The Trojans being now within the city, excepting Hector, the field is cleared for the most important and decisive action in the poem; that is, the battle between Achilles and Hector, and the death of the latter. This part of the story is managed with singular skill. It seems as if the poet, feeling the importance of the catastrophe, wished to withdraw from view the personages of less consequence, and to concentrate our attention upon those two alone. The poetic action and description are narrowed in extent, but deepened in interest. The fate of Troy is impending; the irreversible decree of Jupiter is about to be executed; the heroes, whose bravery is to be the instrument of bringing about this consummation, are left together on the plain.—FELTON.
ARGUMENT OF THE TWENTY-SECOND BOOK.
Achilles slays Hector.
Thus they, throughout all Troy, like hunted
Dispersed, their trickling limbs at leisure cool’d,
And, drinking, slaked their fiery thirst, reclined
Against the battlements. Meantime, the Greeks
Sloping their shields, approach’d the walls of Troy, 5
And Hector, by his adverse fate ensnared,
Still stood exposed before the Scaean gate.
Then spake Apollo thus to Peleus’ son.
Wherefore, thyself mortal, pursuest thou me
Immortal? oh Achilles! blind with rage, 10
Thou know’st not yet, that thou pursuest a God.
Unmindful of thy proper task, to press
The flying Trojans, thou hast hither turn’d
Devious, and they are all now safe in Troy;
Yet hope me not to slay; I cannot die. 15
To whom Achilles swiftest of the swift,
Indignant. Oh, of all the Powers above
To me most adverse, Archer of the skies!
Thou hast beguiled me, leading me away
From Ilium far, whence intercepted, else, 20
No few had at this moment gnaw’d the glebe.
Thou hast defrauded me of great renown,
And, safe thyself, hast rescued them with ease.
Ah—had I power, I would requite thee well.
So saying, incensed he turned toward the town 25
His rapid course, like some victorious steed
That whirls, at stretch, a chariot to the goal.
Such seem’d Achilles, coursing light the field.
Him, first, the ancient King of Troy perceived
Scouring the plain, resplendent as the star 30
Autumnal, of all stars in dead of night
Conspicous most, and named Orion’s dog;
Brightest it shines, but ominous, and dire
Disease portends to miserable man;
So beam’d Achilles’ armor as he flew. 35
Loud wail’d the hoary King; with lifted hands