The Fall of Troy
Page: 8In 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."