The Fall of Troy
Page: 38So spake she; but Zeus answered not a word;
For pondering there he sat with burdened breast,
Thinking how soon the Argives should destroy
The city of Priam, thinking how himself
Would visit on the victors ruin dread
In war and on the great sea thunder-voiced.
Such thoughts were his, ere long to be fulfilled.
Now sank the sun to Ocean's fathomless flood:
O'er the dim land the infinite darkness stole,
Wherein men gain a little rest from toil.
Then by the ships, despite their sorrow, supped
The Argives, for ye cannot thrust aside
Hunger's importunate craving, when it comes
Upon the breast, but straightway heavy and faint
Lithe limbs become; nor is there remedy
Until one satisfy this clamorous guest
Therefore these ate the meat of eventide
In grief for Achilles' hard necessity
Constrained them all. And, when they had broken bread,
Sweet sleep came on them, loosening from their frames
Care's heavy chain, and quickening strength anew
But when the starry Bears had eastward turned
Their heads, expectant of the uprushing light
Of Helios, and when woke the Queen of Dawn,
Then rose from sleep the stalwart Argive men
Purposing for the Trojans death and doom.
Stirred were they like the roughly-ridging sea
Icarian, or as sudden-rippling corn
In harvest field, what time the rushing wings
Of the cloud-gathering West sweep over it;
So upon Hellespont's strand the folk were stirred.
And to those eager hearts cried Tydeus' son:
"If we be battle-biders, friends, indeed,
More fiercely fight we now the hated foe,
Lest they take heart because Achilles lives
No longer. Come, with armour, car, and steed
Let us beset them. Glory waits our toil?"
But battle-eager Aias answering spake
"Brave be thy words, and nowise idle talk,
Kindling the dauntless Argive men, whose hearts
Before were battle-eager, to the fight
Against the Trojan men, O Tydeus' son.
But we must needs abide amidst the ships
Till Goddess Thetis come forth of the sea;
For that her heart is purposed to set here
Fair athlete-prizes for the funeral-games.
This yesterday she told me, ere she plunged
Into sea-depths, yea, spake to me apart
From other Danaans; and, I trow, by this
Her haste hath brought her nigh. Yon Trojan men,
Though Peleus' son hath died, shall have small heart
For battle, while myself am yet alive,
And thou, and noble Atreus' son, the king."
So spake the mighty son of Telamon,
But knew not that a dark and bitter doom
For him should follow hard upon those games
By Fate's contrivance. Answered Tydeus' son
"O friend, if Thetis comes indeed this day
With goodly gifts for her son's funeral-games,
Then bide we by the ships, and keep we here
All others. Meet it is to do the will
Of the Immortals: yea, to Achilles too,
Though the Immortals willed it not, ourselves
Must render honour grateful to the dead."
So spake the battle-eager Tydeus' son.
And lo, the Bride of Peleus gliding came
Forth of the sea, like the still breath of dawn,
And suddenly was with the Argive throng
Where eager-faced they waited, some, that looked
Soon to contend in that great athlete-strife,
And some, to joy in seeing the mighty strive.
Amidst that gathering Thetis sable-stoled
Set down her prizes, and she summoned forth
Achaea's champions: at her best they came.
But first amidst them all rose Neleus' son,
Not as desiring in the strife of fists
To toil, nor strain of wrestling; for his arms
And all his sinews were with grievous eld
Outworn, but still his heart and brain were strong.
Of all the Achaeans none could match himself
Against him in the folkmote's war of words;
Yea, even Laertes' glorious son to him
Ever gave place when men for speech were met;
Nor he alone, but even the kingliest
Of Argives, Agamemnon, lord of spears.
Now in their midst he sang the gracious Queen
Of Nereids, sang how she in willsomeness
Of beauty was of all the Sea-maids chief.
Well-pleased she hearkened. Yet again he sang,
Singing of Peleus' Bridal of Delight,
Which all the blest Immortals brought to pass
By Pelion's crests; sang of the ambrosial feast
When the swift Hours brought in immortal hands
Meats not of earth, and heaped in golden maunds;
Sang how the silver tables were set forth
In haste by Themis blithely laughing; sang
How breathed Hephaestus purest flame of fire;
Sang how the Nymphs in golden chalices
Mingled ambrosia; sang the ravishing dance
Twined by the Graces' feet; sang of the chant
The Muses raised, and how its spell enthralled
All mountains, rivers, all the forest brood;
How raptured was the infinite firmament,
Cheiron's fair caverns, yea, the very Gods.
Such noble strain did Neleus' son pour out
Into the Argives' eager ears; and they
Hearkened with ravished souls. Then in their midst
He sang once more the imperishable deeds
Of princely Achilles. All the mighty throng
Acclaimed him with delight. From that beginning
With fitly chosen words did he extol
The glorious hero; how he voyaged and smote
Twelve cities; how he marched o'er leagues on leagues
Of land, and spoiled eleven; how he slew
Telephus and Eetion's might renowned
In Thebe; how his spear laid Cyenus low,
Poseidon's son, and godlike Polydorus,
Troilus the goodly, princely Asteropaeus;
And how he dyed with blood the river-streams
Of Xanthus, and with countless corpses choked
His murmuring flow, when from the limbs he tore
Lycaon's life beside the sounding river;
And how he smote down Hector; how he slew
Penthesileia, and the godlike son
Of splendour-throned Dawn;—all this he sang
To Argives which already knew the tale;
Sang of his giant mould, how no man's strength
In fight could stand against him, nor in games
Where strong men strive for mastery, where the swift
Contend with flying feet or hurrying wheels
Of chariots, nor in combat panoplied;
And how in goodlihead he far outshone
All Danaans, and how his bodily might
Was measureless in the stormy clash of war.
Last, he prayed Heaven that he might see a son
Like that great sire from sea-washed Scyros come.