But Atreus' son the
fighting Menelaus marked it all—
the Trojans killing Patroclus there in the brutal carnage—
and crested now in his gleaming bronze gear Atrides
plowed through the front to stand astride the body,
braced like a mother cow lowing over a calf,
her first-born, first labor-pangs she'd felt.
So the red-haired captain bestrode Patroclus now,
shielding his corpse with spear and round buckler,
burning to kill off any man who met him face-to-face.
But Euphorbus who hurled the lethal ashen spear
would not neglect his kill, Patroclus' handsome body.
Halting close beside it, he taunted fighting, Menelaus:
"Back, high and mighty Atrides, captain of armies—
back from the corpse, and leave the bloody gear!
I was the first Trojan, first of the famous allies
to spear Patroclus down in the last rough charge.
So let me seize my glory among the Trojans now—
or I'll spear you too, I'll rip your own sweet life away!"
But the red-haired
captain flared back in anger:
"Father Zeus—listen to this indecent, reckless bluster!
Not even the leopard's fury makes the beast so proud,
not even the lion's, not the murderous wild boar's,
the greatest pride of all, bursting the boar's chest
they're nothing next to the pride of Panthous' sons
with their strong ashen spears. But no, no joy
did even powerful Hyperenor, breaker of horses,
get from his young strength when he scorned me,
stood up to me, reviling me as the weakest fighter
in all Achaea's armies. Home he went, I'd say,
but not on his own two feet, and brought no cheer
to his loyal, loving wife and devoted parents.
And you, I'll break your courage for you too
if you try to take me on.
Go back to your own rank and file, I tell you!
Don't stand up against me—or you will meet your death.
Even a fool learns something once it hits him."
So he warned
but failed to shake Euphorbus who shot right back,
"Now, high and mighty Atrides, now by heaven
you pay in blood for the brother you laid low!
You glory over it too—making his wife a widow
lost in the depths of their new bridal chamber,
bringing his parents cursed tears and grief.
But I could stop that wretched couple's pain
if only I brought your head and bloody armor home
and laid them in Panthous' arms, in lovely Phrontis' arms!
We're wasting time. Our fight's unfought, untested—
we'll see who stands his ground, who cuts and runs."
And he stabbed
Menelaus' round shield, full center,
not battering through—the brazen point bent back
in the tough armor.
But his turn next, Menelaus
rose with a bronze lance and a prayer to Father Zeus
and lunging out at Euphorbus just dropping back,
pierced the pit of his throat-leaning into it hard,
his whole arm's weight in the stroke to drive it home
and the point went slicing through the tender neck.
He fell with a crash, armor ringing against his ribs,
his locks like the Graces' locks splashed with blood,
still braided tight with gold and silver clips,
pinched in like a wasp's waist. There he lay
like an olive slip a farmer rears to strength
on a lonely hilltop, drenching it down with water,
a fine young stripling tree, and the winds stir it softly,
rustling from every side, and it bursts with silver shoots-—
then suddenly out of nowhere a wind in gale force comes storming,
rips it out of its trench, stretches it out on the earth—
so Panthous' stripling son lay sprawled in death,
Euphorbus who hurled the strong ashen spear . . .
Menelaus cut him down, was stripping off his armor—
Menelaus fierce as a
mountain lion sure of his power,
seizing the choicest head from a good grazing herd.
First he cracks its neck, clamped in his huge jaws,
mauling the kill then down in gulps he bolts it,
blood and guts, and around him dogs and shepherds
raise a fierce din but they keep their distance,
lacking nerve to go in and take the lion on—
the fear that grips their spirit makes them blanch.
So now not a single Trojan fighter had the spine
to go and face Atrides tensing in all his strength.
Then and there Menelaus might have stripped Euphorbus
and swept the Trojan's glittering armor off with ease
if Apollo had not grudged him all that glory,
rousing Hector against him, swift as Ares.
Taking a man's shape, the Cicones' captain Mentes,
Apollo spurred him on with winged orders: "Hector—
you're chasing the wild wind, fiery Achilles' team!
They're hard for mortal men to curb and drive,
for all but Achilles-his mother is immortal.
But all the while Menelaus, Atreus' fighting son
bestrides Patroclus—he's killed the Trojans' best,
Panthous' son Euphorbus, stopped his fury cold."
And back Apollo
strode, a god in the wars of men.
But grief bore down on Hector, packing his dark heart
as he scanned the battle lines and saw the worst at once:
the two men there, one stripping the gleaming armor,
the other sprawled on the ground,
blood still spurting warm from his slashed throat.
Down the front he charged, crested in flashing bronze,
Hector loosing a savage cry and flaring on like fire,
like the god of fire, the blaze that never dies.
And the cry pierced Menelaus, deeply tom now
as he probed his own great heart: "What can I do?
If I leave this splendid gear and desert Patroclus—
who fell here fighting, all to redeem my honor—
won't any comrade curse me, seeing me break away?
