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The Fall of Troy

Page: 62

BOOK 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."


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