The Fall of Troy

Page: 6

  Then 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.