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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 14

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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But the Jove-cherished kings, coming up from the vessels, met Nestor, as many as had been wounded with the brass,--Tydides, and Ulysses, and Agamemnon, the son of Atreus. Their ships indeed were drawn up upon the shore of the hoary deep, very far away from the battle; for they had drawn the first as far as the plain, and had built a wall at their sterns. For, broad as it was, the shore was by no means able to contain their vessels, and the people were crowded. Wherefore they drew them up in rows one behind the other, and filled the wide mouth of the whole shore, as much as the promontories enclosed. There then were they walking together, leaning upon the spear, in order to behold the tumult and the battle; and the heart in their bosoms was grieved. But aged Nestor met them, and terrified the souls in the breasts of the Greeks: whom first king Agamemnon addressing, said:

"O Neleian Nestor, great glory of the Greeks, why, leaving the man-destroying battle, comest thou hither? Truly I fear lest impetuous Hector make good his speech, as once he threatened, haranguing among the Trojans, that he would not return to Ilium from the ships, before that he had burned the ships with fire, and slain us also: thus indeed he harangued; and now are all things fulfilling. Ye gods, surely the other well-greaved Greeks, as well as Achilles, store up wrath against me in their minds; nor are they willing to fight at the sterns of the ships."

But him the Gerenian knight Nestor then answered: "Assuredly these things are in active accomplishment, nor could even lofty-thundering Jove himself contrive them otherwise; for the wall, in which we trusted that it would be an impregnable defence to the ships and to ourselves, has now fallen. But they are sustaining an obstinate contest at the swift ships; nor couldst thou any longer distinguish, though examining particularly, on which side the Greeks, confounded, are routed; so promiscuously are they slain, whilst the shout reaches heaven. Let us, however, deliberate how these things will be, if counsel avail anything; although I advise not that we enter the battle; for it is by no means proper that a wounded man should fight."

But him then answered Agamemnon, king of men. "Nestor, since they are combating at the sterns of the ships, and the constructed rampart avails not, nor the ditch, at which the Greeks suffered much, and hoped in their minds that it would be an impregnable defence to the ships and to themselves, surely it will be agreeable to all-powerful Jove that the Greeks perish here, inglorious, far away from Argos. For I was conscious when he willingly gave assistance to the Greeks, and I now know that he honours those [the Trojans] equally with the happy gods, but hath fettered our courage and our hands. But come, let us all obey as I shall advise. Let us draw down the ships, as many as are drawn up first near the sea, and launch them all into the vast ocean. Let us moor them at anchor in the deep, till mortal-deceiving[455] night arrive, if even then the Trojans may abstain from battle, and then we may perhaps draw down all the vessels; for there is no disgrace in flying from evil, not even during the night. It is better for a flying man to escape from evil, than to be taken."

[Footnote 455: [Greek: 'Abrote] is akin to [Greek: embroton] from [Greek: amartano], and therefore = "making mortals go astray," or else = [Greek: ambrosin] in ii. 57. See Buttm. Lexil. p. 82. Or it may be regarded as the "nox intempesta," i.e. "muita nox, qua nihil agi tempestivum est," Censorinus de Die Nat. xxiv.]

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