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[40] This is now the tenth year since Priam's mighty adversary, king Menelaus, and with him king Agamemnon, the mighty pair of Atreus' sons, joined in honor of throne and sceptre by Zeus, [45] set forth from this land with an army of a thousand ships manned by Argives, a warrior force to champion their cause. Loud rang the battle-cry they uttered in their rage, just as eagles scream which, [50] in lonely grief for their brood, rowing with the oars of their wings, wheel high over their bed, because they have lost the toil of guarding their nurslings' nest.

[55] But some one of the powers supreme—Apollo perhaps or Pan, or Zeus—hears the shrill wailing scream of the clamorous birds, these sojourners in his realm, and against the transgressors sends vengeance at last though late. [60] Even so Zeus, whose power is over all, Zeus, lord of host and guest, sends against Alexander the sons of Atreus, that for the sake of a woman with many husbands1he may inflict many and wearying struggles (when the knee is pressed in the dust and [65] the spear is splintered in the onset) on Danaans and on Trojans alike.

The case now stands where it stands—it moves to fulfilment at its destined end. Not by offerings burned in secret, not by secret libations, [70] not by tears, shall man soften the stubborn wrath of unsanctified sacrifices.2

But we, incapable of service by reason of our aged frame, discarded from that martial mustering of long ago, wait here at home, [75] supporting on our canes a strength like a child's. For just as the vigor of youth, leaping up within the breast, is like that of old age, since the war-god is not in his place; so extreme age, its leaves [80] already withering, goes its way on triple feet, and, no better than a child, wanders, a dream that is dreamed by day.

1 Menelaus, Paris, Deiphobus.

2 “Unsanctified,” literally “fireless,” “that will not burn.” A veiled reference either to the sacrifice of Iphigenia by Agamemnon and the wrath of Clytaemestra, or to Paris' violation of the laws of hospitality that provoked the anger of Zeus.

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