The Combat of Diomed and Mars: From Homer's Iliad, Book V


rEHEN blue-eyed Pallas hastened to the son
Of Tydeus. By his steeds she found the king,
And by his chariot, as be cooled the wound
Made by the shaft of Pandarus. The sweat
Beneath the ample band of his round shield
Had -weakened him, and weary was his arm.
lie raised the band, and from the wounded limb
Wiped off the clotted blood. The goddess laid
Her hand upon the chariot yoke, and said:
“Tydeus hath left a son unlike himself,
For he, though low in stature, was most brave;
And when he went, an envoy and alone,
To Thebes, the populous Cadmean town,
And I, enjoining him to keep aloof
From wars and rash encounters, bade him sit
Quietly at the feasts in palace halls,
Still, to his valiant temper true, he gave
Challenges to the Theban youths, and won
The prize with ease in all their games, such aid
I gave him. Now I stand by thee in turn,
Protect thee, and exhort thee manfully
To fight against the Trojans ; but to-day
Either the weariness of toil unnerves
Thy frame, or withering fear besets thy heart.
Henceforth we cannot deem thee, as of late,
The offspring of (Enides skilled in war.”
And then the valiant Diomed replied :
“I know thee, goddess, daughter of great Jove,
The mgis-bearer ; therefore will I speak
Freely, and keep back nothing. No base fear
Unmans me, nor desire of ease, but well
I bear in mind the mandate thou hast given.
Thou didst forbid me to contend with gods,
Except that if Jove’s daughter, Venus, joined
The battle, I might wound her with my spear.
But now I have withdrawn, and given command
That all the Greeks come hither; for I see
That Mars is in the field, and leads the war.”
Again the blue-eyed Pallas, answering, said:
“Tydides Diomed, most dear of men,
Nay, fear thou nothing from this Mars, nor yet
From any other of the gods, for I
Will be thy sure defence. First urge thy course
Full against Mars, with thy firm-footed steeds.
Engage him hand to hand, respect him not,
The fiery, frantic Mars, the unnatural plague
Of man, the fickle god, who promised me
And Juno, lately, to take part with us
Against the Trojans and befriend the Greeks.
Now he forgets, and joins the sons of Troy.”
She spoke, and laid her hand on Sthenclus,
To draw him from the horses ; instantly
He leaped to earth ; the indignant deity
Took by the side of Diomed her place ;
The beechen axle groaned beneath the weight
Of that great goddess and that man of might.
Then Pallas seized the lash and caught the reins,
And, urging the firm-footed coursers, drove
'Full against Mars, who at that moment slew
Huge Periphas, of all the zEtolian band
The mightiest, and Ochesius’ famous son.
While bloody-handed Mars was busy yet
About the slain, Minerva hid her face
In Pluto’s helmet, that the god might fail
To see her. As that curse of humankind
Beheld the approach of noble Diomed,
He left the corpse of Periphas unspoiled
Where he had fallen, and where lie breathed his last,
And came to meet the Grecian horse-tamer.
And now, when they were near, and face to face,
Mars o’er the chariot yoke and horses’ reins
First hurled his brazen spear, in hope to take
His enemy’s life ; but Pallas, with her hand,
Caught and turned it, so that it flew by
And gave no wound. The valiant Diomed
Made with his brazen spear the next assault,
And Pallas guided it to strike the waist
Where girded by the baldric. In that part
She wounded Mars, and tore the shining skin,
And drew the weapon back. The furious god
Uttered a cry as of nine thousand men,
Or of ten thousand, rushing to the fight.
The Greeks and Trojans stood aghast with fear,
To hear that terrible cry of him whose love
Of bloodshed never is appeased by blood.
As when, in time of heat, the air is filled
With a black shadow from the gathering clouds
And the strong-blowing wind, so furious Mars
Appeared to Diomed, as in a cloud
He rose to the broad heaven and to the home
Of gods on high Olympus. Near to Jove
He took his seat in bitter grief, and showed
The immortal blood still dropping from his wound,
And thus, with wingdd words, complaining said:
“O Father Jupiter! does not thy wrath
Rise at these violent deeds ? ’T is ever thus
That we, the gods, must suffer grievously
From our own rivalry in favoring man ;
And yet the blame of all this strife is thine,
For thou hast a mad daughter, ever wrong,
And ever bent on mischief. All the rest
Of the immortals dwelling on this mount
Obey thee and are subject to thy will.
Her only thou hast never yet restrained
By word or act, but dost indulge her freaks
Because the pestilent creature is thy child.
And now she moves the insolent Diomed
To raise his hand against the immortal gods.
And first he wounded Venus in the wrist,
Contending hand to hand ; and then he sought
To encounter me in arms, as if he were
The equal of a god. My own swift feet
Carried me thence, else might I long have lain,
In anguish, under heaps of carcasses,
Or helplessly been mangled by his sword.”
The cloud-compeller, Jove, replied and frowned :
“ Come not to me, thou changeling, to complain.
Of all the gods upon the Olympian mount
I like thee least, who ever dost delight
In broils and wars and battles. Thou art like
Thy mother Juno, headstrong and perverse.
Her I can scarcely rule by strict commands,
And what thou sufTerest now, I deem, is due
To her bad counsels. Yet ’t is not my will
That thou shouldst suffer longer, who dost share
My lineage, whom thy mother bore to me.
Yet wert thou born, destroyer as thou art,
To any other god, thou hadst long since
Lain lower than the sons of Uranus.”
So spake he, and to Paeon gave command
To heal the wound; and Paeon bathed the part
W ith pain-dispelling balsams, and it healed.
I'or Mars was not to die. As, when the juice
Of figs is mingled with white milk and stirred,
The fluid gathers into clots while yet
It whirls with the swift motion, so was healed
The wound of violent Mars. Then Hebe bathed
The god, and robed him richly, and he took
His seat, delighted, by Saturnian Jove.
Now, having forced the curse of nations, Mars,
To pause from slaughter, Argive Juno came,
With Pallas, her invincible ally,
Back to the mansion of imperial Jove.