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6. Or perchance he was some Achilles, who had nourished his wrath apart, and had now come to avenge or rescue his Patroclus. He saw this unequal combat from afar-for the blacks were nearly twice the size of the red. He drew near with rapid pace till he stood on his guard within half an inch of the combatants; then, watching his opportunity, he sprang upon the black warrior, and commenced his operations near the root of his right foreleg, leaving the foe to select among his own members ; and so there were three united for life, as if a new kind of attraction had been invented which put all other locks and cements to shame.
7. I should not have wondered by this time to find that they had their respective musical bands stationed on some eminent chip, and playing their national airs the while, to excite the slow and cheer the dying combatants. I was myself excited somewhat, even as if they had been
The more you think of it, the less the difference. And certainly there is not the fight recorded in Concord history at least, if in the history of America, that will bear a moment's comparison with this, whether for the numbers engaged in it, or for the patriotism and heroism displayed.
8. For numbers and for carnage it was an Austerlitz or Dresden. I have no doubt that it was a principle they fought for, as much as our ancestors, and not to avoid a three-penny tax on their tea; and the results of this battle will be as important and memorable to those whom it concerns, as those of the battle of Bunker Hill, at least.
9. I took up the chip on which the three I have particularly described were struggling, carried it into my house, and placed it under a tumbler on my window-sill, in order to see the issue. Holding a microscope to the
first-mentioned red ant, I saw that, though he was assiduously gnawing at the near fore-leg of his enemy, having severed his remaining feeler, his own breast was all torn away, exposing what vitals he had there to the jaws of the black warrior, whose breastplate was apparently too thick for him to pierce; and the dark carbuncles of the sufferer's eyes shone with ferocity such as war only could excite.
10. They struggled half an hour longer under the tumbler, and when I looked again the black soldier had severed the heads of his foes from their bodies, and the still living heads were hanging on either side of him like ghastly trophies at his saddle-bow, still apparently as firmly fastened as ever, and he was endeavoring with feeble struggles, being without feelers and with only the remnant of a leg, and I know not how many other wounds, to divest himself of them; which at length, after half an hour more, he accomplished. I raised the glass, and he went off over the window-sill in that crippled state. Whether he finally survived that combat, and spent the remainder of his days in some Hôtel des Invalides, I do not know; but I thought that his industry would not be worth much thereafter. I never learned which party was victorious, nor the cause of the war; but I felt for the rest of that day as if I had had my feelings excited and harrowed by witnessing the struggle, the ferocity and carnage, of a human battle before my door.
Henry D. Thoreau.
FOR PREPARATION.-I. From “Walden, or Life in the Woods” (published in 1854). “Walden” is a pond near the village of Concord, Mass. (See XLIV., LIX., and LXXVIII.) Allusions are made in this piece to the fight which took place there between the Americans and British on the day of the battle of Lexington (four miles to the eastward of Concord). “Legions of these myrmidons” (the myrmidons were the terrible troops of Achilles at the siege of Troy). " Red republicans " (the fanatical revolu
tionists of France). “Opposed to the black imperialists” (who favored an empire or monarchy). Achilles is described in Homer's “Iliad” (i'-Li-ăd) as nourishing his wrath apart, and not entering the fight until after his friend Pă-tro'-clús was killed. “Hôtel des Invalides ” (ō-těl' dā zăng-vă-lēd'), (a celebrated military asylum at Paris, for disabled soldiers). Whose mother had charged him to return with his shield or upon it” (alluding to the Spartan mother's charge to her son, “to return with his shield ”-i. e., having defended, and not thrown it away in flight—“or upon it ”; i. e., brought home upon his shield, having bravely died in the fight).
II. Pēaçe'-ful, fiērçe'-ly, wrest'-led (rēs'la), in-cěs'-sant-ly, före'leg, çēased (sēst), shield, com'-båt-ints, mi'-ero-seõpe, war'-rior (wôr'yúr), tro'-phieş.
III. Unequal (un is a prefix meaning not)—what does unequal mean? In what compound words is the hyphen omitted ? (In very common ones; e. g., noonday.)
IV. Pertinacity, assiduously, duellum (Latin, duellum, a fight between two), bellum (a Latin word meaning war, originally spelled duellum, and meaning a fight between two parties), divested, internecine (inter = between, necare, to slay—mutually destructive), feelers.
V. The style of this piece is an imitation of the heroic style of Homer's “ Iliad," and is properly a “mock-heroic.” The description of the affairs of the ants with the same elevated style that one would treat the affairs of men gives the effect of a “quiet humor.” .This is, in fact, often a characteristic of Thoreau's style. His “A Week on the Concord and Merrimac Rivers ” borrows its grandeur of style from Homer's “Odyssey” to describe the unromantic incidents of a ride in a small boat down a small, sluggish river, for a few miles. The intention of the author is twofold: half-seriously endowing the incidents of every-day life with epic dignity, in the belief that there is nothing mean and trivial to the poet and philosopher, and that it is the man that adds dignity to the occasion, and not the occasion that dignifies the man; half-satirically treating the human events alluded to, as though they were non-heroic, and only fit to be applied to the events of animal life.
VIII.-THE SOLDIER'S DREAM.
1. Our bugles sang truce; for the night-cloud had lowered,
And the sentinel stars set their watch in the sky; And thousands had sunk on the ground overpowered
The weary to sleep, and the wounded to die.