But if I should take on Hector and Hector's Trojans
alone, in single combat-trying to save my pride—
won't they encircle me, one against so many?
This flashing Hector has all Troy at his back!
But why debate, my friend, why thrash things out?
When you fight a man against the will of the gods,
a man they have sworn to honor-then look out,
a heavy wave of ruin's about to overwhelm you.
Surely no Achaean will curse me, seeing me now,
giving ground to Hector . . .
since fighting Hector's flanked by god almighty.
Ah if only I knew where Ajax could be found,
that man with his ringing war cry—we two together
would go back to the melee calling up our fury,
even fight in the teeth of every god on high
and haul the body back to Achilles-somehow.
Things are bad, but that would be the best."
Working it out, his
heart racing as on they came,
waves of Trojan soldiers and Hector led them in.
And Atrides gave ground, he left the corpse
but kept on turning round to face an attack—
like a great bearded lion the dogs and field hands
drive back from the folds with spears and sharp cries
and the brave, battling heart in his chest freezes tight
and the big cat, all reluctance, pulls back from the sheds.
So the red-haired captain backed away from Patroclus' corpse
but wheeled at bay when he reached his waiting allies,
glancing round and round for Ajax' massive hulk.
All at once on the left flank he marked him,
spurring companions, urging them to fight,
for Phoebus had filled each man with quaking fear.
Atrides went on the run and reached him, shouting, "Ajax!
Hurry, my friend, this way-fight for dead Patroclus!
At least we could bring his body back to Achilles,
stripped as Patroclus is-but not Achilles' armor:
Hector with that flashing helmet has seized it all."
So he roused the
fury in battling Ajax' heart
and down the front he stalked with the red-haired king.
Hector, tearing the famous armor off Patroclus,
tugged hard at the corpse,
mad to hack the head from the neck with bronze
and drag the trunk away to glut the dogs of Troy.
But in charged Ajax, shield like a tower before him
and Hector, falling back on a crowd of comrades,
leapt to his chariot, flinging the burnished gear
to his waiting troops to haul away to Troy—
trophies to be his own enormous glory. But Ajax,
shielding Patroclus round with his broad buckler,
stood fast now like a lion cornered round his young
when hunters cross him, leading his cubs through woods—
he ramps in all the pride of his power, bristling strength,
the heavy folds of his forehead frowning down his eyes.
So Ajax stood his ground over brave Patroclus now—
the fighting Atrides right beside him, standing fast,
his grief mounting, every waiting moment.
Hippolochus' son and lord of Lycia's forces now,
scowled at Hector, lashing out at him: "Hector—
our prince of beauty, in battle all a sham!
That empty glory of yours a runner's glory,
a scurrying girl's at that.
Now you'd better plan how to save your city,
you alone and your native troopers born in Troy.
Now not a single Lycian goes to fight the Argives,
not to save your Troy. What lasting thanks for us,
for warring with your enemies, on and on, no end?
What hope has the common soldier in your ranks
to be saved by you, Hector, you heart of iron?—
if you could quit Sarpedon, your guest and friend-in-arms
abandoned there as carrion fit for the Argive maws.
Think what a staunch support Sarpedon was to you
and to all Troy while the man was still alive!
Now you lack the daring to save him from the dogs.
So now, if any Lycian troops will obey my orders,
home we go—and headlong death can come and topple Troy.
If the Trojans had that courage, unswerving courage
that fires men who fight for their own country,
beating their enemies down in war and struggle,
then we could drag Patroclus back to Troy at once.
If we could haul him from battle, dead as he is,
and lodge him behind King Priam's looming walls,
our enemies would release Sarpedon's gear at once
and then, then we could bring his body back to Troy.
For the man we cut down here was the loyal friend
of Prince Achilles—far the greatest among the Argive ships
and at his command go rugged fighters hand-to-hand.
But you-with enemy war cries ringing in your ears—
you lacked the nerve to go up against Great Ajax,
that fierce heart, to look him straight in the eye
and fight the man head-on—he's a better man than you!"
With a dark glance
from under his flashing helmet
Hector lashed back, "Glaucus, such brazen insolence
from a decent man like you, but why? Ah too bad,
and I always thought you excelled the rest in sense,
all who hale from Lycia's fertile soil. But now—
you fill me with contempt—what are you saying?
You tell me that I can't stand up to monstrous Ajax?
I tell you I never cringe at war and thundering horses!
But the will of Zeus will always overpower the will of men,
Zeus who strikes fear in even the bravest man of war
and tears away his triumph, all in a lightning flash,
and at other times he will spur a man to battle.
Come on, my friend, stand by me, watch me work!
See if I prove a coward dawn to dusk-your claim—
or I stop some Argive, blazing in all his power,
from fighting on to shield Patroclus' corpse!"
With that he loosed
a shrill cry to his Trojans,
"Trojans! Lycians! Dardan fighters hand-to-hand—
now be men, my friends, call up your battle-fury!
