The Fall of Troy

Page: 11

  With scornful laughter spake she: then she hurled
  Her second lance; but they in utter scorn
  Laughed now, as swiftly flew the shaft, and smote
  The silver greave of Aias, and was foiled
  Thereby, and all its fury could not scar
  The flesh within; for fate had ordered not
  That any blade of foes should taste the blood
  Of Aias in the bitter war. But he
  Recked of the Amazon naught, but turned him thence
  To rush upon the Trojan host, and left
  Penthesileia unto Peleus' son
  Alone, for well he knew his heart within
  That she, for all her prowess, none the less
  Would cost Achilles battle-toil as light,
  As effortless, as doth the dove the hawk.

  Then groaned she an angry groan that she had sped
  Her shafts in vain; and now with scoffing speech
  To her in turn the son of Peleus spake:
  "Woman, with what vain vauntings triumphing
  Hast thou come forth against us, all athirst
  To battle with us, who be mightier far
  Than earthborn heroes? We from Cronos' Son,
  The Thunder-roller, boast our high descent.
  Ay, even Hector quailed, the battle-swift,
  Before us, e'en though far away he saw
  Our onrush to grim battle. Yea, my spear
  Slew him, for all his might. But thou—thine heart
  Is utterly mad, that thou hast greatly dared
  To threaten us with death this day! On thee
  Thy latest hour shall swiftly come—is come!
  Thee not thy sire the War-god now shall pluck
  Out of mine hand, but thou the debt shalt pay
  Of a dark doom, as when mid mountain-folds
  A pricket meets a lion, waster of herds.
  What, woman, hast thou heard not of the heaps
  Of slain, that into Xanthus' rushing stream
  Were thrust by these mine hands?—or hast thou heard
  In vain, because the Blessed Ones have stol'n
  Wit and discretion from thee, to the end
  That Doom's relentless gulf might gape for thee?"

  He spake; he swung up in his mighty hand
  And sped the long spear warrior-slaying, wrought
  By Chiron, and above the right breast pierced
  The battle-eager maid. The red blood leapt
  Forth, as a fountain wells, and all at once
  Fainted the strength of Penthesileia's limbs;
  Dropped the great battle-axe from her nerveless hand;
  A mist of darkness overveiled her eyes,
  And anguish thrilled her soul. Yet even so
  Still drew she difficult breath, still dimly saw
  The hero, even now in act to drag
  Her from the swift steed's back. Confusedly
  She thought: "Or shall I draw my mighty sword,
  And bide Achilles' fiery onrush, or
  Hastily cast me from my fleet horse down
  To earth, and kneel unto this godlike man,
  And with wild breath promise for ransoming
  Great heaps of brass and gold, which pacify
  The hearts of victors never so athirst
  For blood, if haply so the murderous might
  Of Aeacus' son may hearken and may spare,
  Or peradventure may compassionate
  My youth, and so vouchsafe me to behold
  Mine home again?—for O, I long to live!"