The Fall of Troy

Page: 105

  But nigh the foe were they in the Horse, and now
  Looked they for death, and now to smite the town;
  And on their hopes and fears uprose the dawn.

  Then marked the Trojans upon Hellespont's strand
  The smoke upleaping yet through air: no more
  Saw they the ships which brought to them from Greece
  Destruction dire. With joy to the shore they ran,
  But armed them first, for fear still haunted them
  Then marked they that fair-carven Horse, and stood
  Marvelling round, for a mighty work was there.
  A hapless-seeming man thereby they spied,
  Sinon; and this one, that one questioned him
  Touching the Danaans, as in a great ring
  They compassed him, and with unangry words
  First questioned, then with terrible threatenings.
  Then tortured they that man of guileful soul
  Long time unceasing. Firm as a rock abode
  The unquivering limbs, the unconquerable will.
  His ears, his nose, at last they shore away
  In every wise tormenting him, until
  He should declare the truth, whither were gone
  The Danaans in their ships, what thing the Horse
  Concealed within it. He had armed his mind
  With resolution, and of outrage foul
  Recked not; his soul endured their cruel stripes,
  Yea, and the bitter torment of the fire;
  For strong endurance into him Hera breathed;
  And still he told them the same guileful tale:
  "The Argives in their ships flee oversea
  Weary of tribulation of endless war.
  This horse by Calchas' counsel fashioned they
  For wise Athena, to propitiate
  Her stern wrath for that guardian image stol'n
  From Troy. And by Odysseus' prompting I
  Was marked for slaughter, to be sacrificed
  To the sea-powers, beside the moaning waves,
  To win them safe return. But their intent
  I marked; and ere they spilt the drops of wine,
  And sprinkled hallowed meal upon mine head,
  Swiftly I fled, and, by the help of Heaven,
  I flung me down, clasping the Horse's feet;
  And they, sore loth, perforce must leave me there
  Dreading great Zeus's daughter mighty-souled."

  In subtlety so he spake, his soul untamed
  By pain; for a brave man's part is to endure
  To the uttermost. And of the Trojans some
  Believed him, others for a wily knave
  Held him, of whose mind was Laocoon.
  Wisely he spake: "A deadly fraud is this,"
  He said, "devised by the Achaean chiefs!"
  And cried to all straightway to burn the Horse,
  And know if aught within its timbers lurked.

  Yea, and they had obeyed him, and had 'scaped
  Destruction; but Athena, fiercely wroth
  With him, the Trojans, and their city, shook
  Earth's deep foundations 'neath Laocoon's feet.
  Straight terror fell on him, and trembling bowed
  The knees of the presumptuous: round his head
  Horror of darkness poured; a sharp pang thrilled
  His eyelids; swam his eyes beneath his brows;
  His eyeballs, stabbed with bitter anguish, throbbed
  Even from the roots, and rolled in frenzy of pain.
  Clear through his brain the bitter torment pierced
  Even to the filmy inner veil thereof;
  Now bloodshot were his eyes, now ghastly green;
  Anon with rheum they ran, as pours a stream
  Down from a rugged crag, with thawing snow
  Made turbid. As a man distraught he seemed:
  All things he saw showed double, and he groaned
  Fearfully; yet he ceased not to exhort
  The men of Troy, and recked not of his pain.
  Then did the Goddess strike him utterly blind.
  Stared his fixed eyeballs white from pits of blood;
  And all folk groaned for pity of their friend,
  And dread of the Prey-giver, lest he had sinned
  In folly against her, and his mind was thus
  Warped to destruction yea, lest on themselves
  Like judgment should be visited, to avenge
  The outrage done to hapless Sinon's flesh,
  Whereby they hoped to wring the truth from him.
  So led they him in friendly wise to Troy,
  Pitying him at the last. Then gathered all,
  And o'er that huge Horse hastily cast a rope,
  And made it fast above; for under its feet
  Smooth wooden rollers had Epeius laid,
  That, dragged by Trojan hands, it might glide on
  Into their fortress. One and all they haled
  With multitudinous tug and strain, as when
  Down to the sea young men sore-labouring drag
  A ship; hard-crushed the stubborn rollers groan,
  As, sliding with weird shrieks, the keel descends
  Into the sea-surge; so that host with toil
  Dragged up unto their city their own doom,
  Epeius' work. With great festoons of flowers
  They hung it, and their own heads did they wreathe,
  While answering each other pealed the flutes.
  Grimly Enyo laughed, seeing the end
  Of that dire war; Hera rejoiced on high;
  Glad was Athena. When the Trojans came
  Unto their city, brake they down the walls,
  Their city's coronal, that the Horse of Death
  Might be led in. Troy's daughters greeted it
  With shouts of salutation; marvelling all
  Gazed at the mighty work where lurked their doom.