I'll strap on the brave Achilles' armor, burnished armor
I stripped from strong Patroclus when I killed him!"
So he cried and his
own bronze helmet flashed
as Hector veered away from the heavy fighting,
running after his men and caught them quickly.
They'd not gone far and he ran with eager strides
as they bore Achilles' famous arms toward Troy.
Standing far from the war and all its heartbreak
Hector exchanged his armor, handing his own gear
to his battle-hungry troops to return to holy Troy,
and donned the deathless arms of Peleus' son Achilles,
arms the gods of the sky once gave his loving father—
and Peleus passed them on to his son when he grew old
but the son would not grow old in his father's armor.
when Zeus who arrays the clouds saw Hector from afar,
strapping on the gear of Peleus' godlike son,
he shook his head and addressed his own deep heart:
"Poor soldier. Never a thought of death weighs down
your spirit now, yet death is right beside you . . .
You don the deathless arms of a great fighter—
and all other fighters tremble before him, true,
but you, you killed his comrade, gentle, strong,
and against all rights you ripped the immortal armor
off his head and shoulders. So great power for the moment
I will grant you to compensate for all that is to come:
never again will you return from battle, Hector,
nor will Andromache take that famous armor,
Achilles' deathless armor, from your hands."
So he decreed
and the son of Cronus bowed his craggy dark brows.
Zeus fitted the armor tightly on Hector's body
and Ares surged in his heart with awesome force,
filling his limbs with power and fighting strength.
And on he strode amidst his illustrious Trojan allies—
calling out with wild cries, now flashing before them all
in the gleaming battle-gear of greathearted Achilles.
He ranged their ranks, inspiriting every captain,
commanding Mesthles, Glaucus, Medon, Thersilochus,
Asteropaeus, Disenor, Hippothous, Phorcys, Chromius,
Ennomus too, who could read the flight of birds.
Hector drove them on with winging orders: "Hear me—
numberless tribes of allies living round our borders—
I neither sought nor needed enormous hordes of men
that day I called you here, each from your own city.
What I needed was men to shield our helpless children,
fighting men to defend our Trojan women-all-out—
against these savage Argives. That goal in mind,
I bleed my own people for gifts and food
so I can build your courage, each and every man.
So now, each of you, turn straight for the enemy,
live or die-that is the lovely give-and-take of war.
That man who drags Patroclus back to Trojan charioteers,
dead as Patroclus is, and makes Great Ajax yield—
to him I will give one half the bloody spoils,
keep half for myself—his glory will equal mine!"
and they bore straight down on the Argives full force,
shaking their spears, their hearts fired with hopes
of dragging Patroclus' body out from under Ajax—
fools! Over the corpse he'd cut down crowds of men,
though now, at this point, Ajax warned Menelaus,
lord of the battle cry, "Old friend, my Prince,
I lose hope that we alone, on our own power,
can make it back from the fighting.
I not only fear for our comrade's body—
Patroclus will glut the dogs and birds of Troy
and all too soon—but I fear for my own head,
for my own life. And yours too, Menelaus—
look at this cloud of war that blots out all the field,
this Hector, this headlong death that stares us in the face!
Quick, call to the chiefs—if one can hear you now."
At that the prince
of the battle cry complied
with a high piercing shout that reached all troops:
"Friends-lords of the Argives, 0 my captains!
All who join the Atridae, Agamemnon and Menelaus,
who drink wine at the king's expense and hold command
of your own troops, your rank and fame from Zeus!
Impossible now to pick you out, my captains,
man by man—the battle blazes up so wildly.
Forward, each on his own! You'll die of shame
if the dogs of Ilium make Patroclus ripping sport."
And the quick Oilean
Ajax heard him clearly,
first on the run along the fighting front to meet him—
Idomeneus after him and Idomeneus' good aide,
Meriones, a match for the butcher god of war.
For the rest who followed, waking Achaea's war-lust,
what man has spirit strong enough to sing their names?
Down in a mass the
Trojans pounded—Hector led them in,
charging in as a heavy surf roars in aeainst the rio
at a river's mouth, swelled with rains from Zeus,
and on either side the jutting headlands bellow back
at the booming sea with matching thunder—in they came,
the Trojans roaring in. But the Argives faced them,
standing fast in a ring around Patroclus, one fury
seizing their hearts, packing a wall of bronze shields
and round about their glittering crested helmets now
the son of Cronus spread a dense, deepening mist.
He had never hated Menoetius' son in the past,
while he was alive and still Achilles' aide,
and now the Father loathed to see him prey
to Troy's marauders, the ravening dogs of Troy—
so he drove his comrades on to shield his corpse.
At first the Trojans
could ram the Argives back
and they abandoned the corpse, their fiery-eyed battalions
fled away in panic. But still the breakneck Trojans,
up in arms as they were,
killed off none of the Argives with their spears—
instead they began to drag away Patroclus' corpse.
But not for long would his comrades give him up:
in a swift maneuver Ajax wheeled them round,
Ajax, greatest in build, greatest in works of war
of all the Argives after Peleus' matchless son.
