The Fall of Troy
Page: 41Then 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.