PERICLYMENUS IN COMBAT WITH HERCULESNestor had hardly told this marvellous tale
of bitter strife betwixt the Lapithae
and those half-human, vanquished Centaurs, when
Tlepolemus, incensed because no word
of praise was given to Hercules, replied
in this way; “Old sir, it is very strange,
you have neglected to say one good word
in praise of Hercules. My father told
me often, that he overcame in battle
those cloud born centaurs.”
Nestor, very loth,
replied, “Why force me to recall old wrongs,
to uncover sorrow buried by the years,
that made me hate your father? It is true
his deeds were wonderful beyond belief,
heaven knows, and filled the earth with well earned praise
which I should rather wish might be denied.
Deiphobus, the wise Polydamas, and even
great Hector get no praise from me.
Your father, I recall once overthrew
Messene's walls and with no cause destroyed
Elis and Pylos and with fire and sword
ruined my own loved home. I cannot name
all whom he killed. But there were twelve of us,
the sons of Neleus and all warrior youths,
and all those twelve but me alone he killed.
Ten of them met the common fate of war,
but sadder was the death of Periclymenus.
“Neptune, the founder of my family,
had granted him a power to assume
whatever shape he chose, and when he wished
to lay that shape aside. When he, in vain,
had been transformed to many other shapes
he turned into the form of that bird, which
is wont to carry in his crooked talons
the forked lightnings, favorite bird of Jove.
With wings and crooked bill and sharp-hooked talons,
he assailed and tore the face of Hercules.
But, when he soared away on eagle wings
up to the clouds and hovered, poised in air,
that hero aimed his too unerring bow
and hit him where the new wing joined his side.
The wound was not large, but his sinews cut
failed to uphold him, and denied his wings
their strength and motion. He fell down to earth;
his weakened pinions could not catch the air.
And the sharp arrow, which had lightly pierced
the wing, was driven upward through the side
into the left part of my brother's neck.
“O noble leader of the Rhodian fleet,
why should I sing the praise of Hercules?
But for my brothers I take no revenge
except withholding praise of his great deeds.
With you, my friendship will remain secure.”
THE DEATH OF ACHILLESWhen Nestor with his honied tongue had told
these tales of old, they all took wine again
and they arose and gave the night to sleep.