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From the height of glory, he has fallen into the depth of degradation; and the contrast of the two conditions is to the utmost degree affecting-the breast, on which Andromache was wont to lay her head, mangled by ignoble hands-the Prince of the people, a naked corpse insulted by slaves! Had Shakspeare some thought of this sort in his mind, when he makes Falstaff stab the dead body of "Hotspur, coldspur;" and shows us the glorious corpse of a hero hanging across the shameful shoulders of a buffoon?
But what matter all these indignities that idly seek to dishonour the corpse? It is but a lump of clay. The soul of the Defender is beyond and above insult, alike from the base and the brave. The ensuing speech of Achilles re-invests the corpse with grandeur. "Let us return to the hollow ships, and carry Hector along with us! Great glory have we won; we have slain the illustrious Hector! to whom the Trojans, throughout the city, as to a God, were wont to
offer prayers." Nobler eulogium
never graced the head of fallen hero. Achilles alone could kill-the meanest Myrmidons might insult Hector when dead, who had all shunned his path when he was hewing it to set the ships on fire. Hector is conquered; but the sacred cause for which he died survives; the glory of his character is immortal. "Tell me not," he once said, " tell me not of auguries! Let your birds fly to the east or the west-I care not in this cause: we obey the will of Jupiter, who rules over all, and
Εἷς οἰωνὸς ἄριστος ἀμύνεσθαι περι πάτρης. The one best omen is our country's cause."
Therefore, in spite of defeat and death, Hector is victorious still in our imagination; his waving crest may be dragged in the dust, but the patriot spirit sees it high in air, not only unextinguished, but uneclipsed, even by the god-wrought golden helm of Achilles.
But let us look at the Speech of the Destroyer in the five translators.
Him when the powerful-footed, illustrious Achilles, had despoil'd,
Since this man, the gods have permitted (us) to subdue,
Let us on—and essay the city with arms,
That we may know the intention of the Trojans, what it may be,
But why does my mind revolve these things?
(He) lies at the ships a corpse unwept, unburied ;— (My) Patroclus! him will I not forget, while I
Shall be among the living, and my knees move.
And though (the living) forget the dead in Ades,
I, for my part, will remember my friend, even though there.
Come now, ye youths of the Greeks, chanting paans
Let us return to the hollow ships, and carry him (Hector) along with us.
Great glory have we won; we have slain the illustrious Hector,
To whom the Trojans throughout the city, as to a god, were-wont-to-offer prayers."
High o'er the slain the great Achilles stands,
Divine Patroclus! Death has seal'd his eyes;
The flames of friends and lovers cease to glow,
And now, the body stripp'd, their noble chief,
"Princes, and leaders, since, by favouring heav'n,
My soul with thine, sweet friend, shall commune have.
We say he fails; because, in such noble passages, he in general nobly succeeds. Pope is magnificent. Cowper is somewhat tame in a few lines; and perhaps his version is throughout wanting in passion; but the close is simple and stately-so it seems to us as in Homer. The last three lines sound to our ears like a song of triumph in the Old Testament. They are heroic as if in
the Book of Kings. Sotheby, in the first part of his version, is not so felicitous as usual; but the lines about Patroclus are more tender than in any of the other translations, though we do not think "the dark oblivion of the grave" Homeric, and the conclusion breathes of the true Achillean spirit. There is not in all the Iliad one finer touch-one bolder stroke of nature-than the sudden revulsion of feeling that tears the
heartstrings of the exulting victor, and "checks his thunder in midvolley," when, about to storm the city, he is struck, as it were, with palsy by the cold air from the corpse of Patroclus.
But rage rises again out of grief. Sorely mangled had been the body of Patroclus-Achilles sees it in all its ghastliness-and shall it fare better with the body of Hector? No-let there be horrid retribution.
He said, and purposed unseemly deeds against the illustrious Hector;
From heel to ankle, and inserted thongs of ox's hide,
And bound them behind the chariot; but allowed the head to be dragg'd.
He lash'd (the horses) onward; and they not unwilling flew;
This said; a work not worthy him, he set to; of both feet
He bored the nerves through, from the heel to th' ankle; and then knit
Trailing the centre. Up he got to chariot, where he laid
The arms repurchas't, and scourged on his horse that freely flew,
A whirlwind made of startled dust drave with them as they drew ;
To all disgrace, in his own land, and by his parents' care, &c.
Then his fell soul a thought of vengeance bred,
The nervous ankles bored, his feet he bound
He said; then purposing dishonour vile
He placed, then lash'd the steeds; they willing flew.
With leathern thongs behind his chariot bound,
Ay-this was indeed "purposing
And Andromache, who, in her chamber at the palace-top, was framing a splendid texture, on either side with flowers of various hues all dazzling bright, and had given command to her maidens to encompass an ample vase with fire, that a bath might be prepared for Hector on his return from battle, hears the voice of the queen-mother! so piercing-shrill it was, in her agony the shuttle falls from her fingers, and she knows of a truth that her Hector is dead. She crests the tower-and then indeed she sees him in front of Ilium, whirled in such shameful guise, away towards the Grecian fleet. But what cared Achilles for all that mortal misery? He knew it not. Deaf in his own distraction, he heard not theirs ; his passion was concentrated on two dead bodies-Patroclus and Hector; love and hate, ruth and rage, pity and ferocity, each with its scalding tears; unforgiving was he, without mercy and without remorse; and as the axle of his chariot glowed, and
unimpeded were the wheels by the accursed corse, so burned his spirit in the terrible turmoil of its insatiate revenge.