Right through the front he plowed like a wild boar
ramping in power up on the high mountain ridges,
scattering dogs and reckless hunters at one charge
when he wheels at bay and drives them down the glades.
So now the son of noble Telamon, dauntless Ajax
scattered the massing Trojan packs at a charge,
all who bestrode Patroclus now, high with hopes
of dragging him back to Troy to win the glory—
Hippothous out for fame . . . Pelasgian Lethus' son,
lashing a shield-strap round the ankle tendons,
was hauling Patroclus footfirst through the melee,
hoping to please Prince Hector and all the Trojans,
Hippothous rushing on but death came just as fast.
No Trojans could save him now, strain as they might
Ajax son of Telamon charging quickly into the carnage
speared him at close range through the bronze-cheeked helmet,
the horsehair crest cracked wide open around the point,
smashed by the massive spear and hand that drove it.
His brains burst from the wound in sprays of blood,
soaking the weapon's socket—
his strength dissolved on the spot, his grip loosed
and he dropped the foot of brave Patroclus' corpse.
There on the ground it lay-he rushed to join it,
pitching over the dead man's body face-to-face,
a world away from Larissa's dark rich soil . . .
Never would he repay his loving parents now
for the gift of rearing—his life cut short so soon,
brought down by the spear of lionhearted Ajax. .
Hector hurled at
him—a sudden glint of the spear—
but Ajax saw it coming and dodged the bronze shaft,
just by a hair, and the weapon caught Schedius,
gallant Iphitus' son and Phocia's finest man,
who made his home in the famous town of Panopeus,
ruling tribes of men. Hector speared him now—
the point split the collarbone, slashing through
and out by the shoulder's base, sticking out the back.
He fell with a crash, his armor clanging round him.
with a lunge he stabbed Phorcys, Phaenops' warrior son
bestriding Hippothous' corpse—he ripped his belly,
smashing the corslet just where the plates join
and the bronze spearhead spilled his entrails out
and down went Phorcys, grasping, clawing the dust.
The Trojan front gave ground, glorious Hector too
and the Argives yelled wildly, dragging the bodies,
hauling Hippothous' corpse along with Phorcys' now
and tearing the bloody armor off their backs.
Trojan troops would have clambered back inside 'their walls,
whipped weak with fear by the Argives primed for battle
and they, they would have seized enormous glory—
yes, defying even the great decree of Zeus—
by dint of their own power and striking force.
But god Apollo himself spurred on Aeneas,
taking the build of Periphas, Summoner's son
who had grown old as, herald to Aeneas' father
the aged king—a loving, loyal herald too . . . .
Like him to the life, Apollo provoked Aeneas:
"Aeneas—how could you and your men save Troy
with the gods against you? As I've seen other men
who trust to their own power and striking force,
their own valor, their own troop-strength—
even badly outmanned—defend their country well.
But Zeus is with us here! Decreeing triumph for us,
not for the Argives now. But you, you're all frightened
out of your minds—you cannot fight."
Aeneas knew him at once, looking straight in his eyes
and the fighter loosed a rousing shout at Hector:
"Hector—all you captains of Trojans, Trojan allies—
shame, what shame! Clambering back into Troy now,
whipped weak with fear by the Argive forces? Look—
one of the gods comes up beside me, tells me Zeus
the supreme commander still impels us all in battle.
So go for the Argives—head-on! Don't let them bear
Patroclus' body back to their ships without a fight!"
And springing out of
the lines Aeneas took his stand
as the rest swung round and braced to meet the Argives.
There—Aeneas lunged and speared Leocritus through,
a son of Arisbas, Lycomedes' die-hard friend.
And veteran Lycomedes pitied him as he dropped,
sweeping beside him, rearing—a flash of his lance
and he hit a captain, Hippasus' son Apisaon,
slitting open his liver, up under the midriff . . .
His knees went limp, a man who'd marched from Paeonia,
good fertile soil where he excelled all fighters,
all but Asteropaeus—
Down to the ground he went
but battling Asteropaeus pitied his comrade's pain
and charged the Argives hard, mad to fight it out—
no use, too late. They'd packed behind their shields,
ringing Patroclus round on all sides, spears jutting
as Ajax ranged them all and shouted out commands:
"No one back away from the body! No heroes either,
bolting out of the Argive pack for single combat!
Cluster round Patroclus, shoulder-to-shoulder,
fight them at close range!" At the giant's command
the earth ran red with blood, slithering dark now
and the soldiers' corpses tumbling thick-and-fast,
Trojans and breakneck allies-piled alongside Argives—
how could the Argives fight without some bloody losses?
But far fewer of them went down, remembering always
to fight in tight formation,
friend defending friend from headlong slaughter.
So on they fought
like a swirl of living fire—
you could not say if the sun and moon still stood secure,
so dense the battle-haze that engulfed the brave
who stood their ground around Patroclus' body.
