Book X

The Night-Adventure of Diomed and Ulysses

Agamemnon’s distress at the obstinacy of Achilles⁠—Consults with Menelaus, Nestor, Ulysses, and Diomed⁠—A council⁠—Diomed and Ulysses set out for the enemy’s camp to learn his designs⁠—Death of Dolon, the Trojan Spy⁠—Rhesus the Thracian killed in his tent and his horses taken.

All the night long the captains of the Greeks
Slept at the ships, and pleasant was their sleep⁠—
Save only Agamemnon, Atreus’ son,
The shepherd of the people. Not to him⁠—
Vexed with a thousand cares⁠—came gentle sleep.
As when the husband of the light-haired queen
Of heaven sends forth his thunders, ushering in
Some wide-involving shower⁠—rain, hail, or snow
Whitening the fields⁠—or opening o’er some land
The ravenous jaws of unrelenting war⁠—
So frequent were the groans which from his heart
Atrides uttered; for within his breast
His heart was troubled. Looking toward the plain
Of Troy, he wondered at the many fires
Blazing before the city, and the sound
Of flutes and fifes, and tumult of the crowd.
But when he turned him toward the fleet and host
Of Greece, he tore his hair, and flung it up
To Jove, and vented his great heart in groans.
And now at length it seemed to him most wise
To seek Neleian Nestor, and with him
Devise some plan by which to turn aside
The threatened evil from the Greeks. He rose,
And drew his tunic o’er his breast, and laced
The graceful sandals to his well-shaped feet;
And o’er his shoulders threw the blood-stained hide
Of a huge tawny lion, that reached down
Even to the ground; and took in hand his spear.
Meantime with like uneasy thoughts oppressed
Was Menelaus, to whose eyes there came
No slumber⁠—dreading lest calamity
Should light upon the Greeks, who for his sake
Had crossed the sea to carry war to Troy.
And first he threw a leopard’s spotted hide
O’er his broad back, and placed the brazen helm
Upon his head, and took in his strong grasp
A spear, and went to bid his brother wake⁠—
His brother, the chief ruler over all
The men of Greece, and honored like a god.
He found him at his galley’s prow in act
To sheath his shoulders in the shining mail,
And pleased to greet his coming. To the king
Thus Menelaus, great in battle, spake:⁠—

“Why arm thyself, my brother? Wouldst thou send
A warrior to explore the Trojan camp?
None will accept the task, I fear, to creep
Alone at dead of night, a spy, within
The hostile lines;⁠—a bold man must he be.”

Then answered Agamemnon, king of men:⁠—
“Most noble Menelaus, much we need
Wise counsel⁠—thou and I⁠—to save our men
And galleys from destruction, since the will
Of Jove is changed. Now hath the God respect
To Hector’s sacrifices; for in truth
I never saw⁠—I never heard of one
Who in one day performed such mighty deeds
As Hector, dear to Jove, just now hath wrought,
Though not the son of goddess or of god.
Those deeds will be, I deem, for many a day
A cause of bitter sorrow to the Greeks⁠—
Such evil hath he wrought. Now go at once,
And from their galleys call Idomeneus
And Ajax; while to noble Nestor’s tent
I go, and pray that he will rise and give
Their orders to the sacred band of guards;⁠—
For they will hearken to him, since his son
Commands them jointly with Meriones,
The armor-bearer of Idomeneus⁠—
Both named by us to that important trust.”

Then Menelaus, great in battle, said:⁠—
“What wilt thou, then, and what dost thou command⁠—
That I remain with them until thou come,
Or, having given the message, seek thee here?”

Again the monarch Agamemnon spake:⁠—
“Wait there, lest as we go I meet thee not,
For many ways are through the camp. But thou,
In going, shout aloud and bid them all
Be vigilant, accosting everyone
By his paternal name, and giving each
Due honor: bear thyself not haughtily:
We too must labor; for when we were born
Jove laid this hard condition on us all.”

