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Metamorphoses: Book The Thirteenth

THE chiefs were set; the soldiers crown'd the
field:
To these the master of the seven-fold shield
Upstarted fierce: and kindled with disdain.
Eager to speak, unable to contain
His boiling rage, he rowl'd his eyes around
The shore, and Graecian gallies hall'd a-ground.
The Then stretching out his hands, O Jove, he cry'd,
Speeches of Must then our cause before the fleet be try'd?
Ajax and And dares Ulysses for the prize contend,
Ulysses In sight of what he durst not once defend?
But basely fled that memorable day,
When I from Hector's hands redeem'd the flaming
prey.
So much 'tis safer at the noisie bar
With words to flourish, than ingage in war.
By diff'rent methods we maintain our right,
Nor am I made to talk, nor he to fight.
In bloody fields I labour to be great;
His arms are a smooth tongue, and soft deceit:
Nor need I speak my deeds, for those you see,
The sun, and day are witnesses for me.
Let him who fights unseen, relate his own,
And vouch the silent stars, and conscious moon.
Great is the prize demanded, I confess,
But such an abject rival makes it less;
That gift, those honours, he but hop'd to gain,
Can leave no room for Ajax to be vain:
Losing he wins, because his name will be
Ennobled by defeat, who durst contend with me.
Were my known valour question'd, yet my blood
Without that plea wou'd make my title good:
My sire was Telamon, whose arms, employ'd
With Hercules, these Trojan walls destroy'd;
And who before with Jason sent from Greece,
In the first ship brought home the golden fleece.
Great Telamon from Aeacus derives
His birth (th' inquisitor of guilty lives
In shades below; where Sisyphus, whose son
This thief is thought, rouls up the restless heavy
stone),
Just Aeacus, the king of Gods above
Begot: thus Ajax is the third from Jove.
Nor shou'd I seek advantage from my line,
Unless (Achilles) it was mix'd with thine:
As next of kin, Achilles' arms I claim;
This fellow wou'd ingraft a foreign name
Upon our stock, and the Sisyphian seed
By fraud, and theft asserts his father's breed:
Then must I lose these arms, because I came
To fight uncall'd, a voluntary name,
Nor shunn'd the cause, but offer'd you my aid?
While he long lurking was to war betray'd:
Forc'd to the field he came, but in the reer;
And feign'd distraction to conceal his fear:
'Till one more cunning caught him in the snare
(Ill for himself); and dragg'd him into war.
Now let a hero's arms a coward vest,
And he who shunn'd all honours, gain the best:
And let me stand excluded from my right,
Robb'd of my kinsman's arms, who first appear'd in
fight,
Better for us, at home had he remain'd,
Had it been true the madness which he feign'd,
Or so believ'd; the less had been our shame,
The less his counsell'd crime, which brands the
Grecian name;
Nor Philoctetes had been left inclos'd
In a bare isle, to wants and pains expos'd,
Where to the rocks, with solitary groans,
His suff'rings, and our baseness he bemoans:
And wishes (so may Heav'n his wish fulfill)
The due reward to him, who caus'd his ill.
Now he, with us to Troy's destruction sworn,
Our brother of the war, by whom are born
Alcides' arrows, pent in narrow bounds,
With cold and hunger pinch'd, and pain'd with
wounds,
To find him food and cloathing, must employ
Against the birds the shafts due to the fate of
Troy.
Yet still he lives, and lives from treason free,
Because he left Ulysses' company;
Poor Palamede might wish, so void of aid,
Rather to have been left, than so to death
betray'd.
The coward bore the man immortal spight,
Who sham'd him out of madness into fight:
Nor daring otherwise to vent his hate,
Accus'd him first of treason to the state;
And then for proof produc'd the golden store,
Himself had hidden in his tent before:
Thus of two champions he depriv'd our host,
By exile one, and one by treason lost.
Thus fights Ulysses, thus his fame extends,
A formidable man, but to his friends:
Great, for what greatness is in words, and sound,
Ev'n faithful Nestor less in both is found:
But that he might without a rival reign,
He left this faithful Nestor on the plain;
Forsook his friend ev'n at his utmost need,
Who tir'd, and tardy with his wounded steed,
Cry'd out for aid, and call'd him by his name;
But cowardice has neither ears nor shame;
Thus fled the good old man, bereft of aid,
And, for as much as lay in him, betray'd:
That this is not a fable forg'd by me,
Like one of his, an Ulyssean lie,
I vouch ev'n Diomede, who tho' his friend,
Cannot that act excuse, much less defend:
He call'd him back aloud, and tax'd his fear;
And sure enough he heard, but durst not hear.
The Gods with equal eyes on mortal look,
He justly was forsaken, who forsook:
Wanted that succour, he refus'd to lend,
Found ev'ry fellow such another friend:
No wonder, if he roar'd that all might hear;
His elocution was increas'd by fear:
I heard, I ran, I found him out of breath,
Pale, trembling, and half dead with fear of death.
Though he had judg'd himself by his own laws,
And stood condemn'd, I help'd the common cause:
With my broad buckler hid him from the foe
(Ev'n the shield trembled as he lay below);
And from impending Fate the coward freed:
Good Heav'n forgive me for so bad a deed!
If still he will persist, and urge the strife,
First let him give me back his forfeit life:
Let him return to that opprobrious field;
Again creep under my protecting shield:
Let him lie wounded, let the foe be near,



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