The Fall of Troy
Page: 57There fashioned was the fleetfoot stag which laid
The vineyards waste of hapless husbandmen.
The Hero's hands held fast its golden horns,
The while it snorted breath of ravening fire.
Thereon were seen the fierce Stymphalian Birds,
Some arrow-smitten dying in the dust,
Some through the grey air darting in swift flight.
At this, at that one—hot in haste he seemed—
Hercules sped the arrows of his wrath.
Augeias' monstrous stable there was wrought
With cunning craft on that invincible targe;
And Hercules was turning through the same
The deep flow of Alpheius' stream divine,
While wondering Nymphs looked down on every hand
Upon that mighty work. Elsewhere portrayed
Was the Fire-breathing Bull: the Hero's grip
On his strong horns wrenched round the massive neck:
The straining muscles on his arm stood out:
The huge beast seemed to bellow. Next thereto
Wrought on the shield was one in beauty arrayed
As of a Goddess, even Hippolyta.
The hero by the hair was dragging her
From her swift steed, with fierce resolve to wrest
With his strong hands the Girdle Marvellous
From the Amazon Queen, while quailing shrank away
The Maids of War. There in the Thracian land
Were Diomedes' grim man-eating steeds:
These at their gruesome mangers had he slain,
And dead they lay with their fiend-hearted lord.
There lay the bulk of giant Geryon
Dead mid his kine. His gory heads were cast
In dust, dashed down by that resistless club.
Before him slain lay that most murderous hound
Orthros, in furious might like Cerberus
His brother-hound: a herdman lay thereby,
Eurytion, all bedabbled with his blood.
And there, a dread sight even for Gods to see,
Was Cerberus, whom the Loathly Worm had borne
To Typho in a craggy cavern's gloom
Close on the borders of Eternal Night,
A hideous monster, warder of the Gate
Of Hades, Home of Wailing, jailer-hound
Of dead folk in the shadowy Gulf of Doom.
But lightly Zeus' son with his crashing blows
Tamed him, and haled him from the cataract flood
Of Styx, with heavy-drooping head, and dragged
The Dog sore loth to the strange upper air
All dauntlessly. And there, at the world's end,
Were Caucasus' long glens, where Hercules,
Rending Prometheus' chains, and hurling them
This way and that with fragments of the rock
Whereinto they were riveted, set free
The mighty Titan. Arrow-smitten lay
The Eagle of the Torment therebeside.
There stormed the wild rout of the Centaurs round
The hall of Pholus: goaded on by Strife
And wine, with Hercules the monsters fought.
Amidst the pine-trunks stricken to death they lay
Still grasping those strange weapons in dead hands,
While some with stems long-shafted still fought on
In fury, and refrained not from the strife;
And all their heads, gashed in the pitiless fight,
Were drenched with gore—the whole scene seemed to live—
With blood the wine was mingled: meats and bowls
And tables in one ruin shattered lay.
There by Evenus' torrent, in fierce wrath
For his sweet bride, he laid with the arrow low
Nessus in mid-flight. There withal was wrought
Antaeus' brawny strength, who challenged him
To wrestling-strife; he in those sinewy arms
Raised high above the earth, was crushed to death.
There where swift Hellespont meets the outer sea,
Lay the sea-monster slain by his ruthless shafts,
While from Hesione he rent her chains.
Of bold Alcides many a deed beside
Shone on the broad shield of Eurypylus.
He seemed the War-god, as from rank to rank
He sped; rejoiced the Trojans following him,
Seeing his arms, and him clothed with the might
Of Gods; and Paris hailed him to the fray:
"Glad am I for thy coming, for mine heart
Trusts that the Argives all shall wretchedly
Be with their ships destroyed; for such a man
Mid Greeks or Trojans never have I seen.
Now, by the strength and fury of Hercules—
To whom in stature, might, and goodlihead
Most like thou art I pray thee, have in mind
Him, and resolve to match his deeds with thine.
Be the strong shield of Trojans hard-bestead:
Win us a breathing-space. Thou only, I trow,
From perishing Troy canst thrust the dark doom back."
With kindling words he spake. That hero cried:
"Great-hearted Paris, like the Blessed Ones
In goodlihead, this lieth foreordained
On the Gods' knees, who in the fight shall fall,
And who outlive it. I, as honour bids,
And as my strength sufficeth, will not flinch
From Troy's defence. I swear to turn from fight
Never, except in victory or death."
Gallantly spake he: with exceeding joy
Rejoiced the Trojans. Champions then he chose,
Alexander and Aeneas fiery-souled,
Polydamas, Pammon, and Deiphobus,
And Aethicus, of Paphlagonian men
The staunchest man to stem the tide of war;
These chose he, cunning all in battle-toil,
To meet the foe in forefront of the fight.
Swiftly they strode before that warrior-throng
Then from the city cheering charged. The host
Followed them in their thousands, as when bees
Follow by bands their leaders from the hives,
With loud hum on a spring day pouring forth.
So to the fight the warriors followed these;
And, as they charged, the thunder-tramp of men
And steeds, and clang of armour, rang to heaven.
As when a rushing mighty wind stirs up
The barren sea-plain from its nethermost floor,
And darkling to the strand roll roaring waves
Belching sea-tangle from the bursting surf,
And wild sounds rise from beaches harvestless;
So, as they charged, the wide earth rang again.
Now from their rampart forth the Argives poured
Round godlike Agamemnon. Rang their shouts
Cheering each other on to face the fight,
And not to cower beside the ships in dread
Of onset-shouts of battle-eager foes.
They met those charging hosts with hearts as light
As calves bear, when they leap to meet the kine
Down faring from hill-pastures in the spring
Unto the steading, when the fields are green
With corn-blades, when the earth is glad with flowers,
And bowls are brimmed with milk of kine and ewes,
And multitudinous lowing far and near
Uprises as the mothers meet their young,
And in their midst the herdman joys; so great
Was the uproar that rose when met the fronts
Of battle: dread it rang on either hand.
Hard-strained was then the fight: incarnate
Strife Stalked through the midst, with Slaughter ghastly-faced.
Crashed bull-hide shields, and spears, and helmet-crests
Meeting: the brass flashed out like leaping flames.
Bristled the battle with the lances; earth
Ran red with blood, as slaughtered heroes fell
And horses, mid a tangle of shattered ears,
Some yet with spear-wounds gasping, while on them
Others were falling. Through the air upshrieked
An awful indistinguishable roar;
For on both hosts fell iron-hearted Strife.
Here were men hurling cruel jagged stones,
There speeding arrows and new-whetted darts,
There with the axe or twibill hewing hard,
Slashing with swords, and thrusting out with spears:
Their mad hands clutched all manner of tools of death.