The Fall of Troy

Page: 28

  Then with a terrible shout the great God cried,
  So to turn back from war Achilles awed
  By the voice divine, and save from death the Trojans:
  "Back from the Trojans, Peleus' son! Beseems not
  That longer thou deal death unto thy foes,
  Lest an Olympian God abase thy pride."

  But nothing quailed the hero at the voice
  Immortal, for that round him even now
  Hovered the unrelenting Fates. He recked
  Naught of the God, and shouted his defiance.
  "Phoebus, why dost thou in mine own despite
  Stir me to fight with Gods, and wouldst protect
  The arrogant Trojans? Heretofore hast thou
  By thy beguiling turned me from the fray,
  When from destruction thou at the first didst save
  Hector, whereat the Trojans all through Troy
  Exulted. Nay, thou get thee back: return
  Unto the mansion of the Blessed, lest
  I smite thee—ay, immortal though thou be!"

  Then on the God he turned his back, and sped
  After the Trojans fleeing cityward,
  And harried still their flight; but wroth at heart
  Thus Phoebus spake to his indignant soul:
  "Out on this man! he is sense-bereft! But now
  Not Zeus himself nor any other Power
  Shall save this madman who defies the Gods!"

  From mortal sight he vanished into cloud,
  And cloaked with mist a baleful shaft he shot
  Which leapt to Achilles' ankle: sudden pangs
  With mortal sickness made his whole heart faint.
  He reeled, and like a tower he fell, that falls
  Smit by a whirlwind when an earthquake cleaves
  A chasm for rushing blasts from underground;
  So fell the goodly form of Aeacus' son.
  He glared, a murderous glance, to right, to left,
  [Upon the Trojans, and a terrible threat]
  Shouted, a threat that could not be fulfilled:
  "Who shot at me a stealthy-smiting shaft?
  Let him but dare to meet me face to face!
  So shall his blood and all his bowels gush out
  About my spear, and he be hellward sped!
  I know that none can meet me man to man
  And quell in fight—of earth-born heroes none,
  Though such an one should bear within his breast
  A heart unquailing, and have thews of brass.
  But dastards still in stealthy ambush lurk
  For lives of heroes. Let him face me then!—
  Ay! though he be a God whose anger burns
  Against the Danaans! Yea, mine heart forebodes
  That this my smiter was Apollo, cloaked
  In deadly darkness. So in days gone by
  My mother told me how that by his shafts
  I was to die before the Scaean Gates
  A piteous death. Her words were not vain words."

  Then with unflinching hands from out the wound
  Incurable he drew the deadly shaft
  In agonized pain. Forth gushed the blood; his heart
  Waxed faint beneath the shadow of coming doom.
  Then in indignant wrath he hurled from him
  The arrow: a sudden gust of wind swept by,
  And caught it up, and, even as he trod
  Zeus' threshold, to Apollo gave it back;
  For it beseemed not that a shaft divine,
  Sped forth by an Immortal, should be lost.
  He unto high Olympus swiftly came,
  To the great gathering of immortal Gods,
  Where all assembled watched the war of men,
  These longing for the Trojans' triumph, those
  For Danaan victory; so with diverse wills
  Watched they the strife, the slayers and the slain.

  Him did the Bride of Zeus behold, and straight
  Upbraided with exceeding bitter words:
  "What deed of outrage, Phoebus, hast thou done
  This day, forgetful of that day whereon
  To godlike Peleus' spousals gathered all
  The Immortals? Yea, amidst the feasters thou
  Sangest how Thetis silver-footed left
  The sea's abysses to be Peleus' bride;
  And as thou harpedst all earth's children came
  To hearken, beasts and birds, high craggy hills,
  Rivers, and all deep-shadowed forests came.
  All this hast thou forgotten, and hast wrought
  A ruthless deed, hast slain a godlike man,
  Albeit thou with other Gods didst pour
  The nectar, praying that he might be the son
  By Thetis given to Peleus. But that prayer
  Hast thou forgotten, favouring the folk
  Of tyrannous Laomedon, whose kine
  Thou keptest. He, a mortal, did despite
  To thee, the deathless! O, thou art wit-bereft!
  Thou favourest Troy, thy sufferings all forgot.
  Thou wretch, and doth thy false heart know not this,
  What man is an offence, and meriteth
  Suffering, and who is honoured of the Gods?
  Ever Achilles showed us reverence—yea,
  Was of our race. Ha, but the punishment
  Of Troy, I ween, shall not be lighter, though
  Aeacus' son have fallen; for his son
  Right soon shall come from Scyros to the war
  To help the Argive men, no less in might
  Than was his sire, a bane to many a foe.
  But thou—thou for the Trojans dost not care,
  But for his valour enviedst Peleus' son,
  Seeing he was the mightest of all men.
  Thou fool! how wilt thou meet the Nereid's eyes,
  When she shall stand in Zeus' hall midst the Gods,
  Who praised thee once, and loved as her own son?"

  So Hera spake, in bitterness of soul
  Upbraiding, but he answered her not a word,
  Of reverence for his mighty Father's bride;
  Nor could he lift his eyes to meet her eyes,
  But sat abashed, aloof from all the Gods
  Eternal, while in unforgiving wrath
  Scowled on him all the Immortals who maintained
  The Danaans' cause; but such as fain would bring
  Triumph to Troy, these with exultant hearts
  Extolled him, hiding it from Hera's eyes,
  Before whose wrath all Heaven-abiders shrank.

  But Peleus' son the while forgat not yet
  War's fury: still in his invincible limbs
  The hot blood throbbed, and still he longed for fight.
  Was none of all the Trojans dared draw nigh
  The stricken hero, but at distance stood,
  As round a wounded lion hunters stand
  Mid forest-brakes afraid, and, though the shaft
  Stands in his heart, yet faileth not in him
  His royal courage, but with terrible glare
  Roll his fierce eyes, and roar his grimly jaws;
  So wrath and anguish of his deadly hurt
  To fury stung Peleides' soul; but aye
  His strength ebbed through the god-envenomed wound.
  Yet leapt he up, and rushed upon the foe,
  And flashed the lightning of his lance; it slew
  The goodly Orythaon, comrade stout
  Of Hector, through his temples crashing clear:
  His helm stayed not the long lance fury-sped
  Which leapt therethrough, and won within the bones
  The heart of the brain, and spilt his lusty life.
  Then stabbed he 'neath the brow Hipponous
  Even to the eye-roots, that the eyeball fell
  To earth: his soul to Hades flitted forth.
  Then through the jaw he pierced Alcathous,
  And shore away his tongue: in dust he fell
  Gasping his life out, and the spear-head shot
  Out through his ear. These, as they rushed on him,
  That hero slew; but many a fleer's life
  He spilt, for in his heart still leapt the blood.