The Story of the Iliad/Chapter 14

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CHAPTER XIV.

THE WOUNDING OF THE CHIEFS.

When Hector saw that Agamemnon had departed from the battle, he called aloud to the Trojans and the allies: "Come on, and play the man. The leader of the Greeks is gone; and Zeus giveth the honour unto me."

So he stirred the spirit within them. As a hunter setteth his dogs on a wild boar or a lion in the field, so did Hector set the men of Troy upon the Greeks, and he himself went among the foremost, and plunged into the battle as a storm cometh down upon the sea. Many valiant men did he slay, till Ulysses called to Diomed: "Son of Tydeus, have we forgotten our courage? Come hither, and stand by me; it were shame if Hector should take our ships."

Strong Diomed made answer, "I will, indeed, abide with thee; but it will fare ill with us if Zeus give the mastery to the men of Troy rather than to us."

So he spake, and slew a man, and Ulysses another; and afterwards they slew two apiece, making head against the men of Troy, and the Greeks, as they fled from Hector, gladly took breath and turned again.

Hector was quick to see what they did, and he came upon them with a cry, and the companies of Troy followed after him. But when Diomed saw him, he was afraid, and said to Ulysses, "See, mighty Hector cometh against us; let us be firm and stand against him."

And even as he spake he cast his spear, nor missed his aim. On the helmet he smote Hector; but the spear glanced from the bronze, nor wounded the flesh; for the helmet which Apollo had given him saved him. But he staggered under the blow, falling on his knee, and darkness came over his eyes. And when Diomed came after his spear, far through the foremost ranks, to where it had lighted on the ground, then Hector, breathing again, leapt upon his car, and drove into the midst of the host, avoiding death.

Then Diomed, as he rushed on, with his spear in his hand, cried aloud: "Dog, thou hast escaped from death once more; but mischief came near thee. Apollo hath saved thee, to whom doubtless thou prayest ere thou came into the press of war. But some time I will slay thee, if only some god will help."

And he turned to slay the men of Troy. But while he spoiled the son of Pæon, whom he had slain ere Hector came against him, Paris, who was in hiding behind the pillar on the Tomb of Ilus, drew his bow, and smote him with an arrow through the ankle of the right foot. Loud he boasted of his aim. "Only," he said, "I would that I had pierced thee in the loin; then hadst thou troubled the sons of Troy no more."

But Diomed answered: "Small good were thy bow to thee, cowardly archer, if thou shouldst dare to meet me face to face. And as for this graze on my foot, I care no more than if a woman or child had smitten me. Not such the wounds I deal; as for those that meet my spear in the battle, I think that they are dearer to the fowls of the air than to women in the chamber."

Then Ulysses stood before him, while he drew the arrow out of his foot. Grievous was the smart of the wound, for all his brave words. Wherefore he leapt into his chariot, and bade drive in haste to the ships; and Ulysses stood alone, and none of the Greeks stood by him, for all were sore afraid. Then spake he to himself:—

"What shall I do? It were much evil to fly before these many foes, and yet worse evil were I to be caught and slain, for truly Zeus hath sent great fear upon the Greeks. But why talk I thus? 'Tis only the coward that draweth back from the war; the brave man standeth whether he smite or be smitten."

And as he spake, the Trojans came about him as men with dogs come about a wild boar who stands at bay, gnashing his white teeth. Fiercely Ulysses stood at bay, and slew five chiefs of fame. But one of them, Socus by name, before he fell, wounded him on the side, scraping the flesh from the ribs. High spurted the blood from the wound, and the Trojans shouted to see it. Then Ulysses cried aloud for help; three times he cried, and Menelaüs heard him, and called to Ajax, saying:—

"O Ajax, I hear the voice of Ulysses; and he shouteth as if the men of Troy had compassed him about, and he was left alone. Come, therefore, let us help him, lest he come to harm, and the Greeks have a heavy loss!"

Thus he spake, and led the way, and Ajax followed him; and when they came to Ulysses, the Trojans had beset him, even as the jackals beset a long-horned hart among the hills, which a hunter hath wounded with an arrow from the bow. From the hunter he flieth, while the wound is warm, but when he groweth weak the jackals tear him. Then cometh a lion, and the jackals flee. So fled the Trojans when Ajax came and stood beside Ulysses. Then Menelaüs took Ulysses by the hand, and led him from out the throng.

Then Ajax leapt upon the Trojans and slew many, scouring the plain, and killing horse and man. But Hector knew not of it, for he fought upon the left of the battle by the banks of Scamander, where old Nestor and Idomeneus of Crete kept up the battle for the Greeks. Nor had these given way but that Paris, husband of Helen, stayed Machaon from the fight, wounding him on the right shoulder with a three-pointed arrow. Therefore spake Idomeneus to Nestor, "Quick, Nestor, mount thy chariot and take Machaon with thee, and drive quickly to the ships, for the life of a physician is as the lives of many men!"