Let us take relief from all this misery in a small bit of what is called Philosophical Criticism. Aristotle, the best of critics and Eustathius, not one of the worst-have made each a remark on this combat, which seem to us scarcely worthy such philosophers. Aristotle says, according to Pope, "the wonderful ought to have place in Tragedy, but still more in Epic Poetry, which proceeds in this point even to the unreasonable; for as in Epic Poems one sees not the persons acting, so whatever passes the bounds of reason is proper to produce the admirable and the marvellous. For example, what Homer says of Hector pursued by Achilles, would appear ridiculous on the stage; for the spectators could not forbear laughing to see on one side the Greeks standing without any motion, and, on the other, Achilles pursuing Hector, and making signs to the troops not to dart at him. But all this does not appear when we read
poem; for what is wonderful is always agreeable, and as a proof of it, we find that they who relate any thing usually add something to the truth, that it may the better please those who hear it." This is miserable murder of Aristotle-especially the barbarity in italics-and we quote it as an example of the style of treatment it has been his fate to receive alike from friends and foes. Take Twining's version-which is sense. "The surprising is necessary in Tragedy; but the Epic Poem goes farther, and admits even the improbable and incredible, from which the highest degree of the surprising results, because there the action is not seen." What follows it is needless to quote, as Pope's translation gives, generally, the sense of the original, with considerable confusion. But the question is, would the Flight and Pur
suit appear ridiculous on the stage? Twining thinks "the idea of stopping a whole army by a nod or shake of the head," (a circumstance, he says, distinctly mentioned by Homer, but sunk in Mr Pope's version,)" was perhaps the absurdity here principally meant; and that, if this whole Homeric scene were represented on our stage, in the best manner possible, there can be no doubt that the effect would justify Aristotle's observation. It would certainly set the audience in a roar." Pye again, who is in general empty, and on Twining extremely crusty, says sensibly enough here, that he "cannot possibly conceive that the idea of stopping an army by the nod of a head, could be the absurdity meant by Aristotle, or that there could have been any thing more absurd in an army stopping at a nod of the head in the theatre, than by the single word halt in Hyde Park." Pope seems to have entirely missed the meaning of Aristotle, whatever that may have been-who, he says," was so far from looking on this passage as ridiculous or blamable, that he esteemed it admirable and marvellous." True, he did so esteem it, occurring as it does in the Epopee; but had it happened in Tragedy, then, he says, it would have been ridiculous; and the question is, why? The answer seems to be, "it would have been ridiculous to see on the stage the army standing still;" and so it would, thinks Twining-so it would not, thinks Pye-and so it would not, thinks North. Pye gives the rationale. The defect mentioned by Aristotle lies deeper; for he, in the next chapter, mentions this identical circumstance as a general error against probability, excusable only as it renders the scene more interesting. To us, who are used to the point of honour in military affairs, this improbability does not appear. But the ancients made war on a different plan.
The ancients looked on this action of Achilles as censurable on the ground of rashness-which appears from a remark on it in Plutarch's Life of Pompey, where, speaking of a rash action of Pompey, in assisting the Cretan pirates merely to deprive Metellus of a triumph, he compares this action-which he calls rather
the exploit of a mad boy, intoxicated with the love of fame, than of a brave man." Pye adds, "in deference to the opinion of Plutarch, it does not appear that Achilles was actuated by the love of fame, but the wish to monopolize the revenge of his friend's death.” And we, in deference to the opinion of Pye, say that Pye is mistaken, for we have seen that Achilles is inspired by both passions, which Homer makes him tell us in the clearest and boldest words. Therefore, Aristotle, Plutarch, Pope, Twining, and Pye, are all wrong-Homer and North, as usual, all right; for, though it is true that it was not exactly a pitched single combat, in which case any assistance from the army would have been wicked, and not ridiculous, yet it was very like one indeed, and, therefore, again begging Aristotle's pardon, we really cannot yet see how the non-interference of the army would have been ridiculous on the stage, any more than on the field.
Eustathius, who, if we mistake not, was a bit of a bishop, says t that this is not a single combat of Achilles against Hector, but a rencontre in a battle; and so Achilles might and ought to take all advantage to rid himself, the readiest and surest way, of an enemy whose death would procure an entire victory to his party. Wherefore does he leave the victory to chance? Why expose himself to the hazard of losing it? Why does he prefer his private glory to the public weal, and the safety of all the Greeks, which he puts to the venture by delaying to conquer, and endangering his own person? We grant it is a fault, but it must be owned to be the fault of a hero.
All the above is given us by Pope, through Dacier, from Eustathius. And is it not pretty considerable stuff? Achilles ought to have killed Hector by hook or crook-by the spears and swords of the soldiers! (Loud cries of oh! oh! oh!) The Greeks, it has been observed, were no favourites with the feudal writers on the Trojan war, and to depreciate the character of Achilles, they have made him in that way murder Hector. See Shakspeare's Troilus and Cressida, where Achilles is at once a sumph and a savage. As to his leaving the victory to chance, and