The Fall of Troy

Page: 10

  But when the very ships were now at point
  To be by hands of Trojans set aflame,
  Then battle-bider Aias heard afar
  The panic-cries, and spake to Aeacus' son:
  "Achilles, all the air about mine ears
  Is full of multitudinous eries, is full
  Of thunder of battle rolling nearer aye.
  Let us go forth then, ere the Trojans win
  Unto the ships, and make great slaughter there
  Of Argive men, and set the ships aflame.
  Foulest reproach such thing on thee and me
  Should bring; for it beseems not that the seed
  Of mighty Zeus should shame the sacred blood
  Of hero-fathers, who themselves of old
  With Hercules the battle-eager sailed
  To Troy, and smote her even at her height
  Of glory, when Laomedon was king.
  Ay, and I ween that our hands even now
  Shall do the like: we too are mighty men."

  He spake: the aweless strength of Aeacus' son
  Hearkened thereto, for also to his ears
  By this the roar of bitter battle came.
  Then hasted both, and donned their warrior-gear
  All splendour-gleaming: now, in these arrayed
  Facing that stormy-tossing rout they stand.
  Loud clashed their glorious armour: in their souls
  A battle-fury like the War-god's wrath
  Maddened; such might was breathed into these twain
  By Atrytone, Shaker of the Shield,
  As on they pressed. With joy the Argives saw
  The coming of that mighty twain: they seemed
  In semblance like Aloeus' giant sons
  Who in the old time made that haughty vaunt
  Of piling on Olympus' brow the height
  Of Ossa steeply-towering, and the crest
  Of sky-encountering Pelion, so to rear
  A mountain-stair for their rebellious rage
  To scale the highest heaven. Huge as these
  The sons of Aeacus seemed, as forth they strode
  To stem the tide of war. A gladsome sight
  To friends who have fainted for their coming, now
  Onward they press to crush triumphant foes.
  Many they slew with their resistless spears;
  As when two herd-destroying lions come
  On sheep amid the copses feeding, far
  From help of shepherds, and in heaps on heaps
  Slay them, till they have drunken to the full
  Of blood, and filled their maws insatiate
  With flesh, so those destroyers twain slew on,
  Spreading wide havoc through the hosts of Troy.

  There Deiochus and gallant Hyllus fell
  By Alas slain, and fell Eurynomus
  Lover of war, and goodly Enyeus died.
  But Peleus' son burst on the Amazons
  Smiting Antandre, Polemusa then,
  Antibrote, fierce-souled Hippothoe,
  Hurling Harmothoe down on sisters slain.
  Then hard on all their-reeling ranks he pressed
  With Telamon's mighty-hearted son; and now
  Before their hands battalions dense and strong
  Crumbled as weakly and as suddenly
  As when in mountain-folds the forest-brakes
  Shrivel before a tempest-driven fire.

  When battle-eager Penthesileia saw
  These twain, as through the scourging storm of war
  Like ravening beasts they rushed, to meet them there
  She sped, as when a leopard grim, whose mood
  Is deadly, leaps from forest-coverts forth,
  Lashing her tail, on hunters closing round,
  While these, in armour clad, and putting trust
  In their long spears, await her lightning leap;
  So did those warriors twain with spears upswung
  Wait Penthesileia. Clanged the brazen plates
  About their shoulders as they moved. And first
  Leapt the long-shafted lance sped from the hand
  Of goodly Penthesileia. Straight it flew
  To the shield of Aeacus' son, but glancing thence
  This way and that the shivered fragments sprang
  As from a rock-face: of such temper were
  The cunning-hearted Fire-god's gifts divine.
  Then in her hand the warrior-maid swung up
  A second javelin fury-winged, against
  Aias, and with fierce words defied the twain:
  "Ha, from mine hand in vain one lance hath leapt!
  But with this second look I suddenly
  To quell the strength and courage of two foes,—
  Ay, though ye vaunt you mighty men of war
  Amid your Danaans! Die ye shall, and so
  Lighter shall be the load of war's affliction
  That lies upon the Trojan chariot-lords.
  Draw nigh, come through the press to grips with me,
  So shall ye learn what might wells up in breasts
  Of Amazons. With my blood is mingled war!
  No mortal man begat me, but the Lord
  Of War, insatiate of the battle-cry.
  Therefore my might is more than any man's."