So Nestor mounted on his chariot, and Machaon stood beside him. He touched the horses, and they flew right willingly to the ships.

Meanwhile Cebriones, Hector's charioteer, said to Hector: "We two fight with the Greeks upon the outskirts of the battle; but yonder Ajax confounds the men of Troy. Let us, therefore, turn the chariot thither, for there is the sorest need."

So he spake, and lashed the horses. And when they felt the whip, they bare the chariot swiftly on, over shields and bodies of men, and the axle beneath and the chariot sides were bespattered with blood. Up and down the ranks went Hector, but he avoided the mighty Ajax. But Zeus the Father sent fear upon Ajax, and he cast his seven-fold shield behind his shoulders, and turned his back, yet again and again he faced round upon the enemy. As when an ass turns into a field and eats the standing corn, and the children beat him with sticks, but their strength is feebleness, and the sticks are broken on his back, for he is slow to go, nor do they drive him out, though with much pains, till he has eaten his fill, thus did the men of Troy hang upon Ajax, and thrust at him with their lances. And now he would turn about and check them, and now he would draw back; but ever he kept them from the ships.

And when Eurypylus saw him thus beset he went and stood beside him, and smote a Trojan chief and slew him. But when he leapt upon the dead man and began to spoil him of his arms, then Paris drew his bow upon him, and pierced him with an arrow in the right thigh.

Then Eurypylus called aloud, "O friends, leaders of the Greeks, come, and keep the day of death from Ajax, for he is sore beset."

Then the Greeks stood close about him, and Ajax turned about and stood when he came to the ranks of his fellows.

Now Achilles was standing on the stern of his ship, looking at the war, and he saw Nestor carrying Machaon in his chariot to the ships. Then he called to Patroclus, and Patroclus, who was in the tent, came forth; but it was an evil hour for him. Then said Achilles:—

"Now will the Greeks soon come, methinks, praying for help, for their need is sore. But go and see who is this whom Nestor is taking to the ships. His shoulders are the shoulders of Machaon, but I saw not his face, so swift the horses passed me by."

Then Patroclus ran.

Meanwhile Nestor brought Machaon into his tent. There Hecamedé of the beautiful locks, whom the Greeks had given to Nestor from the spoils of Tenedos, mixed them a posset. First she placed a table, and set on it a charger of bronze, with a leek that giveth savour to drink, and yellow honey, and barley meal. After that she brought a bowl; four handles it had, pair and pair, and over each pair twin doves that seemed to peck. A man might scarce lift it from the table when it was full, but Nestor raised it easily. Into the bowl the dame poured Pramnian wine, and shredded on it cheese of goat's milk, and scattered the barley meal. And when the mess was ready, she bade them drink. So they drank, and delighted their souls with talk. But Patroclus stood in the door. But when old Nestor saw him, he went and took him by the hand, and would have had him sit down. But Patroclus would not, saying:—

"Stay me not. I came but to see who is this that thou hast brought wounded from the battle. And now I see that it is Machaon. Therefore I will return; for thou knowest what manner of man is Achilles, that he is hasty and swift to blame."

Then said Nestor: "But what careth Achilles for the Greeks? or why doth he ask who are wounded? But, O Patroclus, dost thou mind the day when I and Ulysses came to the house of Peleus, and how that thy father Menætius was there, and how we feasted in the hall; and when the feast was finished told our errand, for we were gathering the heroes for the war against the sons of Troy? Right willing were ye two to come, and many counsels did the old men give you. Then to Achilles Peleus said that he should always be foremost in the host, but to thee thy father Menætius spake: 'Achilles is nobler born than thou, and stronger far; but thou art older. Do thou therefore counsel him well, when there is need.' But this thou forgettest, Patroclus. Hear, then, what I say. It may be that Achilles will not go forth to the battle. But let him send thee forth, and the Myrmidons with thee, and let him put his arms upon thee, so that the sons of Troy be affrighted, thinking that he is in the battle, and we shall have breathing space."

Then Patroclus turned to run to Achilles, but as he ran he met Eurypylus, who spake to him:—

"Small hope is there now for the Greeks, seeing that all their bravest chiefs lie wounded at the ships. But do thou help me, for thou knowest all the secrets of healing, seeing that the wise Cheiron himself taught thee."

Then Patroclus answered, "I am even now on my way to tell these things to Achilles, but thee I may not leave in thy trouble."

So he took him to his tent, and cut out the arrow from his thigh, washing the wound with water, and putting on it a bitter, healing root, so that the pain was stayed and the blood stanched.