So fought they like unto blazing fire; but Hector, dear to Zeus, had not heard, nor wist at allthat on the left of the ships his hosts were being slain by the Argives; and soon would the Achaeans have gotten them glory, of such might was the Enfolder and Shaker of Earth that urged on the Argives and withal aided them by his own strength. Nay, Hector pressed on where at the first he had leapt within the gate and the wall,and had burst the close ranks of the Danaan shield-men, even in the place where were the ships of Aias and Protesilaus, drawn up along the beach of the grey sea, and beyond them the wall was builded lowest;[*](53.2) there, as in no place beside, the men and their horses waxed furious in fight. There the Boeotians and the Ionians,[*](55.1) of trailing tunics, and the Locrians, and Phthians, and glorious Epeians, had much ado to stay his onset upon the ships, and availed not to thrust back from themselves goodly Hector, that was like a flame of fire,—even they that were picked men of the Athenians;and among them Menestheus, son of Peteos, was leader, and there followed with him Pheidas and Stichius and valiant Bias, while the Epeians were led by Meges, son of Phyleus, and Araphion and Dracius, and in the forefront of the Phthians were Medon and Podarces, staunch in fight. The one, verily, even Medon, was a bastard son of godlike Oïleusand brother of Aias, but he dwelt in Phylace, far from his native land, for that he had slain a man of the kin of his stepmother Eriopis, that Oïleus had to wife; and the other, Podarces, was the son of Iphiclus, son of Phylacus. These, harnessed in their armour, in the forefront of the great-souled Phthians,were fighting in defence of the ships together with the Boeotians. And Aias, the swift son of Oïleus, would no more in any wise depart from the side of Aias, son of Telamon, no not for an instant; but even as in fallow land two wine-dark oxen with one accord strain at the jointed plough, and aboutthe roots of their horns oozeth up the sweat in streams—the twain the polished yoke alone holdeth apart as they labour through the furrow, till the plough cutteth to the limit or the field; even in such wise did the two Aiantes take their stand and abide each hard by the other's side. After the son of Telamon verily there followed many valiant hosts of his comrades,who would ever take from him his shield, whenso weariness and sweat came upon his limbs. But the Locrians followed not with the great-hearted son of Oïleus, for their hearts abode not steadfast in close fight, seeing they had no brazen helms with thick plumes of horse-hair,neither round shields, nor spears of ash, but trusting in bows and well-twisted slings of sheep's wool had they followed with him to Ilios; with these thereafter they shot thick and fast, and sought to break the battalions of the Trojans. So the one part in front with their war-gear, richly dight,fought with the Trojans and with Hector in his harness of bronze, and the others behind kept shooting from their cover; and the Trojans bethought them no more of fight, for the arrows confounded them.
Then in sorry wise would the Trojans have given ground from the ships and huts unto windy Ilios,had not Polydamas drawn nigh to bold Hector, and said:
Hector, hard to deal with art thou, that thou shouldest hearken to words of persuasion. Forasmuch as god has given to thee as to none other works of war, therefore in counsel too art thou minded to have wisdom beyond all; but in no wise shalt thou be able of thine own self to compass all things.To one man hath God given works of war, to another the dance, to another the lyre and song, and in the breast of another Zeus, whose voice is borne afar, putteth a mind of understanding, wherefrom many men get profit, and many he saveth; but he knoweth it best himself.So will I speak what seemeth to me to be best. Behold all about thee blazeth a circle of war, and the great-souled Trojans, now that they have passed over the wall, are some of them standing aloof with their arms, and others are fighting, fewer men against more, scattered among the ships.Nay, fall thou back, and call hither all the bravest. Then shall we consider all manner of counsel, whether we shall fall upon the many-benched ships, if so be the god willeth to give us victory, or thereafter shall return unscathed back from the ships. Verily, for myself,I fear lest the Achaeans shall pay back the debt of yesterday, seeing there abideth by the ships a man insatiate of war, who no longer, methinks, will hold him utterly aloof from battle.So spake Polydamas, and his prudent counsel was well pleasing unto Hector, and forthwith he leapt in his armour from his chariot to the ground;and he spake and addressed him with winged words:
Polydamas, do thou hold back here all the bravest, but I will go thither and confront the war, and quickly will I come again, when to the full I have laid on them my charge.