But the other Trojans and Argive men-at-arms
fought on at their ease beneath a clear blue sky—
sharp brilliance of sunlight glittering round them,
not a cloud in sight to shadow the earth and mountains.
Men who fought at a distance worked with frequent breaks,
dodging painful arrows that showered side-to-side.
But men who held the center suffered agonies,
thanks to the haze and carnage—
ruthless bronze hacking their lines to pieces,
there where the bravest fought. Yet two men there,
famous fighters, Antilochus flanking Thrasymedes
still had not caught word of Patroclus' death:
they thought the gallant soldier still alive,
fighting Trojans up on the clashing front lines.
But the two men kept their lookout, always alert
to their comrades' deaths or signs of instant flight
as the two fought out on the flank—just as Nestor ordered,
sending both sons forth from the black ships to battle.
So all day long for
the men of war the fighting raged,
grim and grueling, relentless, drenching labor, nonstop,
and the knees, shins and feet that upheld each fighter,
their hands, their eyes, ran with the sweat of struggle
over the great runner Achilles' steadfast aide-in-arms—
an enormous tug-of-war. As when some master tanner
gives his crews the hide of a huge bull for stretching,
the beast's skin soaked in grease and the men grab hold,
bracing round in a broad circle, tugging, stretching hard
till the skin's oils go dripping out as the grease sinks in,
so many workers stretch the whole hide tough and taut—
so back and forth in a cramped space they tugged,
both sides dragging the corpse and hopes rising,
Trojans hoping to drag Patroclus back to Troy,
Achaeans to drag him back to the hollow ships
and round him always the brutal struggle raging.
Not even Ares, lasher of armies, not even Athena
watching the battle here could scorn its fury,
not even in their most savage lust for combat, no—
so tense the work of war for the men and chariot-teams
that Zeus stretched taut across Patroclus this one day . . .
But great Achilles
knew nothing yet of Patroclus' death.
They were fighting far afield of the deep-sea ships,
beneath the Trojan wall, so Achilles never feared
his friend was dead—he must be still alive,
pressing on to the very gates, but he'd come back.
Achilles never dreamed Patroclus would storm all Troy
without him, not even with him. No, time and again
his mother Thetis told him this was not to be,
she told him alone, in secret . . .
always bringing word of mighty Zeus's plans,
but not this time. One thing she never told him—
his own mother—what a terrible thing had taken place:
his dearest friend-in-arms on earth lay dead.
no letup, the fighters kept on thrusting whetted spears,
locked in endless struggle, cutting each other down.
And an Argive armed in bronze would call out, "Friends!
Our glory's gone if we fall back now on the ships—
let the black earth gape and take us all at once,
here and now! Better for us that way, by far,
if we yield his corpse to the stallion-breaking Trojans,
all to drag him back to Troy and win the glory."
And a hardy Trojan
would call on his side, "Friends!
What if it's fated for us to die beside this body—
all dead in a mass? Let no man quit the battle!"
So they would say,
fuelingg comrades' courage.
And so they fought and the iron din went rising up
to the bronze sky through the barren breathless air.
But standing clear of the fray Achilles' horses wept
from the time they first had sensed their driver's death,
brought down in the dust by man-killing Hector.
Diores' rugged son Automedon did his best,
lashed them over and over with stinging whip—
coaxing them gently now, now shouting oath on oath.
But both balked at returning now to the ships
moored at the Hellespont's far-reaching shore
or galloping back to fight beside the Argives.
Staunch as a pillar planted tall above a barrow,
standing sentry over some lord or lady's grave-site,
so they stood, holding the blazoned chariot stock-still,
their heads trailing along the ground, warm tears flowing
down from their eyes to wet the earth . . . the horses mourned,
longing now for their driver, their luxurious manes soiled,
streaming down from the yoke-pads, down along the yoke.
And Zeus pitied
them, watching their tears flow.
He shook his head and addressed his own deep heart:
"Poor creatures, why did we give you to King Peleus,
a mortal doomed to death . . .
you immortal beasts who never age or die?
So you could suffer the pains of wretched men?
There is nothing alive more agonized than man
of all that breathe and crawl across the earth.
But Hector, at least, will never ride behind you,
you and your blazoned chariot. I will never permit it.
What more does he want? The arms are enough for him—
Priam's son with his empty, futile boasting.
But I will fill your legs and hearts with strength
so you can save Automedon, bear him from the fighting
back to the fleet. For still I will give the Trojans glory—
killing all the way to the benched ships till the sun sinks
and the blessed darkness sweeps across the earth."
And with that he
breathed fresh fire in the team.
They shook the dust from their manes and galloped off,
speeding the fast chariot just where the armies clashed.
Automedon fought as he rode, though grieving for his friend,
swooping in with the team like a vulture after geese.
Now he'd veer from the Trojan melee in a flash
then dart back in a charge, pursuing mobs of men
but he could not kill the ones he rushed in force—
no way for him now, alone in the hurtling car,
to lunge with a spear and still control those racers.
