The Fall of Troy

Page: 24

  Still in the midst of blood-stained battle-rout
  Those heroes fought, unknowing of the Fates
  Now drawn so nigh, but each at other hurled
  His whole heart's courage, all his bodily might.
  Thou hadst said that in the strife of that dread day
  Huge tireless Giants or strong Titans warred,
  So fiercely blazed the wildfire of their strife,
  Now, when they clashed with swords, now when they leapt
  Hurling huge stones. Nor either would give back
  Before the hail of blows, nor quailed. They stood
  Like storm-tormented headlands steadfast, clothed
  With might past words, unearthly; for the twain
  Alike could boast their lineage of high Zeus.
  Therefore 'twixt these Enyo lengthened out
  The even-balanced strife, while ever they
  In that grim wrestle strained their uttermost,
  They and their dauntless comrades, round their kings
  With ceaseless fury toiling, till their spears
  Stood shivered all in shields of warriors slain,
  And of the fighters woundless none remained;
  But from all limbs streamed down into the dust
  The blood and sweat of that unresting strain
  Of fight, and earth was hidden with the dead,
  As heaven is hidden with clouds when meets the sun
  The Goat-star, and the shipman dreads the deep.
  As charged the lines, the snorting chariot-steeds
  Trampled the dead, as on the myriad leaves
  Ye trample in the woods at entering-in
  Of winter, when the autumn-tide is past.

  Still mid the corpses and the blood fought on
  Those glorious sons of Gods, nor ever ceased
  From wrath of fight. But Eris now inclined
  The fatal scales of battle, which no more
  Were equal-poised. Beneath the breast-bone then
  Of godlike Memnon plunged Achilles' sword;
  Clear through his body all the dark-blue blade
  Leapt: suddenly snapped the silver cord of life.
  Down in a pool of blood he fell, and clashed
  His massy armour, and earth rang again.
  Then turned to flight his comrades panic-struck,
  And of his arms the Myrmidons stripped the dead,
  While fled the Trojans, and Achilles chased,
  As whirlwind swift and mighty to destroy.

  Then groaned the Dawn, and palled herself in clouds,
  And earth was darkened. At their mother's hest
  All the light Breathings of the Dawn took hands,
  And slid down one long stream of sighing wind
  To Priam's plain, and floated round the dead,
  And softly, swiftly caught they up, and bare
  Through silver mists the Dawn-queen's son, with hearts
  Sore aching for their brother's fall, while moaned
  Around them all the air. As on they passed,
  Fell many blood-gouts from those pierced limbs
  Down to the earth, and these were made a sign
  To generations yet to be. The Gods
  Gathered them up from many lands, and made
  Thereof a far-resounding river, named
  Of all that dwell beneath long Ida's flanks
  Paphlagoneion. As its waters flow
  'Twixt fertile acres, once a year they turn
  To blood, when comes the woeful day whereon
  Died Memnon. Thence a sick and choking reek
  Steams: thou wouldst say that from a wound unhealed
  Corrupting humours breathed an evil stench.
  Ay, so the Gods ordained: but now flew on
  Bearing Dawn's mighty son the rushing winds
  Skimming earth's face and palled about with night.