So spake he, and, dismissing with that charge
His brother, hastened to where Nestor lay,
The shepherd of his people. Him he found
On his soft couch within his tent beside
His dark-brown ship. Around him scattered shone
His arms⁠—a shield, two spears, a gleaming helm,
And pliant belt, with which the ancient man
Girded himself when arming to lead on
His men to murderous fight;⁠—for not to age
The warrior yielded yet. He raised his head,
And, leaning on his elbow, questioned thus
Atrides: “Who art thou that traversest
The camp beside the fleet at dead of night,
Alone, while others sleep? Com’st thou to find
One of the guardsmen, or a comrade? Speak;
Come not in silence thus: what wouldst thou have?”

Then answered Agamemnon, king of men:⁠—
“O Nestor, son of Neleus, whom the Greeks
All glory in! Thou certainly wilt know
Atrides Agamemnon, whom the will
Of Jove hath visited with hardships great
Beyond what others bear, to last while breath
Is in my lungs, and while my knees can move.
I wander thus abroad because sweet sleep
Comes not to close my eyelids, and the war
And slaughter of the Greeks distress me sore.
For them I greatly fear, my heart is faint,
My mind confounded. In my breast the heart
Pants, and my limbs all tremble. If thou wilt⁠—
For, as I see, thou also dost not sleep⁠—
Come with me to the guards, that we may know
Whether, o’ercome by toil and weariness,
They give themselves to slumber and forget
Their watch. The foe is near us in his camp,
And how know we that even now by night
He plans not, to attack us in our tents?”

Then Nestor, the Gerenian knight, replied:⁠—
“Atrides Agamemnon, glorious king
Of men, almighty Jove will not perform
For Hector all that Hector plans and hopes;
And heavier cares, I think, will yet be his
When once Achilles’ wrath is turned away.
Yet willingly I join thee. Let us call
The other chiefs⁠—Ulysses, Diomed,
Both mighty spearmen; Ajax, swift of foot;
And the brave son of Phyleus. It were well
To send and bid the mightier Ajax come,
And King Idomeneus, for farthest off
The ships of both are stationed. I shall chide
Thy brother Menelaus⁠—though he be
Honored and dear, and though it please thee not⁠—
For sleeping, while he leaves such toils as these
To thee alone. He should be here among
The chiefs, exhorting them to valiant deeds;
For now the hour of bitter need is come.”

Again spake Agamemnon, king of men:⁠—
“At other times, old chief, I would have begged
That thou shouldst blame him: he is oft remiss,
And late to act; but not because of sloth,
Or want of spirit, but he looks to me
And waits for my example. Yet tonight
He rose before me, sought me, and is sent
To call the chiefs whom thou hast named; and now
Let us go on, and meet them where they wait,
Among the guards and just before the gates⁠—
For I appointed that the trysting-place.”

And Nestor, the Gerenian knight, replied:⁠—
“Then let no Greek condemn him, or refuse
To heed and to obey when he shall speak.”

He spake, and drew his tunic o’er his breast,
Laced the fair sandals to his shapely feet,
And round him fastened, with a clasp, his cloak⁠—
A double web of purple, with full folds
And flowing pile. He grasped a massive spear,
Its blade of trenchant brass. And first he sought
The galleys of the Achaians brazen-mailed.
There shouted Nestor the Gerenian knight,
To raise Ulysses, best of counsellors,
Jove-like in wisdom; who perceived the voice,
And issued from his tent in haste, and said:⁠—

“What brings you forth to walk the camp at night,
Beside the ships alone; what urgent cause?”

Then answered Nestor, the Gerenian knight:⁠—
“Son of Laertes, nobly born, and skilled
In wise devices, be thou not displeased:
A fearful woe impends above the Greeks:
Come, then, and call the other chiefs, to give
Their counsel whether we shall flee or fight.”

He spake; and wise Ulysses, entering
His tent again, upon his shoulders laid
His well-wrought shield, and joined them as they went,
Till, coming to Tydides Diomed,
They found him by his tent among his arms,
His comrades sleeping round him with their shields
Beneath their heads. Their spears were set upright,
The nether points in earth. The polished brass
Gleamed like the lightnings of All-Father Jove.
In sleep the hero lay; a wild bull’s hide
Was spread beneath him, and a carpet dyed
With glowing colors propped his head. The knight,
Gerenian Nestor, touched him with his foot
And roused him, and addressed him chidingly:⁠—

“O son of Tydeus! Wilt thou calmly sleep
All the night long? And hast thou, then, not heard
That on a height amidst the plain the sons
Of Troy are stationed, near the ships, and small
The space that parts the enemy’s camp from ours?”

