The Fall of Troy
Page: 119Then as a wind-breath swift he fleeted thence,
And came to the Elysian Plain, whereto
A path to heaven reacheth, for the feet
Ascending and descending of the Blest.
Then the son started up from sleep, and called
His sire to mind, and glowed the heart in him.
When to wide heaven the Child of Mist uprose,
Scattering night, unveiling earth and air,
Then from their rest upsprang Achaea's sons
Yearning for home. With laughter 'gan they hale
Down to the sea the keels: but lo, their haste
Was reined in by Achilles' mighty son:
He assembled them, and told his sire's behest:
"Hearken, dear sons of Argives battle-staunch,
To this my glorious father's hest, to me
Spoken in darkness slumbering on my bed:
He saith, he dwells with the Immortal Gods:
He biddeth you and Atreus' son the king
To bring, as his war-guerdon passing-fair,
To his dim dark tomb Polyxeina queenly-robed,
To slay her there, but far thence bury her.
But if ye slight him, and essay to sail
The sea, he threateneth to stir up the waves
To bar your path upon the deep, and here
Storm-bound long time to hold you, ships and men."
Then hearkened they, and as to a God they prayed;
For even now a storm-blast on the sea
Upheaved the waves, broad-backed and thronging fast
More than before beneath the madding wind.
Tossed the great deep, smit by Poseidon's hands
For a grace to strong Achilles. All the winds
Swooped on the waters. Prayed the Dardans all
To Achilles, and a man to his fellow cried:
"Great Zeus's seed Achilles verily was;
Therefore is he a God, who in days past
Dwelt among us; for lapse of dateless time
Makes not the sons of Heaven to fade away."
Then to Achilles' tomb the host returned,
And led the maid, as calf by herdmen dragged
For sacrifice, from woodland pastures torn
From its mother's side, and lowing long and loud
It moans with anguished heart; so Priam's child
Wailed in the hands of foes. Down streamed her tears
As when beneath the heavy sacks of sand
Olives clear-skinned, ne'er blotched by drops of storm,
Pour out their oil, when the long levers creak
As strong men strain the cords; so poured the tears
Of travail-burdened Priam's daughter, haled
To stern Achilles' tomb, tears blent with moans.
Drenched were her bosom-folds, glistened the drops
On flesh clear-white as costly ivory.
Then, to crown all her griefs, yet sharper pain
Fell on the heart of hapless Hecuba.
Then did her soul recall that awful dream,
The vision of sleep of that night overpast:
Herseemed that on Achilles' tomb she stood
Moaning, her hair down-streaming to the ground,
And from her breasts blood dripped to earth the while,
And drenched the tomb. Fear-haunted touching this,
Foreboding all calamity, she wailed
Piteously; far rang her wild lament.
As a dog moaning at her master's door,
Utters long howls, her teats with milk distent,
Whose whelps, ere their eyes opened to the light,
Her lords afar have flung, a prey to kites;
And now with short sharp cries she plains, and now
Long howling: the weird outcry thrills the air;
So wailed and shrieked for her child Hecuba:
"Ah me! what sorrows first or last shall I
Lament heart-anguished, who am full of woes?
Those unimagined ills my sons, my king
Have suffered? or my city, or daughters shamed?
Or my despair, my day of slavery?
Oh, the grim fates have caught me in a net
Of manifold ills! O child, they have spun for thee
Dread weird of unimagined misery!
They have thrust thee away, when near was Hymen's hymn,
From thine espousals, marked thee for destruction
Dark, unendurable, unspeakable!
For lo, a dead man's heart, Achilles' heart,
Is by our blood made warm with life to-day!
O child, dear child, that I might die with thee,
That earth might swallow me, ere I see thy doom!"
So cried she, weeping never-ceasing tears,
For grief on bitter grief encompassed her.
But when these reached divine Achilles' tomb,
Then did his son unsheathe the whetted sword,
His left hand grasped the maid, and his right hand
Was laid upon the tomb, and thus he cried:
"Hear, father, thy son's prayer, hear all the prayers
Of Argives, and be no more wroth with us!
Lo, unto thee now all thine heart's desire
Will we fulfil. Be gracious to us thou,
And to our praying grant sweet home-return."