The Fall of Troy
Page: 52So spake he, grieved to the inmost heart. The folk
Woefully wafted all round. O'er Hellespont
Echoes of mourning rolled: the sighing air
Darkened around, a wide-spread sorrow-pall.
Yea, grief laid hold on wise Odysseus' self
For the great dead, and with remorseful soul
To anguish-stricken Argives thus he spake:
"O friends, there is no greater curse to men
Than wrath, which groweth till its bitter fruit
Is strife. Now wrath hath goaded Aias on
To this dire issue of the rage that filled
His soul against me. Would to God that ne'er
Yon Trojans in the strife for Achilles' arms
Had crowned me with that victory, for which
Strong Telamon's brave son, in agony
Of soul, thus perished by his own right hand!
Yet blame not me, I pray you, for his wrath:
Blame the dark dolorous Fate that struck him down.
For, had mine heart foreboded aught of this,
This desperation of a soul distraught,
Never for victory had I striven with him,
Nor had I suffered any Danaan else,
Though ne'er so eager, to contend with him.
Nay, I had taken up those arms divine
With mine own hands, and gladly given them
To him, ay, though himself desired it not.
But for such mighty grief and wrath in him
I had not looked, since not for a woman's sake
Nor for a city, nor possessions wide,
I then contended, but for Honour's meed,
Which alway is for all right-hearted men
The happy goal of all their rivalry.
But that great-hearted man was led astray
By Fate, the hateful fiend; for surely it is
Unworthy a man to be made passion's fool.
The wise man's part is, steadfast-souled to endure
All ills, and not to rage against his lot."
So spake Laertes' son, the far-renowned.
But when they all were weary of grief and groan,
Then to those sorrowing ones spake Neleus' son:
"O friends, the pitiless-hearted Fates have laid
Stroke after stroke of sorrow upon us,
Sorrow for Aias dead, for mighty Achilles,
For many an Argive, and for mine own son
Antilochus. Yet all unmeet it is
Day after day with passion of grief to wail
Men slain in battle: nay, we must forget
Laments, and turn us to the better task
Of rendering dues beseeming to the dead,
The dues of pyre, of tomb, of bones inurned.
No lamentations will awake the dead;
No note thereof he taketh, when the Fates,
The ruthless ones, have swallowed him in night."
So spake he words of cheer: the godlike kings
Gathered with heavy hearts around the dead,
And many hands upheaved the giant corpse,
And swiftly bare him to the ships, and there
Washed they away the blood that clotted lay
Dust-flecked on mighty limbs and armour: then
In linen swathed him round. From Ida's heights
Wood without measure did the young men bring,
And piled it round the corpse. Billets and logs
Yet more in a wide circle heaped they round;
And sheep they laid thereon, fair-woven vests,
And goodly kine, and speed-triumphant steeds,
And gleaming gold, and armour without stint,
From slain foes by that glorious hero stripped.
And lucent amber-drops they laid thereon,
Years, say they, which the Daughters of the Sun,
The Lord of Omens, shed for Phaethon slain,
When by Eridanus' flood they mourned for him.
These, for undying honour to his son,
The God made amber, precious in men's eyes.
Even this the Argives on that broad-based pyre
Cast freely, honouring the mighty dead.
And round him, groaning heavily, they laid
Silver most fair and precious ivory,
And jars of oil, and whatsoe'er beside
They have who heap up goodly and glorious wealth.
Then thrust they in the strength of ravening flame,
And from the sea there breathed a wind, sent forth
By Thetis, to consume the giant frame
Of Aias. All the night and all the morn
Burned 'neath the urgent stress of that great wind
Beside the ships that giant form, as when
Enceladus by Zeus' levin was consumed
Beneath Thrinacia, when from all the isle
Smoke of his burning rose—or like as when
Hercules, trapped by Nessus' deadly guile,
Gave to devouring fire his living limbs,
What time he dared that awful deed, when groaned
All Oeta as he burned alive, and passed
His soul into the air, leaving the man
Far-famous, to be numbered with the Gods,
When earth closed o'er his toil-tried mortal part.
So huge amid the flames, all-armour clad,
Lay Aias, all the joy of fight forgot,
While a great multitude watching thronged the sands.
Glad were the Trojans, but the Achaeans grieved.
But when that goodly frame by ravening fire
Was all consumed, they quenched the pyre with wine;
They gathered up the bones, and reverently
Laid in a golden casket. Hard beside
Rhoeteium's headland heaped they up a mound
Measureless-high. Then scattered they amidst
The long ships, heavy-hearted for the man
Whom they had honoured even as Achilles.
Then black night, bearing unto all men sleep,
Upfloated: so they brake bread, and lay down
Waiting the Child of the Mist. Short was sleep,
Broken by fitful staring through the dark,
Haunted by dread lest in the night the foe
Should fall on them, now Telamon's son was dead.