The Fall of Troy
Page: 7All through the tangle of that desperate fray
Stalked slaughter and doom. The incarnate Onset-shout
Raved through the rolling battle; at her side
Paced Death the ruthless, and the Fearful Faces,
The Fates, beside them strode, and in red hands
Bare murder and the groans of dying men.
That day the beating of full many a heart,
Trojan and Argive, was for ever stilled,
While roared the battle round them, while the fury
Of Penthesileia fainted not nor failed;
But as amid long ridges of lone hills
A lioness, stealing down a deep ravine,
Springs on the kine with lightning leap, athirst
For blood wherein her fierce heart revelleth;
So on the Danaans leapt that warrior-maid.
And they, their souls were cowed: backward they shrank,
And fast she followed, as a towering surge
Chases across the thunder-booming sea
A flying bark, whose white sails strain beneath
The wind's wild buffering, and all the air
Maddens with roaring, as the rollers crash
On a black foreland looming on the lee
Where long reefs fringe the surf-tormented shores.
So chased she, and so dashed the ranks asunder
Triumphant-souled, and hurled fierce threats before:
"Ye dogs, this day for evil outrage done
To Priam shall ye pay! No man of you
Shall from mine hands deliver his own life,
And win back home, to gladden parents eyes,
Or comfort wife or children. Ye shall lie
Dead, ravined on by vultures and by wolves,
And none shall heap the earth-mound o'er your clay.
Where skulketh now the strength of Tydeus' son,
And where the might of Aeacus' scion?
Where is Aias' bulk? Ye vaunt them mightiest men
Of all your rabble. Ha! they will not dare
With me to close in battle, lest I drag
Forth from their fainting frames their craven souls!"
Then heart-uplifted leapt she on the foe,
Resistless as a tigress, crashing through
Ranks upon ranks of Argives, smiting now
With that huge halberd massy-headed, now
Hurling the keen dart, while her battle-horse
Flashed through the fight, and on his shoulder bare
Quiver and bow death-speeding, close to her hand,
If mid that revel of blood she willed to speed
The bitter-biting shaft. Behind her swept
The charging lines of men fleet-footed, friends
And brethren of the man who never flinched
From close death-grapple, Hector, panting all
The hot breath of the War-god from their breasts,
All slaying Danaans with the ashen spear,
Who fell as frost-touched leaves in autumn fall
One after other, or as drops of rain.
And aye went up a moaning from earth's breast
All blood-bedrenched, and heaped with corse on corse.
Horses pierced through with arrows, or impaled
On spears, were snorting forth their last of strength
With screaming neighings. Men, with gnashing teeth
Biting the dust, lay gasping, while the steeds
Of Trojan charioteers stormed in pursuit,
Trampling the dying mingled with the dead
As oxen trample corn in threshing-floors.
Then one exulting boasted mid the host
Of Troy, beholding Penthesileia rush
On through the foes' array, like the black storm
That maddens o'er the sea, what time the sun
Allies his might with winter's Goat-horned Star;
And thus, puffed up with vain hope, shouted he:
"O friends, in manifest presence down from heaven
One of the deathless Gods this day hath come
To fight the Argives, all of love for us,
Yea, and with sanction of almighty Zeus,
He whose compassion now remembereth
Haply strong-hearted Priam, who may boast
For his a lineage of immortal blood.
For this, I trow, no mortal woman seems,
Who is so aweless-daring, who is clad
In splendour-flashing arms: nay, surely she
Shall be Athene, or the mighty-souled
Enyo—haply Eris, or the Child
Of Leto world-renowned. O yea, I look
To see her hurl amid yon Argive men
Mad-shrieking slaughter, see her set aflame
Yon ships wherein they came long years agone
Bringing us many sorrows, yea, they came
Bringing us woes of war intolerable.
Ha! to the home-land Hellas ne'er shall these
With joy return, since Gods on our side fight."