"His Country's Cares lay rowling in his Breast. / As when by Light'nings Jove 's Ætherial Pow'r / Foretells the ratling Hail, or weighty Show'r, / Or sends soft Snows to whiten all the Shore, / Or bids the brazen Throat of War to roar; / By fits one Flash succeeds, as one expires, / And Heav'n flames thick with momentary Fires."
— Pope, Alexander (1688-1744)
And lost in Sleep the Labours of the Day:
All but the King; with various Thoughts opprest,
His Country's Cares lay rowling in his Breast.
As when by Light'nings Jove's Ætherial Pow'r
Foretells the ratling Hail, or weighty Show'r,
Or sends soft Snows to whiten all the Shore,
Or bids the brazen Throat of War to roar;
By fits one Flash succeeds, as one expires,
And Heav'n flames thick with momentary Fires.
So bursting frequent from Atrides' Breast,
Sighs following Sighs his inward Fears confest.
Now o'er the Fields, dejected, he surveys
From thousand Trojan Fires the mounting Blaze;
Hears in the passing Wind their Music blow,
And marks distinct the Voices of the Foe.
Now looking backwards to the Fleet and Coast,
Anxious he sorrows for th'endanger'd Host.
He rends his Hairs, in sacrifice to Jove ,
And sues to Him that ever lives above:
Inly he groans; while Glory and Despair
Divide his Heart, and wage a doubtful War.
Verse 3. All but the King , &c.] Homer here with a very small Alteration repeats the Verses which begin the second Book: He introduces Agamemnon with the same Pomp as he did Jupiter ; he ascribes to him the same Watchfulness over Men, as he exercis'd over the Gods, and Jove and Agamemnon are the only Persons awake, while Heaven and Earth are asleep.
Verse 7. Or sends soft Snows .] Scaliger 's Criticism against this Passage, that it never lightens and snows at the same time, is sufficiently refuted by Experience. See Bossu of the Epic Poem lib. 3. c. 7. and Barnes 's Note on this Place.
Verse 8. Or bids the brazen Throat of War to roar .] There is something very noble and sublime in this Image: The vast Jaws of War is an Expression that very poetically represents the Voraciousness of War, and gives us a lively Idea of an insatiate Monster.
Verse 9. By fits one Flash succeeds , &c.] It requires some Skill in Homer to take the chief Point of his Similitudes; he has often been misunderstood in that respect, and his Comparisons have frequently been strain'd to comply with the Fancies of Commentators. This Comparison which is brought to illustrate the Frequency of Agamemnon 's Sighs, has been usually thought to represent in general the Groans of the King, whereas what Homer had in his view was only the quick Succession of them.
Verse 13. Now o'er the Fields , &c.] Aristotle answers a Criticism of some Censurers of Homer on this Place. They asked how it was that Agamemnon , shut up in his Tent in the Night, could see the Trojan Camp at one view, and the Fleet at another, as the Poet represents it? It is (says Aristotle ) only a metaphorical manner of Speech; To cast one's Eye , means but to reflect upon , or to revolve in one's Mind: and that employ'd Agamemnon 's Thoughts in his Tent, which had been the chief Object of his Eyes the Day before.
Verse 19. He rends his Hairs in sacrifice to Jove. ] I know this Action of Agamemnon has been taken only as a common Expression of Grief, and so indeed it was render'd by Accius , as cited by Tully, Tusc. quæst. l. 3 .Scindens dolore identidem intonsam comam . But whoever reads the Context will, I believe, be of Opinion, that Jupiter is mention'd here on no other Account than as he was apply'd to in the offering of these Hairs, in an humble Supplication to the offended Deity who had so lately manifested his Anger.
See The Iliad of Homer, Translated by Mr. Pope, 6 vols. (London: Printed by W. Bowyer, for Bernard Lintott, 1715-1720). <Link to ESTC><Link to Vol. I in ECCO-TCP><Vol. II><Vol. III><Vol. IV><Vol. V><Vol. VI>