The Fall of Troy
Page: 101But cried Achilles' battle-eager son:
"Calchas, brave men meet face to face their foes!
Who skulk behind their walls, and fight from towers,
Are nidderings, hearts palsied with base fear.
Hence with all thought of wile and stratagem!
The great war-travail of the spear beseems
True heroes. Best in battle are the brave."
But answer made to him Laertes' seed:
"Bold-hearted child of aweless Aeacus' son,
This as beseems a hero princely and brave,
Dauntlessly trusting in thy strength, thou say'st.
Yet thine invincible sire's unquailing might
Availed not to smite Priam's wealthy burg,
Nor we, for all our travail. Nay, with speed,
As counselleth Calchas, go we to the ships,
And fashion we the Horse by Epeius' hands,
Who in the woodwright's craft is chiefest far
Of Argives, for Athena taught his lore."
Then all their mightiest men gave ear to him
Save twain, fierce-hearted Neoptolemus
And Philoctetes mighty-souled; for these
Still were insatiate for the bitter fray,
Still longed for turmoil of the fight. They bade
Their own folk bear against that giant wall
What things soe'er for war's assaults avail,
In hope to lay that stately fortress low,
Seeing Heaven's decrees had brought them both to war.
Yea, they had haply accomplished all their will,
But from the sky Zeus showed his wrath; he shook
The earth beneath their feet, and all the air
Shuddered, as down before those heroes twain
He hurled his thunderbolt: wide echoes crashed
Through all Dardania. Unto fear straightway
Turned were their bold hearts: they forgat their might,
And Calchas' counsels grudgingly obeyed.
So with the Argives came they to the ships
In reverence for the seer who spake from Zeus
Or Phoebus, and they obeyed him utterly.
What time round splendour-kindled heavens the stars
From east to west far-flashing wheel, and when
Man doth forget his toil, in that still hour
Athena left the high mansions of the Blest,
Clothed her in shape of a maiden tender-fleshed,
And came to ships and host. Over the head
Of brave Epeius stood she in his dream,
And bade him build a Horse of tree: herself
Would labour in his labour, and herself
Stand by his side, to the work enkindling him.
Hearing the Goddess' word, with a glad laugh
Leapt he from careless sleep: right well he knew
The Immortal One celestial. Now his heart
Could hold no thought beside; his mind was fixed
Upon the wondrous work, and through his soul
Marched marshalled each device of craftsmanship.
When rose the dawn, and thrust back kindly night
To Erebus, and through the firmament streamed
Glad glory, then Epeius told his dream
To eager Argives—all he saw and heard;
And hearkening joyed they with exceeding joy.
Straightway to tall-tressed Ida's leafy glades
The sons of Atreus sent swift messengers.
These laid the axe unto the forest-pines,
And hewed the great trees: to their smiting rang
The echoing glens. On those far-stretching hills
All bare of undergrowth the high peaks rose:
Open their glades were, not, as in time past,
Haunted of beasts: there dry the tree-trunks rose
Wooing the winds. Even these the Achaeans hewed
With axes, and in haste they bare them down
From those shagged mountain heights to Hellespont's shores.
Strained with a strenuous spirit at the work
Young men and mules; and all the people toiled
Each at his task obeying Epeius's hest.
For with the keen steel some were hewing beams,
Some measuring planks, and some with axes lopped
Branches away from trunks as yet unsawn:
Each wrought his several work. Epeius first
Fashioned the feet of that great Horse of Wood:
The belly next he shaped, and over this
Moulded the back and the great loins behind,
The throat in front, and ridged the towering neck
With waving mane: the crested head he wrought,
The streaming tail, the ears, the lucent eyes—
All that of lifelike horses have. So grew
Like a live thing that more than human work,
For a God gave to a man that wondrous craft.
And in three days, by Pallas's decree,
Finished was all. Rejoiced thereat the host
Of Argos, marvelling how the wood expressed
Mettle, and speed of foot—yea, seemed to neigh.
Godlike Epeius then uplifted hands
To Pallas, and for that huge Horse he prayed:
"Hear, great-souled Goddess: bless thine Horse and me!"
He spake: Athena rich in counsel heard,
And made his work a marvel to all men
Which saw, or heard its fame in days to be.