But at last a cohort marked the driver's straits,
Alcimedon the son of Laerces, Haemon's grandson
coming behind the chariot, shouted out, 'Automedon)
What god has put such a tactic in your head?
It's good-for-nothing—he's torn your wits away.
Taking the Trojans on alone, on the front lines
but your comrade's dead, look, and Hector himself,
strapped in Achilles' armor, swaggers on in glory!"
Automedon shouted back, "Alcimedon!
What other Achaean driver could match your skill
at curbing this deathless team or spurring on their fury?
Only Patroclus, skilled as the gods themselves
while the man was still alive—
now death and fate have got him in their grip.
On with it! Take up the whip and shining reins,
I'll dismount the car and fight on foot."
aboard the hurtling chariot,
quickly grasping the whip and reins in both fists
as Automedon leapt to ground. But Hector saw them
and called at once to Aeneas posted close beside him,
"Aeneas, counselor of the Trojans armed in bronze,
I can see the great runner Achilles' team—look there—
heading into the fight but reined by feeble drivers.
So my hopes ride high that we can seize them now
if you have the heart to join me.
Charge! Those two will flinch, they'd never dare
stand up to us man-to-man in all-out battle!"
gallant son did not resist.
They went straight on, shoulders shielded in oxhide
tanned and tough and hammered thick with bronze.
And a brace of fighters, Chromius, strong Aretus
flanked their attack and the Trojans had high hopes
of killing the men and driving off the massive stallions.
Reckless fools! They'd never disengage from Automedon,
not without some bloodshed. No, with a prayer to Zeus
some new fighting power had filled his dark heart
and he quickly called his trusted friend Alcimedon:
"Alcimedon, keep those horses close beside me,
breathing down my neck. Nothing can hold him back,
this Hector in all his fury—nothing, I tell you—
not till he leaps behind Achilles' long-maned team
and kills us both and routs our forward line—
or he goes down himself in the first assault."
And he called the two
Aeantes and Menelaus:
"Ajax, Ajax—lords of the Argives—Menelaus!
Leave Patroclus now to the best men you can find,
they'll straddle the corpse and fight off Trojan packs—
you fight the fatal day from us, we're still alive.
Here they come, full tilt, Aeneas and Hector,
Troy's best men, bearing down on us here—
this point of tears and attack!
But all lies in the lap of the great gods.
I'll fling a spear myself and leave the rest to Zeus."
He aimed and hurled
and his spear's long shadow flew
and hit Aretus square in the balanced round shield—
no blocking the shaft, the bronze rammed through,
piercing his belt and gouging down his belly.
As a burly farmhand wielding a whetted ax,
chopping a field-ranging bull behind the horns,
hacks through its whole hump and the beast heaves up
then topples forward—so Aretus reared, heaving up
then toppled down on his back. The slashing spear
shuddered tense in his guts and the man was gone.
A flash of a lance—Hector hurled at Automedon
who kept his eyes right on him, dodged the bronze,
ducking down with a quick lunge, and behind his back
the heavy spearshaft plunged and stuck in the earth,
the butt end quivering into the air till suddenly
rugged Ares snuffed its fury out, dead still . . .
Now they would have attacked with swords, close-up,
incensed, but the two Aeantes drove a wedge between them,
plowing through the press at their comrade's call.
Cowering backward fast the Trojans gave ground,
Hector, Aeneas and Chromius, noble prince,
deserted Aretus there, his life tom out,
sprawled on the spot. Automedon rushed in,
wild as the god of war to strip the armor off,
shouting in savage exultation, "Now, by heaven,
I've eased the grief of Patroclus' ghost a little—
though the man I battered down was half as great as he!"
With that he tossed
the bloody gear in the chariot,
climbed aboard with his hands and feet dripping gore
like a lion that rends and bolts a bull.
the fight for Patroclus flared, stretched to the breaking point,
mounting in tears, in fury, since Pallas fired their blood,
sweeping down from the heavens, sent by the Father
thundering far and wide to drive the Argives on,
for now his mind had changed, at least for a moment.
Yes, down like a lurid rainbow Zeus sends arching
down to mortal men from the high skies, a sign of war
or blizzard to freeze the summer's warmth and put a halt
to men's work on the face of the earth and harry flocks—
so shrouded round in a lurid cloud came Pallas now
and dove in the Argive ranks to fire up each man.
And the first one she roused was Atreus' son
powerful Menelaus—he stood right at hand—
she took the build and tireless voice of Phoenix:
"Yours is the shame, Atrides. You will hang your head
if under the walls of Troy the dogs in all their frenzy
drag and maul the proud Achilles' steadfast friend.
Hold on, full force—spur all our men to battle!"
The lord of the war
cry told the goddess quickly,
"Phoenix, father, good old soldier-if only Pallas
would give me power and drive the weapons off mel
Then I'd gladly stand and fight for Patroclus.
My comrade's death has cut me to the quick.
