction unnecessary. Hector is the noblest of all the sons of Priam, the shield and bulwark of his countrymen throughout the long years of the war. Achilles is the hero of the Iliad, and to him Homer assigns the palm of strength and valour; but, as is not seldom the case in fiction, the author has painted the rival hero so well that our sympathies are at least as frequently found on his side. We almost share Juno's feelings against the Trojans when they are represented by Paris; but when Hector comes into the field, our hearts half go over to the enemy. His character will be touched upon more fully hereafter: for the present, it must discover itself in the course of the story. He throws himself in the way of Paris in his cowardly retreat; and in spite of the fraternal feeling which is so remarkably strong amongst Homer's; heroes,—in Hector and his brothers almost as much as' in Agamemnon and Menelaus,—shame and disgust at his present poltroonery now mingle themselves with a