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Three Millennia of Greek Literature


Rhapsody 3

Literally Translated, with Explanatory Notes, by Theodore Alois Buckley

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As when the south wind sheds a mist over the top of a mountain, by no means friendly to the shepherds, but more serviceable even than night to the robber, and one can see [only] so far as he hurls a stone. So under the feet of them proceeding an eddying dust kept rising: and very speedily they traversed the plain.

But when they now were near, approaching each other, godlike Alexander advanced in front of the Trojans, having a panther's skin on his shoulders, and his crooked bow, and a sword; but he brandishing two spears tipped with brass, challenged all the bravest of the Greeks to fight against him in grievous conflict.

But when Mars-beloved Menelaus perceived him advancing before the host, taking long strides, as a hungering lion exults, when happening on a carcase of large size, having found either a horned stag or a wild goat. For he greedily devours it, although swift hounds and vigorous youths pursue him. Thus Menelaus rejoiced, having beheld with his eyes godlike Alexander. For he thought he would be revenged upon the guilty wretch: forthwith, therefore, with his arms he leaped from his chariot to the earth.

But when, therefore, godlike Alexander perceived him appearing among the foremost warriors, he was smitten in his heart, and gave way back into the band of his companions, avoiding death. And as when any one having seen a serpent in the thickets of a mountain, has started back, and tremor has seized his limbs under him, and he has retired backwards, and paleness seizes his cheeks: thus godlike Alexander shrank back into the band of the haughty Trojans, dreading the son of Atreus.

But Hector having seen him, upbraided him with opprobrious words: "Cursed Paris,[146] most excellent in form, thou woman-raving seducer, would that thou hadst either not been born, or that thou hadst perished unmarried. This, indeed, I would wish, and indeed it would be much better, than that thou shouldst thus be a disgrace and scandal to others. In truth the long-haired Achaeans may laugh, having suspected that thou wast a noble champion, because a fine person belongs [to thee]; but there is not strength in thy soul, nor any nerve. Didst thou, being such a one, having sailed over the ocean in sea-traversing ships, having collected congenial associates, and mingled with foreigners, take away a beauteous lady, from the Apian land, the spouse of martial men, a great detriment to thy father, to the city, and to all the people; a joy indeed to our enemies, but a disgrace to thyself? Couldst thou not have awaited warlike Menelaus? Then shouldst thou have known of how brave a man thou dost possess the blooming spouse. Nor will thy harp, and the gifts of Venus, and thy hair, and thy figure avail thee, when thou shalt be mingled with the dust.[147] But the Trojans are very pusillanimous; else wouldst thou have been arrayed in a garment of stone, on account of the evils which thou hast done." [148]

Him then godlike Alexander in turn addressed: "Hector, since thou hast reproached me justly, and not unjustly, [I will submit]. Ever is thy spirit unwearied, like an axe, which penetrates the wood, [driven] by the man who with art cuts out the naval plank, and it increases the force of the man: so in thy breast is there an intrepid heart. Reproach me not with the lovely gifts of golden Venus: the distinguished gifts of the gods are by no means to be rejected, whatever indeed they give; for no one can choose them at his own pleasure. Now, however, if thou desirest me to wage war and to fight, cause the other Trojans and all the Greeks to sit down, but match me and Mars-beloved Menelaus to contend in the midst for Helen and all the treasures. And whichever of us shall conquer, and shall be superior, having received all the treasures without reserve, and the woman, let him conduct them home. But let the rest of you, striking a friendship and faithful league, inhabit fertile Troy; and let them return to the steed-nourishing Argos, and fair-damed Achaia."

[Footnote 146: [Greek: Dys] here denotes the evils which fatally resulted to Paris and his friends (so [Greek: dyselenas], "baleful Helen," Eur. Or. 1388. Cf. AEsch. Ag. 689, sqq.) in consequence of his having been preserved, despite the omens attending his birth. See Hygin. Fab. xci. Hence the Schol. on Il. x. i. 96, derive his name of Paris, [Greek: oti ton monon pao paoelthen].]

[Footnote 147: Cf. Hor. Od. i. 15, 13:--

"Nequicquam, Veneris praesidio ferox, Pectes caesariem, grataque feminis Imbelli cithara carmina divides: . . . . . . tamen, heu! sorus adulteros Crines pulvere collines."]

[Footnote 148: I. e. thou wouldst have been stoned to death.]

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