The Fall of Troy

Page: 79


How from his long lone exile returned to the war Philoctetes.

  When ended was night's darkness, and the Dawn
  Rose from the world's verge, and the wide air glowed
  With splendour, then did Argos' warrior-sons
  Gaze o'er the plain; and lo, all cloudless-clear
  Stood Ilium's towers. The marvel of yesterday
  Seemed a strange dream. No thought the Trojans had
  Of standing forth to fight without the wall.
  A great fear held them thralls, the awful thought
  That yet alive was Peleus' glorious son.
  But to the King of Heaven Antenor cried:
  "Zeus, Lord of Ida and the starry sky,
  Hearken my prayer! Oh turn back from our town
  That battle-eager murderous-hearted man,
  Be he Achilles who hath not passed down
  To Hades, or some other like to him.
  For now in heaven-descended Priam's burg
  By thousands are her people perishing:
  No respite cometh from calamity:
  Murder and havoc evermore increase.
  O Father Zeus, thou carest not though we
  Be slaughtered of our foes: thou helpest them,
  Forgetting thy son, godlike Dardanus!
  But, if this be the purpose of thine heart
  That Argives shall destroy us wretchedly,
  Now do it: draw not out our agony!"

  In passionate prayer he cried; and Zeus from heaven
  Hearkened, and hasted on the end of all,
  Which else he had delayed. He granted him
  This awful boon, that myriads of Troy's sons
  Should with their children perish: but that prayer
  He granted not, to turn Achilles' son
  Back from the wide-wayed town; nay, all the more
  He enkindled him to war, for he would now
  Give grace and glory to the Nereid Queen.

  So purposed he, of all Gods mightiest.
  But now between the city and Hellespont
  Were Greeks and Trojans burning men and steeds
  In battle slain, while paused the murderous strife.
  For Priam sent his herald Menoetes forth
  To Agamemnon and the Achaean chiefs,
  Asking a truce wherein to burn the dead;
  And they, of reverence for the slain, gave ear;
  For wrath pursueth not the dead. And when
  They had lain their slain on those close-thronging pyres,
  Then did the Argives to their tents return,
  And unto Priam's gold-abounding halls
  The Trojans, for Eurypylus sorrowing sore:
  For even as Priam's sons they honoured him.
  Therefore apart from all the other slain,
  Before the Gate Dardanian—where the streams
  Of eddying Xanthus down from Ida flow
  Fed by the rains of heavens—they buried him.

  Aweless Achilles' son the while went forth
  To his sire's huge tomb. Outpouring tears, he kissed
  The tall memorial pillar of the dead,
  And groaning clasped it round, and thus he cried:
  "Hail, father! Though beneath the earth thou lie
  In Hades' halls, I shall forget thee not.
  Oh to have met thee living mid the host!
  Then of each other had our souls had joy,
  Then of her wealth had we spoiled Ilium.
  But now, thou hast not seen thy child, nor I
  Seen thee, who yearned to look on thee in life.
  Yet, though thou be afar amidst the dead,
  Thy spear, thy son, have made thy foes to quail;
  And Danaans with exceeding joy behold
  One like to thee in stature, fame and deeds."