The Fall of Troy

Page: 31

  Ceaselessly wailed the Myrmidons Achilles,
  A ring of mourners round the kingly dead,
  That kind heart, friend alike to each and all,
  To no man arrogant nor hard of mood,
  But ever tempering strength with courtesy.

  Then Aias first, deep-groaning, uttered forth
  His yearning o'er his father's brother's son
  God-stricken—ay, no man had smitten him
  Of all upon the wide-wayed earth that dwell!
  Him glorious Aias heavy-hearted mourned,
  Now wandering to the tent of Peleus' son,
  Now cast down all his length, a giant form,
  On the sea-sands; and thus lamented he:
  "Achilles, shield and sword of Argive men,
  Thou hast died in Troy, from Phthia's plains afar,
  Smitten unwares by that accursed shaft,
  Such thing as weakling dastards aim in fight!
  For none who trusts in wielding the great shield,
  None who for war can skill to set the helm
  Upon his brows, and sway the spear in grip,
  And cleave the brass about the breasts of foes,
  Warreth with arrows, shrinking from the fray.
  Not man to man he met thee, whoso smote;
  Else woundless never had he 'scaped thy lance!
  But haply Zeus purposed to ruin all,
  And maketh all our toil and travail vain—
  Ay, now will grant the Trojans victory
  Who from Achaea now hath reft her shield!
  Ah me! how shall old Peleus in his halls
  Take up the burden of a mighty grief
  Now in his joyless age! His heart shall break
  At the mere rumour of it. Better so,
  Thus in a moment to forget all pain.
  But if these evil tidings slay him not,
  Ah, laden with sore sorrow eld shall come
  Upon him, eating out his heart with grief
  By a lone hearth Peleus so passing dear
  Once to the Blessed! But the Gods vouchsafe
  No perfect happiness to hapless men."

  So he in grief lamented Peleus' son.
  Then ancient Phoenix made heart-stricken moan,
  Clasping the noble form of Aeacus' seed,
  And in wild anguish wailed the wise of heart:
  "Thou art reft from me, dear child, and cureless pain
  Hast left to me! Oh that upon my face
  The veiling earth had fallen, ere I saw
  Thy bitter doom! No pang more terrible
  Hath ever stabbed mine heart no, not that hour
  Of exile, when I fled from fatherland
  And noble parents, fleeing Hellas through,
  Till Peleus welcomed me with gifts, and lord
  Of his Dolopians made me. In his arms
  Thee through his halls one day he bare, and set
  Upon my knees, and bade me foster thee,
  His babe, with all love, as mine own dear child:
  I hearkened to him: blithely didst thou cling
  About mine heart, and, babbling wordless speech,
  Didst call me `father' oft, and didst bedew
  My breast and tunic with thy baby lips.
  Ofttimes with soul that laughed for glee I held
  Thee in mine arms; for mine heart whispered me
  `This fosterling through life shall care for thee,
  Staff of thine age shall be.' And that mine hope
  Was for a little while fulfilled; but now
  Thou hast vanished into darkness, and to me
  Is left long heart-ache wild with all regret.
  Ah, might my sorrow slay me, ere the tale
  To noble Peleus come! When on his ears
  Falleth the heavy tidings, he shall weep
  And wail without surcease. Most piteous grief
  We twain for thy sake shall inherit aye,
  Thy sire and I, who, ere our day of doom,
  Mourning shall go down to the grave for thee—
  Ay, better this than life unholpen of thee!"