The Fall of Troy

Page: 43


  "From hallowed Elis, when he had achieved
  A mighty triumph, in that he outstripped
  The swift ear of Oenomaus evil-souled,
  The ruthless slayer of youths who sought to wed
  His daughter Hippodameia passing-wise.
  Yet even he, for all his chariot-lore,
  Had no such fleetfoot steeds as Atreus' son—
  Far slower!—the wind is in the feet of these."

  So spake he, giving glory to the might
  Of those good steeds, and to Atreides' self;
  And filled with joy was Menelaus' soul.
  Straightway his henchmen from the yoke-band loosed
  The panting team, and all those chariot-lords,
  Who in the race had striven, now unyoked
  Their tempest-footed steeds. Podaleirius then
  Hasted to spread salves over all the wounds
  Of Thoas and Eurypylus, gashes scored
  Upon their frames when from the cars they fell
  But Menelaus with exceeding joy
  Of victory glowed, when Thetis lovely-tressed
  Gave him a golden cup, the chief possession
  Once of Eetion the godlike; ere
  Achilles spoiled the far-famed burg of Thebes.

  Then horsemen riding upon horses came
  Down to the course: they grasped in hand the whip
  And bounding from the earth bestrode their steeds,
  The while with foaming mouths the coursers champed
  The bits, and pawed the ground, and fretted aye
  To dash into the course. Forth from the line
  Swiftly they darted, eager for the strife,
  Wild as the blasts of roaring Boreas
  Or shouting Notus, when with hurricane-swoop
  He heaves the wide sea high, when in the east
  Uprises the disastrous Altar-star
  Bringing calamity to seafarers;
  So swift they rushed, spurning with flying feet
  The deep dust on the plain. The riders cried
  Each to his steed, and ever plied the lash
  And shook the reins about the clashing bits.
  On strained the horses: from the people rose
  A shouting like the roaring of a sea.
  On, on across the level plain they flew;
  And now the flashing-footed Argive steed
  By Sthenelus bestridden, had won the race,
  But from the course he swerved, and o'er the plain
  Once and again rushed wide; nor Capaneus' son,
  Good horseman though he were, could turn him back
  By rein or whip, because that steed was strange
  Still to the race-course; yet of lineage
  Noble was he, for in his veins the blood
  Of swift Arion ran, the foal begotten
  By the loud-piping West-wind on a Harpy,
  The fleetest of all earth-born steeds, whose feet
  Could race against his father's swiftest blasts.
  Him did the Blessed to Adrastus give:
  And from him sprang the steed of Sthenelus,
  Which Tydeus' son had given unto his friend
  In hallowed Troyland. Filled with confidence
  In those swift feet his rider led him forth
  Unto the contest of the steeds that day,
  Looking his horsemanship should surely win
  Renown: yet victory gladdened not his heart
  In that great struggle for Achilles' prizes;
  Nay, swift albeit he was, the King of Men
  By skill outraced him. Shouted all the folk,
  "Glory to Agamemnon!" Yet they acclaimed
  The steed of valiant Sthenelus and his lord,
  For that the fiery flying of his feet
  Still won him second place, albeit oft
  Wide of the course he swerved. Then Thetis gave
  To Atreus' son, while laughed his lips for joy,
  God-sprung Polydorus' breastplate silver-wrought.
  To Sthenelus Asteropaeus' massy helm,
  Two lances, and a taslet strong, she gave.
  Yea, and to all the riders who that day
  Came at Achilles' funeral-feast to strive
  She gave gifts. But the son of the old war-lord,
  Laertes, inly grieved to be withheld
  From contests of the strong, how fain soe'er,
  By that sore wound which Alcon dealt to him
  In the grim fight around dead Aeacas' son.