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The Fall of Troy

Page: 108

BOOK XIII

How Troy in the night was taken and sacked with fire and slaughter.

  So feasted they through Troy, and in their midst
  Loud pealed the flutes and pipes: on every hand
  Were song and dance, laughter and cries confused
  Of banqueters beside the meats and wine.
  They, lifting in their hands the beakers brimmed,
  Recklessly drank, till heavy of brain they grew,
  Till rolled their fluctuant eyes. Now and again
  Some mouth would babble the drunkard's broken words.
  The household gear, the very roof and walls
  Seemed as they rocked: all things they looked on seemed
  Whirled in wild dance. About their eyes a veil
  Of mist dropped, for the drunkard's sight is dimmed,
  And the wit dulled, when rise the fumes to the brain:
  And thus a heavy-headed feaster cried:
  "For naught the Danaans mustered that great host
  Hither! Fools, they have wrought not their intent,
  But with hopes unaccomplished from our town
  Like silly boys or women have they fled."

  So cried a Trojan wit-befogged with wine,
  Fool, nor discerned destruction at the doors.

  When sleep had locked his fetters everywhere
  Through Troy on folk fulfilled of wine and meat,
  Then Sinon lifted high a blazing torch
  To show the Argive men the splendour of fire.
  But fearfully the while his heart beat, lest
  The men of Troy might see it, and the plot
  Be suddenly revealed. But on their beds
  Sleeping their last sleep lay they, heavy with wine.
  The host saw, and from Tenedos set sail.

  Then nigh the Horse drew Sinon: softly he called,
  Full softly, that no man of Troy might hear,
  But only Achaea's chiefs, far from whose eyes
  Sleep hovered, so athirst were they for fight.
  They heard, and to Odysseus all inclined
  Their ears: he bade them urgently go forth
  Softly and fearlessly; and they obeyed
  That battle-summons, pressing in hot haste
  To leap to earth: but in his subtlety
  He stayed them from all thrusting eagerly forth.
  But first himself with swift unfaltering hands,
  Helped of Epeius, here and there unbarred
  The ribs of the Horse of beams: above the planks
  A little he raised his head, and gazed around
  On all sides, if he haply might descry
  One Trojan waking yet. As when a wolf,
  With hunger stung to the heart, comes from the hills,
  And ravenous for flesh draws nigh the flock
  Penned in the wide fold, slinking past the men
  And dogs that watch, all keen to ward the sheep,
  Then o'er the fold-wall leaps with soundless feet;
  So stole Odysseus down from the Horse: with him
  Followed the war-fain lords of Hellas' League,
  Orderly stepping down the ladders, which
  Epeius framed for paths of mighty men,
  For entering and for passing forth the Horse,
  Who down them now on this side, that side, streamed
  As fearless wasps startled by stroke of axe
  In angry mood pour all together forth
  From the tree-bole, at sound of woodman's blow;
  So battle-kindled forth the Horse they poured
  Into the midst of that strong city of Troy
  With hearts that leapt expectant. [With swift hands
  Snatched they the brands from dying hearths, and fired
  Temple and palace. Onward then to the gates
  Sped they,] and swiftly slew the slumbering guards,
  [Then held the gate-towers till their friends should come.]
  Fast rowed the host the while; on swept the ships
  Over the great flood: Thetis made their paths
  Straight, and behind them sent a driving wind
  Speeding them, and the hearts Achaean glowed.
  Swiftly to Hellespont's shore they came, and there
  Beached they the keels again, and deftly dealt
  With whatso tackling appertains to ships.
  Then leapt they aland, and hasted on to Troy
  Silent as sheep that hurry to the fold
  From woodland pasture on an autumn eve;
  So without sound of voices marched they on
  Unto the Trojans' fortress, eager all
  To help those mighty chiefs with foes begirt.
  Now these—as famished wolves fierce-glaring round
  Fall on a fold mid the long forest-hills,
  While sleeps the toil-worn watchman, and they rend
  The sheep on every hand within the wall
  In darkness, and all round [are heaped the slain;
  So these within the city smote and slew,
  As swarmed the awakened foe around them; yet,
  Fast as they slew, aye faster closed on them
  Those thousands, mad to thrust them from the gates.]
  Slipping in blood and stumbling o'er the dead
  [Their line reeled,] and destruction loomed o'er them,
  Though Danaan thousands near and nearer drew.


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