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'Twould please me best to fight these Greeks alone.
Yet, if 'twould irk thine honour not to have thrown
One firebrand on the ships with me, why, then
Set us to face Achilles and his men.
Achilles? Nay, his spear ye cannot meet.
How so? Fame said he sailed here with the fleet.
He sailed, and he is here. But some despite
'Gainst the great King now keeps him from the fight.
Who next to him hath honour in their host?
Next, to my seeming, Ajax hath the most,
Or Diomede.-But Odysseus is a tough
And subtle fox, and brave; aye, brave enough.
No man of them hath harmed us more than he.
He climbed here to Athena's sanctuary1
One night, and stole her image clean away
To the Argive ships. Yes, and another day,
Guised as a wandering priest, in rags, he came
And walked straight through the Gates, made loud
Of curses on the Greek, spied out alone
All that he sought in Ilion, and was gone--
Gone, and the watch and helpers of the Gate
Dead! And in every ambush they have set
By the old Altar, close to Troy, we know
He sits-a murderous reptile of a foe!
No brave man seeks so dastardly to harm
His battle-foes; he meets them arm to arm.
This Greek of thine, this sitter like a thief
In ambush, I will make of him my chief
Care. I will take him living, drive a straight
Stake through him, and so star him at the Gate
To feed your wide-winged vultures. 'Tis the death
Most meet for a lewd thief, who pillageth
God's sanctuary, or so we hold in Thrace.
HECTOR (making no answer).
Seek first some sleep. There still remains a space
Of darkness.-I will show the spot that best
May suit you, somewhat sundered from the rest.
Should need arise, the password of the night
Is Phoebus: see your Thracians have it right.
Turning to the Guards before he goes.
Advance beyond your stations, men, at some
Distance, and stay on watch till Dolon come
With word of the Argives' counsel. If his vow
Prosper, he should be nearing us by now.2
1 P. 27, l. 501 ff. These three achievements of Odysseus are all in the traditional saga. The Rapt of the Palladium, or figure of Pallas, by Odysseus and Diomedes, was in an old lost epic, called The Little Iliad; the Begging in Troy in the Little Iliad and also in Odyssey IV. 242 ff.; the great ambuscades in Odyssey IV. 290 ff., VIII. 493 ff., and in Odysseus's own feigned story, XIV. 468 ff. According to our tradition they belong to a later period of the war than the death of Rhesus, but perhaps the sequence was different, or not so definite, at the time of this play.
2 P. 28, l. 528. Rhesus shows the simple courage of a barbarian in his contempt for the ruses of Odysseus, the brutality of a barbarian in the methods of punishment he proposes. Such proposals would disgust a Greek; it looks as if they displeased Hector. In any case his abruptness here, and his careful indication of the place where the Thracians are to sleep, far from the rest of the camp, have some dramatic value for the sequel.
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