The Fall of Troy

Page: 18

  Marvelled; and thus he spake unto the King:
  "Beseems not with great swelling words to vaunt
  Amidst the feast, and lavish promises,
  But rather quietly to eat in hall,
  And to devise deeds worthy. Whether I
  Be brave and strong, or whether I be not,
  Battle, wherein a man's true might is seen,
  Shall prove to thee. Now would I rest, nor drink
  The long night through. The battle-eager spirit
  By measureless wine and lack of sleep is dulled."

  Marvelled at him the old King, and he said:
  "As seems thee good touching the banquet, do
  After thy pleasure. I, when thou art loth,
  Will not constrain thee. Yea, unmeet it is
  To hold back him who fain would leave the board,
  Or hurry from one's halls who fain would stay.
  So is the good old law with all true men."

  Then rose that champion from the board, and passed
  Thence to his sleep—his last! And with him went
  All others from the banquet to their rest:
  And gentle sleep slid down upon them soon.

  But in the halls of Zeus, the Lightning-lord,
  Feasted the gods the while, and Cronos' son,
  All-father, of his deep foreknowledge spake
  Amidst them of the issue of the strife:
  "Be it known unto you all, to-morn shall bring
  By yonder war affliction swift and sore;
  For many mighty horses shall ye see
  In either host beside their chariots slain,
  And many heroes perishing. Therefore ye
  Remember these my words, howe'er ye grieve
  For dear ones. Let none clasp my knees in prayer,
  Since even to us relentless are the fates."

  So warned he them, which knew before, that all
  Should from the battle stand aside, howe'er
  Heart-wrung; that none, petitioning for a son
  Or dear one, should to Olympus vainly come.
  So, at that warning of the Thunderer,
  The Son of Cronos, all they steeled their hearts
  To bear, and spake no word against their king;
  For in exceeding awe they stood of him.
  Yet to their several mansions and their rest
  With sore hearts went they. O'er their deathless eyes
  The blessing-bringer Sleep his light veils spread.

  When o'er precipitous crests of mountain-walls
  Leapt up broad heaven the bright morning-star
  Who rouseth to their toils from slumber sweet
  The binders of the sheaf, then his last sleep
  Unclasped the warrior-son of her who brings
  Light to the world, the Child of Mists of Night.
  Now swelled his mighty heart with eagerness
  To battle with the foe forthright. And Dawn
  With most reluctant feet began to climb
  Heaven's broad highway. Then did the Trojans gird
  Their battle-harness on; then armed themselves
  The Aethiop men, and all the mingled tribes
  Of those war-helpers that from many lands
  To Priam's aid were gathered. Forth the gates
  Swiftly they rushed, like darkly lowering clouds
  Which Cronos' Son, when storm is rolling up,
  Herdeth together through the welkin wide.
  Swiftly the whole plain filled. Onward they streamed
  Like harvest-ravaging locusts drifting on
  In fashion of heavy-brooding rain-clouds o'er
  Wide plains of earth, an irresistible host
  Bringing wan famine on the sons of men;
  So in their might and multitude they went.
  The city streets were all too strait for them
  Marching: upsoared the dust from underfoot.

  From far the Argives gazed, and marvelling saw
  Their onrush, but with speed arrayed their limbs
  In brass, and in the might of Peleus' son
  Put their glad trust. Amidst them rode he on
  Like to a giant Titan, glorying
  In steeds and chariot, while his armour flashed
  Splendour around in sudden lightning-gleams.
  It was as when the sun from utmost bounds
  Of earth-encompassing ocean comes, and brings
  Light to the world, and flings his splendour wide
  Through heaven, and earth and air laugh all around.
  So glorious, mid the Argives Peleus' son
  Rode onward. Mid the Trojans rode the while
  Memnon the hero, even such to see
  As Ares furious-hearted. Onward swept
  The eager host arrayed about their lord.