The Fall of Troy

Page: 65

  So spake he, and Odysseus answered him:
  "Friends are we of Achilles lord of war,
  To whom of Deidameia thou wast born—
  Yea, when we look on thee we seem to see
  That Hero's self; and like the Immortal Ones
  Was he. Of Ithaca am I: this man
  Of Argos, nurse of horses—if perchance
  Thou hast heard the name of Tydeus' warrior son
  Or of the wise Odysseus. Lo, I stand
  Before thee, sent by voice of prophecy.
  I pray thee, pity us: come thou to Troy
  And help us. Only so unto the war
  An end shall be. Gifts beyond words to thee
  The Achaean kings shall give: yea, I myself
  Will give to thee thy godlike father's arms,
  And great shall be thy joy in bearing them;
  For these be like no mortal's battle-gear,
  But splendid as the very War-god's arms.
  Over their marvellous blazonry hath gold
  Been lavished; yea, in heaven Hephaestus' self
  Rejoiced in fashioning that work divine,
  The which thine eyes shall marvel to behold;
  For earth and heaven and sea upon the shield
  Are wrought, and in its wondrous compass are
  Creatures that seem to live and move—a wonder
  Even to the Immortals. Never man
  Hath seen their like, nor any man hath worn,
  Save thy sire only, whom the Achaeans all
  Honoured as Zeus himself. I chiefliest
  From mine heart loved him, and when he was slain,
  To many a foe I dealt a ruthless doom,
  And through them all bare back to the ships his corse.
  Therefore his glorious arms did Thetis give
  To me. These, though I prize them well, to thee
  Will I give gladly when thou com'st to Troy.
  Yea also, when we have smitten Priam's towns
  And unto Hellas in our ships return,
  Shall Menelaus give thee, an thou wilt,
  His princess-child to wife, of love for thee,
  And with his bright-haired daughter shall bestow
  Rich dower of gold and treasure, even all
  That meet is to attend a wealthy king."

  So spake he, and replied Achilles' son:
  "If bidden of oracles the Achaean men
  Summon me, let us with to-morrow's dawn
  Fare forth upon the broad depths of the sea,
  If so to longing Danaans I may prove
  A light of help. Now pass we to mine halls,
  And to such guest-fare as befits to set
  Before the stranger. For my marriage-day—
  To this the Gods in time to come shall see."

  Then hall-ward led he them, and with glad hearts
  They followed. To the forecourt when they came
  Of that great mansion, found they there the Queen
  Deidameia in her sorrow of soul
  Grief-wasted, as when snow from mountain-sides
  Before the sun and east-wind wastes away;
  So pined she for that princely hero slain.
  Then came to her amidst her grief the kings,
  And greeted her in courteous wise. Her son
  Drew near and told their lineage and their names;
  But that for which they came he left untold
  Until the morrow, lest unto her woe
  There should be added grief and floods of tears,
  And lest her prayers should hold him from the path
  Whereon his heart was set. Straight feasted these,
  And comforted their hearts with sleep, even all
  Which dwelt in sea-ringed Scyros, nightlong lulled
  By long low thunder of the girdling deep,
  Of waves Aegean breaking on her shores.
  But not on Deidameia fell the hands
  Of kindly sleep. She bore in mind the names
  Of crafty Odysseus and of Diomede
  The godlike, how these twain had widowed her
  Of battle-fain Achilles, how their words
  Had won his aweless heart to fare with them
  To meet the war-cry where stern Fate met him,
  Shattered his hope of home-return, and laid
  Measureless grief on Peleus and on her.
  Therefore an awful dread oppressed her soul
  Lest her son too to tumult of the war
  Should speed, and grief be added to her grief.

  Dawn climbed the wide-arched heaven, straightway they
  Rose from their beds. Then Deidameia knew;
  And on her son's broad breast she cast herself,
  And bitterly wailed: her cry thrilled through the air,
  As when a cow loud-lowing mid the hills
  Seeks through the glens her calf, and all around
  Echo long ridges of the mountain-steep;
  So on all sides from dim recesses rang
  The hall; and in her misery she cried:
  "Child, wherefore is thy soul now on the wing
  To follow strangers unto Ilium
  The fount of tears, where perish many in fight,
  Yea, cunning men in war and battle grim?
  And thou art but a youth, and hast not learnt
  The ways of war, which save men in the day
  Of peril. Hearken thou to me, abide
  Here in thine home, lest evil tidings come
  From Troy unto my ears, that thou in fight
  Hast perished; for mine heart saith, never thou
  Hitherward shalt from battle-toil return.
  Not even thy sire escaped the doom of death—
  He, mightier than thou, mightier than all
  Heroes on earth, yea, and a Goddess' son—
  But was in battle slain, all through the wiles
  And crafty counsels of these very men
  Who now to woeful war be kindling thee.
  Therefore mine heart is full of shuddering fear
  Lest, son, my lot should be to live bereaved
  Of thee, and to endure dishonour and pain,
  For never heavier blow on woman falls
  Than when her lord hath perished, and her sons
  Die also, and her house is left to her
  Desolate. Straightway evil men remove
  Her landmarks, yea, and rob her of her all,
  Setting the right at naught. There is no lot
  More woeful and more helpless than is hers
  Who is left a widow in a desolate home."