The Fall of Troy
Page: 23Then from the sheath he flashed his long keen sword,
And Memnon his; and swiftly in fiery fight
Closed they, and rained the never-ceasing blows
Upon the bucklers which with craft divine
Hephaestus' self had fashioned. Once and again
Clashed they together, and their cloudy crests
Touched, mingling all their tossing storm of hair.
And Zeus, for that he loved them both, inspired
With prowess each, and mightier than their wont
He made them, made them tireless, nothing like
To men, but Gods: and gloated o'er the twain
The Queen of Strife. In eager fury these
Thrust swiftly out the spear, with fell intent
To reach the throat 'twixt buckler-rim and helm,
Thrust many a time and oft, and now would aim
The point beneath the shield, above the greave,
Now close beneath the corslet curious-wrought
That lapped the stalwart frame: hard, fast they lunged,
And on their shoulders clashed the arms divine.
Roared to the very heavens the battle-shout
Of warring men, of Trojans, Aethiops,
And Argives mighty-hearted, while the dust
Rolled up from 'neath their feet, tossed to the sky
In stress of battle-travail great and strong.
As when a mist enshrouds the hills, what time
Roll up the rain-clouds, and the torrent-beds
Roar as they fill with rushing floods, and howls
Each gorge with fearful voices; shepherds quake
To see the waters' downrush and the mist,
Screen dear to wolves and all the wild fierce things
Nursed in the wide arms of the forest; so
Around the fighters' feet the choking dust
Hung, hiding the fair splendour of the sun
And darkening all the heaven. Sore distressed
With dust and deadly conflict were the folk.
Then with a sudden hand some Blessed One
Swept the dust-pall aside; and the Gods saw
The deadly Fates hurling the charging lines
Together, in the unending wrestle locked
Of that grim conflict, saw where never ceased
Ares from hideous slaughter, saw the earth
Crimsoned all round with rushing streams of blood,
Saw where dark Havoc gloated o'er the scene,
Saw the wide plain with corpses heaped, even all
Bounded 'twixt Simois and Xanthus, where
They sweep from Ida down to Hellespont.
But when long lengthened out the conflict was
Of those two champions, and the might of both
In that strong tug and strain was equal-matched,
Then, gazing from Olympus' far-off heights,
The Gods joyed, some in the invincible son
Of Peleus, others in the goodly child
Of old Tithonus and the Queen of Dawn.
Thundered the heavens on high from east to west,
And roared the sea from verge to verge, and rocked
The dark earth 'neath the heroes' feet, and quaked
Proud Nereus' daughters all round Thetis thronged
In grievous fear for mighty Achilles' sake;
And trembled for her son the Child of the Mist
As in her chariot through the sky she rode.
Marvelled the Daughters of the Sun, who stood
Near her, around that wondrous splendour-ring
Traced for the race-course of the tireless sun
By Zeus, the limit of all Nature's life
And death, the dally round that maketh up
The eternal circuit of the rolling years.
And now amongst the Blessed bitter feud
Had broken out; but by behest of Zeus
The twin Fates suddenly stood beside these twain,
One dark—her shadow fell on Memnon's heart;
One bright—her radiance haloed Peleus' son.
And with a great cry the Immortals saw,
And filled with sorrow they of the one part were,
They of the other with triumphant joy.