So spake he, and set forth, in semblance like a snowy mountain,[*](59.1) and with loud shouting sped he through the Trojans and allies. And they hasted one and all toward the kindly Polydamas, son of Panthous when they heard the voice of Hector. But he ranged through the foremost fighters, in quest of Deïphobus, and the valiant prince Helenus, and Adamas, son of Asius, and Asius, son of Hyrtacus,if haply he might find them. But he found them no more in any wise unscathed or free from bane, but some were lying at the sterns of the ships of the Achaeans, slain by the hands of the Argives, and some were within the wall, smitten by darts or wounded with spear-thrusts.But one he presently found on the left of the tearful battle, even goodly Alexander, the lord of fair-tressed Helen, heartening his comrades and urging them on to fight; and he drew near and spake to him with words of shame:
Evil Paris, most fair to look upon, thou that art mad after women, thou beguiler,where, I pray thee, is Deïphobus, and the valiant prince Helenus, and Adamas, son of Asius, and Asius, son of Hyrtacus? Aye, and where, tell me, is Othryoneus? Now is steep Ilios wholly plunged into ruin; now, thou mayest see, is utter destruction sure.Then spake unto him again godlike Alexander:
Hector, seeing it is thy mind to blame one in whom is no blame, at some other time have I haply withdrawn me from war rather than now, for my mother bare not even me wholly a weakling. For from the time thou didst rouse the battle of thy comrades beside the ships, even from that time we abide here and have dalliance with the Danaansceaselessly; but our comrades are dead of whom thou makest question. Only Deïphobus and the valiant prince Helenus have departed, both of them smitten in the arm with long spears; yet the son of Cronos warded off death. But now lead thou on whithersoever thy heart and spirit bid thee,and as for us, we will follow with thee eagerly, nor, methinks, shall we be anywise wanting in valour, so far as we have strength; but beyond his strength may no man fight, how eager soever he be.
So spake the warrior, and turned his brother's mind; and they set out to go where the battle and the din were fiercest,round about Cebriones and peerless Polydamas, and Phalces, and Orthaeus, and godlike Polyphetes, and Palmys, and Ascanius, and Morys, son of Hippotion, who had come from deep-soiled Ascania on the morn before to relieve their fellows, and now Zeus roused them to fight.And they came on like the blast of direful winds that rusheth upon the earth beneath the thunder of father Zeus, and with wondrous din mingleth with the sea, and in its track are many surging waves of the loud-resounding sea, high-arched and white with foam, some in the van and after them others;even so the Trojans, in close array, some in the van and after them others, flashing with bronze, followed with their leaders. And Hector, son of Priam, led them, the peer of Ares, the bane of mortals. Before him he held his shield that was well-balanced upon every side, his shield thick with hides, whereon abundant bronze had been welded,and about his temples waved the crest of his shining helm. And everywhere on this side and on that he strode forward and made trial of the battalions, if so be they would give way before him, as he advanced under cover of his shield; yet could he not confound the heart in the breast of the Achaeans. And Aias came on with long strides, and was first to challenge him:
Good sir, draw nigh; wherefore seekest thou thus vainly to affright the Argives? In no wise, I tell thee, are we ignorant of battle, but by the evil scourge of Zeus were we Achaeans subdued. Verily, thy heart hopeth, I ween, to despoil our ships, but be sure we too have hands to defend them.In good sooth your well-peopled city is like, ere that, to be taken and laid waste beneath our hands. And for thine own self, I declare that the day is near when in flight thou shalt pray to father Zeus and the other immortals, that thy fair-maned horses may be swifter than falcons—they that shall bear thee citywards, coursing in dust over the plain.
Even as he thus spake, there flew forth a bird upon the right hand, an eagle of lofty flight; and thereat the host of the Achaeans shouted aloud, heartened by the omen; but glorious Hector made answer:
Aias, witless in speech, thou braggart, what a thing hast thou said.I would that I mine own self were all my days as surely the son of Zeus, that beareth the aegis, and my mother were the queenly Hera, and that I were honoured even as are Athene and Apollo, as verily this day beareth evil for the Argives, one and all; and among them shalt thou too be slain, if thou have the heartto abide my long spear, that shall rend thy lily-like skin; and thou shalt glut with thy fat and thy flesh the dogs and birds of the Trojans, when thou art fallen amid the ships of the Achaeans.So spake he, and led the way; and they followed after with a wondrous din, and the host shouted behind.And the Argives over against them shouted in answer, and forgat not their valour, but abode the oncoming of the best of the Trojans; and the clamour of the two hosts went up to the aether and the splendour of Zeus.