The Fall of Troy
Page: 6Then unto Cronos' Son Laomedon's child
Upraised his hands, his sorrow-burdened hands,
Turning him toward the sky-encountering fane
Of Zeus of Ida, who with sleepless eyes
Looks ever down on Ilium; and he prayed:
"Father, give ear! Vouchsafe that on this day
Achaea's host may fall before the hands
Of this our warrior-queen, the War-god's child;
And do thou bring her back unscathed again
Unto mine halls: we pray thee by the love
Thou bear'st to Ares of the fiery heart
Thy son, yea, to her also! is she not
Most wondrous like the heavenly Goddesses?
And is she not the child of thine own seed?
Pity my stricken heart withal! Thou know'st
All agonies I have suffered in the deaths
Of dear sons whom the Fates have torn from me
By Argive hands in the devouring fight.
Compassionate us, while a remnant yet
Remains of noble Dardanus' blood, while yet
This city stands unwasted! Let us know
From ghastly slaughter and strife one breathing-space!"
In passionate prayer he spake:—lo, with shrill scream
Swiftly to left an eagle darted by
And in his talons bare a gasping dove.
Then round the heart of Priam all the blood
Was chilled with fear. Low to his soul he said:
"Ne'er shall I see return alive from war
Penthesileia!" On that selfsame day
The Fates prepared his boding to fulfil;
And his heart brake with anguish of despair.
Marvelled the Argives, far across the plain
Seeing the hosts of Troy charge down on them,
And midst them Penthesileia, Ares' child.
These seemed like ravening beasts that mid the hills
Bring grimly slaughter to the fleecy flocks;
And she, as a rushing blast of flame she seemed
That maddeneth through the copses summer-scorched,
When the wind drives it on; and in this wise
Spake one to other in their mustering host:
"Who shall this be who thus can rouse to war
The Trojans, now that Hector hath been slain—
These who, we said, would never more find heart
To stand against us? Lo now, suddenly
Forth are they rushing, madly afire for fight!
Sure, in their midst some great one kindleth them
To battle's toil! Thou verily wouldst say
This were a God, of such great deeds he dreams!
Go to, with aweless courage let us arm
Our own breasts: let us summon up our might
In battle-fury. We shall lack not help
Of Gods this day to close in fight with Troy."
So cried they; and their flashing battle-gear
Cast they about them: forth the ships they poured
Clad in the rage of fight as with a cloak.
Then front to front their battles closed, like beasts
Of ravin, locked in tangle of gory strife.
Clanged their bright mail together, clashed the spears,
The corslets, and the stubborn-welded shields
And adamant helms. Each stabbed at other's flesh
With the fierce brass: was neither ruth nor rest,
And all the Trojan soil was crimson-red.
Then first Penthesileia smote and slew
Molion; now Persinous falls, and now
Eilissus; reeled Antitheus 'neath her spear
The pride of Lernus quelled she: down she bore
Hippalmus 'neath her horse-hoofs; Haemon's son
Died; withered stalwart Elasippus' strength.
And Derinoe laid low Laogonus,
And Clonie Menippus, him who sailed
Long since from Phylace, led by his lord
Protesilaus to the war with Troy.
Then was Podarces, son of Iphiclus,
Heart-wrung with ruth and wrath to see him lie
Dead, of all battle-comrades best-beloved.
Swiftly at Clonie he hurled, the maid
Fair as a Goddess: plunged the unswerving lance
'Twixt hip and hip, and rushed the dark blood forth
After the spear, and all her bowels gushed out.
Then wroth was Penthesileia; through the brawn
Of his right arm she drave the long spear's point,
She shore atwain the great blood-brimming veins,
And through the wide gash of the wound the gore
Spirted, a crimson fountain. With a groan
Backward he sprang, his courage wholly quelled
By bitter pain; and sorrow and dismay
Thrilled, as he fled, his men of Phylace.
A short way from the fight he reeled aside,
And in his friends' arms died in little space.
Then with his lance Idomeneus thrust out,
And by the right breast stabbed Bremusa. Stilled
For ever was the beating of her heart.
She fell, as falls a graceful-shafted pine
Hewn mid the hills by woodmen: heavily,
Sighing through all its boughs, it crashes down.
So with a wailing shriek she fell, and death
Unstrung her every limb: her breathing soul
Mingled with multitudinous-sighing winds.
Then, as Evandre through the murderous fray
With Thermodosa rushed, stood Meriones,
A lion in the path, and slew: his spear
Right to the heart of one he drave, and one
Stabbed with a lightning sword-thrust 'twixt the hips:
Leapt through the wounds the life, and fled away.
Oileus' fiery son smote Derinoe
'Twixt throat and shoulder with his ruthless spear;
And on Alcibie Tydeus' terrible son
Swooped, and on Derimacheia: head with neck
Clean from the shoulders of these twain he shore
With ruin-wreaking brand. Together down
Fell they, as young calves by the massy axe
Of brawny flesher felled, that, shearing through
The sinews of the neck, lops life away.
So, by the hands of Tydeus' son laid low
Upon the Trojan plain, far, far away
From their own highland-home, they fell. Nor these
Alone died; for the might of Sthenelus
Down on them hurled Cabeirus' corse, who came
From Sestos, keen to fight the Argive foe,
But never saw his fatherland again.
Then was the heart of Paris filled with wrath
For a friend slain. Full upon Sthenelus
Aimed he a shaft death-winged, yet touched him not,
Despite his thirst for vengeance: otherwhere
The arrow glanced aside, and carried death
Whither the stern Fates guided its fierce wing,
And slew Evenor brazen-tasleted,
Who from Dulichium came to war with Troy.
For his death fury-kindled was the son
Of haughty Phyleus: as a lion leaps
Upon the flock, so swiftly rushed he: all
Shrank huddling back before that terrible man.
Itymoneus he slew, and Hippasus' son
Agelaus: from Miletus brought they war
Against the Danaan men by Nastes led,
The god-like, and Amphimachus mighty-souled.
On Mycale they dwelt; beside their home
Rose Latmus' snowy crests, stretched the long glens
Of Branchus, and Panormus' water-meads.
Maeander's flood deep-rolling swept thereby,
Which from the Phrygian uplands, pastured o'er
By myriad flocks, around a thousand forelands
Curls, swirls, and drives his hurrying ripples on
Down to the vine-clad land of Carian men
These mid the storm of battle Meges slew,
Nor these alone, but whomsoe'er his lance
Black-shafted touched, were dead men; for his breast
The glorious Trito-born with courage thrilled
To bring to all his foes the day of doom.
And Polypoetes, dear to Ares, slew
Dresaeus, whom the Nymph Neaera bare
To passing-wise Theiodamas for these
Spread was the bed of love beside the foot
Of Sipylus the Mountain, where the Gods
Made Niobe a stony rock, wherefrom
Tears ever stream: high up, the rugged crag
Bows as one weeping, weeping, waterfalls
Cry from far-echoing Hermus, wailing moan
Of sympathy: the sky-encountering crests
Of Sipylus, where alway floats a mist
Hated of shepherds, echo back the cry.
Weird marvel seems that Rock of Niobe
To men that pass with feet fear-goaded: there
They see the likeness of a woman bowed,
In depths of anguish sobbing, and her tears
Drop, as she mourns grief-stricken, endlessly.
Yea, thou wouldst say that verily so it was,
Viewing it from afar; but when hard by
Thou standest, all the illusion vanishes;
And lo, a steep-browed rock, a fragment rent
From Sipylus—yet Niobe is there,
Dreeing her weird, the debt of wrath divine,
A broken heart in guise of shattered stone.