The Fall of Troy
Page: 68All as one man down from the ship they leapt;
For trembling seized on all for that grim sight—
On all save aweless Neoptolemus
Whose might was like his father's: lust of war
Swept o'er him. To Odysseus' tent in haste
They sped, for close it lay to where the ship
Touched land. About its walls was hung great store
Of change of armour, of wise Odysseus some,
And rescued some from gallant comrades slain.
Then did the brave man put on goodly arms;
But they in whose breasts faintlier beat their hearts
Must don the worser. Odysseus stood arrayed
In those which came with him from Ithaca:
To Diomede he gave fair battle-gear
Stripped in time past from mighty Socus slain.
But in his father's arms Achilles' son
Clad him and lo, he seemed Achilles' self!
Light on his limbs and lapping close they lay—
So cunning was Hephaestus' workmanship—
Which for another had been a giant's arms.
The massive helmet cumbered not his brows;
Yea, the great Pelian spear-shaft burdened not
His hand, but lightly swung he up on high
The heavy and tall lance thirsting still for blood.
Of many Argives which beheld him then
Might none draw nigh to him, how fain soe'er,
So fast were they in that grim grapple locked
Of the wild war that raged all down the wall.
But as when shipmen, under a desolate isle
Mid the wide sea by stress of weather bound,
Chafe, while afar from men the adverse blasts
Prison them many a day; they pace the deck
With sinking hearts, while scantier grows their store
Of food; they weary till a fair wind sings;
So joyed the Achaean host, which theretofore
Were heavy of heart, when Neoptolemus came,
Joyed in the hope of breathing-space from toil.
Then like the aweless lion's flashed his eyes,
Which mid the mountains leaps in furious mood
To meet the hunters that draw nigh his cave,
Thinking to steal his cubs, there left alone
In a dark-shadowed glen but from a height
The beast hath spied, and on the spoilers leaps
With grim jaws terribly roaring; even so
That glorious child of Aeacus' aweless son
Against the Trojan warriors burned in wrath.
Thither his eagle-swoop descended first
Where loudest from the plain uproared the fight,
There weakest, he divined, must be the wall,
The battlements lowest, since the surge of foes
Brake heaviest there. Charged at his side the rest
Breathing the battle-spirit. There they found
Eurypylus mighty of heart and all his men
Scaling a tower, exultant in the hope
Of tearing down the walls, of slaughtering
The Argives in one holocaust. No mind
The Gods had to accomplish their desire!
But now Odysseus, Diomede the strong,
Leonteus, and Neoptolemus, as a God
In strength and beauty, hailed their javelins down,
And thrust them from the wall. As dogs and shepherds
By shouting and hard fighting drive away
Strong lions from a steading, rushing forth
From all sides, and the brutes with glaring eyes
Pace to and fro; with savage lust for blood
Of calves and kine their jaws are slavering;
Yet must their onrush give back from the hounds
And fearless onset of the shepherd folk;
[So from these new defenders shrank the foe]
A little, far as one may hurl a stone
Exceeding great; for still Eurypylus
Suffered them not to flee far from the ships,
But cheered them on to bide the brunt, until
The ships be won, and all the Argives slain;
For Zeus with measureless might thrilled all his frame.
Then seized he a rugged stone and huge, and leapt
And hurled it full against the high-built wall.
It crashed, and terribly boomed that rampart steep
To its foundations. Terror gripped the Greeks,
As though that wall had crumbled down in dust;
Yet from the deadly conflict flinched they not,
But stood fast, like to jackals or to wolves
Bold robbers of the sheep—when mid the hills
Hunter and hound would drive them forth their caves,
Being grimly purposed there to slay their whelps.
Yet these, albeit tormented by the darts,
Flee not, but for their cubs' sake bide and fight;
So for the ships' sake they abode and fought,
And for their own lives. But Eurypylus
Afront of all the ships stood, taunting them:
"Coward and dastard souls! no darts of yours
Had given me pause, nor thrust back from your ships,
Had not your rampart stayed mine onset-rush.
Ye are like to dogs, that in a forest flinch
Before a lion! Skulking therewithin
Ye are fighting—nay, are shrinking back from death!
But if ye dare come forth on Trojan ground,
As once when ye were eager for the fray,
None shall from ghastly death deliver you:
Slain by mine hand ye all shall lie in dust!"