The Fall of Troy
Page: 106But 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.