He spake. The son of Tydeus sprang from sleep
At once, and answered him with wingèd words:

“Thy labors are too constant, aged man;
Thou shrinkest from no hardship. Are there not
Young men among the Greeks to walk the camp
And call the kings? Thou never takest rest.”

And Nestor, the Gerenian knight, replied:⁠—
“Well hast thou said, my friend, for I have sons
Without reproach, and I have many troops;
And any one of these might walk the camp
And give the summons. But tonight there lies
A hard necessity upon the Greeks,
And their destruction and their rescue hang
Balanced on a knife’s edge. Come then, since thou
Art younger, call swift Ajax and the son
Of Phyleus, if thou wouldst relieve my age.”

He spake; and Diomed around him flung
A tawny lion’s ample hide, that reached
Down to his feet, and took his spear and went
And summoned the two kings, and brought them forth.

Now when they came among the assembled guard,
Its leaders were not slumbering; every man
Sat watchful and in arms. As dogs that guard
Flocks in a sheepfold hear some savage beast
That comes through thickets down the mountainside;
Loud is the clamor of the dogs and men,
And sleep is frightened thence⁠—so gentle sleep
Fled from the eyes of those who watched, that night,
Sadly, with eyes turned ever toward the plain,
Intently listening for the foe’s approach.
The aged Nestor saw them, and rejoiced,
And thus encouraged them with wingèd words:⁠—

“Watch thus, dear youths, let no one yield to sleep,
Lest we become the mockery of the foe.”

He spake, and crossed the trench; and with him went
The Grecian leaders, they who had been called
To council. With them went Meriones
And Nestor’s eminent son, for they had both
Been summoned. Crossing to the other side
Of that deep trench, they found an open space
Clear of the dead, in which they sat them down⁠—
Just where the fiery Hector, having slain
Many Achaians, turned him back when night
Came o’er him. There they sat to hold debate
And thus spake Nestor the Gerenian knight:⁠—

“Friends! Is there none among you who so far
Trusts his own valor that he will tonight
Venture among the Trojans? He perchance
Might capture on the borders of the camp
Some foeman wandering, or might bring report
Of what they meditate, and whether still
They mean to keep their station far from Troy
And near our ships, or, since their late success,
Return to Ilium. Could he safely bring
This knowledge back to us, his meed were great,
Glory among all men beneath the sky,
And liberal recompense. As many chiefs
As now command our galleys, each would give
A black ewe with a suckling lamb⁠—such gifts
No one hath yet received⁠—and he should sit
A guest at all our banquets and our feasts.”

He spake; and all were silent for a space.
Then Diomed, the great in battle, said:⁠—

“Nestor, my resolute spirit urges me
To explore the Trojan camp, that lies so near;
Yet, were another warrior by my side,
I should go forth with a far surer hope,
And greater were my daring. For when two
Join in the same adventure, one perceives
Before the other how they ought to act;
While one alone, however prompt, resolves
More tardily and with a weaker will.”

He spake; and many a chief made suit to share
The risk with Diomed. The ministers
Of Mars, the chieftains Ajax, asked to go;
Meriones desired it; Nestor’s son
Greatly desired to join the enterprise;
Atrides Menelaus, skilled to wield
The spear, desired it; and that hardy chief,
Ulysses, longed to explore the Trojan camp,
For full of daring aims was the great soul
Within his bosom. Agamemnon then,
The king of men, took up the word and said:⁠—

“Tydides Diomed, most dear of men,
Choose from the many chiefs, who ask to bear
A part with thee, the bravest. Be not moved
By deference to take the worse and leave
The abler warrior. Pay no heed to rank,
Or race, or wide extent of kingly rule.”

Thus spake the king; for in his heart he feared
For fair-haired Menelaus. Diomed,
The great in battle, then addressed them all:⁠—

“Ye bid me choose: how, then, can I o’erlook
Godlike Ulysses, prudent in resolve,
And firm in every danger, well beloved
By Pallas. Give me him, and our return
Is sure, though from consuming flames; for he
Is wise to plan beyond all other men.”

