The Fall of Troy
Page: 77Then had the Argives a short breathing-space
From war, when they had penned the hosts of Troy
In Priam's burg, as shepherds pen up lambs
Upon a lonely steading. And, as when
After hard strain, a breathing-space is given
To oxen that, quick-panting 'neath the yoke,
Up a steep hill have dragged a load, so breathed
Awhile the Achaeans after toil in arms.
Then once more hot for the fray did they beset
The city-towers. But now with gates fast barred
The Trojans from the walls withstood the assault.
As when within their steading shepherd-folk
Abide the lowering tempest, when a day
Of storm hath dawned, with fury of lightnings, rain
And heavy-drifting snow, and dare not haste
Forth to the pasture, howsoever fain,
Till the great storm abate, and rivers, wide
With rushing floods, again be passable;
So trembling on their walls they abode the rage
Of foes against their ramparts surging fast.
And as when daws or starlings drop in clouds
Down on an orchard-close, full fain to feast
Upon its pleasant fruits, and take no heed
Of men that shout to scare them thence away,
Until the reckless hunger be appeased
That makes them bold; so poured round Priam's burg
The furious Danaans. Against the gates
They hurled themselves, they strove to batter down
The mighty-souled Earth-shaker's work divine.
Yet did tim Troyfolk not, despite their fear,
Flinch from the fight: they manned their towers, they toiled
Unresting: ever from the fair-built walls
Leapt arrows, stones, and fleet-winged javelins down
Amidst the thronging foes; for Phoebus thrilled
Their souls with steadfast hardihood. Fain was he
To save them still, though Hector was no more.
Then Meriones shot forth a deadly shaft,
And smote Phylodamas, Polites' friend,
Beneath the jaw; the arrow pierced his throat.
Down fell he like a vulture, from a rock
By fowler's barbed arrow shot and slain;
So from the high tower swiftly down he fell:
His life fled; clanged his armour o'er the corpse.
With laughter of triumph stalwart Molus' son
A second arrow sped, with strong desire
To smite Polites, ill-starred Priam's son:
But with a swift side-swerve did he escape
The death, nor did the arrow touch his flesh.
As when a shipman, as his bark flies on
O'er sea-gulfs, spies amid the rushing tide
A rock, and to escape it swiftly puts
The helm about, and turns aside the ship
Even as he listeth, that a little strength
Averts a great disaster; so did he
Foresee and shun the deadly shaft of doom.
Ever they fought on; walls, towers, battlements
Were blood-besprent, wherever Trojans fell
Slain by the arrows of the stalwart Greeks.
Yet these escaped not scatheless; many of them
Dyed the earth red: aye waxed the havoc of death
As friends and foes were stricken. O'er the strife
Shouted for glee Enyo, sister of War.
Now had the Argives burst the gates, had breached
The walls of Troy, for boundless was their might;
But Ganymedes saw from heaven, and cried,
Anguished with fear for his own fatherland:
"O Father Zeus, if of thy seed I am,
If at thine best I left far-famous Troy
For immortality with deathless Gods,
O hear me now, whose soul is anguish-thrilled!
I cannot bear to see my fathers' town
In flames, my kindred in disastrous strife
Perishing: bitterer sorrow is there none!
Oh, if thine heart is fixed to do this thing,
Let me be far hence! Less shall be my grief
If I behold it not with these mine eyes.
That is the depth of horror and of shame
To see one's country wrecked by hands of foes."