The Fall of Troy
Page: 118But 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."