The Fall of Troy

Page: 41

  Then faced each other, and upraised their hands
  With ever-watching eyes, and short quick steps
  A-tiptoe, and with ever-shifting feet,
  Each still eluding other's crushing might.
  Then with a rush they closed like thunder-clouds
  Hurled on each other by the tempest-blast,
  Flashing forth lightnings, while the welkin thrills
  As clash the clouds and hollow roar the winds;
  So 'neath the hard hide-gauntlets clashed their jaws.
  Down streamed the blood, and from their brows the sweat
  Blood-streaked made on the flushed cheeks crimson bars.
  Fierce without pause they fought, and never flagged
  Epeius, but threw all his stormy strength
  Into his onrush. Yet did Theseus' son
  Never lose heart, but baffled the straight blows
  Of those strong hands, and by his fighting-craft
  Flinging them right and left, leapt in, brought home
  A blow to his eyebrow, cutting to the bone.
  Even then with counter-stroke Epeius reached
  Acamas' temple, and hurled him to the ground.
  Swift he sprang up, and on his stalwart foe
  Rushed, smote his head: as he rushed in again,
  The other, slightly swerving, sent his left
  Clean to his brow; his right, with all his might
  Behind it, to his nose. Yet Acamas still
  Warded and struck with all the manifold shifts
  Of fighting-craft. But now the Achaeans all
  Bade stop the fight, though eager still were both
  To strive for coveted victory. Then came
  Their henchmen, and the gory gauntlets loosed
  In haste from those strong hands. Now drew they breath
  From that great labour, as they bathed their brows
  With sponges myriad-pored. Comrades and friends
  With pleading words then drew them face to face,
  And prayed, "In friendship straight forget your wrath."
  So to their comrades' suasion hearkened they;
  For wise men ever bear a placable mind.
  They kissed each other, and their hearts forgat
  That bitter strife. Then Thetis sable-stoled
  Gave to their glad hands two great silver bowls
  The which Euneus, Jason's warrior son
  In sea-washed Lemnos to Achilles gave
  To ransom strong Lycaon from his hands.
  These had Hephaestus fashioned for his gift
  To glorious Dionysus, when he brought
  His bride divine to Olympus, Minos' child
  Far-famous, whom in sea-washed Dia's isle
  Theseus unwitting left. The Wine-god brimmed
  With nectar these, and gave them to his son;
  And Thoas at his death to Hypsipyle
  With great possessions left them. She bequeathed
  The bowls to her godlike son, who gave them up
  Unto Achilles for Lycaon's life.
  The one the son of lordly Theseus took,
  And goodly Epeius sent to his ship with joy
  The other. Then their bruises and their scars
  Did Podaleirius tend with loving care.
  First pressed he out black humours, then his hands
  Deftly knit up the gashes: salves he laid
  Thereover, given him by his sire of old,
  Such as had virtue in one day to heal
  The deadliest hurts, yea, seeming-cureless wounds.
  Straight was the smart assuaged, and healed the scars
  Upon their brows and 'neath their clustering hair

  Then for the archery-test Oileus' son
  Stood forth with Teucer, they which in the race
  Erewhile contended. Far away from these
  Agamemnon, lord of spears, set up a helm
  Crested with plumes, and spake: "The master-shot
  Is that which shears the hair-crest clean away."
  Then straightway Aias shot his arrow first,
  And smote the helm-ridge: sharply rang the brass.
  Then Teucer second with most earnest heed
  Shot: the swift shaft hath shorn the plume away.
  Loud shouted all the people as they gazed,
  And praised him without stint, for still his foot
  Halted in pain, yet nowise marred his aim
  When with his hands he sped the flying shaft.
  Then Peleus' bride gave unto him the arms
  Of godlike Troilus, the goodliest
  Of all fair sons whom Hecuba had borne
  In hallowed Troy; yet of his goodlihead
  No joy she had; the prowess and the spear
  Of fell Achilles reft his life from him.
  As when a gardener with new-whetted scythe
  Mows down, ere it may seed, a blade of corn
  Or poppy, in a garden dewy-fresh
  And blossom-flushed, which by a water-course
  Crowdeth its blooms—mows it ere it may reach
  Its goal of bringing offspring to the birth,
  And with his scythe-sweep makes its life-work vain
  And barren of all issue, nevermore
  Now to be fostered by the dews of spring;
  So did Peleides cut down Priam's son
  The god-like beautiful, the beardless yet
  And virgin of a bride, almost a child!
  Yet the Destroyer Fate had lured him on
  To war, upon the threshold of glad youth,
  When youth is bold, and the heart feels no void.

  Forthwith a bar of iron massy and long
  From the swift-speeding hand did many essay
  To hurl; but not an Argive could prevail
  To cast that ponderous mass. Aias alone
  Sped it from his strong hand, as in the time
  Of harvest might a reaper fling from him
  A dry oak-bough, when all the fields are parched.
  And all men marvelled to behold how far
  Flew from his hand the bronze which scarce two men
  Hard-straining had uplifted from the ground.
  Even this Antaeus' might was wont to hurl
  Erstwhile, ere the strong hands of Hercules
  O'ermastered him. This, with much spoil beside,
  Hercules took, and kept it to make sport
  For his invincible hand; but afterward
  Gave it to valiant Peleus, who with him
  Had smitten fair-towered Ilium's burg renowned;
  And he to Achilles gave it, whose swift ships
  Bare it to Troy, to put him aye in mind
  Of his own father, as with eager will
  He fought with stalwart Trojans, and to be
  A worthy test wherewith to prove his strength.
  Even this did Aias from his brawny hand
  Fling far. So then the Nereid gave to him
  The glorious arms from godlike Memnon stripped.
  Marvelling the Argives gazed on them: they were
  A giant's war-gear. Laughing a glad laugh
  That man renowned received them: he alone
  Could wear them on his brawny limbs; they seemed
  As they had even been moulded to his frame.
  The great bar thence he bore withal, to be
  His joy when he was fain of athlete-toil.