Ulysses, nobly born and hardy, spake
In turn: “Tydides, praise me not too much,
Nor blame me, for thou speakest to the Greeks,
Who know me. Meantime let us haste to go,
For the night wears away, and morn is near.
The stars are high, two thirds of night are past⁠—
The greater part⁠—and scarce a third remains.”

He spake; and both arrayed themselves for fight.
The mighty warrior Thrasymedes gave
The two-edged sword he wore to Diomed⁠—
Whose own was at the galleys⁠—and a shield.
The hero then put on his helmet, made
Of tough bull-hide, with neither cone nor crest⁠—
Such as is worn by beardless youths. A bow,
Quiver, and sword Meriones bestowed
Upon Ulysses, placing on his brows
A leathern helmet, firmly laced within
By many a thong, and on the outer side
Set thickly with a tusky boar’s white teeth,
Which fenced it well and skilfully. A web
Of woollen for the temples lined the work.
This helm Autolycus once bore away
From Eleon, the city where he sacked
The stately palace of Amyntor, son
Of Ormenus. The captor gave the prize
To the Cytheran chief, Amphidamas,
Who bore it to Scandeia, and in turn
Bestowed it upon Molus as his guest,
And Molus gave it to Meriones,
His son, to wear in battle. Now at last
It crowned Ulysses’ temples. When the twain
Were all accoutred in their dreadful arms,
Forward they went, and left the assembled chiefs,
While, sent by Pallas forth, upon their right
A heron flew beside their path. The bird
They saw not, for the night was dark, but heard
Its rustling wings. Ulysses at the sound
Rejoiced, and supplicated Pallas thus:⁠—

“Hear! daughter of the Aegis-bearer Jove!
Thou who art near me in all dangers, thou
Whose eye is on me wheresoe’er I go,
Befriend me, Pallas, yet again, and grant
That, laden with great glory, we return
Safe to the galleys, mighty deeds performed,
And woe inflicted on the Trojan race.”

Next Diomed, the great in battle, prayed:⁠—
“Daughter invincible of Jove, give ear
Also to me. Be with me now, as once
Thou didst attend on Tydeus nobly born,
My father, when he bore an embassy
To Thebé from the Achaians. He beside
The Asopus left the Achaians mailed in brass,
And bore a friendly message to the sons
Of Cadmus, and on his return performed
Full many a mighty deed with aid from thee,
Great goddess! for thou stoodest by his side.
Stand now by me; be thou my shield and guard;
And I, in turn, will offer up to thee
A yearling heifer, broad between the horns,
Which never ploughman yet hath tamed to bear
The yoke. Her to thine altar will I bring,
With gilded horns, to be a sacrifice.”

So prayed they. Pallas listened to their prayers;
And, having supplicated thus the child
Of Jove Almighty, the two chiefs went on Like lions through the darkness of the night, Through slaughter, heaps of corses, and black blood.

Nor now had Hector suffered the brave sons
Of Troy to sleep, but summoned all the chiefs,
Leaders, and princes of the host, and thus
Addressed the assembly with well-ordered words:⁠—

“Who of you all will promise to perform
The task I set him, for a large reward?
For ample shall his meed be. I will give
A chariot and two steeds with lofty necks,
Swifter than the swift galleys of the Greeks.
Great glory will be his whoever dares
Approach those ships and bring the knowledge thence
Whether the fleet is guarded as before,
Or whether, yielding to our arms, the foe
Is meditating flight, and, through the night
O’ercome with weariness, keeps watch no more.”

He spake; and all were silent for a space.
Now there was one, among the Trojan chiefs,
Whose father was Eumedes, of the train
Of reverend heralds. Dolon was his name,
And he was rich in gold and brass, deformed
In face but swift of foot, an only son
Among five sisters. He stood forth among
The Trojans, and replied to Hector thus:⁠—

“My daring spirit, Hector, urges me
To visit the swift ships and learn the state
Of the Greek host. But hold thy sceptre forth,
And solemnly attest the gods that thou
Wilt give to me the horses, and the car
Engrailed with brass, which bear the illustrious son
Of Peleus. I shall not explore in vain,
Nor balk thy hope of me; for I will pass
Into the camp until I reach the ship
Of Agamemnon, where the chiefs are now
Debating whether they shall fly or fight.”

