The Fall of Troy
Page: 49From Ocean then uprose Dawn golden-reined:
Like a soft wind upfloated Sleep to heaven,
And there met Hera, even then returned
To Olympus back from Tethys, unto whom
But yester-morn she went. She clasped him round,
And kissed him, who had been her marriage-kin
Since at her prayer on Ida's erest he had lulled
To sleep Cronion, when his anger burned
Against the Argives. Straightway Hera passed
To Zeus's mansion, and Sleep swiftly flew
To Pasithea's couch. From slumber woke
All nations of the earth. But Aias, like
Orion the invincible, prowled on,
Still bearing murderous madness in his heart.
He rushed upon the sheep, like lion fierce
Whose savage heart is stung with hunger-pangs.
Here, there, he smote them, laid them dead in dust
Thick as the leaves which the strong North-wind's might
Strews, when the waning year to winter turns;
So on the sheep in fury Aias fell,
Deeming he dealt to Danaans evil doom.
Then to his brother Menelaus came,
And spake, but not in hearing of the rest:
"This day shall surely be a ruinous day
For all, since Aias thus is sense-distraught.
It may be he will set the ships aflame,
And slay us all amidst our tents, in wrath
For those lost arms. Would God that Thetis ne'er
Had set them for the prize of rivalry!
Would God Laertes' son had not presumed
In folly of soul to strive with a better man!
Fools were we all; and some malignant God
Beguiled us; for the one great war-defence
Left us, since Aeacus' son in battle fell,
Was Aias' mighty strength. And now the Gods
Will to our loss destroy him, bringing bane
On thee and me, that all we may fill up
The cup of doom, and pass to nothingness."
He spake; replied Agamemnon, lord of spears:
"Now nay, Menelaus, though thine heart he wrung,
Be thou not wroth with the resourceful king
Of Cephallenian folk, but with the Gods
Who plot our ruin. Blame not him, who oft
Hath been our blessing and our enemies' curse."
So heavy-hearted spake the Danaan kings.
But by the streams of Xanthus far away
'Neath tamarisks shepherds cowered to hide from death,
As when from a swift eagle cower hares
'Neath tangled copses, when with sharp fierce scream
This way and that with wings wide-shadowing
He wheeleth very nigh; so they here, there,
Quailed from the presence of that furious man.
At last above a slaughtered ram he stood,
And with a deadly laugh he cried to it:
"Lie there in dust; be meat for dogs and kites!
Achilles' glorious arms have saved not thee,
For which thy folly strove with a better man!
Lie there, thou cur! No wife shall fall on thee,
And clasp, and wail thee and her fatherless childs,
Nor shalt thou greet thy parents' longing eyes,
The staff of their old age! Far from thy land
Thy carrion dogs and vultures shall devour!"
So cried he, thinking that amidst the slain
Odysseus lay blood-boltered at his feet.
But in that moment from his mind and eyes
Athena tore away the nightmare-fiend
Of Madness havoc-breathing, and it passed
Thence swiftly to the rock-walled river Styx
Where dwell the winged Erinnyes, they which still
Visit with torments overweening men.