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The Fall of Troy

Page: 8

  In overweening exultation so
  Vaunted a Trojan. Fool!—he had no vision
  Of ruin onward rushing upon himself
  And Troy, and Penthesileia's self withal.
  For not as yet had any tidings come
  Of that wild fray to Aias stormy-souled,
  Nor to Achilles, waster of tower and town.
  But on the grave-mound of Menoetius' son
  They twain were lying, with sad memories
  Of a dear comrade crushed, and echoing
  Each one the other's groaning. One it was
  Of the Blest Gods who still was holding back
  These from the battle-tumult far away,
  Till many Greeks should fill the measure up
  Of woeful havoc, slain by Trojan foes
  And glorious Penthesileia, who pursued
  With murderous intent their rifled ranks,
  While ever waxed her valour more and more,
  And waxed her might within her: never in vain
  She aimed the unswerving spear-thrust: aye she pierced
  The backs of them that fled, the breasts of such
  As charged to meet her. All the long shaft dripped
  With steaming blood. Swift were her feet as wind
  As down she swooped. Her aweless spirit failed
  For weariness nor fainted, but her might
  Was adamantine. The impending Doom,
  Which roused unto the terrible strife not yet
  Achilles, clothed her still with glory; still
  Aloof the dread Power stood, and still would shed
  Splendour of triumph o'er the death-ordained
  But for a little space, ere it should quell
  That Maiden 'neath the hands of Aeaeus' son.
  In darkness ambushed, with invisible hand
  Ever it thrust her on, and drew her feet
  Destruction-ward, and lit her path to death
  With glory, while she slew foe after foe.
  As when within a dewy garden-close,
  Longing for its green springtide freshness, leaps
  A heifer, and there rangeth to and fro,
  When none is by to stay her, treading down
  All its green herbs, and all its wealth of bloom,
  Devouring greedily this, and marring that
  With trampling feet; so ranged she, Ares' child,
  Through reeling squadrons of Achaea's sons,
  Slew these, and hunted those in panic rout.

  From Troy afar the women marvelling gazed
  At the Maid's battle-prowess. Suddenly
  A fiery passion for the fray hath seized
  Antimachus' daughter, Meneptolemus' wife,
  Tisiphone. Her heart waxed strong, and filled
  With lust of fight she cried to her fellows all,
  With desperate-daring words, to spur them on
  To woeful war, by recklessness made strong.
  "Friends, let a heart of valour in our breasts
  Awake! Let us be like our lords, who fight
  With foes for fatherland, for babes, for us,
  And never pause for breath in that stern strife!
  Let us too throne war's spirit in our hearts!
  Let us too face the fight which favoureth none!
  For we, we women, be not creatures cast
  In diverse mould from men: to us is given
  Such energy of life as stirs in them.
  Eyes have we like to theirs, and limbs: throughout
  Fashioned we are alike: one common light
  We look on, and one common air we breathe:
  With like food are we nourished—nay, wherein
  Have we been dowered of God more niggardly
  Than men? Then let us shrink not from the fray
  See ye not yonder a woman far excelling
  Men in the grapple of fight? Yet is her blood
  Nowise akin to ours, nor fighteth she
  For her own city. For an alien king
  She warreth of her own heart's prompting, fears
  The face of no man; for her soul is thrilled
  With valour and with spirit invincible.
  But we—to right, to left, lie woes on woes
  About our feet: this mourns beloved sons,
  And that a husband who for hearth and home
  Hath died; some wail for fathers now no more;
  Some grieve for brethren and for kinsmen lost.
  Not one but hath some share in sorrow's cup.
  Behind all this a fearful shadow looms,
  The day of bondage! Therefore flinch not ye
  From war, O sorrow-laden! Better far
  To die in battle now, than afterwards
  Hence to be haled into captivity
  To alien folk, we and our little ones,
  In the stern grip of fate leaving behind
  A burning city, and our husbands' graves."


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