He spake; and Hector held the sceptre forth,
And swore: “Be Jupiter the Thunderer,
Husband of Juno, witness, that those steeds
Shall bear no other Trojan than thyself.
That honor I confirm to thee alone.”

He spake. It was an idle oath, yet gave
New courage to the spy, who instantly
Upon his shoulders hung his crooked bow,
And round him flung a gray wolf’s hide, and placed
A casque of otter-skin upon his head,
And took his pointed javelin, and made haste
To reach the Grecian fleet. Yet was he doomed
Never to leave that fleet again, nor bring
Tidings to Hector. Soon was he beyond
The crowd of men and steeds, and eagerly
Held on his way. Ulysses first perceived
His coming, and thus spake to Diomed:⁠—

“Someone, Tydides, from the enemy’s camp
Is coming, either as a spy, or else
To spoil the dead. First let us suffer him
To pass us by a little on the plain,
Then let us rush and seize him. Should his speed
Be greater than our own, let us attack
The fugitive with spears, and drive him on
To where our ships are lying, from his camp,
Lest, flying townward, he escape our hands.”

He spake; and both lay down without the path
Among the dead, while he unwarily
Passed by them. When he now had gone as far
As two yoked mules might at the furrow’s end
Precede a pair of oxen⁠—for by mules
The plough is drawn more quickly through the soil
Of the deep fallow⁠—then they rose, and rushed
To seize him. As he heard their steps he stopped.
In hope that his companions had been sent
From Troy by Hector to conduct him back.
But when they came within a javelin’s cast,
Or haply less, he saw that they were foes,
And moved his nimble knees, and turned to flee,
While rapidly they followed. As two hounds,
Sharp-toothed, and trained to track their prey, pursue
Through forest-grounds some fawn or hare that runs
Before them panting, so did Diomed
And terrible Ulysses without stop
Follow the fugitive, to cut him off
From his own people. In his flight he came
Where soon he would have mingled with the guards,
Close to the fleet. Then Pallas breathed new strength
Into Tydides, that no other Greek
Might boast that he had wounded Dolon first,
And steal the honor. Therefore, with his spear
Uplifted, Diomed rushed on and spake:⁠—

“Stop, or my spear o’ertakes thee, nor wilt thou
Escape a certain death from this right hand.”

He spake, and hurled his spear⁠—but not to smite⁠—
At Dolon, over whose right shoulder passed
The polished weapon, and, descending, pierced
The ground. Then Dolon, pale and fear-struck, stopped,
And quaked, with chattering teeth and stammering speech.
They, breathless with the chase, came up and seized
His hands, while, bursting into tears, he spake:⁠—

“Take me alive, and ye shall have from me
A ransom: there is store of brass and gold
And well-wrought steel, of which a princely share
My father will bestow when he shall hear
Of me alive and at the Grecian fleet.”

The crafty chief Ulysses answered thus:⁠—
“Take heart, and cease to think of death, but tell,
And truly, why thou camest to our fleet:
Was it to strip the bodies of the dead?
Camest thou, sent by Hector, as a spy
Among our ships, or of thine own accord?”

And Dolon answered, trembling still with fear:⁠—
“Hector, against my will and to my hurt,
Persuaded me. He promised to bestow
On me the firm-paced coursers, and the car
Engrailed with brass, which bear the illustrious son
Of Peleus, and enjoined me by the aid
Of darkness to approach the foe and learn
Whether ye guard your galleys as before,
Or, overcome by us, consult on flight,
And, wearied with the hardships of the day,
Have failed to set the accustomed nightly watch.”

The man of craft, Ulysses, smiled, and said:⁠—
“Truly, thy hope was set on princely gifts⁠—
The steeds of war-renowned Aeacides,
Hard to be reined by mortal hands, or driven as
By any, save by Peleus’ son himself,
Whom an immortal mother bore. But come,
Tell me⁠—and tell the truth⁠—where hast thou left
Hector, the leader of the host, and where
Are laid his warlike arms; where stand his steeds;
Where are the sentinels, and where the tents
Of other chiefs? On what do they consult?
Will they remain beside our galleys here,
Or do they meditate, since, as they say,
The Greeks are beaten, a return to Troy?”

