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Pages of Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)

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Iliad (Rapsodies 13 to 18)   

ring and tug till the moisture leaves it, and the fat soaks in for the
many that pull at it, and it is well stretched- even so did the two
sides tug the dead body hither and thither within the compass of but a
little space- the Trojans steadfastly set on drag ing it into Ilius,
while the Achaeans were no less so on taking it to their ships; and
fierce was the fight between them. Not Mars himself the lord of hosts,
nor yet Minerva, even in their fullest fury could make light of such a
Such fearful turmoil of men and horses did Jove on that day ordain
round the body of Patroclus. Meanwhile Achilles did not know that he
had fallen, for the fight was under the wall of Troy a long way off
the ships. He had no idea, therefore, that Patroclus was dead, and
deemed that he would return alive as soon as he had gone close up to
the gates. He knew that he was not to sack the city neither with nor
without himself, for his mother had often told him this when he had
sat alone with her, and she had informed him of the counsels of
great Jove. Now, however, she had not told him how great a disaster
had befallen him in the death of the one who was far dearest to him of
all his comrades.
The others still kept on charging one another round the body with
their pointed spears and killing each other. Then would one say, "My
friends, we can never again show our faces at the ships- better, and
greatly better, that earth should open and swallow us here in this
place, than that we should let the Trojans have the triumph of bearing
off Patroclus to their city."
The Trojans also on their part spoke to one another saying,
"Friends, though we fall to a man beside this body, let none shrink
from fighting." With such words did they exhort each other. They
fought and fought, and an iron clank rose through the void air to
the brazen vault of heaven. The horses of the descendant of Aeacus
stood out of the fight and wept when they heard that their driver
had been laid low by the hand of murderous Hector. Automedon,
valiant son of Diores, lashed them again and again; many a time did he
speak kindly to them, and many a time did he upbraid them, but they
would neither go back to the ships by the waters of the broad
Hellespont, nor yet into battle among the Achaeans; they stood with
their chariot stock still, as a pillar set over the tomb of some
dead man or woman, and bowed their heads to the ground. Hot tears fell
from their eyes as they mourned the loss of their charioteer, and
their noble manes drooped all wet from under the yokestraps on
either side the yoke.
The son of Saturn saw them and took pity upon their sorrow. He
wagged his head, and muttered to himself, saying, "Poor things, why
did we give you to King Peleus who is a mortal, while you are
yourselves ageless and immortal? Was it that you might share the
sorrows that befall mankind? for of all creatures that live and move
upon the earth there is none so pitiable as he is- still, Hector son
of Priam shall drive neither you nor your chariot. I will not have it.
It is enough that he should have the armour over which he vaunts so
vainly. Furthermore I will give you strength of heart and limb to bear
Automedon safely to the ships from battle, for I shall let the Trojans
triumph still further, and go on killing till they reach the ships;
whereon night shall fall and darkness overshadow the land."
As he spoke he breathed heart and strength into the horses so that
they shook the dust from out of their manes, and bore their chariot
swiftly into the fight that raged between Trojans and Achaeans. Behind
them fought Automedon full of sorrow for his comrade, as a vulture
amid a flock of geese. In and out, and here and there, full speed he
dashed amid the throng of the Trojans, but for all the fury of his
pursuit he killed no man, for he could not wield his spear and keep
his horses in hand when alone in the chariot; at last, however, a
comrade, Alcimedon, son of Laerces son of Haemon caught sight of him
and came up behind his chariot. "Automedon," said he, "what god has
put this folly into your heart and robbed you of your right mind, that

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