But Hector keeps his terrible fury blazing,
keeps his bronze spear stabbing
and never stops the slaughter—Zeus hands him glory!"
Her gray eyes afire,
the goddess Pallas thrilled
that the man had prayed to her before all other gods.
She put fresh strength in his back, spring in his knees
and filled his heart with the horsefly's raw daring—
brush it away from a man's flesh and back it comes,
biting, attacking, crazed for sweet human blood.
With such raw daring she filled his dark heart
and he bestrode Patroclus, flung a gleaming spear—
and there was a Trojan, Eetion's son called Podes,
well-bred, wealthy, and Hector prized him most
in all the realm-a first-rate drinking friend . . .
As he sprang in flight the red-haired captain hit him,
splitting his belt, and bronze went ripping through his flesh
and down he went with a crash. Atrides hauled his corpse
from under the Trojans toward his own massing friends.
stood by him and drove him on,
disguised as Phaenops, Asius' son Abydos-bom,
dearest to Hector of all his foreign guests.
Like him to the life, the deadly Archer taunted,
"Hector, what Achaean will ever fear you now?
Look how you cringe in the face of Menelaus,
no great fighter before this—a weakling, soft.
He's gone and snatched a corpse from under our noses,
single-handed he's taken down your trusted comrade
brave in the front ranks, Podes, Eetion's son."
A black cloud of
grief came shrouding over Hector
but helmed in flashing bronze he hurtled through the front.
That very moment the son of Cronul; seized his storm-shield—
rippling and flaring bright—and shrouding Ida in dark clouds,
loosed a bolt with a huge crack of thunder, shook the shield,
gave the Trojans triumph and routed fear-struck Argives.
And the first to beat
retreat, a Boeotian, Peneleos.
Charging forward as always, head-on, until Polydamas
speared his shoulder—just grazing its ridge
but grating bone—he thrust at point-blank range.
Close range too, Hector stabbed the wrist of Leitus,
brave Alectryon's son, and knocked him out of action.
No hope left he could wield a spear against the Trojans,
no more fighting now—Leitus looked around and ran.
But as Hector rushed him, Idomeneus speared Hector,
struck the plate on his chest beside the nipple—
his long spearshaft splintered off at the head
and the Trojans shouted out. And Hector hurled
at Idomeneus now aboard a chariot-missed by a hair
but he caught Meriones' aide and driver Coeranus,
one who'd come with his lord from rock-built Lyctus.
Idomeneus had left the ships on foot that morning
and would have offered the Trojans a fine triumph now
if Coeranus had not rushed to the rescue, lashed his team
and come like light to the king—
he saved his life that
but he quickly lost his own to man-killing Hector—
speared him under the jaw and ear, knocking teeth out,
shattering roots and all and split his tongue in half.
He pitched from his car, the reins poured to the ground
and on foot Meriones grabbed them up in his hands,
shouting out at Idomeneus, "Whip them hard nowl
Back to the fast ships! You see for yourself—
no power left in the Argives."
and Idomeneus whipped the team with their manes streaming,
back to the hollow ships—fear seized the king at last.
Lionhearted Ajax and
Menelaus were not blind . . .
they saw Zeus turn the tide toward the Trojans.
Telamonian Ajax voiced frustration first:
"Dear god, enough! Any idiot boy could see
how Father Zeus himself supports these Trojans.
All their weapons land, no matter who flings them,
brave fighter or bad-Zeus guides them all to the mark.
Ours all clatter to ground. Wasted, harmless shots.
So come, alone as we are, find the best way out:
how do we pull the body clear and save ourselves,
make it back to our lines and bring our friends some joy?
They look our way in despair, they must. All hope gone
that murderous Hector's rage and invincible spear-arm
can be stopped—not now—
he'll hurl himself against our blackened hullsl
If only an aide could speed the word to Achilles.
I'm certain he has not heard the dreadful news
that his dear friend lies dead. Wherever I look,
no use, I cannot see the Achaean for the mission,
such swirling mist blots out the men and horses both.
O Father Zeus—draw our armies clear of the cloud,
give us a bright sky, give us back our sight!
Kill us all in the light of day at least—
since killing's now your pleasure!"
So he prayed
and the Father filled with pity, seeing Ajax weep.
He dispelled the mist at once,
drove off the cloud and the sun came blazing forth
and the whole war swung into view, clear, that instant—
and Ajax called the lord of the war cry, Menelaus:
"Look hard for Antilochus now, my royal friend.
If you see him still alive, brave Nestor's son,
tell him to run the news to great Achilles quickly—
his dearest friend-in-arms on earth lies dead."
And the lord of the
battle cry could not refuse
but dragged his heels like a lion leaving sheepfolds,
bone-weary from harrying hounds and field hands.
They'll never let him tear the rich fat from the oxen,
all night long they stand their guard but the lion craves meat,
he lunges in and in but his charges gain him nothing,
thick-and-fast from their hardy hands the javelins
rain down in his face, and waves of roaring torches-—
these the big cat fears, balking for all his rage,
and at dawn he slinks away, his spirits dashed.