Dolon, Eumedes’ son, made answer thus:⁠—
“What thou requirest I will truly tell.
Hector is with his counsellors, and now,
Apart from all the bustle, at the tomb
Of Ilus the divine, he plans the war.
Sentries, of whom thou speakest, there are none;
No chosen band, O hero! has in charge
To guard the camp. By all their blazing fires,
Constrained by need, the Trojans keep awake,
And each exhorts his fellow to maintain
The watch: not so the auxiliar troops who came
From far: they sleep, and since they have no wives
Nor children near, they let the Trojans watch.”

Then thus the man of wiles, Ulysses, spake:⁠—
“How sleep they⁠—mingled with the knights of Troy
Or by themselves? Tell me, that I may know.”

Dolon, Eumedes’ son, made answer thus:⁠—
“What thou requirest I will truly tell.
On one hand, toward the sea, the bowmen lie
Of Caria and Paeonia, and with them
Lelegans, Caucons, and the gallant tribe
Of the Pelasgians. On the other hand,
Toward Thymbra, are the Lycians, the proud race
Of Mysia, Phrygia’s knights, and cavalry
Of the Maeonians. Why should ye inquire
The place of each? If ye design tonight
To penetrate into the Trojan camp,
There are the Thracians, newly come, apart
From all the others: with them is their king,
Rhesus, the son of Eioneus; his steeds
Are far the largest and most beautiful
I ever saw⁠—the snow is not so white,
The wind is not so swift. His chariot shines
With gold and silver, and the coat of mail
In which he came to Troy is all of gold,
And gloriously and marvellously bright,
Such as becomes not mortal men to wear,
But the gods only. Now to your swift Ships
Lead me; or bind me fast with thongs, and here
Leave me till your return; and ye shall know
Whether the words I speak be true or false.”

Then sternly spake the gallant Diomed:⁠—
“Once in our hands a prisoner, do not think,
O Dolon! to escape, though thou hast told
Things that shall profit us. For if we now
Release thee thou wilt surely come again
To the Greek fleet, a spy, or openly
To fight against us. If I take thy life,
’Tis certain thou wilt harm the Greeks no more.”

He spake. And as the suppliant took his chin
In his large hand, and had begun a prayer,
He smote him with his sword at the mid-neck,
And cut the tendons both; the severed head,
While yet he spake, fell, rolling in the dust.
And then they took his helm of otter-skin
The wolf’s-hide, sounding bow, and massive spear.
The nobly born Ulysses in his hand
Lifted the trophies high, devoting them
To Pallas, deity of spoil, and prayed:⁠—

“Delight thyself, O goddess, in these arms,
For thee we first invoke, of all the gods
Upon Olympus. Guide us now to find
The camp and coursers of the sons of Thrace.”

He spake; and, raising them aloft, he hung
The spoils upon a tamarisk, and brake
Reeds and the spreading branches of the tree
To form a mark, that so on their return
They might not, in the darkness, miss the spot.
Then onward, mid strewn arms and pools of blood,
They went, and soon were where the Thracians lay.
There slept the warriors, overpowered with toil;
Their glittering arms were near them, fairly ranged
In triple rows, and by each suit of arms
Two coursers. Rhesus slumbered in the midst.
Near him were his fleet horses, which were made
Fast to the chariot’s border by the reins.
Ulysses saw them first, and, pointing, said:⁠—

“This is the man, O Diomed, and these
The steeds, described by Dolon whom we slew.
Come, then; put forth thy strength of arm, for ill
Doth it become thee to stand idle here,
Armed as thou art. Loose thou the steeds; or else
Slay thou the men, and leave the steeds to me.”

He spake. The blue-eyed Pallas straightway gave
Strength to Tydides, who on every side
Dealt slaughter. From the smitten by the sword
Rose fearful groans; the ground was red with blood.
As when a ravening lion suddenly
Springs on a helpless flock of goats or sheep,
So fell Tydides on the Thracian band,
Till twelve were slain. Whomever Diomed
Approached and smote, the sage Ulysses seized,
And drew him backward by the feet, that thus
The flowing-maned coursers might pass forth
Unhindered, nor, by treading on the dead,
Be startled; for they yet were new to war.
Now when the son of Tydeus reached the king⁠—
The thirteenth of his victims⁠—him he slew
As he breathed heavily; for on that night
A fearful dream, in shape Oenides’ son,
Stood o’er him, sent by Pallas. Carefully
Ulysses meantime loosed the firm-paced steeds,
And, fastening them together, drave them forth,
Urging them with his bow: he had not thought
To take the showy lash that lay in sight
On the fair chariot-seat. In going thence
He whistled, as a sign to Diomed,
Who lingered, pondering on his next exploit⁠—
Whether to seize the chariot where was laid
The embroidered armor, dragging it away;
Or, lifting it aloft, to bear it thence;
Or take more Thracian lives. As thus his thoughts
Were busy, Pallas, standing near him, spake:⁠—

