Imagens das páginas

Homeric picture. The husband was not thinking of his

wife's beauty. He "caresses her with his hand," and

tries to cheer her with the thought that- no hero dies

until his work is done.

"For, till my day of destiny is come,
No man may take my life; and when it comes,
Nor brave nor coward can escape that day.
But go thou home, and ply thy household cares,
The loom and distaff, and appoint thy maids
Their several tasks; and leave to men of Troy,
And chief of all to me, the toils of war." (D.)

The tender yet half - contemptuous tone in which the iron soldier relegates the woman to her own inferior cares, is true to the spirit of every age in which war is the main business of man's life. Something in the same tone is the charming scene between Hotspur and his lady in Shakspeare's 'Henry IV.'

"Hotspur. Away, you trifler!—Love? 1 love thee not,—

I care not for thee, Kate; this is no world

To play with mammets and to tilt with lips:

We must have bloody noses and crack't crowns,

And pass them current too.—God's me, my horse !—

What say'st thou, Kate? What wouldst thou have with me? Lady Percy. Do you not love me? Do you not indeed?

Well,—do not, then; for since you love me not,

I will not love myself.—Do you not love me?

Nay, tell me if you speak in jest, or no. Hotspur. Come, wilt thou see me ride?

And when I am o' horseback, I will swear

I love thee infinitely. But hark you, Kate:

I must not have you henceforth question me

Whither I go, nor reason whereabout;

Whither I must, I must; and, to conclude,

This evening must I leave you, gentle Kate.

I know you wise; but yet, no further wise

Than Harry Percy's wife: constant you are—

But yet a woman: and for secrecy,

No lady closer: for I well believe

Thou wilt not utter that thou dost not know."

Hector and his wife part; lie to the fight, accompanied now by Paris, girt for the battle in glittering armour, the show knight of the Trojans: Andromache back to the palace, casting many a lingering glance behind at the gallant husband she is fated never again to see alive. The Eoman ladies of the last days of the Eepublic were not much given to sentiment; but we do not wonder that Brutus's wife, Portia, knowing well the Homeric story, was moved to tears in looking at a picture of this parting scene.




By the advice of his brother Helenus, who knows the counsels of heaven, Hector now challenges the Greek host to match some one of their chieftains against him in single combat. There is an unwillingness even amongst the bravest to accept the defiance— so terrible is the name of Hector. Menelaus—always gallant and generous—is indignant at their cowardice, and offers himself as the champion. He feels he is no match for Hector; but, as he says with modest confidence, the issues in such case lie in the hands of heaven. But Agamemnon, ever affectionately careful of his brother, will not suffer such unequal risk: some more stalwart warrior shall be found to maintain the honour of the Achseans. Old Nestor rises, and loudly regrets that he has no longer the eye and sinews of his youth—but the men of Greece, he sees with shame, are not now what they were in his day. Stung by the taunt, nine chiefs spring to their feet at once, and offer themselves for the combat. Conspicuous amongst them are Diomed, the giant Ajax, and King Agamemnon himself; and when the choice of a champion is referred to lot, the hopes and wishes of the whole army are audibly expressed, that on one of these three the lot may fall. It falls on Ajax; and amidst the congratulations and prayers of his comrades, the tall chieftain dons his armour, and strides forth to meet his adversary. The combat is maintained with vigour on both sides, till dusk comes on; the heralds interpose, and they separate with mutual courtesies and exchange of presents.

Both armies agree to a truce, that they may collect and burn their dead who strew the plain thickly after the long day's battle. The Trojans, dispirited by their loss, and conscious that, owing to the breach of the first truce by the treacherous act of Pandarus, they are fighting under the curse of perjury, hold a council of war, in which Antenor (the Nestor of Troy) proposes to restore Helen and her wealth, and so put an end at last to this weary siege. But Paris refuses—he will give back the treasure, but not Helen; and the proposal thus made is spurned by the Greeks as an insult. They busy themselves in building a fortification—ditch, and wall, and palisade—to protect their fleet from any sudden incursion of the Trojans. When this great work is completed, they devote the next night to one of those heavy feasts and deep carousals, to which men of the heroic mould have always had the repute of being addicted in the intervals of hard fighting. Most opportunely, a fleet of merchant - ships comes in from Lemnos, laden with wine; in part a present sent by Euneus, son of the renowned voyager Jason, to the two royal brothers; in part a trading speculation, which meets with immediate success among the thirsty host. The thunder of Olympus rolls all through the night, for the Thunderer is angry at the prolongation of the war: but the Greeks content their consciences with pouring copious libations to appease his wrath, and after their prolonged revelry sink into careless slumber. At daybreak Jupiter holds a council in Olympus, and harangues the assembled deities at some length— with a special request that he may not be interrupted. He forbids, on pain of his royal displeasure, any further interference on the part of the Olympians on either side in the contest; and then, mounting his chariot, descends in person to Mount Ida to survey the field of battle, once more crowded with fierce combatants. He hesitates, apparently, which side he shall aid—for he has no intention of observing for himself the neutrality which he has so strictly enjoined upon others. So he weighs in a balance the fates of Greek and Trojan: the former draws down the scale, while the destiny of Troy mounts to heaven. The metaphor is reversed, according to our modern notions; it is the losing side which should be found wanting when weighed in the balance. And so Milton has it in the passage which is undoubtedly founded on these lines of Homer. "The Omnipotent," says Milton,

"Hung forth in heaven His golden scales, yet seen
Betwixt Astrcea and the Scorpion sign,
Wherein all things created first He weighed,
The pendulous round earth with balanced air
In counterpoise; now ponders all events,
Battles and realms; in these He put two weights,
The sequel each of parting and of fight:
The latter quick up flew and kicked the beam."

And Gabriel bids Satan look up, and mark the warn

"' For proof look up.
And read thy lot in yon celestial sign,
Where thou art weighed, and shown how light, how weak,

« AnteriorContinuar »