The Fall of Troy

Page: 42

  Still sped the contests on; and many rose
  Now for the leaping. Far beyond the marks
  Of all the rest brave Agapenor sprang:
  Loud shouted all for that victorious leap;
  And Thetis gave him the fair battle-gear
  Of mighty Cycnus, who had smitten first
  Protesilaus, then had reft the life
  From many more, till Peleus' son slew him
  First of the chiefs of grief-enshrouded Troy.

  Next, in the javelin-cast Euryalus
  Hurled far beyond all rivals, while the folk
  Shouted aloud: no archer, so they deemed,
  Could speed a winged shaft farther than his cast;
  Therefore the Aeacid hero's mother gave
  To him a deep wide silver oil-flask, ta'en
  By Achilles in possession, when his spear
  Slew Mynes, and he spoiled Lyrnessus' wealth.

  Then fiery-hearted Aias eagerly
  Rose, challenging to strife of hands and feet
  The mightiest hero there; but marvelling
  They marked his mighty thews, and no man dared
  Confront him. Chilling dread had palsied all
  Their courage: from their hearts they feared him, lest
  His hands invincible should all to-break
  His adversary's face, and naught but pain
  Be that man's meed. But at the last all men
  Made signs to battle-bider Euryalus,
  For well they knew him skilled in fighting-craft;
  But he too feared that giant, and he cried:
  "Friends, any other Achaean, whom ye will,
  Blithe will I face; but mighty Alas—no!
  Far doth he overmatch me. He will rend
  Mine heart, if in the onset anger rise
  Within him: from his hands invincible,
  I trow, I should not win to the ships alive."

  Loud laughed they all: but glowed with triumph-joy
  The heart of Aias. Gleaming talents twain
  Of silver he from Thetis' hands received,
  His uncontested prize. His stately height
  Called to her mind her dear son, and she sighed.

  They which had skill in chariot-driving then
  Rose at the contest's summons eagerly:
  Menelaus first, Eurypylus bold in fight,
  Eumelus, Thoas, godlike Polypoetes
  Harnessed their steeds, and led them to the cars
  All panting for the joy of victory.
  Then rode they in a glittering chariot rank
  Out to one place, to a stretch of sand, and stood
  Ranged at the starting-line. The reins they grasped
  In strong hands quickly, while the chariot-steeds
  Shoulder to shoulder fretted, all afire
  To take the lead at starting, pawed the sand,
  Pricked ears, and o'er their frontlets flung the foam.
  With sudden-stiffened sinews those ear-lords
  Lashed with their whips the tempest-looted steeds;
  Then swift as Harpies sprang they forth; they strained
  Furiously at the harness, onward whirling
  The chariots bounding ever from the earth.
  Thou couldst not see a wheel-track, no, nor print
  Of hoof upon the sand—they verily flew.
  Up from the plain the dust-clouds to the sky
  Soared, like the smoke of burning, or a mist
  Rolled round the mountain-forelands by the might
  Of the dark South-wind or the West, when wakes
  A tempest, when the hill-sides stream with rain.
  Burst to the front Eumelus' steeds: behind
  Close pressed the team of godlike Thoas: shouts
  Still answered shouts that cheered each chariot, while
  Onward they swept across the wide-wayed plain.