“O son of large-souled Tydeus, think betimes
Of thy return to where the galleys lie;
Else may some god arouse the sons of Troy,
And thou be forced to reach the ships by flight.”

She spake. He knew the goddess by her voice,
And leaped upon a steed. Ulysses lashed
The horses with his bow, and on they flew
Toward the swift galleys of the Grecian host.

Apollo, bearer of the silver bow,
Kept no vain watch, and, angry when he saw
Minerva at the side of Diomed,
Down to the mighty host of Troy he came,
And roused from sleep a Thracian counsellor⁠—
Hippocoön, a kinsman of the house
Of Rhesus. Leaping from his couch, he saw
The vacant spot where the swift steeds had stood,
And, weltering in their blood, the dying chiefs,
He saw, and wept aloud, and called by name
His dear companion. Then a clamor rose,
And boundless tumult, as the Trojans came
All rushing to the spot, and marvelling
At what the daring warriors, who were now
Returning to the hollow ships, had done.

And when these warriors now had reached the spot
Where Hector’s spy was slain, Ulysses, dear
To Jupiter, reined in the fiery steeds,
And Diomed leaped down and took the spoil
Blood-stained, and gave it to Ulysses’ hands,
And mounted. Then again they urged the steeds,
Which, not unwilling, flew along the way.
First Nestor heard the approaching sound, and said:⁠—

“Friends, chiefs and princes of the Greeks, my heart⁠—
Truly or falsely⁠—urges me to speak.
The trampling of swift steeds is in my ears.
O that Ulysses and the gallant son
Of Tydeus might be bringing at this hour
Firm-footed coursers from the enemy’s camp!
Yet must I fear that these, our bravest chiefs,
Have met disaster from the Trojan crew.”

While he was speaking yet, the warriors came.
They sprang to earth; their friends, rejoicing, flocked
Around them, greeting them with grasp of hands
And with glad words, while the Gerenian knight,
Nestor, inquired: “Declare, illustrious chief,
Glory of Greece, Ulysses, how ye took
These horses: from the foe;⁠—or did some god
Bestow them? They are glorious as the sun.
Oft am I midst the Trojans, for, though old,
I lag not idly at the ships; yet ne’er
Have my eyes looked on coursers like to these.
Some god, no doubt, has given them, for to Jove,
The God of storms, and Pallas, blue-eyed child
Of aegis-bearing Jove, ye both are dear.”

Then sage Ulysses answered: “Pride of Greece!
Neleian Nestor, truly might a god
Have given us nobler steeds than even these.
All power is with the gods. But these of which
Thou askest, aged man, are brought from Thrace,
And newly come. Brave Diomed hath slain
Their lord, and twelve companions by his side⁠—
All princes. Yet another victim fell⁠—
A spy whom, near our ships, we put to death⁠—
A man whom Hector and his brother chiefs
Sent forth by midnight to explore our camp.”

He spake, and gayly caused the firm-paced steeds
To pass the trench; the other Greeks, well pleased,
Went with him. When they reached the stately tent
Of Diomed, they led the coursers on
To stalls where Diomed’s fleet horses stood
Champing the wholesome corn, and bound them there
With halters neatly shaped. Ulysses placed
Upon his galley’s stern the bloody spoil
Of Dolon, to be made an offering
To Pallas. Then, descending to the sea,
They washed from knees and neck and thighs the grime
Of sweat; and when in the salt wave their limbs
Were cleansed, and all the frame refreshed, they stepped
Into the polished basins of the bath,
And, having bathed and rubbed with fragrant oil
Their limbs, they sat them down to a repast,
And from a brimming jar beside them drew,
And poured to Pallas first, the pleasant wine.