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The Fall of Troy

Page: 100

BOOK XII

How the Wooden Horse was fashioned, and brought into Troy by her people.

  When round the walls of Troy the Danaan host
  Had borne much travail, and yet the end was not,
  By Calchas then assembled were the chiefs;
  For his heart was instructed by the hests
  Of Phoebus, by the flights of birds, the stars,
  And all the signs that speak to men the will
  Of Heaven; so he to that assembly cried:
  "No longer toil in leaguer of yon walls;
  Some other counsel let your hearts devise,
  Some stratagem to help the host and us.
  For here but yesterday I saw a sign:
  A falcon chased a dove, and she, hard pressed,
  Entered a cleft of the rock; and chafing he
  Tarried long time hard by that rift, but she
  Abode in covert. Nursing still his wrath,
  He hid him in a bush. Forth darted she,
  In folly deeming him afar: he swooped,
  And to the hapless dove dealt wretched death.
  Therefore by force essay we not to smite Troy,
  but let cunning stratagem avail."

  He spake; but no man's wit might find a way
  To escape their grievous travail, as they sought
  To find a remedy, till Laertes' son
  Discerned it of his wisdom, and he spake:
  "Friend, in high honour held of the Heavenly Ones,
  If doomed it be indeed that Priam's burg
  By guile must fall before the war-worn Greeks,
  A great Horse let us fashion, in the which
  Our mightiest shall take ambush. Let the host
  Burn all their tents, and sail from hence away
  To Tenedos; so the Trojans, from their towers
  Gazing, shall stream forth fearless to the plain.
  Let some brave man, unknown of any in Troy,
  With a stout heart abide without the Horse,
  Crouching beneath its shadow, who shall say:
  "`Achaea's lords of might, exceeding fain
  Safe to win home, made this their offering
  For safe return, an image to appease
  The wrath of Pallas for her image stolen
  From Troy.' And to this story shall he stand,
  How long soe'er they question him, until,
  Though never so relentless, they believe,
  And drag it, their own doom, within the town.
  Then shall war's signal unto us be given—
  To them at sea, by sudden flash of torch,
  To the ambush, by the cry, `Come forth the Horse!'
  When unsuspecting sleep the sons of Troy."

  He spake, and all men praised him: most of all
  Extolled him Calchas, that such marvellous guile
  He put into the Achaeans' hearts, to be
  For them assurance of triumph, but for Troy
  Ruin; and to those battle-lords he cried:
  "Let your hearts seek none other stratagem,
  Friends; to war-strong Odysseus' rede give ear.
  His wise thought shall not miss accomplishment.
  Yea, our desire even now the Gods fulfil.
  Hark! for new tokens come from the Unseen!
  Lo, there on high crash through the firmament
  Zeus' thunder and lightning! See, where birds to right
  Dart past, and scream with long-resounding cry!
  Go to, no more in endless leaguer of Troy
  Linger we. Hard necessity fills the foe
  With desperate courage that makes cowards brave;
  For then are men most dangerous, when they stake
  Their lives in utter recklessness of death,
  As battle now the aweless sons of Troy
  All round their burg, mad with the lust of fight."


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