The Fall of Troy
Page: 62BOOK VII
How the Son of Achilles was brought to the War from the Isle of Scyros.
When heaven hid his stars, and Dawn awoke
Outspraying splendour, and night's darkness fled,
Then undismayed the Argives' warrior-sons
Marched forth without the ships to meet in fight
Eurypylus, save those that tarried still
To render to Machaon midst the ships
Death-dues, with Nireus—Nireus, who in grace
And goodlihead was like the Deathless Ones,
Yet was not strong in bodily might: the Gods
Grant not perfection in all things to men;
But evil still is blended with the good
By some strange fate: to Nireus' winsome grace
Was linked a weakling's prowess. Yet the Greeks
Slighted him not, but gave him all death-dues,
And mourned above his grave with no less grief
Than for Machaon, whom they honoured aye,
For his deep wisdom, as the immortal Gods.
One mound they swiftly heaped above these twain.
Then in the plain once more did murderous war
Madden: the multitudinous clash and cry
Rose, as the shields were shattered with huge stones,
Were pierced with lances. So they toiled in fight;
But all this while lay Podaleirius
Fasting in dust and groaning, leaving not
His brother's tomb; and oft his heart was moved
With his own hands to slay himself. And now
He clutched his sword, and now amidst his herbs
Sought for a deadly drug; and still his friends
Essayed to stay his hand and comfort him
With many pleadings. But he would not cease
From grieving: yea, his hands had spilt his life
There on his noble brother's new-made tomb,
But Nestor heard thereof, and sorrowed sore
In his affliction, and he came on him
As now he flung him on that woeful grave,
And now was casting dust upon his head,
Beating his breast, and on his brother's name
Crying, while thralls and comrades round their lord
Groaned, and affliction held them one and all.
Then gently spake he to that stricken one:
"Refrain from bitter moan and deadly grief,
My son. It is not for a wise man's honour
To wail, as doth a woman, o'er the fallen.
Thou shalt not bring him up to light again
Whose soul hath fleeted vanishing into air,
Whose body fire hath ravined up, whose bones
Earth has received. His end was worthy his life.
Endure thy sore grief, even as I endured,
Who lost a son, slain by the hands of foes,
A son not worse than thy Machaon, good
With spears in battle, good in counsel. None
Of all the youths so loved his sire as he
Loved me. He died for me yea, died to save
His father. Yet, when he was slain, did I
Endure to taste food, and to see the light,
Well knowing that all men must tread one path
Hades-ward, and before all lies one goal,
Death's mournful goal. A mortal man must bear
All joys, all griefs, that God vouchsafes to send."
Made answer that heart-stricken one, while still
Wet were his cheeks with ever-flowing tears:
"Father, mine heart is bowed 'neath crushing grief
For a brother passing wise, who fostered me
Even as a son. When to the heavens had passed
Our father, in his arms he cradled me:
Gladly he taught me all his healing lore;
We shared one table; in one bed we lay:
We had all things in common these, and love.
My grief cannot forget, nor I desire,
Now he is dead, to see the light of life."