The Fall of Troy

Page: 118

  But when above those feasters midnight's stars
  Hung, ceased the Danaans from the feast and wine,
  And turned to sleep's forgetfulness of care,
  For that with yesterday's war-travail all
  Were wearied; wherefore they, who fain all night
  Had revelled, needs must cease: how loth soe'er,
  Sleep drew them thence; here, there, soft slumbered they.

  But in his tent Menelaus lovingly
  With bright-haired Helen spake; for on their eyes
  Sleep had not fallen yet. The Cyprian Queen
  Brooded above their souls, that olden love
  Might be renewed, and heart-ache chased away.

  Helen first brake the silence, and she said:
  "O Menelaus, be not wroth with me!
  Not of my will I left thy roof, thy bed,
  But Alexander and the sons of Troy
  Came upon me, and snatched away, when thou
  Wast far thence. Oftentimes did I essay
  By the death-noose to perish wretchedly,
  Or by the bitter sword; but still they stayed
  Mine hand, and still spake comfortable words
  To salve my grief for thee and my sweet child.
  For her sake, for the sake of olden love,
  And for thine own sake, I beseech thee now,
  Forget thy stern displeasure against thy wife."

  Answered her Menelaus wise of wit:
  "No more remember past griefs: seal them up
  Hid in thine heart. Let all be locked within
  The dim dark mansion of forgetfulness.
  What profits it to call ill deeds to mind?"

  Glad was she then: fear flitted from her heart,
  And came sweet hope that her lord's wrath was dead.
  She cast her arms around him, and their eyes
  With tears were brimming as they made sweet moan;
  And side by side they laid them, and their hearts
  Thrilled with remembrance of old spousal joy.
  And as a vine and ivy entwine their stems
  Each around other, that no might of wind
  Avails to sever them, so clung these twain
  Twined in the passionate embrace of love.

  When came on these too sorrow-drowning sleep,
  Even then above his son's head rose and stood
  Godlike Achilles' mighty shade, in form
  As when he lived, the Trojans' bane, the joy
  Of Greeks, and kissed his neck and flashing eyes
  Lovingly, and spake comfortable words:
  "All hail, my son! Vex not thine heart with grief
  For thy dead sire; for with the Blessed Gods
  Now at the feast I sit. Refrain thy soul
  From sorrow, and plant my strength within thy mind.
  Be foremost of the Argives ever; yield
  To none in valour, but in council bow
  Before thine elders: so shall all acclaim
  Thy courtesy. Honour princely men and wise;
  For the true man is still the true man's friend,
  Even as the vile man cleaveth to the knave.
  If good thy thought be, good shall be thy deeds:
  But no man shall attain to Honour's height,
  Except his heart be right within: her stem
  Is hard to climb, and high in heaven spread
  Her branches: only they whom strength and toil
  Attend, strain up to pluck her blissful fruit,
  Climbing the Tree of Honour glow-crowned.
  Thou therefore follow fame, and let thy soul
  Be not in sorrow afflicted overmuch,
  Nor in prosperity over-glad. To friends,
  To comrades, child and wife, be kindly of heart,
  Remembering still that near to all men stand
  The gates of doom, the mansions of the dead:
  For humankind are like the flower of grass,
  The blossom of spring; these fade the while those bloom:
  Therefore be ever kindly with thy kind.
  Now to the Argives say—to Atreus' son
  Agamemnon chiefly—if my battle-toil
  Round Priam's walls, and those sea-raids I led
  Or ever I set foot on Trojan land,
  Be in their hearts remembered, to my tomb
  Be Priam's daughter Polyxeina led—
  Whom as my portion of the spoil I claim—
  And sacrificed thereon: else shall my wrath
  Against them more than for Briseis burn.
  The waves of the great deep will I turmoil
  To bar their way, upstirring storm on storm,
  That through their own mad folly pining away
  Here they may linger long, until to me
  They pour drink-offerings, yearning sore for home.
  But, when they have slain the maiden, I grudge not
  That whoso will may bury her far from me."