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The Fall of Troy

Page: 106

  But still Laocoon ceased not to exhort
  His countrymen to burn the Horse with fire:
  They would not hear, for dread of the Gods' wrath.
  But then a yet more hideous punishment
  Athena visited on his hapless sons.
  A cave there was, beneath a rugged cliff
  Exceeding high, unscalable, wherein
  Dwelt fearful monsters of the deadly brood
  Of Typhon, in the rock-clefts of the isle
  Calydna that looks Troyward from the sea.
  Thence stirred she up the strength of serpents twain,
  And summoned them to Troy. By her uproused
  They shook the island as with earthquake: roared
  The sea; the waves disparted as they came.
  Onward they swept with fearful-flickering tongues:
  Shuddered the very monsters of the deep:
  Xanthus' and Simois' daughters moaned aloud,
  The River-nymphs: the Cyprian Queen looked down
  In anguish from Olympus. Swiftly they came
  Whither the Goddess sped them: with grim jaws
  Whetting their deadly fangs, on his hapless sons
  Sprang they. All Trojans panic-stricken fled,
  Seeing those fearsome dragons in their town.
  No man, though ne'er so dauntless theretofore,
  Dared tarry; ghastly dread laid hold on all
  Shrinking in horror from the monsters. Screamed
  The women; yea, the mother forgat her child,
  Fear-frenzied as she fled: all Troy became
  One shriek of fleers, one huddle of jostling limbs:
  The streets were choked with cowering fugitives.
  Alone was left Laocoon with his sons,
  For death's doom and the Goddess chained their feet.
  Then, even as from destruction shrank the lads,
  Those deadly fangs had seized and ravined up
  The twain, outstretching to their sightless sire
  Agonized hands: no power to help had he.
  Trojans far off looked on from every side
  Weeping, all dazed. And, having now fulfilled
  Upon the Trojans Pallas' awful hest,
  Those monsters vanished 'neath the earth; and still
  Stands their memorial, where into the fane
  They entered of Apollo in Pergamus
  The hallowed. Therebefore the sons of Troy
  Gathered, and reared a cenotaph for those
  Who miserably had perished. Over it
  Their father from his blind eyes rained the tears:
  Over the empty tomb their mother shrieked,
  Boding the while yet worse things, wailing o'er
  The ruin wrought by folly of her lord,
  Dreading the anger of the Blessed Ones.
  As when around her void nest in a brake
  In sorest anguish moans the nightingale
  Whose fledglings, ere they learned her plaintive song,
  A hideous serpent's fangs have done to death,
  And left the mother anguish, endless woe,
  And bootless crying round her desolate home;
  So groaned she for her children's wretched death,
  So moaned she o'er the void tomb; and her pangs
  Were sharpened by her lord's plight stricken blind.

  While she for children and for husband moaned—
  These slain, he of the sun's light portionless—
  The Trojans to the Immortals sacrificed,
  Pouring the wine. Their hearts beat high with hope
  To escape the weary stress of woeful war.
  Howbeit the victims burned not, and the flames
  Died out, as though 'neath heavy-hissing rain;
  And writhed the smoke-wreaths blood-red, and the thighs
  Quivering from crumbling altars fell to earth.
  Drink-offerings turned to blood, Gods' statues wept,
  And temple-walls dripped gore: along them rolled
  Echoes of groaning out of depths unseen;
  And all the long walls shuddered: from the towers
  Came quick sharp sounds like cries of men in pain;
  And, weirdly shrieking, of themselves slid back
  The gate-bolts. Screaming "Desolation!" wailed
  The birds of night. Above that God-built burg
  A mist palled every star; and yet no cloud
  Was in the flashing heavens. By Phoebus' fane
  Withered the bays that erst were lush and green.
  Wolves and foul-feeding jackals came and howled
  Within the gates. Ay, other signs untold
  Appeared, portending woe to Dardanus' sons
  And Troy: yet no fear touched the Trojans' hearts
  Who saw all through the town those portents dire:
  Fate crazed them all, that midst their revelling
  Slain by their foes they might fill up their doom.


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