The Fall of Troy
Page: 9So cried she, and with passion for stern war
Thrilled all those women; and with eager speed
They hasted to go forth without the wall
Mail-clad, afire to battle for their town
And people: all their spirit was aflame.
As when within a hive, when winter-tide
Is over and gone, loud hum the swarming bees
What time they make them ready forth to fare
To bright flower-pastures, and no more endure
To linger therewithin, but each to other
Crieth the challenge-cry to sally forth;
Even so bestirred themselves the women of Troy,
And kindled each her sister to the fray.
The weaving-wool, the distaff far they flung,
And to grim weapons stretched their eager hands.
And now without the city these had died
In that wild battle, as their husbands died
And the strong Amazons died, had not one voice
Of wisdom cried to stay their maddened feet,
When with dissuading words Theano spake:
"Wherefore, ah wherefore for the toil and strain
Of battle's fearful tumult do ye yearn,
Infatuate ones? Never your limbs have toiled
In conflict yet. In utter ignorance
Panting for labour unendurable,
Ye rush on all-unthinking; for your strength
Can never be as that of Danaan men,
Men trained in daily battle. Amazons
Have joyed in ruthless fight, in charging steeds,
From the beginning: all the toil of men
Do they endure; and therefore evermore
The spirit of the War-god thrills them through.
'They fall not short of men in anything:
Their labour-hardened frames make great their hearts
For all achievement: never faint their knees
Nor tremble. Rumour speaks their queen to be
A daughter of the mighty Lord of War.
Therefore no woman may compare with her
In prowess—if she be a woman, not
A God come down in answer to our prayers.
Yea, of one blood be all the race of men,
Yet unto diverse labours still they turn;
And that for each is evermore the best
Whereto he bringeth skill of use and wont.
Therefore do ye from tumult of the fray
Hold you aloof, and in your women's bowers
Before the loom still pace ye to and fro;
And war shall be the business of our lords.
Lo, of fair issue is there hope: we see
The Achaeans falling fast: we see the might
Of our men waxing ever: fear is none
Of evil issue now: the pitiless foe
Beleaguer not the town: no desperate need
There is that women should go forth to war."
So cried she, and they hearkened to the words
Of her who had garnered wisdom from the years;
So from afar they watched the fight. But still
Penthesileia brake the ranks, and still
Before her quailed the Achaeans: still they found
Nor screen nor hiding-place from imminent death.
As bleating goats are by the blood-stained jaws
Of a grim panther torn, so slain were they.
In each man's heart all lust of battle died,
And fear alone lived. This way, that way fled
The panic-stricken: some to earth had flung
The armour from their shoulders; some in dust
Grovelled in terror 'neath their shields: the steeds
Fled through the rout unreined of charioteers.
In rapture of triumph charged the Amazons,
With groan and scream of agony died the Greeks.
Withered their manhood was in that sore strait;
Brief was the span of all whom that fierce maid
Mid the grim jaws of battle overtook.
As when with mighty roaring bursteth down
A storm upon the forest-trees, and some
Uprendeth by the roots, and on the earth
Dashes them down, the tail stems blossom-crowned,
And snappeth some athwart the trunk, and high
Whirls them through air, till all confused they lie
A ruin of splintered stems and shattered sprays;
So the great Danaan host lay, dashed to dust
By doom of Fate, by Penthesileia's spear.