And so the lord of the war cry left Patroclus,
resisting all the way—he feared the worst:
stampeded in terror, his men would leave the body
easy prey for the Trojans. So here Menelaus paused
with much to command Meriones and the Aeantes:
"Ajax and Ajax, captains of Achaea, Meriones too,
remember Patroclus now, our stricken comrade!
That gentle man, the soul of kindness to all
while the man was still alive . . .
Now death and fate have got him in their grip."
And with that the
red-haired captain moved ahead
like an eagle scanning left and right, the bird men say
has the sharpest eyes of all that fly the heavens:
high as he soars he'll never miss the racing hare
cowering down low in the dense, shaggy brush—
down on its head he swoops
and pins it fast and rips its life away. So now,
Menelaus 0 my King, you turned your shining eyes,
scanning the crowds of comrades front and rear,
trying to see if Nestor's son was still alive.
He marked him quickly, out on the left flank
and rousing cohorts, driving them back to war,
and the red-haired captain halted near and called,
"Turn this way, Antilochus, Prince, and hear the news,
dreadful news-would to god it had never happened!
You see for yourself, I know, how Father Zeus
sends waves of ruin breaking down our lines—
victory goes to Troy. Our best Achaean's dead—
Patroclus, a stunning loss to all our armies!
Quick, run to Achilles' moorings up the beach
and tell him all. Perhaps-but he must be fast—
he can bring the body safely back to his ship,
stripped as Patroclus is—
Hector with that flashing helmet has his armor."
closely, hating every word.
He stood there speechless a while, struck dumb ...
tears filling his eyes, his strong voice choked.
But he still would not neglect Atrides' order.
So handing his gear to a loyal aide Laodocus,
who maneuvered his pawing horses close by,
he set off at a run.
But he wept freely now
as his feet swept him clear of the close fighting,
bearing the dreadful news to Peleus' son Achilles.
But you, Menelaus 0 my King, you had no heart
to defend the Pylians, hard-pressed as they were,
once their leader left, a heavy blow to his troops.
And putting the veteran Thrasymedes in command,
he ran back to bestride Patroclus' corpse again
and flanking the two Aeantes now, reported briskly,
"I sent Antilochus. He's off to the fast ships
to tell the swift Achilles. But I've little hope
he'll come at all—for all his rage at Hector.
How can he fight the Trojans without armor?
So come, alone as we are, find the best way out:
how do we pull the body clear and save ourselves
from the Trojan uproar, flee our death, our fate?"
Telamonian Ajax answered firmly,
"All true, straight to the point, Lord Menelaus.
Quickly, you and Meriones shoulder up the body,
carry it off the lines. We're right behind you,
fighting the Trojans, fighting this Prince Hector.
The two Aeantes bearing the same fury, the same name—
and no strangers at standing up to slashing Ares,
each defending the other side-by-side."
So he urged
and up from the earth they caught the body in their arms,
hoisting it high above their heads with a great heave—
and Trojan forces crowding behind them shouted out
when they saw the Argive fighters lift the corpse.
They swept in like hounds that fling themselves
at a wounded boar before young hunters reach him,
darting in for a moment, keen to rip the boar apart
till he wheels at bay, ramping into the pack with all his power
and the hounds cringe and bolt and scatter left and right.
And so the Trojans kept on pressing, squad on squad,
stabbing away with swords and two-edged spears
till the two called Ajax wheeled against them hard
to make a stand—and they turned white, none had nerve
to charge forth now and fight it out for the corpse.
So they labored to
haul Patroclus from the war,
back to the beaked ships as fighting flared behind them
wild as a flash fire, sprung out of nowhere, storming down
on a teeming city, houses caving in to the big blaze
as gale-winds whip it into a roaring conflagration.
So rose the relentless din of horse and fighting men
breaking against them now as they struggled back to shore.
Dead set as mules who put their backs in the labor . . .
dragging down from the cliffs along a stony trail
some roof-beam or a heavy ship timber, slogging on
till they nearly burst their hearts with sweat and labor—
so they strained to carry off the corpse. Right behind them
the two Aeantes held the Trojans off as a wooded rocky ridge
stretched out across an entire plain holds back a flood,
fighting off the killer-tides of the mounting rivers,
beating them all back to swamp the lowland flats—
none of their pounding waves can make a breakthrough.
So the two Aeantes kept on beating the Trojans off
but on they came, assaulting the rear, two in the lead,
Aeneas the son of Anchises flanking glorious Hector.
Flying before them now like clouds of crows or starlings
screaming murder, seeing a falcon dive in for the kill,
the hawk that wings grim death at smaller birds—
so pursued by Aeneas and Hector Argive fighters
raced, screaming death-cries, lust for battle lost
and masses of fine armor littered both sides of the trench
as the Argives fled in fear, no halt in the fighting, not now—