The Fall of Troy

Page: 104

  Answered him golden-haired Achilles' son:
  "Nestor, in wisdom art thou chief of men;
  But cruel age hath caught thee in his grip:
  No more thy strength may match thy gallant will;
  Therefore thou needs must unto Tenedos' strand.
  We will take ambush, we the youths, of strife
  Insatiate still, as thou, old sire, dost bid."

  Then strode the son of Neleus to his side,
  And kissed his hands, and kissed the head of him
  Who offered thus himself the first of all
  To enter that huge horse, being peril-fain,
  And bade the elder of days abide without.
  Then to the battle-eager spake the old:
  "Thy father's son art thou! Achilles' might
  And chivalrous speech be here! O, sure am I
  That by thine hands the Argives shall destroy
  The stately city of Priam. At the last,
  After long travail, glory shall be ours,
  Ours, after toil and tribulation of war;
  The Gods have laid tribulation at men's feet
  But happiness far off, and toil between:
  Therefore for men full easy is the path
  To ruin, and the path to fame is hard,
  Where feet must press right on through painful toil."

  He spake: replied Achilles' glorious son:
  "Old sire, as thine heart trusteth, be it vouchsafed
  In answer to our prayers; for best were this:
  But if the Gods will otherwise, be it so.
  Ay, gladlier would I fall with glory in fight
  Than flee from Troy, bowed 'neath a load of shame."

  Then in his sire's celestial arms he arrayed
  His shoulders; and with speed in harness sheathed
  Stood the most mighty heroes, in whose healers
  Was dauntless spirit. Tell, ye Queens of Song,
  Now man by man the names of all that passed
  Into the cavernous Horse; for ye inspired
  My soul with all my song, long ere my cheek
  Grew dark with manhood's beard, what time I fed
  My goodly sheep on Smyrna's pasture-lea,
  From Hermus thrice so far as one may hear
  A man's shout, by the fane of Artemis,
  In the Deliverer's Grove, upon a hill
  Neither exceeding low nor passing high.

  Into that cavernous Horse Achilles' son
  First entered, strong Menelaus followed then,
  Odysseus, Sthenelus, godlike Diomede,
  Philoctetes and Menestheus, Anticlus,
  Thoas and Polypoetes golden-haired,
  Aias, Eurypylus, godlike Thrasymede,
  Idomeneus, Meriones, far-famous twain,
  Podaleirius of spears, Eurymachus,
  Teucer the godlike, fierce Ialmenus,
  Thalpius, Antimachus, Leonteus staunch,
  Eumelus, and Euryalus fair as a God,
  Amphimachus, Demophoon, Agapenor,
  Akamas, Meges stalwart Phyleus' son—
  Yea, more, even all their chiefest, entered in,
  So many as that carven Horse could hold.
  Godlike Epeius last of all passed in,
  The fashioner of the Horse; in his breast lay
  The secret of the opening of its doors
  And of their closing: therefore last of all
  He entered, and he drew the ladders up
  Whereby they clomb: then made he all secure,
  And set himself beside the bolt. So all
  In silence sat 'twixt victory and death.

  But the rest fired the tents, wherein erewhile
  They slept, and sailed the wide sea in their ships.
  Two mighty-hearted captains ordered these,
  Nestor and Agamemnon lord of spears.
  Fain had they also entered that great Horse,
  But all the host withheld them, bidding stay
  With them a-shipboard, ordering their array:
  For men far better work the works of war
  When their kings oversee them; therefore these
  Abode without, albeit mighty men.
  So came they swiftly unto Tenedos' shore,
  And dropped the anchor-stones, then leapt in haste
  Forth of the ships, and silent waited there
  Keen-watching till the signal-torch should flash.